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Stanley Fafara, 54; 'Whitey' on 'Beaver'

Obituaries

September 27, 2003|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

Stanley Fafara, who played Jerry Mathers' pal "Whitey" on "Leave It to Beaver" but led a far-from-idyllic life as an adult who battled drugs and alcohol, has died. He was 54.

Fafara, a recovering heroin addict who contracted hepatitis C, died Sept. 20 in a hospital in Portland, Ore., after complications from surgery in late August.

Fafara had been living in a single-room occupancy building in Portland's skid row, paying $153 a month for his 12-by-12 room out of his Social Security disability check of $475 a month.

The former child actor had been clean and sober since 1995, said Tom Hallman Jr., a reporter for the Portland Oregonian, who had kept in touch with Fafara after writing a lengthy profile of him last December.

During his interview with Hallman, Fafara chronicled his life after "Leave It to Beaver," the family sitcom that ran from 1957 to 1963.

"My life was a blessing and a curse," Fafara said. "At one time I had money.... There were times when I'd walk around with $16,000 in my pocket."

Growing up in Studio City, he was pushed into acting by his mother. He appeared in his first commercial when he was 4 and later had parts in numerous TV Westerns.

His mother took him and his brother, Tiger, to an open casting call for "Leave It to Beaver," and they were both hired: Stanley as Hubert "Whitey" Whitney and his brother as Tooey, one of Wally Cleaver's friends.

After the series ended, Fafara went to North Hollywood High School. He said he later lived briefly in a house with members of the rock band Paul Revere and the Raiders. He also started drinking daily and cashed in on his TV fame.

"Drugs, money, women. I got all of them because I was Whitey," he said.

His parents sent him to live with his artist sister in Jamaica. He started painting, but he continued to drink and use drugs. Returning to Los Angeles at 22, he began dealing drugs. He married, but later divorced.

By the early '80s he was breaking into pharmacies. After his seventh robbery he was arrested and bailed out of jail by his parents. He was caught committing another burglary, convicted and sentenced to a year in jail.

After his release, he worked variously as a roofer, a waiter and a janitor before he began dealing drugs again. He moved to Portland with a girlfriend, lived in a motel room and shot up heroin. When he told street people he had once been Whitey on "Leave It to Beaver," many didn't believe the nearly toothless man who weighed less than 130 pounds.

But in 1995, he entered a detox center, then graduated to a clean-and-sober house for alcoholics and addicts.

When Hallman met him last year, Fafara was short and stocky, with slicked-back gray hair and a weathered face.

As the two men walked up to Fafara's room, Fafara stopped at the door, where a piece of paper inside a metal frame bore the words "Last Chance."

"I put it there," Fafara said. "I want to see it every time I leave here and lock the door. I've been to all kinds of clean-and-sober houses. Twenty years and they just never took. This is my last chance. If I fail, I'll have to set up shop on the street."

Hallman said Friday that Fafara couldn't work without losing his disability check.

"He was at peace, but just not kind of doing much," said Hallman, adding, however, that Fafara remained upbeat.

"He really had a good spirit."

Among Fafara's survivors are a daughter and a grandchild.

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