“Pioneers of Television”

It was interesting to see that the ads for this PBS series listed Bob Clampett right after Jim Henson. The show now airing focuses on local kids shows. It was somewhat ironic that it was Stan Freberg not Bob Clampett who appeared on this show talking about his experience performing as Cecil and D.J.amongst many other characters on “Time For Beany”. Bob Clampett and Stan Freberg had a bitter falling out at the height of the show’s success.

A ridiculous facsimile of Bob Clampett appeared in a “Unsolved Mystery” style recreation of the birth of “Time For Beany” in his garage. A short and heavyset bald guy introduced as Bob Clampett opens the garage door to let much closer representations of Stan Freberg and Daws Butler inside. It was particularly ridiculous being that Bob Clampett was six feet tall and had a full head of hair. In fact Bob Clampett’s hair was so perfectly coiffed and colored that people assumed that he was wearing a wig. Not so! I am prepared to testify underoath that Bob Clampett had a REAL head of hair! The garage was just off the main drag of LaBrea Ave. in the middle of Hollywood, near Beverly Boulevard. It housed the puppets in the late 1940′s. “Pioneers of Television” appeared to have chosen a garage in the West Valley and that might have been built in the mid 1970′s. So much for historical accuracy!

“Two Bob’s, Lord Buckley and Jingle Jangle”

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Drawing on studio letterhead by Bob Clampett for a proposed Beanyland theme park at what was

Pacific Ocean Park, a.k.a. POP at the Santa Monica Pier.

Sean Wilentz in his excellent book on Bob Dylan, “Bob Dylan In America” describes the origins of one of the most recognizable lines in one of Bob Dylan’s most famous songs,”Mr. Tambourine Man”.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.

“Dylan aficionados have located some specific references, including the words “jingle jangle,” which appear on a recording by the hip British comic monologist Lord Buckley, whom Dylan is known to have enjoyed.” Bob Clampett also enjoyed Lord Buckley’s comic persona so much that he cast Buckley as the most memorable Beany and Cecil Cartoon incidental character, Go Man Van Gogh, a.k.a. The Wildman of Wildsville.

Bob Clampett was also impressed by the phrase “jingle jangle”. On the map seen up above Bob Clampett pairs the words jingle and jangle with “jungle.” The combination of the three becomes the same kind of pun that helped make the Beany and Cecil cartoons so popular for their word play. At the end of “Wildman of Wildsville” Go Man Van Gogh sings to the crew in the Unicorny Coffee House. Doing a take off of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star…” The Wildman gives the song his own personal touch with help from the crew, “Twankle Twankle Little Beatnik, From your headnick to your feetnick, Here’s a crazy way out toast, to the scene we dig the most, endsville…”

Could it be that both Bob’s were influenced by the one and only Lord Buckley?

Or is there some other explanation for this jingle jangle stuff?

And what does it mean?

If you can’t beatnik em, join em I always say.

Bob Baker and “Bojangles”

Last Friday night even though we were far back in the crowd we had the wonderful opportunity to experience the magic of puppetry from a master. Grand Performances at Californina Plaza in downtown Los Angeles drew a sizable crowd on the Plaza for an East L.A. themed show called “LosAngelesland”. Local legend Bob Baker now in his mid 80’s performed with a Bill “Bojangles” Robinson marionette puppet he had built way back in the late 1930’s. Although Baker and his troupe were only one of the opening acts, the Baker manipulated “Bojangles” stole the show.

It was just man and puppet. The audience was mesmerized by the performance. “Bojangles danced with such a naturally fluid motion and grace. A video feed blew the two of them up to gigantic proportions with the little knee high puppet singing and dancing, but they both would have been just as effective without the big screen help. Baker had once long ago befriended the original “Copacetic” Bill Robinson famed for his smooth style and his “Stair Dance”. What a lovely way to keep his friend’s memory alive. Political Correctness be damned. In the near future we will discuss Bob Baker’s connection to Bob Clampett. But last Friday night, Bob Baker’s fingers were on fire!

Clampett Cartoon Melodies

The forthcoming digital remaster of “Beany and Cecil: The Special Edition, Vol. 1” includes a commentary by Bob Clampett’s three kids Rob, Ruth and Cheri over three of the Beany and Cecil cartoons. At one point music and its role in Bob Clampett’s life and that of his cartoons is discussed. It provides a fun behind the scenes perspective on Bob Clampett.

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Even sacred institutions got parodied in a “Bob Clampett Cartoooooonnn!!!”

Music certainly plays an important role in the “Beany and Cecil” cartoons. Some examples include Clampett’s parody of rock n’ roll in “DJ the DJ”, the Snorky cartoon “No Such Thing as a Sea Serpent” that takes on all of evolution and crams it into just 6 minutes while set to folk music, Clampett’s final Snow White takeoff, “So What and the Seven Whatnots” features Dixieland jazz, “Beany Meets the Monstrous Monster” channels Bobby Darin through a shark called “Jack the Knife”, and the minimalist beatnik bongo sounds make beautiful mono music in the classic cartoon“Wildman of Wildsville”.

