Monday, March 13, 2006
My Friend, Teddy Quinn
After graduating from college, I moved from New Jersey, my home state, to take a job in Los Angeles. I lived and/or worked in Hollywood for about 11 years, and I encountered many celebrities around town. But I became friends with only one movie and television actor: Teddy Quinn. He was working for the market research company that had just hired me; I'd be his immediate supervisor.
When we met, Ted had spent nearly a decade away from the profession, and was trying to establish himself as a singer-songwriter in a band called Telekin. He'd play their demo tapes in the office, and I immediately liked what I heard. The most apt description of this group would be "electronic bohemia." Their music was related to New Wave, being synthesizer-based, but with a difference: Ted's lyrics didn't shy away from social and political commentary, and they were married seamlessly to catchy pop melodies courtesy of his writing partners Cathie Kimble and Donald Kaiser.
As a wanna-be folk singer, how could I not gravitate toward such a musician? In time, we'd collaborate on some songs. It could have played havoc with our boss-employee relationship, but Ted was a thorough professional on the job; probably because he'd been a solid worker in a cut-throat business since he was about 5 years old.
Teddy's big break came in a commercial for Bayer Aspirin for Children circa 1963. He comes calling to a playmate's house, only to be told by her mother that she's sick. "Does it hurt and have a temperature?" asks Teddy. Not after mom gave her Bayer Children's Aspirin. "That's what my mother gives me!" says our "star salesman." "That's 'cause she loves you," affirms the mom, "and when you feel better, she feels better, too!" Concludes Teddy: "Mothers are like that... yeah, they are!"
I'd heard that Ted ad-libbed those last three words, and they made his career. From there, he signed a contract with Universal Studios. Their TV division, Revue, put him in a series called Karen, which didn't last, while the movie studio cast him in "Madame X" as Lana Turner's son, "The Ballad of Josie" as Doris Day's son, and gave him brief bits in three Don Knotts classics: "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken," "The Reluctant Astronaut," and "The Shakiest Gun in the West," which I saw on my 9th birthday.
Teddy's Universal contract was apparently non-exclusive, because he turned up in TV shows for other studios, such as Paramount and Screen Gems (Columbia), and his second go-round as a series regular was in 1967 for Sheldon Leonard Productions, which tried to build a show for perennial also-ran Jerry Van Dyke, last seen in the notorious My Mother, the Car. The new series, Accidental Family, cast Van Dyke as nightclub comic Jerry Webster. Teddy played his son, Sandy. Webster buys a farm in the San Fernando Valley, which is run by headstrong Sue Kramer (Lois Nettleton) and her young daughter Tracy (Sue Benjamin - whatever became of her?) Hilarity ensued - or was supposed to, anyway. The show never had a chance, despite the lead-in of Star Trek (which wasn't doing all that well in the ratings either) - especially since the premiere went up against Steve McQueen's "The Great Escape" (1965) over on CBS. Nevertheless, a viewer from North Wales writes on imdb.com that Accidental Family was "hardly the stuff of greatness, but it deserved a longer run than it received ... while Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch should have been smothered at birth. There is no justice in TV Land."
Based on sheer rerun value, Teddy's most durable performance is probably in the Bewitched episode "Playmates" (3/28/68) as Michael, the spoiled brat that Tabitha turns into a bulldog. In addition to Bewitched, Screen Gems also used him in The Monkees and I Dream of Jeannie. Paramount put him in a couple of Bonanza episodes, including one that Ted told me was his favorite performance: "Tommy" (12/18/66). In this, he's a deaf-mute who is sent to the Ponderosa by his mother; his step-dad has escaped from jail and she wants to protect him. Eventually the cruel husband claims his wife and drags her to Mexico, where she encounters a deaf-mute Catholic Brother and realizes her son can have a worthwhile future despite his condition. Eventually the villian gets his just desserts and mother and son are reunited.
Teddy continued working through the decade, turning up on Family Affair, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, and Land of the Giants among others. Imdb lists his last credit as a "young boy" in a 1972 film about black hookers: "Street Sisters" - a world apart from "Mothers are like that... yeah, they are!"
Today, Ted is still a working musician, a peace activist, a proud new father, and a good friend. Check out his life today at his blog: http://www.nomadhouse.com/, where you can download his new album, Dog Years, for free!
UPDATE, November 10 2012: The link to the Bayer Aspirin commercial has been fixed, you can view it here.