II n case you aren’t aware: I heart MacGyver. Big time.
If you’re unfamiliar with MacGyver, MacGyver was a television program that aired from 1985-1992, and it was my favorite. The show centered on the character, Angus MacGyver, played by Richard Dean Anderson. MacGyver was a type of government agent who did super dangerous things, like save the world from nuclear disaster, and he did it using little more than his smarts and every day items that happened to be nearby. The only tools he had on hand was his trusty Swiss Army knife and a seemingly endless supply of duct tape. He never took himself or the situation too seriously, even when it was life and death, and he was always on the cusp of a witty comeback or comment.
For instance, in the pilot episode, MacGyver stops an acid leak in a laboratory by “whipping up a bandaid” made out of...wait for it...chocolate bars from the vending machine. (The acid broke down the sucrose and glucose in the chocolate and created a sticky paste.) Later on in the episode, when he and his lady friend (blah!) are trapped inside the lab, he creates a small bomb out of sodium metal, water, and a cold capsule. That’s it. He put the sodium metal in a cold capsule, and put the cold capsule in the water, and then some sort of chemical reaction happened involving hydrogen and the water and BOOM! Insta-hole in the wall.
How awesome is that? C’mon!
MacGyver never used guns—his childhood best friend was accidentally killed by a hand gun—and rarely used violence at all. When he did come to fisticuffs with someone—always as a last resort—he made a big show out of how much it hurt his hand. He often seemed completely unsure of what he was doing, but had an underlying confidence that all his ideas would ultimately work. He was an every man’s (and woman’s) hero. And I loved him.
Richard Dean Anderson was tall and he was beautiful, but, at first, his physicality didn’t matter to me. Because I was like eight when I first saw the show. I just knew I wanted to BE MacGyver. I wanted his job. I wanted to help the world and I wanted to do it in the most peaceful way possible. Later on down the line, as Mr. Anderson’s mullet approached magnificence, and as I approached puberty, I definitely wanted to marry MacGyver too. I still wanted to be him, but I also wanted to marry him.
For all of this—all of which seems like complete insanity, I’m sure, and maybe it is—I credit MacGyver with first igniting my creative spark. I don't believe I would have the tools necessary to be writer today if I had not had such a strong sense of imagination back then. That sense of imagination has carried strongly into adulthood, and it’s a big reason why I can create characters now.
Where is it I’m going with all of this? This past weekend, I had the opportunity to finally meet Richard Dean Anderson! He was an absolute sweetheart. MacGyver’s sense of humor and lack of taking himself seriously clearly came from the man playing him. Richard was gracious and kind and funny, and I am so glad I finally had the chance to thank him for the impact he’s had on my life. He hugged me—bear hugged me—and his arm held me tightly as his handler snapped our photo, and it was one of many 'greatest moments' of my life. I’m so grateful.
(I also gave him a signed copy of Down Went Alice and basically blabbered on like this about MacGyver in the handwritten note I left for him in the book. I hope he doesn’t mind.)
A meeting nearly thirty years in the making:
Thank you, Mr. Anderson.