Exclusive Photo: In Memoriam, Edd Byrnes of ‘77 Sunset Strip’

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CHICAGO – In the strange old days of three TV Networks and the fan-based crossovers that would come out of it, there was Gerald “Kookie” Kookson the Third of the ABC-TV show “77 Sunset Strip” (1958-1964). Kookie loved rock ’n roll, hair combing and cracking wise like a beatnik. For some reason, he became a break out star and full partner in the private investigation office of the title. Kookie was portrayed by Edd Byrnes, who passed away on January 8th, 2020, at age 87.

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Edd 'Kookie' Byrnes in 2009, Exclusive Photo by Joe Arce
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

If being Kookie weren’t enough, Edd Byrnes also had a novelty hit single (featuring Connie Stevens) with “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)” which shot to Number Four on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959. His star was at its peak at that point, the Kookie character was the Fonzie of this day, and his actor journey afterward was very similar to Rick Dalton, the character portrayed by Leonardo Di Caprio in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”

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Back in the Day: Edd ‘Kookie’ Byrnes
Photo credit: File Photo

Edward Byrne Breitenberger was born in New York City (he dropped the unwieldy last name and added a “d” to Edd when he became an actor). His father died when he was age 13, so he held a number of jobs throughout high school, including as a male prostitute when he was 17. Based in New York City during the early days of television, he started getting roles on series, and eventually moved to Hollywood. He made his major film debut in “Reform School Girls” in 1957, signed with Warner Bros. studio the same year, and then scored “77 Sunset Strip” in 1958. Kookie became his breakout character, and he parlayed it onto the Billboard charts.

His post “Strip” career was marred by a contract dispute with Warners, during which time he lost a number of prominent film roles. Like Rick Dalton in “Once Upon a …, “ he did spaghetti (Italian) westerns in the 1960s, and then mostly TV guests spots up until the 1990s. Because of his connection to the 1950s, he had a role in “Grease.” Edd Byrnes died of natural causes at his home in Santa Monica. Photographer Joe Arce of HollywoodChicago.com took his photo at The Hollywood Show Chicago in 2009.

The source for this article was Wikipedia.com. Edd “Kookie” Byrnes, 1932-2020.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Editor and Film Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2019 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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