It all started simply enough. I had been a HUGE “MacGyver” fan on TV. For those young enough not to know that show, it featured a science-based hero who defeated his enemies through science and knowledge rather than brawn and guns. It was a great show with lead actor: Richard Dean Anderson (known to his fellow actors and crew as RDA ). it was a staple of 1980’s television, particularly in two-channel land 1980’s Ireland.
Fast forward 20 odd years. Gone is the wide-eyed 13-year-old country boy in Ireland. In his place was a married father of two newborn twin girls. Parenthood is scary. With one child it provides more challenges than are imaginable. Parenthood with twins can seem like a Himalyan trek without oxygen…definitely without sherpas. All good! But challenging!!
Realising that both parents suffering from sleep deprivation was a bad strategy, my wife and I decided to take it in turns to “do nights” with the twins. And so I stumbled across “Stargate SG1” on Sky 1 at 1am. Initially I must confess, I thought it was another popcorn “run and gun” Sci Fi hokum series. What caught my attention was RDA. This was MacGyver? Why is he in it?
Watching the show at 2am, 3am and other incongruous hours (with one or both baby daughters) lead to a deeper appreciation for a very clever show. The writing, acting and VFX were excellent. So when it came to the agreed lottery of who would “do nights” I volunteered! I began to follow the show religiously, almost with the fervour of my teenage years for “MacGyver”. The show follows a team of four adventurers who travel from Earth to other worlds through a portal called a Star Gate which works on Worm Hole Physics. (I know that I have now lost most of the non- Sci Fi fans, but bear with me). In any case, the inter-relationships of the team and the allies and enemies they encountered made for captivating television. Trust me. Go check it out.
As the girls got older and the nights became less sleep deprived, I watched the show in regular hours.
In 2008, on a simple ‘net search, I stumbled across a public appearance by RDA and a fellow cast member, Amanda Tapping both appearing in aid of charity. It was to occur in England. I thought – hey! , easy flight to Bristol. I ran a “Permission Slip” by Her Royal Highness. With a green light, I applied for a ticket. I knew no-one else attending. A small part of me said “You’re mad!” but I persisted. I had no clue what the format or expectation would be. All I knew was that there would be a “Q and A” session with the two stars and a “photo-op”. Having never attended a function like it before, my expectations were low. I reckoned it would be a good pub story no matter what.
On arriving in Bristol, I checked into the Convention Hotel. Several other fans were there. At the (inevitable) drink at the bar, I met some other fans. One of them, called Stephen, was great gas (we’ve since become firm friends) We chatted with others over favourite episodes, plot lines and outstanding moments. Much like football fans talk about classic matches and favourite players and goals.
The next morning, we were all bussed to Wells. A tiny town with the designation of a city (because of its beautiful Cathedral – where Hot Fuzz had just been filmed). Having registered and taken my seat with the others, the show began. In walked Amanda Tapping, followed by RDA! Having met a handful of famous people in the past, I was aware of the “Oh he’s taller than I imagined/shorter/thinner etc” The frisson of excitement amongst the “SG1” faithful was palpable. There were many “MacGyver” fans present too.
A “Q and A” session proceeded with regular questions: “Favourite episode/moments/typical day on set/best prank/worst dialogue/character development” etc. Throughout the session, I quickly realised how nervous RDA was. It turns out that he rarely does these appearances…and this was his first one with regard to SG1. Following the “Q and A” was a coffee meeting. This consisted of the fans grouped at separate tables. 10 fans per table. Both Amanda and Richard (all on first name terms now don’t you know!) visited each table for about 10 minutes, giving each fan some “face time”.
The level of excitement for fans increased as the stars made their way from table to table. Amanda was first to arrive and specifically mentioned how “nervous Rick is”. She pointed at me saying “You there…Paul is it? (name tag on)…Say something fun to make Rick feel at ease!” Thinking quickly, as RDA sat down, I said “Last time I saw you, you were this big! (Approximating 6cm between thumb and index finger)” Richard Dean Anderson is approximately 6’4’’! RDA laughed. It was a real icebreaker. He subsequently geared most of his conversation towards me. We talked about his house in Malibu, his time on “MacGyver”, his daughter Wiley and before you knew it, the 10 minutes were up.
Following the coffee gig, there was the photo-op. Considering there were approximately 120 people at this morning session, we were the last group to be called. Imagine standing beside 110 different people, arms around waist and smile beaming? (I couldn’t do it!) When I arrived, Amanda (ever the professional) reminded Rick (as she had done with every person that morning) some small anecdote from the coffee meeting earlier. “Hey Rick, this is the guy who thought you were “this” tall?!” RDA, immediately laughed. Commenting on my appearance (I wore a shirt, tie, jacket) he said : “Oh yeah! Sure! Shirt’n’Tie” – Hence the moniker on Twitter I use.
That evening there was a charity auction of props/scripts and other paraphernalia in aid of Water Alliance. At it, both Amanda and RDA walked through the crowd, mike in hand, talking with the audience. RDA spent a lot of time coming over to say I was the “Best Dressed” at it, referring to me as “Shirt’n’Tie”. His generosity with the fans was outstanding. Giving plenty of time to all who had attended. The event raised over £20,000 stg. A staggering sum. He turned out to be exactly who I thought he would be. I have had the privilege of meeting other television colleagues and friends of RDA, and they all echo this view. Meeting your heroes can be a let down. I’ve met other heroes who have fallen short of the mark (with a bang) But for one of my all time heroes, RDA is No.1.