A hulking man wore a white sport jacket and a kind smile, looking far younger than his ninety years.
He had a slight Southern drawl as he chatted and chuckled with everyone who stopped by to visit with him. And they were legion.
They brought hocks and machetes, photographs and art, some even delivered gifts. Tucked behind stacks of pictures and books and other memorabilia, were a bottle of water and a tin of Skoal.
It was not unlike scenes that play out in towns large and small throughout the United States and beyond. The elder statesman whom everyone knows and respects. Who’d accomplished much, drew stories from what seemed an endless well, and always left them “wanting more.”
That was the scene at HorrorHound in Cincinnati, Ohio in March of 2016 when I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Ted White. In fact, I was with the entire crew of the Return to Camp Blood podcast, and we too came bearing gifts. A bottle of Johnny Walker. Mr. White’s favorite. It was a token of our appreciation for an interview he had done with us several months earlier. As well as for his phenomenal performance as Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, to say nothing of his service to our country many years before that. Several of our number had also been in the military, and Mr. White’s service meant even more to them than his turn that set the standard for Crystal Lake marauders.
He spoke with each of us one at a time, shook our hands, and decided to take a group photograph, at no charge, because he was touched by our gift.
It was to be Mr. White’s final convention, which time has proven not quite accurate, but over the course of three days, Friday fanatics believed they were saying goodbye. It was a sentiment that carried through the weekend as time and again, men, women and children approached a legend to say thank you and farewell.
At what was to be his last panel, he entered the room to a raucous ovation that had everyone on their feet in awe and appreciation. When the floor opened for questions, a man stood in the front row who had also served in the military, and he thanked Mr. White for his devotion to the nation. Mr. White seemed humbled by the kind words, but it was not an act, it was a true representation of Ted White.
He told stories that left everyone smiling and laughing, and as he was apt to say, “wanting more.” In fact, one of his fellow panelists, Judie Aronson (Samantha from The Final Chapter), shared her memories of “this great gentleman” who refused to continue his role if she were not allowed to get out of the water on a frigid night because she was suffering as they attempted time and again to film her death scene. It turned out that she had been stricken with hypothermia, which affects her to this day. It meant more to Mr. White that she be safe and comfortable than for him to receive a paycheck. And that is about all you need to know about Ted White.
When he rose to walk out of that room, again he looked out at a throng of people on their feet, applauding, cheering, and most certainly wanting more.
It’s been nearly 34 years since Mr. White fulfilled the role of Jason Voorhees, but the impact of that performance is perhaps more powerful now than it had been more than three decades prior.
Many Friday fans consider The Final Chapter to be the finest film the franchise has produced, and despite memorable turns from Kane Hodder and C.J. Graham, Mr. White’s performance continues to be lauded as the best we’ve had the privilege to witness. In fact, when Derek Mears donned the hock for the 2009 reboot, he noted that he emulated his portrayal after Mr. White’s. And that comes from the man whom, in this writer’s opinion, was the most terrifying Voorhees of them all.
When Mr. White rose from his table and exited that convention, for what was believed to be the final time two years ago, he again was met with applause and appreciation. And though he has since returned, one thing remains beyond dispute, terms like respected, adored and loved are not firm enough, because Ted White is revered. And always leaves us wanting more.