In September 1969 our dad Bob Clampett came to us with a proposal. A club resort in Indian Wells California wanted a Christmas show for their members and were willing to pay a sizable fee to have the Clampett puppets appear. Dad would accept the offer and give all the money to us kids Ruth, Cheri and Rob under the condition that we treat this as a serious commitment. We would have to rehearse every day after school up until the performance on Christmas Eve.
After considering the pros and cons a bit we all accepted. The experience turned out to be one of the best that we can all remember. Why? First of all, it was a great family experience. Our mom Sody was also actively involved. She helped work the puppets. Even our grandmother Dossie got involved by sewing our costumes and the stage curtains. Most significant it was the first time that we could see our dad for an extended period of time in his element. Bob Clampett gave this little puppet show his full attention as the director. He envisioned it as a show of puppets, live action and even a full sized Willie the Wolf in a full body suit. He put together a pre-recorded track that really worked as a musical comedy live show. He opened the show with his big guns Beany and Cecil and Clowny doing a comedy bit from the puppet era of Time For Beany where they teased the audience by having Clowny pretend there was not anybody in the audience. Then Alvin and the Chipmunks did their Christmas song. These were the same puppets that dad used on the Ed Sullivan Show with Chipmunks creator Ross Bagdasarian. A Maurice Chevalier animal puppet sang Thank Heaven For Little Girls to a six- year old Cheri Clampett. Nine- year old Ruth Clampett perfectly kept pace with pointer following the rebus drawn by Bob Clampett for the song I M 4 U. (see photo above)
The audience loved it but not as much as we loved doing it even though we rehearsed it on a stage every day after school for two to three hours for a full three months.
It was such a success that we ended up doing it several years after that. One Christmas we even performed it for all of the Southern California Bank of America employees and their families. Looking out from the stage there were a few THOUSAND people and all I could think was that the Cecil hand puppet must have looked pretty small to the back rows.
We are reminded by the passing last Saturday of Neil Armstrong that 1969 was the year of the first Lunar Landing. It was also the year of Flower Power, Woodstock and the anti-war protests. For us it was that watershed moment, The Clampett Family Puppet Show. Priceless!