After his movie career had cooled, when he was in his sixties, Parker pursued a dream he had had for many years, to own a winery. He started Parker Wines in the early ‘90s, and his product earned some critical praise. (The winery would eventually add his first name to the label to take advantage of his considerable name recognition -- marketing is everything.)
Parker visited Central Florida in early 1992 as part of the Walt Disney World Village Wine Festival, the precursor to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. To tout his wines, he agreed to have dinner with the restaurant critic and wine writer for the local newspaper.
I remember arriving at his Disney Village townhouse to pick him up. I remember thinking he really is a big man as he walked into the room and shook my hand. I remember some of the things we talked about at dinner, including politics. (It was pretty evident our views weren’t the same, so we quickly moved on to other topics.
I remember that “Old Yeller” had just been released on VHS that week or the week before. Movies coming out on tape was a fairly new innovation. Parker said he hadn’t been aware of the release. I wanted to tell him what an impact the movie had on me, that I remembered seeing “Old Yeller” as a child, at a drive-in, with my family, and how I was certain it was the first movie that brought me to tears with its ending. It still can. But I didn’t. When you’re sitting at a table with Daniel Boone, you somehow don’t want to admit crying like a baby at one of his movies.
I remember a great deal about that dinner, including what a charming, gentle gentleman Fess Parker was. But I can’t for the life of me remember what restaurant we were at. It doesn’t matter.
My account of the meeting ran in the February 7, 1992, edition of Calendar. Read it below.