BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
People let me tell you ’bout my best friend, says former child star Brandon Cruz about his TV dad, Bill Bixby, on 1969’s The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.
Their relationship “was a lot deeper than two people working on a TV show,” said Cruz, now 49, who at age 6 met Bixby when they did the pilot in 1968. “Bill mentored me and helped me with a lot of situations. My family wasn’t the Ozzie and Harriet situation. My mom was a free-spirited woman, my dad was a bartender in a rowdy bar. Bill stabilized things when he could.”
Eddie’s Father, about a widowed dad and his cute little boy, ran three years on ABC and had a popular theme song by Nilsson. The complete season one arrives Thursday from Warner Archive (DVD-on-demand, $40).
Bixby, who in the mid-‘60s co-starred on My Favorite Martian and later starred as Dr. David Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, died in 1993 of prostate cancer. Cruz says he gets no residuals from Eddie's Father and that he's promoting the DVD release to keep Bixby’s memory alive.
“That show is going to bring Bill back to a lot of people’s forethoughts,” Cruz said. “The Emmys haven’t recognized him. He hasn’t gotten an award for lifetime achievement. That sucks.”
Cruz, a father of two who quit acting and punk-rock singing with The Dead Kennedys (“I went underground”) to become a drug-and-alcohol rehab counselor, also wants Bixby to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.
Bixby lived a tragic later life. His 6-year-old son died suddenly in 1981. His ex-wife, actress Brenda Benet, shot and killed herself shortly after. Married two more times, Bixby learned of his cancer in 1991 and died two years later at age 59. Shortly before his death, he blasted the tabloid press for publicizing details about his terminal illness.
“Bill was a tough son of a bitch. And I loved the guy. My son carries his name,” said Cruz, who named his boy, now 16, Lincoln Bixby. “He’s always with me. He taught me a lot of stuff and showed me some pretty amazing things.”