One thing Guy Williams sure isn't, and that's "Lost in Space" when his kids want all the dope on LSD, marijuana and booze. This dad's a real hip one with all the answers!
On CBS-TV's Lost in Space series, Guy Williams has to guide and protect his family among the hazards of interplanetary space. He does it successfully, thanks to the show's scriptwriters every week.
Meanwhile, back on earth, Guy has an even more difficult assignment in real life. It's the task of guiding his 13-year-old son, Steve, and his eight-year-old daughter, Toni, toward adulthood amid the snares and temptations that beset today's youth, especially in jazzy, fast-paced Hollywood, U.S.A., where the Williams family lives. And he has to do it without the help of a scriptwriter. There's only his wife, Janice, to share the tricky job with him.
If Guy is an ultra-modern father to his Space Family Robinson on TV, he's just as contemporary in his real-life role. In fact, he's so modern that his views on raising children may shock or at least startle some people. But Guy's theories, which are fully shared by his wife, have so far resulted in two well-behaved young Williamses, though the most crucial years of adolescence are still ahead. So his views at least deserve respectful attention, whether you agree with them or not...
"The gap is probably bigger now than it ever has been between generations," Guy points out, "and I think my children have a right to grow up in a world that they want to live in. Why should their values be ours? When you look at what our generation is doing, I can't find fault with young people if they don't respect our standards. For instance, sexual morals are different now, maybe because things aren't the same as when we were teenagers. There's a revolution going on, a social, political, and sexual one. But to editorialize on whether it's bad or good is another thing. In any case, this revolution is not only a part of our times, it is our times!"
"Am I afraid to let my son grow up in this world? Well, eventually he's going to have to go out into it, and I'm not going to say, 'Stay home.' He doesn't really belong there. He belongs in what he's going into, because eventually he'll be an adult, and I'd just as soon he is a contemporary one. "As for my daughter, I call her an eight-year-old teenager! She's a tiny thing and very thin, she's going to be a long-stemmed rose someday, but she's already got it all. She only has to fill out and grow some more. She's very hip. Her interests are clothes, and the Mod things. She's very much aware of all that. She has her full-length stockings and little mini skirts for kicks. And she does all the dances, though only at home. She knows them from watching TV. She reads a lot, too. If she finds a copy of 'Playboy' around, she'll pick it up and glance at it and look at the ads with the girl sitting on the car saying, 'Grrr, Tiger!' She thinks that's funny and I'm not going to say, 'That's terrible,' or anything like that."
"Am I afraid of her growing up too fast? I can't deny what's already there! Girls are just more advanced than fellows. I can't tell her, 'Erase what you feel and know, and go back to being Alice in Wonderland', I can't do that. Anyway, I don't find it unpleasant. That's why it doesn't upset me that the children are growing up more or less contemporarily. I suppose all the kids at school are like that."
If Guy's daughter is in a hurry, so is his son, I learned. "Steve wants to be an actor," Guy told me. "He's very well set up physically, he's a very good-looking boy, with blond hair and big blue eyes. Becoming an actor is his own idea, although he's grown up in the millieu of the business, of course. Why did he decide to be an actor? Well, he knows he can't be a writer, a director or a producer at his age. But he has heard of teenage actors!" "You mean he wants to be an actor right now"? I asked. "Sure!" Guy said with a grin. "Pretty soon he'll be 14 and he'll be too old, the way show business is going. A kid cuts a record when he's 14, hell, if you haven't made it by that time, you might be passed over!" "What did you say when he first broached the idea of becoming an actor?" I asked. "I smiled. I couldn't say, 'No, you can't do it.' I just told him he'd have to work his tail off! There's a lot of hard work involved in the most happenstance-looking careers. If a kid of 17 or 18 makes a record that catches on, he might have been leading up to it for 10 years. Of course, it's made to look as though he was walking down the street and a guy said, 'Stand still, let me look at you! Can you come to the studio and sign a contract?' But that's not so. So I tell him all this and it rolls right off! We don't talk about it very much, actually, but acting is his goal now. If I had my druthers, I wouldn't want him to be a child actor, and fortunately he's not pressing me to get him some work, although if I said, 'I can get you something,' he'd jump. I would prefer he tune his career as an actor to that of an adult. A: It's a longer career. B: It can lead to other facets, like directing and producing. Often a child may not break through that transition between childhood and manhood as an actor, or make it into any other phase of show business."
