Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Man with a beard: Remembering "Grizzly Adams"

Dan Haggerty, in his trademark beard, with the bear he befriends. Their relationship is at the heart of "The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams."
It’s funny, very few people these days have seen the show, and fewer still could probably tell you who played him, but “Grizzly Adams” remains a residue of the late 1970s/early 1980s part of pop culture. Anytime someone sports a big, shaggy beard they can be called “Grizzly Adams”. It happened at a high school baseball game I was at earlier this year. A high school game. Those boys would have been born 30-plus years after the show went off the air.

Yet, everyone knew what it meant.

Such is the staying power of some cultural references.

“Grizzly Adams” was in the news again recently because the man who played the title character, Dan Haggerty, passed away.

On the run
The premise of “Grizzly Adams” was simple. He was a man, accused of murder, on the run from the law. He went into hiding and, along the way, saved and befriended a bear cub he named Ben, who became his companion and co-star of the show.

It was initially a 1974 movie entitled, “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” based on a book and starring Dan Haggerty. It would then be picked up by NBC as a series in 1977.

It only lasted two seasons, before going off the air after 38 episodes.

Other roles
I recall Dan Haggerty being part of “Battle of the Network Stars” and “Celebrity Battle of the Sexes”. In “Battle of the Network Stars” he was the captain of the NBC team and, as the show opened, he was in the bush and uncovered something he needed from a pile of brush, which turned out to be the list of his team I believe. In “Celebrity Battle of the Sexes” he competed against Tanya Tucker in rowing. He had to use an oar and canoe, while she got to use a kayak with a two-headed oar, and beat him handly. I always thought it an unfair handicap.

“Grizzly Adams” started and ended in the 1970s, but did achieve a sense of closure in the 1980s.

In 1982, a TV movie provided a series finale, and resolved the plot once and for all. “The Capture of Grizzly Adams” has a bounty hunter capture Adams, who returns to civilization and ultimately proves his innocence.

After that, I am not sure I ever saw Dan Haggerty in anything else ever again. Wikipedia reveals some of the other work he did, including an episode of “The Love Boat”, which I did remember when reminded.

His last television appearance was listed as “American Pickers” in 2013, when he played himself.

He passed away January 15, 2016 at the age of 73.

Parting thoughts
There are so many phrases that have entered the English language for various reasons. “The Life of Riley”, “In Like Flynn”, “Murphy’s Law”, and “Hobson’s Choice” all come to mind.

Another one, although less recognized is the reference to “Grizzly Adams” when a man has a thick bushy beard.

Even if it is not that prevalent, it obviously still resonates if a 19-year-old kid in Claresholm uses it in 2016. I know for me, hearing “Hey Grizzly Adams” conjures up an image of Dan Haggerty, an actor with a big bushy beard hugging a bear cub. He may be gone but that memory will live forever.

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