I don’t think the massive audience in the main hall of the Washington State Convention Center was prepared for the energy and passion that Dirk Benedict brought to the stage. His panel was late in the Emerald City Comicon roster—in fact, Benedict was the penultimate celebrity guest on the closing day, March 3. The first indication that something special was about to happen occurred when convention director Joe Parrington told people to get their cameras ready as the 56th Army Band of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s brass ensemble filed onto the stage. Suddenly the band launched into a note-perfect rendition “Theme from The A-Team” and Benedict appeared on the opposite side of the stage.
For the next hour Benedict barely needed the pair of moderators, Jackie and Bender from Seattle’s KISS FM, as he shared surprisingly personal stories in what was essentially a breathless monologue. He generally paused only long enough to hear fans’ questions before continuing with his fascinating rambling. Of course, for anyone who doesn’t know, Benedict is most famous for his portrayals of Starbuck on the original 1978-79 series Battlestar Galactica and Templeton “Faceman” Peck on the iconic ‘80s series The A-Team.
Benedict spoke candidly about his displeasure with the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, insisting that the original series focused on “family, religion, faith” and was essentially a “spiritual” show. Those attributes were traded, according to Benedict, for the “despair” and “dysfunction” of the reboot. He added, somewhat incongruously, that these days it’s “not fashionable to believe in Jesus Christ.” He was open about his well-documented distaste with Starbuck’s gender switch. He claimed to have nearly been fired from the show for making Starbuck such a loutish womanizer. The character was “lost in castration” he stated to notably mixed reaction. Needless to say, some of his opinions were met with raised eyebrows by many of the fans in attendance.
But that type of honesty is what kept the panel so interesting and unpredictable. Benedict expressed pride that both his famous characters have received the reboot treatment, but also had harsh words for the 2010 film The A-Team, in which Bradley Cooper took over as Faceman. He “hoped it would be silly,” as Benedict has always viewed the TV series as essentially a live-action cartoon, but “they took the corniness out” for the adaptation. “Big movie stars don’t make fun of themselves,” he declared, explaining that he, George Peppard, Dwight Schultz, and Mr. T never took themselves seriously. Benedict said he fought during the show’s first ten episodes to avoid being “the next David Hasselhoff,” preferring to infuse Face with “funny, off-kilter” humor. He won the fight, but said the network “hated me for it.”
During the audience Q&A segment, Benedict’s commentary took a more personal turn as he spoke with pride about raising his two sons as a single dad following his divorce in 1995. One fan began by telling Benedict that she’s been in love with him for half her life. “Which half? I’m everybody’s first crush but nobody’s last,” he replied. That triggered a rambling story that somehow ended up being about his son refusing to consume sugar during soccer games due to the macrobiotic diet that has been part of the Benedict family for decades. The mods had to remind him that the woman hadn’t actually asked her question, “What does the future hold for you?” Seemingly exhausted after the tale of his son’s soccer career, all Benedict could muster was, “I don’t know.”
Such was the nature of the panel and exactly the reason it seemed so unrehearsed and exciting. Another very young fan expressed a love for Benedict’s 1979 obscure ensemble comedy film, Scavenger Hunt, and asked what he remembered about the production. “There was a lot of cocaine on the set,” quickly adding that his abstinence from the drug left him with no social life as an actor. “It was treated as Red Bull is today,” he told the crowd. He also said his conservative political views have kept him essentially “banned from Hollywood.” My only personal objection to his outspoken views was his repeated support for smoking cigars. Far be it from me to say how a 68-year-old man who beat cancer in his 20s should live his life, but with all the young fans in the audience I could’ve done without the promotion of smoking.
“I don’t know quite what to do with my life now,” Benedict admitted early on in a moment of startling candidness. Based on the roller coaster hour at Emerald City Comicon 2013, with a little focus and organization, he could put together one heck of a one-man stage show. For more information on Dirk Benedict, including his two autobiographical books, visit his official website.
Photos: Sherry Lipp