Before there was Fonzie, there was Kookie.
Kookie was a hipster 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.”
It also led to Edward Byrnes’ hit novelty song “Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb” (1959), a duet with Connie Stevens that reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.
But I didn’t know any of this when I spotted Kookie on the SSA’s 1959 baby name list:
- 1959: 5 baby girls name Kookie [debut]
Until I did some research, I thought it was just a variant of Cookie.
Alas, the baby name Kookie did not stick around; it was a one-hit wonder. But Edward Byrnes went on to appear in many other TV shows and films, most notably Grease (1978).
Source: Lewis, Jon E. and Penny Stempel. Cult TV: The Essential Critical Guide. London: Pavilion Books, 1996.