Sound Bites from Memory Hell and NBC
Wally Cleaver died!
Wally who you ask? Well if you did and you are a Baby Boomer you either grew up without a television or lived on Mars.
Anyone who existed before the advent of color TV knows Wally was the Beaver’s brother, or as some may also know him, Eddie Haskell’s best friend.
Tony Dow was only 77 years old, and no I can’t believe I would ever put the word only in front of 77 years old, and he’s certainly left me feeling mortal. Yet incredibly nostalgic for the great old shows I loved as a kid.
When I remember childhood so much excitement and comfort existed within the confines of that box in the living room playing moving pictures. This new and awesome friend became the babysitter, entertainer and object of amazement as we sat, eyes glued and sucking in the wonder.
The shock of growing older is stifled by the amazing ability we humans have to live in a permanent state of denial about aging. Unless we are faced with an-in-your-face situation like illness or we trip over our own boob when we remove our bra, we can pretty much go along believing we are still in our thirties and all life lies ahead.
Please do not for one moment think I’m surprised a celebrity could die. I do not labor under the delusion that because you’ve been on television or starred on the big screen you are immortal. Although, actually in a crazy sense you are and our favorite shows provide a sense of that earth-standing-still mentality. Characters and plots, always constant offer some feeling of assurance things haven’t really changed despite the reality that exists when we turn away from our television screen.
So many programs have casts now gone to celebrity heaven. Their only problem is there are no agents in heaven and therefore no multi million-dollar deals. Too sad, yet residuals aside I’m certain we’d all be happy to know that Samantha is still tweaking her nose, The Golden Girls are still listening to Rose’s St. Olaf stories and Roy Rogers and Trigger are still catching the bad guys.
Soupy Sales is throwing pies at the angels, Granny Clampett is still swimming in the ceement pond and Barney Fyfe is screwing up and getting haircuts from Floyd the Barber. Ozzie Nelson never leaves the house to go to work, Perry Mason always has the killer on the stand five minutes before the end of the show, Ben Cartwright has four grown, unmarried sons living with him on the Ponderosa, The Twilight Zone is creeping everyone out and Groucho Marks is still smoking a cigar and waiting for the duck to drop down. Oh yes, Father Knows Best, Jack Benny is playing that violin and The Real McCoys still are. Maverick is playing poker and looking damn good, Donna Reed is making oatmeal at eight in the morning in a silk shirtwaist, heels and pearls. (Yeah, like that ever happened in real life. My mother was still in her nightgown when I got home from school).
Dobie Gillis is chasing women and Maynard G. Krebs is still allergic to work. Dick Clark is at the bandstand looking twenty-five, never aging and introducing Frankie Avalon. Danny Thomas is hoping to Make Room for Daddy, Death Valley still is, Bugs Bunny is dressing up with a mop on his head and lipstick to entice the Tasmanian Devil and the Naked City never got dressed. Wagon Train is heading west and Chester is limping on Gunsmoke while Miss Kitty wears those feather boas around her neck. Jack Webb is getting “just the facts, Mam” on Dragnet, Ralph Cramden is driving a bus and Norton is addressing the ball on The Honeymooners. We always love Lucy although she still has some splainin to do.
The Flying Nun hasn’t landed, and believe it or not the professor can figure out how to make a radio, but not how to fix the boat so they all remain on Gilligan’s Island.
That Girl lives in an expensive New York apartment and dresses in couture while working part time, and Hogan’s Heroes are outwitting the Germans because Shultz “knows nothing.”
Jeannie walks around with her navel uncovered and sleeps in a bottle, Mission Impossible still is and on Green Acres Eva Gabor dresses every day for an inaugural ball and possessed the first Glam Squad. Get Smart is hanging out in the cone of silence and Petticoat Junction is well, yeah, right. Colombo, like every real-life detective figures out the killer in the first two minutes and Beep Beep Rosie is cleaning The Jetsons’ house. And when is she coming to clean mine already?
Sky King is flying around heaven and Uncle Miltie is dressing up as a woman and making us all laugh. Buddy Sorrell is insulting Mel Cooley while Laura Petrie is yelling, “Oh Rob”.
The Brady Bunch is surrounded by avocado green appliances and wood paneled rooms, My Favorite Martian is living with Bill Bixby and moving his head antenna up and down unable to leave earth. Lassie is saving Timmy and Lois Lane hasn’t figured out the guy she’s in love with is really Clark Kent. Sid Caesar does the best fake accents anywhere on Your Show of Shows and Gracie Allen is a lovable airhead while George just smokes his cigar and patiently grins. Red Skelton is still Clem Kadiddlehopper, Our Miss Brooks is unsuccessfully lusting after Mr. Boynton and Abbot and Costello are asking, “Who’s on first?”
My Little Margie is driving her dad Charlie Farrell and his boss Mr. Honeywell crazy which is why Farrell went on to open The Racket Club in Palm Springs when land there was five dollars an acre. December Bride is living with her children while they search to find her a husband and Liberace is still in the closet sporting a candelabra for some additional class.
Ernie Kovacs’ wackiness and brilliance remains greatly missed by all and I Married Joan introduced Jim Backus who went on be Mr. Magoo and Thurston Howell the III. Mr. Peepers is a shy science professor who’s not as scatterbrained as people think, and Fury is still a magnificent black stallion.
Red Buttons is singing Hidiho and F Troop can’t find their way out of a paper bag. The Life of Riley still is and Ann Southern continues to be a very Private Secretary. Topper remains plagued with ghosts and an alcoholic St. Bernard and The Millionaire’s Michael Anthony refuses to drop off my check.
Yo Rinty! Need I add more?
The Bob Cummings Show has Alice B. Davis madly in love with her boss but getting nowhere, which is probably why she left and became Alice on The Brady Bunch.
Sgt. Bilko is the best con man in any man’s army and actually managed to get a monkey, Harry Speak Up inducted. Lest we ever forget Sheena Queen of the Jungle or how no week could ever begin properly without The Ed Sullivan Show?
But of course no list of great shows could ever be complete without the Mouse. I had my ears ready every day while Jimmy Dodd and Big Roy led the Mouseketeers through the theme of that day’s show. My favorite was Friday when Spin and Marty at the Double R Bar Ranch, Annette and all fun series were featured. Although, Anything-Can-Happen Day on Wednesdays was pretty damn good stuff too.
I know I’ve left some oldies but goodies out so you could fill in your favorites. Please send me any I’ve forgotten and your thoughts on those shows. Hey! Why do I have to do all the work here? Just kidding, I love remembering all the happy moments these shows brought into my life as a kid and even today. I hope I just brought some new smiles to you.