Saturday, September 10, 2011

Urban Legends

TV Trinity

 Ten years has passed now since the death of Ernie Coombs, who as Mr.Dressup delighted young audiences for more than a generation. 

 On September 18th 2001 Mr.Coombs passed away from a stroke. Unfortunately, recognition of his death slipped through the cracks during that confusing and frightening time.

Menage a trois?

Watching Mr.Dressup as a child was a comforting and enjoyable activity, yet what would have been far more important to me as an adult was a source of great frustration during my formative youth.

One of these experiences is a very pleasant one though, it's one of watching Mr.Dressup entertain me with drawings and stories, and ever coaxing my imagination and stimulating my excitement for the world. The unpleasant memory came the day I turned on the tube to watch my daily episode which was preempted instead by a bunch of clowns in space suits bouncing around a barren rock babbling unintelligible communication transmissions punctuated by annoying beeps.

Ernie Coombs, along with judith Lawrence, an Australian immigrant puppeteer,
worked their magic daily for over a generation. Ms.Lawrence made the decision to 'phase out' casey and Finnigan when she decided to retire from the show, despite any confusing urban legends that may have surrounded their departure.
Folie A Deux?

The brilliance of Casey and Finnigan was the underlying 'Zen' quality to the paradox of their method of communication. Casey could speak, often quite elegantly without moving his mouth, and Finnigan had the ability to move his mouth despite being a "mute mutt".

"It's a beautiful day for some Tats"

 Mr.Dressup was an icon and a legend, as was Bob Homme (the Friendly Giant) along with his trusty companions 'Rusty the Rooster' and 'Jerome The Giraffe', were a kind of "one-two punch" of canadian kids programming. Speaking of 'Urban Legends' south of the border, the Americans had their own "one-two punch" that actually had urban legends attached. I'm speaking of course about Fred Rogers (a.k.a Mr.Rogers), and Bob Keeshan, also known as Captain Kangaroo.

 It turns out there was a story going around that Captain Kangaroo had saved the life of late actor Lee Marvin during the war, after Marvin had taken a bullet in the ass, a story which Mr.Marvin later flatly denied. The fable of Mr.Rogers goes, that the reason he had to wear long sleeve cardigans on his program was to hide some demonstrative arm tattoos acquired during his days in the navy…I'm laughing just thinking about that one!

 So there you have it...  The Four Hell Riders of the Kiddy Apocalypse. These men were friendly father figures in a less cynical age, one where nobody thought that a middle-aged man, who enjoyed dressing up, talking to puppets, or hanging out with children, was in any way 'strange'. 

Dirty CT  September 2011

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