Call Me Lumpy: My Leave It to Beaver Days and Other Wild Hollywood Life (5 page)

BOOK: Call Me Lumpy: My Leave It to Beaver Days and Other Wild Hollywood Life
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and Gower. It was right next door to the Paladium.
It was real impressive because on Sunday, in comes Jack Benny. He sits us all down. There were six or seven kids. He says, "You kids are professionals. I know you're gonna do a great job. Ta-da, ta-da, ta-da."
We ran through the show twice and then we did it, just like you see in the movies. We stood up to a microphone with a script. You hear the theme music. And then the announcer, Don Wilson, who is actually me, comes on. And Dennis Day, aka Stuffy Singer, is singing.
And I said to myself when I was doing it, standing there at the microphone, I couldn't believe where I was.
I'm sitting there with Jack Benny. The guy I listened to from my house. That was really Jack Benny. That was really Rochester. And Don Wilson and all these people, and I'm going, "Wow!"
I mean, Will Rogers didn't impress me. He was a nice guy. I had done this show on CBS television, "The Allen Young Show." Allen Young didn't impress me. He was a nice guy, too.
But Jack Benny impressed the hell out of me.
I couldn't believe it.
I mean, Jack was nice, too.
He was a god.
He was, oh man, he was Jack Benny.
Burns and Allen, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly, Amos and Andy. That was my life, man.
Jack Benny. He was bigger than Crusader Rabbit.
I did four or five Jack Benny radio shows.
It was big scoots to me, too. I made 200 bucks a show. That was cool. Hey, man, I had like $1,000 before I was 10 years old.
I went out and bought myself a bicycle.
"Want not," my foot.
I wanted. I got.
Actually, it was not my first bicycle, though. I got my first bike, a Schwinn-some-kinda-master, from Captain Jet. Captain Jet was on TV and he used to put his finger around his eye and he used to go, "Zooooom!"
And then he'd go, "And for you big kids, Moooooz!"
Hey, Captain Jet was cool, man. When you were in LA, you watched either Uncle Archie or Captain Jet. Uncle Archie, it turned out when you met him, was a drunken old sot and he was mean. But Captain Jet, while he was slightly loony, he was cool. So I watched Captain Jet.
And somehow, Captain Jet picked my name on a postcard one time and I got to be his co-pilot for a day.
And for that I got this Schwinn bicycle. It was beautiful and it was
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chrome and blue. What a gorgeous bike. It had streamers and I put a baseball card, you know, in the back wheel with a clothes pin, so it could make that motor noise.
Yeah, it was a cool bike.
I keep telling youI am the luckiest guy alive.
Now I'm 10. I'm rollin' in bucks.
I am about to get luckier.
Enter Lola Moore.
Lola Moore was the consummate kid's agent in Hollywood.
Anybody who was anybodyor ever pretended to be anybodyhad to have Lola Moore for an agent.
God, who didn't have Lola Moore?
Tommy Rettig, Billy Gray and lots of the Mousketeers had Lola Moore. There was a ton of CorcoransKevin Corcoran and eight or nine in all, I want to say. They all had Lola.
The KirksTommy Kirk and all the other Kirkshad Lola as an agent, too.
Now I get a call from Lola Moore and I have a chance to have her as my agent. So I joined the Lola Moore Agency. Funny to say, this was pretty much all my decision. My mom has always said to trust my instincts. I don't know how smart she was to have told me that, because I've had some pretty stupid instincts. But for awhile, I guess I must have been pretty sharp as a kid.
I go with Lola and the next thing I know, I'm doin' all kinds of stuff. I'm working, geez, on "Playhouse 90."
I remember it was directed by Fielder Cook, who was a big-time director. Nina Foch was in it. Wendell Corey was in it.
My role? Oh, some punk kid, as usual. I had a couple of scenes. I was never an extra, though. I always had speaking lines. Whether it be as a bit player or co-star or feature player.
I was usually just the wise guy or the troublemaker or the bully. I was never like a warm son, because I was always bigger.
I was 13 and I wasn't really that fat. I was chunky. In high school, I thinned out. I was doing a lot of athletics, so I had lost weight. I got to the point, I used to think I was a leading-man type.
Now everyone has to have a good vision of themselves, you knowshoulda-woulda-coulda.
But I guess I was kidding myself about the leading man thing. I was always a little bit of a pork chop. If there was a part for a fat kid. . .it was me.
Me or another kid, whose name escapes me right now. He wasn't anything next to me. I was it. I really was. When it came to playing fat punks, no one did it better.
You had to decide what you could do best. I remember the Aker boys, Lee and Dee Aker. They were twins. Lee Aker was a kid with a husky voice, and
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whenever you needed a husky-voiced kid, you called Lee. He was Corporal Rusty on "Rin Tin Tin." And it was always kinda sad because Dee was probably every bit as good as Lee, but Dee didn't get the roles and Lee did. And Dee's probably walking around muttering to himself and Lee just kept rolling along.
They were both nice guys, but somehow Lee knew what his niche was and he was good at it.
Same thing happened to me, pretty much. I wasn't really looking for fame. It just sort of happened.
My niche kind of started to solidify when I was 13 on "Peck's Bad Girl." Patty McCormick starred in this series. It was a good show. It was live. We didn't have drugs or prostitution or AIDS as big topics at the time, so the plots were pretty simple and similar. The plot always called for Patty, this young blonde girl, to get led astray in some small way, but she'd find the right path by the end of the show.
I usually played the heavy . . . because I was heavy in more ways than one. I guess the fat person's lobbyif there was such a thingcould get really steamed, because fat guys are tired of being the bad guys. There aren't that many fat people who were the good guys. I mean, Sydney Greenstreet, Edward Arnold, Peter Lorre, Victor Buono. All these guys, from time immemorial, were fat guys who played bad guys.
