The Strange Persistence of Memory

Salvador DalĂ­. The Persistence of Memory. 1931

R.I.P. Dick Wilson

What does Dick Wilson, who passed away Monday at age 91, have to do with the Salvador Dali painting, "The Persistence of Memory?"

Honestly, nothing, except that I thought the title was apropos.

Who was Dick Wilson?

He was an actor, who appeared in some truly legendary projects: The Twilight Zone, The Fugitive, The Bob Newhart Show, Perry Mason.  He also managed roles in some less acclaimed, but nonetheless popular, shows: The Partridge Family, Gomer Pyle USMC, Hogan's Heroes, and Fantasy Island.  Dick Wilson's resume includes over 75 films and television shows over his 36 year career.  He worked alongside the biggest stars in Hollywood, a truly remarkable run.  But his biggest role, the one thing for which Dick Wilson will always be remembered? I'll let the headline tell it:

Charmin's 'Mr. Whipple' dies at age 91

Dick Wilson's biggest role was playing the curmudgeonly grocer with the secret toilet-paper squeezing fetish.  Over 21 years, Dick Wilson made over 500 commercials, each one with him imploring shoppers not to squeeze the Charmin, only to find himself busted doing just that. 

Despite his extensive TV and film credits, the only thing most people remember this man for is being Mr. Whipple.  Is that sad? I don't know.  Honestly, none of his other acting roles were especially big or important–he was a journeyman character actor–and everybody of a certain age knows Mr. Whipple.  He made a good living in a really tough career field, and he was able to provide for his wife and three kids.  Beyond that, his place in the pop culture annals is secure.  Most of us won't achieve the fame Dick Wilson did.  How will we be remembered? As good employees or good friends? Good spouses or good parents? Or will we just live on because we've killed a bunch of electrons here in the blogosphere?

Some of each, I imagine.  I guess the best we can hope for is to be remembered well once God double-clicks on the "smite" icon.  We can hope that people remember us with smiles on their faces, as opposed to grimaces of anger or nausea.  I'm sure Dick Wilson would rather people look at the entirety of his life–professional and personal–and remember him that way.  Instead, he's being eulogized as a character in a toilet paper spot. 

Ah, well.  As the saying goes, there are no small rolls, only small actors. (sic, pun intended (sorry))

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2 Responses to “The Strange Persistence of Memory”

  1. "…once God double-clicks on the 'smite' icon."That's quite clever.I totally remember Mr. Whipple. Sadly, my mind was of such a nature at that age that I always saw the plump rolls of Charmin as a metaphor for boobs. Hey, I said it was sad.Lovely post.

  2. Nothing wrong with boobs. Or metaphors.

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