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How Nicotine and Booze Built The P.I. Business

I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.

(front seat from left) Efrum Zimblast, Jr.; Edd "Kookie" Byrnes; Roger Smith, back seat Louis Quinn and Robert Logan.

(front seat from left) Efrum Zimblast, Jr.; Edd "Kookie" Byrnes; Roger Smith, back seat Louis Quinn and Robert Logan.

Remember The Hit

77 Sunset Strip? Itwas an American television private detectiveseries created by Roy Huggins and starring Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Roger Smith, Richard Long(from 1960 to 1961) and Edd Byrnes(billed as Edward Byrnes). Each episode was one hour long including commercials. The show ran from 1958 to 1964.

As with the previous Warner Brothers series, Maverick, having only one star would prove to be too demanding for the frantic production schedule. Accordingly, after the initial pilot which featured Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as solo private detective Stuart ("Stu") Bailey, the series concept became tied to the firm of Bailey & Spencer. Bailey was a former government secret agent, and was a character Huggins had originated in his 1946 novel The Double Take(which he later adapted into the 1948 movie I Love Trouble, starring Franchot Tonein the role). Roger Smith played Jeff Spencer, also a former government agent, and a nonpracticing attorney. The duo worked out of stylish offices at 77 Sunset Boulevard, Suites 101 and 102. The street address was colloquially known as Sunset Strip, and was located between La Cienega Boulevardand Alta Loma Road on the south side of the strip next door to Dean Martin's real-life lounge, Dino's Lodge. Typically, the two detectives would alternate as leads, with a Stuart Bailey case being featured one week, and a Jeff Spencer case the next -- although depending on the nature of the case, sometimes the two would team up.

This CBS show was not really a show, but a weekly event. Sometimes a trip to the circus.

Any TV fanatic can easily research the long lists of guest stars, regular stars, and cameo appearances by Hollywood’s finest film and TV stars, and in the early going in 1958, the CBS exec’s were no fool. They knew a good thing when they hit on the star-studded variety of action, drama, and humor all mixed-up to where the fans were glued to 77 Sunset Strip.

Would you like to know about the careers of the central cast (after) 77 Sunset Strip? The answers might amaze you.

Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. – Best known for the F.B.I., as agent, “Lewis Erskine.”

Edd Byrnres – Best known for his role of “Vince Fontana,” host of a teen dance show.

Byrnes also scored a hit song with Connie Stevens, “Kookie, May I Borrow Your Comb?”

Roger Smith – Went on to direct and produce films. He was married to Ann-Margaret.

Louis Quinn – Was a sensational comedy writer, he was on three episodes of “Batman.”

Richard Long – His best role was that of “Jarod Barkley” on ABCs “Big Valley.”

Joan Staley – Appeared with Don Knotts in the comedy: “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.”

Yvonne Craig – Went on to portray “Bat-Girl,” on ABCs “Bat-Man.

Then Came Peter Gunn

the quiet and retiring, low-toned Craig Stevens who was always “dressed to the nines,” no matter where his job took him. Of course, “all work and no play makes Stevens a dull boy,” and this is where Stevens’/Gunns girlfriend, “Edie Hart,” a sultry nightclub singer played by Lola Albright and I have to hand it to the casting of Peter Gunn because Albright was every bit the dazzler.

And after the waters were tested by the casts of 77Sunset Strip and Peter Gunn, enter a young Mike Connors, who starred in Tight Rope named “Nick,” who was cast an undercover agent who worked to infiltrate the city’s gangland and make things right. Connors also narrated the episodes and before I forget it . . .his trademark of hiding-his-gun-in-the-pants helped to get the drop on many of the most-dangerous thugs.

Yes, I know that you are wondering if Connors/Nick drank? Sure. Also he liked to light-up along the way as he was good at fooling the criminal element into believing that he was just another criminal element.

But Connors found out that Screen Gems was not happy—although Tight Rope was sponsored by Williams Lectric Shave; Aqua Velva and other male-oriented products. It was leaked out that Connors wanted to increase the size of his role, but the producers balked, thus Connors left the show for “greener acting roles,” which were not to his liking, but he had wonderful Hollywood connections.

It was not long until Connors met Bruce Geller, a talented producer and developer of the police and P.I. shows and when the two got together, Geller developed and put Mannix on CBS and the show ran from 1967 until 1975—and although in a moderate amount, Joe Mannix did take an occasional drink and cigarette to round-out his role.

Prior to Mannix, he starred in a very-advanced detective show, “Intertech,” where he was a loner working for more than one person out to solve the many crimes that the police couldn’t handle it.

And prior to “Intertech,” was Krekor Ohanian (August 15, 1925 – January 26, 2017), known professionally as Mike Connors, was an Armenian-American actor best known for playing private detective Joe Mannix in the CBS television series Mannix. This was not in Connors’ wheel house as Krekor was cast as a highly-educated private eye and was able to solve tough crimes with his wits and excessive I.Q.

I worry so much of one thing, (booze and cigarettes) I have told you in past hubs that nicotine and alcohol are not in my life. . .so all I can say is: Ob - La - Di, Ob - La – Da.

February 26, 2019_____________________________________

I Have One More Police Show

and it has a star who was a household word: Robert Stack who played Eliot Ness, the head of a group of Crime-Busting Specialists and the show was adapted from the Prohibition of Alcohol and the bootleggers and Major Crime was almost rampid.

But Stack was the perfect boss and leader. He did not put up with sloppy work and getting the best of him and his team. The episode where Ness and a machine expert designed a Still Buster which was nothing more than a heavy-duty truck with a blade on the front similar to that on a bulldozer. And this machine along with Ness' investigations and several informants . . .made the show a treat to watch as it now, but remember: Only Ness and his boys smoked. If they had a drink it was off-duty and at home.

I have to admire this concept.

(From left) Richard Long; Efrum Zimblast, Jr.; Jacquelyn Beer;  Roger Smith; Louis Quinn amd Edd "Kookie" Burns. Cast of 77 Sunset Strip.

(From left) Richard Long; Efrum Zimblast, Jr.; Jacquelyn Beer; Roger Smith; Louis Quinn amd Edd "Kookie" Burns. Cast of 77 Sunset Strip.

© 2019 Kenneth Avery