Friday, July 2, 2010

July 2

Happy Birthday to Jerry Mathers, one of TV's first child superstars. Jerry was the star of "Leave It to Beaver," a sitcom that's become synonymous with a decade and a way of life.

By now, the child star life trajectory's become a cliche, and you're probably expecting the same story about Jerry - that's not the case. Maybe it's because his father was a school principal, maybe it was a more naive time, maybe it was because at his audition, he said he'd rather be with his Cub Scout troop... But it seems that he never lost perspective about his career in relation to his life.
"Leave it to Beaver" ran from 1957-1963; after the show ended, he essentially retired from acting to concentrate on school, and used his merchandising residuals to financing a successful career as a real estate developer and banker. He returned to star in a TV-movie sequel, "Still the Beaver", which turned into another "Beaver" series that lasted six years.
Besides "Beaver", his most significant role might be in the Alfred Hitchcock film "The Trouble with Harry" (which he did two years earlier):

Jerry still acts occassionally (including a turn on Broadway's Hairspray production), but he's certainly not the True Hollywood Story cliche we've come to expect. To me, it's because he made two important decisions through his life: 1)he built a life outside of his show business career; 2) he didn't declare war on his iconic role. It seems that the cast of "Beaver" became a second family as well, and that had to help. (The guy that played Lumpy, his best friend? He's Jerry's investment manager. The guy that played Eddie Haskell, the troublemaker? He's a retired LA cop...) Jerry's lived the "hip to be square" life to the hilt, and that's not so bad.
The most 'rock n' roll' thing I could find was something from his brief music career: he fronted a garage band, "Beaver and the Trappers". They recorded a few singles on the Arista label, but mostly played sock hops in California, and... yeah, that's as rebellious as I can find.

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