Barbara Hale as Della Street, William Hopper as Paul Drake and William Talman as Hamilton Burger in opening credits of the first season (1957) of TV's classic Perry Mason.
"If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quit," said William Talman -- Hamilton Burger in the original "Perry Mason" TV series -- in a proto-reality-TV shocker back in 1968. It was the first-ever American Cancer Society anti-smoking testimonial by a celebrity dying of lung cancer. In those days it was almost unheard of to see a TV star doing an ad of any kind. He had sold out. His career must be on the skids. But Talman's testimonial was different, as ClassicTVAds.com explains:
When Bill Talman uttered those words, he was using morphine to ease the pain of lung cancer. This former Perry Mason co-star asked the American Cancer Society if they would help him film this ad. Please watch it. It was first broadcast after Mr. Talman died.
It's heartbreaking now to see the once dashing Peter Jennings of ABC's World News Tonight looking old and ashen, his signature suave-sounding voice now gravely -- in the Talman tradition telling viewers he has lung cancer.
The 66-year-old star journalist is expected to continue anchoring the news during the chemotherapy “to the extent he can do so comfortably,” ABC News president David Westin said.
“There will be good days and bad, which means some days I may be cranky and some days really cranky,” Jennings was quoted in US media as saying in his message to staff.
While Jennings's biased "anchoring" masquerading as "objective" news reporting rubbed us the wrong way and made him unwatchable in recent years, one can only empathize with his obvious suffering and brave effort to soldier on. He gave up smoking years ago, but as we know, giving it up doesn't protect you from tissue damage that may lead to the disease years down the road.