TV Show Draft Pick – The Honeymooners

For my next pick in the Hanspostcard TV Show Draft, I chose a show that is one of my all time favorites. I don’t remember when I first was introduced to this show, but I am guessing my dad had something to do with it. Early on in the draft, I chose Police Squad, which only aired 6 episodes. This show is known for its “Classic 39” – The Honeymooners.

This isn’t my first blog about the show. Some time ago, I took part in a “Favorite TV Episode” Blogathon and picked 2 of my favorite episodes to present. You can read that blog here:

When you examine 50’s TV shows, there was very little struggle involved. Think about it. I Love Lucy, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Andy Griffith Show, and Leave it to Beaver all showed families who were living in nice homes or apartments, showed no signs of financial struggles, and while there may be a misunderstanding here and there, it was mostly “bliss.” In 1955-1956, however, The Honeymooners focused on two couples from New York, who were struggling to get by.

The show focused on the lives of Ralph (Jackie Gleason) and Alice Kramden (Audrey Meadows), and Ed (Art Carney) and Trixie Norton (Joyce Randolph). One article I found on the show says this about Gleason’s Kramden character: Ralph was the get-rich-quick scheming, short-tempered, soft-hearted guy who was always striving for greatness, but never made it out of that two-room Brooklyn apartment. And that’s one of the main attractions for even the most casual of viewers: the characters are so identifiable. As Jackie himself said at the time, “Everything we did could have happened. People like the show, because we are them.”

The show began as a simple sketch on the DuMont Television Network, on the Cavalcade of Stars. The original hosts were Jack Carter and Jerry Lester, but in July of 1950 comedian Jackie Gleason took over the hosting duties. In the process, Gleason took the struggling show and turned it around to be a hit. The show, which featured comedy skits and a number of different performers each week, was broadcast live in front of a theater audience. In 1951, Jackie and his writers came up with the idea for a sketch called The Honeymooners. It was about a struggling couple living in Brooklyn who frequently fought, but in the end, there was no question that they loved each other.

Leonard Stern was a writer on both The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show. In an interview with the Archive of American Television he stated, “We started doing one sketch of The Honeymooners every five or six weeks and the response of people on the street was tremendous. So we started doing them every other week. Eventually, though, everyone, including Jackie, lost interest in the other characters in the different sketches, so we started to do them every week until the fatigue level hit its high and we’d have to take a break. I think Gleason had fun doing them, because he recognized the impact Kramden and Alice and Norton and Trixie were having on the audience. I’m not a great fan of ratings, but let me say that 53% of the total television audience was watching the show. There’s nothing like that in existence today. It was astonishing and the show itself was live. Remember, the audience of 3,000 people filled that theater. You earned your laughs. It was a resounding success and very exhilarating for all of us. It was opening night every week.”

When Gleason left the Dupont Network and went to CBS, he hosted the Jackie Gleason Show, where the Honeymooners sketches continued. In the 1952 season, the sketches usually ran between seven and 13 minutes. In the following season, and those sketches ran for a minimum of 30 minutes, and sometimes longer. Then, in the 1954-55 season, they actually filled the entire hour of The Jackie Gleason Show, and was doing so well in the ratings that it occasionally surpassed the viewership of I Love Lucy. That is almost unheard of!

In the 1955-56 season, The Jackie Gleason Show literally became The Honeymooners! It aired as a half-hour sitcom that was filmed in front of a studio audience. In total, 39 episodes were produced, and these episodes are the ones that are still being broadcast today. These 39 episodes are the ones that most people remember.

I read an article that said Jackie Gleason had actually been given a three-year contract from CBS for 78 episodes of The Honeymooners to be produced in the first two seasons. The contract also included an option for a third season of 39 more. For whatever it is worth, Gleason felt the quality of the scriptwriting couldn’t be maintained, and the show was mutually canceled by him and CBS.

A Closer Weekly article says: What’s particularly impressive about The Honeymooners living on the way it has is the fact that back in the day, there needed to be a minimum of 100 episodes of a show available so that local stations could run it five days a week. Any less made syndication difficult, since the cycle would be repeated that much sooner. But then there was The Honeymooners, with a mere 39 episodes to offer up, yet it worked. And continues to do so.

In a 1996 appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Jackie was asked why the show ended. He told Carson, “We were running out of ideas. I liked The Honeymooners and I liked doing them, and I didn’t want to denigrate them by forcing scenes that didn’t mean anything. So I wanted to quit, but they didn’t believe me. They thought I had another job someplace, but I didn’t. I’m glad I did stop them, because what we had done was good and if we had gone any further, we might have spoiled it.”

Those “Classic 39” are classic for a reason. They are still funny. The situations that The Kramdens and the Nortons muddle through every week will make you laugh, cry, think, and smile. They still hold up today. Each one of them has memorable scenes and quotable lines.

