Posts Tagged ‘ozzie and harriet’

Retro Symbiosis

January 10, 2012

My symbiotic connection to the 1950’s continues to amaze even me.  I don’t honestly know how this bit of trivia escaped my notice until now, but here goes:

I’ve been a die-hard fan of the Ozzie and Harriet TV show since I was a teenager.  The early shows are undoubtedly the better shows for a variety of reasons, which include the appearance of Don DeFore as the Nelsons’ friendly neighbor, Thorny.  He has truly always been my favorite character on the show.

Don DeFore is a little-known name among most people today, but he appeared in many movies and TV shows and served as the President of the National Academy of Television Arts from 1954-1955.  He was instrumental in bringing the Emmy awards to be broadcast on television.  He has a star on Hollywood’s walk of fame, and Judy Garland was maid of honor at his wedding.

In addition to his career in Hollywood, Don DeFore holds the distinction of being the only sole proprietor to ever run a business inside Disneyland.  From 1957 to 1962, Don and his brother ran Don DeFore’s Silver Banjo Barbecue in Disneyland in a space formerly occupied by a mexican restaurant called Casa De Fritos.  After 1962, the building became Aunt Jemima’s pancake restaurant, which eventually became what it is today – The Riverbelle Terrace.

Where do I fall into this story?  Well, in 1988, and 18-year-old kid (an unlikely fan of Mr. Don DeFore) got a job at Disneyland bussing tables.  Guess where my most regular assignment was.  The Riverbelle Terrace.

I sent an email to Ron DeFore, the son of Don DeFore to inquire about any existing reproductions of Silver Banjo memorabilia.  Apparently there are none…only the original sign, menu,  etc, which are in his basement.  He suggested if I was a millionaire collector, I might offer him an exorbitant sum.  Alas, I am not and cannot.

It’s cool to think that in some dimension of fate, my life is linked to the 1950’s era I love so much.  The Lost Transmission-Ozzie and Harriet connection is just the latest in my own “six degrees of separation” story to mid-century American culture.

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Goodnight, Folks

January 13, 2011

On January 11, 2011, the last member of the original Ozzie and Harriet Nelson family passed away into history.  David Nelson died at age 74. 

Sadly, his passing went without much fanfare.  His star had dimmed long ago, as had the rest of the Nelson family’s.  Many Americans today probably have no real idea who he was.  However, the impact of David and his family can still be felt in America.  The phrase “Ozzie and Harriet” has become an American idiom meaning “the ideal family existence”, based on the longest running non-animated TV sitcom in history, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

We all have our favorite TV shows from the 1950’s and 1960’s.  For some of us, it’s Leave to Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, Gunsmoke or others.  For me it will always be The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. David’s passing leaves me feeling a bit sad, but also nostalgic about how deeply the Nelson family sitcom is woven into my consciousness.

I first started watching Ozzie and Harriet (O&H) in the 1980’s, when the Disney Channel began airing episodes.  At that time, the Disney Channel was a great place to catch classic films and TV series from the 1950’s – things like Swamp Fox, Davy Crockett, The Mickey Mouse Club, and old animated short films.  Its so sad the folks at the Disney Channel have forgotten their roots.  Anyway, I taped dozens of episodes of O&H and still have them.

O&H was not a top-ten TV show.  The Nelsons didn’t have the showbiz feel of Lucille Ball or Milton Berle.  Even the Cleavers had a polished, Hollywood air, but the O&H show had an oldtimey, family feel.  In fact, it felt more like radio on TV.  That may not sound like a compliment, but it is.  The dialogue carried the show.  It had a few sight gags, but they were secondary to the straight-man and joke-man act of David and Ricky – great lines like these:

Ricky:  …have you seen my muscles lately?

David:  Whats the matter, can’t you find ’em either?

The sitcom was a showcase for Ricky’s musical talents, of course, skyrocketing him to rock and roll greatness in short order.  O&H have been credited for creating the first “music videos” 30 years before MTV.

I spent so much time with the Nelsons, I am confident I use lines from the show almost weekly (as well as comedic lines from Jack Benny, Abbot and Costello and others located in my vast store of useless knowledge).  By the way, I just realized “my vast store of useless knowledge” is a line from an episode of O&H delivered by Thorny (Don DeFore).

The most recent outbreak of my O&H obsession came in the form of my own version of an oldtime radio show…Hey, Dad.  You can listen to my own family carrying on the tradition of the Nelsons at the link above or here.  I hope to provide a new episode every now and then.

It’s a sad week for America, losing the last of the Nelsons.  I hope their brand of optimistic, ideal family living and simple, dialogue-driven comedy is never completely lost from our collective consciousness.  It won’t be from mine.

In tribute to David and his family, I’ll just say what Ozzie used to say at the end of the final Hotpoint or Eastman Kodak commercial.  “Goodnight, folks.”

Hey, Dad! Episode #1

December 15, 2010

I guess I needed something else to whittle away my time.  I produced a little “radio show” with my 4 kids last weekend.  We had so much fun doing it I’m now writing a new script to do another 10-minute short comedy-adventure with the whole family on board.

I don’t know how many of these we’ll do, but I’ll be optimistic and say there will be several more in the near future.

Check it out by clicking here…