"What about the way acting would affect his life as a child"? I asked. "I'm not worried about that," Guy assured me. "He'd have a good economic position in the world. But I do think it would present certain difficulties that I would like to see him avoid, namely, the usual cessation of work that generally accompanies an actor from 14 to 16, and the possible non-resumption of the career. I don't think, however, that working through these years will hurt his life any more than going to school. But although he's anxious to be an actor, he's busy with his school work at the moment. He's got problems with arithmetic and stuff like that, he's still a kid. And he's very curious about other things. He happens to be interest in marine tropicals, for instance, just as I am. It's the keeping of salt water tropical fish as opposed to the fresh water variety. I"ve taken him to Marineland, and he wants to build an aquarium with me. I'm for that. He also likes music, just as I do, though I don't push it on him. I do notice that if I'm playing Beethoven and I say, 'What do you thing of that?' he'll say, 'Fine.' Anytime I put on Bach or Vivaldi, he comes downstairs to listen. Naturally he picks up what he likes and I'm the first one to encourage that. He's interested in the piano, so he's willing to study and work hard at it. It has nothing to do with show business, he just enjoys the piano. He wants a car, but he's a little too young for that. And he's interested in building things, and in playing ball."
"Is he interested in girls yet?" I asked. "Yeah. He's sort of beginning to move in that direction," Guy smiled. "Have you given him any man-to-man advice on the subject?" "A little bit, just jokingly. He's just beginning to go on one or two dates. The first ones were rather shy things and after he explained to me what happened, I jokingly dropped a line on how to speed up the process. I'd ask, 'What did you do?' and he'd say, 'Oh, we went to the movies and then we went into Tiny Naylor's drive-in and had a Coke.' And I'd might kid him and say, 'Did you put your arm around her yet?', on his first date we had a conversation like this, and he said, 'Well, no.' So kiddingly, I said, 'Well, next time you go to the movies, just scratch your ear and then out your hand down and rest it behind the seat.' And we'd laugh about it, and that's about the extent of the advice. He talks to me because he knows I'm not going to get after him, although if he came home and said, 'Well, Dad...' and something really horrendous had happened, I'd say, 'Well, wait a minute!' "
"Do you and your wife ever disagree on the raising of the children?" I asked. "Oh, sure. But these are just the normal differences, I think, between the two sexes. I might tend to be a little more strict with personal things that Janice would be with the children, little nitty things, like 'Did you wash your hands before you played the piano?' Or I might say, 'Why do you allow Steve to speak that way?' if I think he's been disrespectful. Jan might think there's nothing wrong with it, and she might be right! But these are little things that have no meaning. Basically she's not pushing the children to do anything or not do anything at this point, and neither am I. They happen to be well-behaved children, at least by our standards. It's just that they're growing up, and that's it. I don't think that's a problem. The problem would be if something were to hinder that, some terrible illness or accident, or something else really, really important. But that doesn't exist, fortunately. We could also be wrong about this, but neither Jan nor myself feels that we have any problems, and so we're not going to pass on phantom problems to the kids. In other words, we're not going to load them up with luggage they're going to have to carry around. Luggage that they don't need. We're not tied to any preconception like 'Sex is evil,' or 'Get ahead, get ahead, get ahead' or 'Make money, make money, make money.' That whole Death of a Salesman route, whether it's a moral one or a financial one, is all luggage the kids would either have to get rid of somewhere along the line or drag through their lives. But we don't give them that, so that's why we're not worried. Even if we did have problems, we wouldn't want to give them to our children, because they're going to find enough of their own anyway."
If Guy is outspoken in advocating the things he believes in, it's because he cherishes his right to free speech. But sadly, he says that for too many people today, "free speech is valid under two circumstance. It's valid as long as it agrees with the established norm, and it is also valid when it disagrees with the established norm, until it becomes effective. Just as soon as that happens, it's rabble-rousing and trouble-making. And then it becomes invalid, according to society and whoever is 'in', whoever is running the Establishment at the moment."
"If your son went to college in Berkeley and became a campus demonstrator, how would you feel about it?" I asked Guy. "Well, if he went along with the demonstration merely because everyone in his group was going along with it, I'd be very upset and I'd let him know it in no uncertain terms. On the other hand, if he attitude was a valid one, and he had come up with some of his own genuine ideas, I would say, 'More power to you!' It's like if he told me he wanted to join the Army and go to Vietnam. I'd say, 'Why do you want to do that?' If he answered, 'All the guys on the block are doing it,' I'd say, 'Well, knock it off!' But if he said to me that he really, honestly felt this was the thing that was right, politically and so on, and he felt this was his particular mission at this particular time, I wouldn't like it personally, but I would give him less of an argument than if he were just following the crowd." "Why wouldn't you like it?" I asked. "I think that Vietnam is dreadful. I personally do. I can't imagine it, but if be came up with some sort of reason for wanting to go there, if he went along with the Establishment on the thing, I would be less inclined to battle him on it. But if he told me he wanted to go because everyone else was going, I'd really give him a tussle on that one!"
