Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Father Allison

I met a lot of interesting people when I was a reporter. It was one of the best parts of the job. I wrote a column not long before I left my newspaper job, noting that in many ways there is no finer job in the world when you're young and filled with piss and vinniger, as the old salts in our newsroom used to put it.

One of the coolest people I met was Father Allison. I actually learned about him from another reporter, guy who worked at one of the TV stations in town. We were competitve but it was a friendly competition.

Father Allison was easing into retirement, working as an assistant pastor, but he'd spent a number of his years in church service in California.

And there he served as a consultant on church matters for film and television. He had some great stories, and I used to go to lunch with him after our interview.

He'd advised Helen Hayes on a Western television show in which she played a nun. He was at first hesitant to give her instructions, but she insisted he help her get things right.

He worked a lot on the television version of "Going My Way" with Gene Kelly, and he donned a cowboy hat as an extra on "Wagon Train" or one Western or another. Union rules precluded him from doing much acting, though.

I loved to hear his stories and his jokes, and when he figured out I wanted to write he encouraged me with the advice to do something every day even if it was a small bit of progress.

He said once Oscar Wilde left a gathering to write. He returned a short time later and when asked what he'd done he responded: "I put in a comma. I took out a comma."

Some days that's all I do but I try to force something from my brain through my fingers and across the keyboard.

I lost touch with him after a while. I kept meaning to get back to talk to him, but eventually I heard he'd gone to a nursing home. I should have gone by to see him and heard a few more tales of Hollywood.

(Thanks to Charles for reminding me to plumb my memory once in a while.)

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

It's nice to remember great characters we've known. It restores your faith in humanity a bit, too, to see good folks doing good work. I grew up Catholic and knew quite a few priests and nuns. I should think to use some of them for fictional characterization at times. Some were more "characters" than others.

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