Sep 21, 2016

The Boys of Flipper

Flipper (1964-67),  was like Lassie or Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, except set n the Florida Everglades, with a dolphin instead of a collie or a kangaroo, and no women in sight. It seemed designed explicitly for the viewing pleasure of gay kids (your other choices on Saturday night were Jackie Gleason, for the grownups, and Shindig, for the teens).

It was about Ranger Porter Ricks (Brian Kelly), who lived in the Everglades National Park with his two sons, used boats more than cars, and didn't seem to own a shirt.

Nor dd his lithe, androgynous son Sandy Ricks (seventeen-year old Luke Halpin), who seemed to go to school once in a while, but otherwise was swimming, diving, boating, and getting into trouble.  He wore cut-off jeans that were way too tight for adequate modesty, and shrank even more whenever he got wet (which was all the time).

And can someone explain Bud Ricks (twelve-year old Tommy Norden)?  He's a kid with the pecs and abs of an adult bodybuilder.  Did they graft a 12-year old's head onto a grown-up's body, or what? (The same muscle spurt, incidentally, happened in comics to Richie Rich.)

Not that any gay kids were complaining.  Saturday night, summer or winter, was beefcake time.

 There was not a lot of buddy-bonding; Sandy and/or Bud needed rescuing a lot, but it was always Flipper who chirped to the rescue.  But -- and this was a big "but" for 1960s tv - none of the boys exhibited much heterosexual interest.  Porter and Bud, never.

Sandy had already grinned and flirted with a girl in the movie Flipper’s New Adventure (1964), yet he expressed an interest in girls during the tv series only twice. In “Love and Sandy” (1965), he has an unrequited crush on  a college girl (Cheryl Miller), and in “Cupid Flipper” (1966) he mistakenly believes that his girlfriend (Susan Abbot) is in love with his father. It was like a weekly vacation from the tedium of incessant "what girl do you like"?

There were lots of book tie-ins and toys available for the off-hours.

After a few 1970s tv appearances, such as The Mighty IsisTommy Norden retired from acting, and Brian Kelly was forced to retire in 1970 after a motorcycle accident paralyzed his right arm and leg -- he continued to produce movies like The Blade Runner (1982).  But Luke Halpin had a long career on television and in movies like Island of the Lost (1967) and  If It's Tuesday, This Must be Belgium (1969).  

See also: Flipper Toys