Peter Bagge notes that my dismissal of the three-death cluster rule for celebrities was too easy. Dennis Weaver, veteran player of rugged but wimpy lead and supporting roles, has gone up to that high-speed backroads chase in the sky. TV oldsters recall Weaver as sidekick Chester on Gunsmoke, the gentle dad in the Clint Howard vehicle Gentle Ben, and urban cowboy detective Sam McCloud, but the role he's now best known for is the harried commercial traveler in the young Steven Spielberg's Duel. My favorite Weaver role, though, is a reprise of the Duel part: In 1973's Terror On the Beach, he takes drippy passivity to new levels as a vacationing dad whose family is menaced by hippies in dune buggies; every time the family is on the verge of defeating or escaping the hippies, Weaver stops to make a painfully pre-9/11 plea along the lines of: "Please! Leave us alone! We haven't done anything to you," and the action starts all over again. Weaver's AP obituary features this choice passage of Liptonian regard for the actor's craft:
When Weaver first auditioned for the series, he found the character of Chester "inane." He wrote in his 2001 autobiography, "All the World's a Stage," that he said to himself: "With all my Actors Studio training, I'll correct this character by using my own experiences and drawing from myself."
Anyway, that's three. Anthony Zerbe, you can relax now.