This is the first of two posts today celebrating the birthday of comic character actor Stuart Pankin (b. 1946). While you may not know the name, his is an an extremely recognizable face (and voice) in film and tv. I think of him as a sort of younger version of Michael Lerner but sillier. Jewish, and (in his most recognizable roles) overweight.
I was JUST the right age (12) to appreciate his work in one of his first major credits, the 1977 sit com The San Pan Pedro Beach Bums (and the tv movie it spun off of, which was just called The San Pedro Bums. ) The show concerned five buddies in their early twenties who lived in a house boat. It was a quintet of archetypes in the Gilligan’s Island mode. Buddy, the leader was sort of a Leo Gorcey type, tough and streetwise (perhaps smarter than Gorcey). Boychick was the ladies man; Moose, a really stupid muscle man. And then, the comic relief (from all the hard-hitting drama — I jest) were a pair of friends sort of modeled on Laurel & Hardy or Skipper and Gilligan called Dancer and Stuf. Dancer was not too bright, and a nervous type, afraid of his own shadow. Stuff (Pankin) was intellectual and sophisticated and a sort of gourmand.
I really loved this show, watched every episode, imitated its stars. I think it got slammed by the critics. It was an Aaron Spelling show. Like Charlie’s Angels or The Love Boat (or for that matter Gilligan’s Island) it seemed to pioneer new lows for television. In fact, it seemed very close in format to a lot of Saturday morning cartoons, like Scooby Doo or Josie and the Pussycats. At any rate, it only lasted ten episodes.