Tag Archive: Captain Kangaroo


Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the least discussed areas of television is local television–those productions going back to the beginning of television and still a fixture even of small markets around the United States.  Even big city networks and cable channels sprouted out of the success of local personalities or shows, as found in places like Chicago’s WGN, Kansas City 41, and Atlanta’s TBS.  For parts of four decades, if you lived or visited Iowa or the greater reach of its local NBC affiliate, you would have been introduced to The Floppy Show.  The Floppy Show was a creation of World War II veteran Duane Ellett, a young Drake University graduate who bridged a career as a voice over the air and then a familiar face in black and white in the late 1950s as television became widespread.   At the center of the show was Floppy, a wooden puppet with a red sweater with holding his trusty bone, who would come to be known by multiple generations of fans.  Floppy and Ellett are the subject of a new book by professor, broadcaster, and historian Jeff Stein, titled The Floppy Show.

Since Ellett’s death in the 1980s, Floppy, the famous dog in the box, was displayed at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines for 20 years, followed by a brief stint at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.  It’s a testament to Ellett and his creation that their beloved fans never wavered–these exhibits became hallowed ground, the kind of quiet spot to revisit one’s youth for a mix of reflection and nostalgia.  Of course The Floppy Show was only one of hundreds of similar shows that came and went across America over the decades, but author Stein showcases the history of an important area of television in this singular show.  Working with WHO-TV and the archives of Ellett’s family, Stein researched videotapes, film, marketing materials, and photographs and pulled out more than 180 images that reveal a changing America from 1957 to 1987.

At the same time Jim Henson and his Muppets were first introduced on a local Washington, DC show, Ellett was asked to create a puppet for the show Pet Corner, a local TV program hosted by the Animal Rescue League where viewers would meet local stray dogs and cats, and hopefully adopt them.  Floppy was created to help teach kids how to care for animals, in the vein of shows like the contemporary national programs Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood Floppy’s popularity took off and he soon had his own show at WHO-TV.  For most of its memorable years the show featured Floppy and Ellett introducing cartoon segments like Popeye and Looney Tunes, and the big deal for kids was the live studio segment where kids (including your humble editor minus 40 years or so) appeared on-air, beeping Floppy’s nose, telling jokes, and getting a sack with a bottle of Mountain Dew, a bag of Hyland potato chips, and a photo of Floppy.  My joke?  “What’s the biggest can in the world?”  Answer: “I forget.” Quietly prompted by the kindly moustached fellow in the leisure suit, I blurted out “Canada!”  Guest stars on the show visiting the local NBC affiliate included Adam West in full Batman garb.

Continue reading

Earlier this season Hollywood Treasure, Syfy Channel’s “reality” series about auction house Profiles in History, featured the Dreier family collection of screenused props, costumes and nostalgic toys.   Back in June we reported that the auction house had announced the first part of the Dreier collection would hit the auction block July 28.  Chad Dreier and son Doug had amassed a broad collection of costumes and props after Chad’s company Ryland Homes was successfully turned into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. The collection itself covers a lot of bases of primarily movies from 2000 onward, with some key pieces from the 1970s and 1980s.  Saturday the first part of the collection resulted in a few good buys but mainly showed that the economy is doing fine for those with a lot of money.

So how did the lots that borg.com projected as key pieces fare?

First off was an exquisite original Chewbacca head/mask from the original Star Wars.  It had an auction estimate of $60,000 to $80,000 and I expected this would sell for at least triple that. Profiles called this “the finest screen-correct Chewbacca costume head from the Star Wars trilogy known to exist.”  So was I right?  The sale price including fees was $172,200.  Almost three times the estimate.  But this was an exception as most items in the auction sold in-line with auction estimates.

The Dreiers appeared to purchase everything they could get their hands on related to Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory from 1971. Their collection includes Wilder’s key outfit and hat and a bunch of lesser known but recognizable props and production ephemera. Wilder’s hat was expected to fetch between $20,000 and $30,000 and the costume $60,000 to $80,000.    The hat sold for $33,825  and the costume for $73,800.  An Oompa Loompa costume carried an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000.  Selling for $30,750, it showed how popular these characters still are today.

A Bob Keeshan costume from the 1960s had an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000.  It sold for $36,900.

An easily identifiable jacket of the type worn by Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller carried an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.  It sold for $36,900.

The Dreiers were also fans of Christopher Reeve’s Superman from 1978.  One of the hero Reeves suits expected to sell between $60,000 to $80,000.  It sold for $79,850.  We featured the rarer costume worn by his father Jor-El, played by the great Marlon Brando, in our Comic-Con coverage here.

