Some towns have notable native sons who leave us and make us proud. My hometown of Ossining, NY has a special one-Peter Falk.
"Just One More Thing" is not just the title of the late Peter Falk's autobiography, it was his classic tagline in his signature role of Detective Columbo. Sadly, the world said goodbye to the great actor and native of Ossining at age 83 in his home in Beverly Hills yesterday. Mr Falk grew up on Prospect Avenue (now also known as Peter Falk Way), and while this down to Earth man left Ossining long ago, Ossining was never out of him.
On a personal level, I have Mr Falk to thank for helping me pass Philosophy 101 in 1987 at Villanova. His character, the detective, had a very unassuming way of asking the often pompous and smug suspects about minor details of their alibis, which often seemed airtight. Satisfied, the little man would make way toward the door as the subject exhaled.
"Just one more thing," Detective Columbo would then ask, and then go on to clarify a small, benign detail. That tiny nugget would almost always be the undoing of the suspect, and at the end of every movie, Mr. Falk's character would reveal the epiphany he got from their answer. And he did it in dozens of Columbo movies for 35 years.
In the middle of that run, I was having a bear of a time in college philosophy class with the Socratic Method of Inquiry, a very esoteric form of philosophic debate. My professor, a very generous guy and lover of pop culture named Jack Doody, asked me if I ever watched "Columbo." I thought he was pulling my leg. He wasn't. And from there on, explaining how one side questions the other, taking careful note of answers until they found a fallacy or inconsistency in reasoning, Dr D. showed me how Falk's character's disarming, folksy methodology in interrogating suspects dovetailed with the Socratic method. I got an A-.
So while many of us will recall Mr Falk fondly for solving crime or being the lovable character in such classics as The Princess Bride or It's a Mad Mad Mad World, I'll always thank him for helping me pass a really tough college class. How proud we should be- one of our own didn't just become a big TV star, he personified a philosophical archetype. Not bad at all. How I wish he'd come back for just one more thing.