This book is far more than an introduction to the philosophies and practice of Macrobiotics, this book is a look into the life of a typical Montana boy who grew up to be anything but typical. In often painfully honest detail, Dirk tells his story, revealing how he became an actor, an author, and a cancer conqueror – not just a survivor, but a conqueror.
By Dirk Benedict
I wouldn’t have it any other way. Remove any of these items from my physical/psychological resume and you diminish in quantum leaps the richness of the fabric that has been my life. My joy hasn’t been in spite of but because of these itemized events.
This attitude on my part has always been viewed by those that know me as slightly, if not grossly, abnormal. Perhaps. Certainly, according to my pulse (45), my blood pressure (106/60), and my cholesterol level (145), my friends are right. I am very abnormal. My life span might also end up being far outside the “norm”. But it wasn’t very long ago that I wasn’t so abnormal. Especially as far as the medical community was concerned. Oh yes. I was very normal and headed for a lifetime of paying medical bills as proof of my normalcy.
One can have a ten-year-old tumor languishing in one’s prostate and pass a physical with flying colors. I know. It happened to me time and again, every fall, as I had my physical for college football. And again in 1969 when I passed my pre-induction physical for the millitary. (What kept me out of the millitary was not the tumor in my prostate, but a head injury I’d received two years earlier playing football). At 200 pounds, with a seventeen-inch neck, a resting pulse of 78, a benchpress of 200 pounds, I was very much indeed a normal All-American male. I carried my sickness within………..”
Chapter One – “Floundering Vagabond”
“It began, prophetically enough, in Hollywood. A city I was to come back to time and again, in sickness and in health, in success and in failure, with anticipation and with dread. But this was my first visit.
I was playing a small part in my first Broadway play, Abelard and Heloise, starring Diana Rigg and Keith Michel. The production was in Los Angeles for a six-week, pre-Broadway tryout at the Ahmanson Theatre.
At this point the beef, venison and elk vibrations of my first twenty-two years were still very much controlling the nature of my day-to-day activities. Arthritis was my morning wake-up call, mood swings between ecstasy and despair my daily state of mind and Scotch my release from it all.
I have my routine. I’m running three or four miles a day, which everyone (this was 1971) finds quite strange. I run from the Bryson Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard, where the entire cast is staying, to the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown L.A. and sometimes back again after the evening performance. I have also discovered “health foods”. For the first time in my mostly rural life I’m in a city with health-food restaurants! Trusting the printed word, I’m binging indiscriminately on anything on the menu as long as the sign out front says “Health”! Hamburger, yes…but on whole wheat buns; butter, yes…but made from whole milk; eggs, sure…but direct from a roosterized chicken.
Forgetting all the time that this is just a citified version of what I had been eating while working on ranches in the big sky country of Montana, where the chickens peck in the barn yard, the beef is grass-fed sans any artificial food-supplementing and butchered by the rancher himself; and the milk is hand-milked from the cow and sometimes served still warm on the breakfast table. Homogenizing, pasteurizing, sterilizing are all just trick words from my sixth-grade spelling test!
But I am running. I am avoiding chemicals. I have given up on refined sugar, white bread, soda pop, anything with sugar in it. This may seem mild by comparison to comtemporary American’s current craze for alternate “diets”, but in 1971 my fellow cast members found me impossible to figure: Was I a hippie in cowboy clothing, searching like most of Southern California for a guru to pay homage to? Or was I what I appeared to be- a 190-pound, all-American, blonde-haired, blue-eyed pretender to the Redford throne? While they dabbled in far-out drugs, I played around with far-out foods. Impossible to figure”……….
