Gee, Wally! Here are 9 things you never knew about Tony Dow

He went from diving to sculpting, with acting in between.

Image: The Everett Collection

Leave It to Beaver was not just about the Beaver. Sure, the youngest Cleaver has his name in the title, but big brother Wally was just as important a character. Teenager Tony Dow became an overnight idol thanks to his role as Wally. Hundreds of fan letters poured in weekly, often in pink stationery, sometimes scented. He was one of the first true teen idols of television. 

To this day, Dow remains forever associated with his role alongside Beaver. It would be impossible to count the times he has likely heard "Gee, Wally!" in his life. 

But there is more to Dow than Wally. The athletic, artistic actor has all kinds of accomplishments. Check it out.

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1. He was a diving champ at age 7.

How did Southern California celebrate the holiday season without snow? With a water show, of course. A small bulletin in the Los Angeles Evening Citizen News around Thanksgiving 1952 promoted the upcoming "Noel Aquacana," a Christmas performance in a pool. The event at the Hollywood Athletic Club featured synchronized swimming star June Taylor, "famous diving clown" Bill Lewin and… "7-year-old diving champ Tony Dow." A year later, young Dow had his photo, er, splashed on the pages of The Valley Times as he prepared to compete for the SPAAAAU diving championships.

Image: The Everett Collection / Gene Trindl

2. His mom was a "bathing beauty."

No wonder Tony took to the pool! He had swimming in his genes. His mom, Muriel Montrose, pictured here on his arm, was once a Sennett Bathing Beauty, one of the women in swimsuits seen in Mack Sennett's silent films. She was also the body double for early screen idol Clara Bow, Hollywood's original "It Girl."

Image: The Everett Collection / Gene Trindl

3. He got the role of Wally because his dad's buddy wanted to be Ward.

Dow had no intention to try out for the role of Wally. He was just tagging along. According to a 1959 article in the Detroit Free Press, an "actor friend of his parents" was heading to an audition to read for Ward Cleaver. He asked Mr. and Mrs. Dow if their son wanted to accompany him to audition for the father and son roles of a new TV sitcom. "The actor didn't come close to getting the role of Ward Cleaver," the paper wrote (the actor was never named), "but Tony's appearance ended the producer's search for Beaver's older brother." Around 270 other boys had already auditioned for the part of Wally.

4. He was a trampoline instructor in the off-season.

As the 4th of July weekend was about to kick off in 1960, The Charlotte News asked a celebrity to write about his summer plans. "What To Do This Summer," Tony Dow's column declared. He details his personal plans, all centered around Catalina Island, as he had a few months off from school and work on Leave It to Beaver. "It's a terrific place for the things I enjoy most — swimming, water skiing and skin diving," Dow declared. However, this was no mere vacation. "I'll be working in Avalon, the town there, as an instructor at one of the trampoline amusement centers," the teen explained. "Most people don't realize it, but trampolines are excellent for keeping you in top physical condition."

Image: The Everett Collection

5. He didn't have a car when filming "Wally Buys a Car."

When Tony was 17, his friends gave him grief. "Almost all his friends have their own car," Hollywood gossiper Harold Heffernan blabbed in a column embarrassingly headlined: Chaperoned by his mother. "[My friends] think I should be driving around in a big flashy job," Dow grumbled, "but my parents just can't afford it right now." Ironically, at the time, he was filming the episode "Wally Buys a Car," which rubbed salt in the wound.

6. His earnings from Leave It to Beaver went towards real estate.

Dow said his parents "could not afford" a car at the time, but they were not hurting for money. They were simply smart with it. "The senior Dows have invested Tony's earnings in two apartment houses in the San Fernando Valley," Heffernan wrote in his gossip column. "In California, that's much better than drilling for oil."

Image: The Everett Collection

7. He reunited with Jerry Mathers for a play about planes.

The New Leave It to Beaver (1983–89) reunited the original cast for an adult update on the surviving Cleavers. It was a surprise hit. But it was not the first time that Dow and Jerry Mathers had reunited for work. In 1978, the former Cleaver brothers acted together in a romantic comedy called Boeing Boeing. You might recall the 1965 movie version with Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis. However, this version with a very different Jerry and Tony took place at the Country Dinner Playhouse in St. Petersburg, Florida. The farce found the former costars reunited in dinner theater. "While Boeing, Boeing is somewhat of a dinosaur, Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers just may be coming of age." They were both around 30 at the time.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. He became a TV director — and directed other former child stars.

