EXPIRED: 03/18/10 – Fess Parker, 85, was in the right place at the right time. A struggling actor, who at 6-foot-6 with a southern drawl and a crooked smile, was having a hard time landing a part in Hollywood. Good thing Walt Disney was looking for exactly that kind of character to play Davy, Davy Crockett. King of the Wild Frontier. And good thing it ran on the latest thing since sliced bread – television. It made Parker a sensation nearly overnight.
Thousands – no millions – of little boys in the 1950’s bought anything that had the Davy Crockett logo attached, authentic or otherwise. 10-million coonskin caps alone we sole, not to mention, toy rifles, geee-tars – anything that reeked of early American history!
But with Disney controlling his career, Old Walt was turning down roles that he didn’t think were right for Parker – movie roles that Parker wanted. So Parker quit Disney in 1958 and struck out on his own.
And found out that being on your own in Hollywood wasn’t too easy when everyone thinks of you as Davy Crockett.
So he tried to revise his career as Davy Crockett in 64 – as an independent producer – but Disney wouldn’t release the rights and threatened to sue if he played the part.
So instead he changed gears and played Daniel Boone. Same southern drawl, same jagged smile. Different – but equally memorable – theme song.
In 1998, Parker opened a winery and became a hotel developer, buying the landmark Grand Hotel in Los Olivos, California and turning it into Fess Parker’s Wine Country Inn & Spa.
But his good-guy TV image was shattered in 2004 after he announced his intentions to sell 745 acres of neighboring ranchland to the local Chumash Indians in a joint venture calling for building up to 500 luxury homes, a resort hotel, two championships golf courses and an equestrian center.
Locals slapped stickers that read “FESS” to local STOP signs.
Poor Parker. RIP.