Would They Call Him “Lumpy” Today?

Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford died the other day at age 71, and given the man had by his own account (via his autobiography “Call Me Lumpy” ) banged more than 1,000 women, pounding a bit hard on the beaver so to speak, it’s a wonder he lived as long as he did.

For those under the age of 40, Frank Bank played an oafish bully nicknamed Lumpy on the 50’s era, white-bread comedy series “Leave it to Beaver.” My recollection at the time was that Bank deserved the moniker “Lumpy” because compared to the athletic, boy-next-door Wally Cleaver (Tony Dow) and the anorexic, hyperactive Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond), Bank was an overweight blob of cellulite, a pure dough-boy. As a first-grader in 1963, I personally knew of no adolescents rivaling the plumpness of Lumpy, and it wasn’t until the eighth grade that I first encountered a fellow student who surpassed Lumpy’s enormity.

That said, were the Lumpy Rutherford of the late 50s magically transported to any American high-school across the fruited plain, he’d be among the fitter of today’s bunch of fried-cheese and McNugget-eating youngsters who would equate walking up an escalator with running a half-marathon.

It’s remarkable in light of today’s juvenile obesity epidemic that Lumpy was considered a corpulent cretin in his time. I would even go so far as to assert that Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden – who was the heaviest load in the early days of television – would not deviate from the norm in modern America, his girth no greater than that of many sedentary, middle-school fast-food chompers. Imagine if the local high-school drama club decided to put on an episode of “The Honeymooners.” No doubt the biggest casting challenge would be to find someone rail-thin enough to play Ed Norton.

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