×

‘Grease’ and ’77 Sunset Strip’ Star Edd Byrnes Dies at 87

Edd Byrnes, star of the 1950s and ’60s TV hit “77 Sunset Strip” who went on to co-star in the 1978 smash “Grease,” has died, the actor’s son, Logan Byrnes, confirmed Thursday via Facebook. He was 87.

Byrnes died at his home in Santa Monica, according to Logan Byrnes, who is a news anchor for KUSI-TV San Diego.

Byrnes became a comedic sensation as the co-star of the ABC detective drama “77 Sunset Strip,” starring Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as a hip L.A. private detective. Byrnes played Kookie, the parking lot attendant with a habit of running his comb through his slick hair. His character, Gerald Kookson III, introduced a host of early ’60s slang into mainstream primetime culture.

The series was among a slew of slick action-dramas that the fledgling Warner Bros. Television division produced for the Big Three networks in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

The Kookie character took on more fame when Byrnes teamed with Connie Stevens on a novelty record — “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)” — for the then-newly formed Warner Bros. Records, that climbed the charts in 1959. Byrnes also appeared as Kookie in crossover episodes with fellow Warner Bros. / ABC dramas “Hawaiian Eye” and “Surfside 6.” Stevens was a co-star of “Hawaiian Eye.”

Byrnes was dropped from “Sunset Strip” along with other cast members when Warner Bros. brought in “Dragnet” star-producer Jack Webb to shake the series in its sixth season, which proved to be its last.

In the mid-1960s through the late 1990s, Byrnes enjoyed a long run in TV guest shot roles and supporting movie roles. He played radio announcer Vince Fontaine in the 1978 movie rendition of “Grease,” alongside John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

A native of New York City, Byrnes came to Hollywood in his early 20s with “a few hundred dollars and a dream of making it big in the entertainment business,” Logan Byrnes wrote.

Before “Sunset Strip,” Byrnes logged roles on 1950s TV dramas “Wire Service,” “Navy Log” and “Crossroads.” He was featured in three episodes of “Maverick,” the stylish TV western starring James Garner that was also produced by Warner Bros. TV.

After his run as Kookie, Byrnes had guest shots on such series as “Burke’s Law,” “Honey West,” “Mannix,” “Love, American Style,” “Adam-12,” “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” “Police Woman,” “The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “The Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island,” “Married With Children” and “Murder, She Wrote,” among many others.

Byrnes published an autobiography, “Kookie No More,” in 1996 that detailed his long struggle with alcoholism.

In addition to his son, Byrnes’ survivors include his ex-wife Asa Maynor and longtime companion Cathrine Gross.

 

More Film

  • Visions du Réel Reimagined as Digital

    Switzerland's Visions du Réel Reimagined as Digital Only Event

    Visions du Réel, a film festival in Nyon, Switzerland, has changed the format of its next edition to accommodate the restrictions imposed by the Swiss government in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Originally planned to run from April 24 to May 2, the festival will now be a digital-only event held over a longer period, [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Announces Dues Extension Program for Members During Coronavirus Pandemic

    SAG-AFTRA has developed a program to provide dues relief for SAG-AFTRA members during the Covid-19 pandemic with an extension of the May 1 deadline. “Members experiencing financial hardship resulting from work stoppages related to Covid-19 will be granted a due date extension and an installment plan for those payments,” the union said. “As part of [...]

  • Studio Babelsberg

    Terminated 'Matrix 4,' 'Uncharted' Film Crews Demand Help From Studio Babelsberg

    Germany’s Studio Babelsberg is seeking to find a settlement with hundreds of film crew members following the shutdown earlier this month of Warner Bros.’ “The Matrix 4” and Sony Pictures’ “Uncharted” amid the coronavirus outbreak. The production stop has left many independent film crew members without pay and more than 300 have formed a working [...]

  • Empty movie theater

    Theater Owners Create $2.4 Million Fund for Cinema Workers

    The National Association of Theatre Owners and the Pioneers Assistance Fund have created an initial $2.4 million fund to provide financial assistance to movie theater employees who need help due to the coronavirus pandemic. The organizations said Monday that the first part of the initiative is a grant program that will provide a stipend to [...]

  • Bob Chapek Bob Iger Disney

    Bob Iger to Give Up Salary, Other Senior Disney Executives to Take Pay Cuts

    Disney has joined the list of companies implementing sizable pay cuts for senior executives amid the upheaval caused by the coronavirus crisis. Bob Iger, who shifted from chairman-CEO to executive chairman last month, has opted to forgo his salary for the year. Bob Chapek, who succeeded Iger as CEO, has taken a 50% pay cut. [...]

  • Sundance Horror Movie 'Relic' Picked Up

    Sundance Horror Movie 'Relic,' Starring Emily Mortimer, Picked Up By Film Constellation

    London-based production, finance and sales company Film Constellation has boarded the critically-lauded “Relic,” the debut feature from Natalie Erika James. The film, which stars Emily Mortimer (“Shutter Island”), Robyn Nevin (“The Matrix Trilogy”) and Bella Heathcote (“The Neon Demon”), had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in the Midnight section. The film, which [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content