Article 63

Richard Chamberlain -Coping with the enormous fan mail

Being a world-wide TV star brings unexpected problems. One of them -at least for Richard Chamberlain- is coping with the enormous fan mail he receives. "Itís not that Iím not grateful for the attention, the letters, and the gifts," he says, "but I always have a guilty feeling that I canít ever acknowledge it all personally, as I would like. If I did, Iíd never have a minute to learn my lines or go before the cameras, so Iím afraid my manners are not the best when it comes to thanking the fans."

And Dick has a lot of thanking to do, when one considers the thousands of presents that pour in for him each month. "I received some wonderful things," he comments with a smile, "and some very strange ones, too."

The presents Dick enjoys most are the many hand-made things sent to him by woman of all ages -little girls, teenagers, and grandmothers who call him "such a fine young man." "Iíve received several hundred hand-made sweaters and around 500 pairs of hand-knitted socks," he reveals, "as well as hand-made cuff-links and ties."

Other fans, knowing of Dickís fine sense of humour, send him such gifts as bedpans, nursesí caps, and records of Vince Edwards -who plays his screen rival, Ben Casey. One Australian girl even sent him a monogrammed doctorís jacket. "The trouble is," Dick explains, "she put the initials R.C. on the jacket, and so naturally I couldnít wear it on the show -even if monogrammed jackets were allowed."

Many Dr. Kildare fans send Dick money, ranging from a few cents to cheques for one hundred dollars. "I guess theyíve heard Iím a saver," he laughs, "and money collecting is my favourite hobby." Actually the money is always returned with a note explaining that he cannot accept it -and a suggestion that the senders donate the money to a worthy charity in their home town.

Dick uses very few of the gifts he is sent. Some of the clothes are sent to organisations for the poor. Orphansí homes get the records, candy, fancy fruit, and any other gifts they can use.

Why doesnít Dick keep his presents? "Itís a rule that Iíve set up for myself," he explains simply, "and Iím sure that most actors feel the same way. If itís a truly valuable gift, itís usually returned to the sender with a note of thanks, and a request that they give it to someone who needs help. And as for those hand-knitted things, I could never wear them all. It would be selfish to keep them when other people are in need. Itís rather a matter of giving all the things to people who truly need them, and keeping only a few things with some sort of sentimental meaning for myself."

What does he mean by sentimental meaning? "If thereís a note enclosed that explains the reason for the gift or makes a special point of asking me to keep it, I do" he says. "For instance, I was asked not long ago what I would like that I had no reason to buy for myself. I kiddingly admitted I would like a real cowboy hat and a few days latter a fan in Texas sent me a real beauty. I even wore it on the set as a joke, and itís still in my dressing-room. It would have been rude to return that. After all, I asked for it!"