Thursday, June 23, 2011

THE HORN SECTION SALUTES: Don Diamond (1921-2011)

Don Diamond (right) with Frank deKova
Very sad news to report from Los Angeles this week, as the Horn Section must blow taps for actor Don Diamond, who passed away Sunday just 15 days after celebrating his 90th birthday.

The son of Russian immigrants, Diamond, who was fluent in Yiddish and Spanish, began his acting career in 1946 after four years of service (and a First Lieutenant commission) in U.S.A.A.C.  He quickly found success on television, co-starring in 3 long-running successes: THE ADVENTURES OF KIT CARSON (1951-55, as El Toro), ZORRO (1957-59, as the beloved Corporal Reyes)...

Don Diamond as Corporal Reyes on ZORRO

...and as Crazy Cat in the show for which he is best remembered, by both the general public and The Horn Section, F TROOP.

It's good ta be the Chief!

Diamond was not a regular when F TROOP premiered on September 14, 1965.  In fact, he didn't make his first appearance until the sixth episode ("Dirge for the Scourge") and was a secondary character, taking a backseat to Hekawi Chief Wild Eagle (Frank deKova) and the elderly medicine man Roaring Chicken (Edward Everett Horton).  But, proving the old axiom that there are no small roles, Diamond made a vivid impression on viewers and within a couple of months was promoted to his rightful position as Wild Eagle's ambitious "Assistant Chief".  Crazy Cat constantly and heartlessly longed for the "sad, sad day" that Wild Eagle would ascend to the "happy hunting ground" and the Hekawis would rally around their energetic new Chief, much to Wild Eagle's chagrin. 

F TROOP subversively parodied most of the cliches of television and motion picture Westerns, and Diamond's contribution was creating a comically high-pitched voice for Crazy Cat, twisting the long-standing and even then tired Hollywood stereotype of the deep-voiced Native American "warrior". 

Diamond's career spanned 41 years until his retirement from acting in 1987.  He was married to wife Luisa from 1966 until his passing.  R.I.P. Mr. Diamond.

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