WARNING: This may be a long, rambling post. Bear with me.
To save money, my husband and I go to the library and take out movie and TV DVDs. On one trip, while trying to find something we hadn’t watched to death. I remembered him telling me that he was a fan of a show called “Combat!” which I mostly knew about due to Vic Morrow’s untimely death. So I found the first set of the first season and took them home.
Talk about not knowing how something small could wind up being so much bigger. At first I sat and “watched” the episodes (while reading or doing crochet or cross-stitch). Then I started really watching them and eventually, I was the motive force for us watching, even when my husband might not have been as enthusiastic.
In the course of watching them, I realized I had a favorite character – “Caje”, the reliable, quiet and deadly Cajun scout, who Saunders relied on for point duty and silent killing. I didn’t know much about Pierre Jalbert, the actor who played him, but as someone who knows their way around a search engine, it didn’t take me long to find out. I also got connected to a surprisingly large Combat! fandom. I even began writing fanfic. To this day, I have no rational explanation as to why this TV show (and I’m a Trekker, a LOTR fan and a Narnian from way back – I’m no stranger to fanatic fan bases) meant so much to me.
In July of 2010, the particular group I belonged to met in Burbank, California for a “Recon”. As part of this, I had the very great fortune to meet M. Jalbert and listen to him tell us stories. I was allowed to sit in one of the two seats of honor (although that may only have been because M. Jalbert changed the seating arrangements without warning! 🙂 ) He was a lovely man and quite charming and polite. It was a pleasure to meet him.
Yesterday (January 23, 2014), one of the members of our group who was friends with Pierre and his wife of 53 years, Joy, sent out an e-mail to let us all know that Pierre had died. I found myself grieving for him with an intensity that surprised me. I think I had always hoped to meet him again; I had told him at the Recon that if it hadn’t been for him, and Caje, that I might not have started writing again after a very long hiatus. I wanted to tell him, too, that because I wanted the French in my stories to be right, I started learning French on my own. That has developed into a severe case of Francophilia – I got back to following the Montreal Canadiens (in French, on RDS), watched French movies, read French newspapers (I’m hoping to tackle at least one book very soon) and my favorite music on my Sansa Clip are the songs from France (Joe Dassin, Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour and Django Reinhardt), Quebec (Ima, Coeur de Pirate, Les Trois Accords, Boom Desjardins, etc., etc., etc.) and Cajun Louisiana (D.L. Menard, Iry LeJeune, Jo-el Sonnier, Beausoleil and Zachary Richard, among others).
I’ve made French-speaking friends – mostly in Canada – and I owe Paul, Louise, Laura, Vivan, Roz, MaxHabs (on Twitter), Ryan, Fred, Jonathan and even Marc (who keeps talking to me in English – I’ve always wanted to ask him if that’s because he wants to practice his English or because my French is so bad 🙂 ) for correcting my mistakes and encouraging me to get better. (If I left anyone out, blame my memory – je ecris sans vouloir vous offusquer.)
That’s a lot of impact to result from fandom and from a meeting with M. Pierre that lasted an hour or maybe two.
As I read through the messages people are leaving on the Combat! group and the fan page for Pierre on Facebook, I’m moved by the affection people had for Pierre. He mentioned in different ways how surprised he was that people still remembered him and Caje, nearly 50 years after the program left the air. He accomplished so much – he was an Olympic caliber skier and captain of Canada’s 1948 Olympic ski team (1) After years of competition and championship at many venues, sadly, he didn’t get to compete in St. Moritz because he fell during a training run three days before the Games started and broke his leg. He was a sound and ADR editor with MGM and he worked on some big projects. And of course, there was Combat!, along with a number of acting roles on TV and in movies. M. Pierre led a full life.
Reposer en paix, M. Pierre. Nous allons tous vous manquez beaucoup. And thanks for the hug.