Last week I put the word out to all of my friends and friends-of-friends for celebrity hookup stories about Tony Dow. I got a lot of other 1950s and 1960s teen idols instead: Jack Wild, "Dennis the Menace" Jay North, Jon Provost, Brandon DeWilde. Some I'm holding off until I can do some fact-checking, but Bobby Driscoll seems pretty airtight.
It comes from a friend of Blake, my ex-boyfriend in Manhattan, who says he heard it from Wallace Berman.
The first generation of Baby Boomers remembers Bobby Driscoll (1937-1968) for only two vehicles: a young Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island (1950), and the voice and model of Peter Pan (1953).
In fact, he was a busy child star, working from the age of five, hired at the age of 11 to become Disney's first adventure boy, whose youthful masculinity and muscle would guide the way through the Cold War.
But things didn't pan out. Apparently he wasn't masculine or muscular enough to suit Walt. Promised roles fell through, and finally Disney cancelled his contract altogether. Bobby found himself scrambling for guest spots on tv shows, trying to survive in a high school where everyone ribbed him for being the androgynous Peter Pan, negotiating bouts of depression, trying every drug he could get his hands on.
Around 1956, Bobby met Wallace Berman, an artist of the 1950s avant-garde, who introduced him to Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger. He thought Bobby had a great deal of artistic talent, and should concentrate on that rather than acting.
But Bobby continued to try to capitalize on his long-gone child star cuteness. Former Disney chums took pity on him, and arranged for roles in Men of Annapolis, The Party Crashers, and The Millionaire, but he was increasingly deemed unemployable. His last mainstream acting job was in a 1960 episode of Rawhide.
He supplemented his very meager acting income with odd jobs, petty theft, and an occasional trick with female clients. He was arrested many times for drug possession, burglary, assault, and theft, but amazingly, either the charges were dropped or he was sentenced to probation. He only served six months in prison.
One day in 1965, after Bobby's latest arrest, he got a call from Berman, now living in Greenwich Village and quite a big name in avant-garde circles (he is one of the celebrities on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band).
"Look, the straight world is doing nothing but giving you shit," Berman said. Come to the Village and crash at my place. Work on your art."
So Bobby and girlfriend Didi relocated to New York, and moved into Wallace's pad in Greenwich Village.
Berman introduced him to Andy Warhol, and he began hanging around the Factory with the crowd of hustlers, transvestites, underground artists, and pop stars. They all made a fuss over him: he was immediately cast in the underground film Dirt (1965), and asked if he had any poetry to publish.
Andy was particularly entranced with Bobby. "Peter Pan finds a new way to fly," he said. "The ironic rebirth of a lost boy. I love it. Take your clothes off."
The full story, with nude photos and explicit sexual situations, is on Tales of West Hollywood.