The Passing of Another Icon
“Actor John Forsythe dies at age 92,” the headline reads.
Baby Boomers may first remember Forsythe from the TV show Bachelor Father (1957-1962). But if thinking that far back is too much of a strain, Boomer yuppies will certainly remember John Forsythe for his role as the oil-rich patriarch Blake Carrington in the 1980s television soap opera Dynasty, and as the mysterious unseen millionaire-private-investigator Charles Townsend in Charlie’s Angels (1976–1981).
John Forsythe was a popular actor, well-known owner and breeder of thoroughbred race horses, and competitive tennis player. That’s what most of us know. What many may not know is that he was an avid sailor as well. That is how I came to know him.
The first time I met John Forsythe was in 1981, just prior to the airing of Dynasty. I had recently returned from an adventurous few years sailing Hawaii and the Pacific, and was living on my sailboat in Marina del Rey, California. A buddy of mine was dating Forsythe’s daughter and asked if I’d mind if John joined us for an afternoon sail. That turned out to be the first of several day-sails together. He turned out to be quite the sailor.
It was obvious that John Forsythe really enjoyed being out on a boat again. He was in his early sixties when I met him, but apparently used to sail quite a bit as a younger man, before work and other responsibilities pretty much edged out sailing. “Besides,” he told me, “my wife — whom I dearly love — does not much care for boats, so sailing would mean mostly going it solo.” I’d met Mrs. Forsythe on one occasion. A lovely lady, but she showed up at the dock wearing heels and white gloves. John’s point was well taken.
My boat was rigged with all lines leading aft into the cockpit, so all activity – like raising and lowering sails – could be handled single-handedly without leaving the cockpit. John really liked this, and I guess that is what led him, one sunny afternoon in Santa Monica Bay, to make me an offer I could not refuse.
“I like the fact that I could easily sail this boat all by myself, without any crew. Would you consider selling her to me?”
“John, this boat is my home. Lots of nautical miles logged here,” I responded, light-heartedly. But I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was quite serious.
“Name your price,” he said, smiling, wind in his hair, as the boat surfed down a wave. “I just completed a pretty good run with the Angels show and have begun a new television series … I’m flush.”
We all laughed, but a deal was made that afternoon out on the water for John to buy the boat. That’s how John Forsythe got back into the sport of sailing … and I’m glad I was able to play a part.
Rest in peace John Forsythe. Happy sailing in the hereafter.