Friday, July 21, 2017

Gay Dating Stories with Tony Dow

When I lived in West Hollywood, everybody had a favorite celebrity dating story, told at parties and to impress first dates.   I often heard about current stars, like Rob Lowe, Matthew Broderick, Tom Cruise, Tony Danza, and Sylvester Stallone, and occasionally stars from previous generations, like Tony Curtis and Tommy Kirk.

But never anything about Tony Dow.

In retrospect, this seems strange. Tony Dow played Wally, Beaver's teenage brother in the iconic nuclear family sitcom Leave It to Beaver (1957-1963).  He was a gifted athlete who had no qualms about displaying his physique on camera.  He was the first crush of countless thousands of Baby Boomer boys, giving them their first inklings that same-sex desire and romance can exist.

He was very visible in the 1980s, playing a middle-aged Wally on a continuation of the series, The New Leave It to Beaver.  And he has remained visible since, playing endless parodies of Wally and the Beaver, acting, directing, writing, being interviewed, forging a new career as a sculptor.  He has remained a quiet, calm presence throughout our lives.

Sure, he is probably straight -- married from 1969 to the present, with no gay rumors to speak of (although the Bisexual Alliance has him on a list of 150 bisexual actors).  

But that never stopped guys from spinning a hookup story out of a chance meeting.  Why were they so reticent?

I shot out emails to all of my West Hollywood, San Francisco, and New York friends, asking if they or anybody they knew had a story about dating or hooking up with Tony Dow.  I got a few leads.

1. Rich Correll and Harold Lloyd Jr.  Will the Bondage Boy had a friend named Jason, who dated Rich Correll during the 1970s.

Born in 1948, so three years younger than Tony Dow, Correll played Beaver's best friend Richard on Leave It to Beaver.  They were best friends in real life, too. Later Rich became a writer and director, known for Hannah Montana, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and other Disney channel teencoms.

"Did Rich Correll ever date Tony Dow?" I asked via email.

"That story never came up, but Jason did tell me that Rich dated [silent film star] Harold Lloyd's son as a young teen.  He was an anal bottom and liked rough trade: he wanted Rich to beat and strangle him. Then one night he had a stroke, which he never recovered from.  That's why Rich refused to do S&M."

Harold Lloyd Jr., born in 1931, was indeed gay, and into rough trade.  The other details work out.  But this story didn't get me any closer to Tony Dow.

2. Tommy Rettig

Tom Rettig (back) was born in 1941 and  acted steadily through his childhood,notably in Lassie (1954-57).  He and Tony Dow became friends in the early 1960s, and starred together in Never Too Young (1965-66).

Tom and his wife Darlene were deeply involved in the youth counterculture: drugs, rock music, protest, free love. They were both bisexual, and often brought in third partners, both male and female.

 After a drug bust in 1976, the couple split up.  Tom became a motivational speaker and author.  He moved into the computer industry in the early 1980s, becoming a recognized expert in dBase and FoxPro.

In 1989, he was living in Marina del Rey, near Venice Beach, where, according to my ex-boyfriend Troy in Upstate New York, he met the 25-year old Maury, the ex-boyfriend of the Satyr.   Maury had never heard of him, and didn't want to hear about Lassie, which Tom found refreshing.   They dated for about three months: Tom was an oral bottom and very affectionate in bed, but Maury couldn't handle his attraction to men and women both.

"Well, did Tom Rettig hookup with Tony Dow when they were teenagers?  Some youthful experimentation on Tony's part?"

"I don't know -- the Satyr never mentioned that.  And he's gone now, so there's no way to ask.  I don't remember Maury's last name."

There's a post on Tommy Rettig on Boomer Beefcake and Bonding.

3. Christian Osmond

On The New Leave It to Beaver (1983-1989), many of the original cast members reprised their roles.  Ken Osmond returned as the officious Eddie Haskell, his sons played by his real-life sons, Eric (born 1971) and Christian (born 1974).  Christian appeared in only 10 episodes; he decided that he didn't like acting, and trained to become a veterinarian ("Dogs treat you better than most people.")

Infinite Chazz's friend Riley met him in 2004, when he brought his dog in for vaccinations.  Christian was very buffed, with short blond hair, a short beard, a gleaming smooth chest, and an enormous Kielbasa.

At first Riley thought he was related to Donny and Marie Osmond, but soon he heard about The New Leave it to Beaver.  During dinner, Christian told him about growing up gay in the household of conservative actor-turned-cop Ken Osmond.

"Did Christian mention Tony Dow?" I asked.  "Cruising guys, bringing a boyfriend to the set, helping him come out, anything?"

"Nothing that I remember," Infinite Chazz replied.

4. The Physique Photographer

Many people don't realize that Leave It to Beaver was not a big hit during its first run -- kids liked it, but adults regularly switched the channel to Perry Mason or a Western.  And since Tony Dow was under 18 for all but the last few episodes, his paycheck went directly to his parents.

He spent the years 1963-1965 scrounging around for guest spots on second-rate tv shows, always broke, with debts mounting.

Glenn Corbett, the bisexual actor who would soon star in Route 66 , made extra money posing for physique magazines -- displaying muscular guys, naked except for posing straps, for a closeted gay audience.

He gave Tony the telephone number of a photographer named Jim, one of Randall the Muscle Bear's friends, who ran a magazine called Tomorrow's Man.  One afternoon Tony went up for a shoot under the name "Tony Williams," flexing by the pool in a small posing strap.

Unfortunately, Tomorrow's Man ceased publication before the photos could be published, and they were subsequently stolen by one of Jim's tricks.  Chances are they are still lying in a dresser drawer in a house in West Hollywood, waiting to be discovered and posted on the internet.

"But was there a hookup?  With Glenn Corbett, or with Jim the Photographer?"

"Jim didn't say whether they hooked up or not," Randall replied.  "It wasn't a celebrity dating story, it was a 'don't trust a trick' story."

There are no more leads.  No one, it seems, has dated Tony Dow, or fantasized a chance encounter into a story to tell at parties.

Gay celebrity dating stories aren't just gossip.  They reveal something insightful about the speaker -- the romance or sexual encounter helped him to come out, to understand himself and his place in the world.

Maybe there are no stories about dating Tony Dow because he helped guys understand themselves in other ways , by playing Wally Cleaver, by displaying his 1960s physique, by being a quiet, calm presence throughout our lives.

See also: Who Is Tony Dow's Boyfriend


  1. Sorry, it was "Tomorrow's Man," not "The New Man"

  2. I have found Tony on a couple of lists(probably copied from each other) of "famous bisexuals," but I haven't heard any details.