Author, illustrator and Flintoid Tom Pohrt remembers the day pulp writer Johnston McCulley's creation walked the streets of Vehicle City.
“Señor, who are you?”
“A friend of the people, El Zorro!”
1958: Unemployment in the U.S. was at 7% and a gallon of gas was 25 cents; Sputnik burned up re-entering earth’s atmosphere in early January and Nikita Khrushchev became Premier of the Soviet Union; Joao Gilberto introduced the cooled down samba sound of Bossa Nova in Rio while Fidel Castro’s revolutionary army was advancing on Havana; Ted Williams signed with the Red Sox; the right wing John Birch Society was founded; Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel “Lolita” is published in the U.S. and the first International House of Pancakes opened in Toluca Lake, California.
And Zorro came to Flint. It was a heady year.
In August of 1958, when I was five years old, Zorro did come to Flint, Michigan. Zorro, aka Don Diego de la Vega, was played by a second generation Italian-American actor named Guy Williams, whose Christian name was Armando Catalano. My brothers and I were glued to the TV each week to watch Zorro on The Wonderful World of Disney. El Zorro was a friend of the people and an enemy of injustice to three young boys brought up in post war Flint. He wore a black mask, cape and hat and wielded a wicked sword, each week whipping a capital Z across some Spanish villain’s pants or shirt. Zorro had an Errol Flynn mustache and matinee idol good looks. In short, Diego de la Vega was the essence of '50s cool. Google Williams’ screen test for the role he later played on Lost In Space. The guy knew how to light a cigarette.
Originally published September 3, 2010.