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DR. MIGUELITO LOVELESS: A DUNN DEAL
Robert Conrad, Fred Freiberger, Bruce Lansbury, Whitey Hughes or anyone else who remembers the show all agree that the ultimate villain of THE WILD, WILD WEST was none other than the childlike, psychotic, dwarf-sized madman, Doctor Miguelito Loveless. Beautifully portrayed by Michael Dunn, Loveless had a giant-sized anger against the world for mistreating him, against God for creating him, and especially against Jim West for being Jim West.
When writer John Kneubuhl was flicking through an issue of TIME magazine, he saw a picture of singer Michael Dunn and had a brainstorm. He told producer Fred Freiberger that he had this great idea to make Dunn West's next opponent. Garrison hopped on a plane, flew to New York and tracked Dunn down to a nightclub where he was performing with his singing partner, Phoebe Dorin. Dorin signed on as Antoinette, Loveless' singing sidekick, where each time they appeared on a show, they would perform a duet.
Freiberger remembers, "When John came to me with this idea, I thought it would have been neat to have an opposite, in other words a giant, so we came up with Voltaire. But as usual, I had big problems from the network about having a dwarf being the lead villain, but I was truly fascinated with the idea of a dwarf owning half of California and then demanding it back. Plus, he truly hated everybody but the real target of his anger was God for making him such a monstrosity. And even though our first episode with him ("The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth") did really well, the network didn't want me to hire him again. But William Pailey (founder of CBS) was in New York at the time and saw the show and told me to get out there and sign those people to a contract. Although Dunn appeared in only ten shows, it was initially planned that he would do 4 per season. But as time went by, changes in his personal life and health made that difficult. Nevertheless, he is still the show's most famous villain."
Loveless' character was further inspired from Philip Barry's HERE COME THE CLOWNS, where a tormented dwarf blurts, "If there is a god, why did he make people like me?" A satanic apparition glares down laughing, "Would you deny him a sense of humor?" In his WILD, WILD WEST debut, while bleeding from a broken glass-created wound, Loveless tells West, "I've lived so long with pain, I no longer feel it." Dunn's character, Alexander, in the STAR TREK episode "Plato's Children" would relive this same paradigm.
Born as Gary Neil Miller in 1934 in Oklahoma, Dunn was a child prodigy with an IQ of 178, becoming a concert pianist at age 15 and the following year attending the University of Michigan. Afflicted with chondrodystrophy, a congenital, progressively crippling disease, his 3' 10" frame would constantly feel the effects of the disease when it first ended his piano career and later his life, but not before making Loveless a household name with his contradictory childlike demeanor and diabolical evil ways.
Dunn once said, "Secretly all he really wants is chocolate creams and women and a chance to sing. But then his ambition is to destroy the world and West." And it was his overzealous and fanatical preoccupation with destroying West that made for some of the most memorable and bizarre WILD, WILD WEST episodes.
In "Wizard," we learn that Loveless invented the radio, car, and of course an explosive that can move mountains so he can build a better world for children. He surrounds himself with the giant Voltaire, Antoinette, the gorgeous Gretta (Leslie Parrish) and controls the Governor's secretary Miss Piecemeal (Sigrid Valdis -- HOGAN'S HEROES), the same double crossing secretary to Governor Bradford in a later show "TNot Torture Chamber" and strangely West never makes the connection in either episode. In "The Night that Terror Stalked the Town," Loveless creates a West clone to infiltrate the government and get his explosive back from the first episode. His latest inventions include a self-exciting dynamo, a recording device, and rubber underwear so he can safely pass an electrical current through himself so when West grabs him, West gets zapped. Of note in this episode, we learn that West was born on July 2nd in the 1940's (Is it a coincidence that the film version opens on July 2nd?) and it's the first time we hear about Gordon's Great Aunt Maude. In "TNot Whirring Death," the last Voltaire show (who now can talk), West is encased in a giant clown trap and it's the closest thing to a Christmas special that THE WILD, WILD WEST ever had. The teaser is obviously poking fun at Scrooge.
For the second season's homage to THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, "TNot Raven" features a pet man-eating plant that suspiciously looks like Cleopatra from THE ADDAM'S FAMILY. Incidently, Jackie Coogan, who played Uncle Festas, appeared several times in THE WILD, WILD WEST. In "TNot Green Terror," a story inspired by Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," a book about the dangers of pesticides on wildlife, and the last show with his singing partner Phoebe Dorin, Loveless operates a suit of armor to convince Indians to obey his orders. After "TNot Surreal McCoy," Loveless plays a director in "TNot Bogus Bandits" where a bandit named Slade disguises himself as West.
So what happened to Antoinette? Lansbury tells, "That was just a change in his personal life... he got a new girlfriend."
In his single third season, "The Night Dr. Loveless Died," Loveless dies and his next of kin, Swiss Neurologist Dr. Leibknict agrees to help West find Loveless' records and turn them over to him. It's just a rouse to trap West and perform a lobotomy on him. In "The Night of Miquelito's Revenge," West's run into a thinner, more limp-ridden Loveless. In this, his final episode, Loveless tries West for all his crimes against him, then unleashes his latest sidekick on him, a steam powered man. At the end, Loveless escapes by shooting himself out of a cannon. We are left with West and his first replacement partner Jeremy Pike holding a dummy of Loveless saying, "There will surely be another time gentlemen. Surely another time, another time, another time..." There never was another time.
Phoebe Dorin was once quoted as saying, "No matter how his life was apt to change, he was not going to get tall or handsome. Most of his problems would still be present, no matter how successful he was. That was a killer, and it destroyed Michael."
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