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So What and the 7 Whatnots perform for sailor Cecil. Jack the Knife and his undersea gang from “Beany Meets the Monstrous Monster.”

Even earlier though Clampett integrated popular music into his “Time for Beany” puppet show….nightly! Famed organist Korla Pandit effortlessly blended so many musical cues in combination with Beany themes and story points that he could certainly have made a claim as an early innovator in music sampling. And of course “Raggmopp” which debuted the same year as “Time for Beany” was such a popular song on the show that it in effect became Cecil’s theme song.

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A portrait and a flyer of “Time for Beany’s” original organist, the enigmatic Korla Pandit

But wait, that’s not all! Bob Clampett’s Warner Bros. cartoons from 1937 through 1945 included a plethora of musical influences from Strauss in “A Corny Concerto” to Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse” in “Baby Bottleneck” to rhythmic jazz in “Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarfs” to Clampett’s own composition, “Food Around the Corner” in “An Itch In Time.”

And of course that barely scratches the surface. Daffy Duck plays a singing Danny Kaye doing a Russian folk parody in “Book Revue”, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd do a hilarious duet on the lone prarie in “The Wacky Wabbit” and the beloved rhymes by Dr. Seuss were set to music n “Horton Hatches the Egg”.

Bob Clampett brought so much energy to his work through his use of music.

We’ll have more to say on this subject later. We’d love to hear any of your favorite Clampett musical moments.

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One of the ‘Whatnots’ from “So What and the Seven Whatnots.”

Lady Gaga – Blackouts

All the little monsters don’t need be alarmed. She’s okay. We just connected a couple of pranks from different eras. And how did Bob Clampett factor into the lives Spike Jones, Marilyn Monroe and the Bill and Coo guy named Ken Murray? Read on…

Lady Gaga had an incident in Australia last Wednesday night that reminded me of a much lighter and silly Bob Clampett moment from the late 1940’s. One of my favorite Bob Clampett stories. Let’s start with Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga rolled out onstage as her mermaid alter ego Yuyi in a wheelchair singing “You and I” and some of the offended audience members were ready for her and threw eggs. The eggs missed her but hit some of Gaga’s entourage. This displeasure with Lady Gaga in a wheelchair hasn’t been limited to Australia. A quadriplegic advocacy group called “Life Rolls On” here in the United States has called on Lady Gaga to be more sensitive to the plight of 5.6 million Americans who live with paralysis. We’ll see how she responds.

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Lady Gaga in wheelchair before she had to start dodging the eggs.

Now here is the ‘Bob Clampett’ “Blackout” story.

Bob Clampett decided to take his entire staff out for an evening of entertainment one night not long after “Time For Beany” skyrocketed to success in 1949, and the group all ended up at the El Capitan on Vine Street for a very popular live show in its own right called “Ken Murray’s Blackouts”. It was kind of a a strange blend of risque humor, musical interludes and novelty acts that ran for many years.

(Note that one of the stars of the show for several years was Billy Gilbert a comedian famous for his “sneeze”. Bob Clampett later worked with Gilbert on a pilot for a show called “Tex and Judy” based on radio comedienne Judy Canova’s popular radio shows. A part live action, part animated version of Gilbert and his sneeze can be found in the lost works section of “Beany and Cecil: The Special Edition Volume One ).

Ken Murray had been known as a vaudeville performer and on this particular evening Murray carried a seltzer bottle and kept shooting it off at various members of the audience throughout the first half of the show.

At intermission Bob Clampett and the staff had seen enough of that and ran over to a nearby liquor store and picked up several seltzer bottles. Then they made arrangements with all of the people in the center front row seats to temporarily give up their seats for a “show” skit. When Murray came out for the second half of the show Bob Clampett and his staff all stood up in unison, each pulled out a seltzer bottle and emptied their seltzer on Murray. The rest of the audience roared its approval obviously thinking that it was part of the show. Murray was speechless, soaked and really angry about it.

I remember all of those years later my dad Bob Clampett was once again laughing till tears came out of his streaming down his face just recalling the event.

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A billboard caricature highlighting the racy nature of the “Blackouts”.

Come to think of it, I could see a possible resemblance to Lady Gaga if the Grand Dame to the “Little Monsters” decided to go “retro”.

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I just loved finding this photograph of 50’s icons left to right, Spike Jones, Marilyn Monroe and Ken Murray at a charity football game in 1952.

Bob Clampett was close friends with Spike Jones. Bob Clampett dated Marilyn when she was Norma Jean. And Bob Clampett taught Ken Murray that turnabout with a seltzer bottle is fair play.

As a young boy I remember Ken Murray hosting a show where he showed his Hollywood themed home movies. I recall this at least once included a visit to Hearst Castle. He also introduced a couple of trained birds named Bill and Coo.

Does anybody else out there have memories of Spike, Marilyn or Ken Murray?

Or does anybody have their own seltzer bottle story?

