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THE WISDOM OF DOBIE GILLIS

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 16, 2012

BRYCE ON LIFE

– A subtle yet simple suggestion for improving life.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

As a kid, a favorite television show of mine was “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” which aired on CBS from 1959 to 1963. It also appeared in syndication many years afterwards. I’m not sure many adults followed it at the time, but the kids became addicted to it as it was one of the few shows examining the trials and tribulations of a teenager transitioning into adulthood. Dobie (played by Dwayne Hickman) would usually open the show next to a statue of Rodin’s “The Thinker” where he would give a monologue to the television audience pondering a specific aspect of life. Although it was intended to be a comedy, Dobie questioned such things as family relationships, attracting the opposite sex, money, education, ethics; questions we all ask ourselves particularly at a young age. Even though it was done with humor, there was usually a profound message to each episode, at least to Dobie, which is why youth gravitated to the show. As an aside, I particularly enjoyed Dobie’s father, Herbert T. Gillis (played by Frank Faylen), a cantankerous, hard-working WW2 vet who owned a local grocery store. We could all relate to the family dynamics in the Gillis household.

Not long ago, I was pleased to discover the show was played on an “oldies” cable channel but in the wee hours of the morning. Fortunately, I was able to DVR it, and watch it at my leisure. There was one episode which I found particularly interesting, “Names My Mother Called Me,” where Dobie is invited to meet a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who inspired his unusual first name, Dr. D.W. Klein, whose character was based on Albert Einstein, the great physicist. Today’s generation would compare him to British physicist Stephen Hawking.

In this particular episode, Dr. Klein wants to retire and pursue other interests. As Dr. Klein has greatly influenced how people think and view the world around them, the press is hounding him for one final statement regarding the meaning of life. A press conference is arranged, but prior to attending it, Dr. Klein calls for a meeting with Dobie Gillis (of all people), who is surprised by the invitation. As it turns out, Dobie’s mother (played by Florida Friebus) knew Dr. Klein many years ago and asked his permission to use his first name. Dr. Klein was flattered by the request and, consequently, quietly watched Dobie grow up from afar. This, of course, surprises Dobie, but he wonders how he can help the doctor:

KLEIN: “I spent a lifetime trying to make the world a better place to live in, but what is the world except the people who live in it? And what are the people who live in it except a lot of individuals, like you.”

DOBIE: “Dr. Klein, you’ve done a wonderful job of making the world a better place to live.”

KLEIN: “Is it much of a place to live in right now?”

DOBIE: “Well…”

KLEIN: “The truth.”

DOBIE: “It’s miserable.”

KLEIN: “You bet it is, and part of the reason is that people like me who try to improve life have been too busy to live it and learn what it’s all about.”

KLEIN: “Dobie, at the age when you were dancing with Thalia Menninger (Tuesday Weld), I was locked in a laboratory working out a theory that only a few eggheads like me even cared about. While I was standing by observing, you were living, you were part of life, I was outside it. Now tell me, which of us is in a better position to give advice on what the world needs?”

DOBIE: “Me? Oh, no…”

KLEIN: “You, yes, that’s why I’m going back to fundamentals, to the basic primitive things. I’ve got to try to learn the things you already know. And that’s the advice I want from you Dobie: What does the world really want from life?”

DOBIE: “Oh, come on Dr. Klein, what does a kid like me know about that?”

KLEIN: “Plenty, because you lived life. Now speak up Dobie, don’t be a prima donna.”

DOBIE: “Well, I guess I want what everybody wants, happiness.”

KLEIN: “What is happiness?”

DOBIE: “Honestly, Dr. Klein…”

KLEIN: “Don’t poke along Dobie, get to the point.”

DOBIE: “Well, one part of happiness is having a girl.”

KLEIN: “A girl? Well, a girl, of course.”

DOBIE: “And friends, people you care about, people who care about you.”

KLEIN: “Yes, that we know.”

DOBIE: “Well, everybody wants a chance for an education, so they can learn how to make a living, and they want some time to enjoy themselves after they’re through working so they can make that living mean something. And, of course, they want peace, or else none of the rest of it means anything.”

KLEIN: “Peace? Well we’ve all tried; how would you go about achieving that Dobie?”

DOBIE: “Well, for openers, I’d try to make people more polite.”

KLEIN: “Well, I’m all for that, but how do you think politeness would bring about peace?”

DOBIE: “Oh, sure it would! Well, I don’t mean polite only on the surface like taking your hat off on elevators or using the right fork. I mean polite inside, in your heart, an honest respect for the other guy’s feelings and opinions, even if you don’t agree with him.”

KLEIN: “Ah-ha, that doesn’t seem like too much to ask, yet it’s everything isn’t it?”

DOBIE: “They need one more thing, one more thing, time to dream about better days, about a fine new world.”

KLEIN: “That’s a heck of a fine dream.”

DOBIE: “It’s a heck of a necessary dream, because, well, we’ve got to dream before we can plan.”

KLEIN: “Indeed, you do. Dobie, those people out there, they’re waiting for some final word from me, some memorable message.”

