Friends of the family thought this was a cute name for an essentially nice cat. What they did not know is that the animal you see in this 1973 photograph actually is Ming the Merciless of the planet Mongo. Here’s the story – back in the early-to-mid 1960’s, my dad was a writer for Bill Burrud, well-known for his syndicated travel shows on TV. One of the old-time hands from Hollywood who worked on the team was a guy named Barney A. Sarecky, famous for saying “All houses are haunted. All persons are haunted. Throngs of spirits follow us everywhere. We are never alone.”
Barney Sarecky was the man responsible for producing the Flash Gordon movie serials starring Buster Crabbe back in the 1930’s. It turned out that “Charlie Middleton” was a real alien who had been stranded in America around 1910. He was a shape shifter on his home planet, and enjoyed considerable success in vaudeville and the first couple decades of talking pictures. Barney hired him because it seemed a natural fit and because he didn’t have to pay more than scale. One night at a Hollywood party, for reasons that remain a mystery, Middleton changed into a cat and discovered that he was unable to change back into human form (his original life form did not breathe our air).
The cat lived with Barney until the old producer died. My dad agreed to take him in after that, and Ming the Merciless, Emperor of Mongo, otherwise known as Charlie Middleton, lived out the rest of his days on Rutherford Drive in the Hollywood Hills.