"What would you do if he wanted to try LSD?" "I personally have nothing against LSD. I know something about it, but not a great deal, and I don't think a lot of other people with opinions know, either. I had dinner one night with Aldous Huxley, the author. This was before the word LSD meant anything, but hd did a lot of research on himself with mescaline, another hallucination-producing drug. When I heard Aldous Huxley talk about the subject of mescaline, compared to reading some hysterical editorial on it, the difference was like night and day. He was, before his death, one of the most lucid people we had around, and describing his experience and what it did for him as an artist made the whole thing sound quite legitimate. I know there's an area of the mind that hypnosis deals with which tends to unlock things we don't understand, and I'm not against that either. If my son came to me and said he wanted to try LSD, I would then ask him, 'Where are you going to try it, why do you want to and what's the background for this?' I think if I got interested in it, before doing anything like that, I would investigate it myself, and see what it is all about. However, until now he hasn't shown an interest in this, and in four or five years, who knows what LSD will be like. It might be just like penicillin today. You can start throwing conditions at me where I just can't answer. Probably, because it's a lot of trouble for nothing at this point. I would say, 'Forget it,' or something like that. But I am not a person who feels that it's criminal and that Timothy Leary should be hung. I don't feel that at all. If I take it seriously that this is a free country and that you have the right to expound views that may or may not be popular, then you have to let people expounds these views. If, when the chips are down, there is no freedom, that's another story. But the use of LSD, I do see this is a great threat to established society, because it tends to take people out of contact with the kind of law that governs society. It's like buying misbehavior when you buy LSD; you don't buy enough other things, you don't consume enough products. People possibly might wind up not buying enough automobiles. And if that happens, you have to take a long look at what the hell we're doing. So rather than make waves, it's easier to make laws. But when you get into that area, you begin to wonder if that's right. Is it really right in terms of our nation? By that time in the discussion, LSD itself is lost, it's just a little instigator of a much bigger product."
"What if your son wanted to try marijuana?" I asked Guy. "I would have more feelings for that than I would have about LSD. I would prefer him to use marijuana than cigarettes. Because cigarettes are bad for your health, they will give you lung cancer and they will hurt your heart. Marijuana is not toxic. It, again, probably produces a certain amount of social misbehavior. I prefer that to liquor. Liquor will give you a bad liver and bad heart, and possibly will sop your brain if you drink too much of it. I suppose if you smoke too much marijuana it'll do the same thing to you. From everything I've ever heard about it, marijuana is not an injurious drug. The people that are against marijuana, if they really had our interests at heart, would also outlaw cigarettes and alcohol. But how b big is the marijuana business? And how big is the liquor business? So you have to get into that." "I assume you're talking about marijuana if it weren't against the law," I told Guy, "because you don't want to get in trouble with the law, obviously." "Sure," he agreed, making it plain that he was not advocating breaking the law, but was just setting forth his views on marijuana itself. Then he continued, "The cigarette business and alcohol interests are two of our biggest industries. And they are harmful. Now, if you want to get into government or society wants to take care of its citizens in terms of advice and morality, they will allow them to smoke cancer-producing tobacco!"
"What would you say if your son came to you and wanted to drink?" I asked. "Well, he has wine with his meals now. Both of them do. His used to be diluted. I dilute Toni's a little now. He's drinking wine with his food and he's enjoying it, and he's enjoying his food. It's part of the way we live. A glass of wine, or a few glasses, with a good meal is better than none. I'm not giving it to him to give him a better attitude toward it, I'm doing it because it's good for him! He'll enjoy his food more, and it'll be better for his character in terms of the appreciation of good things. Why should he drink water? In fact, water is bad for you with a meal. It does more than bloat you up. You sit down to a meal and normally you release possibly a cup of acid into your stomach to digest your food. Now, you get the inevitable glass of water in a restaurant, you down it, and what do you think you do the acid. You dilute it. So what happens to your digestion? It gets diluted. It's slowed down by the water. Wine quickens the digestion, if anything. Red wine does, because it's an acid. So red wine will help, but it also increases the taste. Also, wine itself is fabulous! There's so much to know about wine, it's the culture of the grape. It's a good thing to know." He grinned as he concluded. "I think a guy who knows something about wines can't be all bad!"
And there you have a picture of Guy Williams, a very modern parent, but only because he believes his views are right. He has thought them through, and if some of his ideas are controversial, they are not careless. For Guy cares very much. He cares what happens to his son and daughter, and he will do everything he can to reless. For Guy cares very much. He cares what happens to his son and daughter, and he will do everything he can to see that they grow up well and happy.
Silver Screen Magazine. 1966.