You remember Buddy Ebsen. He was Jed Clampett on the smash hit TV series The Beverly Hillbillies. Then there were also appearances on The Red Skelton Hour, Rawhide, The Dean Martin Show, Hawaii Five-O, Gun Smoke, Bonanza and Barnaby Jones to name but a few of Buddy’s many TV appearances. But long before that, as a very young man Buddy went to New York City in search of a career in the performing arts.
He was a dancer who worked in vaudeville and eventually on Broadway before moving west to build his immense television career. At the 50-year point in Ebsen’s life his wife gave birth to Kiki Ebsen. Kiki came into a world very few will ever experience. Buddy passed away on July 6th 2003 at the age of 95. But for 45 years Kiki Ebsen got a rare look at the complex and talented man she called “Dad.”
From that experience she has produced and stars in one of the most compelling stage performances I have ever had the privilege to see and thoroughly enjoy, To Dad With Love. A Tribute to Buddy Epsen. Unfortunately the run ends this week so allow me to suggest that you do not miss this show. It is at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, 90068. Performances are Friday and Saturday evening at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Make your reservations now by calling 323-851-7977. But please allow me to explain a bit more.
Kiki Ebsen walks you through the experiences of living with a major TV star. That may seem like a very good situation and in many ways it was. But in one example: at an early age she could not figure out how her dad managed to get into that big box with a screen displaying a black and white image. Okay so that is kind of funny. Later on she recalls when Ronald Reagan invited Buddy and the family to the nearby Reagan ranch for a party. Buddy being Buddy decided that the best way for he and his family to make an entrance was to ride in on horses. Mom was not thrilled, but they did it.
There is an abundance of videos showing Buddy Ebsen in action, including one hilarious experience with Buddy and a young girl, only 6 years old at the time, by the name of Shirley Temple. Together they delivered a very impressive dance routine.
This show belongs to Kiki Ebsen who delivers magnificently, but she couldn’t do it alone so helping her make it happen and happen very well are:
- Steve Wallace, Writer and Producer
- Dustin Ebsen, Sound and Production Designer
- E. Feinberg, Director
- Gregory Gast, Choreographer and Dancer
- Jeff Colella, Musical Director and Pianist
- Kim Richmond, Band Member – woodwinds
- Kendall Kay, Band Member – drums
- Granville “Danny” Young, Band Member – bass
- Ernest McDaniel, Stage Manager and Lighting Designer
Working together this amazing team of talented people deliver a spell binding performance on the life of one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, Buddy Ebsen, as experienced through the eyes of his youngest daughter Kiki Ebsen.
True it does not have all the production values of let’s say The Lion Kingon Broadway, but what it offers in abundance is a rich deep sense of familial love told with true passion by Kiki Ebsen who clearly has inherited a significant amount of dad’s immense talent.
Truly I have been privileged to have viewed literally thousands of stage performances in London’s West End, on Broadway and in Los Angeles and absolutely To Dad With Love a Tribute to Buddy Ebsenis among the best of the best. But again there are only three performances left so do book it now and you will be very happy that you did.
Photos by Cliff Lipson, unless otherwise noted
Top photo: Kiki Ebsen with photo featuring Judy Garland, Buddy Ebsen and Ray Bolger
Ron Irwin was born in Chicago, Illinois a long time ago. He served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, became a trial lawyer, TV and radio host, CEO of a public company and once held an Emmy. He never won an Emmy he just held one. Ron has written and published twelve books. His most important book to date is “Live, Die, Live Again” in which Ron tells of his early life and his unexpected and very temporary death in 2012. That experience dramatically refocused his life and within the pages of that book Ron reveals how he achieved a much healthier life, ridding himself of Diabetes, Cancer and Heart Failure. Now Ron enjoys writing about many things including health topics, travel [he has circled the globe several times], adventure, culinary experiences and the world of performing art. Ron’s motto is “Live better, live longer and live stronger because it feels great and annoys others.” Contact the author.