What baby boomer who grew up with a TV in the house doesn’t remember Zorro?! Well, Ria Stone, who lives now in Mexico but grew up in the United States, not only remembers, she can’t forget. Which is why she went to pains to interview the biographer of the man who played Zorro on television. For her, for many of us, Zorro was our masked hero.
Recently, the movie Captain America, about a popular masked Marvel hero, has been topping movie box office charts. But I remember another masked hero from my youth, Walt Disney’s Zorro.
The Zorro television show in the late 1950s starred Guy Williams. Sad to say, after a dispute with the television network, Zorro was cancelled at the height of its popularity.
Like others, I’ve often wondered, “What happened to Guy Williams?”
Author Antoinette Girgent Lane answers that question and more in her biography of the man who played Zorro, Guy Williams: Man Behind the Mask.
After Zorro’s cancellation, Williams struggled to find other roles. In 1973, after discovering Zorro was popular in Argentina, he moved there to enhance his acting career.
I had the opportunity to interview author Antoinette Lane about her experience writing Guy Williams’ biography; this is an abbreviated version.
How did you decide to write a biography of Guy Williams?
I turned on the Disney Channel one day in the late 1980s and there was Zorro. It brought back memories of watching it with my younger brother. By Spring of 1988, I was totally hooked and very curious to know more about Guy Williams.
I got frustrated when I could not find much about him in libraries (we did not have computers yet). I thought someone should write a book about him. Soon, it was my own curiosity and passion that helped decide it would be me.
When Guy passed away in 1989, I was more determined to do the book as a tribute to him.
I suppose a frequent question you get is, what is Mrs. Williams like?
Janice Williams is an extraordinary person, just as Guy was. Maybe even more so to me because she’s a woman. She had to reinvent herself and did it successfully. She’s smart, witty, charming, kind, friendly, and beautiful. Her love for Guy and her desire to keep his memory alive was to my advantage.
What response did you from the Argentinians you corresponded with regarding the biography?
The response was Love, Love, Love. They were eager to share and talk about Guy.
Zorro is still very popular in Argentina because: Zorro is on TV every day, picking up new fans every year and Fernando Lupiz, who played Guy’s son in fencing shows in the 1970s, produces live Zorro shows under a big tent at Mar del Plata. He always gives tribute to Guy, keeping his memory alive.
Can you describe a typical day working on the biography?
Progress was slow because we did not have the Internet yet. I had to research “How to write a Biography;” read a lot of biographies; read how to “find” people; type letters and wait for responses; and make phone calls.
From one Guy Williams’ fan’s substantial memorabilia collection, I was able to compile a long question sheet.
When I met Janice Williams, she graciously set up our first interview on January 14, 1996, Guy’s Birthday! Then for the next four years, when she was available, she gave me hours of interviews.
Since I had four children at the time, a typical day included trying to find time to work on the book, to transcribe taped interviews, to find a quiet time for phone interviews, and to put the puzzle pieces together by writing. So, it was a long ordeal.
Guy Williams died in Argentina on April 30, 1989. How are Zorro fans honoring Mr. Williams on this day?
There are many internet sites devoted to Guy Williams where fans post their feelings and memories. Some visit his star on Hollywood Boulevard. Some get together for lunch.
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Guy Williams’ fans have also initiated and supported several dedications in Guy’s memory:
• Bronx Walk of Fame, NY, in May 2000
• Bench dedication in Central Park, NY, October 2002
• Bench dedication at Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside, CA, August 2, 2003
• Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood, CA, August 2, 2001