Pop Culture Baby Name: Kookie

Kookie
Kookie

Before there was Fonzie, there was Kookie.

In 1959, the baby name Kookie was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: 5 baby girls name Kookie [debut]
  • 1958: unlisted

I thought it was just a variant of Cookie until I did some research. Turns out that Kookie was a hipster character played by Edward Byrnes on the detective show 77 Sunset Strip (1958-1964). He worked as a valet parking attendant at the club next door to the detectives’ office. The character quickly became a cultural phenomenon:

Constantly combing his glossy, duck-tailed hair and speaking in what was called ‘jive talk’, Gerald Lloyd Kookson III – ‘Kookie’ to his friends — helped Stu and Jeff out on their cases and stole the show. Teenage girls went wild for Kookie and his fan mail reached 10,000 letters a week. A glossary was issued for those who wanted to learn his language which included such young dude phrases as, ‘let’s exitville’ (let’s go), ‘out of print’ (from another town), ‘piling up the Z’s’ (sleeping), ‘a dark seven’ (a depressing week) and ‘headache grapplers’ (aspirin) – all soon copied by youth worldwide.

This popularity led to Kookie-branded merchandise, including “Kookie’s Comb.”

Kookie's Comb
Kookie’s Comb

Byrnes also appeared in-character as Kookie on other TV shows and in advertisements (such as a series of Harley-Davidson ads for the Topper motor scooter).

Most impressively, Edward Byrnes became a top-10 recording artist with the release of the novelty song “Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb” (1959), a duet with Connie Stevens that reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 2005, TV Guide ranked the top 25 teen idols of all time. Edward “Kookie” Byrnes came in 5th. (John Travolta came in 3rd. Michael J. Fox came in 23rd.)

Source: Lewis, Jon E. and Penny Stempel. Cult TV: The Essential Critical Guide. London: Pavilion Books, 1996.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.