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Posts Tagged ‘Pee Wee’s Playhouse

No Joy…

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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)

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