After “Dragnet” and “The Untouchables” set the tone, “77 Sunset Strip” set the style for detectives drams in the ’50s and ’60s. The show ran from 1958 to 1964.
Stu Bailey, played by Efrem Zimblast Jr., and Jeff Spencer, played by Roger Smith, were private eyes who worked out of stylish offices at 77 Sunset Boulevard. The street address was colloquially known as Sunset Strip, and was located between La Cienega Boulevard and Alta Loma Road on the south side of the strip next door to Dean Martin’s real-life lounge, Dino’s Lodge.
Bailey and Spencer had backgrounds as former government agents, and Spencer was also a non-practicing attorney. They had a lot of help.
Suzanne Fabry, the beautiful French switchboard operator played by Jacqueline Beer, handled the phones for Sunset Answering Service. The firm of Bailey & Spencer employed her answering service, as did other clients in the same building. Although not an employee of the firm, Suzanne would be involved in their cases from time to time.
Roscoe the racetrack nut, played by Louis Quinn, provided humor. Roscoe was forever hanging around the offices, giving horse racing tips. However, he was sometimes used as an operative, and had his ear to the ground for the word on the street.
The breakout character was Gerald Lloyd “Kookie” Kookson III, played by Edd Byrnes, the rock and roll-loving, wisecracking, hair-combing hipster and aspiring PI who initially worked as the valet parking attendant at Dino’s, the club next door to the detectives’ office. “Kookie” often found a way to get himself involved in the firm’s cases, and was eventually made a full partner in the firm with his own office.
Kookie became a cultural phenomenon, with his slang expressions such as “ginchy”, meaning cool, and “piling up Zs”, or sleeping. When Kookie helped the detectives on a case by singing a song, Edd Byrnes began a singing career with the novelty single “Kookie, Kookie Lend Me Your Comb” based on his frequent combing of his hair. The single featured Connie Stevens on vocals in the chorus and the song, and became the first hit single for the then-recently established Warner Bros. Records. Kookie also appeared on Harley-Davidson Topper motor scooters in the show and in Harley-Davidson advertisements.
Producers intended the show to be a hard-edged drama, but beginning with the episode “The Pasadena Caper,” the tone changed to having a smirk rather than an edge, and “caper” was frequently used in episode titles. The catchy theme song was characteristic of the show’s breezy, jazzy atmosphere. The song was released in 1959, and became a top-10 hit on the Billboard LP charts.
When Byrnes’ demands for more money and an expanded role were not met, he left the show for a period in season two. After the absence beginning in January 1960, Byrnes and Warner Brothers settled their differences, and Kookie came back beginning in May.
Robert Logan became the new parking lot attendant, J.R. Hale, who usually spoke in abbreviations. Hale was seen throughout seasons four and five.
The show’s popularity had actors clamoring for guest spots, including: Roger Moore, later James Bond; DeForest Kelley and William Shatner from “Star Trek”; Mary Tyler Moore; Robert Conrad and Connie Stevens from “Hawaiian Eye”; Adam West from “Batman”; Marlo Thomas, from “That Girl”; Buddy Ebsen, Max Baer Jr. and Donna Douglas, from “The Beverly Hillbillies”; Elizabeth Montgomery, from”Bewitched”; Robert Vaughn from “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”; Troy Donahue from “Surfside 6” and Chad Everett from “Medical Center”; Jim Backus, from “Gilligan’s Island”; horror master Boris Karloff; Burgess Meredith, the Penguin from “Batman”; Nick Adams, “The Rebel”; and Roy Roberts, Admiral Bruce Rogers from “McHale’s Navy”, among others.
The show occasionally featured sports stars such as Los Angeles Dodgers star pitcher Sandy Koufax in guest roles.