In one episode Ralph tells his boss he is a great golfer and is immediately asked to go play a round with him. Now Ralph needs to learn how to play – and fast. He finds the perfect teacher in his best friend Ed Norton. In pure Art Carney fashion, Ed reads from a book that you must “address the ball,” to which he takes the club, stands in front of the ball, looks down and says, “Hello, Ball!”

An episode of the show was featured in the movie Back To The Future. When Marty McFly winds up in 1955, a family is watching the episode The Man From Space. Intending to win the $50 first prize at the Racoon Lodge’s costume ball, Ralph decides to create his own outfit. And what an outfit! After appropriating (among other things) a faucet, a pot, a radio tube and the icebox door, he presents himself as the Man from Space.

In another episode, Alice says she wants to go dancing. Ralph has Ed come over to teach him how to dance. Ralph’s outfit is hilarious (he tells Alice it is “what all us cats wear! I’m hip!”). The dance (to the song The Hucklebuck) is worth the watch.

To me, sometimes the funniest stuff can be as simple as Ralph’s face …

In another classic episode, Ralph and Norton appear on a TV commercial trying to sell their Handy Housewife Helper, a kitchen gadget that can, among other things, open cans, remove corns and “core a apple.” In the inspired, ad-lib-laden episode, “Chef of the Future” Ralph demonstrates the wonders of the gizmo to “Chef of the Past” Norton. Rehearsal goes great, but in front of live cameras, Ralph freezes up.

Art Carney was the perfect second banana. The play between him and Gleason is classic. In one episode Norton’s sleepwalking becomes a waking nightmare for Ralph. Ralph can’t get any sleep because he’s been asked to keep his pal from wandering off on late-night strolls around the neighborhood.

Another classic episode takes place at the pool hall where Ralph gets into an argument with the diminutive guy named George. “My friend is even bigger than me,” he tells Ralph. “I have a friend Shirley that’s bigger than you,” Ralph counters. But then he comes eye-to-chin with George’s friend, the towering Harvey, who challenges Ralph to a fight. This prompts Norton to observe: “He’s even bigger than your friend Shirley.”

Many of the plot lines from the classic episodes made it into the Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy novelty hit “The Honeymooners Rap.”

In the 1980’s, Jackie Gleason announced that in his vault he had found a number of Honeymooners skits from The Jackie Gleason Show that had been shot on Kinescope, which is a way of filming directly through a lens that actually focused on the screen of a video monitor. 107 of those skits were released on DVD and syndicated to television stations. These would have been shot before the “Classic 39” and two of them stand out to me.

Jackie had been a guest star on the Jack Benny show, so Jack makes an appearance in one of those “lost” episodes as the Kramden’s landlord. The rent is being raised and Ralph is mad. When there is a knock on the door, Ralph opens it and Jack Benny is standing there. The audience chuckles in anticipation. Ralph calls to Alice that “the Landlord’s here” and the audience erupts. Benny stands there quietly as Ralph reads him the riot act! He calls him a “penny pincher” (which plays into Benny’s “cheap” character”) and says that he pinches a penny so hard that when he is through “both heads and tails are on the same side of the coin!”

In another lost episode, Ralph must lose weight for work. All through the episode he is starving. Finally, he is left alone in the apartment and sitting at the kitchen table. He notices a cake pan. He lifts the lid and sees the cake. His eyes bulge and he goes nuts. As he is about to tear into the cake Alice walks in. “Everybody get back,” he yells! The brief 3 minutes of him staring at the cake before getting ready to eat it is comedy genius!

As brilliant as Jackie Gleason was as Ralph Kramden, he never won an Emmy Award for it. Art Carney, however, won 5 Emmy’s for Best Supporting Actor on The Honeymooners and the Jackie Gleason Show.

The Honeymooners influenced a huge 1960’s cartoon – The Flintstones. It is a blatant rip off of the show, and was a huge hit. It is said that Gleason considered suing Hanna-Barbera Productions because of the similarities, but decided that he did not want to be known as “the guy who yanked Fred Flintstone off the air”

The Honeymooners is over 65 years years old! Joyce Randolph, who played Trixie Norton is 97 years old and still going strong. I wonder if Gleason ever thought that those 39 episodes would still find an audience today and that they would still bring much laughter.

In 1990, Audrey Meadows joined Bob Costas on Later to discuss the show. You can see that footage here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKhMKQaqn7w

If you have never seen an episode, I encourage you to do so. The two episodes I mentioned in a previous blog are good places to start – TV or Not TV or A Matter of Record. Most are available on Youtube.

Thanks for reading!

Tunes from Toons

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I spent a lot of time in the car with my sons this past weekend.  My oldest son asked me if I remembered some of the shows he used to watch as a kid.  We began listing the shows he and his brother watched and had many laughs as we remembered specific episodes.  This led to us talking about songs from shows. With every song we recalled, the more I thought about the possibility of it being a topic for a blog.