DOBIE: “They sure are. They made me promise to get it to them.”

KLEIN: “So you will.”

DOBIE: “Yes sir. I’ll get a pencil and write it down.”

KLEIN: “No Dobie, you’re going to give them the message, your own message.”

DOBIE: “Me? Oh no, come on now Doctor…”

KLEIN: “You, of course; Dobie, you’re the hope of the world, you and millions of others like you. Young enough to dream, young enough to make those dreams come true. Now go Dobie, give them the message they’re waiting for. I’m going to sneak out the back door; crowds bug me.”

DOBIE: “But I can’t speak for you.”

KLEIN: “Says who? What they want from me, I can no longer give them. You can; you can give them hope. Now go on son. And son, speak up, now don’t mumble, I’m counting on you.”
As implausible a scenario as this episode represents, that a scientific genius would seek the advice of a young adult, it does offer a simple yet profound message, that the world would be a better place if we just treated ourselves with a little love and respect. It may sound corny, but there is nothing wrong with what Dobie is proposing. If you read the dialog closely, you discover the characters considered the world a mess, as well as their socialization skills and discourse at the time, something we have all been feeling lately. I was pleasantly surprised by the show’s message and was startled by the parallel between now and back then (51 years ago).

A little politeness, eh? I’m not sure that will play any better in the 21st century than it did in the 20th. I can only hope.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

 

NEXT UP:  THE VILIFICATION OF THE TEA PARTY – How and why the term “Teabagger” is used.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, (12:30-3:00pm).

Also look for Tim’s postings in the Palm Harbor Patch, The Gentlemen’s Association, and throughout the Internet.

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7 Responses to “THE WISDOM OF DOBIE GILLIS”

  1. Tim Bryce said

    An L.M. of Chicago, Illinois wrote…

    “Usually Zelda, his gal-pal, would come up with these profundities. I do recall the nature of the show in it’s first run. We can see the episodes locally here in the Chicago area on WWME-TV, the local outlet for ME-TV, a syndicator of many old TV series.”

    Like

  2. Tim Bryce said

    An B.W. of Macon, Georgia wrote…

    “In the days of yesteryear, the movies and most TV shows had a message to the young, The spoke of honesty, integrity, and kindness. From that we got our heroes. Men and women that we could look up to, they good role models for our youth. Somewhere the movies changed and became real life. Their message of hope and a better world gone.

    Today there are few role models for our young men and women, and the ones that they follow are vain and mean. It the older days it was a good thing to be afraid of monsters, it proved we had emotion, Today for many of our kids the monsters are the role models.

    Sadly, a society has to fall to it’s knees to begin again to rebuild. It is said that we go from bondage to prosperity and back to bondage. If going back to bondage means that we will start again to rebuild on the principles that Dobie taught in almost every show, then I welcome the fall only so that we can begin to rebuild.

    Now you are a systems man, You have access to history, and you know where we have failed and where we triumphed. I challenge you to build a system of education by which we can teach the moral value, honesty, and integrity and love of our fellow man to future generations and place this system where those who would teach it have access.

    I seriously don’t expect you to do that, but man has failed so many times through history, you would think that by now he would have learned right from wrong.

    Dobie was a fine example of such teaching, The open with Rodan’s “Thinker” was a classic move they the writers of the show. If we could just teach men to think for themselves rather then to rely on some elected to do his thinking,. we would be on the road to recovery.”

    Like

  3. Tim Bryce said

    An A.O. of Palm Harbor, Florida wrote…

    “I question the wisdom of anyone that hangs out with Gilligan. Plain and simple.”

    Like

  4. Tim Bryce said

    An A.H. of Rochester, Kentucky wrote…

    “That was fun Tim. I loved that show as well. This is somewhat familiar to me. Maybe I saw it long time ago. I agree with the fact that it was a great show for teenagers and would be today. If only they would look at it. Thanks for sharing.”

    Like

  5. Tim Bryce said

    A B.S. of Oklahoma wrote…

    “Who wouldn’t love Dobie Gillis?”

    Like

  6. Tim Bryce said

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    “This is awesome: “an honest respect for the other guy’s feelings and opinions, even if you don’t agree with him.” Dobie had the answers, but we were all too busy laughing at him and Maynard G. Krebs. I am going to look up Dobie on the oldies channels. I’d love to visit with him again. Maybe this time, I’ll learn something.

    Dr. Klein’s remark about being in a laboratory when he was young and should have been living reminds me of the geniuses on Big Bang Theory. They are “eggheads” with no social skills whatsoever. Maybe Dr. Klein has a point.”

    Like

  7. Tim Bryce said

    A V.B. of Fulton, Illinois wrote…

    “Great show and wisdom too! This is definitely one that they should show more often. Loved Tuesday Weld too. Another one I thought was very poignant was ‘The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.’ That had a lot of common sense and wisdom too. Nice to see that TV Land has some of these — the folks never miss Andy Griffith too and I think that one would be instructive on the proper role of government / police in a society. And why can’t we have TV of this caliber and philosophy today? Thanks for sharing this!”

    Like

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