Home A Left-Handed Writer Kid Remembers Richard Hatch
A Left-Handed Writer Kid Remembers Richard Hatch
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A Left-Handed Writer Kid Remembers Richard Hatch

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[This piece originally appeared in a slightly different form on Simple Tricks and Nonsense.]

 

“So what do you do?”

It was a simple question, but nevertheless, I was taken aback by it. I’ve met quite a few celebrities in my time, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have had good experiences with the majority of them. But only two of them have ever asked me what I do for a living. And one of those was Richard Hatch, who died last week at the age of 71.

Hatch is best known to we children of the ’70s for playing Captain Apollo in the 1978 television series Battlestar Galactica. He also had a significant role as Tom Zarek in the Galactica remake, but personally, I never could get into that one, for reasons that don’t really matter right now. Suffice it to say that, for me, he was Apollo, the son of the noble Commander Adama, the adoptive father of an orphaned boy named Boxey, and the levelheaded best friend to everybody’s favorite cigar-chomping scoundrel, Lieutenant Starbuck.

Apollo-Adama-Starbuck-Battlestar-Galactica

From the time I was about Boxey’s age until well into my twenties, I wanted to be like Starbuck: impetuous, devil-may-care, cool. But I always knew in my heart that I more closely resembled sensitive and responsible Apollo. Also, as silly as this may sound, I identified with Apollo because he — or rather, Hatch — was a southpaw. You see, I went through this phase as a kid when I was very self-conscious about being left-handed, the result of a misguided school administrator’s efforts to make me conform to societal norms. (The short version is that I started school showing signs of being ambidextrous, or at least I was trying to be, and The Man found that… unacceptable. Eventually, I settled into using just one hand, but the whole experience left me with a bit of a complex.) The day I realized that Apollo wore his laser pistol on the left side and still managed to be bad-ass — a quick draw and a dead-eye shot, as we saw when he easily bested the Cylon duelist Red-Eye in “The Lost Warrior” — well, that was incredibly validating and reassuring to a certain young boy who struggled with the fear that something must be wrong with him because of which hand he held his pencil in.

When I met Richard Hatch at the first Salt Lake Comic Con in 2013, I told him about the left-handed thing. Now, I’m fully aware that actors at conventions hear all kinds of stories about how much their work means to the supplicants on the other side of the autograph table, and that at a certain level all these stories must sound pretty much the same. I’m also not naive about how convention appearances are just another type of performance, or that the celebrity guests are essentially paid to be kind to gushy fans. But Richard had a way of making it difficult to feel cynical about these things. He seemed to be genuinely interested in the thoughts and experiences of the people he spoke with, and he gave me the impression that my story was one he hadn’t heard before. He certainly appeared to light up when I finally got to the point. He seemed both humbled and proud that he’d once helped a kid feel better about himself, and he thanked me for sharing something so personal.

 

“There wasn’t anything condescending or conceited in his advice. We were just a couple guys with similar interests talking about our experiences and ideas.”

 

On the second day of the convention, I decided I wanted to get a photo of myself with him to go with the previous day’s autograph, so I went back to his table. I have no idea whether he recognized me or remembered the story about the left-handed kid, but he was friendly and graciously came out from behind his table for a quick snapshot. Then he shook my hand and I figured we were done. But before I could walk away, he surprised me with his question: “So what do you do?”

“I’m a proofreader for an advertising agency,” I answered, hoping I wasn’t stammering too much.

“Oh, so you’re really a writer, then?” he said, with a mischievous gleam in his eye.

I smiled. “I take it you’ve met a few of us?”

He laughed in return. “A few. What do you write?”

And from there we proceeded to have a conversation, a real conversation in which he offered me his perspective on living a creative life, and how not to get discouraged when the necessity of paying the bills gets in the way of your art. He also gave some practical tips about self-publishing and his thoughts about where that area was headed in the future.

There wasn’t anything condescending or conceited in his advice. We were just a couple guys with similar interests talking about our experiences and ideas. Significantly, he listened as much as he spoke. And after a few minutes I walked away feeling like I’d made a real friend. Not one I was likely to ever see again, and certainly not one who would remember me if I ever did, but for the short duration of our conversation, Richard Hatch had been something more than a boyhood hero.

He wasn’t “Apollo” or an idol on a pedestal, throwing his shadow over this little person who stood in awe of him because he’d once been on TV. He was just another human being, a guy named Richard… a guy I really liked. And who I like to think liked me, at least for a moment.

Rest well, my friend. And thanks. For everything.

The author with Richard Hatch at Salt Lake Comic Con, September 2013

 


Jason Bennion Some years ago, one of Jason Bennion's friends jokingly accused him of being "an analog kind of guy lost in a digital world." Jason liked the sound of that and promptly turned it into his personal motto. A curmudgeonly champion for all things nostalgic, he still unironically loves the pop culture he grew up with in the 1970s and '80s: the original Star Trek, the pre-Special Edition Star Wars, the version of Battlestar Galactica that featured a chimp in a robot-dog suit, and laid-back TV detectives with mustaches. He doesn't like the term "cheesy," and he doesn't believe in the concept of "guilty pleasures." Jason's non-media interests include classic rock, classic cars, travel, history, manned space flight, and creative writing. He collects stuff of all descriptions, ranging from concert t-shirts to action figures to movies and music recorded on good old-fashioned physical formats. His personal blog can be found at www.jasonbennion.com. And yes, he does like pina coladas and gettin' caught in the rain.
  • Bro I’ve said this a few times already on Facebook but I just want to add my sentiments here, I love this remembrance. To me this article perfectly nails exactly why someone would care about someone they don’t “know”, because through their art and work they inspired us and through their kindness they helped us. I’ve been very fortunate as a geek of lots of things like music, film, television to also meet heroes that left similar marks on me. I’ve been fortunate to be inspired by people who create shit and want to create shit myself. It’s a good feeling and it keeps the darkness and madness out. No one should be made to feel like they can’t create. It’s legit really cool hearing about the left handed story and how through Hatch you could beat that. Very cool, thanks for adding.