With a perfidious compliment and over the top delivery, Eddie Haskell was pop culture’s original bad boy. Sneaky and shallow, the smirky best friend of Wally Cleaver on the classic TV sit-com Leave it to Beaver not only became a pop culture favorite, but slowly made his way into the cultural lexicon as the archetype of society’s shifty and insincere wise-guys. Eddie Haskell was the kind of kid that you would hate if you met him, but you couldn’t help but love watching him get his pals in trouble. For over fifty years Eddie Haskell has remained to be one of the most popular supporting characters in television history.
When Eddie Haskell first appeared on television screens in 1957 nobody would predict how much of a cultural icon he would become. Behind that smirk was fourteen year old actor Ken Osmond who had been appearing in films, television and commercials since the age of four. However, the break out role of Eddie Haskell would become his most famous role, making him a household name for decades to come.
Ken Osmond jeered and connived his way through six seasons of Leave it to Beaver where he became just as popular, and questionably more popular, then the shows stars Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow. Highly quotable, his bad boy persona was ground breaking compared to the sugary sweet characters that were often played by teenagers on television during the golden era of television. However, his popularity would take its toll on his career and when Leave it to Beaver wrapped up in 1963 Ken Osmond found that he was faced with typecasting so crippling that it was preventing him from getting the roles he wanted. By the end of the 1960’s Ken Osmond realized that he could no longer make a decent living as an actor. Shifting gears completely, Osmond joined the Los Angeles police force where he spend the next thirty years patrolling the streets of LA.
However, between his law enforcement career, Ken Osmond was always willing to brush the character of Eddie Haskell off for token appearances where he reprised the role on an episode of Happy Days and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, a McDonald’s advertising campaign, the ill-fated and much forgotten big screen remake of Leave it to Beaver and 101 episodes of the syndicated series Still the Beaver from 1983 to 1989.
Currently retired from the LAPD, Ken Osmond is still a favorite at autograph shows across the world and has recently wrote an autobiography alongside writer Christopher J. Lynch titled Eddie: The Life and Times of America’s Preeminent Bad Boy. I met Ken Osmond at the Hamilton Comic Convention where he took a few moments to talk to me about his career and his smarmy alter ego.