Jesse Pearson: The Perfect Conrad Birdie
I was watching a few Bye Bye Birdie songs today. For me, they never get old. One Last Kiss is really my favorite from that movie. Other singers have done it: I had a tape I made from an album by Bobby Rydell with all the songs and his One Last Kiss was pretty good, but then you gotta love just about anything Rydell sings. The man has always had style.
You can also listen to Bobby Vee singing it on youtube. But no one does it quite the same as Jesse Pearson in the movie: “bay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-bee, just give me one last kiss.” An Amazon reviewer complains that on the soundtrack, although it does get sung all the way through, it’s totally different than in the movie.
There is scant information about Jesse online. Sadly, he is the only one in the Bye Bye Birdie cast who doesn’t have a wikipedia entry and I do hope someone who knew him corrects that omission someday. Doesn’t seem right.
UPDATE: Jesse got his wikipedia page in 2011
He really was the perfect Conrad in the film. People that say he wasn’t good in this role just don’t get it. The Birdie role parodies the many reactions to the hysteria surrounding Elvis Presley. It is supposed to convey the ‘what do they see in him’ from the adults, the screaming fainting women and girls as well as the resentment and jealousy from the guys whose girls were enamored with rock idols.
Jesse’s IMDB entry doesn’t even say how tall he was but in the musical, he towered over 5’5″ Ann Margret, who only came up to his shoulder, and was at least a whole head taller than 5’8″ Bobby Rydell. In the gym rehearsal scene, he is taller than Dick Van Dyke, which you can see when Dick is standing next to Pearson at one point (when Mareen Stapleton comes over). Van Dyke was reportedly 6’1″. But Jesse Pearson had boots with heels on, so it’s hard to say from that.
Jesse did reprise the teen idol role in two episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies as Johnny Poke, and he also played a pop singer, Keevy Hazelton, who changes up Aunt Bee and Clara’s song in The Andy Griffith Show.
I used to have a video from youtube on here with Jesse Pearson reciting Rod McKuen’s ‘Pushing the Clouds Away,” but it has been taken down. You can read More About Jesse Pearson on Rod McKuen’s Flight Plan (10 Oct 2002) The Sea: San Sebastian Strings is also available on Amazon.