In 1963, as the show’s popularity waned, the entire cast was let go except for Zimbalist. Jack Webb was brought in as executive producer and William Conrad as a producer/director. The character of Stuart Bailey was presented as a solo private investigator, with no continuity or reference to his past years with Jeff Spencer, Suzanne, Kookie, and Roscoe, or his military OSS background. It was an abrupt, unexplained disconnect. The series and Bailey’s personality took on a darker tone, and the familiar office, parking lot and Dino’s Lodge were gone. A new musical theme was written by Bob Thompson.
Season six of “77 Sunset Strip” was essentially a different show, taking a darker tone, from what had aired in seasons one to five – a show that oddly used the title and one character name and actor from the prior show, and showed a different building with the same address. Viewers did not appreciate such a massive alteration, and the show was canceled halfway through its sixth season in February 1964.
In the 1964 summer reruns period, shows from the Bailey and Spencer years were shown; the season six episodes were abandoned, rarely seen until September 2017 on MeTV.
Currently, only an engraving in the Sunset Boulevard sidewalk, at address number 8524, between La Cienega Boulevard and Alta Loma Road commemorates “77 Sunset Strip”. No number 77 exists on the Strip, as all Sunset Boulevard addresses in the area have four digits.
In 1995, Warner Bros. proposed a modern revival of “77 Sunset Strip”, that was to be the first hour-long drama series to air on the new WB Television Network. It was to be produced by Clint Eastwood, and starred Jim Caviezel, Timothy Olyphant, and Maria Bello. A 25-minute pilot presentation was shot in the spring of 1995, but despite a few attempts to get it modified and finalized for broadcast in 1995–1996, the project never made it past the testing stage.
The success of “77 Sunset Strip “led to the creation of several other detective shows in exotic locales, all produced by the Warner Bros. studio, which created “Strip” – “Bourbon Street Beat “in New Orleans; “Hawaiian Eye” in Honolulu, and “Surfside 6” in Miami Beach. The casts and scripts of these various shows sometimes crossed over, which was logistically easy, since they were all shot in Burbank on the Warner Bros. lot.
Bourbon Street Beat
“Bourbon Street Beat” aired from October 5, 1959, to July 4, 1960. It starred Richard Long as Rex Randolph and Andrew Duggan as Cal Calhoun, with Arlene Howell as detective agency secretary Melody Lee Mercer and Van Williams as Kenny Madison.
Randolph and Calhoun – Special Services was based in the Absinthe House, a French Quarter nightclub on the title street. The firm’s telephone number was EXpress 7123. The show’s theme, “Bourbon Street Beat”, was composed by Mack David and Jerry Livingston.
The series was one of four Warner Bros. detective shows which aired on ABC during this era, but “Bourbon Street Beat” was not as successful as the others. When the series ended, the character of Rex Randolph moved to “77 Sunset Strip” for a year, joining the L.A.-based detective firm of Bailey & Spencer for the 1960-61 season. Andrew Duggan’s character, Cal Calhoun, was later seen on a 1962 episode of “77 Sunset Strip”; it was established that he quit the P.I. business and returned to being a member of the New Orleans police force.
Arlene Howell had appeared several times on 1957’s western series “Maverick” and was a former Miss USA; she appears to have retired from the screen after a last appearance as an understandably astonished Sergeant Carter’s blind date on “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”
Some of the guest stars on “Bourbon Street Beat” were Marya and Frau Linkmeyer from “Hogan’s Heroes” Nita Talbot and Kathleen Freeman, respectively; Raymond Bailey and Nancy Kulp from “The Beverly Hillbillies”; Whit Bissell and Robert Colbert from “The Time Tunnel”; Victor Buono, King Tut from “Batman”, and the man himself, Adam West; Richard Deacon and Mary Tyler Moore, from “The Dick Van Dyke Show”; Ted Knight, from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”; “Dr. Kildare”, Richard Chamberlain; “Our Man Flint” James Coburn; movie director Jack Woltz from “The Godfather”, John Marley; Lee Hobson from “The Untouchables”, Paul Picerni; Uncle Jesse Duke from “The Dukes of Hazzard” and Briscoe Darling from “The Andy Griffith Show, Denver Pyle, and Los Angeles Dodgers star pitcher Sandy Koufax
“Hawaiian Eye” is a detective series that ran from October 1959 to April 1963 on ABC.