Well, guess what? I know a lot of fat guys and they're nice guys. But in television and the movies, you were bad guys. Or played dullards or guys who weren't too hip.
It was stereotyping. Typecasting. It still exists today, though it's lessened somewhat. John Goodman is a great example of a guy who can play any role. He can play a smart guy, he can play a stupid guy, a rich guy, a poor guy, a sloth, a classy guywhatever it might be.
But it's changed.
I was around in the day of the Rocks and Tabs and Troys and all those funny first names. It was a different time. Henry Winkler never would have been allowed to use "Henry Winkler" on screen. He would have been Edward Bennett. Or he would have been Rush Gladstone. Weird names or ethnic names were not used.
Unfortunately. I mean, what was wrong with Marion Morrison? Nothing. Except some turkey said, "We have to use John Wayne instead."
What was wrong with Archie Leach? I think Archie Leach is a pretty cool name. But wrong. He had to become Cary Grant. Bernie Schwartz today could have been Bernie Schwartz, instead of Tony Curtis. Think about Arnold Swarzenegger. It's over the top. It's a dynamite name. Like the kid, David Schwimmer from "Friends." Great name. But he never would have been allowed to be David Schwimmer way back when. He would have been
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David Brown, you know, or David Strong.
Me? Frank Bank was my original name. Frank Bank was a cool name. Leonard and Sylvia did all right there.
I got lucky on that score.
They weren't going to mess with Frank Bank as my name.
And the name fit all these kinds of punks and dimwits and heavies I was playing anyway, I guess.
Lola had me making out like a bandit.
I'm making all kinds of movies. I am in all kinds of television shows. I had been on "Wagon Train." "GE Theater." "Alfred Hitchcock Presents.'' "Cimarron City." "Father Knows Best." "Bachelor Father." "87th Precinct."
And along about the time I had put in two or three hectic years doing these shows, I got it.
The Call.
It's November of 1957. Lola Moore's office calls. More specifically, I get a call from none other than Mrs. Osmond. That's all I knew her by. She is Kenny Osmond's mom and, lo and behold, she is Lola Moore's right-hand lady in the agency.
She calls me and says, "Frank, go out to Review Studios, out to George Gobel's office."
Remember George Gobel? Most people do and think of him as a great comedian, which he was.
But George Gobel also was the original owner of "Leave It to Beaver."
I tell Mrs. Osmond, "OK, I'll go over to Gobel's."
I was only 15 at the time. I didn't drive yet. Kenny didn't drive either. His brother, Dayton, drives him back and forth.
So my mom takes me out there.
I walk in and there is Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher. Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher were the guys who wrote "Amos and Andy."
The minute I saw their names, I knew who they were.
When I walked in, I went, "Whoaa. A-how do ya do, de-ah, Andy?" doing my best to sound like Kingfish from the "Amos and Andy Show."
They cracked up. So did the guys who played Kingfish and Andy on the radio. They were Freeman Gosden and Charles Carrell. They were also connected to Connelly and Mosher.
Matter of fact, Connelly and Mosher had their hands in several hits. They had "Life of Riley." They wrote "Amos and Andy." Their last show was "The Munsters."
Pretty good parlay, huh?
So I walk in, I see these guys. They had seen my work. They said they were going to do this new show, "Leave It to Beaver."
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They said, "We've got the part of this little loudmouthed fat kid."
And I looked at them and I went, "Well you know that's me."
And I remember Bob Mosherhe was the quiet onehe looked at me and he sorta smiles and nods his head.
Joe Connelly says, "Let's hear you read a coupla lines." I read the lines. Joe Connelly had a smile that could light up the moon. He gives me this big Irish grin and he goes, "I think you'll do."
And I felt really good, because I knew I had the job. They told me about their new show, but I had seen it the week before. It had premiered on CBS, I believe, on a Thursday or Friday night. It was sponsored by the Remington-Rand typewriter company. Or Ralston Purina.
I remembered the kids on the show walking down the sidewalk, with hopscotch chalk drawn on it. And the words that were scrawled there said, "Leave It to Beaver." And I thought at the time, "Well, this is kind of a cute show."
They were doing the one-foot-on-the-curb thing. Beaver stuff.
I said, "This is a nice and pleasant show."
A week later, I'm over at the old Republic Studios shooting that show. They send me a script at the ripe price of 150 bucks a day. That was pretty much the going rate at the time.
I did my usual bad-guy routine in the episode.
I wouldn't let Beaver and Wally come home from school because they were crossing "my turf." And they had to walk around the block. They decided they were going to get even with me.
They set up these barrel hoops in my driveway and they start screaming, "Lumpy, Lumpy, dumb as an ox!" I was supposed to run out and these barrel hoops would fly up and hit me in the shins, you know, and all that stuff.
Only, when they start shouting, instead of me coming out, my father, Richard Deacon, comes out. Who happens to be working with their father, Hugh Beaumont, at the office. And that was Fred Rutherford and Ward Cleaver. They were buddies and social friends and all that.
Where Beaver and Wally got the idea for the barrel hoops was Ward telling an old story at the dinner table about the hoops. Well, the next time the Cleavers and the Rutherfords are playing bridge, Fred Rutherford starts talking about these "young hooligans" who came over and put these barrel hoops in his driveway.
Ward looked at June. June looked at Ward. The next thing you see is Ward talking to the boys, Wally and Beav.
"Boys, did you do this?" he says.
They fessed up. They went over and apologized.
Of course, being "Leave It to Beaver," bad doesn't triumph. I get my comeuppance by the end of the half hour.
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