Vintage Hunk: Tony Dow

By: Mike McCrann

As a gay teenager growing up in the late 50s I would watch various TV series for their cute boy stars. Tim Considine was pretty much Numero Uno on Spin and Marty but Tony Dow on Leave It To Beaver ran a pretty close second. Leave It To Beaver ran from 1957 to 1963.

Looking back it seems the quintessential show of the period in its depiction of Mid Century Eisenhower White Bread America. Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsley were the parents we all wanted. Maybe not as funny as Ozzie and Harriet, but as perfect as any parents on the tube. Babs always wore her pearls and Hugh was the Lewis Stone of his day. The real fun on the show was Jerry Mathers as Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver and Tony Dow as his sexy older brother Wally.

Tony Dow was every teenage gay boy's dream of the perfect older brother and perfect sex object. O.K. Maybe we weren't supposed to be watching Leave It To Beaver for sex, but let's face it in those days all we had was TV and the movies.

Tony Lee Dow was born in 1945 in Hollywood, California. He was a Junior Olympics diving champion (imagine him in those Speedos!) and got the role of Wally Cleaver with very little acting experience. He didn't really need any as most of the amusing lines went to June, Ward and "The Beaver". Tony just had to look sexy and buff with his blond pompadour. Leave It To Beaver is still such a pleasure mostly due to the great supporting cast. Ward and June always had the correct rejoinder for their boys' questions and behavior. Wally never really did anything bad, but he was up in that bedroom a lot - many times without his shirt.

When Leave It To Beaver ended, Tony Dow did other TV work then went back stage to direct, but he later became an accomplished sculptor and in 2008 The Los Angeles Times astounded its readers when they ran the story that Tony Dow was having a piece of his abstract work shown at the Louvre in Paris. Tony was quoted as saying: "Of course I'm really proud of Leave It To Beaver and my directing career in television. Those are great accomplishments. I'm really proud of them, but this (sculpting career) is interesting because I don't think they know anything about that."

Tony Dow has been married twice and has a son. His second marriage is still going strong after over thirty years. When I think of Leave It To Beaver now I think of how funny Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont were. (She would gain further immortality with the "I speak Jive" scene in Airplane.) Jerry Mathers was also funny, but Tony Dow was to die for. Maybe because I was hitting puberty at the exact time as Dow and I could openly fantasize about what was going on in the bedroom of his character Wally.