Past The Eyebrows Darkly, Part II
By Lou Blodgett
In the summer of ’69, ‘Squirrel Crew’s’ run ended, as well as Corky’s marriage to Foley artist Sabine Hawk. He headed north to San Francisco. Lily Capriccio, who at that time worked in a free clothing boutique called ‘Since You’re Not Going Back To Omaha Anytime Soon’, remembers his visit to Haight-Ashbury.
“He seemed to fit right in, no matter where he wandered. The first time I saw him, I thought I’d seen him before. I didn’t know he was the Corky I’d been hearing about, though, that’s for sure. I didn’t dig television. Someone told me that he was a roadie for ‘Mountain’, and that’s how I related.”
In San Francisco, Corky found himself embraced. Frequently. And, for one of the few times in his life, he allowed all comers to stroke his eyebrows, something, it is said, that he wouldn’t have allowed even Sabine to do. It was in San Fran that Malcolm found himself. And, he always knew that he was ‘far out’.
In the mid 1970’s, post ‘Squirrel Crew’, Corky struggled to establish himself as the non-animated actor he truly was. But, perhaps counterintuitively, during pitch meetings, he allowed producers to investigate the eyebrows to their heart’s content. They petted and pinched, and even waved their fingers beneath the forehead fuzz, until they began to consider the potential long-term effects.
We all know details about this time, and Corky’s stop\start career going into the ‘80’s with the single-season family comedy ‘Make Way For Corky’, (which many affiliates preempted to show infomercials promoting jojoba ranching) and his foray into stage directorship. His support group/agency ‘Island Of Misfit Actors’, based in Tarzana, made a difference, but it can’t be denied that it was in 1979 that Corky’s slow decline began.
Around that time, in a magazine snippet undiscovered by past biographers, there is the tale about when Strawberry Shortcake found Corky hopelessly lost in a phone booth in the lobby of Whiskey a Go-Go, and helped him back to what she had determined was his table as the pair weathered being referenced from the stage by Paul Lynde.
"No one else cared. It was a madhouse," Shortcake related to this author, while greeting patrons as they arrived at ‘The Butter Hut’ in Sparkleland West. “I was just there plugging a project to Filmation. I found the producer at a table nearby. Talk about a star entrance…The party at Corky’s table didn’t care. He didn’t care! He kept calling me ‘Clarissa’ throughout.”
That probably would have been Clarissa Throckmorton, who Malcolm had met when she worked as a valet at the Pussycat Club on Sunset Strip, and, of course, married sometime later. One thinks that she would have gotten a kick out of wheeling his Honda 50 the few feet needed, and storing it in the parking slot that was reserved for Corky alone.
Today, Throckmorton has done well for herself, having secured the wedding ring salvage rights beneath a bridge in Las Vegas that is just down the road from Attorney’s Row. I found her in 2019, at a zoning meeting, holding a fishing net.
“When you’re talking Corky, of course you’re talking eyebrows,” Throckmorton said. “And, you’re talking about a man who was talented, but overwhelmed with iffy choices. But, you’re also talking about the peaks. ‘Jiffy Pete’, back when he was just a kid. You’re talking about the surprising success of ‘Squirrel Crew’, the crowds, the motorcades…. I had a ‘Boris the Oracle’ pencil-topper in high school! Unfortunately, later, there were mistakes that neither of us could erase… And then when we were ‘just friends’, he was always promoting this thing, ‘Ibsen on Ice’. I mean, great idea, but no established writer would touch the book. Word had gotten out, and I think they even passed a resolution condemning the project in Norway. But, yes,” Throckmorton said, “Those eyebrows. You just wanted to take them back home with you, and if the rest of him was attached, all the better.”
But what happened to the marriage, the adventure that Dudley Do-Right himself said was a ritual confirmation of both a runaway bride and groom?
“From ‘I do’,” Malcolm said in his March ’85 GQ interview, “we were both confident that it wouldn’t work. We were only soul mates. Who completed each other. We believed in angels. I wish her well…in her endeavors…ah…that clinic thing on Chilblain Island…”
But one must remember, as matter-of-fact his family took the news that the new son had 20 digits, but two hovering eyebrows, (as most did during Corky’s childhood in Cedar Ridge) and considering the entrée his unique forehead fluff gave him to Hollywood, we must remember the struggle.
For example, at the age of 25, Malcolm went through the rite all must pass, where those famous eyebrows, now rumored to be insured through Lloyds of London, needed a trim. That was determined when he showed up for a matinee during the three-week run of ‘Natalie’s Looking Glass’, at a 200 seat venue in Santa Clara called ‘Donuts After Hours’. Makeup had had enough. (In ‘Natalie’s’ Malcolm played the supporting role of the love-lorn tv ad salesman, Antioch.) A wine waiter, who was also an apprentice electrician, was enlisted to carry out the task, which had to be conducted with specially polarized snippers.
Corky was both the physical and the ephemeral during the height of popular culture. The father-confessor to Boo Boo, of all figures. He continues to have an impact, in recordings, revivals, and, recently, on the cover of Cashew Artillery’s latest album. The photograph is probably a still from a close-up, ‘Jiffy Pete’ era.
The question remains, though, how did this man, who never had his own truly winning project, swing a slot in the mausoleum at Arbor Valley?
Well, the digs are humbler than you would think. Officially, his ashes are interred in the uppermost 26th tier on the north wall of the mausoleum. But, all one needs to do is look at the map at the front gate to see that the mausoleum only has 25 shelves.
‘Corky’ hovers on.