Thursday, August 23, 2012

The End of TomKat and Don Grady (a Cool Cat)

This is a tough time to be a fan of Hollywood. So many great personalities have recently left us that I’ve had no chance to pay individual tribute. So here’s a collective hail and farewell to Frank Pierson (writer of Cool Hand Luke), Ernest Borgnine (who proved ugly can be cool), Lupe Ontiveros (who made it cool to portray a maid), Al Freeman Jr. (dangerously cool in Dutchman), Phyllis Diller (who looked as though her hair was washed in Cool Whip), and Tony Scott (whose mysterious plunge from the Vincent Thomas Bridge has sent icy shivers down my spine).

I was overseas in late June 2012 when news broke that a Hollywood power couple was no more. So pervasive is the public image of TomKat that the split between Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise seemed like a celebrity death of sorts. Certainly, European tabloids were as excited as American ones that Tom and Katie had reached the end of the road. It’s sad, of course, when any marriage dies, especially when a child is involved. But I felt far sadder later that day when I learned about Don Grady’s death from cancer at the age of 68.

Most of the world (or that part of it touched by American television) knew Don Grady as an early Mouseketeer who found greater fame as Robbie Douglas on My Three Sons. This was one of those inoffensive shows from the early Sixties, full of family squabbles and warm-hearted reconciliations. To be honest, I rarely saw it.

Don Grady did well as a show biz kid because he was talented, musical, and fearless. He was pleasant looking, with a dimpled chin that might even have impressed Kirk Douglas. And he was short (5’7” was his adult height), which for a child actor is always a great advantage: you can play younger than your actual age, and come off seeming mature and precocious. One other advantage for Don was the fact that his mother Mary was a well-known Hollywood talent agent who specialized in representing kids.

All these advantages couldn’t protect Don, circa 1968, from the U.S. Army. The Vietnam War was raging, and most young men I knew (including my husband-to-be) were looking for ways to save themselves from slogging down the Ho Chi Minh trail. Bernie was good enough on the trumpet to land a gig with an Army Reserve marching band unit, which met regularly for drills and performances. Don Agrati (serving under his birth name) was a bandsman too. Despite his Hollywood pedigree, he put on no airs. Once, when the unit was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, a trio of guys walked into a supermarket. Gaping at Don, the checker asked, “Aren’t you on TV?” “Not me,” he answered, then pointed out a fellow soldier. “He’s on TV.”

Don in that era was trying to make it as a musician. (He eventually succeeded, as a glance at his website proves.) I have in my hand a 1973 relic, Don’s debut solo album for Elektra Records, Don Agrati Homegrown. The final track, a nostalgic ditty called “Two-Bit Afternoon,” featured a cameo by the 300th Army Band playing a cheerful march Don had written. I was there when the guys, in their olive-drabs, strutted through the streets of Don’s little beach town, tooting away for the microphones, before adjourning to his charming house, complete with recording studio. There his then-girlfriend (on TV and for real), Tina Cole, scooped up spaghetti for one and all. I’ll never forget that beautiful Southern California day. Don will be missed.

By the way, I certainly wouldn’t dream of blowing my own horn (yeah, right!), but anyone at all curious about how Beverly got to Movieland should check out Craig Edwards’ current blog post at "Let's Get Out of Here." Enjoy!


  1. Thanks for the shout-out - I had a blast interviewing you - and wouldn't mind concocting a sequel one of these days!

    I watched a lot of My Three Sons after school - and always enjoyed Don Grady's performance as Robbie - kind of a cool older brother like Greg Brady. I guess I'd also seen him as a Mouseketeer in reruns after school too - had to get my Hardy Boys fix - but I didn't know those two young men were one and the same. That's a very cool story about being there when they recorded Two-Bit Afternoon. RIP Don Grady.

    I spent four years working with Katie Holmes on Dawson's Creek. Here's the weird part about her marriage to Tom Cruise: we shot the entire first season in 1997 before any episodes aired - and each episode I asked all of the cast members (the ones who would participate) a question - stuff like "what was your first concert?" and "what part are you dying to play?" I kept these answers - and when the show started airing, I posted each week's question and answers on America Online in a Dawson's forum folder. Well, the question one week was "what celebrity do you have a crush on and want to marry?" I know you're not going to be surprised when I tell you Katie's answer in 1997: Tom Cruise.

  2. Great Katie Holmes story, Mr. Craig. Please remind me what exactly you did on the Dawson's Creek crew. Did the series brass encourage you to ask questions and post the answers online? Great publicity, I would imagine.

    I was pleasantly surprised by Katie Holmes' acting chops in Pieces of April. As for her crush on Tom Cruise, that fits nicely with some of the stories I read about her at the time their romance was in flower. Do you think she bought into Scientology, even temporarily?

    As for Don Grady as the older brother, it's amusing that he started out as the MIDDLE brother, then graduated when Tim Considine (of "Spin and Marty" fame, of course) left the show.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I was the basecamp first team PA for most of my time on Dawson's. I was doing the questions and answers posts all on my own, but they were brought to the attention of executive producer Paul Stupin, and he endorsed my doing them - and as a result there was some talk of me being the on-set eyes and ears for a LA office guy who was going to post on the WB website about the show - kind of a blog before they were called blogs - but after my commitment - which included the promise of pay for my writing, which thrilled me no end - the project fell through and never happened. I think the legal eagles were afraid we'd post something actionable.

    Katie was such an old school Catholic - born and bred - and had such a head on her shoulders I can't imagine Scientology hooking her at all. I wish I could have an hour alone with her - I have several dozen questions I'd like to hear from her mouth while looking in her eyes - I was her confidant and watchdog for four years - regardless how long we've been apart I know I'd get some interesting truths from her.

    You know, as was sometimes the habit in the 70's - they only showed the color episodes with Robbie as the oldest; Ernie as the new adopted younger brother; and Uncle Charlie (William Demerest) in for Uncle Bub (William Frawley). I only found out there had been black and white episodes and a different cast lineup years later, and I've still only seen clips of those episodes!