From the Publisher: Grant Adamson and Paul Mantee Remembered

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Arnold G. York

This was a weekend for remembering friends who have recently passed on. One was Paul Mantee after a brave, prolonged struggle with cancer. The other, Grant Adamson, suddenly and too soon in a balloon crash in Switzerland. The common characteristics of both men were that they both tried to live life to the fullest, were adventurous, very athletic, and deeply committed to family and friends.

On Friday evening, the old Guido’s bar crowd, who had been eating together for years, gathered at Giovanni’s to remember Paul, swap stories and perhaps to recognize that none of us are getting any younger. Many of you knew Paul through his often-funny columns in The Malibu Times, but there were many other lives that Paul lived. For many years he was an actor in both film and a regular on TV, in “Cagney and Lacey” with Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly, along with several other shows.

The highlight of Paul’s movie career was early on in a Sci-Fi movie called “Robinson Crusoe on Mars,” which became a cult classic and made him an underground star in a network of quirky moviegoers and a whole new generation of their equally quirky kids. One night, Paul told us the story about the making of the film, which starred Paul and his costar, a real live, honest-to-God monkey that sat on his shoulder during the visit to Mars. Hollywood being Hollywood, you can work an actor to death and no one really cares but the monkey’s welfare was watched over by PETA, or whatever the animal protectors were called in those days. The monkey could only work a limited number of hours before it had to get rest, so of course they had two monkeys so shooting wouldn’t be delayed. 

For whatever the reason, one monkey and Paul got along famously; the monkey would wrap his tail around Paul’s neck and they were very tight. The other monkey, to put it bluntly, simply hated Paul, screeched and spit at him constantly, and finally bit him on the ear (that is, the monkey bit Paul, not the other way around). They finally split them up and I suspect Paul filed a complaint with SAG and the monkey probably with the ASPCA. That was Paul, who was always fun to be with and could spin a story out of a kernel of an idea. The last couple of years were very difficult for Paul and his wife Suzy, as Paul had a brain cancer that took over, and gradually sucked life out of him.

Sunday afternoon there was a memorial service for Grant Adamson at the Semler Family Ranch off Kanan Dume Road, up in the hills above Malibu. There must have been six or seven hundred people who came to pay their respects and remember Grant and the tragedy that took his life, and very nearly that of his entire family—wife Terry and his two daughters, Megan and Lauren. The Grant I knew was a very gentle, soft-spoken man, easy to be with, without a harsh word for anyone. So it was somewhat of a surprise to discover that he was such a gifted athlete and an adventurer. 

I would see him many mornings at Starbucks with his early morning swim group after their workout at the Pepperdine pool. What I didn’t know was that the family had been all over the world on vacation, sampling every adventure life had to offer. They climbed mountains, hunted, traveled to exotic locations, took risks as adventurous people do, and then tragedy struck in what we all thought of as a fairly benign activity, taking a balloon ride. 

Terry, Megan and Lauren spoke of the last moments when they realized they were in trouble and Grant wrapped his arms around the three of them to try and protect them before they struck a power line and crashed to earth. Grant took the brunt of the impact and of the damage, and his courage probably saved their lives. He died the way he lived: loving and protecting his family and thinking of their lives before his own. 

As the three recover slowly from their devastating injuries, and the heart-rendering tragedy of losing a husband, father, companion and friend, we can all only wish them the best, the courage to work toward recovery and to let them know that Grant was a very special guy to many of us. In some small way, we all share some of their pain.