As reported by The Wrap, actor Edd Byrnes—best known for starring on 77 Sunset Strip and for his memorable appearance in Grease—has died. In a statement shared on Twitter, his son (San Diego news anchor Logan Byrnes) explained that he died unexpectedly from natural causes earlier this week. Byrnes was 87.
Byrnes was born in New York in 1933, and after trying out various other potential careers after high school, he drove out to Hollywood and embraced acting. He appeared in some stage productions and had small roles in shows like The Adventures Of Jim Bowie and Telephone Time, and after signing a deal with Warner Bros. in the ‘50s, his career started to pick up. He appeared on Cheyenne and Colt. 45, as well as movies like The Deep Six, Darby’s Rangers, Life Begins At 17, and Up Periscope.
In 1958, Byrnes was cast as a contract killer in a pilot for a detective show, and he came up with the idea to have his character constantly comb his hair—a detail that became iconic when the pilot became the TV show 77 Sunset Strip. Byrnes’ character, Kookie, was so popular that he was rewritten to be a larger part of the show and Byrnes became a series regular, with Kookie becoming a hip parking attendant/unofficial assistant to the detectives played by Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Roger Smith.
Byrnes basically became a teen idol overnight, but his career began to dip due to the exclusivity of his Warner Bros. deal. He also started to get typecast as cool, young guys like Kookie, which also hurt his career. In the ‘70s, he hosted the pilot episode of Wheel Of Fortune, but NBC chose Chuck Woolery for the series. That presumably helped him with his next most-famous role, as the Dick Clark-esque National Bandstand host Vince Fontaine in Grease. In the decades after, Byrnes appeared in Troop Beverly Hills, Mr. Belvedere, Married… With Children, and Murder, She Wrote.