Antonio Fargas

*Actor Antonio Fargas is best known for his role as informant Huggy Bear on the 1970’s hit television cop show “Starsky & Hutch,” but as of late, he’s been dishing the dirt on “Safari’s Song,” a book and play by his good friend Catherine Owens-Herrmann and the foundation it inspired called It Helps to Have a Dream, led by her husband Bill Herrmann.

“They had a project called ‘Safari’s Song.’ It was an idea for a film – a great idea for a Disney film, but they also were looking for other areas to develop because the story was so good. It also coincided with me saying ‘you should make this into a children’s story and make it into a cartoon series or a movie [series] like ‘Harry Potter.’ So there were many incarnations.”

“Safari’s Song” is the story of a young moth named Safari, whose migration is more than just a journey up the East Coast, but a journey of growing up.

“The lead character is named Safari, who is a moth that becomes a Monarch butterfly. It’s about the journey of the Monarch butterfly hush – a hush is a flock of Monarch that takes this journey every year. It starts in Louisiana, where Cassie is from,” Fargas replied.

Interestingly, as Cathy, a piano teacher, was writing the book, she was also often encountering the problem of illiteracy.

“People that came to piano lessons, a lot of them couldn’t read,” Fargas said.

So, Fargas played a large part in encouraging Ms. Hermann into writing the book and in tying it to tackling the literacy issue by forming It Helps to Have a Dream. The foundation’s mission is to promote love for books and reading by young people, as well as encourage an awareness and appreciation of the environment.

“She went about writing the children’s book and meanwhile started a foundation,” he said. “They used the book and go to the schools and try to deal with the literacy problem in a hands-on way and to raise money to support [the foundation].”

That led to the music of “Safari’s Song” and interpretive readings of the book, which have since become a vehicle for raising money to support the foundation, according to Fargas.

“Because I’ve always been a champion of their cause and their work, they asked me to come on as a spokesman and talk about it. It’s important to me,” Fargas said about working to end illiteracy. “When I was 14 years old and I tried out for a movie, because I could real well, I was able to let my natural abilities to kick in and was able to earn a small role in a film and that started my career going.”

“We’ve let young people down because of the disposable society we live in, and because we have all these electronic [media] where reading isn’t important,” he continued. “People are more into visuals instead of the words.”

“The school systems don’t demand it,” he said of ensuring students can read. “And people don’t write letters anymore. They send short emails and they text. Reading is sort of an obsolete art, and what makes this story attractive is that it simplifies things and gives kids and opportunity to pick up a book and say, ‘Oh, these words are going to give me visual pictures, not the visual pictures giving me words.'”

Cathy and Bill Herrmann are now working to turn the book into a play.

“They took a simple story of a journey of a moth and talking about green issues of the world and put it into a book, and now into a play as well – which we’re doing in March,” Fargas said. “It’s a tribute to Cathy and Bill and how they want to work.”

Fargas told EUR’s Lee Bailey that book challenges young people, but that’s it’s also for the child in all of us.

“It’s a story that addresses a lot of the things that young people need and us older folks admire,” he said.

Today, in New York City, Fargas will narrate a reading of the book along with a musical rendition of “Safari’s Song” at the Kirk Theater.

For more information the book and accompanying musical CD of “Safari’s Song,” visit www.safarissong.com. To get more information on or donate to It Helps to Have a Dream Foundation, visit www.ithelpstohaveadream.org