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These days, Leave It To Beaver’s Tony Dow stays out of trouble as a sculptor.
“I’m sort of a tool hound,” Tony Dow tells me, “and I learned how to use them so that my technique caught up to my desire.”
Already a beloved actor from the days of classic TV, and a producer and director during the many decades since, Dow has currently molded an amazing sculpting career for himself.
After co-starring in the iconic sitcom Leave It To Beaver from 1957-1963, he continued to act, but another kind of art beckoned.
“When I was a teenager, I did some painting and collaging and some assemblages and stuff like that,” says the soft-spoken Hollywood native. “I went to UCLA and took some art classes, which I found mostly useless.”
Today, though, he creates abstract burl wood sculptures often dipped in bronze. For this, he garners some serious respect in the art world. Among other exhibits, his work was chosen for exhibition at the Salon 2008 de la National des Beaux Arts in Paris. He’s also shown at the Del Mar, Westwood and Avalon art festivals.
“I enjoy the doing of it,” he says. “It was like that when I was acting. I enjoyed rehearsing. I enjoyed the process. It’s the same with the sculpture. I enjoy the process. Usually, I’m pleased with it.”
His stint as big brother Wally on Beaver molded him permanently into the hearts of TV lovers across the planet. Dow remembers the show with great fondness, despite its critics decrying it as a false depiction of the American family. Dow begs to differ.
“I think it was a strong portrayal of family life,” he says of the series that made him famous. “It was idealized a bit, as things were back in the Fifties. The show was being sent overseas and the writers wanted to depict American life and the American family in a very positive way. But the times were idyllic. Things were slower and more innocent. It shows the relationship in a family. There is a great relationship between the brothers and then the father and mom and their friends. It’s all there.”
Now in retirement (except for his sculpting), Dow finds joy and wonder in today’s TV landscape. Yet even current series as popular and beloved as Beaver once was may garner about 8 million viewers if they’re lucky, while Beaver may have pulled in more than 40 million loyal viewers at its peak in the Fifties.
“I think television is really good now,” he says. “I mean, Homeland, Breaking Bad or Boardwalk Empire. Those shows are just unbelievable, and I’m in awe.”
Now living in the Santa Monica Mountains with his wife, artist Lauren Shulkind, he has created a new version of the idealized American life.
“Everything is one day at a time, one task at a time,” he says. “I’ve sort of grown up that way. Even if it’s digging a ditch, I want to dig the best ditch that I possibly can. So if you put those guidelines into what you are doing, you are going to be successful. I’m just lucky to get up and be moving around and be able to do the things I like to do.”