One of the unlikeliest recording stars of the 1950s was a guy who finessed a huge hit record by linking it to the peculiar habit of the character he portrayed on a TV show. Edd Byrnes was a young actor who played ‘Kookie’ Kookson on 77 Sunset Strip, a private-eye program first aired in 1958. His character — a ‘hip’ parking valet who wanted to be a detective — was fond of pulling out his comb and reworking his pompadour, making female fans of the show swoon. The idea for a record was born, and his novelty tune — “Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb” — shot up and nearly topped the charts. (It also helped boost the career of his young singing partner, Connie Stevens.)
Edward Byrne Breitenberger was in his early twenties when he traveled from his native New York to Hollywood in the mid-1950s, but he’d been calling himself Edward Byrnes since his teen years, and continued to do so as he pursued an acting career. (Although he would eventually become Edd Byrnes.) He soon managed to land a deal with Warner Brothers as one of the studio’s stable of young contract players, and that in turn led to a number of small parts in movies and TV shows, leading to his breakout role in 77 Sunset Strip.
In the show, he worked the parking lot at Dino’s Lodge (a real restaurant backed by Dean Martin — but more later about that). Byrnes’ character ‘Kookie’ was a jive-talking, finger-snapping hepcat who greatly admired the detectives working at a nearby agency. The part made him a star and led to his hot record, but it also created problems. Disagreements with the studio and Brynes’ hard-partying lifestyle caused a lot of turmoil, but even though his star eventually faded he was able to forge a sold acting career for many years. On the musical side of things, Brynes’ big hit record led to similar efforts, like a duet with Joanie Sommers on “Like I Love You,” but the gimmick could only be stretched so far.
As for Dino’s Lodge, even though it was a popular spot for the Hollywood ‘in’ crowd for a number of years, at one time even hosting parties for Sinatra and others, its regular appearances on 77 Sunset Strip made it a tourist stop and therefore very uncool for stars. It eventually closed.