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.

23 comments:

DENNIS L. LARK said...

I didnt know he played all these parts. Didnt realize it was him. He's pretty universal.

Marble River said...

Great info. I still use those lines (does it hurt and have a temp; mothers are like that, yeah they are) today, and pretty much everyone my age remembers them. What a legacy!

Rob B. said...

I have been trying for years to find out who the boy was that made the aspirin commercial and whatever happened to him. For whatever reason, I never connected him with any of the other roles over the years. I'm only a few years older than him, but still remember the commercial, like it was yesterday. What an impact it had on many people. I was watching "Tammy and the Millionaire" on AMC tonight and thought "That's him!". Looked up his name and found your article. Thanks so much, especially for including a picture from the ad.

Anonymous said...

"Village of the Damned" come to life- an odd little Scorpio for sure..

Anonymous said...

I had heard he was killed in a car accident as a child. I guess that another one of the Urban legends

PWilliams said...

I have always wondered what happend to this commercial. I have remembered it after all these years and it would be great to see it again.

Anonymous said...

I had heard, around the time of that commercial, that he died as well but from leukemia instead of a car accident. Good to know he is alive and well. That commercial was in 1963? Wow- I was only 3 and still remember it. Amazing.

Dennis Bazzell said...

I heard that the little boy died and that his parents asked that the commercial not be aired. The first thing I would ask when one of my kids came down sick, "Does it hurt and have a temperature?

revapril said...

I have to agree with Anonymous and Anonymous II. I am from Boston, MA and we heard as teenagers that his dad accidentally backed over him on his tricycle right after the commercial-If I had known his name back then, I would have reallized it was him in all those roles! My granddaughter was playing in the street and I mentioned the incident to her, but, as GOD would have it, I began to try and find out more information only to find that Teddy Quinn is alive and well. Thanks Michael for this column.

Marie Corcoran O'Neill said...

Perusing here on FB and thinking of all the names of kids I went to school. I remember the Quinns...all blond and gorgeous at St. Victor's Grammar School. I particularly remember Teddy...he was many grades lower than me, but he stood out as the cutest little guy ever and I was quite proud as he was Irish too! Glad to hear he is doing so well!! Marie Corcoran

Anonymous said...

Ted Quinn is iconic, legendary and part of the American History and Pop Culture that gives me a feeling of comfort and warmth. From a time gone by, when life was simple, more elegant and dignified, we didn't speak bad about the leader of our Country, people knew their neighbors, and the concept of bars on windows didn’t exist. Ted Quinn represents this time in America. Just hearing the phrase, “Mother’s are like that, yeah they are,” brings to the surface, soothing visceral feelings, such as, safety and real freedom. Who knew back then, playing kickball in the streets would one day be unsafe. He represents a real part of Americana that was promised, but never delivered.

I love this commercial, and not only admire his body of work as a child, but as an adult, even more so. Obviously, being that young and savvy in a business that is far from being for children, Ted Quinn got out in time to lead a much more rich, integral life, standing for a country we all wanted to believe in, continuing to fight the good fight politically and creating amazing music and great art. And if that’s not enough, he continues to inspire, facilitate and empower his fellow artists and musicians, as well. Ted Quinn is quite the opposite of his other, young, fellow colleagues, escaping the entrapments that can befall a Child Star. He chose a life that is what “real dreams” are made of. He stayed free, managing to live the life of a true artist, with real artistic freedom.

Yes I’m a fan and a pier, fortunately for me, we grew up together, a part of the same sub-culture and music scene. Our lives managed to parallel and intertwine. I’ve always been able to stay aware of what he’s been doing and creating. From a distance, for the past three decades I’ve never been out of earshot of his jungle drum. He is an example, out of the pages of Hollywood History, that is not of the things that urban myths are made of, but of a life, deserving of praise and awards, a real life about a person who is of substance, who really stands for something, believes in fighting for his Country and his Planet. Ted Quinn is an honest to goodness, real life, living legend and hero. The Americana that he represented as a small child, managed to rub off on him and he continues to stand for real American values that maybe a few Politicians and World Leaders should pay more attention to, and perhaps this world would be a better place…

teddy quinn said...

i am alive & well in joshua tree, & appreciat all the love. the rumors were first told to me by cher at an interview for a sonny & cher movie (i didn't get cast.) my dad is a good driver, i was too young for vietnam... i am happy i got to make some people smile. as for anonymous 3, i don't feel worthy of such singing, blinging praise...but it makes me giggle with joy. next year, i celebrate 50 yrs in show biz...everyone is invited. <3 tq

Cindy G said...

Hey SAWDUST!!!! I just watched you on an episode of LANCER from 1973 with Ron Howard and James Stacy..You were part of a motley crew of orphans and Jelly was taking care of you..Do you remember that??? I also have The Ballad of Josie, All the Don Knotts movies,and Bonanza, so I've seen you alot..

Anonymous said...

When I saw Aiden Quinn the first few movies I said he looks like what Teddy would look like now so I started looking up all info on both of them and realized they were not the same person but I still was interested in knowing about Teddy because I still have his photo, signed, from that little boy in the aspirin commercial. I worked in the old Paramount commissary as hostess and bookeeper and I would talk to his Mom and tell her I saw Teddys commercial last night and she would write down where and what time so she could keep track of what he was owed for reruns and we would chat about our kids as they were in school together on Wonderland Ave. He and Raini, my daughter, were the same age and in some of the same classes there. That was a long time ago, Raini died in 2009, I am glad Teddy is alive and well and if his Mom still is , say hello from this old lady.
Tobi Michaels I am also on Facebook and so are Raini's 3kids

Anonymous said...

Good to see your doing well... Ted.. We went to St. Victors together in the 60s , may remember me.. Been decades... But remember you having to do work for TV and me telling my Mother , I know that kid , I go to school with him. Made me wish she got me into that work . Often was asked do I do any acting? Guess I had that look even as a teen. God bless.. Gregory Paul Smith

ted quinn said...

So many nice thoughts expressed here. I would sure be interested in speaking with or emailing directly with Tobi Michaels (raini's mom?) I wonder if you would scan the picture for me for a project I'm doing? i'm on facebook, too.
www.facebook.com/TeddyBoyTheMightyQuinn

PS Love the Village of the Damned comment!! :)

ted quinn said...

i wish i knew how to get in touch with ALL of you...gregory paul smith, marie corcoran, HELLO!! anonymous, you are WAY too kind...who are you anyway?? xo ted

Unknown said...

I loved the Bonanza episode. So touching indeed!

Sandra Dziedziula said...

thanks for posting this, i just saw him on bonanza and wondered about him, i DO remember the cute aspirin commercial !!

Michelle Foster said...

I too watched the Bonanza episode Ted Quinn starred in, absolutely loved him in this. I googled and did some research and discovered we have the same birthday! Such a talented artist!

Frederick said...

I have listened to that commercial a million times and I still can't figure out what the name of the sick girl is.
What does Ted say? " Is _______ home?" Sounds like "Joochi" to me.

Help solve the my mystery!

Barbara Ternes said...

I think he is saying "Josie," isn't he?

Carol Raimondi said...

Have been trying to find out who and where you are. I loved your aspirin commercial. It is my favorite commercial of all time. I have been on google for about two hours trying to make some kind of connection on what happened to you. So happy to hear that you are still alive and well. I found some comments on what you are doing and will try to follow up on them. When you did that commercial I was 24 years old. Will be 78 this December. I hope that you continue to have a wonderful life. God Bless you.