Doing research for a recent post about country/twist records, I pulled from the bookshelf my copy of Nick Tosches' "The Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll." A trip to this particular corner of the library also induced me to pick up and flip through "Where Dead Voices Gather," Tosches' 2001 biography of Georgia-born minstrel singer Emmett Miller, where I spied the author's dust-jacket portrait, which can be seen above left. That's Allan Melvin on the right.
Despite having seen Tosches' photo many times before, I was suddenly struck by his close resemblance to the hilarious character actor Allan Melvin, who died about five months ago just shy of his 85th birthday. Melvin was a TV regular for several decades. By the time he landed the role of Sgt. Charley Hacker on Gomer Pyle, USMC, he had already appeared on The Phil Silvers Show (known as Sgt. Bilko in syndication), Route 66, McHale's Navy, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show to name but a few. His work as the scheming Sgt. Hacker on Gomer Pyle will always be regarded as his finest role, at least in my house. The character of Sgt. Hacker had but one purpose on the show and that was to serve as a foil for Gomer's perpetually beleaguered commanding officer, Sgt. Carter (played by the great Frank Sutton, a gifted comedic actor himself). Here's something you can take to the bank: anytime you see Sgt. Hacker in a given episode, watching it will be time well-spent. Here's a link to a YouTube clip of Allan Melvin in action as Sgt. Hacker.
After the jump: a plea for author Nick Tosches to be less of a show-off.
I realize that Gomer Pyle fans are not frequently noted for their intellectual prowess. Hell, I freely admit that I'm no exception. Nevertheless, since I've already mentioned Nick Tosches, I will take advantage of this opportunity to whine about his occasional tendency to self-indulgently inflict absolutely unreadable passages on his readers. Please see the paragraph below, taken from page 236 of "Where Dead Voices Gather," and see if you can make heads or tails of it.
The maddening thing is that when he's not making liberal use of such impenetrable prose (chthonic sacrarium??), there is probably not a finer writer anywhere. I just wish an editor somewhere would reign him in a bit from time to time and gently remind him that a writer's job is to communicate, not obfuscate.