Sunday, November 27, 2016

My Ron Glass Story

With the passing of Ron Glass, many people have different reasons for remembering him. Like many people my age, I was primarily familiar with him through his portrayal of Shepard Book on Firefly.

However, the world is always smaller than we realize. As a result, I have a story to share about the man. A story from his younger days, before I was born. I should probably explain:

Years ago, around the time the movie Serenity came out in theaters, I went to see the movie with a girl I was dating at the time. Honestly, that was my first real experience with the series; I hadn't really watched Firefly much before then. I became much more interested after watching the movie.

A few months later, once the movie was out on DVD, my girlfriend watched the movie with her family. When Shepard Book appeared on screen, her mother squinted for a moment and said, "...RONNIE?!"

My then-girlfriend's mom, Susan, was a teacher at my high school, primarily teaching Speech classes. Like many teachers at that school, though, she seemed to mostly teach regular classes so that she could have the opportunity to run an extracurricular activity. While the P.E., psychology, and history teachers were focused on running their football, baseball, and soccer teams, Susan was focused on her true passion: drama.

As I learned from my then-girlfriend (who related the story to me), back in the 60s, after growing up in Indiana, Susan attended college to study drama. There, she made a friend in her drama courses: a young Ronald Glass. They were quite close friends, though not romantically involved; Susan was pretty sure Ron was gay.

Nevertheless, these were two young drama students in the 60s in middle America, one a black male and the other a white woman. Eager to make a statement, they would sometimes see each other from opposite ends of a crowded hallway, call out each others' names ("Ronnieeeee!" "Suuuusannnn!"), and run toward each other. They would then meet and embrace, like long-lost lovers.

Even now, a mixed-race couple makes some people uncomfortable. In the 60s, though, it was scandalous. Given that they did this several times, clearly they enjoyed the reaction.

Despite being an actor with some major roles, Ron Glass lived a fairly private life. For most of us, we only know him from those roles, gleaning what we can of the real man behind the characters he portrayed. In hearing this story, I enjoyed the privilege of knowing a little more about the kind of man he really was.

Before seeing him in the movie, Susan thought her old friend must have died some time back. They had long since lost touch.

I had a dream of one day seeing Ron Glass at a convention or something and asking him if he remembered his old friend Susan. I wanted to confirm the story and let him know that his old friend was well; as sassy now as she's ever been. Alas, I've missed my chance.

Instead, I've shared my little story with you; a second-hand account of something that happened half a century ago. When I think of Ron Glass, though, this is what comes to mind, even more than any role I've ever seen him play.

Rest easy, Ron. You'll be missed.

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