Thursday, April 30, 2009


(featuring many of the original, era commercials.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

BIL BAIRD'S "Alice In Wonderland"

I am loooooooong overdue for a posting about the late great puppet master of his domain; the marionette monarch of all he surveys, the one and only BIL BAIRD! I'm going to do a jam-packed post real soon, but right now his production of Alice In Wonderland has been floating around Cyberia, so this here is dedicated to that there.

After his wife CORA passed away, Bil despaired of ever finding a female puppeteer of superior skill to take her place. Then one day, answering an ad in the trades along with 300 other applicants, in walks OLGA FELGEMACHER. Olga is a graduate of Northwestern University, and she cut her puppetry teeth touring the country with the wonderful Nicolo Marionettes. Bil was her childhood idol, and there was no turning back. So, after stealing her courage, she climbed onto that FRICKIN' SCARY RAIL-LESS MARIONETTE BRIDGE and? Nailed it! For the next eight season, Olga became leading lady at the Bil Baird Marionette Theater in New York City and on multiple national tours.

Bil & Olga. Her first roles were Christopher Robin, Tigger and one of the two Cottleston Pie Mice in WINNIE THE POOH. Bil was Eeyore.

Olga went on to play the female lead in every production at the theatre (and most of the boy leads too, including Pinocchio), as well appearing on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and dozens of commercials. ALICE IN WONDERLAND was the last show Bil produced at his theater.
Autographed poster hangs in our living room.

Olga not only played the live-action Alice seen when the show opens . . .

. . . she also puppeteered and voiced both the marionette Alice and the Red Queen. . .


. . . in her Alice costume!!!!
It was great all around that Olga walked in that day and got to work so closely with the genius that was Bil Baird. I'm pretty lucky too. I met Olga right when Bil closed his theatre and she was working for the Muppets on Sesame Street & the first Muppet Movie. We fell in love, started our own Flexitoon company, I married her, we have a son Gabriel, and we're partners in everything this life has to offer.

Olga backstage in Alice costume.

Photos of Olga in her Alice costume by Steven Widerman

Saturday, April 25, 2009

THE JUKE BOX BAND "What's New Pussycat?"

In an attempt to modernize his arcade at SHINING TIME STATION, Schemer throws out the Juke Box (including the Little People Who Live Inside), and replaces it with a swingin' new Juke Box populated by a band called THE RAT PACK. Look for the hairy-chested Schemer freeze-framed below (Brian O'Connor) grooving to the beat almost.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


The first make-believe character I ever saw was JERRY MAHONEY:
A vibrant Jerry Mahoney assisted by the world's best ventriloquist PAUL WINCHELL on his NBC Children's Show.
The first puppet I ever saw was Sandy Becker's weather elf JINGLE DINGLE:

Only Sandy could make singing about the weather entertaining.

Then one afternoon, a COOCOO theme song came on WPIX Channel 11, accompanied by this picture:

The camera pedded up to reveal two of the most amazing make-believe characters I ever saw in my young life. I was captivated! These puppets (who called themselves Stan & Ollie) introduced a film, and there unspooled a live-action version of the puppets who were just talking to me: LAUREL & HARDY!
After the film (that showed these two charming idiots trying to carry a piano up an impossibly loooooooong flight of stairs,) the camera cut back to the puppets saying goodbye. Then - - wonder of wonders - - from below the magical playboard up pops a smiling man to add his "see ya next time." This was my introduction to CHUCK McCANN!
Chuck McCann is, as far as I'm concerned (based upon a lifetime of learned observation and partcipation in the field), the GREATEST HAND-PUPPETEER OF ALL TIME. He took what was ostensibly a "Punch & Judy" art form (one man, hand puppets, multiple voices) and launched it into the modern era. Chuck brought style and exuberance to his manipulation, and married it to quality voice characterizations (splitting back and forth between puppets in lightning-quick transitions.) His puppets were made by PAUL ASHLEY - - again to my mind - - the greatest hand-puppet maker of the 20th century. I had to meet this man and peer backstage, for through his world-of-wonder, I knew who I was.
Chuck is mentor, friend, and patron saint to this puppeteer.
More to come!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


International cinema producer/director VLAD UVULA visits the set of THE HAMPTOONS and screens his latest award-winning opus (subtitled).

Friday, April 17, 2009


Our good friend and fellow puppet conspirator, ALAN SEMOK, has been in contact with ubiquitous film archivist HOWARD BACAAAZEO, and after much cajoling (and Lord knows what else) convinced him to let us serialize his award-winning documentary "CAPTAIN KEVIN - - A KID SHOW RECALLED (BEING PART OF AN ONGOING CINEMATIC INVESTIGATION INTO THE MUTUAL MEDIA BROADCASTING SYSTEM - - YOUR KID'S OTHER HOME"). Personally I think he should have serialized the title, but this is great news. Alan says Howard is cutting the show into three, tasty ten-minute segments, and as soon as they're posted, I'll get them up here for everybody. All of you who grew up in the Mutual Media viewing area - - and for everyone who is a fan or student of early children's television, this is not to be missed. Please tell your friends to come by for a look-see.
I'll also post behind-the-scenes pictures and memorabilia (Semok actually has Captain Kevin's dock set up in his garage. Never fails to amuse visitors while being a constant source of embarrassment to his loved ones.) Below is a scan of the original Mutual Media Press Book cover circa 1965 (?)
HEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyyy. . . Alan just called and said that Howard has agreed to do some guest blogging as well! Based upon his close intimate hands-on knowledge of all Mutual's major players (producers $hel Marino & Roger Zeebach, make-up man Elmer Charles, business affairs chief Vince "Angelo" DeAngelo, and co-host of Ayem At Last Molly Molloy,) this should be a real fun swing into yesterday.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Our Tide Talking Stain was voted the Funniest Office Commercial in the World on TBS World's Funniest Office Commercials. You can see it here:

Friday, April 10, 2009


This was kind've a dream-come-true project. My own show from the same studio my heroes did their own shows from - - WNEW Channel 5 (though now it was WNYW-5 - a FOX O&O.)

