(? - living) U.S.A.
Raymond Burr and Robert Benevides had met, as professional actors, in the middle 1950s on the television program which was to make a legend of Burr, "Perry Mason." Motivated in the beginning by friendship, the Burr/Benevides relationship was bolstered and advanced by their individual interest in, and knowledge of, the cultivation and hybridization of orchids.
Simultaneously, Benevides had become Executive in Charge of Production on Mr. Burr's very successful television series "Ironside" and together they managed an island in Fiji they had bought, where they raised copra and cattle.
In 1976 Benevides, on the advice of his father, had purchased an eminently desirable farm in the Dry Creek Valley and in the following months, as the nine-year "Ironside" drew to a close, Burr and Benevides traveled in northern California, the scene of both their young lives (Burr was raised in Vallejo, Benevides on the Peninsula, both attended school in Berkeley). Benevides took Burr to see his property in Sonoma County.
By 1980 the Burr/Benevides partnership had moved their orchid nurseries to the valley and work on the manzanita covered benchlands began... the clearing, the tilling, the sterilization; the wells dug, the drip-systems installed, the Roman drains, the French drains, the trellises built, the wires strung... all while the two men were actively engaged in the Viacom presentation of the new adventures of "Perry Mason" which over a period of five years was filmed in Denver, Colorado, Paris, France and Toronto, Canada!
By 1992 the vineyards were in their prime -- and Raymond Burr's health was failing. At a time when he could have legitimately retired to "watch his garden grow" he made -- primarily to protect his 200+ crew -- four more of the six-week-shooting-schedule two-hour Perry Mason television films and found time to watch, to protect, to nurture the splendid grapes. Found time to confer with the winemaker, to taste from the barrels the 1992, and finally, a few days before his death, to watch the harvest.
Raymond Burr didn't want the vineyards named for him. But Robert Benevides, his partner, colleague and companion of 35 years, after much struggle and thought, decided that, in this case, the parallels of man and wine could not be separated; it is not so much a memorial to Raymond Burr as it is his living, breathing presence.