A ninety year old man sits at a table wearing a sports jacket and ready smile with a tin of Skoal tucked behind a placard in a respectful attempt to keep it out of sight. He pays particular attention to children, always has time to shake hands and catch up with passersby because everyone seems to know him and grin at the sight of an old friend who can draw glistening stories from what seems an endless well.
It’s a scene not unlike those played out across towns large and small throughout America, where an elder statesman who has seen more than anyone has adopted the role of honorary grandfather, loved and respected by all who cross his path.
In this instance, it wasn’t Smalltown, U.S.A., but HorrorHound Weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the outpouring of affection was palpable as thousands came out to say farewell to the man who set the standard by which all who who have since portrayed Jason Voorhees have been measured — Ted White.
HorrorHound Cincinnati represented White’s final appearance at a horror convention, and fans young and old lined up for three days for one last opportunity to have a hockey mask signed, snap a picture or just shake his hand and say hello. Or goodbye. Or thank you.
Words like icon are thrown about too easily in today’s culture, where stardom isn’t always earned through paying ones dues, but by simply being in the right place at the right time.
While some truly deserve the moniker, to call White an icon is an injustice, because he is far more than that.
He served in the Marine corps in World War II and played football at the University of Oklahoma. The Texas native was not only a legend in the stuntman community, but did so for the likes of Jeff Bridges, Clark Gable, Lee Marvin and another icon, John Wayne.
White took on the role of Jason in what is widely considered the finest film of the Friday the 13th franchise, The Final Chapter. White’s performance was not only convincing, but left footprints so indelible that when the original was rebooted in 2009, Derek Mears shared that he fashioned his performance after White’s.
During the filming of that picture, White came to the rescue of a young Judie Aronson. On an incredibly cold night, Aronson had been submerged in freezing water for a long period of time in the hopes of capturing her death scene. Aronson was turning blue (it would later be revealed she was suffering from hypothermia), and that led White to nicely ask director Joe Zito to let her out to warm up because she was suffering. When White’s request was refused, he simply stated that he would walk away from the role if Aronson wasn’t allowed to get out of the water.
White wasn’t concerned with notoriety of role or money, but the well-being of others.
For a man who was tall and tough and capable of striking fear in the hearts of everyone, it was his gentle kindness that played the perfect counterbalance, and endeared him to all who came into contact with him.
Whether is was phrases like “A good friend” or “Honored to know him” to Aronson’s “this amazing gentleman” to a veteran who stood up at his final panel to thank him for his service to Kane Hodder saying “We’re gonna miss you, buddy”, it was clear that to say that White is loved or respected, or even iconic would be insufficient.
Ted White is revered.
Over the course of three days, White could be heard repeating “Always leave them laughing” with regard to tales told in a slight Texas drawl about his exploits working with “The Duke” and John Carpenter, or even that time White made Corey Feldman throw up.
From Friday through the final Sunday, Mr. White not only left them laughing, but carried with him an asset worth its weight in show business gold — he left them wanting more.
When Ted White departed from Cincinnati on Sunday, he left not only the followers of a franchise, but of humanity laughing and yearning, and firmly on their feet in appreciation.