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Scott's World: Canadian Greene is Good American

By VERNON SCOTT, UPI Hollywood Reporter

HOLLYWOOD -- Lorne Greene, a Canadian, is a better American than most United States citizens if participation in good works is any standard.

Perhaps his role as the archtypical western father figure, Papa Ben Cartwright in the 'Bonanza' TV series for 14 years, spurred the actor to become something of an American patriot although he can't vote in this country.

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A native of Ottawa, Greene established himself as a radio star north of the border with his rumbling baritone. He was first lured to the United States to cash in on the golden years of live TV in New York City.

He moved to Hollywood for movies and filmed TV shows and, in the best traditions of Horatio Alger, became a millionaire.

His lifestyle and home in rustic Mandaville Canyon is the American success story come true -- complete with mansion, swimming pool and tennis court. His American wife, Nancy, is a charmer and gracious hostess.

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But it's Greene's extracurricular activities that stamp him as an extraordinary citizen, despite the fact he is still a Canadian and more or less a subject of the crown of Great Britain.

Over the years he has worked without pay for a variety of charitable organizations, political causes and conservation programs.

This year Greene is national chairman of the Medic Alert Foundation, an organization dedicated to saving lives in emergency situations.

'It is simply a matter of registering oneself with Medic Alert and then wearing a bracelet which gives vital health information to doctors, hospitals or paramedical teams in event of an accident,' Greene said.

'The bracelet is engraved with the wearer's blood type and significant medical considerations for heart disease, diabetes, asthma, hemophelia and so forth. There are 200 such common conditions which need special medical treatment.

'If an individual is found unconscious, medical teams can take emergency measures, then call a telephone number on the bracelet. An operator at Medic Alert headquarters in Turlock, Calif., is on duty 24 hours a day.

'The bracelet-wearer's medical information is given the hospital or the doctor in a matter of seconds. God knows how many thousands of lives have been saved already. We have 1.2 million members and we're growing every day.'

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Greene, who wears a Medic Alert bracelet (stating he has no specific physical incapacity), said lifetime membership is only $15 and well worth the money.

When not otherwise occupied, Greene stumps the country speaking on behalf of Medic Alert.

Greene also is vice chairman of the American Horse Protection Association which seeks to protect horses from abuse and neglect.

'The association is active at horse shows, rodeos and race tracks,' he explained. 'It's a political action organization and I do quite a lot of work and attend meetings to get laws passed to protect horses.'

He is also a member of the Council of Energy Tribes of America, representing 26 different Indian tribes, which own 5 percent of all energy resources in the United States -- coal, oil, natural gas and uranium.

Greene currently is working on a one-hour television special telling the Council story to help the Indians in their quest for fair economic and political treatment in dealings with government and industry.

Greene isn't as active in Democratic party politics as he has been in the past. He was a close friend of the late Hubert Humphrey and campaigned for him tirelessly. He was also a strong supporter of Sen. Henry Jackson, D-Wash.

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On June 18 Greene will play host at the 24th annual Junior Miss Finals in Mobile, Ala. Later this summer he will begin work on his new television series, 'Code Red,' co-starring young Andrew Stevens.

'It's a story about firemen,' Greene said. 'I play an arson investigator with two sons, both of whom are firemen.

'Did you know that only 5 to 8 percent of arson fires are set for insurance money? The rest involve all kinds of schemes and psychological sickness from murder to pyromania. Only 50 percent of arsons are solved.

'I think it's going to be an exciting series. There are a lot of cop shows on the air but none about firemen. If a cop is killed in the line of duty, it's headline news. If a fireman dies, the papers don't even print his name.'

Asked why he chose to return to a weekly series instead of taking it easy with an occasional movie and TV films, Greene took a few moments to answer.

'Well, I don't want to shut down a part of my brains and psyche,' he said. 'Acting has been my profession for more than 40 years and I can't retire.

'And the truth is, I like the recognition and the autograph seekers and everything else that goes with being a TV star. It also helps me with the work I do for Medic Alert, Council and protecting horses.'

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Will he ever become an Amerian citizen?

'Yes,' he said. 'There's a good chance I can become an American citizen because Canada is considering a law that would allow Canadians to hold dual citizenship. And I'd take advantage of that in a hurry.'

adv for ams Tues.

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