Life after “Leave It To Beaver”
Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow grew up in somewhat of a fairytale world — as make-believe brothers in the make-believe town of Mayfield on television’s “Leave It to Beaver.” Now, 20 years later, they talk of what it’s like to be childhood stars who had to cope with the adult world.
Mathers, a 29-year-old real estate salesman, says playing Beaver helped him make the transition from boy to man. But Dow, now 32, thinks maybe his six years as Beaver’s older brother Wally created a gap in growing up because he never had to learn to hustle.
Mathers and Dow were part of a cast of five in the family comedy “Leave It To Beaver,” which ran from 1957 to 1963. Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont played the parents, June and Ward Cleaver, and Ken Osmond played Wally’s best friend, Eddie Haskell.
Living in the real world
“My problems tend to relate to the way I was brought up, because I tended to be brought up in a very idealistic world,” says Tony Dow, who owns a contracting and remodeling firm, and who now takes an occasional part in movies, television commercials and soap operas. “My early development was influenced by non-realistic relationships with peopIe.
“For instance, I never had any trouble getting service in a restaurant, a room in a hotel. I never had any trouble getting anything, because everybody was perfectly interested in bending over backward. Everybody was always saying that I had a great future, and there were no problems in life.
“Consequently, I don’t have a lot of drive, and I don’t have a lot of the pushy attitude, and I don’t tend to understand manipulations as well as people do who seem to be more successful in the business world.”
In contrast, Mathers, who several months ago left his job as a bank operations officer to go into real estate, is satisfied with the direction he is going.
“When you’re a star, you’re kind of cloistered,” he says. “I’m a very sociable person, and selling real estate, you get to meet a lot of people.”
The childhood adulation, he says, “was nice. That you can’t deny. But it was nothing that l became so accustomed to that I felt I had to have it.”
Mathers says his careers in banking and real estate have given him an inside look at how to invest the money he made in television.
Dow says he made some bad investments, and a vacation house on Catalina Island is the last remnant of the money from the Wally role on “Leave It To Beaver.” Still, his current activities finance comfortable living in a home sequestered behind a fence on an acre of land in Van Nuys.
“Leave It To Beaver” boys became family men
Ward Cleaver, the stern, kind, wise and always fair-handed father on the show would have been proud of how the boys turned out to be good, stable family men.
Dow and his wife, Carol, a travel agent, have been married eight years and have one son, Christopher, 4.
Mathers has been married three years, and lives in Woodland Hills. His wife Diana teaches high school Latin.
Mathers thinks he may see things a bit differently than Dow, because he started working when he was two years old as a model for department store clothing advertisements. As a result, he says he began to understand early what it was like to be turned down for a job, and how it felt to get up at 6 am “to go to work” instead of school.
Tony Dow, as a teenager, wound up as Wally shortly after a YMCA lifeguard, a would-be actor, took him for a studio interview.
WATCH IT AGAIN! Stream episodes of “Leave it to Beaver” or buy it on DVD
After the series ended, Mathers quit acting, because he wanted to attend a regular high school and play sports.
Dow graduated from high school on the set, and went on to UCLA to study psychology and film, but quit before graduation to take acting jobs.
During his late teens and early 20s, Dow appeared in a few films and soap operas.
“I probably turned down 10 beach party movies because I didn’t think they were morally healthy. I didn’t feel they were particularly entertaining, which was dumb from a business standpoint.
“The job of an actor is to act, not to pass judgment on the piece he’s acting in.”
Wally and Beaver play a few college jobs, where personal appearances are combined with old clips from their show. Joining them is Osmond, who spends most his time as a Los Angeles motorcycle cop.
Barbara Billingsley is married to a Santa Monica physician, and spends much of her time traveling or working with charities.
Hugh Beaumont is recovering from a stroke, but directs an occasional TV show, and appears on occasion in little theater productions.