Some kids are raised by wolves. I was raised by 2 swingin’ hippy-chicks & a pink squirrel. #iturnedoutokay

POP HAZMAT-RETRO presents CLASSIC CHILDREN’S TV ON-THE-CHEAP!by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S HONOREE: The Magic Garden (WPIX-TV 1972-1984)

RESPONSIBLE FOR THE GREATNESS: Carole Demas and Paula Janis

Some kids are raised by wolves. I was raised by two hot hippy-chicks and a pink squirrel. I turned out okay. (???)

Some kids are raised by wolves. I was raised by two hot hippy-chicks and a pink squirrel. I turned out okay. Right?

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Think Joan Baez and Judy Collins abandoning Woodstock glory, passionate ’60s activism and hemp sandals to take-up Elmer’s Glue, cardboard hats and macaroni artwork as BFF kindergarten teachers! How cool is that? Even better, The Magic Garden’s Carole and Paula never failed to emanate a delightful whiff of that fresh-faced hippy-chick era with their pleasant “Mellow Yellow” outlook, propensity to break into irresistible ditties at the slightest provocation and eagerness to feed peanuts to a talking pink squirrel named Sherlock. Don’t even get me started on their “Chuckle Patch.” I do recall a plethora of colorful mushrooms decorating the set of The Magic Garden, which just might explain the lovably light-hearted and hypnotic atmosphere cultivated by these admirable babes. Who can say?

In my estimation, The Magic Garden was one of the more consistently creative and well-made children’s shows of its time, and a great deal of the credit must go to the buoyant charm and self-assured talent of its stars, Carole Demas and Paula Janis, who sang wonderfully, projected a perpetual sense of delight in their original material and never, ever “talked down” to their audience, which was comprised of millions of happy kids still finishing their morning Cheerios or just home from school with a long awaited snack in-hand. The Magic Garden was produced by one of America’s most important independent television stations at the time (New York City’s WPIX) and the program ran from 1972 until 1984. The adventures of Carole and Paula in their fantastic playground may not have been broadcast across the country, like Sesame Street, but if your state was situated anywhere near New York and you were under age 10 with a TV-set in the house, then you were privy to the show’s gently psychedelic brand of earthy playfulness.

swingingPOP HAZMAT-RETRO presents CLASSIC CHILDREN’S TV ON-THE-CHEAP!

Though Carole and Paula didn’t have a production budget to rival, say, Mister Rogers, the ladies made the best out of what they had on hand, which was usually construction paper, a bit of paint, a couple of funky tree-swings and an acoustic guitar. Their wise, whimsical use of sing-alongs, stories, jokes and various props was never anything less than engaging, so it comes as little surprise to learn that The Magic Garden commanded an audience as large and as loyal as that of Sesame Street, at least within WPIX’s broadcasting range. I always liked The Magic Garden every bit as much as Sesame Street and light years more than Mister Rogers. No offense to the much-beloved Fred, but I saw straight through the gimmickry of agitated trolleys, condescending baby-talk and shrill puppets with gin-blossoms and tipsy monologues. We already had several, slurring Lady Elaine Fairchilde-types living on our block; we didn’t need a kids’ show to remind us that eccentric old rich ladies like to hit the sauce once in awhile. Make no mistake: the gals from The Magic Garden were as fresh and as funny as the plastic daisies in their “Chuckle Patch” and I’ll take Carole’s crisp, confidently retro leather vest over one of Fred’s dusty old cardigans any day of the week.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “The stories are here, they’re all in here, from crafty fox to Goldilocks, in story box, in story box …” (Yes, I still remember the songs and NO I didn’t have to YouTube them to jolt the synapses in that regard.)

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Carole Demas and Paula Janis, who started their careers as teachers in Brooklyn before tending The Magic Garden with their Watering Can of Fabulousness, went on to record a number of well-received albums based upon the show’s musical themes and they have continued to celebrate the cheerful nostalgia reserved for them via promotional appearances and concerts. They’re still friends, after all these years, and their program is fondly remembered by its legions of fans. I am happy to be one of them. None of my usual, witty snark shall touch Carole and Paula on this blog. They are sacred. Visit Carole and Paula’s website and learn more about them by clicking HERE.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: All of the songs on The Magic Garden were consistently clever and well-performed, but for my money, Carole and Paula had the most wonderful and winsome “closing tune” in the entire history of children’s programming (And yes, that includes YOU, Fred Rogers-up-in-heaven). Enjoy these sweet, smilin’ hippy-chicks as they serve-up their signature parting slice of pure sunshine!

