For years, Ken Osmond played Eddie Haskell, the devious best friend of Leave it to beavers‘s Wally Cleaver (Tony Dow). But after the popular TV show ended in 1963, Osmond struggled to land other roles. Realizing he had to find another way to make a living, Osmond went to work for the Los Angeles Police Department. His new job as a cop couldn’t have been more different – or more dangerous – than his previous career in Hollywood.
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Eddie Haskell was a mid-century pop culture icon. But the role turned out to be something of an albatross for Osmond. To Leave it to beavers went off the air, he discovered that he had been typecast as Eddie Haskell with the two faces.
Playing Eddie Haskell was “a death sentence” on his acting career, Osmond said in 2008 (via The New York Times).
Post-Beaver, Osmond landed a few one-off parts on shows like petticoat crossing and The Munsters. But steady work was hard to come by. Eventually he decided to leave acting behind.
“I’m not complaining because Eddie was too good to me, but I found work hard to come by,” he said. “In 1968 I bought my first house, in 1969 I got married and we wanted to start a family and I needed a job so I went out and registered with the LAPD.”
Osmond’s work as a police officer involved risks that he did not face on set Leave it to beavers. A decade after joining the force, he was shot while on duty.
The ex-actor and his partner were patrolling for drunk drivers in 1980 when they encountered Albert Cunningham driving a stolen taxi. A chase ensued, and Cunningham shot Osmond three times. Luckily he was wearing a bulletproof vest. According to an AP report, that stopped two of the bullets while his belt buckle deflected the third. Still, the experience of being shot was terrifying, according to Osmond.
“I saw a flash of light and the next thing I knew I was lying flat on my back on the sidewalk 10 to 15 feet away. I could not move. I thought I was going to die,” Osmond testified in 1988 during the penalty period of Albert Cunningham’s trial for the 1985 murder of a man. He also said the incident led to clinical depression and eventually ended his career as a police officer.
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Even while he was working at LAPD, Osmond couldn’t quite shake Eddie Haskell. His fellow officers are well aware of his past as an actor, he said during an appearance The O’Reilly Factor (via Youtube).
“I was constantly ripped off by them,” he said.
After filming in 1980, Osmond decided to return to acting. In 1983 he played Eddie Haskell again in the TV movie Still the beaver. The revival series followed The new leave it to beaver, which ran from 1984 to 1989. He also wrote a book Eddie: The Life and Times of America’s Outstanding Bad Boy, which was released in 2014. Ken Osmond died in May 2020 from complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and peripheral arterial disease.
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