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Being Cast in My Three Sons  

  The year was now 1963.  I was ten years old.  My life was about to take a profound turn, exactly like my brother’s did a few years earlier.   The producers of My Three Sons asked if I would audition for the role of Ernie Thompson, the new kid in the neighborhood.    The request came as a complete surprise.    It was an opportunity to become a series regular on a huge hit series, the chance of a lifetime. 

I reported to the offices of Don Fedderson, the show’s executive producer, and saw that no other child actors were waiting to read.   That was surprising.  The usual suspects, Bill Mumy, Mark Hamil or Ron Howard, always seemed to be at the important auditions.   This time, though, I was there alone.   We figured Fedderson was being polite because of our personal relationship.   As soon as I was gone, a truckload of child actors would probably be arriving.

Whatever the case, the pressure was on.  I had to “deliver the goods” with my reading.   I tried to focus on my audition scene, reading it over with my dad who was with me.   At last, the door to the boss’s inner office opened and the casting director ushered me in. 

  Fedderson sat behind a huge wooden desk, glowering like a Supreme Court Justice.  He was a hulking man whose perpetually tanned face and steel-framed power glasses exuded money and power.   George Tibbles, the show’s head writer, and Gene Reynolds, the director, were also present.   I decided to focus my attention on Reynolds, mainly because he was the only one who seemed friendly.  He was a former child actor himself and I’m sure he knew what it was like to stand in my shoes. 

  After a bit of genial chitchat, I read with the casting director.  When I finished, I glanced around the room and everyone was grinning.  That was a good sign.  Still, Fedderson didn’t leap up to shake my hand and tell me I’ve got the job.  He sat on his throne, coyly silent.   Reynolds thanked me for coming in and it was time to leave the room.  

  As I was heading for the door, I mentioned that my family was leaving for a vacation in Palm Springs.   The big boss suddenly spoke up and ordered me to wait in the outer office.   I groaned silently.  As much as I wanted to hear I got the part, I was anxious to hit the road for a holiday.  

I sat down next to my dad in the outer office.  A long fifteen minutes ticked by and not a word was uttered by anybody.  What was happening?  There must a heated debate going on behind the closed doors, some voting for me and some against.   At last, Fedderson emerged from his office. 

He said, “Sorry about the wait, buddy.  I’ve got a vacation home in Palm Springs and, well, I had to look everywhere for these.”   He held up a jangle of keys.  “Since Barry’s going to be joining our family, I thought you might like to stay at my place.” 

That was one sweet way to start a holiday.   


Excerpt from Book, "The Importance of Being Ernie" - Chapter "Me and Elvis".