July 13th, 2013
The following letter was originally sent to members of the Mark Slade Fan club for their newsletter. Thank you to Kathy Lewis, Michele Simmons, and of course Mark Slade for providing it to the Newsletter.
Mark Slade Remembers
July 16, 1994
Dear Club Members:
Both my wife, Melinda, and I were saddened to hear that Cameron Mitchell has passed away. During the time I worked with Cam on the series, we both grew quite fond of him. Although we have not had much contact with Cam since the series ended, our memories of that time together are still quite vivid. I remember a few instances that were typically “Cameron Mitchell” that I’d like to share with you.
When we were filming at Paramount Studios, we would usually eat lunch in the studio commissary where Cameron would routinely “hold court” at a table by shouting to anyone who he recognized to join him. “Hey Blue boy! Get your butt over here!” … One particular day, Cam didn’t like any of the fare on the commissary menu, but wanted to continue the discussion going on at the table. So, he just got up, went to the phone and ordered a complete, full course meal from an outside restaurant and had it delivered to his table in the commissary. Never said a word about it. Just went on as if nothing at all were unusual … “Holding court. “
Cam was an avid … no … fanatical golfer. His garage was lined with hundreds of golf clubs that he’d collected over the years. If he played with a golfer who hit a particularly god drive, Cam would buy the club from him. Thinking, of course, if the man could hit a good drive with the club, it would certainly work for him. One day, while filming in Old Tucson, Cam finished early and got into his car, still dressed in his black Uncle Buck costume. I finished about an hour later. While driving back toward town, I passed one of the local golf courses and noticed something strange. Thereon a green next to the highway, were five golfers. One of them was putting. He was dressed in a black frontier cowboy costume. It was Cam. He’d pulled off the road and “joined’ a foursome already in progress.
One evening, Cam called our apartment in Tucson and asked Melinda if he could “borrow Mark for good luck.” Cam loved to gamble and wanted to go to the local greyhound dog track. He felt lucky. When we arrived, Cam showed me how to figure the odds on the dogs and which ones to bet on. I went to the betting window and bet $2.00 on one dog. When we got back to our seats, I noticed that Cam had a fist full of tickets. I asked him why he had so many. He told me that he’d placed a bet on EVERY dog in the race. “That way, I can’t lose!”
One of Melinda’s favorite memories about Cam is his “garlic period.” Cameron had heard that eating garlic was supposed to clean out your system and help purify your blood. Not one to do anything in moderation, Cam took to eating entire bulbs of raw garlic. His costume was made of heavy black velveteen and, consequently, under the hot Tucson sun, absorbed all the garlic aroma as Cam perspired. “I can smell garlic! Cam must be here!” was the phrase of the day. Once, during this phase, Cam’s wife flew in for a visit. All we heard the next day was that she’d made Cameron sleep in a separate motel room.
The thing about Cameron, that I’ll remember most of all, is how much he loved to act and the richness he sought to bring to the charades he played, especially Uncle Buck. And, how you had to be on your toes whenever you were in a scene with him. He not only came prepared to do a scene, he literally attacked the material, forever trying out ways to make the scene better. Never doing it the same way twice. If you weren’t listening, you missed the nuance he was going for. If you stayed right with him, he only made you look better by taking the whole scene to a higher level. He was extremely generous with actors whom he respected. We got along very well that way. I learned a great deal from him. However, if Cam didn’t respect another actor or director, that was a different story altogether. I remember one incident when he discovered that a particular director hadn’t done his homework and didn’t know what he was doing. He made the critical mistake of trying to bully Cam into doing something that Cam instinctively knew his character wouldn’t do in the particular story situation. We were in the middle of the Tucson desert and you could cut the tension with a knife. During the camera rehearsal, Cameron played the scene with such conviction and real emotion that he brought tears to my eyes, as well as to others who were watching. Then, when the camera rolled he merely walked through the scene, giving almost nothing of himself. Afterwards, I quietly walked over to him and asked why he hadn’t done what he’d perfumed in the rehearsal, because it was so good. He glanced over at the director and mumbled to me, “That was for the fifty dollar seats!”
Cameron Mitchell was unique. He lived as he worked. That is to say, “He lived!”
We will all miss him.