DeFlip Side #202: Heeding Richard Herd

DeFlip Side #202: Heeding Richard Herd.mp3

Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

I was saddened last week to hear of the passing of legendary character actor Richard Herd. He appeared in countless films and TV shows in his decades-long career, but genre fans might know him best for his role as the alien overseer John in the 80s miniseries V, and as Admiral Owen Paris in Star Trek: Voyager

But if you’re a Leaper like me, he will forever live on in our hearts as Captain Galaxy, from the Quantum Leap episode “Future Boy.” And it was because of Quantum Leap that I got to personally interact with Richard Herd, twice. Our lives intersected in interesting ways – ways that taught me lessons about shame, humility and hope.

The first time I met Richard was at I-CON XX on the Stony Brook campus in 2001.

I-CON XX was my second ever Science Fiction convention. And I had never heard of signatory guests. This is the only defense I will offer.

Anyway, I saw Richard in the corner of the massive dealers’ room, seated behind a stack of 8 x 10 glossies. I recognized him immediately as Captain Galaxy and introduced myself, saying I sure would like his autograph. He held up a photo of himself and Scott Bakula in their Captain Galaxy and Future Boy costumes.

As I was waiting for him to sign it, he kept drumming his fingers on the table. I looked down and saw the $20 price tag. I was shocked that he was charging for his autograph, so I backed away, making lame excuses. Knowing he wasn’t going to make a sale, Richard swept the photo back into the pile and, justifiably annoyed, exclaimed “Fine!”

Shortly after I wrote a DeFlip Side about the encounter which I gleefully titled, “I Pissed Off Captain Galaxy.” In it, I took some nasty swipes at Richard, and painted him as humorless and abrasive. What’s worse, I trotted out the insults again in an I-CON retrospective I did for the radio program Destinies: The Voice of Science Fiction a few years later. Both times I came away feeling witty and self-satisfied.

Fast forward about 20 years. It’s 2018 and I have just recently taken over hosting duties on The Quantum Leap Podcast. We’re coming up on our “Future Boy” episode, when QLP creator Albie Burdge gives me the good news: Richard Herd has agreed to appear on the show, and I will be interviewing him.

My first reaction? Sheer panic. What if he had seen my articles? They’d been on my website for years. I was sure that the past would come back to bite me in the ass, and that we’d lose the interview – which was a massive get for the podcast.

So what did I do? Did face my fears head on, come clean and apologize to Mr. Herd for the nasty things I had written? Speak to him man to man and simply say, “I’m sorry?”

Nope.

Like a coward, like a punk, I rushed to my website and took down the offending pages, praying that he hadn’t already seen them – and that if he had, he wouldn’t put two and two together.

He apparently hadn’t. Mr. Herd answered my call, and what followed was an interview with one of the nicest, most sincere, most genuine people I’ve ever had the privilege of speaking with. It went out on the podcast and was met with great acclaim. Everyone loved it, and I got a ton of compliments for a job well done. And I felt like a giant hypocrite.

“The

About a week later, I got a large manila envelope in the mail. It was from Richard. Inside was a postcard featuring his original art – he had become an artist later in life – and an 8 x 10 glossy of Richard and Scott Bakula in their Captain Galaxy and Future Boy costumes, autographed: “Chris, Best from Richard Herd, ‘Captain Galaxy.’” It was the same 8 x 10 I had snubbed Richard on in that I-CON dealer’s room, all those years ago.

And thus ends the parable of the self-satisfied jerk. The picture wound up in my library, and I haven’t thought much about it since then. But after hearing about Richard’s death last week, I dug it out, and listened back to the interview. And now I feel pretty sure that if I had come clean, Richard would have laughed and told me not to worry about the past. As he said in our interview:

“There are so many things, you know Chris, in life that just don’t work out. But we just have to move forward. There are good times, there are bad times. It’s difficult oftentimes to find serenity within yourself because jobs or what’s going on in the world. But you have to find something that gives you personal pleasure. Today, we have to find serenity within ourselves. And it’s not an easy thing, it’s not a magic thing. You have to really work at it, and hopefully find somebody that loves you and you can love, and find peace of mind.

Because you must not let things live rent-free in your head. Because it takes advantage of your present time, thinking about the past. The past is gone. And no matter what it is, you don’t have to do anything great. It doesn’t have to be great. It doesn’t have to sell. It’s a very personal thing.

And to all you fans and folks out there, take care and have a beautiful life. Follow your bliss.”

Thank you for your wisdom, Mr. Herd. In these tumultuous times, we need to heed it more than ever.

Rest in peace.

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Out of respect for Mr. Herd’s sentiments, I have re-posted my original articles about our first encounter:

I Pissed Off Captain Galaxy (and other tales from I-Con XX)

DeFlip Side #44: Memories of I-Cons Past