"I cannot live without books: but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object." -- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In Memory of Guy Williams (4/30/1989) -- 25th Anniversary

An Interview with Antoinette G. Lane
Author of Guy Williams: Man Behind the Mask

Guy Williams played Zorro in Walt Disney’s TV show in the 1950s.

I remember watching Zorro as a young girl. To me, a masked hero, on his beautiful black horse, sword in hand, riding in to save the day, was exciting.

I fell in love with the show, with all the beautiful horses, the sword fights, the handsome hero and his loyal servant, Bernardo, the humor, and so much more.

Guy Williams was not only handsome; he was graceful and kind. Some say Guy Williams was born to be Zorro.

Sadly, when Walt Disney wanted more control over his show aired on a broadcast network, the discussions ended with Zorro being cancelled at the height of its popularity.

Like others, I often wondered, “What happened to Guy Williams?”

I got lucky, I found Antoinette G. Lane’s biography of Guy Williams and got my answer. Lane covers Guy’s life from his birth in New York City, through his modeling career, his marriage, and his experiences in a long but unpredictable career as an actor.

This was Lane’s first biography and it took her nineteen years to complete. She interviewed many of Williams’ family and friends. Plus, Guy’s fans offered Lane access to a treasure trove of memorabilia.

As a writer, I was intrigued by Lane’s achievement. So when I got an opportunity, I interviewed Lane about her experiences writing Guy Williams’ biography.

As Lane explains:
“I became obsessed with finding out more about him. I hoped to meet him, shake his hand, tell him I liked his work, and maybe ask him to write his autobiography. Then on Sunday, May 7, 1989 at the peak of my fever, I heard on the radio that Guy Williams had died in Buenos Aires. I was devastated. With no other fans to talk to I expressed my grief to the Los Angeles Times, who, to my surprise, printed my letter with a picture of Guy Williams, as a final tribute to him. As I heard myself saying, ‘Someone should write a book about him,’ an inner voice said, ‘Why not me!?’ “ (from Guy Williams: Man Behind the Mask)

An abbreviated version of this interview may get posted on Boomer Cafe. Below is the full interview.

Could you tell my readers how you decided to write a biography of Guy Williams?

Yes, I turned on the Disney Channel one day in the late 1980s and there was Zorro. It brought back memories of watching it with my younger brother. By Spring of 1988, I was totally hooked and very curious to know more about Guy Williams.

In my frustration of finding very little about him in libraries, (we did not have computers yet) I thought someone should write a book about him. Soon, it was my own curiosity and passion that helped decide, it would be me.

When Guy passed away in 1989, I was more determined to do the book as a tribute to him.

I suppose one of the frequent questions you get, is what is Mrs. Williams like?

I was lucky, or maybe the word is blessed. When someone is loved as much as Guy was, I find people enjoy talking about them.

Janice Williams is an extraordinary person, just as Guy was. Maybe even more so to me because she’s a woman. She had to reinvent herself and did it successfully. She’s smart, witty, charming, kind, friendly, and beautiful. Her love for Guy and her desire to keep his memory alive was to my advantage. 

In 1973, after discovering Zorro was popular in Argentina, Guy moved there to enhance his acting career. What was the response you got from the Argentinians you corresponded with regarding the biography? Is Zorro still popular in Argentina, today?

The response was Love, Love, Love. They were eager to share; eager to talk about Guy.

Yes, Zorro is still very popular in Argentina for a couple of reasons: Zorro is still on TV every day, picking up new fans every year. Fernando Lupiz, who played Guy’s son in fencing shows in the 1970s, now produces Zorro shows at Mar del Plata. He plays Zorro and always gives tribute to Guy Williams, keeping his memory alive. 

Can you describe a typical day working on the biography? Did you travel to many places where Guy Williams may have lived or worked?

Progress got off to a slow start for several reasons: we did not have the Internet yet; I had to research “How to write a Biography”; read a lot of biographies; read how to “find” people; type letters and wait for a response; and make phone calls.

Sheer will and intention brings results. In 1989, I met Kathy G. who had an enormous collection of all things Guy Williams. From her various magazine clippings I was able to compile a long question sheet.

Things took off in 1995 when I met Janice Williams and she graciously appointed our first meeting on January 14, 1996, Guy’s Birthday!  Then for the next four years, when she was available, she gave me hours of interviews.

Since I had four children at home at the time, a typical day was trying to find time: to work on the book, to transcribe taped interviews, to find a quiet time for a phone interview, and to put the puzzle pieces together by writing. So it was a long ordeal. 

Yes, I did go to many places where Guy lived and worked. Some of the places were: Hollywood where I saw his houses; 20th Century studio where he worked; the hills and rocks of Aqua Dolce and Chatsworth where I climbed and traipsed through areas where Zorro went on location; and Mission San Luis Rey where the first few episodes were filmed.

I did not go to New York but I contacted people from there who lived in Guy’s old neighborhood: classmates and his sister. I did not go to Buenos Aires but a friend of Guy’s sent me a video in which she filmed and narrated places that were Guy’s favorites, and where he lived and walked. Plus, she drew a diagram of his apartment, all of which were invaluable.

What advice would you give other writers who may want to attempt a biography?

DO IT!  Just jump in there and get started. Stay focused and things will come to you. An amazing magnetic force develops. 

Guy Williams died in Argentina on April 30, 1989, twenty-five years ago. How are Zorro fans honoring Mr. Williams on this day?

There are many websites and Facebook pages devoted to Guy Williams and fans post their feelings and memories on his birthday and death day. Some make a visit to his Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to place flowers; some get together for lunch. 

Fans have also initiated several dedications in Guy’s memory:

  • Bronx Walk of Fame, NY, May 2000
  • Bench dedication in Central Park, NY,  October 2002
  • Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund Project 2002, to aid children of 9-11 tragedy in Guy’s name.
  • Bench dedication at Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside, CA,  August, 2003
  • Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, CA, August, 2001
  • Named A Disney Legend, Anaheim, CA, August, 2011

Source: http://www.guywilliams.net/g/02.zorroyears.htm

You can find Lane’s biography on Amazon: 

See more about Lane and her adventures with other Zorro fans on her Facebook site:

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