Tuesday, May 14, 2019

RIP Tim Conway, Ensign Parker On 'McHale's Navy'

When I was a seaman recruit in Navy Boot Camp at the Great Lakes, Illinois Naval Training Center in 1970, I recall standing at parade rest on the grinder field as our drill instructor told us that the 1960s TV comedy series McHale’s Navy was one of the best weapons the Communists had in their arsenal.

I whispered to the sailor next to me that McHale’s Navy was one of the reasons I joined the Navy. 

Yes, I might have told the drill instructor if I had the chance, McHale’s World War II PT-73 crew was an undisciplined, raucous, gambling, girl-chasing, moonshine-making bunch, but they were also the most effective combat PT boat crew in the fictional squadron. 

I loved that show and I have a couple of DVDs that I still watch from time to time. 

So I was sorry to hear that Tim Conway had passed away.

Tim Conway portrayed Ensign Parker (seen in the above and below photos), the executive officer of the PT-73 under Ernest Borgnine’s Commander McHale (seen in the below photo). 

Ensign Parker was an innocent, goofy, clumsy, but good natured officer who was a constant irritant to the squadron’s pompous, ambitious, officious and somewhat insane commanding officer, Captain Wallace Burton (Old Leadbottom) Binghamton, portrayed by the late Joe Flynn (seen in the below photos). 

Later, while serving on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War, I realized that Tim Conway’s Ensign Parker had some counterparts in the real U.S. Navy, although some of those junior officers were not so innocent or good natured (Ha). 

And later still, as a civilian Defense Department administrative officer, I discovered that Joe Flynn’s Captain Binghamton also had some counterparts in the real U.S. Navy. 

I didn’t watch Tim Conway on Carol Burnett's TV show, but my wife and I were fortunate to have seen Tim Conway live on stage in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. He portrayed Felix, the fussy one, and Tom Poston portrayed Oscar the slob. Tim Conway added clumsy comedic pratfalls on stage to his portrayal of Felix. We enjoyed the show.

Lastly, while watching SpongeBob SquarePants on TV with my grandchildren, I was pleased to discover that Tim Conway was the voice of the cartoon character Barnacle Boy, the sidekick to Mermaid Man (voiced by Ernest Borgnine), SpongeBob’s underwater superheroes.

Tim Conway will be missed.             

Note: You can watch the first episode of McHale’s Navy via the below link:


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