The picture above may be a little misleading.  The Beatles cartoons all featured a Beatles song.  There were cartoons that were about bands like Josie and the Pussycats, Jabberjaw, Butch Cassidy, The Banana Splits, The Archies, and The Chipmunks.  I am not talking about these cartoons.  This blog is about songs that were featured in cartoons NOT about bands.

The songs I wrote down are all songs that I remember instantly when I think about these cartoons.  They are NOT the theme songs to the cartoons themselves, although many of those theme songs are just awesome.  Some of these songs will stem from cartoons my kids watched, while many will be from toons I watched growing up.

I also want to point out that these songs are NOT from movies.  Almost every Disney film has 2-5 songs that come from them.  Yes, they are animated cartoons, but I am specifically talking about non-movie songs.

Let me start with a classic.  In the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Hillbilly Hare”, an innocent square dance becomes a physical brawl between two brothers (thanks to Bugs).  This scene and song was something my morning show partner and I talked about on the air one day!

My brother grew up watching Animaniacs.  We always laughed that they had a character based on Perry Como, who they called Perry Coma. Anyway, they have a few songs that stand out – one naming all the countries in the world, another naming all the presidents (up to Clinton, if I remember right), and one naming the all the states and their capitals.  I wish I had this song to memorize when I was growing up.

There was a season of Scooby Doo where they would play songs during the “chase scenes”.  There was always one song that stood out for me.  I never knew the name of it until I found it on an album of Scooby Doo songs.  It was called “Tell Me, Tell Me”.  Remember this one?

My boys watched a lot of SpongeBob Squarepants.  There were some episodes that were very funny, and others I found extra annoying.  One song from this show that my boys just loved was “Sweet Victory”, which they performed at the “Bubble Bowl”

They weren’t all “Rock” songs, but the Flintstones certainly had a few that stick out to me.  Hoagy Carmichael (one of the great songwriters of all time) appeared as himself on the show and sang “Yabba Dabba Doo”, there was the Soft Soap jingle, “Listen to the Rockin’ Bird”, and my favorite – The Bedrock Twitch, sung by Rock Roll (or in this clip, Fred).

There are some who would argue that the best song from the Flintstones came from Pebbles and Bamm Bamm, so here is that one.

There was one song from the Jetsons that I always remember.  Judy loves singer Jet Screamer (played by Howie Morris).  Elroy’s secret code gets sent into a song writing contest and becomes his next hit record.  Remember Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah?

An earworm that drove parents everywhere crazy came from the Ren & Stimpy Show.  Time to get Happy Happy with Stinky Wizzleteats…

The Simpson’s has had their share of amazing music in their over 30 years on the air.  There have even been albums of just music from the show.  There is one little gem that I can’t get enough of – and it is only about 45 seconds long.  Homer becomes a Stonecutter and they have their own song!  Yes, I often hit repeat when this comes on the iPod.

Ok, technically, this entire cartoon is a song.  I have to include it on my list, because, well, it’s my list and I love this!  Stan Freberg tells the story of the Three Little Bops with music by Shorty Rogers!

If I had to pick one cartoon that I LOVED watching with my kids, it would be Phineas and Ferb.  If you have never seen the show, its just plain fun with a new song in almost every episode.  Candace is always trying to bust her brothers (Phineas and Ferb – who make the most out of every single day of summer) while Perry (their pet platypus – who is also a secret agent) tries to save the Tri-State area from the evil scientist Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

There are many songs I could pick from (My Undead Mummy and Me, My Nemesis, My Goody Two Shoes Brother, Busted, S.I.M.P – Squirrels In My Pants, and Perry’s Theme), but I will turn to one of their early episodes for my favorite.

In one episode, Flop Starz, they decide to write a hit song.  Their mom explains what a “one hit wonder” is and they are off to write it!  The result – Gitchee Gitchee Goo.  The song itself has been reviewed by critics who have said that the song could have easily been a hit song!

Your turn.  What songs do YOU remember from your favorite cartoon shows?

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Summer Memory – The Good Humor Man

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As I was walking to my car to leave for work today, an ice cream truck was driving down my street.  I found it odd that it was not playing music.  Usually, you can hear the sounds of “Little Brown Jug”, “Turkey in the Straw”, “Pop! Goes the Weasel”, or “The Entertainer” (among others) when the ice cream man was driving around.  That wasn’t always the case, though.

My first memories of the Ice Cream Man are from when we lived in Sterling Heights in the early 1970’s.  The Good Humor Man always drove his white truck (like the one pictured above and below) and there was no music.  There was a set of bells attached to a string that the driver pulled to ring them.  I remember hearing the bells from the next street over and running over to my mom and dad to get a dollar of change to buy ice cream.

