Life's not fair


Matt Paust

Matt Paust
Gloucester, Virginia,
December 31
Sorry - writer's block... BTW the "birthday" listed above is false. I prefer to keep that day private, but am not permitted to do so here, so I'm forced to lie.


JANUARY 26, 2013 11:14AM

Shout to the dead

Rate: 28 Flag


[I wrote this Friday night but the snowstorm blocked our satellite server.]


My anal retentive, passive aggressive, narcissistic, atheistic dad would get this. He always said everybody's a little nuts. It went without saying he meant except him. Haven't missed him much until this moment. I just now realized the actor we met on the set of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis in December 1959 was “I didn't set no fires.” All the years since, until this morning, I'd thought the actor was James Gregory. He was playing Zelda's father. During a break in the action he walked over to where we were standing and greeted us warmly. My dad said, “I feel like I know you, but I don't know your name.” The actor, Dabbs Greer, laughed and said he heard that a lot.

Several times in recent years for no particular reason I tried to find Gregory in the Gillis series, checking all of the segments to its end in '63.  No Gregory.  I checked Gregory's credits.  No Gillis.  This morning, after reading something about Bob Denver, I again went through the series and decided  the man we met must have been Greer, who played the father in only two segments. Both aired in early 1960. Googling some photos, I saw a resemblance to Gregory. Mystery solved, yet something else about Greer's face nagged me. A search of his credits turned up a role in the cop show Code 3 called “Ashes Will Happen”, about a series of arsons. Greer played the arsonist. In the climactic scene, under police questioning, he repeatedly insisted, “I didn't set no fires,” while setting a fire in the waste basket next to his feet. My dad and I laughed insanely at this. For years afterward “I didn't set no fires” became an occasional vocal reminder of how we'd bonded that night.

When my dad shook hands with Greer he didn't recognize our favorite fire bug. Neither did I. Lloyd, dammit, read this! You shook hands with “I didn't set no fires!”


dabbs greer 

Dabbs Greer

 james gregory 






James Gregory

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Hey, I recognize him from "Barney Miller." He's one of those character actors who has probably appeared in an episode of every major TV series.

You were on the set of "Dobie Gillis"? I'm jealous. Maynard G. Krebs has always been one of my heroes.
He was in a lot of westerns, too. Good character actor. Still making movies in his 80s, I believe.
If I remember correctly, and that rarely happens, James Gregory had some pretty meaty rolls in Films...usually as a bad guy or a cop, or a bad cop.
He did, David. He played the president in the original Manchurian Candidate, for one. One of his finer performances.
Thanks, Seer. I've always had a tougher time remembering names than faces.
A deep theme herewith is ICE or FIRE. Earlier, Dustin Hoffman appeared on Charlie Rose discussing Hoffman's 'Quartet'. The comprehensive retrospective interview includes discussion of
Rain Man. Hoffman mentioned that most of us [sic] have some type of 'vacuum' that excises the plethora of trivial day to day circumstance. Peculiar savants such as Raymond hypothetically retain EVERYTHING to the socialized perception of disadvantage. Whereas the writer perhaps extrapolates pivotal symbols and cogently defines specifics factored with universality. Such acceptable 'show' and 'tell' of experience frequently lends revelation of consequential humanity.

High value entertainment, Mr. Paust, and I thank you for battling ice as well as noting the prism of the flame. Wonderful love and squalor to our hopes and fears!
easy to see how you got them confused. and yes, how did you come to be on the set? we need some backstory!!
I thought you tried out for the Greer part but were turned down. Thank God the Little Rascals hired you. Say hello to Buckwheat for me~
Jim, you flatter me, but thanks.

Daisy, we drove out to LA from Wisconsin to visit my dad's brother and to attend the Rose Bowl game. My uncle's neighbor was sales manager for Allied Artists. He got us a pass to the 20th Century for an informal tour that included a visit to the Dobie Gillis set during filming of a scene. While we were waiting outside the door to the building where the shows sets were, Bob Denver rode up on a bicycle. Warm and friendly, he chatted with us awhile, then parked his bike next to the door and escorted us to the set. We were big fans of the show, which was just concluding its first of five seasons.

