You can never be known for what you want to be known for…People will know you for whatever they want to know you for. – Robert Pattison.
No matter where Mr. Pattison goes with his career from now on, it’s pretty obvious what role he’s going to be known for. It’s a done deal, sealed in blood. (Sorry, there was no way to resist that. I did try….)
He has a good point in that we can’t choose what people remember about us. If you’re a successful writer, maybe you’ll be remembered for your favorite book. Maybe you’ll be remembered for your least favorite book. The one that was the most commercially successful but that you weren’t so crazy about. It happens. It could be a lot worse. Maybe you won’t be remembered at all…
Successful actors often complain that they are most known for a certain very popular role that they once played when they were younger. I can sympathize with their feelings to a point. God knows I can’t imagine what it was like to be a Brady kid…But at the same time, what’s so wrong with having fans who love your work? Most artists would ideally like to be remembered for their overall body of work, not just one part. Understandable.
But if not for that one breakout role, you might not have been able to go on to those other things.
It must be rough for child actors who never really got another chance after childhood stardom. Consider the very sad stories surrounding the children of Diff’rent Strokes. In those cases, their tragic downfalls had more to do with their personal family situations than with just show business.
The Cosby kids seem to have survived their experience relatively unscathed. Malcolm Jamal-Warner has done some other acting, but he’ll always be Theo Huxtable. And I’ve never heard him complain. Isn’t it better to be remembered for one role than to spend your entire life as a Wannabe who never got that chance at all?
I’m truly grateful for all the actors out there who seem to appreciate their success and embrace their fans who remain fond of their beloved characters. Florence Henderson fully embraces her legacy and cherishes all her fans who still see her as Mrs. Brady – their second mom. At the same time, she retains her own personality – every bit as kind as Mrs. Brady, but surprisingly raunchy and irreverent. She’s cool.
Another actor to embrace his legacy is comic genius Tim Conway. He has this under his biography on his website: “I was born and then I did the Carol Burnett show for eleven years. What else is there to know?”
I still can’t believe how Ed Asner – Lou Grant himself – indulged me when I requested his autograph on my Wannabe flyer. I asked him to sign it because I had spunk. (For you young ‘uns out there – his character famously told Mary Tyler Moore’s character- “You’ve got spunk! I hate spunk…”). Mr. Asner wrote on my flyer “You’ve got spunk and I love spunk! Kisses, Ed Asner.”
It honestly brings tears to my eyes when I look at it. He is a television veteran and he wrote one of his most famous lines – a line he’s probably repeated a million times and had repeated a million times to him by fans like me – on an autograph to ME. Clearly, the man is okay with being remembered as Lou Grant.
I recently read Alison Angrim’s (aka Nellie Oleson) autobiography, CONFESSIONS OF A PRAIRIE BITCH. In it, she says:
“Playing Nellie and being marked as a bitch for life is the best thing that ever happened to me. I constantly hear actors complain about being strongly identified with a character they played ages ago. They reject the character, refuse to talk about “that old show”, and dismiss their fans as silly and “uncool”. Not me, buddy. It took me a long time to figure out what side my bread was buttered on, but once I did, I never turned back. I will happily, wholeheartedly embrace Nellie Oleson, “Little House on the Prairie,” and all the fans worldwide until the last bitchy breath leaves my body.”
Thanks for letting us hate you, Nellie.
And thanks to all the other actors out there who are patient with hearing their famous lines repeated over and over again and who are both gracious and grateful to their fans. Thanks for remembering where you came from and how you got to where you are now.