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If you look carefully above the windshield in the picture above, you can see the bells the driver would ring.  Here are the bells detached from the truck:

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I’m sure that the loud music is a better at getting the kids attention today, but we always listened for those bells!

I remember many summer days running up to my dad (who was usually mowing the grass, or working outside) and he’d walk to the curb with us to stop the ice cream truck.  There were SO many treats to choose from!  When I was a kid, I guess I wasn’t so OCD.  I used to try different ice creams all the time.  Today, I have favorites and stick with those.  Some of the treats I remember most:

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The Ice Cream Sandwich.  I still love them.  The chocolate still sticks to my fingers while I eat them.  The good ice cream trucks took this amazing treat a step further –

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Vanilla, Chocolate AND strawberry ice cream?!  Yes, please!!!

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Push Ups.  I remember them being orange mostly.  Some trucks had the Flintstone theme, some had polka dots on them.  I remember we used to save the plastic stems and piece that pushed the ice cream up and used them for something with our Star Wars figures.

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The Chocolate Éclair was always a favorite of mine.  I also like the variation where there was a chocolate candy center.  No crunchies on that one, but it had a hard chocolate coating over vanilla ice cream.

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As much as I love chocolate, I preferred the Strawberry Shortcake version!  You can buy these in the stores today, but the ones from the ice cream truck always seemed to taste better.

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The Bomb Pop!  This seemed to be the favorite of many kids in the neighborhood.  All of us kids had red and blue lips after eating this thing.  I’m not sure why, but this one always seemed to melt faster than anything else I got from the ice cream man.

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Who didn’t love a Snow Cone!?  It was another favorite!  It also left whatever color it was all over your face.  Really, it’s a pretty lame treat.  It’s just a little flavor over ice.  The flavor ended up at the bottom of the wrapper as it melted.  That was kind of the bonus, you got to drink a shot of all three flavors after all the ice was gone.

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Tweety Bird Ice Creams were the ones I remember most.  They came in other characters, too.  I think there was Bugs Bunny, The Pink Panther, and Spider Man.  Today, I know the most popular of this creation is SpongeBob.  They all had gumball eyes and after you unwrapped it, it rarely looked like the character it was supposed to be!

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The “cup” of ice cream was always available.  It may be vanilla or vanilla with chocolate.  Some had a real thin layer of chocolate syrup on it.  Sometimes it came in a plastic cup, sometimes I was in a paper one.  Either way, it almost always came with that little wooden scooper/spoon.

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The Screwball was a favorite of mine for some time.  It was a flavored ice (kind of like Italian Ice) with a gumball at the bottom of the cone/cup.  Sometimes they were called Tornadoes or Twisters, but I remember them as Screwballs.  They also had one with two gumballs at the bottom.

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If I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be the Drumstick.  I guess that’s why I still buy them at the store occasionally.  I always loved how it had that one bit of frozen chocolate at the bottom of the cone.  Bonus chocolate is always a good thing!!

As I grew older, the bells from the Good Humor trucks made way for the repetitive songs from warped records.  As older children, we still chased down the trucks, but because of the loud music, we had to yell “STOP!” in order for them to slow down.  The larger sides of the truck allowed for more room for the “Poster Price List”.  We still looked in awe at the many treats and made the difficult decision of choosing just one to cool us off on a hoy summer day.

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I have fond memories of getting ice cream with my dad and mom.  I also have great memories of buying them for my sons.  I wish, however, the sounds of those Good Humor bells were still ringing in neighborhoods today.  If they were, I guess I’d be one of the first “kids” to run out and yell, “Stop!”

 

Picking a Partner

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a radio buddy who is now out-of-state. He was surfing around the internet and came across an article written by one of my radio mentors, Jay Trachman. It is probably a huge coincidence that just a few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about him, but then again, sometimes the stars line up … as you will soon see. The article was one that Jay had written based on an email I sent him. Let me set this up for you.

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In 2007, I was hired for a second stint at B-95. This time I was coming back to do mornings. Upon arriving, I worked with the amazing and talented Jeff Kelly, who always had me in stitches. The program director, Coyote Collins, pulled me into the office one morning and said that we were going to do a contest. The contest was going to let some non-radio person be my co-host for a year.

As a radio guy, I really had some deep concerns about this. How do you bring someone in who has never done this before and expect them to “get it”? I was scared to death. I was doing full-time, making decent money, and this whole thing could literally leave me without a job! It made me very nervous.

I found out that we were going to run auditions at the local mall. People were going to come in, come up on stage, we’d ask them some questions, jot notes and rate them and narrow the field down to like the top 20 people. From that point, we had those people come in and record a “Hi I am contestant # ___ in the Bee a Radio Star Contest. Vote for me” greeting. Those ran throughout the weekend and then the field was narrowed again. The top contestants came in and had pictures taken and they went up on the website with “Why you should vote for me” audio. Once we had our top 5 contestants, they each came in and did a show with me. Five contestants – five days – five shows. Then the audience got to vote for who they felt should be my co-host.

