Mr. Belvedere

If you know me, you probably know about the time I met Mr. Belvedere. I was somewhere around ten years old and loved this show for some reason. The show is about a sassy English butler who answers an ad in the paper placed by the mother of the Owens family. Mr. Belvedere ultimately has to adjust to life in the suburbs and every episode ends with him writing in his journal and recounting the episode’s events and then the moral of the story. I watched it every week throughout its entire six season run from 1985 to 1990. So when I first heard that Mr. Belvedere was coming to Corpus Christi, Texas, I knew I had to shake his hand. 

My scope of the world was very limited back then. I mean, I was ten. Up to this point in my life I’d only met the mayor and I was very star struck by the encounter even though I later found out she was completely drunk when I met her. This time was different. I was going to meet an actor! A television star even! To be honest I was hoping for Brice Beckham who played the character of Wesley on the show, but nope. (I’m pretty sure I had a little crush on him.) 

So the weekend came when Mr. Belvedere was going to be in town. Every year, the city has this outdoor festival where there’s live performances, games, turkey legs, churros, and beer. We went every year. It was basically just an excuse for everyone to drink outdoors and get lit. Christopher Hewett, the actor playing Mr. Belvedere, would be making an appearance at the festival and basically just say hi. Come to think of it, Candace Cameron was there that same day for the same appearance and neither of them did anything other than stand on a stage, wave and say hi. The whole thing was very odd. 

At the end of his stage appearance, he came down to the audience and was leaving the venue. I went up to him and was absolutely beaming and grinning from ear to ear. An actual TV actor in front of me! In my hometown! I’d never seen a real live actor before. My mind was blown. Here was this guy doing exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was absolutely mesmerized by meeting him. It was like the stars aligned.

So anyway. I’m there. He’s there. My dad’s there. And it’s all very awkward. My dad is trying to urge me to talk to him. But I’m just standing there smiling and looking at the ground like the total geek I was and still am. And my dad is telling him how much I want to be an actor when I grow up, how great I am, how much I love his show and on and on. It was embarrassing. And so finally I blurt out, DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE?! I was so proud of myself. I actually strung together words that made a whole sentence. He seemed a little startled at first because I got really manic all of a sudden. Anyway, I expected him to say something like “Don’t do cocaine in public.” Or “Ditch all the little people when you make it to the top.” You know, something useful. But nope. Instead, he looks me straight in the eye and says “DON’T DO IT! For the love of god don’t do it! Do anything else but be an actor!” 

I was crushed. Here my favorite TV star (okay maybe not favorite - ALF was obviously my favorite) was telling me to throw in the towel before I even had a towel in my hand! Ugh. I went home bummed and wishing I’d talked to Candace Cameron instead. 

Years went by, I moved to LA, and I clearly went against his advice completely. I sort of said fuck off to his advice actually and put all my eggs in one basket. The exact basket he advised me to avoid. In fact, the advice to not do it only made me more hellbent on actually doing it. It made me want it even more. 

The moment came full circle for me many years later in Los Angeles when I was auditioning for a play. One of the actors had dropped out and they were looking for a replacement. I was still very new to the city. I really wanted this part and ultimately ended up getting it. 

At the end of the audition process, it came down to me and one other actor. Brice Beckham. The same guy who played Wesley as a kid on Mr. Belvedere. I thought, what are the odds? We met and even hung out a handful of times. He was good friends with a lot of other people in the cast. He’s a great guy. Very cool. I never told him about my Mr. Belvedere experience. I kind of figured he was probably done talking about Mr. Belvedere by that stage of his life. But every time I saw Brice, I would think about that day I met Mr. Belvedere and what he said to me. Every. Single. Time. Eventually, I began to hear his advice a little differently. 

I was just a beginning actor at this point but already had a clear understanding about the harshness of the business. It can be really cutthroat. And no one, absolutely no one, cares about your “feelings.” But more importantly, maybe MOST importantly, you better be prepared to want this and not want anything else. I think Christopher Hewett was just trying to prepare me. In fact, as it turned out, Mr. Belvedere probably gave me one of the biggest pieces of advice that I’ve ever been given: be ready to fight for what you want. And don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way. It’s something that to this day I still remember and think about. One little encounter with one little TV actor had one of the biggest impacts on my life.

Christopher Hewett died in 2001 at the age of 80. 

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Matthew MontgomeryComment