By Melissa Genson
How cool would it have been to have a dad like Porter Ricks, to live at Coral Key Park, Florida–and best of all, to have a smart dolphin like Flipper as a pet?
The Family Channel showed Flipper reruns when our daughter Katy was little, around the late 1980s to early 1990s. We would tape it and watch it with Steve in the evenings, after he got home from work. It really was a great family show. The original series had eighty-eight episodes, running from 1964-1967.
The best part about old shows like Flipper was that they made kids feel like the world was a safe place, and that the grown-ups were in charge. No matter what troubles befell Sandy, Bud, and Flipper, they would always know that their dad would save the day.
Not that Porter Ricks was a marshmallow dad. He was a strict disciplinarian, as well as a fun and devoted father.
How would today’s American culture deal with a dad who had no problem spanking his kids – even teenage Sandy?
Luke Halpin (Sandy Ricks) became a teenybopper heartthrob, gracing magazines like 16, Tiger Beat, and Teen Life. He also became a skilled swimmer and scuba diver, performing his own underwater stunts on the show.
The following “intimate” interview with Luke Halpin was from the February 1965 16 Magazine.
Halpin continued acting as an adult, including a role in the 1996 remake film Flipper, which starred 15 year old Elijah Wood as Sandy Ricks. He also worked as a stuntman and marine coordinator.
Tommy Norden played Sandy’s younger brother Bud. He continued acting through the early 1970s, including playing a doctor on daytime soap opera Search for Tomorrow.
The starring role of Flipper was actually played by a series of five female dolphins–Susie, Kathy, Patty, Scotty and Squirt. Females were chosen because they were more docile than males, and not scarred like most males by fighting.
Only the famous “tail walk” was performed by a male dolphin named Clown. The girls just couldn’t get the hang of it.
Flipper introduced audiences to future stars like Burt Reynolds, Martin Sheen, Barbara Feldon, Jessica Walter, Lynda Day George, David Soul, Robin Mattson, and Daniel J. Travanti.
Flipper was filmed at the Miami Seaquariam and at Key Biscayne, and occasional underwater shots were filmed at Nassau, Bahamas.
The Seaquariam still presents “The Flipper Show,” a dolphin show in the lagoon where the show was filmed.
Most episodes are available on YouTube for free, or on Hulu.
Let us know your favorite classic Flipper episode!
Whichever was your favorite…we’re guessing that Bud probably did something dumb and got into the soup big time with his dad.