The Boyfriend of the Week

August 1, 1999

This week's Boyfriend is a little strange. He's dead, for one, which makes scoring a date with him a bit tricky at this point. And he's also not considered to be a really swell guy by most people. However, who cares what other people think? Doc Holliday may have shot lots of people, drank too much, and gambled a lot, but deep down, he was a loyal and loving guy.

And on top of that, he was pretty goddamn cool.

I have always contended that I was Doc Holliday in a past life (which also makes featuring him as a Boyfriend kind of strange, if you think about it. Or maybe it's more egotistical than weird. Dunno.). Sadly, I have to admit that it's probably likely that I wasn't. I'm a pretty good shot (at the cabin, I can hit a beer can at 15 paces with a .22 rifle) and I'm not bad at poker, but I'm nowhere near as good at dentistry. In fact, I loathe dentistry. I hate having my teeth cleaned. I hate novocaine. I hate people digging around in my mouth. I hate all of it. Yet, if I were truly Doc in a past life, wouldn't I be more likely to floss daily? To go in for a cleaning every six months instead of every twelve?

See, so it can't possibly be true. Besides, I might want to be careful who I emulate, considering the fact Doc died of TB at a relatively young age.

Dentistry and disease aside, I really and truly wish I HAD been John "Doc" Holliday in a past life. Just take a look at some of the finer movies made about him and the Earps ("Gunfight at the OK Corral" and "Tombstone," for example). Was there ever a more loyal friend than that? He didn't have to go into that gunfight. He didn't have to go after Johnny Ringo. He did it all for his pals, no matter what risk it put himself into.

Also, look at his relationship with Big Nose Kate (for an entertaining reading experience, check out "Doc Holliday's Woman" by Jane Candia Coleman. A cheesy romance, true, but a lot of fun). He rescued her from a life of prostitution and never treated her any differently than he would a lady. Aw shucks, Doc! What a sweetie!

Personally, I think it had a lot to do with Doc's background -- he started out a respected dentist in Georgia, but was forced to go West because the climate (hot, dry) was the only treatment left for his condition. There, he was forced to give up his practice (they weren't big into teeth in the Wild West). He quickly discovered he was good at gambling and drinking and shooting, and so that's what he did for a living. Out of necessity. So maybe he knew what Kate did didn't necessarily have anything to do with who she was. She was no angel, but he wasn't in a position to judge her for that, and he knew it. I think a lot of people would disagree with me on this and say it was more likely Doc just didn't give a damn about anything. But he was too smart for that. And too aware of how the world worked.

Alas, I digress.

Of all the movie Docs, I will confess that Val Kilmer is my favorite. There's no way to really know who was the most like Doc in real life, but Val's version was by far the most interesting (and cute). The way he talked, the things he said, the way he looked (pasty and sweaty but still somehow daunting and sexy) -- woo! However, points also to Dennis Quaid. His Doc Holliday is a close second. In fact, he was the only thing that made "Wyatt Earp" watchable. I need to go back now and watch "OK Corral" again because I know that it was Kirk Douglas who first made me a believer and I want to see if I still think he's great now that I've fallen for the others. There have literally been dozens of Doc Hollidays in Hollywood and the weird thing is that they're all very different. But it's not like I'm only in love with the on-screen versions. I've read a bunch of biographies and historical books about Doc and the whole Tombstone scene. The one thing that stands out consistently was Doc's empty inner self and his need to hold onto the people he trusted (read: underdog). When Doc respected you, well, that really meant something.

I could talk and talk about Doc. I know what his favorite gun was. I know what his last words were. I know that most people closest to Wyatt Earp considered Doc to be a liability. But what Wyatt had to say about him probably sums him up best:

"He was a dentist whom necessity had made a gambler; a gentleman whom disease had made a frontier vagabond; a philosopher whom life had made a caustic wit; a long, lean ash-blond fellow nearly dead with consumption and at the same time the most skillful gambler and the nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a six-gun I ever knew. . .With all of Doc's shortcomings and his undeniably poor disposition, I found him a loyal friend and good company." (Myers, JM. TOMBSTONE'S EARLY YEARS. Lincoln, Nebraska : University of Nebraska Press, 1950.)

MacGyver Factor Score: 87.95%. I do have to take a bunch of points off for being dead, in order to stay true to the concept behind the MFS scale. However, I added a bunch of points back on out of sympathy. You just gotta feel kinda bad for a gunfighter who died without his boots on.


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