'77 Sunset Strip,' 'Grease' Star Edd Byrnes Dead at 87
Edd Byrnes, who found fame playing hilariously vain, hair-obsessed Kookie on TV's "77 Sunset Strip" from 1958-1963, died Wednesday at 87, THR reports.
The actor's son, San Diego news anchor Logan Byrnes, confirmed his unexpected passing at his Santa Monica home via Twitter, writing, "It is with profound sadness and grief that I share with you the passing of my father Edd Byrnes. He was an amazing man and one of my best friends."
Born on July 30, 1933, in New York City, Byrnes made his TV debut on a 1956 episode of the series "Crossroads" and his film debut in the 1957 Anthony Perkins starrer "Fear Strikes Out."
In the pilot for "77 Sunset Strip," Byrnes' character Kookie was a hit man who was sent to death row. By the time the show debuted, he'd been revived as a parking attendant, one whose signature move was to comb his greaser ducktail hairdo. In 1959, "Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)," a pop duet by Byrnes and Connie Stevens, hit #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Byrnes received up to 15,000 fan letters a week at the height of his fame.
Kookie popularized his own vernacular, including praising things as "the ginchiest!" and referring to sleeping as "piling up the Zs!"
After the show ended, Byrnes worked extensively in film and on episodic TV, his greatest post-idol hit coming as smarmy radio host Vince Fontaine, who judges the big dance-off in "Grease" (1978).
He also appeared in other films, including "Yellowstone Kelly" (1959), "The Secret Invasion" (1964), "Stardust" (1974), "Back to the Beach" (1987), and "Troop Beverly Hills" (1989).
Along with his son, Byrnes is survived by longtime partner Catherine Gross and by his ex-wife, Asa Maynor.