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    Talented Stephen Talbot Wears Many Hats, From Leave It to Beaver to Producing Award-Winning Documentaries

    By Jan Wahl–

    I’ve been a hat girl from childhood to womanhood. It all started with Bette Davis walking down the gangplank after her transition from ugly duckling to swan in Now, Voyager to three strippers in Gypsy telling Natalie Wood that if she wants to make it as a stripper, “You gotta have a gimmick.” I always thought hats were not only stylish but also took courage to wear—if you did it right.

    Which all brings us to a guy who wears many hats: producer, reporter, and writer Stephen Talbot. He was also a child actor on the iconic Leave It to Beaver sitcom. He played Gilbert, the Beave’s blonde best friend. He told me for the San Francisco Bay Times, thinking back on those days: “I was raised with actors in the family. My dad, Lyle Talbot, made a huge number of films and then became a regular on Ozzie and Harriet. From 9 to 14, I was in all the shows filming at that time (such as Perry Mason—not aware that Raymond Burr was gay; Wanted Dead or Alive—star Steve McQueen seemed so detached and cool.)”

    He added, “I did fifty plus episodes of Beaver and became good friends with Jerry Mathers, the Beave. Tony Dow was so handsome; he had gay and straight fans everywhere, and was a great swimmer. His mother was a stuntwoman in early Hollywood, including working with Clara Bow. I know your favorite, Jan, is Ken Osmond as Eddie Haskell. He was always mean to me in the scripts so I thought of him as a bully. But (in real life) he was a really nice guy and became a cop. There was a huge urban myth that he was actually a porn star. He was way too square for that.”

    “It was a fun time to be working in Hollywood,” Stephen continued. “Tuesday Weld had this Rebel Without a Cause attitude when I rode with her to the set of Because They’re Young. She had her hair in a towel and my jaw was on the floor. Barbara Stanwyck was the only actor who actually intimidated me, but she was so kind when I went up on my lines. I think my father may have known her off screen … he was a ladies’ man. When Stanwyck met my mother, she gave Mom kind of the up and down. You know, like, “So, that’s what Lyle married.'”

    Lyle was in his eighties when he moved to San Francisco. I was so fortunate to spend some time with this sophisticated older actor. The Castro Theatre showed Three on a Match, the great 1932 film noir starring Bette Davis and Lyle. Try to find that one on the internet; it is beyond great and gritty. Anyway, Lyle’s loving family took him to the Castro to see it. His name was on the marquee and, of course, he received a wonderful reception from the crowd. He fell in love with our city then and there, living here until his passing at 94.

    By that time, Stephen had long left acting. His career has since flourished as a broadcast journalist for KQED/PBS, including as a Frontline contributor with more than 40 documentaries and too many awards to list. He said, “Right now, I ‘m working on The Movement and the Madman. I know it sounds like Trump, but it is a deep dive into Nixon and the anti-war movement. Nixon had a madman strategy: escalate the war in Vietnam (by) threatening with bombs, floods, and even nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the anti-war movement was having huge demonstrations, including the Moratorium. That one was everywhere, a quarter of a million (demonstrators were) here in Golden Gate Park. David Mixner was one of our four national leaders. He’s very instrumental in the LBGTQ community. (The story) is told by people who were there, using newscasts, interviews, and archival footage. Look for it in 2023.”

    Stephen knows I am a fan of the documentary Current Affairs: The Case of Dashiell Hammett that he did in 1982, starting at KQED and ending up very popular nationally on PBS. The documentary explains this remarkable writer to us, the creator of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man. Steve also did a documentary on aviator Beryl Markham, from her days as a bush pilot for Ernest Hemingway to her famed African memoirs. Moscone: A Legacy of Change is a portrayal not only of our brave and liberal Mayor Moscone, but also of his colleague and friend Harvey Milk. Moscone appointed Milk as a city commissioner and they were longtime political allies until the tragic last chapter. All of these documentaries are available by digging in the internet, and are examples of Stephen’s passion and talent.

    There are two other excellent writers in Stephen’s family. His brother David Talbot wrote the best-selling Season of the Witch:  Enchantment, Terror and Deliverance in the City of Love. Sister Margaret Talbot gave us the richly detailed The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century. Whoa! All that talent in one family. Write on!

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian, film critic on various broadcast outlets, and has her own YouTube channel series, “Jan Wahl Showbiz.” She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at

    Off the Wahl
    Published on September 8, 2022