Call Me Lumpy: My Leave It to Beaver Days and Other Wild Hollywood Life (3 page)

BOOK: Call Me Lumpy: My Leave It to Beaver Days and Other Wild Hollywood Life
Page 13
I knew Lumpy.
Just like you did.
I grew up watching "Leave It To Beaver" and I was hooked, the same as millions of other Americans.
That idyllic charm. The simple lines. Pure. Elegant.
Like sitting by the gentle foam of an eddying ocean, watching "Beaver" was playful and pacifying.
It put a smile on your face. It made you feel good inside.
And part of that feeling was Frank Bank, who played Lumpy Rutherford.
While he wasn't the big star, he blended. Added just the right touch. Think of him as a plump cherry on top.
During our time together Frank and I shared endless sports insanities.
And as Yogi Berra once put it so well, you can see a lot just by observing. I saw a lot more of Frank when we visited his old haunts in L.A. Everywhere we'd go, there was a piece of Frank flotsam floating in the air, a Frank jetsam jogging memories.
Such as Knights Beach where his high school crew hung out, a couple blocks from the Santa Monica pier.
Such as Peter Lawford's house on the Pacific Coast Highway near Sunset where Frank's buddy, Chuck, used to drive Marilyn Monroe for assignations with JFK.
The little city park where Marilyn is buried. Joe DiMaggio promised to send fresh flowers every day to her burial vault.
Sure enough, we saw an orchid there. Of greater historical significance, one of Frank's old pals is buried in the vault right over Marilyn.
"He insisted that he be placed face-down," says Frank.
"The guys I grew up with were lunaticsevery one of them," he adds fondly.
My special thanks go out to Bob Snodgrass, and his wife, Sharon for their belief and commitment to this project. Darcie Kidson for undying patience and cheeriness as my editor at Addax. Steve Cameron, my fellow time-traveler through the sometimes wild terrain of authorship, for always encouraging and inspiring me. Sherry White for her completely faithful friendship and enthusiasm, as well as literary suggestions. Dana Fries Miller for her caring, support and love as well as her humor and intelligence. And I want to thank you, Frank and Rebecca, for friendship, help, love and many laughs and good times.
The Roughriders never made better music together.
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Chapter One
Gee I'm With the Beav
Marlon Brando was on the next set.
We'd heard what a giant pain in the ass he was.
We didn't mean to be breaking his balls or interrupting his scene.
So Tony Dow, Jerry Mathers, Kenny Osmond, Pat Curtis and I were creeping in, trying to be as quiet as five kids could possibly be.
Besides, we were all professional actors and we knew what it cost to keep a full crew shooting, especially during daylight hours.
I mean, Tony and Jerry played Wally and Beaver Cleaver, as you probably know.
I am Frank Bank, and I played Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford for over 300 episodes with Tony and Jerry on "Leave It to Beaver" and "The New Leave It to Beaver," which you may or may not know. But which you are about to find out a lot in the next couple hundred pages or so.
Kenny, of course, played every parent's nightmare, Eddie Haskell.
Pat was Tony's stand-in and sometimes my stand-in.
So it wasn't exactly like we were five Gomers from Iowa who barged into a sound stage, going, "Is this the men's room? Ain't that the T-shirt concession over there?"
We did "Beaver" every day on Stage 17 at Universal Studiosmatter of fact we owned Universal.
We were one of the top shows in America.
We were it.
And all we wanted to do was go next door to Stage 16 for a little while and watch them film "The Ugly American."
Starring Brando.
The bastard.
Talk about typecasting. I didn't know an uglier American than Brando.
Heck, we weren't doing anything that didn't happen to us all the time on
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"Beaver." Every day we had peopleaverage people from all overstopping by to watch us film an episode and we were cool about it.
We could have been stuck up.
I mean, we were like gods on "Beaver."
But we were really nice.
We were family.
We treated others like family.
People would come onto our set and we'd stop and give autographs. Say hello.
"So you're from Pangwich, Utah. Neat. Good to meet you."
"Florida, huh? Great state. Have a nice vacation."
We took time.
We believed that's how you acted toward people.
So now we were taking a break from "Beaver" and we got tired of throwing the football around back of the set. And we said, "Hey, let's walk next door and check out 'The Ugly American' set."
Because of Brando?
Forget Brando.
Just cuz. No big deal.
We didn't care about Brando.
I mean, the only movie star that ever impressed me was Cary Grant.
That's the only guy I ever stopped and looked at him and I went, "Wow!"
The only guy.
We saw 'em all there at Universal. I had lunch with 'em all. The Jimmy Stewarts, the Gary Coopers. Jimmy was cool. I liked him. But Cary Grant took my breath away.
