Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Passing Of "Mr. Limpet"

This, ladies, is a hard one to even talk about. Today Don Knotts, who played the title role in The Incredible Mr. Limpet, entered the sea forever. Limpet is simply one of the finest Piscatorial Romances ever committed to celluloid. It's the story of an unassuming man whose only burning desire is to turn into a fish. One day he falls off the Coney Island pier, and suddenly IT'S ALL TRUE. He spends the rest of the film going through what all of us have to, bidding farewell to his life as an air-breathing biped with social obligations and club memberships and stuff, and discovering his TRUE DESTINY under the surface of the ocean. There is no more exquisite irony in filmdom: He played a man who turned into a fish, and he WAS a man who turned into a fish. Talk about hiding in plain sight. I admit we can be a big paranoid in the upper echelons, and this seemed like an enormous risk to take. Hey, it WAS an enormous risk. But you know Don -- you can't stop him from doing what he thinks is best, and as usual, he was RIGHT. I tremble when I think what he will be up to now that he has moved to fully-aquatic duties.

Limpet been an inspiration to three generations of young operatives -- one of them was me! I was entranced, and still am, by the sight of Don Knotts serenading a Goldfish with a love song, in the way only he can. It may have been my very first awareness of my life's path. And look at me now! In charge of every North American female landfish, working at the side of my partner (metaphorically, I guess) who lives in Lake St. Clair. You can believe me when I tell you that Hank is as delighted as I am shaken -- now he gets to meet the great man himself, and years before I'll be able to, at the rate I'm going.

Don't think I wanted him to go on suffering in his human body, which had to be wearing out pretty badly. I'm happy that he drowned in bed in the tradition of our finest high-profile operatives, like Divine and Attila the Hun.

But let's be honest: I envy him. When do I get to drown in MY bed?

And we have lost so many big names lately. Today we ALSO lost Darren McGavin, not an operative, but does that make me feel any better? I'm sorry, but dry land is not as good to live on with "Karl Kolchak" gone. Even Peter Benchley, my arch-nemesis, died just days before the great Don Knotts. That alone is like having the water stolen from underneath my fins. A few days before HIM we lost Akira Ifukube, the composer who wrote the movie scores of my youth. I cannot imagine a dripping monster -- Godzilla, Gamera, baby Mothra, you name it -- wading ashore from Tokyo Harbor without that great man's music thrumming in the background.

We even lost Betty Friedan, whose work inspired uncountable thousands of fed-up human women to seek their own destinies, and unwittingly drove any number of them RIGHT INTO OUR BRINY LAIRS. How can we thank her for that? We cannot. It would be a security breach, and if we thanked her we would be KILLED and EATEN.

Any place you go from here, great ones, will be better for your presence. Except you, Benchley, I'm coming for you one of these days, even if I have to follow you to Shark Hell.

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