"Do you remember when the old Herald Tribune called Adlai Stevenson 'a man of courage' because he was going up against Captain Video at 7 o'clock?" asked Olga Druce, shaking her head.
"I'll never forget Ernie Borgnine with blue tennis balls on his head," she continued. "He was supposed to be some extraterrestrial warrior or something."
"And then there were the westerns," added Fred Scott. "Can you believe it -- putting footage of Westerns in the middle of Captain Cideo? They were supposed to be Captain Video's Western agents, I think."
"Yeah, the Westerns were fillers to take us to half an hour" explained Stan Epstein. "That stuff was old even then -- brittle. It kept breaking. And remember, that show was live, five days a week."
Producer Olga Druce, announcer Fred Scott and assistant director Stan Epstein formed a tight circle in the hallway of the Walter Cooke funeral home in Manhattan yesterday after noon. They laughed a lot about early television and talked about the man, chalked and rouged in an open casket in the next room. They came for the funeral of Captain Video and they stayed to commemorate their youth.
Al Hodge, the man who played Captain Video in the antediluvian days of television from 1949 to 1956 died at 66 Monday, alone in a Manhattan hotel. After eight years as a national television idol among the children of America he plummeted to a world of supermarket appearances, security-guard jobs and unemployment checks, where he remained off and on until he died.
In his decline, he had to contend with headlines such as "Outer Space Hero Defeated on Earth."
Yet those at the funeral who knew him challenged the image of a broken, poverty-stricken man which they claim the press has painted since he died. On the contrary, they say, he never succumbed to the hard times.
"He never appeared to be a broken man to me," said Howard Donoghue, treasurer of Cartier, who paid his respects before Hodge's open casket. "He worked as a security guard at Cartier for a few years, and he always semed a fairly happy man."
"His spirits were always up," added Fred Scott. "He was always convinced Hodge told a Senate subcommittee in 1954. "We don't use capital punishment. We confine our criminals to rehabilitation centers on the planet Ganymede."
"It was hokey by today's standards, but then, hell, Captain Video was making the universe safe for democracy," recalled Drew Churchson of Waldwick, N.Y., who drove to the funeral to pay his respects.
"How can you find fault with a guy who introduced kids to Wagner?" asked John Pierce, a forner editor of Galaxy magazine. "The theme of his show was the overture from The Flying Dutchman."
"T'm glad that this didn't turn into something like a Star Trek convention," he said. "But I wish I'd thought of something sooner. No one ever invited him to any of the sci-fi conventions while he was alive. He wouldn't have gotten any money, but it would have been nice to let him know that he was loved. People always think of things when it's too late."
While Al Hodge never sprang to greater heights from the show, others did. In fact, it was with Captain Video that many of today's well-known actorc got their starts.
"Oh, my god, there was Ernest Borgnine -- he was almost a regular" said Elizabeth Mears, the show's casting director. "I gave Lois Nettleton her first job. Jack Klugman came through there. So did Tony Randall, Marty Balsam and Arnold Stang. It was all such fun."
During the funeral service, Dianne Johnson, Hodge's only child from three marriages, reminisced about her father. A minister who had not known Hodge said some nice things about him, then everyone in the audience passed by the open casket to pay their respects.
Outside the funeral home, a hearse waited to take Captain Video to a burial site in upstate New York called Valhalla. burial site in upstate New York called Valhalla. burial site in upstate New York called Valhalla.