What an ego! I am always amazed that I did survive. Miss Gloria Swanson had yet to make her entrance into my life with an invitation to dinner. Macrobiotics and the study of the universal principles of yin and yang were months away. I did not yet realize that there is no such thing as “Good versus Bad”, that both those qualities are inherent in everything, and that it is our understanding of natural laws that allows us to create balance out of opposities, thereby maintaining harmony, wholeness and health. There is good and bad in all of us, success and failure in all our lives, happiness and sadness in all our experiences. We must learn to appreciate, understand and finally, be grateful for the existence of these complementing antagonisms. the lack of either side of the coin in our life creates spiritual, mental and physical degeneration, and finally the ultimate degeneration: death”……………
My cowboy roots and Kamikaze soul didn’t crave Kushi’s assistance. In our few meetings over the years, Kushi had understood far better than I what was going on in the boiler-room of my soul’s engine. I believe it was music to his soul, a realization of his dream, that for once he not be considered a necessary part of someone’s path towards health and happiness.
The New York doctor has given me documentation for the disbelievers. Michio Kushi would give me documentation for myself and those other adventurous souls who would follow in my footsteps, choosing this alternative approach to the self-cure of the incurable”……..
“They say he’s not sexy”.
“They say what ?”
“ABC doesn’t think he’s sexy enough.”
“That’s it! I’ve had it! This is war!”
In the fall of 1977, nine months after I had embarked upon my re-entry into the business of make-believe for money, I was bunking with Bill Dufty and Gloria Swanson during a brief visit to New York. I had come there from Hollywood to touch bases with some of the high muckamucks of casting, thereby letting them know I was back again. Most of them didn’t know I had left. Ah, well! My agent and personal manager at the time thought it was important that I return to the city of my earlier success and “make the rounds”. I agreed to do it, quietly considering the list of old friends I could contact to ensure more of the exciting times New York has always seemed to hold for me.
From the palatial Fifth Avenue digs of Swanson/Dufty, where I was living way over my economic head but in perfect spiritual harmony, it was a short, invigorating stroll down the avenue to the Sherry Netherland Hotel for a “general meeting” with Glen Larson. Back in 1977 Larson was in the middle of preparing a megabuck blockbuster sci-fi project for Universal and ABC Television. Nothing like it had ever been done before on television”………..
Three hours into my labors and nearing the end of this joyous physical exertion, I began to feel light headed. Perhaps it was time to get something to eat? I paused briefly to let myself center a bit. Nothing. The sensation persisted. I sat down for a couple of minutes. Still no change. Well, I’m so close to finishing, I thought, I’ll just hurry up with the finishing touched and zip home for some food and a shower. That’ll do the trick!
I crawled under the plane to finish wiping down the belly. Almost immediately I felt nauseated. Whoa! What was this? Rapidly I began scrubbing, hoping to get the belly wiped clean before crawling out and standing upright to get my bearings straight. I couldn’t make it. The sense of impending regurgitation became overpowering. I scrambled weakly from under the plane and held onto the wing strut as I pulled myself upright. Twelve years of being my own doctor told me that this was serious. I was weak, lightheaded, sick to my stomach and feeling hotter than the exercise and hot day warranted. Sweat began to pour from me”……
Shortly after I came back into town with the goal of finishing the Hollywood part of my life and completing a cycle I had started with Chopper One, I was invited to a party by a former member of the cast of that ill-fated series. It was at this party that I was approached by a fellow who said he’d like to represent me. At that time he was a man of medium build who weighed about 150 pounds.
Now, as we spoke these lifetimes later on The A-Team set, I asked him,
“How much weight have you lost?”
“Not as much as me”, I told him.
But then I had more excess to shed, more sins to atone for.
“On what part of your body did you discover it?”
He pointed to his kidney area.
How he took me back to myself when I was in the middle of my self-treatment! All skin and bone. No fat and damn little muscle. Only what was necessary to get around.
We spoke for only a few minutes. Time is money, as they say, and it was never more apropos than on a television show, where a minute is worth about $200! And anyway, like all people who have lived through the same experience, in which death is a distinct possibility, words were really unimportant. We understood”……….
For the ultimate Macrobiotic resource on the net visit The Kushi Institute