R.I.P. Ken Osmond, who played best buddy Eddie Haskell on Leave It to Beaver
Ken Osmond grew up in California going to auditions at a young age. His dad was a carpenter while his mom helped the boy become a child star. Commercial work and some small bit television parts led to a role that made Osmond one of the most familiar kids of 1960s television. He became Eddie Haskell, Wally Cleaver's best friend.
People once believed that heavy-metal icon Alice Cooper, under all that makeup, was Eddie Haskell from Leave It to Beaver. The legend became so ubiquitous that Alice Cooper started wearing a T-shirt that emphatically declared, "NO. I'M NOT EDDIE HASKELL."
Why did an urban legend center around Eddie Haskell? Part of it had to do with the nature of the character himself. He was one of the most iconic supporting characters in sitcom history.
On Leave It to Beaver, the Cleaver family reflected the ideal of 1950s suburbia. Beaver and his big brother Wally never cursed. No, they peppered their speech with "Gosh!" and "Gee whiz!" The boys' beds always seemed to be made. Meanwhile, June Cleaver did the housework in a dress and pearls. Such portraits of perfect Americana needed a bad boy, a Fonz, if you will. That's where Eddie Haskell came in.
Eddie Haskell was the rascal. He was precociously, deviously adult. He charmed the grown-ups, while secretly plotting wicked deeds with his peers. He was the devil on the shoulder of Wally and Beaver. It's no wonder that Bart Simpson was inspired by this original bad boy.
Plus, on the ladder of celebrity, Ken Osmond existed on that perfect rung between TV star and minor character. Eddie Haskell was a household name that nobody had thought about in ages. He was tucked away somewhere in the basement of everyone's brain.
It helped that Osmond himself had vanished from acting. With good reason. By the end of the 1960s, the actor found himself permanently pigeonholed. So he walked away from the profession. In 1970, a year after getting married, Osmond signed up with the LAPD. While Alice Cooper was singing, "School's out forever," Osmond patroled Los Angeles as a motorcycle cop. He worked as a narcotics and vice cop.
After a decade on the job, Osmond was chasing a car thief when he was shot three times. His belt buckle and bulletproof vest saved his life. Ironically, the incident led to another TV appearance. Osmond was the subject of a 1992 episode of Top Cops.
By then, however, Osmond had returned to his most famous role. From 1983 to 1989, he played a married Eddie Haskell on The New Leave It to Beaver. The cable revival ran for four seasons on The Disney Channel and TBS.
Outside of Leave It to Beaver, Osmond had few acting credits. He popped up in an episode of Petticoat Junction or Wagon Train here and there. In the 1990s, he made a couple of rare cameos on the sitcoms Parker Lewis Can't Lose and Hi Honey, I'm Home — once again playing Eddie Haskell for a laugh.
Osmond passed away on May 18, according to Variety. He was 76.