Girl-crazy teenager Dobie Gillis was a character created by writer Max Shulman in the 1940s. He was first brought to life in the movie The Affairs of Dobie Gillis in 1953, but the most memorable portrayal of Dobie was by Dwayne Hickman in the four-season TV sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which premiered in September of 1959.
Dobie Gillis is notable for being “the first prime-time series to consistently privilege teenage characters, activities, and spaces over those associated with family shows.”
It was also known for the unusual character names. Dobie (pronounced doh-bee, rhymes with Toby) had friends with names like:
- Maynard (a beatnik played by Bob Denver, who later portrayed Gilligan)
- Zelda (a brainiac played by Sheila James Kuehl, sister of Jeri Lou)
- Thalia Menninger (a rich girl played by Tuesday Weld)
These “uncommon first names [were] evidently meant to seem vaguely silly in their failure to conform with ’50s norms.”
The show ended up influencing the usage of several baby names. First of all, it was behind the debut of the name Dobie in 1960:
- 1964: 9 baby boys named Dobie
- 1963: unlisted
- 1962: 6 baby boys named Dobie
- 1961: 8 baby boys named Dobie
- 1960: 9 baby boys named Dobie [debut]
- 1959: unlisted
- 1958: unlisted
The name Thalia also saw a spike in usage in 1960, which makes sense because all but two of the episodes featuring Thalia Menninger were first-season (1959-1960) episodes. Dobie pronounced Thalia’s name thale-ya.
- 1964: 46 baby girls named Thalia
- 1963: 42 baby girls named Thalia
- 1962: 42 baby girls named Thalia
- 1961: 46 baby girls named Thalia
- 1960: 90 baby girls named Thalia
- 1959: 30 baby girls named Thalia
- 1958: 24 baby girls named Thalia
Finally, the name Zelda saw elevated usage in the early ’60s:
- 1964: 133 baby girls named Zelda
- 1963: 171 baby girls named Zelda
- 1962: 178 baby girls named Zelda
- 1961: 168 baby girls named Zelda
- 1960: 136 baby girls named Zelda
- 1959: 142 baby girls named Zelda
- 1958: 131 baby girls named Zelda
Fun fact: Zelda — who pursued Dobie as ardently as Dobie pursued all other females — once convinced a girl named Phyllis to break it off with Dobie by warning her that her married name would be “Phyllis Gillis.”
Many of the secondary and single-episode characters had unusual names as well. Here are some examples:
Do you like any of the above Dobie Gillis names? How about the name “Dobie” itself?
- Kearney, Mary C. “Teenagers and Television in the United States.” Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia of Television, ed. by Horace Newcomb, 2nd ed., New York: Routledge, 2013, pp. 2276-2281.
- Sterritt, David. Mad to be Saved: The Beats, the ’50s, and Film. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1998.
- The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (TV Series 1959–1963) – IMDb