I just discovered some horrible news. A friend of mine died on May 30th of this year. This being October 9th, I'm asking myself: how good of a friend was I if I'm just finding out about it now?
Robert O. Smith was an amazing man. My first memories of him were his performances in the early 1970's, on local TV channel KTVW 13 in Seattle. The show was called Dr. ZinGRR's Projections, and it was something I looked forward to all week long. Robert would introduce a couple of classic (and some not-so-classic) late-night horror movies, and in between commercial breaks, he would appear as various original personas, all hilarious and memorable, even to this day. During these breaks in the show he would display his comedic genius with rapid-fire comments and jokes in a sort of stream-of-consciousness monologue that would leave my stomach hurting from an inability to stop laughing.
He was also a voice actor who had many, many accomplishments to his credit in that field. He was a world-record-holding power lifter. He was a clever digital artist. Try googling his name and reading the comments left by his friends and fans. He was so many things, and now that he's gone, I feel a big hole in my life. The world at large really has no idea what kind of person has left the planet, and that is a tragedy.
His show was on that local station a couple of different times, the last time being in 1974, I believe. That was the last I heard of him for many years because he moved on to other projects, and I was only 12 years old, and didn't have the acumen to figure out what he was up to.
Fast forward to 2001. I had just moved from Seattle to Columbus, Ohio, and one night, very late, I suddenly thought of looking up Dr. ZinGRR on Google. Lo and behold, Robert O. Smith had a site, and a page on it was devoted to Dr. ZinGRR! I was so happy that he was 'found,' I immediately sent him a gushing email, talking about how much his show meant to me when I was a kid.
Robert, being the thoughtful person I eventually learned he was, replied to me immediately. He even posted my email to him on the page.
Fast forward to 2006. I decided to write him an email regarding a book I had written and published in 2004, with the somewhat selfish intent of possibly gaining his professional endorsement. My book never went anywhere, but he and I became friends via emails back and forth. He was always thoughtful, kind, and sincerely interested in me. That never ceased to amaze me, simply because he was a television star when I was 12 years old, and I would never have imagined that someone with that status would want to know a 'nobody' like me.
We traded around 100 emails or so total, before the last one I sent him in December 2009. He always emailed me back within a day, and I would sometimes take a month to email him back. At one point we had agreed that the next time I visited friends and family in Seattle, I was going to drive up to Vancouver to have dinner at one of his favorite spots.
I feel horrible that I hadn't thought to email him sooner. I now have deep regrets that I never made that trip to Vancouver. And because I kept putting it off until 'someday,' I will never know the pleasure of sitting across from one of my childhood heroes, and just talking about whatever.
Robert O. Smith was a great man in so many ways. He will be missed by his family, his many friends, his many professional associates through the years, and his countless admirers. I will miss him terribly for the rest of my life.
Robert, if there's a heaven, I'm pretty sure you're there.
Reader of this blog: you've heard this before from other people, but I'm adamantly saying it again: don't wait for someday, because someday doesn't always arrive.