Today was a super sad day. Actor Ken Osmond who played Eddie Haskell died today.
Ken was one of my very first Hollywood clients. It hit me pretty hard because he was also a friend. So, a friendship ended today.
If you have been living under a rock, Ken Osmond was the wise-cracking, brown-nosing, neighbor of the Cleavers on the television series, Leave It to Beaver, that aired on CBS from 1957 to 1963. After the series ended Omond became a Los Angeles police officer. He retired from the LAPD after a shooting.
TV audience yearned for more Beaver :), so in 1983 there was a made-for-TV Leave it to Beaver reunion movie called, Still the Beaver, that aired on CBS.
The TV movie was a smash in the ratings, and that success prompted the creation of a revival series, also titled Still the Beaver, that aired on the Disney Channel from 1984 to 1985. In 1986, the series was picked up by TBS where it aired as, The New Leave it to Beaver, until June 1989.
Goodbye Mail Room. Hello C-Suite!
I was working in the mailroom at Universal Studios in Universal City, California when I got a call from the “Black Tower.” They were announcing to the world that the new re-boot of, Leave it to Beaver that now was being filmed on the studio lot, would be called, “The New Leave it To Beaver.” They wanted Mr. Brick to help in the announcement to the world. They didn’t have to ask me twice.
One of the first cast members I met was an actor, Ken Osmond. As a huge Beaver fan, I knew who this silver-tongued, sarcastic, two-faced, punk was. It was Eddie Haskell, one of the most iconic television characters ever created. My first day on the set didn’t start well.
The series creator and executive producer said, “Hey, Mr. Brick are you an actor?”
Mr. Brick: “No”
Levant: “Then get the F@#! out of the shot”
I had inadvertently walked right into the camera shot. My bad.
Ken Osmond totally in character as Eddie Haskell: “Hey, Sam Don’t worry, Brian’s just jealous he has a face for radio!” the entire cast and crew broke into spontaneous laughter. From that moment on not only was Eddie Haskell my new BFF, but the set for The New Leave it to Beaver also became my new home.
Camp Cleaver Relocated to Florida
Because of skyrocketing production costs in Los Angeles, and in an attempt to establish the then under construction, Universal Studios Florida Studios as an actual working motion picture studio and NOT just another theme park, the entire production was moved from Universal City, California to Orlando, Florida.
When all of the production crew and cast members settled into their new southern digs, my friendship with Ken Osmond deepened. It was a common occurrence for us to go to Rosie O’Grady’s right after filming ended. Osmond was an avid country music fan. From the country band Mother’s Choice belting it out in Apple Annie’s Courtyard to the disco in Phineas Phogg’s, Osmond enjoyed it all.
Osmond was a major celebrity while in Orlando that escalated to rock star status. Although in true life, Ken Osmond wasn’t about the celebrity trappings of Hollywood when he was there, so he didn’t seek it in Orlando, it sought him. It was a case of the big fish in a small pond.
- NASA called and invited him and his two sons, Eric and Christian, who were also actors on the show, to a Space Shuttle Launch in nearby Cape Canaveral.
- The Hard Rock Cafe Called and invite Osmond to donate some Eddie Haskell memorabilia to a newly installed shadowbox in their showbiz themed eatery.
- Nightclubs throughout Orlando wanted the original bad boy of television to come to meet and greet at their club.
All Good Things Come to an End
After two years of filming in Orlando, The New Leave it Beaver production shut down. The cast and crew returned to Hollywood. The show had a good run. More than 100 episodes for a cable TV series? That was no small feat.
I returned to California too and opened my own talent agency. One day after the Beaver series ended I got a call from my client, Ken Osmond. We went to lunch at our go-to Hollywood Eatery, The Hamburger Hamlet. It had good food and was within walking distance from my Sunset Blvd. office.
Light Bulb Moment
Over a deluxe cheeseburger and skinny fries that made “The Hamlet” famous (that is famous at least in Mr. Brick’s brain) Ken Osmond said he needed work. Well, he didn’t NEED to work like you and I might need work. Osmond wisely used his royalties to build up a very profitable rental property business in the San Fernando Valley.
Ken Osmond wanted to do something. As his agent and manager, I said what did you want me to do? Run you for President? The rest was history.
On April 1, 1991 Eddie Haskell walked onto a makeshift stage in the shadow of Orlando’s Hard Rock Cafe and declared himself as a candidate for the President Of The United States, running on the “Good Neighbor” party. The event was covered by more than 30 media outlets.
Here is our Campaign sonmg: “Are You Ready for Eddie?”
What followed was 12 months of hilarity. Osmond and I flew around the country on “campaign stops” drumming support for this mock-presidential campaign.
Those were good times. It’s times like now that I kinds wished there was another Eddie Haskell in the world and he could run for President this year. But sadly, there was only one Eddie Haskell. And that was a two-faced smarmy guy, brilliantly played by Actor Ken Osmond, and he passed away today. Rest in Peace Ken Osmand.
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