‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Max Baer Jr. Emotionally Detailed the Close Relationship He Had with Buddy Ebsen

by Joe Rutland

Max Baer Jr. landed on “The Beverly Hillbillies” and developed quite a relationship, an almost fatherly one, with show star Buddy Ebsen.

Baer Jr., who played Jethro Bodine on the CBS smash-hit sitcom, said that Ebsen took on the role of a surrogate father to him. He talked about his close relationship with the veteran stage and film star in an interview with The Five Count radio show.

Ebsen took on the role “because my dad [heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer] had just died in 1959 and this is in 1962,” Baer Jr. said. “So he just took over for my dad. He was the same age as my dad, born in about the same time. [Ebsen] knew my dad pretty well. So it was pretty easy for me, for Buddy and I to become close.”

‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Attempted To Learn How To Sail With Ebsen

“The Beverly Hillbillies” ran for nine seasons on CBS, starting in 1962. The show featured Ebsen as Jed Clampett, Baer Jr. as Jethro, Irene Ryan as Granny, and Donna Douglas as Elly May. Ebsen and Baer Jr. had plenty of time to bond together, even when the young Baer tried to learn how to sail.

“I would go down there, he tried to teach me to sail on his 36-foot Labworth down in Balboa Island where he had a house,” Baer Jr. said. “As a sailor, I was a very good anchor.”

Baer Jr. recalled the first time he was out on the boat with Ebsen.

“He [Ebsen] said, ‘Now when the boat comes about,’ he says, ‘you just pull in on the winch.’ I said, ‘OK’ He said, ‘Make sure you pull in quick because if you don’t, the sail will fill up with air and be too hard to pull in.'”

What happened? Baer Jr. said the first time out with Ebsen didn’t go as planned.

“He said, ‘Comin’ about,'” Baer Jr. said. “I stood up. ‘What?’ Bang. The boom hit me and knocked me right in the ocean. And he was laughing. He said, ‘Well I guess you can forget about being a sailor, too.'”

CBS Sitcom Stars Would Find Time To Have Dinner Together

Baer Jr. said Ebsen would take him out to dinner once a week in those days.

“He had some little places he would take me to and sometimes at lunch, he had a little guy named George George who would come over and cook for him in his dressing room,” Baer Jr. said. “And he’d invite me up to his dressing room and have lunch with him.”

One thing “The Beverly Hillbillies” actor remembered is Ebsen enjoying his martinis during lunch.

“It got to where we would not have too much to do in the afternoon,” Baer Jr. said. “Because it was either a one- or two-martini lunch. Because if he had to remember some lines, it’d be a one-martini lunch.”

Baer Jr., at 83 years old, is the oldest living original cast member from “The Beverly Hillbillies.” The other cast members have all died. He, though, keeps the show’s light alive as do millions of its fans.