Back to the article – I asked Jay what kinds of questions he thought I should ask. I asked him what things I should be judging the contestants on. The article was his response. As I sat I read this 12-year-old article, and saw Jay’s suggestions, it made me smile. At that point, we didn’t even know if any one would show up to the auditions! The fact that people did was awesome. In hindsight, looking back at the article and his suggestions and knowing who eventually got the gig, the winner was the absolute PERFECT co-host.

The Auditions

There were more females than males who auditioned for the position. One by one people walked up to the stage and the panel of judges asked questions. I remember getting in trouble because I was asking questions that you really couldn’t ask in a job interview (about family, marital status, etc). “You can’t ask that,” I was told. I replied, “Well, I need to know if the candidate is going to have life content to bring to the show.”

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While many of the people auditioning were a little shy when they got to the microphone on stage, Stephanie grabbed it and showed no fear. I remember she was asked to tell us about herself. She mentioned that she was married with a house full of kids! I remember thinking that there would have to be many great stories to share there (I was right). Steph recently reminded me of the question I asked her and her answer. I asked her who her favorite country singer was and she said George Strait. I asked her why and she said something about him “rocking a pair of Wrangler jeans”. Pure Steph! I don’t remember much more about the rest of her audition, but I know she stood out.

There were some really great people who auditioned. Steph told me that she almost didn’t go through with the audition. I guess there was a young red-headed gal who auditioned and Steph was like “I’m voting for her!” She called her husband, Thom, and said she wasn’t going to do it and he told her to follow through – THANKS THOM! Long story short (so I can share some funny Steph stories) – She won.

The Bee Morning Buzz With Keith and Steph

We always prepped a show. We had some sort of idea of what we were going to do on the air every day. We almost always knew the day before a few of the things we were going to talk about. If I am being honest, most of that stuff was NOT our best stuff! Much of the “greatest hits” material came from unexpected moments, bloopers, and ad-libs.

Before I move on, I have to give major credit and kudos to Hal Maas. He was our news guy. He was also on the morning show at WHNN. Since we both did news at the top and bottom of the hour, we recorded Hal from Saginaw at quarter after and quarter to the hours. When it was time for Hal, we’d record while music or commercials played on the air. Sometimes we knew we wanted to ask him about stuff we were going to do later, most of the time we’d just start rolling tape and some of the passing conversations made it on air. Hal is a MASTER. Hands down, he is the best damn newsman I have ever worked with. He could set you up for a line, or have the best line of the bit. While our show would have been funny without him, it was hilarious with him. He was an equal part in the success of the show!

Hal often ended his newscast with what we call a “Kicker” story. It’s those funny little stories about crazy people like the woman who recently was drinking wine from the Pringles can in Walmart on her scooter. We never knew what the story was going to be, so many of the comments made were on the spot or ad-libs. Sometimes they were funny, sometimes they fell flat. A lot of these stories and punchlines were featured weekly on our “best of” shows.

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Favorite Bits

Let me say here that we were probably very lucky that we recorded these newcasts before they aired. You see, Steph sometimes forgot that some things (while they were very funny) were inappropriate for our “family friendly” show. Many kicker stories were followed by a Steph comment with some sort of innuendo to which I was forever saying “No! No! Not on this show!” “Absolutely not!” “Are you crazy?! I need this job” and so on and so forth…..Off air, we had some big laughs. Here’s an example:

Right around the time of the Kentucky Derby, there were many stories about a horse named “Big Brown.” He was on pace to be a Triple Crown winner and it seemed like he was talked about for weeks. Right around the same time, Barbara Walters had admitted to having an affair with African-American Senator Edward Brooke. After Hal read that story Steph said, “Well, I guess, he was her Big Brown!” I can’t even begin to tell you how glad I was that we were not live!! I pictured hundreds of complaint letters rolling in and me in the unemployment line!!

A line that DID make it on the air had me waiting for the complaint letters: Steph was telling me about how her and Thom were watching this little squirrel who was outside their window tossing acorns onto their trampoline. She kept saying how it was the funniest thing and they couldn’t stop watching him. Then she says, “You should have seen him bouncing his nuts off the trampoline!” How we weren’t called into the boss’s office, I will never know!!

I was often the butt of jokes from Steph and Hal. One time we were talking about elementary school pictures. I mentioned that kids in grade school always have pictures with teeth missing. I told them about my 2nd grade picture which I had three or four teeth missing. Steph had the best ad-lib, “Let’s get the visual, Hal. That’s back when Keith had hair and no teeth, now he has teeth and no hair!” That was ALL her! It still remains one of my favorite lines!

