Mr. Peabody's Sherman and Speedy Alka-Seltzer
Thursday/August/19 2010 Filed in: Entertainment / Media
There was something especially sad about the recent passing of Gary Coleman.
Though a talented entertainer, some portion of his celebrity was inextricably linked to the fact that he was a man-child of sorts.
A hormonal condition kept his adult persona in a body that we perceived -- and chose to continue to believe far longer than we should -- was that of an adolescent.
Gary Coleman's general situation was shared by at least two other actors during the mid-20th century.
Most Baby Boomers knew Walter Tetley as the voice of the red-haired and bespectacled Sherman, Mr. Peabody's pet boy on the animated Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
Though Walter was in his mid-forties at the time, Sherman certainly sounded like a 12 year old.
Like Gary Coleman, Walter was affected by a condition that limited the natural growth and maturation process. Walter's body never transitioned through puberty.
The generation preceding the Boomers had already been introduced to Walter as the voice of Leroy, the precocious nephew on the Great Gildersleeve radio show in the 1940's.
During the same decade, Walter also voiced the comic radio character Julius Abruzzio, the delivery boy on the Phil Harris and Alice Faye Show.
Julius was, as a teenager, the oldest of Walter's most well known characters.
That gave him more room to maneuver. Played with a thick Brooklyn accent, Julius was a total wise-ass who traded insults with Phil and was lust-struck for Phil's wife Alice.
Walter tried to make the jump from radio star to movie star but the breach was too great.
His child-like voice and the face moviegoers saw on the screen just did not mesh.
Walter was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in 1971 and was wheelchair-bound until his death four years later. There are reports that after the accident he lost his home and lived out his final days alone in a trailer.
Check out some of Walter's hilarious radio work at OTR.net one of the premier old time radio sites.
Baby Boomers know the voice of Dick Beals, though they probably haven't heard it for a long time.
Dick sang the Plop Plop Fizz Fizz jingle as Speedy Alka-Seltzer. He was also the voice of both Gumby and Davey of Davey and Goliath.
Like Walter Tetley, Dick never experienced puberty and the resultant deepening of his voice.
None of this appears to have slowed Dick down, however. Though 4 feet 7 inches tall and weighing less than 70 pounds, he's often a guest at Old Time Radio conventions, does motivational speaking and was a licensed pilot.
These days, he spends time relaxing on his yacht, appropriately christened, Think Big.