Never has an actor done less and been universally adored. While many (properly) laud Anthony Hopkins and Doug Bradley for the icons they fashioned in little screen time as Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Pinhead, respectively, they were featured players compared to the man of the hour. Nearly four decades since last creeping around Camp Crystal Lake, Walt Gorney remains the unofficial mascot of one of horror’s most beloved franchises, and today we celebrate the 106th anniversary of his birth.
Armed with nothing more than a crumpled hat, dingy vest, and a few ominous words of warning, Crazy Ralph endeared himself to Friday the 13th fans everywhere, and has life to this day.
For as much as Friday freaks adore Jason and revere Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), all one need do is whisper “doomed” to rally the troops. Maybe it was the wobbly way he piloted his bicycle, the gleeful, sarcastic taunt of “You’re goin’ to Camp Blood, ain’tcha?,” or that he had occasion to hole up in pantries. Whatever the reason, Friday the 13th aficionados have never tired of a character that last appeared on a screen almost 37 years ago.
Born in Vienna, Austria in 1912, Gorney will be forever remembered for getting liquored up, spouting his gospel, and being a pain in Officer Dorf’s ass. However, we’re not allowed to forget that he had a successful stage career, which included involvement with the Provincetown Players theatrical group in the 1950s, or that he made brief appearances in King Kong (1976) and Trading Places.
Sad, in a way, that Gorney was 68 years old when the original Friday film debuted, because conventions being what they are today, few would be as popular on the circuit as Crazy Ralph. As legendary horror host Joe Bob Briggs once said, “If the old geek says you’re doomed, you’re by God doomed.”
Alas, it’s been 14 years since Mr. Gorney left us, but for as long as Friday the 13th has a following, he will never be forgotten.
So, wherever you find yourself whetting your whistle tonight, raise a glass in honor of the man who is, was, and ever shall be Crazy Ralph – Walt Gorney.