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77 Sunset Strip is an hour-length American television private detective series created by Roy Huggins and starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Roger Smith, and Edd Byrnes.

The show was the subject of an ownership battle between Roy Huggins and Warner Brothers, which was the proximate cause of Huggins' departure from the studio. It was actually based on novels and short stories written by Huggins prior to his arrival at Warner, but, as a matter of legal record, derived from a brief Caribbeanmarker theatrical release of its pilot, Girl on the Run. The show ran from 1958 to 1964 and won the 1960 Golden Globe Award for best TV series.

Description

The series revolved around two Los Angelesmarker detectives, both former government secret agents: Efrem Zimbalist Jr. played Stuart ("Stu") Bailey, a character Huggins had originated in his 1946 novel The Double Take (which he later adapted into the 1948 movie I Love Trouble, starring Franchot Tone in the role). Roger Smith played Jeff Spencer, also a former government agent, and a non-practicing attorney. The duo worked out of a stylish office at 77 Sunset Strip, between La Cienega Boulevardmarker and Alta Loma Road on the south side of the Strip next door to Dean Martin's real-life lounge, Dino's. Suzanne, the beautiful Frenchmarker switchboard operator played by Jacqueline Beer, handled the phones.

Comic relief was provided by Roscoe the racetrack tout (played by Louis Quinn), and Gerald Lloyd "Kookie" Kookson III (played by Edd Byrnes), the rock and roll-loving, wisecracking, hair-combing, hipster and aspiring P.I. who worked as the valet parking attendant at Dino's, the club next door to the detectives' office. Byrnes had originally been cast as a serial killer in the series pilot, but proved so popular that he was brought back in a new role for the series.

Despite Huggins' hopes for a hard-edged drama the tone of the series was much lighter and featured a strong element of self-deprecating humor. Many of the episodes were named "capers". The catchy theme song, written by the accomplished team of Mack David and Jerry Livingston, typified the show's breezy, jazzed atmosphere. The song became the centerpiece of an albumof the show's music in Warren Barker-led orchestrations, which was released in 1959, a top ten hit in the Billboard LP charts (mono and stereo).

The Kookie character became a cultural phenomenon, with his slang expressions such as "ginchy" and "piling up Zs" (sleeping). When Kookie helped the detectives on a case by singing a song, Edd Byrnes began a singing career with the novelty single "Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb" (based on his frequent combing of his hair); this featured Connie Stevens on vocals in the chorus and became the first hit single for the recently-established Warner Bros. Records.

When Byrnes' demands for more money and an expanded role were not met, he left the show, but he came back as a full-fledged partner in the detective firm in May 1960; in 1961, Robert Logan became the new parking lot attendant, J.R. Hale, who usually spoke in abbreviations. In 1960, Richard Long moved from the recently canceled detective series Bourbon Street Beat with his role of Rex Randolph, but he left the program in 1962.

The show's popularity was such that rising young actors clamored for a guest spot. Up-and-comers who made guest appearances included William Shatner, Mary Tyler Moore, Shirley MacLaine look-alike Gigi Verone, Robert Conrad, Dyan Cannon, Janet De Gore, Jay North, Connie Stevens, Adam West, Tuesday Weld, Marlo Thomas, Max Baer, Jr., Elizabeth Montgomery, Karen Steele, DeForest Kelley, Susan Oliver, Peter Breck, Roger Moore, Donna Douglas, Troy Donahue, Ellen Burstyn, Chad Everett, Gena Rowlands, and Diane Ladd. Even established film and TV actors plus older stars guested as well, including Fay Wray, Francis X. Bushman, Liliane Montevecchi, Keenan Wynn, Ida Lupino, Rolfe Sedan, Jim Backus, Billie Burke, Buddy Ebsen, George Jessel, Peter Lorre, Burgess Meredith, Nick Adams, and Roy Roberts, amongst others. The show was so "cool" that even sports stars such as Sandy Koufax had a guest roles in individual episodes.

In 1963, as the show's popularity waned, the entire cast except for Zimbalist was let go. Jack Webb was brought in as executive producer and William Conrad as director. The character of Stuart Bailey became a solo private investigator. The show was canceled halfway through its sixth season in February 1964, although reruns from earlier years were shown until the summer.

Spinoffs and legacy

The success of 77 Sunset Strip led to the creation of several other detective shows in exotic locales, all produced by the Warner Brothers studio which created "Strip" — Bourbon Street Beat in New Orleansmarker, Hawaiian Eye in Hawaiimarker, and Surfside 6 in Miamimarker. The casts (not to mention the scripts) of the various shows sometimes crossed to the other programs, which was logistically easy since they were all actually shot in Hollywood on the Warner Bros. lot.

Currently, there is only a mere engraving in the sidewalk commemorating 77 Sunset Strip between La Cienega & Alta Loma Road and the area is slated for re-development as part of " The Sunset Millennium" Project. In a twist of fate, the opposition to the redevelopment of the area is known as "Save Our Strip" or "SOS" and is spear-headed by former 77 Sunset Strip semi-regular Gigi Verone. There is no number 77 on the Strip, as all Sunset Boulevard addresses in the area have four digits.

Episodes of the television series can be seen in reruns, courtesy of syndication packages offered through Warner Bros. Studios. A total of 43 episodes have been (at one time) removed from syndication for various legal reasons. All but 13 can now be seen in reruns.

A shot from the show appears briefly in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers when, in the beginning of the film, the waitress Mable is flipping through television stations.

Episode list

Notes

External links




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