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Posts Tagged ‘Howdy Doody

No Joy…


For over half a century, from 1949, Joyland was Wichita’s family fun park… Toddlers could ride one of the oldest miniature steam trains in the U.S.; grade school kids could bring their reports cards and trade A’s of B’s for ride tickets; and teens could get an adrenaline rush in the Whacky Shack or on “Nightmare”– an H.P. Schmeck-designed wooden roller coaster, one of only 44 original coasters designated as an ACE Coaster Classic… it was central Kansas’ Xanadu, its Oz, its… well, its Joy-Land.

But Joyland is no more; in 2003, it closed for the last time.

Photographer Mike Petty returned recently to the park; the resulting montage is an essay on the fragility of fantasy and the inexorable erosion of time.

The history of Joyland and photos of the park in its prime (and after) are here.

And for a different kind of desolation on the midway, readers should check out Carnival of Souls, a 60s masterpiece that is available in the Criterion Collection (and thus streaming on Hulu Plus and Amazon– and for free here).

As we make sure that we keep our heads down and our hands inside the cart, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that The Pinky Lee Show aired for the last time.  Lee, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, had parlayed a career as a “baggy pants” burlesque comedian into a brief 1950 run with a variety show on NBC.  He returned in 1954 with the children’s show that made him famous (he was the lead-in for Howdy Doody).  But Lee’s success was short lived:  he collapsed on camera in late 1955.  The show continued without him, but was never the same; it was cancelled on this date the following year.  Though his abrupt disappearance spawned wide-spread rumors of his demise, Lee returned to television in 1957 as the host of Gumby.  And of course his influence stretched well into the future, helping set the tone of, for example, Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

    Yoo hoo, it’s me,
My name is Pinky Lee.
I skip and run with lots of fun
For every he and she.
It’s plain to see
That you can tell it’s me
With my checkered hat
And my checkered coat,
The funny giggle in my throat
And my silly dance
Like a billy goat.
Put ’em all together,
Put ’em all together,
And it’s whooooo?
(Audience): Pinky!

– Pinky’s opening song

Pincus Leff, aka “Pinky Lee” (source)

Death AND Taxes…

See the full infographic (of which the above is just an excerpt), and larger, here.

As we reconsider Nicorette, we might wish the cheeriest of birthdays to Bob Keeshan, who was born on this date in 1927.  While he is, of course, best remembered as Captain Kangaroo, his place in television history was assured by an earlier role:  he was the original “Clarabell the Clown” on Howdy Doody.  Keeshan retired from Captain Kangaroo after a heart attack in the early Eighties; he died in 2004.

The Captain

Gumby: “Do you want to try it, Pokey?” Pokey: “No thanks, I prefer grass”…

source: L.A. Times

If you have a heart, Gumby’s a part of ***YOU!***
– Gumby Theme Song

Art Clokey, the creator of the whimsical clay figure Gumby, died in his sleep Friday at his home in Los Osos, Calif., after battling repeated bladder infections, his son Joseph said. He was 88.

Clokey and his wife, Ruth, invented Gumby in the early 1950s at their Covina home shortly after Art had finished film school at USC. After a successful debut on “The Howdy Doody Show,” Gumby soon became the star of its own hit television show, “The Adventures of Gumby,” the first to use clay animation on television.

After an initial run in the 1950s, Gumby enjoyed comebacks in the 1960s as a bendable children’s toy, in the 1980s after comedian Eddie Murphy parodied the kindly Gumby as a crass, cigar-in-the-mouth character in a skit for “Saturday Night Live” and again in the ’90s with the release of “Gumby the Movie.”

Today, Gumby is a cultural icon recognized around the world. It has more than 134,000 fans on Facebook…

Instead of flowers, the family suggests contributions in Gumby’s name to the Natural Resources Defense Council, of which Art Clokey was a longtime member.

“Gumby was green because my dad cared about the environment,” his son said.

Read the whole story in the L.A. Times (January 9, 2010), more about Art here, and more about Gumby here.

As we recall that in the end we’re all “just clay,” we might raise a toast to the Pragmatist-in-Chief– American psychologist and philosopher William James (brother of novelist Henry James and of diarist Alice James); William was born this date in 1842.  James’ theories of interrelations– recognized in his day as importantly novel, but problematically weird– seemed, on the heels of Einstein’s work, to have been positively prophetic.

William James

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