Marcus “Gabby” Hayes & Gandolph “Gandy” Fitch (Gabby & Gandy)

Gandolph Fitch created by Gordon Dawson
Marcus Hayes created by Chas. Floyd Johnson, Dorothy J. Bailey & Stephen J. Cannell

“Gabby and Gandy – sounds like a puppet show.”
Jim, on learning of the proposed new partnership, in “Just Another Polish Wedding”

I loved the original Spenser for Hire, but have always wanted to see a crime show where the white guy is the strong-arm sidekick, the Hawk role. In 1977, the makers of The Rockford Files tried to go one better: using a third season Rockford episode, “Just Another Polish Wedding,” (February 18, 1977) as a possible network spinoff about its two guests—black investigators played by Louis Gossett, Jr. and Isaac Hayes, at the height of his post-Shaft cool.

Each character had appeared previously on Rockford in the second season.

Gosset popped up as Jim’s duplicitous former parole officer, MARCUS AURELIUS “GABBY” HAYES in “Foul on the First Play” (March 12, 1976). He’s since changed his last name to “O’Brien,” and has become a high-end P.I.–or at least that’s the plan. He’s actually still pretty much a hustler, out for himself, sharpening his refined image by driving around in a Rolls Royce on an extended test drive.

A few months earlier, Hayes had made his debut as GANDOLPH “GANDY” FITCH in “The Hammer of C Block” (January 9, 1976). Fitch was a short-fused, violent ex-con Jim knew to avoid at San Quentin, who shows up (literally) on Jim’s doorstep, to collect on an old debt. Reluctantly Rockford helps Gandy clear himself of the murder of his lover for which he had served 20 years–a neat, sideways twist on Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely.

When Gandy looks up “Rockfish” again in this spinoff episode, “Just Another Polish Wedding,” he’s broke, and insists on working as Jim’s muscle, Rockford quickly arranges a lunch and tries to unload him on Marcus Hayes. But Marcus sticks Jim with the price of the meal, then tries to steal Rockford’s current case, offering to cut Gandy in on the finder’s fee.

This episode has a lot to recommend it, but is famous for a scene where the pair blunders into a meeting of Neo-Nazis in The Crystal Palace, a bar in Covina, California. Polka music plays as members shoot pool and swig beer in full uniform. The cues are swinging soon after the black strangers enter, and Hayes (Gossett) grabs the bartender’s sawed-off shotgun and blows away the framed Hitler portrait. The pair make righteous work of the jackboots, then Hayes delivers a critique worthy of our time: “So, these are the rough, tough right wing National Socialists we keep hearing about.”

As police sirens wail louder outside he lectures his bruised audience on the strength and virtue of the American middle class before Gandy can drag him away. “I think that went well,” he gloats, safely in the backseat.

“Yeah,” Gandy admits, “you were cookin’.” A partnership is born.

At a time when black actors on crime dramas often played pimps, streetwalkers, drug dealers, or addict-informants, this attempt at a spinoff series with two black detectives was ambitious. That “Gabby & Gandy” was not picked up is disappointing but not to be blamed on its era alone. No network program like it followed.

Isaac Hayes would return (solo) to The Rockford Files as Gandy the following season (in “Second Chance”), asking Jim’s help to protect the life of his current girlfriend, played by Dionne Warwick, whose songs Hayes covered so soulfully.

But Gabby was never heard from again…

THE EVIDENCE

  • “Gandy is carrying around a 12 dollar grudge in a 3 dollar hat and he’s not going to be gentle about collecting it.
    — Jim in “Second Wind”

TRIVIER & TRIVER

  • The Crystal Palace in Covina, California was actually the Kifune Restaurant & Sushi Bar, at 405 W. Washington Blvd, in Venice, CA, according to William F Kazupski of the Rockford Files Filming Locations Blog.

TELEVISION

  • THE ROCKFORD FILES  | Buy the complete series on DVD | Buy the complete series on Blu-Ray
    (1974-80, NBC)
    TV Series
    60-minute episodes
    Created by Stephen J. Cannell and Roy Huggins
    Starring James Garner as JIM ROCKFORD
    with Noah Beery, Jr. as Joseph “Rocky” Rockford
    Joe Santos as Sergeant Dennis Becker
    and James Luisi as Lt. Chapman

    • “The Hammer of C Block”
      (January 9, 1976)
      Written by Gordon Dawson
      Directed by Jerry London
      Starring Starring James Garner as JIM ROCKFORD
      with Isaac Hayed as GANDOLPH “GANDY” FITCH
      Also starring James A. Watson Jr., Annazette Chase, Jack Somack, Lynn Hamilton, Allan Rich
    • “Foul on the First Play”
      (March 12, 1976)
      Story by Chas. Floyd Johnson & Dorothy J. Bailey
      Teleplay by Stephen J. Cannell
      Directed by Lou Antonio
      Starring James Garner as JIM ROCKFORD
      with Lou Gossett as MARCUS “GABBY” HAYES/O’BRIEN
      Also starring Richard Davalos, David White, James Ingersoll, Al Ruscio,John Mahon, Chuck Bowman
    • “Just Another Polish Wedding”
      (February 18, 1977)
      Written by Stephen J. Cannell
      Directed by William Wiard
      Starring James Garner as JIM ROCKFORD
      with Lou Gossett as MARCUS “GABBY” HAYES/O’BRIEN
      and Isaac Hates as GANDOLPH “GANDY” FITCH
      Also starring Pepper Martin, Walter Brooke, Dennis Burkley, Anthony Charnota, Barney McFadden, Jack Collins
    • “Second Chance”
      (October 14, 1977)
      Written by Gordon Dawson
      Directed by Reza Badiyi
      Starring Starring James Garner as JIM ROCKFORD
      with Isaac Hates as GANDOLPH “GANDY” FITCH
      Also starring Malachi Throne, Tony Burton, Dionne Warwick, Sean Garrison, Frank Christi, Richard Self

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Respectfully submitted by Nathan Ward. Adapted from a piece that originally appeared in June 2020, CrimeReads. Used with permission.

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