R.I.P. Edd Byrnes, the hip Kookie of 77 Sunset Strip

The comb-loving actor was 87.

Image: The Everett Collection

The most prominent early use of the term "hipster" was on 77 Sunset Strip, the cool detective series set in Los Angeles. Each week, viewers heard singers belt the following lyrics in the brassy theme tune: "You'll meet the highbrow and the hipster." 

The "hipster" of the theme song was Gerald Lloyd "Kookie" Kookson III, the parking attendant with an obsession with combing his hair. Edd Byrnes portrayed Kookie, and built his fame upon the character, releasing hit pop songs — like "Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)" — and making appearances all over television. In 1959, "Kookie" turned up in a Coke Time variety show special with Pat Boone and another important hipster of the era, Maynard G. Krebs.

Thanks to Kookie, hep slang riddled the scripts. The rock 'n' roller tossed off terms like "ginchy," "smog in the noggin" and "long green." Yet 77 Sunset Strip offered more than fashion and hipster speech. The series was the creation of Roy Huggins, the novelist behind the character-driven TV classics Maverick, The Fugitive and The Rockford Files.

Warner Bros. purposefully released the series pilot briefly in the West Indies as the film Girl on the Run, so that the studio could claim 77 Sunset Strip was based on a movie. 

Byrnes appeared in Girl on the Run, but as a far different character. He was the twisted killer Kevin Smiley in the pilot film. However, there was one connection between Byrnes' early murderer role and Kookie — both characters compulsively ran combs through their hair.

In 1959, Byrnes cut a novelty tune for the newly formed Warner Bros. Records. The actor teamed with Connie Stevens for "Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb," a teen pop number that would become the No. 37 song of the year.

Byrnes claimed he once appeared on 26 magazine covers in one week alone.

In 1980, when Merv Griffin was creating a new game show to be called Wheel of Fortune, he cast Byrnes as the host in the test pilot. The network asked for another host, and thus Pat Sajak's career began.

Elsewhere, Byrnes appeared on episodes of Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, and Charlie's Angels — pulling off the Aaron Spelling trifecta.

The New York City–born actor died on Wednesday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 87.

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Runeshaper 1 day ago
R.I.P. Kookie! I remember watching episodes of 77 Sunset Strip with my folks. Great times with great actors! :)
MrBill 8 days ago
METV you messed up this article - please do your homework and get your facts straight before posting articles. Wheel of Fortune premiered January 6, 1975 with Chuck Woolery as host. Edd Byrnes hosted a test pilot and was not retained as host. Pat Sajak replaced Chuck Woolery in 1981 after Woolery held out for more money. Susan Stafford co-hosted with Woolery and was on briefly during Pat Sajak's first year as host. Pat was the first and only host of nighttime version which began in the 1980's though Alex Trebek (April Fools day joke for one show) and Vanna (most recently due to illness) have filled in for him over the years.
MikefromJersey 8 days ago
For a few years Byrnes/Kookie was the biggest star in the country if not the world judging by total fan mail and the number of magazine covers he graced.
His Kookie character was the original Fonzie but even more popular, a breakout hipster character whose every move, look and latest stylish slang were adopted by teens everywhere.
Such slang as "it's been a dark seven"(bad week), "piling up the Z's"(sleeping), ordering "a cup of java and squeeze Bossy"(coffee with milk), "Mushroom people"(night people) and "Greetings Oh Great White Father from the Land of Cube"(hello unhip authority figure) became standard patois amongst the hip and wannabe hip.
So let's bid Edd Brynes a last fond farewell with Kookie's advice to the hip when parting in "77 Sunset Strip" -
"Sit tight, live right and keep the lamp in the window"
PS -MeTV failed to promote 77 Sunset Strip with not even one commercial when it had it last year.
The series was full of great sayings that could have been used in stylish commercials. For that matter, 77 had the greatest collection of beautiful starlets in the history of TV. Donna Douglas was breathtaking on the show, her alter ego Elly Mae Clampett looked like chopped liver in comparison.
But did MeTV execs show all these babes, such as Sherry Jackson in the tightest pair of jeans ever seen? Nooooo. And for the ladies the male cast was quite an eyeful.
Ya blew it guys. Bring back 77 Sunset Strip, drop the awful, awful Barnaby Jones, Buddy Ebsen stole his paycheck by sleep walking through the part.
Agreed, they need to bring 77 Sunset back !!!
AgingDisgracefully 8 days ago
I heard Edd and his partners took a beating in the '80s - 77 Sunset Strip Malls just never caught on.
Edward 8 days ago
If not for Elvis' musical talents, Edward Byrnes would have been the totally undisputed "king of cool."
Kone 8 days ago
That was on when TV was worth watching.
The good old fun days of the past.
mdit21 9 days ago
He starred in the little known film "Beach Ball."


Reno 9 days ago
If my memory serves, Ed also appeared in Yellowstone Kelly, Up Periscope, an episode of Honey West, where he played an eccentric who thought he was Robin Hood; and wrote an autobiography, Kookie No More. He married, and has a son who became a lawyer. A life well lived.
cperrynaples Reno 9 days ago
Actually, his son is a newsanchor in San Diego and he was the one who reported his father's death first!
Robin Reno 8 days ago
I like "Yellowstone Kelly. Good movie. They are showing that quite often on one channel that I get that constantly shows old westerns. We would rather watch the old westerns over and over than some of the programs they show today!
LaureliaBolling 9 days ago
I will miss Kookie. He had a unique style and quirky personality. Reading the article here, I didn't realize Merv Griffin let him audition for the host of Wheel of Fortune but the network liked Pat Sajak better. I imagine it would have been even more fun with Kookie hosting and his crazy antics. Rest in peace, sweet man.
NathanMilliron 9 days ago
I was a latecomer to 77 SUNSET STRIP, having seen it for the first time in an Oklahoma City (OK) hospital bed recovering from a shattered right ankle bone.

It may be decades old, but it still entertains nonetheless.

LOVE to see ME-TV return it to the schedule in the near future. At least their "no credit crunch" policy allows the theme lyrics (which only ever ran in the closing credits) their deserved glory.
MikeStidham 10 days ago
Byrnes made such an impact in "Girl on the Run" that when Warner Bros. cast him in the "77 Sunset Strip" series, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. had to film a brief opening to the premiere episode explaining how the guy who died in the pilot is now the car valet service for the office under a different name.
teire 10 days ago
Good by Kookie, a little dab’ll do ya.
Joe 10 days ago
I'm surprised there was no mention of his role as Vince Fontaine in the 1978 blockbuster movie, Grease…… which is where I became first aware of him.
harlow1313 10 days ago
Kookie has agitated the gravel, man.
cperrynaples 10 days ago
The author of this post knows "NUTZING" about game shows! WOF premiered in 1975, and Byrnes lost out to Chuck Woolery, who in turn quit in 1981 giving Sajak a golden opportunity! Fun Fact: Vanna White started before Sajak!
Other way around. Sajak replaced Woolery the week after Christmas 1981. Vanna didn't arrive until the following November.
I thought I saw Vanna being introduced by Chuck, but I was wrong! In any case, I know for a fact that WOF began in 1975 and that Chuck was the host! Byrnes' audition tape can be found on YouTube, as well as an early version of WOF hosted by Chuck. It had a different title and a different set of rules!
PS Edd's wife was the stewardess who tried to calm down Shatner in THAT TZ ["Do I look crazy?"]!
Edward cperrynaples 8 days ago
An excellent point. I can see Chuck as the "host" of any and every game show. Just has the voice and the presence, to this very day.
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