The icons of my youth

Leave-It-To-Beaver-It seems a day hardly passes without a CNN breaking news alert letting me know yet another B-level icon of my youth has died. One day, it's the guy who played Robbie Douglas in My Three Sons. The next day, it's Davy Jones of The Monkees. And, then, just yesterday, one-hit wonder, Scott McKinzie's passing earned CNN Breaking News coverage.

No offense to the deceased entertainers, but do Robbie, Davy, Scott and the actor who played Horshack on 'Welcome Back, Kotter' really deserve breaking news coverage?

It seems to me that, when everything constitutes breaking news, nothing actually is.

Having said that, though, I WOULD issue a CNN Breaking News alert when Jerry Mathers breathes his last breath. Now, there's a '60's TV icon worth remembering.

Along with Ali and McCartney, Mathers, who played Theodore 'Beaver' Cleaver in 'Leave It to Beaver' was my childhood hero. As a little guy growing up, I adored watching Beaver, his older brother, Wally, their buddies, and their tough, but loving, parents as they dealt with one mini-crisis after another.

Unlike, say, Dennis the Menace or the kids on the Donna Reed Show, the Beav got into trouble I could relate to: he'd ruin his brand new suit by soaking it in bleach in the tub, make up essays about his dad's exploits as a CIA agent (Ward was, in fact, an insurance salesman) or get his arm lodged inside a rail fence, necessitating a rescue by the Mayfield fire department. That stuff happened in real life!

After having gotten himself in trouble, the Beaver would always turn to Wally for help. After admonishing Beaver by saying, “Gee, you little goof, you really messed up good this time,” Wally would help the Beav cover up or escape his mess. But, that never worked and, sure as rain, Ward and Beav's mom, June, would find out and administer tough, but fair, justice. And, the Beav would learn a valuable life lesson in the process.

In retrospect, Leave It to Beaver featured just about every type of character I'd later encounter in business. There was:

– Judy, The Beav's arch-nemesis in second grade who, as Little Miss Perfect, always impressed the white hot teacher, Miss Landers (my first crush). I've encountered many a Judy in business, and while each may have been perfect, few were liked. I'll take liked over perfection any day.
– Eddie Haskell, the uber cool, uber hip know-it-all who would say one thing to your face (“My, Mrs. Cleaver, those pearls make you look so young.”) and something else entirely once you'd disappeared (“Hey Wally, as soon as your parents leave, let's ditch the runt, call Mary Ellen Rodgers, get her to bring her friends over and have a wild party!”). I wish I could enumerate how many clients over the years have promised one thing only to do the exact opposite.
– Lumpy Rutherford, the clownish oaf who could never live up to his father's expectations and always messed up. Lumpy's unique type of mediocrity can be found in the hallways of every business in America today.
– Fred Rutherford, Lumpy's dad and Ward's best friend, who loved to name drop and brag about his son's accomplishments. I've learned to steer clear of big talkers and name droppers such as Fred Rutherford because, without fail, they're interested in self-aggrandizement and not team success.

I could go on but, like the Beaver, I'm thinking of going over to Whitey Whitney's house with Larry Mondello (America's prototypical obese kid, BTW) and just mess around. Gus the fireman said he'd teach us neat tricks to do with a rope and then we're all going to pull Violet Rutherford's pony tail when she walks by.
So, how about you? What childhood icon's passing will have the same kind of impact on your consciousness? And, please don't give me the business for getting all mushy about the Beav.

15 thoughts on “The icons of my youth

  1. Sorry that was who they assigned me. I could have said that Peggy Lipton from “The Mod Squad” rocked my world from the back seat of that Cadillac, but I’d be lying.

  2. Yep, Peter is right. Bobby Sherman is indeed an EMT and has been for many years. But I must disagree that he was only popular “for a nanosecond.” He was actually just as popular as David Cassidy for several years, and had a few Top 10 hits as well. He just decided to leave showbiz, whilst Cassidy continued on…

  3. Never met either. For six degrees, would you settle for Chacchi instead of Joanie? I once bought a swag air conditioner from a guy in Bay Ridge who claimed he was best friends with Scott Baio’s best friend.
    For awhile I made great money driving for a limo service whose major client was CBS so I picked up Harry Smith every AM (OK person, kind of uptight). Other customers included Pat Riley (jerk), Geoffrey Holder (the Uncola man, very nice), Tony Danza (super nice) and Brooke Shields (a real sweetheart). I don’t miss the hours though.

  4. Wow. Talk about six degrees of separation. You met Bobby Sherman, Peter? Now, that’s impressive. If you tell me you’ve also met Erin Moran and Susan Dey, I’d be forever humbled in your presence.

  5. Bobby Sherman left the teen idol business in the mid-Seventies to join the LAPD and teach CPR and life-saving techniques at the academy. Then he moved to San Bernadino County to do the same thing. I met him at the Chicago book show in the mid-1990s, as we had booths next to one another. Seemed like a nice enough guy.

  6. Priceless, Julie. I’d completely forgotten about Bobby Sherman! What a teen heart throb he was for about a nanosecond. Any idea what he’s up to these days?

  7. Marlo Thomas (“That Girl”), Barbara Eden (“I Dream of Jeannie”), Bobby Sherman (“Here Come the Brides”) and David Cassidy (“The Partridge Family”).

  8. Thanks Light30. That’s a big negative. Phyllis Diller was already middle-aged when she burst onto my personal radar screen, so I had very little affinity for her. My comedy idols were George Carlin, Richard Pryor and, of course, Johnny Carson. PBS just aired a documentary on the latter that was positively spell-binding. There was only one Johnny Carson. And, the Jay’s and David’s and Jimmy’s and Conan’s are very pale imitations indeed.