We were on Sunday mornings from 9:00 - 10:00, and won awards and our time slot. In fact the station noticed that when our stuff was on the ratings did very well, but when we cut to a cartoon the kids cut out. So after about 7 weeks, we abandonded the cartoons and went to a straight comedy/fantasy format. DJ KAT starred along side his young girl companion Jennifer Davis (Carmen De La Paz.) Judging by the viewer mail, many in the audience would have liked to be along side his young girl companion too..

Like Sandy Becker portrayed HAMBONE. . .
. . .and Chuck McCann played LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE (definately more on this in the future!). . . . . . I also played several on-camera characters. One audience favorite was BRACKISH SWAMPWATER the villainous ventriloquist, aided and abetted by his wa-a-ay smarter cohort LUCKY STIFF. It was great to do ventriloquism on a kid show; didn't seem to be anyone one else doing it at that time.
(My make-up artists were CARMEN GEBBIA and JIM COLA, the same guys who did Sandy & Soupy & Chuck. Lots of great make-up chair stories!)

The series was an MGM production: that stands for MIDAS GELT MERKLE. Mr. Merkle was the station owner who was always trying to get rid of the Kat. One of the reasons the show came from a "basement" is because he was allergic to kids - - er - - kats.

Mister Merkle calls for help in dumping the Kat.

After winning the New York State Broadcasters Award for Outstanding Children's Series, FOX decided to cancel the Sunday show, and they asked Carmen to leave (which I wasn't too happy about!) and wanted me to create the first FOX KID'S CLUB. So now we were on daily from 3:00 - 6:00 hosting cartoons. It was a softer show, but fun, too.
I really enjoyed working at Channel 5 - - fulfilling that part of my destiny, and having an impact on children's television.

Watching playback.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009

WNEW + WNYC = Channel 5 New York

The Sandy Becker Show (Sandy's Street) was on WNEW Channel 5. (So was Soupy Sales and Chuck McCann.) When I was a kid I used to visit and watch them do their shows - - it was so exciting! One show would end, the cameras would then sweep around to another part of the studio and BOOM, next show was on. SUCH a turn on. I'd go home and make-believe my bedroom was Channel 5 and do my own shows (to my cardboard-box cameras.) Even painted a big 5 on my door. Well, fast-forward to 1989, WNEW is now WNYC FOX-5 and I'm doing my own series from the same studio. It was called the DJ KAT SHOW. I wrote and performed puppets and characters opposite a talented, charming and exuberant actress named Carmen DeLaPaz.
Here's the point of this post:
We inherited many of Sandy's puppets and memorabilia when he passed away, and the other day I laid my hands upon an ultra-rare contact sheet. One of the pictures in the group was taken in the exact same place at almost the exact same angle that my show came from. Below is a backstage shot of Sandy Becker puppeteering GeebaGeeba (wearing a tyroleon hat) and Wydeen the Witch, with Timmy Moriarty fronting out front. . .
And here from the same vantage point is Carmen (as Jennifer Davis) and me puppeteering DJ Kat backstage in a viewer's mail segment.
Crazy, huh? Like, remembering the future.
More DJ Kat foto's to follow. . .

Sunday, April 5, 2009


We shot The Hamptoons out in the Hamptons, and one day received word that hallowed kid show icon CAPTAIN KEVIN was fishing off Montauk Bay! At the urging of producer Mike Campbell, our puppeteer Alan Semok called Howard Bacaaazeo (film historian and unofficial Mutual Media Broadcasting System keeper-of-the-kinnies) who contacted Captain Kevin Show producers $hel Marino and Roger Zeebok, who in turn confirmed the sighting. Well, Alan tracked down Kevin and convinced him to make a guest appearance in the Hamptoons Underground TV Studio. Kenny picked up Kevin at the dock ("it was amazing that my first sighting of Kevin since the glory days of childhood was on his boat," a misty-eyed Kenny shared with us.) Surprisingly, CK arrived in costume (he said he travels everywhere with it. "Just in case.") Howard quickly cut together a montage from his award-winning documentary "THE CAPTAIN KEVIN SHOW - - A KID SHOW RECALLED" and it was a BLAST! Lunch was provided.

Captain Kevin looks pretty well life-preserved, doesn't he?

"Hello, my captain. Hello."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

THE HAMPTOONS (continued)


OLGA on bridge above the set. . .

. . . bringing QUACKERBOX to life!
But she still needs help with her lines.
ME, slipping into something more comfortable.
JONATHAN FREEMAN as the Hamptoons own Poet Lariat,
Xander Van Cerulean.
(He always liked tail, even if it's attached to SAM SIMIAN).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009