A telephone chat with '70s child star/current working actor/successful director Moosie Drier confirmed that puberty is not fatal to every classic sitcom kid. Our talk as Drier drove from a voice-over session for the Fox series "The Gifted" to pick up 12 year-old son Clayton from school was a genuine pleasure. The downside for folks seeking dirt is that there is very little to begin with, and the kind and sweet nature of Drier required not pursuing ANYTHING potentially embarrassing about his personal life.
The proverbial "how it all began" was the (reviewed) recent Time Life DVD release of the sixth and final season of the truly pioneering edgy mid-60s to early '70s fast-paced sketch-comedy show "Rowan & Marti's Laugh In." This series that carefully straddled the line between vaudeville and burlesque personified the philosophy that sacred cows make the tastiest hamburgers.
Drier moving up from regular appearances to being a featured member of the "Laugh-In" ensemble the final season prompted my dubbing him the "Cousin Oliver" of the series. The kismet began with a tweet to that effect along with an interview request coinciding with a rare occasion on which Drier checked his Twitter account. The next part of the story was that Drier had been friends with the real Cousin Oliver Robbie Rist and still playfully teased him about that role. The ONLY regret regarding the interview was forgetting an intent to comment that Rist was a jinx.
Drier agreed to an interview despite not granting many journalists that privilege. An initial nice surprise was learning that a surprisingly large overlap existed between his friends since childhood/celebrities of all ages and my childhood idols who have been just as terrific as Drier regarding speaking with me.
Spirit of Tab Hunter Lives On
The most striking impression of Drier is that a warranted comparison with '50s matinee idol Tab Hunter extends beyond the enduring all-American boy good looks of both men. These actors who grew up without a father have positive outlooks and loving natures that put 99-percent of us to shame. The simple fact is that Drier not getting one red cent from sales of "Laugh-In" DVDs and not promoting any project makes speaking with me a purely selfless act.
An interview in which Hunter thanked this operator of a "boutique" website for taking the time to talk with him cemented the sense that I would personally mourn his passing when it occurred. His death this July showed that that prediction came true. That loss still is felt. The better news is that 50-something Drier likely will be with us a few more decades.
A Child Star By Any Other Name
A desire to avoid asking Drier questions that he has answered a million times before prompted an online search for his real name; the failure to find anything reinforced that he is selective regarding interviews.
Drier shared that Moosie was not his God-given name but said that he has never been called anything else. He added that he had his legal name changed to Moosie and that it was on his driver's license.
The origin story of the name is that former New York Yankee Bill "Moose" Skowron was a friend of the father of Drier.
Bewitched, Newhart, and Jeannie
Drier, who mostly does voice-over work and directs plays and television (including an episode of the sitcom "Reba"), stated that he stopped acting roughly 20 years ago. He then noted that his girlfriend of five years Erin was a child actor.
Clues that included Drier sharing that the early acting career of his highly significant other was more high profile then his led to correctly guessing that her last name was Murphy. The subsequent gushing about Murphy by Drier included calling her "one of the coolest" and "one of the sweetest" people alive awesomely reflected the spirit of the '60sfantasycom "Bewitched" in which Murphy played young witch Tabitha. The kismet this time was watching a "Bewitched" episode on DVD right before speaking with Drier and without any knowledge of his relationship with Murphy.
Drier stating that "Erin and I kind of laugh about it" in reference to growing up as child stars males one happy that these kids have someone who can relate to their relatively unique growing pains. He also shared that he "wasn't seeing many child actors in my adult life until he started dating other child actors."
The discussion about Murphy led to my expressing sympathy related to a moderately high social-media profile making her and Drier easy targets for assertive fans of hers. He laughed and said that he was surprised how many times that someone asked her to twitch her nose. He pointed out that an amusing aspect of that was the twitch was the magic trigger of series lead Samantha, and that Tabitha would rub her fingers together to perform her spells.
Drier expressed the practice of fans associating child stars with their roles by stating that "people really identify the actor with the character if they played it long enough." He added that "for better or worse that actor will always be identified with that one role."
A personal association regarding Drier is his role as the young son of divorced wacky neighbor/best friend Howard Borden (Bill Daily) on "The Bob Newhart Show." The below photo shows Drier playing his part in that classic sitcom.
The first bit of kismet this time is that good Midwestern boy Daily is another star who has granted your not-so-humble reviewer an interview. His kindness extended to giving me a signed genie bottle from his '60sfantasycom "I Dream of Jeannie." This experience was consistent with Drier identifying Daily as one of his favorite people.
The inability of fanatics (rather than fans) to distinguish between the actor and the role led to discussing Daily "Jeannie" co-star and fellow awesome Unreal TV interview subject Barbara Eden. Drier started this conversation by stating that he knew the son of Eden and still occasionally visited her,
Drier then stumped the chump in sharing that he played the son of Eden in a May 1973 TV Movie that was the failed pilot for the sitcom "The Barbara Eden Show." This show played homage to "The Dick Van Dyke Show" by having Eden divide her time between dealing with egos and other problems as the head writer of a soap opera and family-oriented problems on the home front.
Drier stated that he did not recall his role on "Laugh-In" expanding in the final season; he did remember the producers bringing in child actress Mona Tera to perform with him. A related memory was appearing with Tera on the cover of the L..A. Times television listing supplement. The following photos are "Laugh-In" ones of Drier and Tera.