Private investigator Tracy Steele, played by Anthony Eisley, and his half-Hawaiian partner, Tom Lopaka, portrayed by Robert Conrad, own Hawaiian Eye, a combination detective agency and private security firm, located in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Their principal client is the Hawaiian Village Hotel, which in exchange for security services, provides the agency with a luxurious private compound on the hotel grounds. The partners investigate mysteries and protect clients with the sometime help of photographer Cricket Blake, played by Connie Stevens, who also sings at the hotel’s Shell Bar, and a ukulele-playing cab driver Kim Quisado, played by Poncie Ponce, who has “relatives” throughout the islands.
Engineer-turned-detective Greg McKenzie, played by Grant Williams, joins the agency later on as a full partner, while hotel social director Philip Barton, played by Troy Donahue lends a hand after Tracy Steele departs.
“Hawaiian Eye” was one of the ABC/Warner Bros. Television detective series of the era situated in different exotic locales. Outside of Hollywood-based “77 Sunset Strip”, “Hawaiian Eye” was the most successful of the four, lasting four seasons.
The show’s debut coincided with several real-world developments that helped contribute to its longevity. These were the granting of statehood to Hawaii, the advent of mass tourism to the new state brought about by the introduction of jetliners for commercial passenger flights, and the promotional efforts of Henry J. Kaiser, whose real-estate projects in Honolulu included building the hotel complex originally known as Kaiser’s Hawaiian Village, later the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel .
The program did well in the ratings on Wednesday evenings against NBC and “Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall”. In its last season, it was placed on the Tuesday schedule opposite CBS’s “The Red Skelton Show” and a new NBC Western drama “Empire” set on a modern New Mexico ranch. Skelton survived the competition, and “Empire” was cut to a half-hour program called “Redigo” the following season, and was soon canceled.
All of the Warner Bros. detective shows of this era featured a musical interlude, generally performed by a series regular. On occasion, “Hawaiian Eye” had a guest act perform.
Surfside 6 was the fourth of four detective TV series produced by Warner Bros. around that time.
The series had a memorable theme song, written by Jerry Livingston and Mack David. The theme has often been parodied in popular culture. The lyrics varied from week to week, but “Surfside 6” and “In Miami Beach!” stayed intact. When the women were introduced, the melody picked up with back-up singers singing “Cha Cha Cha” when the announcer introduced Margarita Sierra, who vamped exaggeratedly and winked at the camera during this brief weekly sequence.
In its first season, “Surfside 6” was aired opposite the CBS sitcoms “Bringing Up Buddy” and “The Danny Thomas Show “and NBC’s “Western Tales of Wells Fargo” starring Dale Robertson.
In the second year, “Surfside 6” competed against Danny Thomas and “The Andy Griffith Show” on CBS and NBC’s short-lived, but highly acclaimed “87th Precinct” starring Robert Lansing, a series about a fictitious New York City police precinct.
The three sleuths in this one were Troy Donohue, Van Williams and Lee Patterson, with help from Margarita Sierra and Diane McBain.
Troy Donahue played Sandy Winfield II, who moved to Miami to escape the shadow of his father, Jonathan Winfield I, who wanted him to be a Wall Street attorney. His father pays for Sandy’s room and board at the Racquet Club in Miami Beach. At first Sandy was not part of the firm, but he was friends with Kenny and Dave and he eventually joined their business.
Van Williams portrays Kenny Madison, who graduated from law school and worked as a private investigator in New Orleans, in “Bourbon Street Beat”. He then moved to Miami.
Lee Patterson is Dave Thorne, who served in the Air Force in the Korean War and worked in the New York District Attorney’s office before moving to Miami.
Diane McBain is Daphne Dutton, a socialite who has the berth next to the SurfSide houseboat for her yacht, the Daffy II.
Margarita Sierra is Cha Cha O’Brien, a featured performer at the Boom Boom Room, across the road from where the boys live.
The series was announced in April 1960 as a replacement for “Bourbon Street Beat”.
Although a teen hit, critics though it was weak and poorly written. Many were surprised it was renewed for a second season.
After the show was canceled, Troy Donahue moved over to the cast of “Hawaiian Eye” to replace Anthony Eisley. Donahue played hotel social director Philip Barton.
Margaret Sierra died in 1963 of a congenital heart condition. The houseboat was damaged in 1964 when Hurricane Cleo hit Miami.
This program is about a San Francisco detective agency called Checkmate, Inc. Jed Sills, portrayed by Trampas from “The Virginian”, Doug McClure, and Don Corey, played by Anthony George, run the agency, which specializes in preventing crimes before they happen from Corey’s stylish apartment supposedly at 3330 Union Street.
Sebastian Cabot, Mr. French, the man-servant from “Family Affair”, portrays Dr. Hyatt, a college professor whom they employ as an adviser. Dr. Hyatt’s dachshund, Bismarck, occasionally appears. TV veteran cop/tough guy Ken Lynch is frequently seen as police department contact Lt. Thomas Brand.
The show aired on CBS from 1960 to 1962. It was produced by Jack Benny’s production company, “JaMco Productions” in co-operation with Revue Studios.
Guest stars included Benny himself, Lee Marvin, Mickey Rooney and many other prominent performers, including: Eve Arden, Principal McGee from “Grease”; John Astin, Gomez Addams from “The Addams Family”; “The Incredible Hulk” Bill Bixby; Lloyd Bridges, from “Hot Shots”; “Our Man Flint” James Coburn; “Police Woman” Angie Dickinson; Donna Douglas and Buddy Ebsen from “The Beverly Hillbillies”; Norman Fell from “Three’s Company” and “The Ropers”; Beverly Garland from “My Three Sons”; James Gregory from “Barney Miller”; David Janssen from the “The Fugitive”; Martin Landau Rollin Hand from “Mission: Impossible”; Julie London, from ”Emergency”; Jack Lord, Steve McGarrett from the original “Hawaii 5-0”; Tina Louise, Ginger from “Gilligan’s Island; Dorothy Malone, Constance Mackenzie Carson from “Peyton Place”; Lee Marvin Lt. Frank Ballinger from “M Squad”; Ricardo Montalbán, Mr. Roarke from “Fantasy Island; Elizabeth Montgomery, Samantha from “Bewitched”; Mary Tyler Moore; Tony Randall Felix Unger from “The Odd Couple”; Robert Vaughn Nepoleon Solo from “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”; William Windom Dr. Seth Hazlitt from “Murder, She Wrote” and John Monroe from “My World and Welcome to It”, and the first Mrs. Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman.
“The Detectives”, also known as “The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor” and “Robert Taylor’s Detectives” ran on ABC during its first two seasons, from 1959 to 1961, and and 1962 on NBC during its third and final season, when it expanded to 60 minutes.
Motion picture actor Robert Taylor stars as Detective Captain Matt Holbrook, the tough, no-nonsense head of an elite police investigative unit in a major, unnamed U.S. city. Ostensibly, each man in Holbrook’s hand-picked squad of detectives came from a different division. Lt. Johnny Russo, played by Tige Andrews was from burglary; Lt. Jim Conway, played by Lee Farr, came from Homicide and Lt. Otto Lindstrom, portrayed by Russell Thorson, was from the Bunco Squad.
In the series’ second season, Farr left the series and was replaced by Mark Goddard as Detective Sgt. Chris Ballard. Future “Batman” star Adam West joined the cast during the third season as Sgt. Steve Nelson.
The series was produced for Four Star by Levy-Gardner-Laven Productions, which produced other successful series, such as “The Rifleman”, and “The Big Valley”.
A few years after “The Detectives” ended, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor’s ex-wife, starred in “The Big Valley”, which also aired on ABC.
Future “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry was a contributing writer to the series.
Some of the guest stars were: Philip Abbott, from “The F.B.I”; “Dennis The Menace” Jay North; Dr. Jerry Helper from “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, Jerry Paris; Batgirl Yvonne Craig; Robert Culp from “I Spy”; Adam Cartwright from “Bonanza” and ‘Trapper John M.D.” from the series of the same name, Pernell Roberts; Eva Gabor from “Green Acres”; The Riddler from “Batman”, Pittsburgh’s Frank Gorshin; and “Batman” himself, Adam West, and the still-lovely, 82 year-old Mary Ann from “Gilligan’s Island,” Dawn Wells.
TRIVIA THIS TIME:
QUESTION: What other roles was Richard Long best known for?
Q. Who played the cop on “77 Sunset Strip”?
Q. Did Keith play a cop in other TV shows?
Q. What other role was Van Williams best known for?
Q. What other TV series did Andrew Duggan star in?
Q. Is there an actor or actress who appeared in more than one Hawaii-based TV series?
Q. What member of the cast of “Hawaiian Eye” was also a cast member of “My Three Sons”?
Q. Tige Andrews, who played Det. Johnny Russo, went on to play a cop in what other series?
Q. Mark Goddard, who played Det. Chris Ballard, went on to star in another series. What was it?
Q. What other role was Lee Patterson known for?
TRIVIA QUESTIONS FROM LAST TIME:
QUESTION: Aside from Neville Brand, name three other actors who played Al Capone.
ANSWER: “Run for Your Life” and “Roadhouse” star Ben Gazzara played him in a 1975 movie. Jason Robards took the part in a 1967 film, and Robert DeNiro played the part in the 1987 film. Also, “In the Heat of the Night” movie star Rod Steiger played the role in 1959.
Q. What “Unsung Hero of TV” was one of “The Untouchables”?
A. Paul Picerni, who has over 200 acting credits between the end of World War II and 2007, was treasury agent Lee Hobson opposite Robert Stack, Eliot Ness, in his only regular role. Picerni did guest roles on virtually every TV series in the ’70s and ’80s. His brother, Charlie, is also an actor and stunt coordinator. His son, Paul Jr., also appeared in the original “Die Hard” in 1988.
Q. Who played Eliot Ness in the 1987 film?
A. Kevin Costner, of “Field of Dreams” fame.
Q. Who were the rest of “The Untouchables” in the film?
A. The most prominent was Sean Connery, James Bond and Jack Kehoe from “The Molly Maguires”, played Irish Chicago cop Jim Malone; Andy Garcia, from “The Godfather III” and “Oceans 11”, played police officer George Stone, and Charles Martin Smith, played accountant Oscar Wallace, you may recognize as Terry, from “American Graffiti.”
Q. What other series did Lloyd Nolan star in?
A. Nolan played Dr. Morton Chegley in the 1968-71 series “Julia”, starring Diahann Carroll as a Vietnam widow who is a registered nurse supporting a young son.
Q. What other series was Ben Alexander in?
A. Alexander played desk Sgt. Dan Briggs, father to Det. Jim Briggs, played by Dennis Cole, from 1966-69 in “Felony Squad”.
Q. What part was Kathleen Freeman best known for?
A. Freeman was “The Abominable Snow Woman” Frau Linkmeyer, the butt-ugly sister of General Burkhalter always trying to marry Col. Klink on “Hogan’s Heroes”. She was also the mother of Rocco the bad guy’s mother, in “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult”.
Jim Dino is the business writer for The Standard-Speaker, Hazleton. Reach him at email@example.com.