Wednesday, August 30, 2017

OK, Dobie Is Still With Us

Yesterday I mentioned Dobie Gillis.  And I got lots of "Who?" messages.

If you are not of an age to recall who or what that is, well, I am so abysmally tired of politics this morning that it just needs to be that today's column is a random wandering, however brief.

Dobie Gillis  -- OK, actually "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" -- was a TV show from the 1950s and early 1960s (1959-63, in fact), which starred the still-around-at-83 Dwayne Hickman as the late-teen Dobie.  Dobie's parents, Herbert T. Gillis (Frank Faylen) and Winnie (Florida Friebus) owned a grocery store in whatever town they lived in.

Dobie was a simple young fellow who was in love with only one actual person, Thalia Menninger (Tuesday Weld), who felt she had to marry higher than her current station, meaning not Dobie.  Thalia, of course, feeling that way, would hang out with the rich and preppy young Chatsworth Osborne, Jr. (Steven Franken), which of course drove Dobie nuts.  He knew that Thalia really preferred Dobie to Chatsworth, and ... oh, you get it.

The reason, of course, that those of us who remember the show actually do remember the show, was not about the Gillises or Thalia or Chatsworth either.  It wasn't about Zelda Gilroy (Sheila James), who was the plainer girl who loved Dobie and waited patiently for him while he pined for Thalia.  And it wasn't really about Dobie himself, or the replica of "The Thinker", the Rodin sculpture, that sat outside their school and where Dobie would go to think and assume the statue's pose each week.

Nope, we remember most the character of Dobie's best friend.  That was Maynard G. Krebs, as played by the truly inimitable Bob Denver as Maynard, who was what we back then called a "beatnik."  I have to hope you know what a beatnik was, because it seems a challenge to describe, even though it's hard for those of us of a certain age to imagine that some will not know the term.  Combine the millennial's disinclination to work with the dress habits of a stevedore, the conversational skills of a long-term drug user, and the chin stubble of the 19-year-old you surely know who tries to grow a beard but can't.

Did I mention a disinclination to work?  Whenever the word "work" itself was uttered in a sentence in his presence, Maynard would panic and say "Work!" in a high-pitched squeal that was meant to be a spinal-level reflex.  You probably don't get the idea, but what the heck.

Maynard was always there for Dobie, apparently because he knew no one else would be there to pull his chestnuts out of the fire when he messed up something.  Maynard was not a bad guy, nope, in no way, but he just looked at things a little differently.  Bob Denver would, a year after Dobie Gillis ended its run, go on to become Gilligan on the iconic "Gilligan's Island."  So just youthen up Gilligan a bit -- surely you remember Gilligan -- and you probably have Maynard.

I was eight when the Dobie Gillis show debuted, and 12 when it ended, so the fact that I remember any of it says something that can't reflect well on me.  But I do remember that the "G." in "Maynard G. Krebs" stood for "Walter."  I can still picture him going "Work!?!!" in panic that someone might actually ask him to do some of it.

Dwayne Hickman is still alive and kicking, as is Tuesday Weld and also Sheila James.  All the rest of the actors have left us, with the exception of another rich kid on the show named Milton Armitage, who was in 5-6 episodes or so.  He was played by Warren Beatty, of all people, which says something or other.

Back in 1988, over 25 years after the last episode, the characters were brought back in a movie entitled "Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis", using a scenario ripped off from the plot of a 1950s play ("The Visit") by a Swiss playwright that I had actually read in a German class at M.I.T.  All the characters were back and the actors still alive at the time were featured in it.  I remember having looked so forward to it ... and turned it off after half of it because it was so bad.

I'll remember the show, and though I don't know that any oldies network has been running it, I am hoping that some legal content provider will come up with it.

Maybe no politics this week.  Probably a good thing.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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