Being a child star was a ''mixed blessing'' for Tony Dow

"It's strange that what was probably the most important decision of my life was made so lightly."

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There are many pros and cons that come with being a star at a young age. Although benefits are highlighted more often than challenges, it doesn't take away from the fact that many child stars miss out on other parts of life. For Tony Dow, in 1983, as he looked back on his role as Wally Cleaver, he realized that acting and the show's success were a mixed blessing.

Getting the role of Beaver's big brother on Leave It to Beaver happened on accident for Dow. In fact, being a star was never his dream as a child. He loved swimming and wanted to compete in the 1972 Olympics. "I used to give diving exhibitions from when I was five," the actor said in an interview with The Daily Advocate. "I worked out every day at a particular pool, and one of the lifeguards there was an actor."

The lifeguard was auditioning for the part of a father with a young son and thought bringing Dow would help him get the role. Although the lifeguard didn't get the gig, Tony Dow did, and his mother had to explain to him how hard he'd have to work.

"She told me how much work it would be and how it would mean I couldn't go to my regular school anymore," Dow said. "She told me all the pros and cons, and I remember I said, 'It sounds like fun. I'll do it.' It's strange that what was probably the most important decision of my life was made so lightly."

Dow believed that most people become actors for two reasons: to be a star and to be rich. Yet, those reasons were no longer valid to him because he achieved financial gain and career success as a child. He said, "I no longer had the incentive that pushed most people. That's both good and bad."

Over the years, the actor became interested in various art forms, including painting, sculpting and graphics. Although he found success in art, Dow couldn't be completely engulfed in his craft because of acting.

Even though it took over most of his life, Dow was still grateful for the career. "I still love acting," he revealed. "I want to continue as an actor. I'd prefer to do something besides the Cleaver grown-up series. Wally Cleaver is OK, but he is a little bland."

Dow's life was filled with success as a young swimmer, an actor and a sculptor. He was a natural talent and impacted fans around the world.

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10 Comments

LauraHilbeVasquez 13 days ago
Tony Dow was my father’s first cousin. They were a year apart. My father remembers spending Christmas morning at his house while he was acting as Wally Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver. My parents have a picture of my father standing next to Tony Dow when they were 16 years old. And they looked like they could’ve been twin brothers they looked so much alike!! Also my father’s middle name is also Dow.
MichaelPowers 17 months ago
The CBS Sunday Morning show interviewed Tony a few years ago. He said that he struggled with depression. He seemed like a fine gentleman.
OldRog 17 months ago
Tony took on a role that was probably pretty shocking to those remembering him as Wally. I saw this episode and will never forget the giant slap across the face his then-TV father gave him after learning the news - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0569815/?ref_=ttep_ep9
PINKYLEE 17 months ago
I'm surprised this article fails to mention Tony Dow's accomplishments "behind the camera."

Take note of the TV shows that grown-up Tony Dow was credited with as the director, for example.
JJ614 PINKYLEE 17 months ago
Agreed. When we read of actors on sites like these, we should take a trip over to imdb.com and see ALL their works in the business.
clovergirl PINKYLEE 17 months ago
I saw Tony Dow as a witness in a case on "The People's Court", and Judge Wapner recognized him. I'm surprised that this article didn't mention that Tony's mom was a silent film actress by the name of Muriel Montrose.
LoveMETV22 17 months ago
We were blessed to have Tony Dow, as well as Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont...Wait I feel like this is the intro to the show. Of course we are fortunate that Jerry Mathers, hopefully in good health will be with us for years to come.
Runeshaper 17 months ago
Definitely a BIG decision and I'm glad he chose the route that he did (-:
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