With all of her kids, she was often on the phone with them as they got ready for school and such. Sometimes I would be giving her the “eye” that said, “the song is ending – we need to talk here” so she would get off the phone. One day, I heard something seconds before we had to go on the air and it cracked me up. Naturally, I had to point out on the air that “Steph just said to he kid – ‘don’t forget to wear pants today’!”

One day, Steph and Hal did something that comedy legend Jack Benny would often do – there would be a joke early in the show and as his show went on, that joke or a variation of it would show up later to bigger laughs. I don’t really recall what we were talking about, but Steph called me a “bald-headed freak” going into a newscast. Hal did all his stories, does his kicker story about a groom who baked an engagement ring in a cake for his fiance (who swallowed the ring). Steph says something about it being ‘karat” cake, and as I went to say how bad a punchline that was, Hal chimes in and says, “Karat cake – did you get that you bald-headed freak?!” to which I was left rolling on the floor in laughter!

Another great bit (well, we thought it was) was about Sarah Jessica Parker. One of the radio personalities that I exchanged bit ideas with shared a website (www.sarahjessicaparkerlookslikeahorse.com) which shows Sarah Jessica Parker’s face next to horses that look like they are in a similar pose. For whatever reason, this website kept coming up in conversation. The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup that year, and we were talking about how each team member got to take the cup for a day. The bit we did asked what listeners would do if they had the Cup for a day or what celebrities would do with it. Hal, without skipping a beat said that SJP would “eat her oats out of it”!

One of my favorite bits started with an argument. Steph asked for a sheet of paper, so I grabbed one off the printer in the studio. Whether someone had sneezed on it, or someone got some food on it, something had hardened on the edge of the paper. She literally asked me “Why do you have to give me the one with the booger on it?” I told her I didn’t do it on purpose and that I had grabbed it off the printer. She told me how gross it was and that I was sick for putting “boogers on the paper.” Hal jumps in and says, “That actually has the makings of a great country song.” and I started singing “Our love’s like boogers on the paper … but it’s snot” which led to hilarious laughter. Another great ad-lib.

Speaking of boogers. We got into a discussion one morning about raisins. I don’t recall why. I told her that I couldn’t eat raisins made from green grapes. She asked me why and I told her that they looked like boogers. I even call them Booger Raisins! I am sure we had some sort of phone bit with the topic and listeners were calling about it or foods they couldn’t eat. I remember we were sitting in our boss’s office and he commented how “Maybe the topic of boogers wasn’t such a good thing to discuss while people were eating breakfast. But I thought it was funny as hell!”

One of the great tricks I played on Steph came from a kicker story from Hal. The story was about someone who got struck by lightning twice. Steph said “Lightning doesn’t strike three times in the same place” and Hal said, “No that’s knock three times on the ceiling if you want me” (a hit for Tony Orlando and Dawn) which led to a long discussion on our COUNTRY station about this 70’s song. I waited for Steph to leave the studio and quickly found the hook from “Knock Three Times” and had it ready on our audio player. I waited for her to read the sponsorship for the traffic or weather (I don’t remember) and as soon as she started to read it – I played the hook from that song. She couldn’t hold it together. I faded it out. Waited for her to gain her composure and as soon as she started reading it again, played the hook again! I did this off and on a few times because it just made me laugh.

One thing that I will forever associate with Steph, and she can probably remember how this topic came up (because I can’t), was a character from a Flintstones spin-off. On Saturday mornings, there was a Pebbles and Bam Bam show which features the kids from the Flintstones as teenagers. There was a character who always moped around and had a cloud over his head that was raining. His name was Shleprock. She probably called me that once, I don’t know, but whenever I see that character – I think of her.

The station partnered with a bowling alley to do a bowling league. We invited listeners to come out and bowl with us once a week. We had bowling shirts printed up and many of our listeners came out and joined the league. Steph’s bowling was always the talk of the show the next day! She would throw the ball down the lane and dance and swing her arms and try to “control” the ball and where it was going. It was hilarious! I’m not sure who had more fun, the listeners or us!

We worked together for two years. We had three bosses. Two that “got us” and liked what we did on the air, and one that may not have. I can’t be sure. We were told that they wanted to save money and they brought in a semi-syndicated live show which was based in Grand Rapids and Flint. Our positions and salaries were eliminated.

Perfectly Aligned

The words “Steph – B95” have been on the pad of paper where I write ideas for future blogs for some time. I knew there were stories to share – I wasn’t sure how to present them. For example, I think the fact that she called the Tampa Bay Devil Rays the “Tampa Day Bevil Rays” is hilarious! Oh, I suppose one day, I’ll have to tell you the story about the “Hoover Maneuver”!!

At any rate, just like the “stars aligned” to set me up to write this blog, they also aligned to make her the winner of the contest and my co-host. I couldn’t be happier for that. She brought so much realness to the show. She was funny. She was entertaining. She was genuine. She was literally our target audience!

