Thursday, April 26, 2012

Leon: Unseen and unheard, but important nevertheless

I’m not sure how or why it happened, but I’ve been especially intrigued by Leon of late, Hamilton’s unseen man Friday around the office. I still think his most likely position is that of secretary, rather than stenographer or receptionist or even assistant D.A. Many times Hamilton speaks over the intercom without saying to whom he’s speaking. I believe Leon is the only person Hamilton ever addresses by name on the intercom.

It puts us in mind of Perry usually talking to Della on the intercom. He only talks to Gertie, the receptionist, when she calls him, but with Della Perry calls her half the time and asks her to place calls or come in to take dictation and the like. It is this latter set-up that we see when Hamilton talks to Leon.

I have to admit, I find the idea of Hamilton having a male secretary quite cool. There’s only a handful of them on the series; at that point secretarial work was usually seen as a feminine job. The only other male secretary I can even think of right now is the character played by William Schallert in episode 5, The Sulky Girl.

I regret that I did not take greater stock of the particular episodes in which Leon is mentioned. Now I don’t remember most of them, and neither does anyone else! (Although most people don’t seem to remember Leon at all, so at least I can’t say that about myself.) I believe all the mentions were prior to William Talman’s suspension/firing, so I figured season 3 was probably the cut-off point. I haven’t seen most of season 3 for some months, however, and I can’t recall if there are even scenes in Hamilton’s office in season 3. Seasons 1 and 2 are plentiful with them. Then, unless I’m mistaken, those scenes sadly disappeared and did not begin to return until around season 7. On the other hand, those scenes could have continued and many were just cut from TV.

The only scenes I’ve re-located to date are both from season 2: The Romantic Rogue and The Bedeviled Doctor. In the former, the mention is indeed in a scene that’s apparently often cut. When the former Casanova’s partner shows up to tell all in Hamilton’s office, the scene is actually shown and not just talked about later, which is the impression that some prints give. In the scene, she wants immunity and Hamilton promises to give her the best break he can. She leaves, and he and Tragg discuss her testimony. Tragg isn’t sure he believes it, and Hamilton doesn’t seem so sure himself, and yet the facts she told added up. He presses the intercom button and asks Leon to step in for a moment.

In The Bedeviled Doctor, the people who have come to see Hamilton are still in his office when he asks for Leon. And that time he says what he wants, which is probably the best evidence that Leon is his confidential secretary: “Leon, would you come in here, please? I need you to take down a statement.”

I’m going to keep looking through season 2. Perhaps I’ll even try some season 1 episodes again, even though I didn’t think Leon was mentioned in those. And when season 3 starts up in a few days on my station, I’ll be paying very close attention.

In some ways, you can draw parallels between Leon and the unseen characters on series such as The Andy Griffith Show. On the latter, characters are often talking to Sarah the telephone operator and Juanita, a waitress at the local diner. Fans have expressed feelings that it would ruin things to hear or show them; not seeing or hearing them was a running gag, and the audience is then free to picture them any way they like. This is true, and somehow for The Andy Griffith Show, I agree.

For Leon, however, I wanted to see or hear him quite badly. He’s a character with close ties to Hamilton, so naturally I’d be interested in him. It is kind of fun, though, to have such a blank slate of a character to work with. We don’t know anything about what he looks like or what his personality is. As I’ve tried to tinker with him in some of my writings, an image of how I see him has been gradually forming.

The Leon I envision is faithful and loyal, always willing to do what Hamilton wants. Perhaps he highly admires Hamilton to the point of slight idolization, feeling that Hamilton is trying to work for justice (which he is, of course) and liking being a part of that.

He’s in his thirties, probably. (For the present day in my stories, Hamilton is in his late forties.) He’s quiet and mature, with straight and very dark brown hair that could potentially fall in his eyes if uncombed, the way Wesley Lau’s hair can, and glasses.

I’ve taken up curiously studying people in all of my shows, looking for anyone who resembles my image of Leon. Some come close, but no one has yet fit the mold exactly as I see it in my mind.

I’ve written a couple of experimental pieces posted solely on Livejournal, for the purpose of looking for Leon’s voice and determining how he and Hamilton interact. In my more “official” stories, Leon has been an occasional player and has also sometimes been mentioned and not seen. This resulted in an unfortunate “out of sight, out of mind” problem on my part and caused me to perhaps make a mistake in how I handled Leon’s role in The Broken Ties, the mystery story in which he previously appeared the most.

I determined that Leon has worked for Hamilton for some time. I’m assuming they have a definite closeness to some degree. And yet in The Broken Ties, nothing was really said or done towards Hamilton trying as hard to get Leon to remember the truth as he tried with the other main players. After discovering that Leon just did not remember and felt that Hamilton was overworking himself, Hamilton seemed to pretty much leave the matter alone. Leon is mentioned by Paul in a later chapter, wondering if they need to worry about him upsetting their plans. Hamilton says that Leon can’t reveal anything said in this office in confidence, but admits that they may have a problem if Leon is worried about Hamilton’s state of mind. At the end of the story, when everyone is trying to return to normal, Leon expresses bewilderment over what happened. Hamilton, still reeling himself and not wanting to concede to the supernatural ideas, tells him only the group hypnosis theory he’s developing to present in court. He decides to himself that he will tell Leon the other stuff if Leon keeps being bothered.

It presented a dilemma when I wanted to focus more on their interaction the past couple of weeks. If they were really close, something more should have been done. It was an oversight on my part, as at the time I wasn’t thinking strongly about Hamilton and Leon and assumed more that they probably were not especially close. But it’s more interesting to think that they are. Hamilton is a friendly, congenial person. And if Leon has indeed worked for him for some time, they surely did develop some kind of rapport. So, not wanting things to reflect badly on Hamilton, I decided to try repairing the potential damage.

In my current mystery The Denying Detective, which focuses largely on Paul but also a great deal on Hamilton, Leon appears extensively in chapter 3. I’ve promised that he will be an important supporting player throughout the story and that I will be developing his character. During one of Hamilton’s soliloquies, he muses that he did tell Leon the rest of the story concerning Vivalene’s spell before too much time had passed. He also mentions that he did try more than once to get Leon to remember the truth, but at the same time felt that since Leon did not appear to be one of Vivalene’s specific targets, he was safest staying in the office and away from the disastrous action. Hamilton and Leon are getting along swimmingly, and since this story relies partially on flashbacks, I may actually show scenes of him telling these things to Leon in the past.

Vivalene’s spell is coming back to bite them and everyone else in this mystery, as Hamilton’s group hypnosis theory is falling apart in the face of people all over the county confirming the bizarre events and he is having trouble getting two of the principle players in the mess convicted. Upon thinking about things, I realized that there were still loose ends such as that which needed to be tied up, and they’ll slide perfectly into the mystery’s main plot, which concerns why Paul suddenly and without warning flipped out and attacked Hamilton before disappearing for three months. And whose blood it was that Paul found on his hands when he came back to himself.

It would be neat if other Perry fanfiction writers decide to jump on my bandwagon and write about Leon. He’s a character who could have been more prominent in the series and might actually have been, had the show not generally followed the point-of-view of the defense team and had instead equally followed both sides. There is always more of that equality when both sides have scenes, but Leon still never had so much as one line. A pity, but a starting point for anyone wanting to explore this mysterious man. Leon, after all, is to Hamilton what Della is to Perry—as far as importance and usefulness in the workplace goes. And that certainly counts for something.

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