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.
More to come!