Drier did have many fun behind-the-scenes stories. The sweetest was the habit of Lily Tomlin using down times to invite him to join her in the over-sized chair used in the skits in which Tomlin played precious five year-old Edith Ann. Tomlin sometimes speaking to Drier in her Edith Ann persona and sometimes in her own voice made this story even better.
The most scandalous tale was that Drier constantly smelled marijuana smoke around the dressing-room door of star Alan Sues. Murphy being special to Drier and the campy and flamboyant style of Sues required mentioning "Bewitched" star Paul Lynde. Drier spoke for every child of the '60s and the '70s in saying that "Paul Lynde was my hero as a kid; how frickin' funny was that human being." Learning that Murphy shared those sentiments was an interview highlight.
Richard Nixon was the first name that Drier cited as someone who was exciting to meet on "Laugh-In." He rattled off several more of the seemingly infinite roster of A-Listers who made appearances. That series landing Drier an appearance on a Sammy Davis, Jr. television special was the provided example of "Laugh-In" stars recruiting Drier to appear on other programs.
Drier lacked any memories regarding the seemingly abrupt cancellation of "Laugh-In." He did comment that "it [sudden cancellation] is common in the industry. There is so much red tape."
Drier had more insight regarding "Bewitched" packing it in after eight years. He shared that the series was set for a ninth season but that a reason that he provided off the record prompted abandoning that plan. One clue is that any speculation regarding the story behind ending things most likely will be inaccurate.
Oh God Cousin Oliver
Our discussion about Cousin Oliver portrayor Robbie Rist began with Drier expressing his childhood love for "The Brady Bunch," which added Oliver in response to the Brady kids getting older. Drier added that he was not up for that role and that "Robbie and i have been friends forever and still are."
The bromance between Drier and Rist really came through in discussing Drier guest-starring on the "Bully For You" episode on the mid-70s Saturday morning sitcom "Big John Little John" in which Rist played the 12 year-old version of an adult who alternated between being a kid and a grown-ass man. Memories of playing the bully tormenting Little John until that target became Big John clearly delighted Drier.
An awesome modern note regarding all this was the story of Drier hosting a Hollywood Hills mini-reunion for child stars of the '70s five years ago. A highlight for Drier was meeting Murphy at that event; a highlight for "Brady" fans was the group surprising Rist with a "Jump the Shark" award for playing Cousin Oliver. (I believe that Drier stated that some Brady kids were present.) The neglected opportunity this time was whether the presence of Rist jinxed the gathering in any manner.
I also learned that Drier and Rist were up for some of the same roles but did not compete for the Rist role as the adopted son of Ted Baxter on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
The Big Join Little John theme also applied regarding Rist and Drier competing to play the son of the character whom actor/country singer John Denver portrayed in the 1977 Carl Reiner comedy film "Oh, God!." Drier rightfully thought that the straight blonde hair and glasses that made Rist look like "a little John Denver" made that kid a sure bet to play his kid.
Drier getting cast was only the beginning of the story. His mother calling the mother of Rist to share the news prompted that woman to cry over her son not getting the role. The rest of the story was that mother then speaking to Drier and telling her that she was glad that he was the one who got the role if Rist could not have it.
The following photo of Rist as Cousin Oliver shows that the comparison to Denver is highly warranted.
Discussion of Drier playing soda-fountain worker Riley on the pre-"Saved by the Bell" "Bell" style '80s live-action Saturday morning kidcom "Kids Incorporated" prompted the most surprising reveal in our hour-long conversation. He volunteered that he did that series to pay off a tax debt about which he learned when he was emancipated at the age of 16. The rest of the story was that Drier learned at the time that his mother had not filed or paid taxes regarding his earnings.
The exceptional nature of Drier particularly came through in this portion of the conversation. The aspect of "Kids" that had a singing group comprised of kids that seemed to range in age from 10-to-15 treat 18-to-20 year-old Riley like a doofus and their house boy prompted jokingly asking Drier if he ever felt like slapping (early 21st century singer) Fergie of The Blacked Eye Peas. He took this is stride and stated both that Fergie is Stacy Ferguson to him and that he has the honor of being one of the few people allowed to call her by her birth name.
The praise continued with Drier describing Ferguson as "an angel" who was "not like a Hollywood child brat in any way." He added that she is "super talented."
An especially fun moment came in telling Drier about watching part of a "Kids" episode to prepare for our conversation. The plot revolved around Riley pretending to own the club where he worked in order to impress a visiting high-school rival. That guy showed up in an expensive car and wearing haute couture. My telling Drier that I did not watch the entire episode because I predicted that Riley got caught in his lie and 'fessed up and that his buddy then admitted to being as big of fake prompted Drier to laugh and reply "You're probably right."
Say Good Night Moosie
"Bob Newhart" being the only known exception to Drier being directly or indirectly closely associated with a series in which it is easy to imagine the characters continuing to go about their daily (no pun intended) business after the sets go dark for the last time seems very apt for this righteous dude. He simply continues the habit that has persisted for 40 years of showing up when called to act or direct and does not stress when the calls stop coming regarding a particular project.
On a larger level, it is nice to think that 100s of people have probably benefited from small kindnesses (such as his likely putting a quarter in soon-to-expire parking meters) by Drier without having a clue that he is the kid from the HILARIOUS ice-cream shop scene from "Bob Newhart."
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