Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Spotlight on Richard Kelton!

Way back when - as a newly minted Star Wars/Sci Fi fan just into double digits I was a fan of the spoofy NBC series Quark - for all seven episodes it managed to air before it got cancelled.

One of my favorite characters on the show was Ficus - a "Vegeton" alien who was Quark's answer to Mr. Spock - coldly logical and emotionless - because "Vegetons" are plant based lifeforms. I thought Ficus was hilarious.

Ficus was played by an actor named Richard Kelton. He'd been acting since his youth, and got started in Hollywood with a very brief role in the 1967 movie In Cold Blood. After appearing in 30 or so other shows like Mission: Impossible and The F.B.I. and movies like McQ, Kelton got the job on Quark.

After Quark ended, I promptly forgot about the show - and didn't really notice that I wasn't seeing Richard Kelton on other shows. I mean - Richard Benjamin popped up in Love at First Bite and started directing movies like My Favorite Year. Conrad Janis went on to play Mindy's dad on Mork and Mindy. And of course Tim Thomerson went on to a fun run in genre movies like Trancers and Dollman.

But I never saw Richard Kelton in anything else.

Decades later, in the last couple of years - Quark got released on DVD and I picked up a copy. Watching it again I finally realized I hadn't seen any other roles for Richard Kelton. But now I had access to a little resource called IMDB.

I was saddened to read about what happened to Richard Kelton.

Denver, Nov. 28 (AP) - Richard Kelton, an actor, died yesterday, apparently of a heart attack, while filming the NBC-TV series "Centennial" on a ranch south of here.
The actor had completed one day of filming the series. NBC producers began looking for an actor to replace Mr. Kelton in the role of Phillip Wendell.
Primarily known as a television actor, Mr. Kelton earned critical praise for his
performance as the young academic in the 1976 Broadway revival of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" starring Colleen Dewhurst and Ben Gazzara.
Mr. Kelton was born in Lincoln, Neb. and received B.A. and M.A. degrees in theater arts from the University of Kansas. He was a co-star on the short-lived NBC series "Quark," starring Richard Benjamin.
Mr. Kelton lived in Studio City, Calif. He is survived by his wife, Eileen, a son, Zachary, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Kelton of Miami, Okla.

A few days later, an autopsy had been completed and the real cause of death was known:

How sad. Here was a young guy - only thirty-five years old - and a freak accident takes him out. According to this article - while Universal was held responsible for his passing - they weren't liable for too much financially...

About the only silver lining to this sad story is that his alma mater - Kansas University - established a memorial fund in Richard Kelton's name and that fund has become a scholarship and it is still given out every year.

A sad end for a fine and talented actor. I enjoyed his work, and as I get older, hearing about people dying too young really hits home. RIP Richard Kelton.

Until next post, you Can Be Sad Along With Me Over The Passing Of Richard Kelton.

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