I mean, I used to see Rock Hudson almost every day. He was a real nice guy. He was so shy, it was terrible. He was gay as a goose, and all his buddies who surrounded him were gay as geese. But you know what? I didn't have to sleep with him. So when he said, "Hi. How are ya?" I said, "Hey, how are you?"
He'd be in the commissary and he'd go, "Hey, I saw the show last night. Really cute show. I liked the one part where this happened or that happened."
And we'd go, "Great, Rock. What are you working on?"
And he'd say, "Oh, 'Lover Come Back.'"
The point is, he was just a really nice guy.
Tony Randall was sweet as sugar.
Alfred Hitchcock was kind of a fussy old coot. But almost all the rest of these guysthe Stewarts, the Coopers, the Duke Waynes . . . no matter who you were, they'd treat you decently.
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He was the consummate creep.
As we're about to find out in person.
As Tony and Jerry and Eddie and Pat and I are walking onto the set of "Ugly American," we see the "Closed Set" sign up, but that's pretty typical. We know the drill about being super-quiet. We don't say a word. We are very respectful.
We are just going to walk onto the set and sorta look around and stand in the wings.
We're watching this one shot, which of course Brando didn't know his dialogue. He wasn't even close.
The director yells, "Cut!"
And Brando specifically looks at Tony Dow, because Tony was standing nearer to him than the rest of us. He looks Tony right in the eye.
He yells, "Get those fuckin' kids outta here. What the hell do you think you're doing? Can't you kids read?"
That's when Tony turns to him and calmly hollers, "Up yours, asshole!"
We turned deliberately and slowly walked out.
I never was prouder of being part of "Beaver" than that moment.
I mean, hey, Wally was never better as the big brother. He stuck up for The Beav. He stuck up for Eddie. Me. Pat. For us all. Just like a real family.
Which we were. That was the cool thing about being on the show. We actually were like family to each other. Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsley, who played Ward and June Cleaver, were like second moms and dads to us.
I mean, I'm sure they wouldn't have appreciated the language we usedmake that I know they wouldn't have approved. I never once heard Hugh Beaumont swear or say a mean word to anyone. And Barbara was a flat-out saint, the most fantastic woman I had met in the world, next to my own mom, Sylvia.
Hugh and Barbara would have sat us down and given us a good lecture and made us go to our rooms for talking like we did to Brando, the fat freak. Maybe they'd have made us apologize to the great man.
"Gee, Mr. Brando, we're sorry you're a big fat, bitter blob, who doesn't like himself or anyone else. And we're really, really sorry you think you're God's gift to the entertainment industry, so you can come onto a set, not do your homework, blow your lines all over the place and blame it on some kids, who are not saying a word, just standing there watching you mess up a multi-million dollar production all by your big, fat blowhard self.
"We're sorry, Fatso, you're such a sleazebag.
"Sorry. We mean Mr. Fatso sleazebag."
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OK. Hugh and Barbara would never have put up with such a thing as that. They were too good and decent.
They'd have washed our mouths out with soap, but good. Several times. And we probably couldn't have ridden our bikes or get any ice cream for a week.
(Hey, to bag back on Brando, it would have been worth it.)
But in a way, our visit to "The Ugly American" set was like a "Beaver" episode, a Wally-and-Beav caper, a just-kids escapade gone awry.
Just a slightly more carnal version of a Beaver episode. Perhaps a slightly more realistic one.
But the thing that the Brando incident reminds me of is this: Life on "Beaver" was never dull.
Life on "Beaver" was always the opposite of dull. It was the absolute best. Better than the best, it was epic entertainment.
"Leave It to Beaver" was one of those rare moments in time when the dream-weavers and wordmeisters and the cutthroat studio machinery combined in some cosmic, almost mystical way, to get it right.
America cleaved to the Cleavers.
Not once. Not twice. But always.
The original "Leave It to Beaver" ran more than 200 episodes. "The New Leave It to Beaver," the reprise of the show, ran more than 100 episodes. That makes both of them among the relatively small handful of shows ever to make 100, and "Beaver" was a Top Ten show in both cases.
Clearly, Cleaverdom stuck with us.
It is the only show with two episodes in the Television Hall of Fame. The made-for-TV "Beaver" movie received wonderful, healthy ratings.
And in 1997, the 40th anniversary of the birth of the Beav, Universal released "Leave It to Beaver, the Movie" in theaters nationwide.
I am proud to have been a small part of it. I am blessed to have been among the Beaver family. They remain a true, second family to me to this day and I love them all dearly.
That is why I am happy that the name, "Lumpy," stuck with me all these years.
On the show, whenever anyone called Clarence Rutherford by his nick-name, he always replied, irritably, in that whiny voice of his:
"Don't call me Lumpy."
But I say:
"Call me Lumpy."
I say it proudly.
Call me Lumpy all you want.
Call me Lumpy any time at all.
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