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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

John-Boy’s Wedding Will Imitate Actor’s Life

Christy Slewinski New York Daily News

Blushing bridegroom Richard Thomas walked down the aisle Nov. 20 and said “I do” with Santa Fe art dealer Georgiana Bischoff.

Three weeks later, he walked down the aisle again - with someone else - while his wife watched from the wings.

Of course, it wasn’t Thomas, exactly, who took the second plunge. It was John-Boy Walton, the Blue Ridge Mountain boy who earned Thomas a spot in television history.

On Sunday at 9 p.m., CBS presents “A Walton Wedding,” which picks up the story of the much-beloved Depression-era family that brought a weekly dose of quiet drama to the tube throughout the 1970s and into the early ‘80s.

All the surviving original cast members were reassembled in 1993 for a highly rated TV reunion, “A Walton Thanksgiving.” Now, they’re all back again, including Ralph Waite and Michael Learned as John and Olivia Walton, and Ellen Corby as Grandma Walton.

Kate McNeil plays John-Boy’s bride, Janet Gilchrist.

Thomas laughs about the irony of art imitating life. But he also points out that the Walton wedding was enriched by his real-life union.

“It was fresh in my mind and in my heart,” he says.

It’s no secret that Thomas found it difficult to shake John-Boy’s image when he left the show in 1977 and that it has taken time to come to terms with the ever-present character.

“You can’t hope to change the image a show creates overnight. It would be naive to think you could do that,” he says.

“Look at what it’s done for me; look at how it’s labeled me. It always has two sides.”

But now, enough time has passed that Thomas can successfully step in - and out - of John-Boy’s shoes.

“I knew that it was time,” he says of his decision to reprise the role in 1993. “By the time they called again, I said, `Oh, sure. Why the hell not?”’

It’s not just older audiences who remember “The Waltons.” Thanks to the reruns that air on the Family Channel weeknights at 7 p.m., even the youngest of viewers know the whole mountain clan by name.

“It’s very gratifying,” he says. “If it were something I wasn’t proud of, or was embarrassed by, it would be different.”

So, will there be yet another “Waltons” film? Only time, and ratings, will tell. Either way, Thomas is content.

“If we do another one, fine. If we don’t do another one, that’s fine, too. And if there’s not another one, I will at least have said goodbye.”

But, even more importantly, now that “A Walton Wedding” is ready to run, Thomas and his new bride can go on the honeymoon that was postponed because of John-Boy’s wedding.

Any regrets that John-Boy had his honeymoon first? Not a one, Thomas says with a laugh: “I think he’s helping to pay for mine.”