77 Sunset Strip was a detective series revolving around two L.A. private eyes, both of whom were ex-government secret agents: Stuart Bailey (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.), and Jeff Spencer (Roger Smith). They worked out of a trendy office at the fictional address of 77 Sunset Boulevard (the "Sunset Strip"), just south of La Cienega Boulevard, next to Dean Martin's real-life lounge, Dino's Lodge. Suzanne, the beautiful French switchboard operator (Jacqueline Beer) handled the phones.
See the 77 Sunset Strip Show Intro
Roscoe the racetrack tout (Louis Quinn), and Gerald Lloyd "Kookie" Kookson III (Edd Byrnes), the hair-combing, hipster/P.I. wannabe valet parking attendant at Dino's, provided the comic relief. Byrnes was originally cast as a hair-combing serial killer in the series pilot, but was so popular that he returned in a new hair-combing role for the series.
The tone of the show was light, with a pronounced element of self-deprecating humor. Many of the episodes were called "capers". The catchy theme song, written by Mack David and Jerry Livingston, epitomized the show's jazzy atmosphere and became a Top Ten Billboard hit.
Kookie — with his slang expressions like "ginchy" and "piling up Zs" (sleeping) —became a cultural phenomenon. When he helped the detectives solve a case by singing a song, Edd Byrnes began a singing career with the novelty single “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)”, which featured Connie Stevens in the chorus. Kookie was also used to provide product placement for Harley-Davidson.
Exploiting his popularity, Byrnes demanded more money and an expanded role for himself in the show, but the network wouldn't have it, so he left — the network caved and Byrnes returned as a full-fledged partner in the detective firm in May 1960. Robert Logan became the new parking lot attendant, J.R. Hale, who liked to speak in abbreviations.
One of the Strips' more striking episodes was the 1960 “The Silent Caper”, which told its story entirely without dialogue. Another interesting experiment was 1961's “Reserved For Mr. Bailey”, which found Zimbalist alone in an abandoned ghost town — the only actor on-screen for the entire hour.
Rising young actors clamored for guest spots. Up-and-comers who made guest appearances included Karen Steele, Robert Conrad, Eve McVeagh, Randy Stuart, Troy Donahue, Jay North, DeForest Kelley, Carole Matthews, Peter Breck, Mary Tyler Moore, Irish McCalla, William Shatner, Chad Everett, Sherry Jackson, Dyan Cannon, Susan Oliver, Gena Rowlands, Janet De Gore, Max Baer, Jr., Diane Ladd, Suzanne Storrs, Donna Douglas, Ellen Burstyn, Connie Stevens, Marlo Thomas, Roger Moore, Adam West, Elizabeth Montgomery, Tuesday Weld, and Cloris Leachman.
The show was a draw for established stars as well, including, among others, Keenan Wynn, Fay Wray, Peter Lorre, Ida Lupino, Rolfe Sedan, Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., Liliane Montevecchi, Roy Roberts, Jim Backus, Billie Burke, Buddy Ebsen, Burgess Meredith, Francis X. Bushman, Nick Adams, and George Jessel. Sports stars such as Sandy Koufax also occasionally appeared in guest roles.
When the show's popularity began to wane in 1963, the network axed the entire cast, except for Zimbalist. Jack Webb was brought in as the new executive producer. Stuart Bailey became a solo private investigator, and the series left behind its light-hearted style to adopt a more noir-ish tone. Viewers didn't appreciate the change, and ratings collapsed. 77 Sunset Strip was canceled halfway through its sixth season, early in 1964.
Its success inspired and spawned imitators. A slew of new detective shows set in exotic locals sprang up: Surfside 6 in Miami, Hawaiian Eye in Hawaii, and Bourbon Street Beat in New Orleans.
More than 30 years after the series left the air, Warner Bros. proposed a modern revival of 77 Sunset Strip, that was to be the first hour-long drama series to air on the new WB Television Network. It was to be produced by Clint Eastwood and star Jim Caviezel, Timothy Olyphant, and Maria Bello. A 25-minute pilot was shot in the spring of 1995, but the project never got off the ground.
An engraving in the Sunset Boulevard sidewalk (address number 8524) between La Cienega and Alta Loma Road memorialized 77 Sunset Strip at one time. We do not know if it's still there. A real estate re-development project, at one time called The Sunset Millennium Project but now going by the moniker of Sunset|La Cienega, is under construction as of the writing of this article (April 2015).
Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)