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77 Sunset Strip

77 Sunset Strip cast photo

"The thing I liked about 77 Sunset Strip were the snub nose 38s and the shoulder holsters that they really display rather prominently whenever Jeff's and Stu's sportcoats were off."

"Also, I remember one series of episodes which stuck in my mind. This was the season that only EZ was around. There were 5 episodes and the name was 'V'."

"The unusual thing about these were there were no other actors besides EZ and they were virtually silent, in that since no one else was on screen, the viewer could only hear sounds of things or EZ saying things to himself."

"The plot was: someone was out to get EZ and leaving clues behind. EZ would follow them and they eventually let to the potential killer. The show finally ended with a fire accidentally starting and the killer locked inside a closet. We finally hear another voice when he responds to EZ's plea to get out because of the fire, but the killer doesn't believe him and he obivously meets his end without us ever seeing him."

"I didn't remember what the reason for the show was, but it was probably one of EZ's old victims trying to get even with him for putting him in the slammer." At any rate, it was a very suspenseful series.

"Oh, and the other thing I liked about the show was the '60s style Thunderbird. A really sharp car."
- Bob

77 Sunset Strip cast photo

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77 Sunset Strip
77 Sunset Strip

October 1958 - September 1964

 Friday 9:00 ABC  

'77 Sunset Strip' was the Mack-daddy of the late-fifties detective shows, launching the young, cool private detective series craze. This Warner Brothers series was so massively popular that the studio had several clones of the show drawing big ratings for the networks well into the sixties.

77 Sunset Strip castThe show was created by one of television's most talented and prolific writer/creators, Roy Huggins, as a segment for a show called 'Conflict.' Huggins later dreamed up such classic television shows as 'The Rockford Files,' 'Alias Smith and Jones,', 'Maverick,' and 'The Fugitive' among many others.

In fact, 'Maverick' scripts were often re-written for use on '77 Sunset Strip' - and vice-versa. Roy Huggins also helped create the '77 Sunset Strip' clones that sprang up starting in 1959. The formula of these "caper" shows was constant - a private eye or two, a nutty sidekick and an exotic location.

77 Sunset StripOn '77 Sunset Strip,' former OSS officer Stu Bailey (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) and former undercover agent Jeff Spencer (Roger Smith) were the hip, swinging, martini-clutching private eyes that worked out of their office located at 77 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. Their brand-new sports cars shared a driveway with a swinging nightspot called Dino's, a rat-pack type hangout that was an important chick (and trouble) magnet for the boys. (Dino's was a real life Sunset Strip restaurant named for co-owner Dean Martin.)

77 Sunset StripOther series regulars were Roscoe (Louis Quinn), the racetrack informant that liked to hang out with the guys, and Suzanne (Jaqueline Beer) as the detective agency's sexy French receptionist. Typical episode plot: A plethora of curvaceous suspects surrounds Bailey as he attempts to search for the murderous enemy of a Latin-American playboy.

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Kookie from 77 Sunset StripParking the cars at Dino's was Gerald Lloyd Kookson, II (aka "Kookie" played by Edd Byrnes) who snapped his fingers in beatnick style all the way to genuine teen idol status. Byrnes appeared in the original 'Conflict' pilot feature ("Girl on the Run") as a cold-blooded killer who compulsively combs his hair while waiting to kill his victims.

Series creator Roy Huggins describes the original concept for Kookie: "When the story was over, that kid was going to the gas chamber - he was irredeemable, unconscionable, amoral. Charles Manson with a comb." But the preview audiences loved the character and mobbed Edd Byrnes after a preview screening of the pilot.

Kookie 77 Sunset StripTaking note of this reaction, when ABC ordered '77 Sunset Strip' the series, they ordered it with Edd Byrnes in a recurring role. Just before the second episode aired, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. appeared out of character and announced: "We previewed this show, and because Edd Byrnes was such a hit we decided that Kookie and his comb had to be in our series. So this week, we'll just forget that in the pilot he went off to prison to be executed."

The role of Kookie went from cold killer to comedic buffoon - and suddenly the nation's teens all wanted to be like Kookie.

Byrnes and Connie Stevens had a huge hit song in 1958 with "Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb" (featured on the second episode), and that single helped the television show reach number 6 in the Nielsen ratings by the end of the first year.

Kookie in TV GuideHep talking "Kookie" wanted to help the guys solve crimes, but he rarely found time to do more than pose, thrust his hips and comb his hair in those first episodes. Of course, as we've all discovered in life, sometimes that's enough to get the job done.

Kookie had his own way of walking and talking: "That chick's the ginchiest", "Let's peel from this gig", and "I'm piling on some Z's" were examples of his fave phrases.

77 Sunset Strip comic bookIt wasn't long before Edd Byrnes became a fixture in the teen magazines of the day, helping '77 Sunset Strip' keep the sagging ABC network afloat. It was one of few runaway hit shows the third place network had, and ABC ordered as many clones as Warner Brothers could produce.

Edd Byrnes walked off '77 Sunset Strip' during the second season demanding a bigger part on the show and more money. He was replaced by Troy Donahue as a long-haired intellectual-type that parked the cars for Dino's. Producers ultimated gave in and Donahue was sent packing.

Before the start of the third season Kookie was back as a full partner in the detective agency. Rex Randolf (Richard Long) joined the agency (for one season) in the fall of 1960 after his brief stint patrolling the streets of New Orleans on 'Bourbon Street Beat' (1959-1960).

Replacing Kookie in the parking lot was J.R. Hale (Robert Logan) who had HIS own language - he spoke in abbreviations, man.

Efrem Zembalist JrA radical change took place when the show entered it's sixth season. The production was turned over to Jack Webb ('Dragnet') and William Conrad ('Cannon') who dumped all of the regulars except Stu Bailey.

In the new format, Stu left the glamorous surroundings of West Hollywood for a career pursuing international spy cases. Gone were Dino's bar, the jazzy beatnick music and the even the Sunset Strip itself. Well, you could still see the Strip - it was that tiny row of lights in the bottom corner of the generic shot of the city that now opened the show.

77 Sunset Strip starEverything that made the show what it was was gone - the tone was now Jack Webb's patented no-nonsense style. Abysmal ratings followed. No "Kookie"?!?!?

The sixth season started with a five-part episode that had Stu fighting communists all over Europe with help from his new secretary Hannah (Joan Staley). The new format featured a number of big name guest-stars in those opening episodes, and much better production values than the show had enjoyed previously - after all, they didn't have all of those regulars to pay anymore!

The re-tooling was a vain attempt to revive a dying franchise. '77 Sunset Strip' was cancelled in February of 1964, with re-runs featuring the original cast playing out the summer.

Warner Bros Logo from 1959In an odd footnote that would have undoubtedly caused a dramatic shift in the pop culture landscape, Edd Byrnes was being considered as the original host of 'Wheel of Fortune'. "Like, you want to buy a vowel, man?"


Warner Bros. launched a bunch of
77 Sunset Strip clones, read about them here!

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