Pernell Roberts, 31-year-old Waycrossan who made good in the entertainment world, flew home with his eight-year-old son, Chris, to spend a few days with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. P.E. Roberts. It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and Pernell wasn't expecting anyone to meet him at the airport, other than his parents. Word gets out, though, and a large crowd, including city and county dignitaries, was on hand. After the autograph signing and posing for photographs, the star and his family climbed into sheriff Robert E. Lee's car to head a motorcade into town.
Pernell admitted later that he hadn't expected such a welcome, and that one thing that had worried him on the plane trip was recognizing faces but not being able to call names. It was more than eight years ago since his last visit. He didn't seem to have much difficulty with the names, however.
In talking about the color western series on television which has done much to increase his popularity - "Bonanza" - Pernell says that working with the other three stars in the series is a joy insofar as the four of them being compatible is concerned. "They're a great gang to work with," Pernell says.
"Bonanza" comes over NBC television from 7:30 to 8:30 on Saturday nights. Pernell plays the part of the oldest of three half-brothers, Adam Cartwright. Michael Landon plays Little Joe, the youngest brother, and Dan Blocker plays the other brother, Hoss. The father of this trio, Ben Cartwright, is played by Lorne Greene.
Dan Blocker, an ex-football player from Texas, is strong as an ox, according to Pernell. He related that, at one of the clubs in Reno, Nevada, near Lake Tahoe country where Bonanza is filmed, the bouncer prides himself on never having been defeated in a hand-squeezing contest of strength. He had to concede to Dan, however.
One reason Pernell especially likes the Bonanza series is that the central characters rotate from week to week in carrying the show, thus enabling all of them to have a little time off.
Although Pernell likes the part he plays in Bonanza, he says he prefers playing to live audiences. After the expected life of Bonanza ends - two or three years, perhaps - he hopes to go back to the New York stage.
Although he had done serious acting in other locales, his first big break came after his performances in Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, with the Shakespearwrights in New York. For these performances, he received the Drama Desk Award for Best Actor Off Broadway for 1955. This was six years after he turned to acting as a career. This award helped build his reputation on the New York scene. Shortly, he appeared in two Broadway plays, The Lovers, with Joanne Woodward, as well as appearing in the Shakespeare festival at Stratford, Connecticut.
He later appeared in The Taming of the Shrew and The Duchess of Malfi, both with Nina Foch. Then, in 1957, he went to Hollywood to appear in the movie, Desire Under the Elms. After that, he made two other movies, The Sheepman and Ride Lonesome.
He has appeared on such television shows as Matinee Theatre, Shirley Temple Storybook, Cimmaron City, Gunsmoke, Sugarfoot, Have Gun, Will Travel, Zane Grey Theatre, and others, prior to the Bonanza series.
His homecoming proved to him that Waycross is proud of him and his success. The fact that he has spoken warmly of his hometown in magazine interviews has endeared him to the people of Waycross. And even the younger generation of Waycrossans had the opportunity of seeing him close at hand, for he rode in the Midget Bowl Parade with his son, Chris, and performed the crowning ceremony at the Miss Midget Bowl Contest.
His stay was much too short, but it will be remembered by many for some time to come.