CHICAGO, Aug. 22, 1959 – Some fainted, others sobbed with delight and still others surged toward him to gaze into his face, crowned with a crop of wavy hair.
And so went the mass love affair between Edd (Kookie) Byrnes, 26, and a throng of 18,000 cheering bobby sox fans yesterday at Midway Airport. – The Associated Press
Edd Byrnes, who became one of television’s first teen idols as Kookie — the hair-combing, jive-talking youth on the hit series “77 Sunset Strip” — but found ever after that he could not live the character down, died on Wednesday at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 86.
His son, Logan Byrnes, said the cause was probably a stroke.
Broadcast on ABC from 1958 to 1964, “77 Sunset Strip” starred Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Roger Smith as a pair of suave Los Angeles private eyes and Mr. Byrnes as the parking-lot attendant at the restaurant next door to their office.
As he ministered tenderly to the Thunderbird convertible driven by Mr. Zimbalist in the show, Kookie (né Gerald Lloyd Kookson III) ran his omnipresent pocket comb through his lush ducktailed pompadour, cracked his devil-may-care grin and spouted aphorisms that even at midcentury had all the gnomic obscurity of Zen koans:
“A dark seven” (a depressing week); “piling up the Z’s” (getting some sleep); “headache grapplers” (aspirin); “buzzed by germsville” (to become ill); and, most emblematically, “Baby, you’re the ginchiest!” – a phrase of the highest Kookian approbation.
Mr. Byrnes, an immediate object of desire for the show’s young female viewers, was soon receiving 15,000 fan letters a week. At public appearances he was pelted with combs. With Connie Stevens, he recorded a single, “Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb,” which sold more than a million copies and reached No. 4 on the Billboard chart, despite the fact that by his own cheerful admission he could not sing.