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."
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 Yet, those reasons were no longer valid to him because he achieved financial gain and career success as a child.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.