Jay told me to consider the following things in a co-host:

* Do they have something to say?
* Do they have a colorful way of expressing themselves?
* Are they reasonably comfortable with who they are?
* Are they emotionally varied?
* Do they like their lives?
* Do they respond to things you say?

He then said, “Get them to talk, and listen to how it feels. If they’re expressive and varied, and they make you respond to them, then you’ve got a decent chance of success.”

She was PERFECT!

After B-95

You would think that when we got let go, we’d have gone our separate ways. I mean, we got her to leave her full-time job to work in radio – only to get fired two years later for no reason! Thankfully, we have been friends ever since! Over the years, it is not odd for one of us to call each other with some story and say, “Man, that would have been a great bit to tell on the air!” I have looked back and seen her children get married, go off to college, give birth to her grandbabies….there is no shortage of great stuff that she could share on the air.

Over the past few years, she has been a true friend and was always there to lend an ear in tough times. She was honest and supportive through my divorce and rejoiced with me when I got remarried. How cool is it that a radio contest not only gave me a co-host, but a life long friend?!

Thanks for the wonderful memories, Steph!

Toon Tunes …

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As I stated at the end of yesterday’s blog – I could easily write an entire blog about Cartoon Theme songs.  Some readers messaged privately with suggestions, while others commented on Facebook.  So, I sat down and gathered some thoughts and have come up with a list of some of my favorites.  In doing so, I noticed that some cartoons were great cartoons, but their theme songs were just not that memorable to me.  Those I will omit.  Perhaps they are some of your favorites, and again, feel free to add them to my initial list.

 

The Classics

“Overture, curtains, lights. This is it, the night of nights.

No more rehearsing and nursing a part, We know every part by heart

Overture, curtains, lights. This is it, you’ll hit the heights

And oh what heights we’ll hit … On with the show, this is it!”

 

Every Saturday morning, we’d sit in front of the television and hear Bugs Bunny and his cartoon pals sing this song as the Bugs Bunny Show began.  Cartoon after cartoon kicked off with the Merrie Melodies or Looney Tunes theme.  We watched Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Sylvester and Tweety, The Roadrunner, Wile E Coyote, and countless others make us laugh with sticks of dynamite and anvils.  Oh, what a time to be a kid! 

 

Outside of the Looney Tunes, Hanna Barbera churned out a lot of the classic cartoons we all have come to love.  In 1958, kids were introduced to Yogi Bear and his pal Boo Boo.  The theme song told us that he was “smarter than the average bear”, and he was!  No Pic-a-nic basket was safe!  Yogi was a take off of Art Carney’s Honeymooners character Ed Norton.  Daws Butler nails the voice perfectly.  From opening theme, you know you are in for some great fun with Yogi trying to outsmart Ranger Smith.

 

Speaking of the Honeymooners – Hanna Barbera literally stole the entire show idea and just set it in the stone age.  That’s right, The Flintstones was a direct rip off of the show.  It worked.  It was the first prime time cartoon show and it did very well.  The adventures of Fred and Barney commence after we are introduced to them via the theme song “Flintstones!  Meet the Flintstones, they’re the modern stone age family!”  Fred and Barney also would up on Saturday morning cartoons with newer versions and varieties of the 1960’s show including a cartoon about their grown up kids Pebbles and Bamm Bamm. 

 

My buddy Vince immediately mentioned the theme song to Jonny Quest in response to my last blog.  As far as theme songs, this one is awesome.  Quest first appeared on TV in 1964 and from the moment it starts you get the feeling something big is coming.  There is a sense of urgency in it.  You are joining him on an adventure!  In my 30 years of radio, I have heard this theme song as background music for contests, traffic reports, and more.  Why?  Because it is one cool theme song!

 

In 1962, Hanna Barbera took us on another travel through time.  This time is was the future. “Meet George Jetson” … the theme starts by introducing us to each member of the family.  We are wowed with flying cars, tubes that allow people to travel from one place to the other, folding cars, and more.  The Jetsons lacked some of the luster of the Flintstones, but it still was a success and a favorite of kids my age.

 

There were MANY incarnations of Scooby-Doo.  The best one in my opinion was Scooby Doo, Where Are You?  Some cool teenagers and their dog always seem to stumble on a mystery – and solve it!  So many bad guys would have gotten away with it, “If it hadn’t been for those meddling kids”!  “Scooby doobie doo – Where are you?  We got some work to do now…”.  Not only did they have a cool theme, they often had another song that would play during a chase scene!

 

I want to mention a couple more 60’s cartoons to mention before moving on.  I mentioned Henry Mancini in my blog yesterday, he is responsible for one of the all time greatest cartoon themes:  The Pink Panther.  It was the theme to the 1963 movie, and also used for the cartoon starting in 1964.  There are so many things that make it such a magnificent piece, but the one that stands out is the tenor sax solo.  It is perfection!  The song was released as a single and was a top 10 hit.

 

Part of the Pink Panther show was the Ant and the Aardvark.  It is a very Tom and Jerry/Cat and Mouse type cartoon.  John Byner does the voices for the cartoons and his choices were to do the ant in a Dean Martin-ish voice, while doing the aardvark in a Jackie Mason-ish one.  The theme reminds me of a Dixieland-swing song.  The theme song basically plays as an underscore throughout all 17 of the series cartoons, and you will be humming it for a few hours after you’re done watching!

 

In 1967, Hanna Barbera offered up The Abbott and Costello Cartoon show.  These cartoons were unique in that Bud Abbott provides the voice for himself.  Costello had passed away in 1959, and his voice was provided by Stan Irwin.  I don’t recall the cartoon itself much, but I can recall the opening sequence and the music of the theme.  The only words spoken …..well, yelled, during the theme are “Hey Abbott!” by Costello.

 

The Super Heroes

 

What kid doesn’t want to be a super hero?  I know we did.  We spent Saturdays after cartoons were done pretending to be Batman, Superman, etc…  We could watch them on the Superfriends show.  Very heroic music would play as actor Ted Knight (of Caddyshack and the Mary Tyler Moore Show) introduced us to each of them.  There were a few different Superfriends shows – one featured Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog, another featured The Wonder Twins, and another featured some of the lesser known heroes. 

 

The Super Heroes had some of the best theme songs.  Underdog’s theme was one I can still sing to this day:  “When criminals in this world appear, and break the laws that they should fear, the cry goes up both far and near for Underdog!”.  Wally Cox voiced Underdog and spoke entirely in rhyme.  He was always trying to save Sweet Polly Purebread from Simon Bar Sinister and Riff Raff. George S. Irving was the narrator of the show – he is known for playing The Heat Miser in the holiday special The Year Without a Santa Claus. It is one of my favorite theme songs.

 

Who was your number 1 super guy?  Well, Hong Kong Phooey, of course!  He tells us so in the theme song!  It’s another Hanna Barbera classic!  The theme is sung by Scatman Crothers, who many may know from the Shining, Sanford and Son, and other films.  He plays Penrod “Penry” Pooch, a janitor who is a Kung Fu Master, thanks to his Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu.  The theme reminds us that he is quicker than the human eye, and he’s got a groovy style – ah, the 70’s!!!

 

The all time best super hero cartoon theme song has got to be, hands down, Spiderman!  We all know the story of Spiderman – Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and gets his super powers.  I love that this is referenced in the theme song:  “Is he strong?  Listen, bud, he’s got radioactive blood!”  That is brilliant writing right there!  We all love Spidey, and we know that he’s got our backs…..after all, he is our “friendly neighborhood Spiderman”.  There is only one version of the theme that is as cool as the original – be sure to check out Michael Buble’s version of the theme song!  It’s pretty sweet!

 

One Full Musical Toon

 

I have got to give praise to a cartoon that is entirely musical.  This is a cartoon that has been referenced by friends I grew up with as well as my kids.  That cartoon is “The Three Little Bops”.  It’s a modern day take on the Three Little Pigs. 

 

What makes this cartoon so memorable is that these three pigs are now a musical trio playing jazz for clubs (House of Straw, House of Sticks, and finally, the House of Bricks).  The Big Bad Wolf is also a musician….but not a very good one.  He keeps trying to join the pigs and they keep telling him to beat it because his playing is awful.  The crowds don’t like his playing either.  At first, he is kicked out of the house of straw, so he “huffs and puffs” and blows the place down.  He does the same for the house of sticks.  The house of bricks, however, is a bit more of a challenge.  “I’ll show those pigs that I’m not stuck, if I can’t blow it down, I’ll blow it up”.  He attempts to light the fuse on a big tub of TNT, and the fuse is blown out.  He moves farther away from the target and lights it again, but he’s too far from the building and as he is carrying it back, the TNT explodes – and takes him with it. 

 

The narrator states, “The Big Bad Wolf was really gone and with him went his corny horn.  Went out of this world without a trace, didn’t go to heaven, was the other place”.  We then see the wolf down there playing his horn brilliantly.  One pig notes, “The Big Bad Wolf, he learned the rule – you gotta get hot to play real cool!”  The wolf’s spirit, with his horn float up through the floor and join the pigs on the end of the song. The pigs lobby card now reads “The Three Little Bops Plus One”. 

 

The music for the cartoon is done by the great Shorty Rogers who was a jazz composer and trumpeter.  The vocal is done by the one and only Stan Freberg.  This cartoon is fun, jazzy, hip, and so well written!  Another thing that makes this cartoon unique is that Mel Blanc was under contract with Warner Brothers during this time and his voice is not used in the cartoon at all (at least according to all the sources I checked). 

 

Now it’s your turn.  Which cartoon theme songs were your favorites? 

 

That’s all folks….