Emmy’s First Family Picnic!

A good time was had by all.

Growing up as a kid in Southern California we had STARS like Hobo Kelly, Billy Barty, The Great Zolar and the Romper Room lady Sally McCrae. And of course there was Vance Colvig as Bozo. Overall some of those names didn’t mean as much around the country (Bozo and maybe Romper Room were exceptions) but these TV Personalities were gold to us.

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However, the good times didn’t end there. This picnic also featured Rodd Redwing doing quick draw gun play and that Rose Parade regular Montie Montana doing rope tricks. They offered mule pack trains and helicopter rides for $2.50! Bob Clampett was the Beany Cap guy but he wasn’t game for sending his kids up in a helicopter that or any other day.

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We had all the ice cream and root beer that we could gorge ourselves on.

Heck with all that. I was really excited to win a copy of the Beatles album “Something New” in the drawing (My very first record album) and I stared over at ATCO Recording stars Sonny and Cher looking pretty hip amongst all of the TV riff raff. Just a few years later they would become front and center TV riffraff themselves. Less Topanga Canyon and more Beverly Hills.

Alan Reed, the voice of Fred Flinstone was there. I remember thinking that he actually looked like Fred Flinstone. I don’t remember seeing our namesake represented by Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett and Max Baer, Jr. as his nephew Jethro Bodine. They were listed as attendees. Guess I couldn’t take my eyes off of Cher long enough to catch a peek. The simpler Cher with her long dark hair wrapped by a headband looking like an Indian Squaw.

But who had it best of all? The parents, of course. They could get the kids out of their hair for a few hours AND they could chug a lug all the free beer they could handle. Or maybe not handle. It was a hot day out there. Nice place for an ice cold beer.

If Cecil came out of his bag that day it would have just been for some quick pics and to steal some slurpkisses.

Where were you June 19, 1965?

Pool Fun – End of the Summer Issue

We all have our summer pool memories which are often some of our fondest memories.

The Clampett family had our own unique poolside fun. As Ruth Clampett stated in the commentary on Volume One of the re-mastered Special Edition DVD she said, “Dad was a water creature.”

So true. Much of Bob Clampett’s youth was spent down at the ocean where he lived on the Hermosa Strand with his mother Joan. Bob loved the ocean. Years later when ensconced in Hollywood where it took almost an hour to get to the ocean, he needed some outlet for his waterlust.

So when Bob had the opportunity to be the first on our block to put a pool in the backyard of our Hollywood duplex he went for it and bought the Jack LaLanne therapeutic pool. And when he brought his artists to deck out our backyard with cutouts of the characters it became a very popular attraction with the neighborhood kids all Summer long for several Summers.

In honor of those good times we dedicate this end of the summer issue to those sea serpent days of Summer seen through these artist concept drawings.

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Bob Clampett, Sody Clampett, son Bobby with bat and cutouts of the characters in the family backyard pool.

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Beany under the beany cap umbrella. We really had an umbrella that looked like a Beany cap with the same red and white colors. No propeller up top though.

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The Sody bar with Beany’s portrait on the front. We actually had that bar for many years.

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We had this playroom with a ping pong table inside. Bob Clampett was an expert ping pong player.

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This was an artist concept. We never had a slide, maybe because the pool was so shallow at only 3 feet deep.

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We had the character footprints and handprints painted and carved around the pool just like Graumann’s Chinese Theatre.

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Another artist concept. Too bad we didn’t have a Leakin’ Lena shower. We had to use an old garden hose instead.

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Another great idea from the artists! No more wet towels with the Normal Norman towel rack. Note the Go Man beach towel.

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We had to settle for jacuzzi jets in the main pool.

Thanks for joining us to relive some great Summer memories.

Family Stories of Memorable Merchandise

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We receive lots of comments from people about their memories of Beany and Cecil merchandise from 
back in the day. The two messages below were both sent to us in the last few days.
My brother was a HUGE fan of Cecil when he was young (of course). He had a stuffed animal of Cecil 
he loved and adored. He even bought the materials and sewed Cecil back together after too many 
years of cuddling!!! (when he was 16) .. He'd KILL me for telling that!!! I'd LOVE to surprise him with 
another one??? HELP!!!
Name omitted upon request.
Many of the messages are either about buying or selling merchandise. We can’t really help people with that. 
We usually recommend that they check ebay.com. We absolutely understand the connection that so many 
kids had with these characters.
Here’s another one.
My daughters (ages 13 and 9) love volume 2 and know some of the episodes by heart. So, they were thrilled 
when I bought volume 1. They even purchased me a multi-colored baseball cap last week for my birthday (46!) 
that has a propeller on it! They said it wasn't exactly like my official Beany Copter I had when I was a little boy, 
but that I could relive those fond memories as a B&C fan. I have no idea where that Beany Copter went over 
the years, but my kids knew how much it meant to me and responded in kind.

To read about these two family’s sharing their stories in both of these messages really warms our hearts. 

Thanks everybody and keep em coming!