Nov 21, 2015

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-63) was about a teenager (Dwayne Hickman of Love That Bob) so immensely girl-crazy that in the first season he announced it in every episode: "I'm Dobie Gillis, and I like girls.  What am I saying?  I love girls!  Beautiful, gorgeous, soft, round, creamy girls!"

Other people in Dobie's world are peculiarly low on straightness, however.  His proto-hippie buddy Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver, right, later of Gilligan's Island) shrinks away from the word "girl" as timidly as the word "work," both symbols of heterosexist destiny.

He expressed heterosexual interest only a few times, and usually in the first season.  In "The Gigolo," he is sought after for dates because his lack of heterosexual interest makes him safe.

Scripts sometimes "explain" this lack of interest as shyness, but in his autobiography, Bob Denver insists that Maynard "isn't afraid of girls; he just wants to pursue his own life."

Tomboy Zelda Gilroy (Sheila Kuehl) has a crush on Dobie, but withdraws in horror when he pretends to acquiesce; maybe she is using the crush to avoid any realistic attachments to boys (in 1994, Sheila Kuehl became the first open lesbian elected to the California state legislature).

Even the foppish Milton Armitage (Warren Beatty) seems uninterested in girls for their own sake, merely using them as tools to one-up Dobie.  After the first season, Warren Beatty left the series, replaced by the gay-coded cousin Chatsworth (Steve Franken), a mother-obsessed milquetoast who doesn't even bother with the pretense of liking girls.  Instead, he openly competes with Maynard for Dobie's affection.

Even the intensity of Dobie's attraction to girls is open to dispute.  The "I love girls" speech was dropped after the first season, and most episodes were about groups of friends rather than crushes and dates.

In one episode, Dobie is even suspected of being gay.  He dates a girl who belongs to a family of trapeze artists (Francis X. Bushman, Jud Beaumont, Tip McClure), who wander around the house in togas, discussing the benefits of "the Greek way," an obvious double entendre.

  To demonstrate their enthusiasm for Dobie, they mob him, rip his clothes off, and give him a toga of his own.  Dobie's Dad arrives, mistakes the togas for dresses, and concludes that Dobie has "gone funny" in a household of drag queens.

Dwayne Hickman went on to star in the buddy-bonding Cat Ballou, with Michael Callan.

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