The Beaver is itchy 


My beaver itches. Well, if I had a beaver, I'm sure it would. Jerry Mathers, the original Beaver, as in "Leave it to Beaver," is on the phone to talk about ... wait, what's this ... psoriasis? I'm flaring up.

"How are you, Beav?"

"Terrific. Couldn't be better."

I think you're lying, on account of the fact that you're now the hood ornament for a malady that doesn't involve sexual transmission.

(On account of? I stop for a minute to love myself. I love "on account of"! Usual-ly on account of having nothing to say.)

"Y'know what?" he engages with the subject of his childhood show. "I probably had more fun doing it than you had watching it."

Probably.

With "Leave It to Beaver" running in 109 countries and 114 languages, Mathers must be very proud.

Cue proud speech: "It's something I'm very proud of, to be part of the golden age of television."

OK, then, onto the matters at hand. Let's get the pitch out of the way. Hit it, itchy Beaver:

"Step Into My Skin is a program," he endorses. "Psoriasis, what it is, is that most people's skin regenerates every 30 days. A person with psoriasis regenerates every three days and it tends to flake off. The first thing we want to tell people is that in no way is it contagious -- y'know, by shaking hands or looking at a person and saying, 'Gee, that person has terrible dandruff. Why is his skin flaking?'"

Gee, that's disgusting.

"A lot of time it's in the elbows and the knees. So people just wore long sleeves and never wore shorts."

Good advice. So what to do, itchy pants?

"For many, many years, many of the treatments that were used for psoriasis have not been effective."

At this point, Mathers starts hawking something called Biologics, a new treatment to soothe the burn. Except I've stopped listening, on account of the fact that I don't really care.

"When you first discovered your own, er, malady, did people just roll their eyes at you and tell you not to scratch?"

"No, they prescribed, basically, a cream," he says.

And at this point, I cringe and die. Listen, if you will, to the last words I ever want to hear:

"I happen to have it on my butt, so the creams ended up soaking through the clothing, and it was embarrassing."

Ick.

"After awhile, I just kind of learned to live with it. I don't have it as bad as a lot of people do. For me, it's just something that itches, and something that eats you up inside until it's hard to sleep."

In addition to thoroughly repulsing me with dreams of butt cream, the Beav sent a smooth jazz CD in his press kit. He says it will help ease the stress that might cause the scratch.

"Did you see the CD?" he calls me out. "It's got the 'Leave It to Beaver' theme song."

Yes. Yes, it does.

"But a lot of it is for people to listen to, to in some way kinda relieve stress."

It may cure psoriasis, but it's likely to cause hives. Fair trade, then.

"Do you keep a sense of humor about it?" I beg.

"As much as I can," he seems offended. "It's not terribly funny. But I use my celebrity to get the word out. If there is something, go back to your dermatologist and ask for the Biologics."

Oh, them again. Why is it that all aging icons of popular culture end up selling snake oil at convention centers across the country?

"Actually, one of my agents." He still has agents. "Anytime you work as an actor, you have to fill out an insurance form, and it asks if you have any chronic diseases. So I put down 'diabetes' and 'psoriasis.' My agent happened to see that they were doing these seminars."

"It's probably the most heartwarming thing," he heartwarms. "People, they come up to me and say, 'It's so nice to know that someone can come out, I've been hiding this for years. That someone like you would even admit it!' There's nothing to admitting it; I've got it, you've got it ..."

Do not.

"That's the big thing, the No. 1 goal: to let people know that it's not contagious. People withdraw from you because they think that it's a contagious thing, when it's actually a genetic thing."

Enough. My beaver is raw.

Mathers got his big break in the Hitchcock comedy "The Trouble With Harry," starring Shirley MacLaine, Alfred Hitchcock and John Forsythe.

"I got to know Alfred Hitchcock very well. In fact, the women there would all bake blueberry muffins, and you know Mr. Hitchcock was a gourmet. Each woman would lay out all the food that they had made, and I would walk behind him and always know that which blueberry muffin he picked was probably the best one of the day."

Blech. And catching up with the rest of the "Leave It to Beaver" clan proves equally unrewarding. Unless you consider this rewarding:

"I still see Tony Dow all the time. I have an appointment with him next Sunday and we're gonna talk about some business that we may do together. Frank, the guy who played Lumpy, is my financial advisor -- he's a very big stocks and bonds dealer in L.A. I talk to Barbara Billingsley all the time."

The only good story comes when Mathers recounts a recent "Survivor" parody they did on the "Tonight Show" with aging stars of his ilk.

"It was like a six-week parody, with Florence Henderson and Danny Bonaduce."

Bad company, no?

"I was voted by everybody to be the celebrity survivor," he says with pride.

"Did they make you eat beaver?" I totally ditch my credibility into a pit of demonic rage.

"It was a grub," he smacks back. "Gary Coleman had to eat Spam, and he'd never eaten Spam before."

But has he ever eaten beaver?


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