In the mid-1960s Paul Brinegar's name was thrown around a lot in Hollywood, but not in the way you would think. During his time as Wishbone on Rawhide, Brinegar's beard was a hot topic. It even made a few headlines in the newspapers.
The Rawhide star was in more than 215 episodes and played the role of the sometimes bad-tempered cook on the ranch.
In a 1964 interview with The Ithaca Journal, Brinegar explained that before he grew the beard, many roles were hard to come by. He would typically have to settle for small roles such as a delivery boy or a bank clerk.
"I didn't realize what a gimmick a beard could be," he said. "I shaved it off a couple of years ago (during two months' vacation from the show) and dropped in on our production office. No one recognized me, including Richard Whorf, who had directed me several times."
For Brinegar, it was more than just a beard. The beard helped make Wishbone. With Brinegar in the role as Wishbone, it allowed for the character to have more depth.
"It proved something to me," he said. "I'm destined to wear a beard from now on. After six years, I've passed the point of no return."
At the time of this interview, he and his wife had been married for two years. He and makeup artist Shirley Talbot met on the set of Rawhide. A beared Brinegar is all she knew.
"She's never seen me without a beard but says she prefers it," he said.
He said he figures fans of Wishbone feel the same way. So, the beard stayed.
In a 1964 interview with Portland Press Herald, Brinegar said he was unable to get a good part until he began to let his beard grow.
"And at the same time the hair on my head started to fall out," he added.
Beard, or no beard. Brinegar brought Wishbone to life on Rawhide. As for his success, Brinegar was as much of a showstopper as his beard was.
"I get letters every once in awhile from old trail cooks who seem to know just what kind of life I lead trying to feed those cowboys," he said. "If they really knew how bad a cook I was they'd be writing sympathy letters to the cowboys!"