'Crocodile Hunter' Irwin captured audience's heart
Steve Irwin, the "Crocodile Hunter," grew quickly on his American audiences after initially appearing to be a nut case with a funny accent.
His death Monday revealed how much popularity he had with his fans and the impact television has to make a person famous.
"I can't believe he's dead," people said, over and over, even though fans believed he might one day make a fatal mistake and die, probably from a crocodile attack. After all, he'd enthusiastically faced down death countless times and at worst, came away with a bite or a bruise.
His native Australia mourned his untimely death the way Americans did when Elvis Presley died. His appeal was part showman, part daredevil and part environmentalist. He brought viewers up close to the action in ways never attempted before.
Ironically, he died Monday when a stingray's venomous tail barb pierced his heart as he swam with the fish on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
He was a risk taker, but one who understood the creatures he interacted with perhaps better than anyone. People respected Mr. Irwin for his knowledge and love of animals, even the vicious crocodiles.
They watched him perform because he entertained and educated.