Walked to the store earlier today to get some milk. The weather was rainy and windy and cold and raw, the kind of weather people are supposed to hate and moan about. I love it.
Something happened this week that happens more often in my life than not, and I sometimes wonder why. I’ve been reading a classic collection of essays by Jean Kerr titled Please Don’t Eat The Daisies (something I’m going to write about in my Saturday Evening Post column on Friday). I saw the movie years ago but I’ve never read the book, which came out in the late ’50’s. In fact, I never even knew that the book was a series of essays, I thought it was a non-fiction memoir that was turned into a movie and later a TV series. Which I guess it is in a way. It’s a terrific book. The essays focus on her four sons and her husband and her life as a playwright, and if you like Peg Bracken and Erma Bombeck or just well-written observations about life in general you’ll like Kerr.
I read a couple of chapters and decided to put the book down and put on an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. I chose “My Husband is the Best One,” the 1964 episode where Laura screws up an interview that Rob has with a reporter from Newstime about what it’s like to work with Alan Brady, talking about Rob so much that the piece ends up being about Rob and not Alan. A few days later when the article comes out and everyone at the office is mad at Rob, Laura mentions that even though they don’t like him down at the office, everyone in New Rochelle loves him. In fact, the people at the supermarket were so impressed with the article that they gave Laura the lamb chops they usually save for another regular customer.
The other customer? JEAN KERR.
I had to rewind the DVD – if “rewind” is what you do to a DVD – to make sure I heard it right. Yup, the Petries live near someone named Jean Kerr. Now, I’m thinking, is this the Jean Kerr, or someone with a similar name that has no connection to the Jean Kerr, or is it something in-between, the writers obviously knowing who Jean Kerr is and giving this fictional character the same name as an inside joke?
Not to get all Columbo about this, and there’s a good chance you’ve already clicked to another site to look at cats or something, but I think I figured it out. I did some checking and the real Jean Kerr lived in Larchmont, NY, which is right near New Rochelle, where the Petries lived (and where series creator Carl Reiner lived in real life), so the Petries and Kerrs shopped at the same supermarket. This was a reference to the actual Jean Kerr and that’s why the audience laughs at Laura’s line: the supermarket usually saves the pork chops for the famous Jean Kerr but on this day gave them to Laura because of the article about Rob. I bet there was an article about Kerr in that issue of Newstime Laura was reading.
It’s interesting because I wonder if you could even get away with that today. Would modern TV audiences believe that a “normal,” every day person like Laura Petrie would shop at the same supermarket as a well-known writer of plays and essays? Sure, Jean Kerr wasn’t Brad Pitt/Julia Roberts famous, but I wonder if it would ring true now or if people would consider it too unreal, simple name-dropping, a joke pulled out of thin air. It’s completely believable in the Dick Van Dyke Show world though. Considering where the Kerrs lived and what Jean Kerr wrote about, family life and raising kids and other everyday matters, and the fact that Rob writes for a top ten TV show yet still lives in the suburbs, of course Laura Petrie shops where Jean Kerr shops.
Wait, I’m not done yet. Later that night I was watching a repeat of To Tell The Truth on Buzzr, an episode from 1962 with guest Barry Nelson on the panel. Host Bud Collyer mentioned that Nelson was currently appearing on stage in a very popular play titled Mary, Mary. Guess who wrote that play?