Thursday, June 28, 2012
Rant #766: Goodbye, Don
Don Grady died yesterday at age 68 after a four-year battle with cancer.
I feel like I have lost a friend.
Yes, I was Facebook friends with him, and yes, he often wrote back to me about various things that I had commented on.
No, he wasn't a Hollywood phony, having up a Facebook page just to have one, but never really reading anything anybody put up.
He read everything I wrote, and when he wrote back to me using my first name, I knew that something I wrote to him had hit home.
But that was Grady, and that was a personality he honed growing up on the long-running "My Three Sons" sitcom.
The show was on from 1960-1972, and Grady was one of the stars of the show up until the last season, when he left to pursue his life-long dream of becoming a full-time musician.
The show was about the Douglas family, led by Fred MacMurray's Steve Douglas, a widower, Bub, played by William Frawley (and later Uncle Charley, played by William Demarest), and sons Mike, Robby (Grady) and little Chip.
Mike, played by Tim Considine, was very serious, very deep, very handsome and was just about the perfect young man.
Chip, played by Stanley Livingston, was the baby, the cute kid who got into all kinds of trouble.
Robby was the middle child, and as most middle kids do, he had a bit of the older child and a bit of the younger child in him.
He was good looking, but he wasn't the greatest at most things, unlike his older brother. He also had one foot into still being a little kid, getting into scraps on an almost episode by episode basis.
But Grady's character matured as Grady himself got older.
In fact, when Considine left the series in 1965 to pursue his life-lomg dream to be a photographer, Grady kind of morphed into the older son, with all the attributes Mike had.
All of a sudden, he became responsible, went to college, got married to the most beautiful actress on television at that time (Tina Cole), had triplets, and became, like his dad, an engineer.
Chip took on the middle kid's role, and Barry Livingston, Stanley's real brother, became a full-time cast member, moving from the next door neighbor to father Steve Douglas' adopted son after little Ernie's parents died in a car crash.
Anyway, Grady stayed with that role for a couple of years, but when the music struck him, he left while the show was still at the top of its game, with several new characters, including Steve's wife and adopted daughter.
Music had been with Grady since he was a child on the Mouseketeers. He was overshadowed by Annette Funicello and some of the other kids, but he was probably one of the more talented kids to come out of that series.
He also continued his love of music on "My Three Sons." The family was often seen playing as a makeshift band, and Grady's character also warbled "Good Man to Have Around the House" on one of the episodes. His band, the Greefs, appeared in an episode.
He also had a music career aside from the show.
Grady was a member of a group called the Yellow Balloon, who had one hit entitled, of course, "Yellow Balloon." He had to keep his identity in the band secret for a variety of reasons, so few knew he was part of that group.
He also recorded as a solo artist, and as part of a group called Windupwatchband.
When he left the show to pursue his musical dream, he recorded numerous soundtrack scores for movies and documentaries, but he will always be remembered for composing the theme to the "Donohue" TV talk show.
During the past 40 years or so, he also released a number of albums--often under his real name, Don Agrati--and worked with a variety of musicians who helped him realize his musical dream.
He was the brother of Lani O'Grady, the actress on "Eight Is Enough," who died of a drug overdose some years ago.
And he got along famously with his old castmates.
In real life, Grady was married for years, had a few kids, and was a grandfather.
I wondered why he had been off his Facebook site for so long, and he never let on about the cancer that was eating away at him for years.
He returned briefly, but then left again.
I honestly didn't think anything was wrong, but then this morning, I read the terrible news.
This guy was as down to earth as anybody I have ever met.
He knew his place in life, his place in the annals of TV history, and he let it go at that. He wasn't pompous, and I think that had to do with the fact that he loved what he had done, and loved what he was currently doing.
R.I.P. Don Grady. You truly had a wonderful life.
(And also R.I.P. to Doris Singleton, the character actress who played Carolyn Appleby on "I Love Lucy." She was in her 90s. One of her most memorable roles away from Lucy was on "All in the Family," where she shared a room with Edith Bunker during jury duty. Singleton's character was ready to convict a young man for doing something that Edith eventually convinced the jury that he did not do. A great episode, and this actress had a pretty fabulous career, starting off as a big band singer in the 1940s. She, like Grady, will be missed.)
Posted by Larry at 3:43 AM