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Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, Friends, if only for a few hours. A sweeping modern fairy-tale is born with the Rowan Blaize series of books. Click on the book covers to the right or have a look below …

Watch the Rowan Blaize Book Trailer HERE.

Book One = The magical cornerstone – a lavishly illustrated epic narrative poem … a genuine “spell” for the young and young-at-heart to treasure for a lifetime, telling the story of sorcerer Rowan Blaize’s battle to regain his magic powers. (Think Beowulf-meets-Dr.Seuss or an epic story-in-verse of a scope similar to Tolkien’s soon-to-be-released The Fall of Arthur, only contemporary.)

Book Two = The rip-roaring novel that continues the adventures of Rowan Blaize and introduces the three hilarious witches of the Ancient City, along with its dysfunctional werewolves, wraiths, ghosts, vampires, dryads, banshees and a beauty pageant brat that just might destroy the world.

Book Three = The next novel that finds Rowan trapped by a spell in another world, caught between a faery-squashing sorceress who’ll stop at nothing to conquer the kingdom … and a feisty teenage prince who’s determined to get it back.

Click here to purchase the Kindle e-books and watch a video of Jonathan discussing his work.
__________________________________________
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
Books-A-Million
Rowan Blaize Official Website
Goodreads

Pop HazMat: Someone’s in the kitchen with Dyna-Girl. #popculture #nostalgia

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF FAME presents CHILDREN’S TV ON-THE-CHEAP! by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: Electra Woman and Dyna-Girl (1976. 16 Episodes. ABC)

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Sid and Marty Krofft (as usual), Deidre Hall, Judy Strangis, ABC

Someone's in the kitchen with DYNA-Girl ...

Someone’s in the kitchen with DYNA-Girl …

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: From the clusterflucked minds of Sid and Marty Krofft emerged Electra Woman and Dyna Girl in 1976 — yet another Saturday morning Abomination of the Imagination intended to attract the interest of easily amused children vibrating in front of the boob tube due to Frankenberry sugar-highs and Apple Jacks apoplexy. Running for a paltry 16 episodes at a brisk 15 minutes a pop, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl was different from almost anything in the Krofft oeuvre. There were no villages populated by manic, anthropomorphized hats or play-dough dinosaur props or Weenie Genies or brain-damaged dragon-dandies with Gomer Pyle affectations. This show featured crime-fighting babes in panty hose and marching-band capes! Whether or not the scantily (and stupidly) clad Electra Woman and Dyna Girl were also intended to snag the attention of any hung-over adult males who might be scrounging around the kitchen cupboards at dawn for an Alka-Seltzer is up for debate. I mean, even having a nubile kids-show character with the name “Dyna Girl” presented viewers with a series of vaguely dirty, back alley Las Vegas strip-club undertones. I seem to recall my father pausing once or twice, half-asleep and teetering in the living room, squinting at the screen, as the show’s heroines underwent one of their “Electra Changes” from mild-mannered magazine journalists into Super Bimbos. He was probably just wondering what in the hell kind of televised tomfoolery his kids were watching this time.

We often wondered the same thing, because Electra Woman and Dyna Girl stunk with a particularly rancid stench, even amid a TV-landscape already quite littered with smelly entertainment offerings for gullible tots. The show was a tepid and blatant rip-off of the Batman & Robin theme, and if Electra Woman and Dyna Girl didn’t represent the creative burnout of Hollywood Choom-Gang writers at their tackiest and most stultifying, I don’t what did in those days. You had a big, pushy chick (Electra Woman) and her perky little wide-eyed & pig-tailed sidekick (Dyna Girl) who had an obvious crush on her taller, more bosomy cohort. Imagine the minds that green-lighted this project in some malodorous boardroom beneath a wonky ceiling fan. How did they sleep at night? How did they go home and live lives with their families, doing presumably normal things that families do? Whiskey straight-up, surely.

The show’s set seemed to mimic the size and dismal atmosphere of one of those walk-thru “Scare Houses” you used to find at third-rate carnivals in the most backwater potato-growing counties imaginable. You know — the kind of cramped Scare House that was really just a trailer spattered with dripping red paint and staffed by carnies in rubber monster-masks, hiding in little closets at various junctures as you felt your way along in the greasy dark … only the carnies were too drunk to even bother leaping-out to send a dollar’s worth of “chills” down your spine. You were more frightened by the reek of Boone’s Farm halitosis in such close quarters than you were by the disheveled carnies lurking (or slumped) in the shadows. I expect that there was likewise a fair amount of hard liquor halitosis on the set of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, and I expect a significant amount of that halitosis was emanating directly from the pouting pie-hole of lovely actress Deidre Hall, who played Electra Woman with the kind of look on her face that said: “I knew I should’ve accepted that Tijuana ‘donkey cabaret’ offer. I can’t go back to Florida now, not after this! What am I doing here? Are there any razor blades lying around? A noose? Who’s got a noose? Can I fashion a noose out of this sateen crime-fighting joke-of-a-cape? God, I want to strangle that wretched little Dyna Girl, at the very least.”

Yeah. Poor Deidre Hall. It was bad. The show even had a hysterical theme song that was as jammed with creepy overkill and ambition as the actual show itself was lacking in both of those attributes. A frenzied, high-energy half-rock half-disco piece of wanton sonic butchery, the tune was screeched by a woman who sounded as if she were clawing her own eyes out, bouncing off the walls of a seedy Burbank recording booth while in the grip of some acid-fueled hallucination.

“Electra Woman and Dyna Girl!” she shrieked. “Fightin’ all evil deeds! Each writes for a magazine. Who could know the life she leads?”

That was about the extent of the lyrical prowess. As for the rest, well, there wasn’t an awful lot the makers of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl could do in 12 minutes, but they sure could come-up with a helluva lot of Awful. There was much button-pushing of plastic Electra-gadgets to combat villains named “Ali Baba” and “The Pharaoh” and “The Spider Lady” and “The Sorcerer” (there’s always a sorcerer, isn’t there.) The special effects on Electra Woman and Dyna Girl made Ed Wood movies look like CGI extravaganzas. Blessedly, this incomprehensible mess was cancelled by ABC before the start of the second season. Deidre Hall must’ve gone on a four-week toot after getting that particular pink-slip, if only to find an outlet for her overwhelming euphoria.

In case you’re wondering how I remember so much about this travesty of kid’s programming, let me inform you that Electra Woman and Dyna Girl was the kind of thing you had to sit-through. You had to let your sister (or perhaps your gay brother) watch this insult or else incur screams of protest that would result in Mom and/or Dad staggering out of bed on Saturday Morning and revoking all of your weekend TV-watching and backyard misadventure privileges, usually with a ratty old slipper slapped a few times upside your head to drive the point home. So you bit your lip and watched these desperate actresses embarrass the hell out of themselves until it was time for ThunderCats.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “Put yourself on full brightness, Dyna Girl. That way we can saturate both walls at the same time.”

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Deidre Hall must surely have repressed the memory of her brief stint as Electra Woman deep, deep down, all the way to the level of her quivering and impregnable id, for she went-on to enjoy a successful 32-year run as “Marlena,” a much-beloved regular on some drippy daytime soap called Days of Our Nights or The Edge of Our Lives or some such. She couldn’t escape the excruciating legacy of a masochistic career-catastrophe forever, though. Sadist Rosie O’Donnell managed to bring up the Electra Woman nightmare when Hall guested on her talk-show back in the 1990s. Squirm Central! You KNOW she wanted to stuff Rosie’s head right up into her very own Dyna-Girl for pulling a stunt like that! Cute little Judy Strangis, who played Dyna Girl, wisely squirreled herself away into the Dyna-free realm of voiceovers and the occasional TV commercial after the program’s abrupt cancellation. The whole mess remains, of course, a cult favorite.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Behold the show’s immortal intro. Dyna-Disaster deluxe.
______________________

Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, Friends, if only for a few hours. A sweeping modern fairy-tale is born with the Rowan Blaize series of books. Click on the book covers to the right or have a look below …

Watch the Rowan Blaize Book Trailer HERE.

Book One = The magical cornerstone – a lavishly illustrated epic narrative poem … a genuine “spell” for the young and young-at-heart to treasure for a lifetime, telling the story of sorcerer Rowan Blaize’s battle to regain his magic powers. (Think Beowulf-meets-Dr.Seuss or an epic story-in-verse of a scope similar to Tolkien’s soon-to-be-released The Fall of Arthur, only contemporary.)

Book Two = The rip-roaring novel that continues the adventures of Rowan Blaize and introduces the three hilarious witches of the Ancient City, along with its dysfunctional werewolves, wraiths, ghosts, vampires, dryads, banshees and a beauty pageant brat that just might destroy the world.

