Dressed in a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, Dow still looks about as fit as the teenage Wally did. But you probably wouldn't recognize him as that character otherwise — except for an occasional Wally expression or mannerism.
People who stop him while he walks through his picturesque neighborhood are more likely to ask about his dog Bodie, a dreadlocked Bergamasco Shepherd. It's in the hills of his neighborhood that Dow finds much of the rough-hewn, bark-covered wood known as burl that he carves into intricately detailed sculptures.
Dow is often described as an abstract artist, but a tour of his adjacent home studio shows numerous pieces reflecting a pop art and modern style as well.
The artist himself says he's never paid much attention to labels, although he does cite as major influences the great 19th century French sculptor Auguste Rodin and the modern British abstract artist Henry Moore.
“A lot of people say his work is Rodinish, but it's all Tony,” says pop artist Stephano Sutherlin, who has staged several exhibitions of Dow's sculptures at his own gallery in Little Rock, Ark.
“He doesn't copy anybody,” Sutherlin said by phone from the gallery. “He likes certain people, but it's his own work, and he's very well-respected.”
Dow, who painted as a youngster, began sculpting more than 30 years ago when he was still acting and directing. He planned to get serious about it when he retired from television.
“The dream was to get a barn space somewhere at the beach and have a studio,” he says. But the beach turned out to be too expensive, and he and his wife instead settled in Topanga in the late 1980s.
It was 12 years ago that art took front and center in his life. Dow laughs when he remembers the day when he decided it was time to take the leap from acting to sculpting. He was up for a role in a TV show and a 28-year-old executive asked, “Have you ever done comedy before?” recalls Dow, co-star of one of the most classic TV comedies in history.
“Well, I sort of looked at him and I thought, ‘Hmmm, maybe it is time for me to retire. Maybe it is time to take the art seriously.“'