Remembering James Whitmore At The Market
February 9, 2009
The first time I met James Whitmore was on the 20th Century Fox studio lot back in the late 1990’s. I think he may have been shooting an episode of The Practice. I remember being a little kid and watching an episode of The Twilight Zone with James as the leader of a space colony who is abandoned on a distant planet where he's left to spend eternity all alone. And when I saw that particular episode as a young child - well, it was the first time I can remember crying over a television show. So, there’s James Whitmore at the conversary at Fox and I decide I have to meet him and I have to tell him about it. So I go over and introduce myself to him and I start telling him about the Twilight Zone episode and my childhood introduction to television humanity, blah blah blah... and... he appeared thrilled to hear the story! And we talk for a few minutes and that was pretty much it. I remember walking away feeling all fuzzy.
About a year later I’m at Ralph’s Market in Malibu doing my daily routine, and don’t you know it - there’s James Whitmore pushing a shopping cart. And as we pass each other in the aisle, we stop and look at each other. And I say, "Hello - you probably don't remember me..." And he says “The Twilight Zone guy!” Damned if he didn’t remember. So we talk for a few minutes and then each go our own way. It turned out he lived in Malibu too (less then a mile from me). So we start bumping into each other every now and then - the market, a restaurant, the hardware store, etc. I’d be examining some apples and I’d hear this familiar voice say, “Did you ever try the Macintosh?” Or I’m putting a can of Beef-a-roni in the cart and I hear, “Why do you eat that stuff?”
So over the next several years we sort of become “market buddies.” Often when I ran into him I’d ask him questions about his work. He didn't seem to mind. I'd ask him where or how a particular scene was shot. "Were those your legs hanging from the ceiling in the Shawshank Redemption? Do you really use Miracle Gro and does it really work?" And I always got a straight detailed answer - followed by that little grin.
Over the weekend I got the news that James had passed away. Hadn’t seen him at the market for awhile and I thought something might be up. So, this morning I’m at Ralph’s Market getting a few things... and as I grab for an apple... I pause for a moment. And I think about the guy. And this is my little tribute. Did James Whitmore have a great impact on my life? Probably not. However, I’ve stopped eating Beef-a-roni and I’m a true Miracle Gro believer! God bless you Jim. I’ll miss you.