D is for Richard Deacon

deacon2There are only two television shows for which I own the entire series on DVD, and they have several things in common.

Both The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) and The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966), aired around the same time on CBS-TV. They each featured actors that were not born in my hometown of Binghamton, NY, but who grew up there, attending Binghamton Central High School in the same time frame.

One, of course, was Rod Serling, creator, and host of TZ. The other was Richard Deacon, the guy who played Mel Cooley, the put-upon producer of the Alan Brady Show, the fictitious variety show within the Van Dyke Show, and not incidentally, Alan’s brother-in-law.

Richard Deacon was born in Philadelphia, PA on May 14, 1921. According to someone on a Binghamton list on Facebook, he eventually lived on Crary Street in Binghamton with his parents, Joseph and Ethel, and one sibling.

At BCHS, he was in the Dramatics Club playing the role of the doctor in “Kind Lady” in 1938, and one of the elders in “Ruth of Moab” in 1940. He was in the percussion section of the school’s band for a time.

Richard, like me 30 years later, also participated in the “Red Cross Representatives” program at BCHS.
Richard Deacon ad
Besides the Van Dyke show, he was best known for playing Fred Rutherford, Clarence (aka Lumpy) Rutherford’s father, in the TV series Leave It To Beaver (1957-1963).

The IMDB notes: “Stage legend Helen Hayes told Deacon that he would never become a leading man but encouraged him to become a character actor,” which he did.

He was well regarded as a gourmet cook.

Richard Deacon appeared in a 1964 episode of the Twilight Zone, The Brain Center at Whipple’s. I’ve read that he was present at the premiere of Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1983 in Binghamton, though I did not see him there. He died of hypertensive heart disease the very next year at the age of 63.

In 1990, the city of Binghamton honored Rod Serling with a plaque, and the following year, it was decided to expand the program to have a Sidewalk of the Stars, and Richard Deacon was one of the first inductees. Unfortunately, it fell into disrepair but found a new home in the Forum Theater in 2014.
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ABC Wednesday – Round 17