King of the Wine Frontier

The death this week at age 85 of Fess Parker (right), the former iconic actor (Davy Crockett, Dan'l Boone) who became a major name in the California wine industry, has been lamented by legions and chronicled by many. One of the more interesting articles, however, came in a first-person article by Maureen Orth for Vanity Fair -- more of an inside peek than a standard obituary. It begins:

"Fess Parker, who died yesterday at 85, was a childhood hero of mine as the star of the TV series 'Davy Crockett.' I got to know him, however, because he was a neighbor of Michael Jackson’s.

"We first met in 1993, as the zoo animals were being evacuated from Jackson’s Neverland Ranch during a vicious wildfire. A courtly six-foot-six, Parker had retired from acting years earlier but maintained his fame by creating a successful winery and picturing himself in his trademark coonskin cap on the labels of his bottles. He was the unofficial mayor of Los Olivos, the beautiful winemaking town in the Santa Ynez Valley north of Santa Barbara, and he presided over the luxurious Fess Parker Wine Country Inn and Spa with his charming wife of 50 years, the chanteuse Marcella Rinehart.

"Fess and Marcella held community sings around the piano in the lobby of their inn on Thursday nights, and they were a few of the more memorable evenings I spent while covering Jackson’s child-molestation trial for Vanity Fair in 2005. When I was first invited to attend, I thought it was just going to be a campfire-type sing-along with a group of neighbors, but it was actually a night of carefully rehearsed performances. The hills were alive with onetime stars."

[Go here for the full article.]

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