item 1 >>> Now Playing… doody This tune was hot for a while in 1971…I always called it “Howdy, Howdy Doody” but its actual title is “Do You Know What Time It Is?”…by the P-Nut Gallery, on Buddha Records. It celebrated not the puppet’s return to TV, but to the college circuit. I read where Buffalo Bob did over 500 shows…typical of which was the LP taped lived at the Fillmore East.
item 2 >>> LQQK @ †h∆†!… edgar B. Edgar Bergen’s TV debut was a special on CBS, Thanksgiving, 1950…and for the occasion he debuted a new full-size dummy…the Southern Belle Podine Puffington. It’s pretty amusing…well, maybe a little wrong somehow, but don’t go there. This clip also features Mortimer Concentrate.
item 3 >>> Time To Vent…Speaking of ventriloquists, Buffalo Bob Smith wasn’t one…and never claimed to be. Yes, he did the voice for Howdy, and on early shows, you can sometimes see when they didn’t switch camera shots quick enough. Later he would pre-record Howdy’s lines. But here’s an LP that went along with the Goldberg Doll Company’s HD dummy…successor to the legendary Juro Company…that’s said to be from 1972, the lean years. Based on Buff’s costume, the time frame seems right…but don’t feel bad for him, he was the consummate huckster and proud of it. And here’s an interesting photo of Buffalo Bob and what looks like a plain doll…not a dummy or marionette. This is really early, the first version of his lion-tamer suit, soon replaced by the more common one, the light shirt with dark yoke and pockets….”Howdy Doody” written on one pocket, a picture of Howdy on the other. And why not? For many years HD himself wore a shirt with his head-shot all over it…and he was pictured on his own boots, too.
item 4 >>> Stripe-o-Doodle…We’ll try and put Zebras to bed with a quick look at Clarabell Hornblow, and the question: What color was his costume? In the early days of the 1st season of Puppet Playhouse…we’re talking January 1948, before it was renamed The Howdy Doody Show…Robert “Bobby” Keeshan was Bob Smith’s general factotum, keeping the kids quiet, handing out prizes, etc. In his sport coat & tie he would occasionally be seen on camera, until one exec reportedly remarked: “Who the hell is that? Get him a clown suit or something.” The original setting was a circus…it would eventually morph into a “club-house.” The story goes that the NBC wardrobe department had 2 clown costumes…polka dots and zebra stripes…and what color were his stripes?
item 5 >>> Color My World…Maybe…The simple answer is: red before C-Day, green after…C-Day being Sept. 12, 1955, the day the show went full-color 5 days a week, and this date coincided with Buffalo Bob returning to the show full time after his heart attack. There had been test colorcasts…the first was in June of 1953…but this was for good…Everyone in Doodyville is shouting hurray…remember? The history of color TV is fascinating, and I’ll get to it one of these days. But Howdy was the poster-boy for the eventual move to all-color programming…which wouldn’t happen for another 10 years…and it represented the victory of the RCA compatible color system. NBC TV was owned by RCA, and their system was called “compatible” because it could be seen on black-and-white sets. Others couldn’t, and you’d think that would have been a no-brainer, but that’s not how business works. Hey, they can just buy a whole new set if they wanna see color, what’s wrong with that? said the competitors. And believe it or not, there was much debate over whether color TV was really worth all the trouble. It was seriously argued that sports for example, didn’t need to be in color…and commercials…was the extra expense really worth it? 3D TV anyone?
item 6 >>> The TV Bright Light Blues…The whole palette of the show changed on C-Day, obviously. The Buf’s pioneer suit went from buckskin tan with dark brown piping to contrasting shades of light blue…altho not “Television Blue.” That was a special hue that came out the best-looking “white” on black-and-white TV, and men’s dress shirts were actually marketed at the time in “Television Blue.” And as far as I can determine, Clarabell was green thru the end of the show’s run…(B) also shows Buffalo Bob in his orange-white-and-red getup, introduced in the final season…and taken out of moth-balls for his appearance on Happy Days ( C) where the clown is inexplicable red. But he was back in green on the 1976 revival show, where the Buff debuted his red suit. And it this is how they looked in subsequent appearances (D) until the day they died. Except nothing is ever simple, is it? And (A) shows Clarabell on the cover on the “Howdy Doody Christmas” 78 record…in green…in 1950, 5 years before the color change!
