Ken Osmond, the actor-turned-police-officer who played Wally Cleaver’s best friend on the TV series, “Leave It to Beaver,” died at age 76. The series ran from 1957-1963. The character Mr. Osmond played, an obsequious, duplicitous snake, Eddie Haskell, was so memorably etched that Mr. Osmond could escape the typecasting. He became part of the thin blue line.
Eddie was a charmer, offering, “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver,” but that was quickly followed by his day-to-day demeaning chatter to the Cleaver boys, “Look Sam, if you can make the other guy feel like a goon first, then you don’t feel like so much of a goon.” Sometimes Wally was “Gertrude,” or “Chief.”
Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver were on to Eddie: “Your father gave me a funny look when I came in… like I’m a teenage werewolf or something.” In answering Wally as to why he believed Ward Cleaver did not like him, Eddie offered, “On account of the way he looks at me when he opens the door. Sometimes I think he’d be happier to see Khrushchev standing there.”
We laughed at Eddie’s pseudo-charms and behind-the-back barbs because we know Eddie Haskell is alive and well. We went to school with Eddie Haskells. In their book, “Developing and Reporting Systems for Student Learning,” Thomas R. Guskey and Jane M. Bailey discuss the “Eddie Haskell effect” in describing the manipulative students who earn “brownie points” (from the junior Girl Scout organization called “Brownies) with teachers in order to earn a good grade. Today’s generation has a far harsher phrase than “brownie points,” but you get the idea. The brownie points are, in the experts’ words, “crucial in the grade commodity market.” (p. 19) We sloggers just studied, too shy or too respectful of authority to work the system.
We work with Eddie Haskells. They brag. They create the appearance of being loyal, hard-working employees. We are on to them; the boss is not. They come in and leave a jacket or sweater on their chairs and then disappear for hours. We do hear from them in their extended absences. They call in or text to have us go into their offices to re-activate the motion-sensor lights. When they are not dodging, they are doing the brownie-point thing. Or taking credit for others’ ideas.
Some of us have had Eddie Haskell children. Angels at home and hellions at school. There is even a checklist for determining whether you are dating an “Eddie Haskell.” “http://newsonrelevantscience.blogspot.com/2011/11/10-ways-to-tell-you-are-dating-eddie.html. Who has not listened to an obsequious politician with flattering words only to find them voting the opposite of those promises and compliments once in office? If you are really looking for duplicity, study foreign relations.
It is the duplicity. And duplicity’s heart is dishonesty. A CEO once commented that the greatest test of integrity is whether a person behaves the same way around everyone. Officers in a board meeting are not the same people as those officers in a meeting sans the board The language is different, the bottomline is different, and the deference is gone. How those officers treat their staff members is yet another story.
One of the great challenges in life is learning to treat everyone the same way as you would treat Ward and June. Ken Osmond, thanks for bringing us one of TV’s most memorable characters, thanks for teaching us to be on the lookout for the duplicitous and obsequious, and thank you for dedicating your life to honorable public service. You did escape the typecasting after all. You, sir, are no Eddie Haskell, RIP.