Tony Dow on life past “Depart It to Beaver”

Within the studio the place he is spent the final 20 years sculpting meditations on our humanity, the artist is carving a gnarled piece of burl wooden right into a dramatic determine that’ll then be solid in bronze, wrestling some sense of optimism from the battle life so typically presents.

Correspondent Jim Axelrod requested, “This face is in ache? And also you’re altering it to what?”

“To one in every of hope,” the artist replied.

As many as 50 hours of labor go into a bit earlier than it is prepared for his signature: “T. Dow.” “When you begin a bit, that piece takes management,” he laughed. “What it does is it tells you what that you must do subsequent.”

Sculptures by the actor and artist Tony Dow. 

Tony Dow

Lastly, on the age of 76, the artist, Tony Dow, is blissful to relinquish management of his work. It wasn’t all the time like that: “From the time I used to be 11 or 12, I used to be being advised what to do,” he mentioned. “I used to be advised on the set. I used to be advised at dwelling. I did not have management of my life.”

“You had been actually given your strains?” requested Axelrod.


On the age of 12, Dow started starring as Wally Cleaver on “Depart It to Beaver,” a TV collection depicting a legendary model of mid-century American life – a present so common, it is by no means left the display since its debut in 1957.

“The genius of ‘Depart It to Beaver’ was that the present was written from a baby’s standpoint,” mentioned Dow.

Born in Hollywood, Dow was a aggressive swimmer as a child when he tagged alongside together with his coach to an audition. The coach did not get the half. However as his mom advised him at lunch, Dow acquired a suggestion: “I took a chew of my hamburger and I took a sip of my malt, and I mentioned: ‘OK.’ And there went my life!” he laughed.

Beaver (Jerry Mathers): “What’s this, Wally?”
Wally (Tony Dow): “Effectively, that is an official Scout’s compass. I do not know precisely the way it works, however once you begin out someplace, it is presupposed to let you know which manner you are going.”

Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers in “Depart It to Beaver,” which debuted in 1957.


In a single day, Dow’s life headed in a route no compass may assist him navigate. A teen heartthrob earlier than he may drive, his adolescence unfolded in entrance of hundreds of thousands as he performed the well mannered, reliable, “All-American” massive brother.

Axelrod requested, “You did not suppose Wally was gonna outline you?”

“No, I did not,” Dow replied. “However it did. And I used to be gonna need to reside with it for the remainder of my life. I assumed: This is not truthful. ? I imply, I would love to do another stuff. I would love to do some fascinating stuff. , it is unhappy to be well-known at 12 years outdated or one thing, and you then develop up and turn out to be an actual particular person, and nothing’s occurring for you.”

The disappointment turned to anger, setting Dow up for a battle that may mark the remainder of his life.

“Anger, if it is untreated, anger turns to despair,” he mentioned. “However despair is not one thing you may say ‘Cheer up!’ about. , it is a very highly effective factor. And it is had a variety of impact on my life.”

WEB EXTRA: Tony Dow talks about despair: 

“Depart It to Beaver” actor Tony Dow on despair by
CBS Sunday Morning on

Axelrod requested Lauren Dow, Tony’s spouse of 41 years, “What’s it wish to take heed to Tony speak concerning the despair?”

“Effectively, I am very pleased with him for speaking about it, for coping with it, and for sharing it with others,” she replied.

Lauren helped Tony steadiness the curse of being linked ceaselessly to Wally, by serving to him see clearly the blessings.

Axelrod requested, “What did you fall in love with?”

“His sweetness, softness, vulnerability,” she mentioned.

“I hate to do that. It is so trite and clichéd. However … “

“Spit it out!”

“Appears like Wally! Is there any Wally in him?”

“I believe there’s a variety of Tony within the character,” Lauren mentioned. “They’re intertwined. Wally was very very similar to Tony.”

An artist herself, Lauren Dow makes mosaics in her personal area of their shared studio.

“I believe the artwork is, like, one of the best factor for him,” she mentioned. “And he is created some very fascinating issues whereas depressed.”

Tony, too, credit his artwork – mixed with remedy and remedy – for getting a deal with on his despair: “And I’ve acquired it beneath management just about. , I believe folks ought to take the leap of religion that they’ll really feel higher.”

Tony Dow at work in his studio. 

CBS Information

He nonetheless takes an occasional appearing job, all the time conscious that “Wally” is lurking close by – however not troubled by it.

“I felt that manner in all probability from the time I used to be 20, possibly till I used to be 40,” he mentioned. “After which at 40, I spotted how nice the present as, how appreciative I must be for being in that present.”

Round his dwelling within the hills above Los Angeles are loads of indicators of that appreciation: a pennant from the fictional Mayfield Excessive that Wally attended; a certain assortment of “Depart It to Beaver” scripts; even a field of cornflakes with Tony and Jerry Mathers, who performed the Beaver, all grown up.

And in his driveway sits a modern instance of the advantages Wally Cleaver nonetheless offers Tony Dow: His first automobile, a 1961 Corvair he purchased with “Depart It to Beaver” cash, solely to promote 4 years later.

Earlier than the man who purchased it died a couple of years in the past, he determined to depart it to Dow, returning the automobile – and with it, a reminder that perspective is the muse of creating peace with ache.

Correspondent Jim Axelrod with Tony Dow, reunited together with his Corvair. 

CBS Information

“You certain this was it?” Axelrod requested.  

“I am certain. Oh, yeah, it is acquired the identical license plate. So anyway, fairly cool!”

“Yeah, I imply it is one of many rewards of being who you might be. They knew the place to search out you!”  

“Yeah, yeah,” Dow laughed. “You are giving me all this optimistic stuff that I must be eager about, as a substitute of all of the dumb stuff I take into consideration!”

For more information:

Story produced by Jay Kernis. Editor: Karen Brenner. 

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