item 7 >>> Stripe-o-Doodle II…(E) is from the HD Christmas film short from 1951, and he’s back to his regular red…this is perhaps the only pre-C-Day live action footage in color. All other color evidence comes from still photos, like (G), one of several HD Christmas cards from the early 1950s. Then there’s (F)…looks blue doesn’t it?…and this was the uniform style Buffalo Bob wore from late 1952 thru C-Day. Now all the other colors look right, but I know color photo-reproduction can be tricky…there are color pictures where the Buff’s tan-and-brown suit looks gray-and-black…but even if blue is really green, it should be red! (H) is an example of a blue Clarabell…from my research, toys and books almost always colored him red or blue, hardly ever green. An there’s even a hand-puppet where Clarabell is dressed in…wait for it…polkas dots!…bringing it all full circle in an inadvertent way, I guess…
item 8 >>> Hot Stove League Update…Football is DEAD TO ME…well, until next Fall of course. Baseball rosters shaping up, and didja notice? Johnny Damon and Manny-being-Manny are reunited on the Detroit Tigers…that should be interesting. And Perfecto Galarraga traded to the D-Backs. You know, I hear that and I draw a blank…Phoenix, Denver, Tampa, and Miami just don’t seem like real baseball teams somehow. Am I the only Baby Boomer who feels that way? There’s still not enough history, back-story if you will, on these franchises for anything to register when they’re mentioned. Even the Washington Nationals get grandfathered-in, sort of…the Senators was sub-nicknamed the Nats…and I still think of the New Nats as the Old Expos.
item 9 >>> Comfortable Cats…I posted this picture on Facebook last week to the general merriment of all. Remember, cats have 3 rules: (1) Eat everything…every crumb. (2) It does no harm to ask for what you want. (3) We’re comfortable, so shut up!…And as I pointed out to my FB mates, when Mel Brooks and Buck Henry were putting Get Smart together, well…I’ll put it this way: “99” was their second choice for Barbara Feldon’s “name,” or so the story goes and it sounds right to me. I mean, Al Capp got away with “Appassionata Von Climax”…Ian Fleming had “Pussy Galore”…and after all, this was the Anything-Goes 60s, right? Well, not anything, apparently…too bad they didn’t number Max “77”…you know, like, you get 8 more… 😉 😉
item 10 >>> Between Ooragnak & Kangaroo…Robert Keeshan left his Clarabell gig on Howdy Doody because he was fired…not because he just chose to leave, and not because he had no talent. I’ve seen the shows, and he was fine as the clown…and great as the Captain too…nothing succeeds like success…it lasted into the 1980s, on PBS at the end. Captain Kangaroo debuted October 3rd, 1955 on CBS, the same folks that turned down Keeshan & crew’s pitch for a new puppet show after they were gone from Howdy in late Dec. 1952. But Keeshan landed on his feet…in the role of Corny the Clown, starting in Sept. 1953 on WABC, Channel 7 in New York City. And he even got to talk! He’s seen here with his dog Pudgy, who was in reality the Keeshan family pet. Soon after, he started a second show Tinker’s Workshop as a grandfatherly figure entertaining even younger children. These shows convinced CBS this guy had national potential, and he left them in the Summer of 1955 to start working on the Captain show. BTW, Ooragnak was the Indian tribe Chief Thunderthud belonged to…well, most of the time…
Couple of Howdy Doody trinkets. On the left, a “15” puzzle…saw these in stores, but only had so much money. In my college days I used to carry a number one around and do mathematical patterns…sort of like texting to nobody…talk about being ahead of your time. On the right is a unlicensed target game made overseas…a puppet working puppets? That’s the Second Plateau!
Other Daily blog at http://stolf.wordpress.com (Stolf’s Blog)
Resume and audio samples at http://home.rr.com/mastolfi