Nardwuar vs Jerry 'the Beaver' Mathers



 
Old Beaver Nardwuar: Who are you?
The Beav: I'm Jerry Mathers. For many, many years I was the Beaver on Leave it to Beaver.

Do you mind being called "Beaver" at all?
Not at all, it's something I'm very proud of, so it's nothing that I'm ashamed of. It's a great show, it's stood the test of time. It's been on almost forty years, it's on in 80 countries in 40 languages; so it's, you know, it's just an honour that it's even still on.

It's not the first time you've been in Vancouver, you're always around Vancouver, aren't you? Didn't they bring you up for a Beaver promotion as well, something at Science World?
Actually, there's a Stephen Lowe production which is in the Imax format, and it plays all over the country, and I go and I lecture on beavers when I'm with that film. It's a very interesting, uh...the Vancouver area's very, very interesting. I like it up here a lot.

That is wild - the Beaver lecturing about beavers!
Well, it's the kind of thing when you've been associated with something like that for forty years, you tend, even peripherally, to pick up a lot of information about it, so it's something that's very, very easy to talk about.

Mr. Mathers - is it 'Ma-thers' or 'May-thers'?
Well, it doesn't really matter. Actually, it is 'Ma-thers', but everyone up here seems to think it's 'May-thers'. But I answer to both.
 

 
You know why, because Bryan Adams - Banal Adams, that rock star - he lives on May-thers Avenue, so everybody probably thinks about that.
That'd be fine with me, as long as they know, you know...As I say, if it's close, then I answer to it.

Well, Beaver then - what is happiness? Happiness is...?
Well, "Happiness" is a record that I did for Atlantic about...oh, probably thirty years ago. It was number one in Hawaii and Alaska.

Yeah, happiness is money, and actually I got that record, I have it here, it's on a compilation "Hipsville 29 BC" , and there's a song here that goes "Happiness is money" by Beaver and the Trappers!
It's "happiness is having".

"Happiness is having", sorry.
So there are several things that happiness is having. But it was Beaver and the Trappers. We recorded for about three-and-a-half years, it was when I was in high school. We used to play all the local bands, we'd play the sock-hops and things like that.

That was after the show, wasn't it?
It was from about '1963 on.

On "Hipsville 29 BC" I found it fascinating that there's a song on there by Beaver and the Trappers. Who's this guy who co-authored the song?
His name is Richard Corelli. He played Richard on Leave it to Beaver. He's now a director, he directs a lot of the Saturday night line-up on ABC.

The lyrics for Happiness were pretty wild, like, "blowin' my mind" and "comin' down". What exactly was that alluding to?
Well, it was actually what happiness is.

 

 
"Blowin' my mind" and "comin' down"? And what about the other great lyric on there, "C'mon baby, spread a little happiness my way"?
Well, I don't remember that one, but as I say, it was a long time ago.

What do you think Ward, your dad, Beaver, would think about you singing a song like "C'mon baby, spread some happiness my way".
As I say, I don't quite remember the lyrics going that way, but it's pretty close.

One of the songs also that you did was "Wind-up Toy" - that's more fluffy, isn't it, that's nicer, it's not as controversial?
Well actually, we did about 15 all together, so there are quite a few songs with Beaver and the Trappers.

I've never heard "Wind-up Toy" - do you know any more songs like "Happiness Is" and "Wind-up Toy" - what "Wind-up Toy"'s about?
"Wind-up Toy"...let's see, not really.

Oh, you began to sing it right there.
Well, I was trying to remember the melody, but it's very, very hard - it was almost 30 years ago, and as I say, we only - We would do each song for about six or eight weeks and play it. "Wind-up Toy" was done for Atlantic, this one was done for Adco, which was Atlantic's second line. But they were mostly done...there was never an album, they were all 45s.

It's quite interesting that a lot of TV stars who were younger got involved in bands. Like Don Grady of My Three Sons had a band called the Yellow Balloon.
Actually Don Grady still does a lot of music work. He now does music for movies and TV.

Did you ever play with the Yellow Balloon ?The Yellow Balloon
No actually, each band was separate, so you wouldn't, you know, cross over. Did play with Desi Arnaz a lot, 'cause we would play the same...He was a contemporary of mine, so when we'd play, a lot of times we'd jam together. What was his band called - Dino, Desi and ---

Dino, 'cause it was Dean Martin's son, who was killed in a jet crash, he was flying an international guard plane. And I can't remember who the third person was. But it was their three names. And then there was Don Grady's, and there was Beaver and the Trappers. Any other kind of teen-TV star-bands?
Actually, you seem to be the band expert. I remember that Don had one...Let's see, Desi Arnaz had one. The guy from Courtship of Eddie's Father - actually, he still has one. He now has a punk band.

Yeah, Brandon Cruz.
Mmm-hmm. I don't know the name of his, but I know he still works the circuit.

Harmful if Swallowed, I think it is.
That's...Yeah, you coulda got it by me.

Oh yeah, and Billy Mumy from Lost in Space, Beaver, he also has a band, doesn't he? Billy Mumy, you know, from Lost in Space?
He could. As I say, I'm not really sure about that. But if you say so, I'll believe it.

I once saw him in a guitar shop and I heard he did.
Well that's probably true, then.

Who were you hanging around, at that time, with? Like, what particular people? Did you ever get to "come on down and blow some brains" with, like, Agnes Moorehead or Lisa Loring from The Addams Family at all?
No, I actually didn't know them. Those shows were actually done in the late '60s. Leave it to Beaver was actually off the air by then.

