Perhaps there’s a virtue in being repressible

“Here come the Nelsons. Featuring Ozzie, Harriet, David and the irrepressible Ricky!”

That Ricky. Always “irrepressible”. Whereas David was, evidently, quite repressible. David was the quieter older brother to the younger dude who was not only irrepressible, but also evolved into a major teen idol of the late 1950s and early ‘60s. That had to be difficult for an older sibling to see all the little girlies fawning over and shedding their nether garments for Rick. Maybe he got some due to his family connection. Hope so.

Not to be dismissive of Rick and his talents, for they were huge and he could easily hold his own against other icons of the pre-Beatles pop and rock scene. Good stuff all of it, and I happen to think Garden Party is borderline brilliant.

Of course, clunky old paterfamilias, Ozzie was nothing like the character he played on the TV series. An accomplished musician in his own right who had been a big-band leader in the 1930s, Ozzie was ‘connected’ and his connections were an inestimable help to Rick. At the same time, he ultimately had to make it on his own, and he did with great élan. He also died under somewhat questionable circumstances and much too soon back in December of 1985. 

This is all in respect to the fact that David has just died of colon cancer at the age of 74. That shocked me. Not so much that he died, but that he was 74. I grew up with the Nelsons and while the boys were both older than I was, they were kind of a part of my generation of early TV fans. 

And what of David? Well, he was a quiet, seemingly likable chap on the TV series who was always being bugged by young Ricky, yet they seemed to like each other. Sort of like an earlier version of Wally and Beaver.

David did a little acting but never hit the heights. Here’s how a news item on his career reads:

“Nelson had a long career in front of and behind the camera, appearing in episodes of his family’s hit show “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” throughout its 14-year run. He was also able to eventually direct and produce several of the episodes before the show went off the air in 1966.

The show was actually shot in the Nelson family home, which is now a tourist attraction in California. Nelson went on to a career in film as well, appearing in 1990’s “Cry Baby” with Johnny Depp, while also continuing to work in television as both an actor and director. He appeared on many popular shows, including “The Love Boat” and directed episodes of several others, including “A Rare Breed.”

Not stirring but pretty darn healthy, all told. Never a breath of scandal about the man, just a good journeyman entertainment biz guy. He could have done worse. He also could have seethed with resentment at Ricky’s success of an earlier time. Apparently he didn’t.

It must be tough to be the sibling of a big success. Sort of the Clint Howard syndrome. You know, while Ron never seemed to turn a wrong hand all the way from Opie, through Ritchie Cunningham, to the big filmmaker guy he became, Clint remained Clint. Not a bad character actor and the guy who was always guaranteed his ‘Clint moment’ in one of Ron’s films.

So, probably it was just as well that Elvis’s stillborn twin brother, Jesse, was, well, stillborn. Would have been difficult to deal with Elvis’s success. Of course, there is the rumor he didn’t die at all and is still traveling around as the subject of all those Elvis sightings that persisted for a few years after EP’s death.

Anyway, RIP ‘Repressible’ David Nelson. I remember you even if a lot of other people don’t.

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6 responses to “Perhaps there’s a virtue in being repressible

  1. Huh? They were really a real life family? Who knew?

    Of course this was before my time, I’m more of the Partridge Family generation (how embarrassing).

  2. They were indeed a real life family. With the Partridges there was just one familial connection.

  3. Never heard of them! But, like Jazz, I did know the Partridge family.

  4. DD. They were very much a North American phenomenon, though I might have thought as the music buff you are you would have known Rick — ‘Poor Little Fool’, ‘It’s Late’, Travelin’ Man’ etc.

  5. What Jazz said. And they pre-dated the Beaver? Is that possible? I guess for me it would be like hearing that Jan or Cindy Brady had just died.

  6. Andrea: They predated the Beaver by a couple of years, though they were on radio going back to the late 40s, I believe. Hey, that even predates me.

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