We’re at the Wizard World-Texas convention for the weekend. While it’s not nearly as large as WonderCon and certainly not like Comic-Con and therefore does not offer as many different choices in programming, a smaller convention like this has many advantages over the bigger ones. For one thing, it’s often easier to get some time talking with comics creators and whichever celebrities are here and to have time to enjoy the interaction without holding up a long line behind you. We happened to meet some people who knew about Rocket Llama, which was definitely gratifying for Nick and Alex, and had some great conversations with fellow creators. I’ll let them and Marko share their own highlights. In terms of any panel I watched as an audience member, the highlight of my day by far was Lou Ferrigno’s noon retrospective on The Incredible Hulk. He was an interesting speaker with fascinating stories, a great sense of humor, and a gut-rocking “HULK SMASH!” Until he grumbled out those words at the moderator’s request, I’d figured the line had been heavily modulated when he voiced it in last summer’s The Incredible Hulk blockbuster film, but no, that was grade-A Ferrigno. From greeting us with an apology for being “not green today” to impersonating Stan Lee and all the way through a lively Q&A session, he showed how important he felt it was that we “just have some fun” there with him today.
The Action Flick Chick interviewed him afterward, so you can look forward to her report of that. I’m just going to share with you Lou’s replies to a couple of my own questions. One was about something fun, and the other, which started off with my asking about something I’ve really wanted to know about his Hulk series ever since 1990, turned poignant.
Q. You’ve done so many different things in your career. Is there some particular part of it that really stands out as, ‘That was the most fun I ever had’?
Lou: In film?
Q. Anything you’ve done in all this career — the voice work, the cameos . . . when do you have the most fun?
Lou: Three years ago, I got sworn in to be a deputy sheriff in Los Angeles. My father was a police lieutenant. So I went through the academy to be a deputy sheriff. For all these years, I would be fighting with the police department, running from the sheriff as the Hulk. And now I do a lot of search and rescue up in the mountains. That would stand out as a great achievement.
About six months ago, I had to work in a helicopter situation. We rescued a woman who had a motorcycle accident. She broke her leg. So we’re lowering the basket to her. I lowered it on down with another deputy, and she looked at me. She fainted. I’m saying, ‘Don’t be frightened. I’m trying to save you!’ But she passed out. It’s a funny situation. Everyone’s laughing now and she was very happy afterwards.
Later Lou addressed part of this again:
I lost the better part of my hearing shortly after birth, so I was very introverted as a child. I had trouble speaking too, so I was kind of rejected. But my father had to have the perfect son, so I had to carry this burden for a long time. Everyone has different parents. They say you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your parents. The way I was brought up by my father, we had a love-and-hate relationship. But I would not take the negative road, I had to take the positive road. I had in mind to really compete with myself because that would be a gift that I gave to myself. If could have that, all the dreams that my father had, I might become, and my last dream was of becoming a deputy sheriff because that’s something he’d done.
Q. I’ve read many times that there had been tentative plans to do more with the TV Hulk. Considering that they killed you, like a fall from an airplane could kill the Hulk, what did they have in mind?
Lou: Why they had The Death of the (Incredible) Hulk was because they were going to come back with The Revenge of the (Incredible) Hulk where you find out they find one cell in Bixby’s body that they use to bring him back to life. In the next movie they planned to do, they were going to have Bill as the Hulk with Bill’s mind. I did not like the title. I knew the movie was going to put a jinx on one of us. I didn’t like it because it was degrading. We didn’t do it because unfortunately Bill got sick.
Bill had prostate cancer. He went to a doctor. He’d never really gone to a doctor. Apparently he had prostate cancer that swept his spine and his kidneys and it was too late. That really wiped him out. He was really close to me. It’s too bad that happened to him.
His wife had committed suicide. He lost his son. The boy choked to death and that’s why she committed suicide. He got married but divorced. She went back to Canada. The guy had a whole string of mishaps in his life.
Bill Bixby died in 1993. Even after all this time, Lou’s eyes reddened and got glassy while he talked about that part.
I’ve spotted Lou Ferrigno at other conventions and I’ve spoken with him before, but this is first time I’ve talked to Lou about Lou.
While I realize there are some actors who make personal appearances anywhere they can, people who don’t even like meeting the fans but they sign and sell photos from some acting job they happened to get hired for years and years ago because a buck’s a buck and they don’t have much of anything else to do. But boy, is that NOT the case with Lou Ferrigno! For one thing, the man stays busy. He’s a hard working guy who has plenty of other things he can do with his time. Hearing him talk about his life and his career, it’s so clear that he does this out of love. Not enough people pursue their passions in life and stay true to them.
Along with Spider-Man, the Hulk was favorite superhero of his when he was growing up. His bodybuilding career had been going outstandingly well. He’d been Mr. Universe several times and was getting closer and closer to making Mr. Olympia. When the opportunity to work for Universal television came along, he made a decision that baffled many of his fellow bodybuilders because he gave up that career in order to play the Hulk. It was a heck of a gamble and it certainly paid off, but it was gamble nonetheless.
Lou Ferrigno loves this character and he has stayed actively involved with the Hulk for all these years, whether through cartoon voice work, movie appearances, or what have you. He got to live his dream and to keep living it. How many people get to do that? Whenever I meet people who get to live their dreams, I think that’s awesome.* It’s one of the nice things about coming to these conventions.
We also talked later about some similarities between Lou Ferrigno’s career and Adam West’s. The fact that both Lou and Adam are so frequently cast as themselves these days speaks volumes about how much affection people feel toward them both. Lou has trouble keeping a straight face whenever he works around the former Batman because Adam’s such a witty guy, but maybe that’s a story for another time.
Right now, I’m eagerly awaiting the Action Flick Chick’s writeup of her interview with Lou.
Papa Llama ~ November 7, 2008
* I do realize “incredible” probably seemed like the obvious word to use there.