So who was the crew that was hanging around you at that time?
Actually, it was mostly people from high school. It was mostly not actors, it was people that I was in high school with at the time.

Jerry Mathers, the Beaver, guess whose favourite TV series is Leave it to Beaver?
Oh, probably quite a few people. It shows in 80 countries in 40 languages.

Kurt. Kurt Co...
Ah, yes.

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana's favourite TV series was Leave it to Beaver.
That's what he said. I guess we'll never get to verify that now, but I had heard that. But there are several people who have said that.

That must make you feel kind of nice.
Yeah, actually, it's nice to have people like that who are very, very talented - actually, he's a very sad, sad case in some ways, 'cause he was very talented and then, you know, committed suicide. So...he should have taken a little more from Leave it to Beaver, possibly.

 

 
Gilligan's Island, are you aware of that show at all, Beaver?
I'm aware of it. I don't watch it very much, but I'm aware of it.

Well, actually, on a nautical theme, were you ever on The Love Boat ?
Yes I was, I was on their very last episode.

What happened on that episode, 'cause I think they're coming back with it, aren't they? What was the scenario, what was the plot for that one?
Actually, it was a two-hour movie, so I was in a very small part of it. I was at dinner with quite a few, uh...let's see, I think it was Ricardo Montalban and some other people. It was a fun time. As I say, I just went in, I worked one day on it, they tried to have as many people as they could because it was their last show.

Young BeaverYou never did Hollywood Squares?
Actually I was, I was the centre square on Hollywood Squares for about fifteen weeks.

Who else was in the show at that time?
Hollywood Squares?

Was Paul Lynde on at that time?
No, I took Paul Lynde's place.

Was that after he passed away?
No, he was doing something else at the time. This was in the...

The Beaver replaced Paul Lynde?
Well I don't know if I replaced him. He had something else to do, and I went in - I was the middle square, he was the centre square, so...As I say, I wasn't really like a replacement, those squares switched all the time.

That's kind of a big chore to fill, Paul Lynde.
Actually, it was the centre square. Paul Lynde wasn't the only person. There were quite a few different people - Phyllis Diller used to do it. I can't remember all the other people, but...It was a fun time, it was very challenging, 'cause they'd go in and ask you a lot of very obscure questions and you always had to come up with an answer.

You've done stuff at the Imax theatre for beavers, promoting beavers - you are the Beaver.
Very definitely.

And now you're at the Boat Show and I mentioned Gilligan -
No, no, no, I'm at the Home Show.

Oh my god, I'm just getting confused here, 'cause I'm looking at Jerry Mathers, the actual Beaver, he is the Beaver, this is the Beaver - hello, how are you doing?
Pretty good.

Gilligan was at the Boat Show, 'cause, you know, Gilligan's Island and boats kind of go together, right?
Sounds good to me.

Now how, exactly, does Leave it to Beaver and the home go together? What's the correlation between that? Doesn't that feel a tiny bit like stretching it, you know, beavers on Imaxes and beavers at home shows?
Actually not, I've done quite a bit of home renovation. I just got finished redoing my house, spent almost a year because of the earthquake in Los Angeles. One of the companies I work for, I just rehab'd a building - I took it from an auto parts store, I built basically five offices, a tech room for my computer people.

What do you do with the computer people?
i have several computer companies. One of them I hae a programme for wide-format printing. I have a beauty programme. So I have several different programmes that I own for printing.

Have you met Bill Gates ?
I've been at seminars with him, I haven't met him and spoken with him for a very long time. But I've been at different seminars with him.

'Cause you seem deserving to be invited to his wedding - Alice Cooper was invited to his wedding - was the Beaver invited to Bill Gates' wedding?
Nope. Sorry, no.

Also, finally, winding up here, Beaver, Jerry Mathers - Harry Shearer, he was the guy from Spnal Tp and The Simpsons, he was originally going to be Eddie Haskell, wasn't he?
Actually, he was in the original pilot. The character's name at that time was not Eddie Haskell, but he did play that part.

So what happened?
They found Ken Osmond and thought he was better.

'Cause it would have been wild to have had Harry Shearer of Spnal Tp as Eddie Haskell.
Well, this was before he ever did that. I don't think he'd worked very much when he did it, and they just thought that Ken Osmond played the part better. But I'm sure he would've done a good job had he gotten it.

And then there were all those other weird kind of tie-ins, like who really was Eddie Haskell - like who was Paul McCartney, who was Eddie Haskell? A lot of people thought he might have been John "The Wad" Holmes, the porn star, did you ever hear of that?
Oh, very definitely. In fact, John Holmes took his name, did several movies under his name. Ken Osmond sued him, it was about a $25 million suit. He lost it because they said that it actually was a satire of him.
John "the wad" Holmes
The "Wad" holding a dog !

So they lost the suit.
He lost the suit. But he did sue John Holmes for using his name and, as I say, they said it was satire. It's a California precedent-setting case. It's in the California Supreme Court.

That's interesting. Eddie Haskell versus John "The Wad" Holmes.
Mmm-hmm.

But I guess in the end Eddie Haskell got revenge because poor John Holmes died.
Actually it wasn't Eddie Haskell, it was Ken Osmond.

All right, but you are Jerry Mathers, the Beaver.
That's right.

Anything else you'd like to add to people out there in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Jerry Mathers, the Beaver?
No, I think you pretty well covered it all.

All right, well keep on rocking in the free world, and doot-doodle-oot-do -
Doot-do.

Interview done in person at 'The Home Show', Vancouver, B.C. March, 1996.
Jerry

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