It had the same estimate as the Reeve suit, and sold similarly at $73,800.  Both fell in line with expectations.

The auction catalog cover featured an original set of cylon armor from Battlestar Galactica.  The suit carried an auction estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.  It sold for $46,125.

This outfit from the original series had an auction estimate of $12,000 to $15,000.  It sold for $17,220.

We also reported on this slick Wolverine costume in our Comic-Con coverage.  It had an estimate of $25,000 to $50,000 and sold for $49,200.

One sleeper item I noted was the original comic art for the Battlestar Galactica oversized comic book. With an estimate at only $2,000 to $3,000, I expected it to exceed $10,000.   Although it sold over its estimate, it didn’t make my prediction, selling at $4,305.

One other key piece sold at Profiles Saturday of note–a complete Star Trek: The Next Generation mannequin and costume of The Borg.  It was not ever for sale at auction before Profiles auctioned it in a recent auction of ex-Paley costumes, but was created by Michael Westmore’s actual production team for a museum collection once owned by The Paley Center.  It had an auction estimate of $8,000 to $12,000 and sold for just under $16,000.  I know of only three of these that are almost entirely complete and have heard a fourth example exists, but know of only one other complete from-head-to-toe version like this one.  These are the classic costumes of The Borg, not the later costumes that have deterioration problems and don’t look half as cool as these versions from “Best of Both Worlds” and “Descent”.  So it is awesome that one of these has surpassed prices for Star Trek captain uniforms, including, as in this auction, a Captain Picard costume worn by Patrick Stewart himself, which sold for $13,530.

Congratulations to the new owners of these great pieces of entertainment memorabilia!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

You can be anything you want to be.

It’s a phrase I heard over and over growing up, and is probably the best thing you can share with someone, especially someone who dreams big.

Kevin Clash is one of those kids that dreamed big.  Kevin is the man, and the hand and voice (and heart and soul), behind Elmo, the ticklish red furry kid from Sesame Street that hit TVs and toy stores in a really big way more than a decade ago now.  A Special Jury Prize winner at the Sundance Film Festival last year, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, is a thoughtful, inspiring and poignant look into the desire, preparation, planning, practice, and work, creating the magic of puppets, and specifically one of the most successful members of the most famous bands of puppets ever–the Muppets.

The healing power of make-believe is revealed in a way that viewers probably have never had access to before.  Entertainment is often viewed by society as trivial.  The enormity of the value of making people laugh and teaching basic principles of kindness is palpable, and the eyes of the young and old as they watch Elmo and his puppeteer is pretty incredible.  Even with a man standing and obviously holding this red floppy fellow who is all smile and giggles, people ignore the man as if he is not there.  It’s truly a magician in action, but more than that this documentary reveals a creator who is clearly kind himself, clearly thoughtful and cognizant of the importance of what he is doing.  The gravity of this comes through with a visit from a young girl who is part of a Kids with a Wish experience.

What Clash does is make his work look so simple.  As another puppeteer in the film says, Clash makes a piece of fabric with a human head, react like a human being would.  Elmo became so big, yet only now do we learn all that went behind that fame, and that it was primarily the vision of one very busy man.  And it resulted in the highest paid puppeteer ever.

With numerous puppeteers and entertainers commenting on Clash’s work and personal traits, and narration by Whoopi Goldberg, a real-life “wizard behind the curtain” emerges.  We get to walk along with someone’s journey of discovery of a field we might not all have thought about, yet maybe secretly wish we know more about, and learn how you can grow up on Sesame Street, and dream about becoming a part of it, and making that dream come true.

Several themes permeate this documentary–the importance of shows like Sesame Street and Captain Kangaroo and public television to education and younger learning and personal growth for more than one generation, the value of mentoring and apprentice-type relationships, especially in ensuring the survival of more obscure forms of art, identifying the creative spark in someone and helping to encourage creative abilities, and the “blood, sweat, and tears” required to fulfill a dream.

Look also for Clash’s link to Jim Henson and The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth before he was 25 years old, and the iconic presence and impact of Jim Henson on him and others.  Not covered are the other things Clash has done, like serve as the voice of Splinter in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie series, as well as several public appearances and puppet work.

I’ve heard of several friends who are struggling with their Netflix subscriptions because they are running out of things–it’s the old story of having 300 channels on cable with nothing to watch.   Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey is an example of something you might otherwise miss while trolling for something to watch, and it’s well worth your time.  Note that it’s not a documentary for kids–little ones should probably wait a bit before seeing that their furry TV friends are made with rods and have hands up their backs.