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“Major please, spare me your venomous barbs .. “

Jonathan Harris is dead. I just read a story on his passing. They described him as the “flamboyantly fussy actor who portrayed the dastardly, cowardly antagonist Dr. Zachary Smith on the 1960s Sci-Fi show “Lost In Space.”  As a friend of mine once put it “If you grew up watching that show as a kid, he was the first guy you were exposed to who was like that. You weren’t sure what it was, but there was something a little off there.” That is, unless you had a bachelor uncle whose name was never mentioned without a wink from your parents .  (This is a bit more painful for me now, having recently become an uncle out of wedlock.)

Smith was an American Original, even though he used an affected, fruity, quasi-British accent. He was the ultimate coward, shrieking like somebody’s tortured aunt at the slightest hint of danger and weeping uncontrollably at the drop of a hat. He made ten-year-old  Billy Mumy look like Clint Eastwood. And he was always engaged in great confrontations with Don Robinson, the prototypical helmet-haired alpha male who only ever uttered “Smith, I oughtta break your neck.”  To which Smith would reply in his droll lisp “Major, please…spare me your venomous barbs.”  I don’t think you’d find a man of Harris’s disposition cast as such a blatant coward these days, as it would be considered an offensive stereotype.. which is too bad, because he did a hell of a job.

(Editor’s update:  After writing this blurb, I did some Internet research on Harris to see if there was any public record of  his sexual preference. He was married for sixty-four years and had a son, as it turns out. Of course, his wife was Tony Randall..)

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