Scanman, Buckwheat says, "tell Mr. Scanner he otay."
Yikes son just "broke" toe on my computer chair. R
Thanks to the wonderfulness that is Google and wiki-

James Gregory died in Sedona, Arizona in 2002 age 90.
I recognized him too from different shows but Matt I loved this. Even though you and your father had issues you boded over some words..:)
Nice nice story..
I remember them both. But, don't know their names. Such is the fate of most character actors. Really enjoyed this, Matt. I know two children of character actors now . Interesting all around.
[r] C'mon, Matt. Let's celebrate Dabbs for more than just 2 appearances on Dobie. I recognized him and googled him and listed the shows he either guested in or was a regular in and a few films at end of this comment.

I also am a fan of Greer. Thanks for reminding me about Manchurian Candidate. He was married to Angela L. in the movie and she was so very evil. In Barney Miller he was a crackup.

I appreciate how people can carry a great mutual joke laugh moment in time over the decades. cool you shared that with your father!

I don't remember Dabbs in Dobie Gillis but that show was a hoot. Zelda. I couldn't remember who Zelda was. I thought maybe Tuesday Weld. I googled and found out Tuesday, the narcissistic golden brat--an iconic narcissist, was Thalia Menninger. (Zelda Gilroy, Thalia Menninger???? Dobie Gillis, Maynard G. Krebs??? The writers had a name fetish I'm thinking. and IRL, what about Tuesday as a first name????).

So Zelda was the wonderful geeky girl who lusted after Dobie and was ignored or endured?

Dabbs Greer appearances:
film debut "Jesse James,"
The Adventures of Superman (he played the first person to ever be saved by Superman)
How to Marry a Millionaire (1957–1959)
Wanted: Dead or Alive
Johnny Ringo.
State Trooper
Tombstone Territory,
Gray Ghost
The Restless Gun
Man Without a Gun
The Troubleshooters,
Two Faces West
The DuPont Show
The Twilight Zone
The Greatest Show on Earth
The Road West.
The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
Perry Mason
Little House on the Prairie
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Brady Bunch
Picket Fences
Charles in Charge
I Want to Live! (film)
The Green Mile (film)
L.A. Law
Con Air (1997) (film)

Some people are beloved and identified with one show in a narrow period of time. Some people bounce around in vital character acting spots for decades. He deserves a lot of respect and credit for that. A hard business and he succeeded as character actor!

Do you think I got carried away in my comment mode participation? Maybe a tad! hah!

best, libby
These celebrity moments can be tricky pardner. Mickey Dolenz bought me a drink once. Looked like he'd been hit by the last train from Clarksville, but maybe it was a bad hair day. Glad Buckwheat is otay.
Nice work, Matt. And I love the memory you shared of bonding with your dad over "I didn't set no fires." It's the little things...

Well done, Matt.

Just drifted into the old saloon to catch something tasty and this sure fit the bill. That was the guy Dad, not that guy, the other guy. (Great line by Gabby Abby)
You get around, Matt; I knew it! R
It's so funny how some little line from a TV show or movie can help us bond with just about anyone. And while many examples of this shared hilarity seem limited to the people who experienced it together, I think that fire scene sounds hysterical.
I looked online for a DVD of that fire episode; alas, it's nowhere. Would love to have seen that; it did indeed sound hilarious! I love that line. Now I need to find a situation where I can use it!
There's A level, B level, C level, ... in Hollywood.
Almost forgot to check back here. I've been remiss.

Thank you all for stopping by and commenting. Libby, that's one helluva list of credits for Mr. Greer. No wonder he looked familiar.
What a fun memory. It must have been quite a kick to go on the tour. I remember the Dobie Gillis show well.
God, I loved that show. Think I may still have my Doby Gillis shirt. R
For all of you who loved the Dobie Gillis show, you'll be happy to know somebody's putting out a boxed set of the entire series. Here's a link:
Wow. His face IS so familiar! Funny post, Matt. The closest I ever got to celebrity was looking Anthony Hopkins in the eye at 5 a.m. one morning at the Beverly Hilton. I am forever in his thrall now. I should not have looked in the eyes.
That's disturbing, Emily. He didn't call you "Clarice", I hope.
That guy! I know that guy. This is great.

Our bonding actor/moment was when Burgess Meridith kept saying "Go Devil!"
I like the way your father and your relationship take a secondary role in the story, and yet holds it all together for me.