Friday, January 18, 2008
Local TV Nostalgia
Talk about things you couldn't do without the internet, how about local TV shows you watched as a kid fifty years ago?
In my misspent youth, there was one TV station in Baton Rouge. A couple years later, there came to be a second -- these were, respectively, WAFB, and WBRZ. (If you were lucky and had a father who was an electrical engineer who liked to do things like motorize your TV antenna, you could just barely get WDSU, out of of New Orleans.)
The local stations had local programming: Most notable were Buckskin Bill, (Bill Black) on WAFB, starting in the early-fifties, and Count Macabre, on WBRZ, in the early sixties. These were the mainstays of afternoon viewing, and along with probably ten thousand other local kids, I was several times on both of these shows.
My first appearance on television, at age seven, came as a Cub Scout, on Buckskin's afternoon show. (He had one in the morning, too.) I played Robin Hood in a skit, and carried Little John (the likeable but detestable Davy Morgan) across the imaginary river on my back. No speaking part, alas.
Probably did Buckskin's show six or eight times over the years. There's a great, almost certainly, apocryphal story about an episode when Buckskin, talking to a group of Cub Scouts as he did frequently, had one of the lads ask if he could tell a joke.
(Buckskin's show was live-and-direct as he liked to say. No tape delay.)
Buckskin figured, what-the-heck, a seven-year-old? Go ahead.
Kid said, "So, how is a woman like a frying pan?"
Apparently ole Buckskin hadn't heard that one, but alarm bells went off and he was considering how to respond when the kid blurted out, "You have to get them both hot before you put the meat in!"
Oh, crap! "T-T-Time for a P-P-Popeye cartoon!"
Buckskin for years signed off with "Remember, Baton Rouge needs a zoo!" and over that time, kids sent in pennies enough to buy the first elephant when the zoo finally was built. Two elephants, actually.
Buckskin ended each episode with a bit of Choctaw, and "Chikama, Scouts!" Buckskin was a stand-up guy, and much beloved. Last I heard, he was on the Parish school board.
Count Macabre (Jay Marlborough) dressed in ghoulish gear and make-up and hosted a horror theater in the afternoons, starting in '63 or '64 He started out playing it straight, but quickly camped it up. "Pay attention out there!" was his catch phrase. He even ran for Governor one year. I was on his show a couple times, the last being as part of the cast of Oklahoma!
He told us a joke when we were on: "Want to see my imitation of Frank Sinatra?" Whereupon he put his top hat over his hand and held it up. If you are old enough, you know why this is funny. Not very funny, but a little.
Doing a riff on Buckskin, the Count would sometimes end his show by saying, "Remember, Baton Rouge is a zoo!"
Ah, the good old days. Oprah? No way.