VAN WILLIAMS, best remembered for his iconic role as “The Green Hornet” from the classic Sixties’ ABC-TV show that’s still hugely popular on cable these days, wants ENQUIRER readers to know that a frightening heart attack has put him down — but NOT out!
In an emotional exclusive interview with The ENQURIER from his remote home near Hailey, Idaho, the grizzled 77-year-old TV superstar told how he survived the medical nightmare that likely would have killed him had it not occurred at his home with his beloved wife Vicki nearby.
The difference between life and death, in this case, it turns out, came down to a dead motorcycle battery!
Van told The ENQUIRER: “I suffered the heart attack on October 3rd! It happened around 9-9:30 in the morning. What I was doing at the time was that I was on my back, in my garage, trying to fix a dead battery in my motorcycle.
“Had the battery not been dead – I likely would have been out dirt- bike riding – and in these parts, you go a few miles from our house and it’s completely wilderness – there’s bears, elks, moose, deer, you name it wildlife.
“I don’t want to think what would have happened if I had been out riding when I was stricken. I likely would have been a goner!
“It’s so rural out there to get reception I sometimes have to use a satellite phone. And I don’t often pack it on my cycle because I keep the bike stripped down.”
Fortunately, because of the dead battery on his Suzuki cycle, he was stuck in his garage – not out riding in the dirt on what’s quickly turned into blistering cold mornings in the Idaho chill.
Williams, who has been felled in the past by back problems but never a heart condition, told The ENQUIRER that he was suddenly stricken while fixing his cycle.
Van told us: “I knew instantly it was a heart attack! I’ve never felt pain like that in my life. It was excruciating. It went from my shoulder straight across my upper chest.
“Wow, it was awful. And I’ve felt pain before. I’ve been in rodeo accidents, stunts gone wrong. I take trips to Africa every year, have a half dozen cycles here that I ride. I’m used to some pain – but nothing ever like this.”
Van said it was super fortunate he was felled at home and he was able to quickly alert Vicki, his loving wife of 52 years. She didn’t panic and called 911, dispatching emergency medics.
In another twist, because some roads were out in the area due to repair, Van had to be air-lifted to safety by a helicopter – but he was not out of the woods by any means at that point!
Van told The ENQUIRER: “The chopper rescued me and got me to the hospital. They found the best heart guy in the area and they were able to put a stent in. I had 100 percent blockage, but they were able to remove the blockage. I thought I was out of the woods, lucky to be alive without complications.
“But then they discovered I had pancreatitis – and inflammation of the pancreas. Fortunately, while it’s not cancerous, it caused me some additional problems. I had to stay in the hospital for another week. And in a scary moment, my blood pressure dropped to 61 over zero – that was really bad and frightening. But they pulled me out of it and got it back up. Now I’m home, thankfully.”
Van told The ENQUIRER that he’s not been given the green light by docs while he’s recuperating from the heart attack to get back out there on his beloved motor cycles.
“But I’m just happy to be alive,” he told us.
One thing for sure – while he’s holed up, resting at home, don’t expect Van to be watching the new 3-D feature “The Green Hornet,” which came out earlier this year starring Seth Rogen.
“Not at all,” said Van, trying to be polite. “But to tell the truth, I wasn’t happy at all with the movie. He (Seth) played it completely wrong. Made it into a joke, a comedy. My friends who saw it when it first came out said I was going to hate it, which is what my reaction was.
“My friend Adam West (TV’s original Batman), who lives out here, heard about the film while it was being made and was pushing to get me a role of some kind in it.
“As it turned out, I had a flare—up with my back and when they called, I couldn’t shoot anything so I’m not in it. And glad now that I’m not.”
Van says “while I’m a bit of a loner,” he nonetheless continues to be amazed at the popularity of the TV show he starred in some 45 years ago.
The Green Hornet was broadcast on ABC during the 1966-67 season. ABC had revived the famous radio character for the striking color TV series, in which Van portrayed the masked hero and his alter ego, crusading newspaper publisher Britt Reid.
While 20th Century Fox TV also produced the blockbuster TV hit “Batman” which was a campy send-up, The Hornet was played absolutely straight. Of course, Van’s famous sidekick on the show, Kato, was played by the legendary Bruce Lee, who died of a cerebral edema in 1973.
“The amount of fan mail I get and people trying to contact me is unbelievable but I know it’s still on TV,” he told us. “I guess I’m thankful that people still care.”
We sure do! AND we wish Van a speedy recovery from his heart attack!