In Flipper’s Footsteps by Brian d’Arcy James

From time to time, I help my cousin Brian d’Arcy James keep his website updated, and this recent post he wrote struck me as a perfect nostalgia article for “My Media Diary,” and for all those who grew up with 1960s TV (or its reruns).  So am sharing it with this blog’s audience.


Brian Kelly-Prince of MiamiW. C. Fields is famously credited with this warning to all:  “Never work with children or animals.”

My Uncle Brian was more specific: “Never act with a fish.”

Let me explain. My namesake and my uncle, Brian Kelly, was an actor. He was a big reason why I do what I do today. He showed me that being an actor was not only possible, but also could be a viable profession. He gave me many tips and insights about the business I’m currently in, either explicitly or by example. However, the most memorable, if not best advice he offered was the aforementioned fish dictum.

Brian Kelly in Flipper

Acting with a fish (and kids)

My Uncle Brian’s biggest role was on the beloved 60’s TV show FLIPPER. You remember, the one with the dolphin? If you do remember, you’re my age or older. If you don’t remember, imagine a weekly show set in Florida where a dolphin helps a family get in and out of G-rated hijinks. You might even remember the show’s theme song… “They call him Flipper. Flipper. Faster than lightning…”  (Earworm. You’re welcome.) Uncle Brian was the father of a small family and his character’s name was Porter Ricks. I’m still not sure if “Porter” was some kind of seafaring title, or in fact, just a unique first name.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure my uncle loved his job. And truth be told, the quote I’ve ascribed to him may not have actually been uttered. But suffice to say, at the very least, I do recall a bemused eye roll suggesting more annoyance than affection when I asked him what it was like doing scenes with a dolphin. All the same FLIPPER was a huge break for him, made him a TV star and set him on a course for a film career and things beyond in the entertainment industry (later in his career he was pivotal in making the film BLADE RUNNER come to life and served as that cult classic’s executive producer).

I’m thinking about him today, as it would have been his 83rd birthday this Valentine’s Day. But another reason he’s on my mind is because I will soon fly down to Miami to shoot the pilot episode of a new F/X series HOKE starring Paul Giamatti. I can’t say too much about my character, but I can divulge that I’m neither a porter nor a Porter.

Brian “Spaghetti Western” Kelly takes a gander at Brian “Shrek” James.

I think of my Uncle Brian often and in fact, I’ve taken to bringing a rare movie poster of one of his spaghetti Westerns with me to whatever dressing room I inhabit if I’m lucky enough to be in a Broadway show. He’s always close that way.

But now he’s really on my mind. You see, Flipper was shot in Miami. So too is/will be HOKE if the network gods deem it worthy of finding its way on to your TV or handheld device, or whatever it is you’re watching TV on today.

My Uncle Brian died a few years ago.  He was a very kind, very funny, and very headstrong individual. At his funeral in Marina del Ray, California, where he made his home, I was struck by a story that was told that I’d never heard before. It goes like this…

When Flipper was shooting in Miami, Jackie Gleason was in full Florida swing producing his own shows there. It’s said he moved his production there so he could be closer to the golf course. At any rate, it seems that Brian Kelly and Jackie Gleason crossed paths down there more than once. For, as the story goes, Gleason liked to proclaim:  “If I’m the King of Miami then Brian Kelly is the Prince!”

I love that story. The Prince indeed.

BriansJ&K-with-FlipperNow as I head down to Miami to shoot a TV show I have my Uncle Brian’s words in my ear as I prepare for my scene. I’m happy to say that I’ve followed his advice and to this day I’ve never acted with anything remotely aquatic. So far. However, if it became necessary and I was forced to defy my Uncle’s professional directive… I think he’d give me a pass. He’d understand. He was an actor, too. Sometimes you have to act with a fish.

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About Laura Kelly

Laura is Kevin Walsh’s second cousin on his father’s side. When she first moved to New York, she worked for CBS and at a variety of magazines as managing editor. Later, Laura was VP, Global Editor-in-Chief of Reader’s Digest books series. She now helps creative artists (such as authors, actors, photographers, and print designers) with all things digital; one of her main clients is her husband, author Warren Berger. You can learn more about Laura's business at, and follow her on Twitter @LectriceUSA, Facebook, and Google+.

One Response to In Flipper’s Footsteps by Brian d’Arcy James

  1. Margaret Steinke says:

    Read your post. Ithink Brian Kelly was one of the best looking men ever. In my opinion every man should look like him. Thank ypu for some insight into him. I alwaswondered what he was like,as I never read anything about. give the chance he would have been a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood.