Edd Byrnes, Kookie in 77 Sunset Strip, dies

Edd Byrnes, front, in a TV Guide cover featuring the cast of 77 Sunset Strip

Edd Byrnes, whose hip parking lot attendant in 77 Sunset Strip became enormously popular, has died.

The death was announced on Twitter by his son, Logan Byrnes, a San Diego TV news anchor.

The tweet attached a press release that said Edd Byrnes died on Wednesday of natural causes. That press released gave his age as 87, but other sources, including a  New York Times obituary, listed it as 86.

77 Sunset Strip (1958-64), an ABC series produced by Warner Bros., featured Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Roger Smith as smooth Los Angeles private detectives. It had a snappy title song and would spawn similar private eye series, including Hawaiian Eye and Bourbon Street Beat.

Edd Byrnes appeared in the pilot episode of 77 Sunset Strip, Girl on the Run, as a villain.

But following an audience preview, kids navigated toward Byrnes, who had played “a cold-blooded killer, a no-good from way back. He didn’t have one redeeming feature,” Roy Huggins, the series creator, said in a 1998 interview for the Archive of American Television.

As a result, Byrnes was brought back as the hair-combing Kookie, who parked cars at the restaurant next door to the private agency featured in the show.

The private eyes, former OSS agent Stuart Bailey (Zimbalist) and Jeff Spencer (Smith), soon pressed Kookie into service helping them on various cases. Eventually, Kookie was promoted to a detective at the agency.

Meanwhile, the Kookie role provided Byrnes the opportunity to record songs such as Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb.

Eventually, Kookie’s popularity waned. In the final season of 77 Sunset Strip,  the format was drastically changed. All the the cast fired except for Zimbalist and Stu Bailey became a lone-wolf private eye.

Byrnes continued on, appearing many television series as well as the movie Grease. His IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 85 acting credits through 1999.

1967: The Fugitive comes to a definitive end

A bumper for The Fugitive

In the 21st century, the notion of a television series coming to a definitive end seems old hat. But in the 1960s, that wasn’t the case. However, that changed when the 1963-67 series The Fugitive ended its run.

The ABC series, produced by QM Productions, featured the exploits of Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen (1931-80), who had been convicted of killing his wife.

The Fugitive was one of the first examples of a series that was brought to an conclusive ending. Kimble, in the final two-part story, finally caught up with the “one-armed man” who killed his wife.

For the early early years of QM Productions, the series was the company’s flagship show. It was the brainchild of veteran TV writer-producer Roy Huggins (1914-2002), who had earlier created the TV shows Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip.

Higgins sold The Fugitive to ABC. The television network selected Quinn Martin to produce the show. At this point, Martin’s then-new company had sold one short-lived series, The New Breed.

The Fugitive was QM’s first big hit. As the show was winding down, ABC and QM eventually elected to have the show actually end on its own terms. At the time, the practice was for a network to get as many episodes as it could from a show and simply end without a definitive conclusion.

The Fugitive had an actually ending and more. When the final two-part story aired on ABC, it was one of the most-watched TV episodes of all time.

At the time, it was a milestone. For Quinn Martin, there were more accomplishments to come.

‘Mr. Warner’ and creator credits

Sam Rolfe, circa 1964

Sam Rolfe, circa 1964

Fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series, for the most part, weren’t happy to see that Sam Rolfe — the major creator of the 1964-68 television series — didn’t get a credit with the movie that debuted this month.

Rolfe (1924-1993) created Illya Kuryakin, Alexander Waverly as well as the U.N.C.L.E. organization and format. The main element he didn’t create was Napoleon Solo, which had been hashed out by executive producer Norman Felton and 007 author Ian Fleming.

Felton (1913-2012) did receive an “executive consultant” credit in the U.N.C.L.E. film.

The series didn’t carry a formal creator credit. Instead it was either, “Developed by Sam Rolfe” or “The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Developed by Sam Rolfe,” depending on the season of the show.

While Rolfe not getting a mention is understandably disappointing, Warner Bros., aka “Mr. Warner” on this blog has an interesting history.

In the early days of Warner Bros. television, the real-life Mr. Warner (Jack) had an aversion to bestowing a creator credit. Roy Huggins didn’t get a creator credit for either Maverick or 77 Sunset Strip. Charles Larson (the person who most likely deserved one) didn’t get a creator credit for The FBI, a co-production with Quinn Martin. On the other hand, When Maverick became a Warner Bros. movie in 1994, Huggins did get on-screen recognition.

Warner Bros. also controls DC Comics. The studio gives credit for movies based on DC characters where it has an obligation. Superman movies, for example, have a creator credit for Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. Warner and DC only agreed to that in the 1970s as the first Superman film with Christopher Reeve was being prepared and there was a big public relations campaign for Siegel and Schuster.

Warners also gives Bob Kane the creator credit for Batman, although there’s evidence that uncredited Bill Finger really did the heavy lifting. In 2014, cartoonist Ty Templeton drew what a Batman without Bill Finger would look like. Anyway, Warners/DC also credits Charles Moulton (real name William Moulton Marston) for Wonder Woman.

Other than that, though, no creator credits. The 2011 Green Lantern, for example, movie didn’t credit John Broome and Gil Kane. The current Flash television series doesn’t credit Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino.

Put another way, Sam Rolfe — who wrote the U.N.C.L.E. pilot and produced the show’s first season — has plenty of company. Also that “developed by” credit probably gives the studio legal leeway in not including Rolfe in the movie’s credits.