Appreciation: Jody McCrea

jody mccrea

Disney is making a Beach Party movie, along the lines of their “High School Musical” movies. To wit: two modern teenagers get thrown back to the early 1960s, into a beach-party setting, and everything goes wrong.

Personally I’m glad they’re reviving the beach-party franchise. The 1960s beach movies were superb, in their way: Frankie and Annette, and Harvey Lembeck, and the Himalayan Suspension Technique, and from time to time people like Luciana Paluzzi and Dwayne Hickman and Don Rickles.

But I mourn the loss of the original beach kids. I mourned Annette Funicello’s passing a few months ago in this blog. And now, very late, I’ve discovered that another member of the Beach Party cadre left us some years ago: Jody McCrea.

Jody was the son of handsome / beefy actor Joel McCrea and actress Frances Dee. He was a nice-looking man who very much took after his father. Take a look at these photos of the two of them:


joel mccrea comparison jody mccrea comparison

In the Beach Party movies, he played a character named “Deadhead,” and sometimes “Bonehead.” He was the designated dummy. He was big and adorable and stupid. In one of the beach party movies, he finds a mermaid (naturally, none of his friends believes him), and they fall in love!

He was a bodybuilder, as you can probably tell from the above pics. He was well over six feet tall, as was his father. (Jody seldom took his shirt off. Partner said: “Well, naturally he didn’t take off his shirt. He would have make Frankie Avalon look pathetic.”)

He made a few more movies after the beach fad died, but mostly left show business after the 1960s. He became a rancher in New Mexico, where he died of a heart attack in 2009.

I didn’t know of his death until the other day, when Apollonia and I began researching him.

I was so sorry.

Annette’s dead, and Bonehead too.

They were the spirit of youth to us, back in the mid-1960s. Knowing that they’re dead is very depressing for us older folks.

It means that we might die too.

Unless we can figure out a way out of it.

Annette Funicello


Annette Funicello passed away on Monday. It wasn’t a surprise; she’s been sick for a long time – she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1987, and has been battling it ever since.



But it is a very sad occasion for me.



Annette was my very first television crush, back in the late 1950s / early 1960s, when she was one of the original Mousketeers. She was so pretty! And she was always smiling!



Annette had a singing career, and she even had her own TV show for a while. Then, in the mid-1960s, there were the Beach Party movies with Frankie Avalon. I never tire of seeing those beach movies; they are eternal 1960s summer, with no shadow of Vietnam or the counterculture. Annette is always the Good Girl; Frankie is always tempted by the Bad Girl (Connie Stevens, or Luciana Paluzzi, or whomever), but he always comes back to Annette.



Annette did occasional gigs in the 70s and 80s, but not much. Then, after her MS was diagnosed in 1987, she and Frankie Avalon made the dreadful-but-loveable “Back to the Beach,” with Connie Stevens and Pee-Wee Herman. It’s a twenty-years-later beach movie, which tries to recapture the feeling of those madcap stupid 1960s beach movies. It fails, naturally.



But who cares? It was fun. I watched it three or four times, because I loved Annette.



And I still do.



Rest in peace, sweetheart.




I used to wear my Mousketeer ears (brought back from Disneyland by my brother and sister-in-law, with my name embroidered on them) and watch “The Mickey Mouse Club.” I was terribly in love with Annette. I knew she was too old for me (I was around six at the time), but I didn’t care. She was beautiful.



She and I stayed close during her Beach Party years, though I never really understood what she saw in Frankie Avalon. Or in Dwayne Hickman, for that matter.



We lost touch for a while in the 1970s and 1980s. We were both seeing other people.



Back in the 1990s came the sad news that she had multiple sclerosis. Tough as ever, though, she made “Back to the Beach” with Frankie and with Connie Stevens, and I fell in love all over again.



Now, a few days ago, comes word that her house in Encino has burned down. But she’s okay.



Annette: if you need a place to stay while your house is being rebuilt, let me know. We’d be happy to put you up.



And just so you know: I still have my Mickey Mouse ears.




%d bloggers like this: