Thursday, May 10, 2012

Shirley Temple

The 2011 LSU – Alabama debacle brings to mind a series of events going back nearly 6 decades.

In 1955 when WBRZ first took to the air, one of channel 2's first live TV shows was begun by a lady named Helen Kelly. She launched a kid show entitled FOR KID’S ONLY. Video tape was not yet a reality. Shows were archived with a process called “kinescope” (on film), but broadcasts were LIVE.

I was paid to be a regular weekly guest on this show in the character of CAPTAIN VIDEO, a space traveler from the planet, Gulliver. My mission was to spin scary space adventures concocted to produce spine tingling reactions, leaving these kids on the edges of their seats.

After about 3 or 4 weekly appearances it became readily obvious to all that I was unable to inflict even the slightest degree of shock and awe on these little urchins. Instead they would merely laugh at my lame attempts to achieve the desired effects. And because this was not the mission of my character, Helen decided to terminate the services of Captain Video by allowing me to leave the show with dignity.....thus saving me much embarrassment. The plan was for me to make my final appearance in disguise as a little girl. Did I say "with dignity"?

Helen managed to acquire a curly blonde wig, a cute little pink Shirley Temple dress in my size and a pair of Dorothy-styled Ruby slippers that fit my feet. My name was Lily. When I made my entrance for this last appearance, all eyes were glued on this oversized, hideous looking creature. 

Helen asked my name to which I responded (in my very best high falsetto): "Lily". Helen then asked "Lily who?". My response: "PUTT" (from the island of Lilliput for those of you who might have forgotten Gulliver's Travels). No sooner had I gotten "PUTT" out of my mouth when we all heard an explosion of laughter from the announcer's Booth ..... sports caster JC Politz was not able to contain himself. All eyes turned toward the booth, which was "sound-proof". 

Then, before this bit could be concluded, one of the kids jumped up, saying "That’s not a little girl, that's Captain Video!!". He ran up and yanked my wig off and then all hell broke loose. Thank heavens the show was nearing its 30 minute conclusion that day.

Helen was simply unable to regain any semblance of order. The smart-ass little kid was Doug Manship Jr., heir to a mass communications empire and who today is an executive in that industry. The gag concluded with my being hand-cuffed and carted off by 2 police officers who had agreed to participate in this little spoof…..thus ending my weekly stint on FOR KID’S ONLY. (Surely the State Archives would have a copy of that kinescope….. YOU THINK!?)

But all was not lost. A few weeks later I was called by Bob Reed, Channel 2's production manager, who asked if I would like to appear in a new live weekly show that Bob was in the process of producing. The show was entitled Hit OR MISS.  More on this at a later posting.

Four years after my exit from FOR KID’S ONLY, the voice of the #1 ranked LSU Tigers, J C Politz, would be heard yelling “HE SCORES!!” as Billy Cannon brakes several tackles to find open field advantage to make an 89 yard punt return TD over #3 ranked Ole Miss. Cannon would then lead a goal-line stand, preventing Ole Miss from winning and assuring his #1 spot in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Tickets to this game were at a premium if you could afford $4. Then on January 1, 1960 these 2 teams would meet again in the 26th Annual Sugarbowl Classic when #2 Ole Miss would shut out the #3 Tigers 21 to 0. Sound familiar?