“Lie to me, tell me that they’re only robins…”

When educated people gather for food and wine and sparkling conversation, the intellectual give-and-take quickly grows tiresome, but in my experience it almost always leads to one worthwhile question: Who the heck played the gargoyle in the creepy 1972 made-for-TV movie Gargoyles?

It so happens that the gargoyle was played by Bernie Casey, an actor you’ve seen a million times: in blaxploitation pictures; in Roots: The Next Generation; as the teacher in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure who gets to call Julius Caesar “a salad-dressing dude”; as the fraternity president in three of the four Revenge of the Nerds movies; and on countless TV shows. A paragon of versatility, Casey excelled at college and professional football, and he’s also a painter, a poet, and former chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

So here’s to Bernie Casey, not only because he turns 70 today, but because in 1972 he brought baleful dignity to his role as a gargoyle who implored a human to teach him how to read while manfully protecting a nest of “wingéd breeders.” Casey may be a Renaissance man, but in the 1970s he demonstrated an unsung talent for making children nearly soil themselves out of terror. For that, to some of us, he’ll always be truly medieval.

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