Mathers first worked at the age of 2 as a model and then switched to acting. He was the child who discovered the body in the opening scene of Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry. For years he was known as an experienced professional who did good work on the first take.
His seven years on the Beaver show were happy and normal ones, he says, even though he went to school at the studio. "I just got home at five or six instead of three like other kids."
When the show was dropped, Mathers went on to parochial high school, where he played football, did a hitch in the Air National Guard and then majored in philosophy at Berkeley. He met Diana Piatt there, and they were married in 1974. (While he was in college a rumor spread all over the country that he had been killed in Vietnam. "People sent letters of condolence and flowers to my family," he recalls.)
Beaver is still in syndication here and overseas, but it brings him only ego gratification and occasional fan mail—no residuals: "We were paid only for the first seven showings. Right now MCA makes hundreds of thousands a year, and their largest expense is shipping the film." However, Mathers salted his TV earnings into L.A. real estate and appears to have few financial worries.
He hasn't retired totally from public view. He makes occasional appearances at colleges, where he runs old films and answers questions from students who grew up with Leave It to Beaver.
Mathers and Diana, a teacher, live in a three-bedroom ranch house. Typical suburbanites, they like to ride bikes, garden and go to the beach. Mathers also plays baseball with a group of neighborhood buddies. "I don't watch much TV," he says.
As a kid he trailed after Eddie Haskell, Lumpy Rutherford and Larry Mondello on the Leave it to Beaver TV series, back in the days (1957-1963) when boys could be boys instead of bionic superheroes. Today Jerry Mathers, alias the Beaver, is 28 years old and has just left a bank job to study for the California real estate exam. For the last two years he worked in the San Fernando Valley, supervising tellers and watching over armored car deliveries. Now he has had several job offers from real estate firms but will wait until after the exam to decide. He's glad he had the bank experience, he says, "so I don't look like some flaky actor."