Friday, May 19, 2006

It's Howdy Doody Time!

The Untimely Passing Of Clarabell The Clown

To read the obit, it was just another page torn from the era of the golden age of television.

Lew Anderson, the last man behind the make-up of Clarabell the clown of The Howdy Doody Show, died this week at age 84.

For 8 of the show's 13 years on television, Lew Anderson silently played the role of Clarabell, filling clown shoes previously worn by the likes of none other than Bob Keeshan (who later gained fame and tv-land immortality as Captain Kangaroo).

Perhaps the most well remembered, but saddest, milestone came at the end of the final episode in 1960 when Clarabell (Lew Anderson - not Bob Keeshan) finally spoke, saying simply, "Goodbye, kids." The pioneering TV show was gone. And now, so is Lew Anderson, may he rest in peace.

But the press had it wrong when they reported that Lew was "the last Clarabell."

Clarabell the clown lives on, and right here on Long Island.

The first of the Island's Clarabells -- played entirely in blackface (you can't say that on radio, for goodness sake!) -- was Nassau County Legislator Roger Corbin.

Roger lost the job in early 2006 when he broke years of silence, telling kids in the audience, "If the clown pants fit, you must acquit!"

Following a rash of litigation, Corbin settled with the show's producers for an undisclosed sum, and a supporting role in the planned remake of The Jeffersons.

Corbin was quickly replaced by another one of the Legislature's finest, Peter Schmitt, who dispensed with the wearing of the clown nose, his own fitting the bill just swell.

Unfortunately, Peter had a bit of trouble remaining silent -- about anything -- and the plug was quickly pulled on Clarabell's career.

Those of us in the Peanut Gallery long for the days when the only sound heard from Clarabell was the honking of a horn. Alas, the heyday of the TV clown is apparently over.

As for Howdy Doody himself, after an all too long hiatus, he, too, is back.

Yes, the man who asked a gullible nation, "Wanna buy some wood?" plays on daily at studio 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

If only Buffalo Bob were with us today!
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Lee Koppelman assisted in the planning of this blogspot, produced entirely on location in Elmont, New York.

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