The New Leave It to Beaver not only gave Dow a chance to again work with his former television family, but it was also his first opportunity behind the camera. He continued to helm episodes of TV shows, including Harry and the Hendersons, Swamp Thing, and Coach. Here, you can see him directing an episode of Babylon 5. Recognize the fellow in the alien makeup? That's Bill Mumy, of course, erstwhile star of Lost in Space!

Image: The Everett Collection

9. He became a sculptor late in life.

From the trampoline to Mayfield to directing, Dow has kept moving and creating throughout his life. What fuels his passion in recent years? Sculpting. He works primarily in bronze casting. Check out some of his work at his Tony Dow Sculpture website.

Image: AP Photo / Reed Saxon

 
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rgutierrez1968 10 days ago
Tony Dow was also in a teenage soap opera from 1965-66 called “ Never too young”.
JHP 11 days ago
tony - #6 you are one smart guy - esp in cali

glad to know someone else in society is smart
saswifteagle 19 days ago
Watching Star Trek's Deep Space Nine episode Field of Field. Directed by Tony Dow. Nostalgia and SyFy came together
JHP saswifteagle 11 days ago
so so good - but I am a DS9 super fan:)
saswifteagle JHP 11 days ago
My wife and share your feeling
MetzgerField 19 days ago
So sorry to hear Tony is in the hospital. Get well soon Wally, wishing you a speedy recovery, myself and all your fans.🙏
Mac2Nite 20 days ago
I already knew most of these. Just hoping Tony has a safe and rapid recovery from pneumonia. 💗
kht079 20 days ago
May The Lord watch over and heal you: Tony Dow.
JHP kht079 11 days ago
amen - a roni
obectionoverruled 20 days ago
Sorry to hear you’re in the hospital Wally. I’ll try to notify Mary Ellen Rodgers and Lumpy Rutherford. Hope you’re well soon.
John 21 days ago
Tony Dow is now in the hospital with pneumonia. He came in with a bad cough. They thought when he was diagnosed with pneumonia that he might have contacted COVID-19 because pneumonia is one of the symptoms of COVID. His wife said that he had been tested for the virus 5 times before and he was always negative. It took the hospital 11 hours to get him out of the emergency room into a hospital room because the hospital was full of patients who had COVID! His doctor says he is in good spirits so I am now going to end my comment by texted Get well soon Tony and come home to your wife and children as fast as you can and stay safe and well. Tony I love Leave It To Beaver and am happy that I have never heard a curse word on the show. I still get to watch Leave It To Beaver on MeTV Monday-Friday at 8-8:30 A.M. and 8:30-9:00 A.M. Eastern Standard Daylight Time because I live in St. Petersburg Florida. I am praying for your health.
JHP John 11 days ago
hate to say it covid - is a fake malady
JHP JHP 6 days ago
was only kidding:)
CurtisMathews 22 days ago
As a young boy 👦 coming to terms with the understanding that he likes other boys 👦, Wally was a real turn on who helped me find my Gay self!
Understandable. I seldom watch LITB, but when I do, it's the episodes featuring Wally.
Mac2Nite CurtisMathews 20 days ago
"he likes other boys"? I can understand his being a turn-on to gay guys, but Tony Dow is straight, so I'm not sure what you meant by this.
Extraneous_T 23 days ago
...and don't forget his all-too-brief stint as Visual Effects Producer on the one and only (so far) U.S.-originating, CBS-aired version of Doctor Who!
The Doctor Who TV movie aired on Fox, not CBS.
LalaLucy 23 days ago
A very accomplished guy in many ways and a big reason why I love Leave it to Beaver. He always had such natural timing. Praying all the best for him.
JulieTV 23 days ago
Hope you are feeling better, Tony!! We love you!!
Venoris 23 days ago
Yes I learned about Leave It to Beaver from me MeTV love CLASSIC t.v. Shows and movies, Thanks MeTV👏🏾!!! Tony Dow 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾 that you have complete recovery from ur recent medical issues that heard about much RESPECT.
MikeMarshall 24 days ago
I hope your doing better today Tony
Get well soon!
Everyone is pulling for you.
Big3Fan 24 days ago
I read a cool story about Tony buying his first car in '62, selling it a few years later and eventually getting the car back fifty years later.
Runeshaper 24 days ago
Tony Dow has a GREAT story! Really left his mark in many ways. I'm sure his family (including mom smiling down) is very proud of him (-:
kkloepfer 24 days ago
Idea - remove Monk and replace with New Leave it to Beaver
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