Jun 6, 2017

Tony Dow/Wally Cleaver

I was born too late to catch the first generation of Boomer sitcoms -- Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, Donna Reed, Leave It to Beaver -- and the teen idols they created -- Ricky Nelson, Billy Gray, Paul Peterson, Tony Dow.  But the gay kids who were old enough had a hunkfest, especially with Tony Dow of Beaver (1957-63).  Hired at age 12 to play older brother Wally and offer sage advice to the rapscalion Beaver (Jerry Mathers),

Tony blossomed into a dreamboat by around the third season, and while network censorship kept him under wraps, wearing nothing more revealing than a sleeveless t-shirt, the teen magazines were privy to dozens of shirtless pinups.

And dozens and dozens.  They just keep coming, all through the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Tony was already a Junior Olympics diver when hired, and his muscles grew bigger every year.

Wally didn't do a lot of male bonding; most of the homoromantic subtext comes from Beaver and his friend Gilbert.

After Beaver, Tony  -- or rather, his biceps -- landed a starring role on the teen soap Never Too Young (1965-66).  After so many years of censorship, Tony must have been surprised to discover that his character was to be shirtless or semi-nude in every scene, even at a fancy dinner party. Tommy Rettig of Lassie played his buddy JoJo.

A rather fascinating career followed, as actor, writer, and director.  Tony was active in the hippie counterculture and appeared in the underground classic,  Kentucky Fried Move (1977).  He reprised his role of Wally in Still the Beaver (1985-89).  He parodied Wally  innumerable times.  He is also an accomplished sculptor, with a piece on exhibit in the Louvre in 2008.

There are more beefcake photos of Tony Dow here.


  1. You didn't say if he's gay friendly in real life or not>

  2. I haven't seen any public statements, but he seems to be ok with parodies that present Wally and the Beaver as gay.

  3. Tony Dow was another one I liked a lot in reruns as a kid. Particularly since his character was best friends with the villainous blonde, Eddie Haskell and that was the type of character I always identified with (don't judge me). I literally couldn't STAND Jerry Mathers as "The Beaver" but I kept tuning in for Wally and Eddie. I was probably around 8 years old when I started watching the show, so I actually preferred the younger Wally of the earlier seasons more than the later ones.

    1. Yea, Tony Dow was hot. Eddie Haskell definitely was available, but in "rough trade" sort of way. Can't you just hear Eddie telling Wally about his tea room experience?

  4. Tony Dow was shirtless in exactly twice, both times in the second season. In "The Grass Is Always Greener" it was a very quick shirt change, but in "The Shave", Tony, who was just 13 at the time, is blatantly displayed in not one, but two lengthy shirtless scenes. Is it possible that he never appeared shirtless again because this prolonged example of "veal cake" was too much for mainstream television to handle?

  5. LOL at Anonymous' remark that the Beav was well loathed. Ditto--they should've titled this show "Leave It To WALLY". I could tolerate Beaver the first few seasons, but when he entered puberty--yuck!! Wally was where it was at--such a cutie on the outside and inside!! Loved his voice too.

  6. Well, I just thought I'd write this to give a little love to the Beav. Funny, goofy, considerate, and basically good-natured -- and so far as I'm concerned he became even more adorable when he entered puberty and became a little gawky and self-conscious. How could anyone not love him? In the last two seasons there were occasional episodes which show him developing heterosexual feelings. And yet each of these episodes ends with him rejecting girls -- sometimes stridently so -- and, at the very least, indefinitely postponing his "heteronormative destiny". Perhaps having made him so "anti-girl" in Season 4, the writers had written themselves into a corner and found they couldn't really turn him around 180 degrees in the subsequent seasons. If so, then good, because his not following the same girl-obsessive path as his older brother makes him far more interesting as a character. But perhaps the best character of all in the show was: Eddie Haskell. His "Haskellisms" are one of the chief joys of the series. As when June asks whether he's enjoying the party, and Eddie replies: "Oh, yes, Mrs. Cleaver. I think a SMALL house like this makes a party so intimate." Pure genius.


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