Wally's heartthrob status was a real headache for writers

Tony Dow got so many fan letters that it changed his character's stories.

These days, kids probably have no concept of what it was like to be a fan of something in the '60s. Nowadays, everyone has unfettered access to their favorite celebrity. There's no mystery because celebs are constantly engaging with their fans online. We get to see their lives when the cameras are off.

But for a long, long time, if you wanted to see your favorite actor, you'd better tune into their show. If you loved a certain singer, you'd have to listen to the radio in hopes of hearing them or shill out for their latest record. But that was it. That was the extent of fandom. You could maybe find some address to send a letter to, in hopes that it wouldn't get intercepted by some PR team or management. Writing a letter was just about the only way you could engage with, and show love for, your favorite star.

Tony Dow, famous forever as Wally from Leave It to Beaver, received about 1,000 fan letters every week. But there was a clear divide. About 100 of the letters were sent from boys his age and younger.

"It's no trouble for me to answer them," Dow told the Bloomington, Illinois Pantagraph in 1962. The ones sent from boys sharing their admiration for Wally were easy to respond to. "I just sit down and fire away. But it's the other ones..."

The "other ones" that Dow spoke of were the hundreds of letters each week that poured in from adoring young ladies.

"It's really rough answering some of them," he said. "The idea of going steady sort of appeals to me. But 2,000 miles is a long way to go just for a soda. But I try to answer them all as nicely as possible."

The issue wasn't just Dow's to contend with. Having such a vocal fanbase meant that the show had to occasionally bend to the whims of the girls who so staunchly supported Wally. Series creators Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher had to deal with that segment of the audience very carefully because the demographic accounted for a sizeable portion of the show's viewership.

"We try to slow down the romance angle for Tony whenever possible," said Mosher. "But it's pretty hard to keep it out of the show altogether when letters—all in delicate feminine handwriting—roll in by the sackfuls."

Connelly added: "If we try to make Tony a complete woman-hater the letters we get from the Bobby Sox set threaten to lynch us. So we are letting nature take its course. Girls will be girls and boys will be boys. And let the chips fall where they may."

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36 Comments

GEMof72 1 month ago
He was fine! 😂😂😂 I wish we could go back to not having so much access.
KirwoodDerby 2 months ago
This was a true idol for all young people of the time and maybe even today. Tony never took himself too seriously. All the attention he received often embarrassed him. He grew up to be a fine human being and a good friend to Jerry Mathers and the rest of the crew who remained close until his passing. The world needs more Tony Dows and less Barry Williams.
cperrynaples 2 months ago
To be fair, the same thing happened to Don Grady on My 3 Sons! Robbie started out as a normal kid until ABC promoted him as a teen heartthrob!
MadMat2102 2 months ago
Not many real-life guys could relate to Wally, but many of us, including myself, could relate to his buddies, Eddie Haskell & Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford.
harlow1313 2 months ago
One thing I think: The writers did pretty well with maturing Wally, but they struggled with Beaver. I thought Beaver eventually had dialog that was a little young sounding.
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 2 months ago
Well not as bad as Lumpy, with the way he called Fred Rutherford " Daddy" and his references to "Captain Kangaroo." That was a bit overdone to put it subtly.
mike23456 2 months ago
Like it or not... This is good reading material...
jrbvrttcc 2 months ago

- Tony Dow, famous forever as Wally from Leave It to Beaver, received about 1,000 fan letters every week.
- About 100 of the letters were sent from boys his age and younger.

"It's no trouble for me to answer them," Dow told the Bloomington, Illinois Pantagraph in 1962. "I just sit down and fire away. But it's the other ones..."

- The "other ones" that Dow spoke of were the hundreds of letters each week that poured in from adoring young ladies.
"It's really rough answering some of them," he said. "… But I try to answer them all as nicely as possible."

Is this accurate?!
How on earth back in that time could anyone have the time to just read that many fan letters, let alone personally respond, even if they dictated to someone? How would he have time to do the show, go to school and sleep?
I can only imagine several generic pre-printed responses with his signature put in envelopes by someone else hired to do the job.

Not that Wally wasn’t nice enough to want to do it 🙂
trogg888 2 months ago
They had to do something to keep viewers as the beave lost his cuteness and besides wally and june were the only ones with sense and sometimes ward but he was usually late for the party
Warner440 2 months ago
"...in hopes of hearing them or shill out for their latest record"
UM, the term is "shell out," not "shill out."
SparkleMotion 2 months ago
I love LITB, but I was born later so I didn't see it when it was originally aired. What I did see on YT was an episode of the show called The Dating Game from I think in the 60's. Jerry Mathers was 18 so whenever he was 18. He was really good looking and funny when he was 18 so the Beav grew up to be a "heartthrob" himself.
Ok, if I get this to upload this time....this is the Dating Game episode:
Yep, that was Mathers' awkward era!
Oops! I thought he looks pretty handsome in the Dating Game show!
GEMof72 SparkleMotion 1 month ago
He was nice looking.
GEMof72 SparkleMotion 1 month ago
I forgot the other actors’ name. Thanks for posting.
Runeshaper 2 months ago
Tony Dow was the man! I mean, the boy lol
teire 2 months ago
I will forever have a crush on Wally Cleaver.
LoveMETV22 2 months ago

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Fun article. How times have changed from when "LITB" originally aired and now. Sure sounds like he had a Fan Club even then.
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texasluva Pacificsun 2 months ago
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Pacificsun texasluva 2 months ago
What time in California
texasluva Pacificsun 2 months ago
7 P.M. PST
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