Book Three = The next novel that finds Rowan trapped by a spell in another world, caught between a faery-squashing sorceress who’ll stop at nothing to conquer the kingdom … and a feisty teenage prince who’s determined to get it back.

Click here to purchase the Kindle e-books and watch a video of Jonathan discussing his work.
__________________________________________
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
Books-A-Million
Rowan Blaize Official Website
Goodreads

He-Man & She-Ra: Proudly fostering body dysmorphic disorders since 1983!

POP HAZMAT RETRO HALL OF FAME presents Wonderfully Warped Children’s Television!by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: He-Man (1983-1985) and She-Ra (1985-1986)

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: He-Man, She-Ra, Skeletor, Battle Cat, Teela and all the elves working Mattel’s Everlasting Assembly-line of Dysfunctional Dreams.

He-Man and She-Ra ... Padding the bank accounts of psychologists specializing in Body Dysmorphic Disorders since the 1980s!

He-Man and She-Ra … Padding the bank accounts of psychologists specializing in Body Dysmorphic Disorders since the 1980s!

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: If you were a trendy child growing-up in the 1980s and early 1990s, there’s little chance you escaped the pop-culture gravitational pull of He-Man and She-Ra, who were basically two sword & sorcery action-figures with their own animated Saturday morning infomercials thinly disguised as kids’ TV shows. He-Man came first as you were spooning Cap’n Crunchies into your spellbound face and dripping sugar-saturated milk all over your jammies and onto Mother’s new JC Penney area-rug. But you could hardly look away when He-Man sauntered across the screen in all of his garish, stilted-animation glory. He-Man was essentially a warrior-type dragged from any garden-variety epic fantasy novel, stripped of every piece of clothing a warrior would need, except for a colorful jock-strap and boots, pumped with a regimen of steroids that’d make Lance Armstrong look like a dilettante and armed (of course) with a magic sword.

Or maybe the magic sword was the talisman of She-Ra, He-Man’s twin sister, who got her own spin-off show/infomercial so the little girls and the gays would have something to razzle their dazzle while masticating Cocoa Puffs and Pop Tarts from 9AM til Noon on weekends. She-Ra was as overblown as He-Man, for these were the days when slightly doughy or out-of-shape heroes (like TV’s Batman and Robin or the skinflint “Shaggy” from Scooby-Doo) just couldn’t cut the cartoon mustard any more, so kids were being presented with progressively exaggerated images of the human body and schooled in the importance of having Big-Gulp secondary sex characteristics when the time came to transform into one’s crime-fighting alter ego. Thus, She-Ra was stacked like a particularly earnest Hooters waitress working the Halloween shift in a costume she spent maybe ten minutes putting together out of a tablecloth and some ornamental napkin holders from the Pic-N-Save. Her boobs were honeydew-perfect and seemingly attached to her chin, which looked like the surgically sculpted masterpiece of some sought-after Beverly Hills body butcher. Those Power Ta-Tas did not flinch an inch when She-Ra was conquering the forces of evil! In fact, it was probably her chi-chis that poked Skeletor’s eyes out … though the series never addressed that likelihood, to my knowledge.

Skeletor ... Blinded by the Mighty Meemies of She-Ra or just a rip-off of Ghost Rider in Dungeons & Dragons drag?

Skeletor … Blinded by the Mighty Meemies of She-Ra or just a rip-off of Ghost Rider in Dungeons & Dragons drag?

She-Ra’s gargantuan hairdo was a thing of splendor in and of itself — daunting enough to make all 43 of the weaves and assorted clip-on wigs atop Beyoncé’s head writhe like Medusa-snakes in anger and envy. He-Man actually had even bigger and more ridiculous breasts than She-Ra. His torso looked like an airbrushed Smithfield ham balanced atop the legs of a Clydesdale draught-horse, with a baby watermelon stuffed in his red bikini.

For about fifteen minutes during the ’80s, we all loved these shows and couldn’t get enough of the ADHD-inducing drama, much less of the action figure tie-ins and “accessories sold separately.” Then we grew up, as well-adjusted children ought to do, and we moved on — thoroughly prepared for a culture of pervasive internet porn, rampant body dysmorphic disorders, obsessive workout regimens, bodacious breast augmentations, fake hair, fake names, fake intelligence, fake values, indiscriminate displays of physical violence and a vast gallery of narcissistic smartphone “selfies” taken in front of bathroom mirrors by the millions. It’s a lot easier to work for a set of ripped abs or buy a smokin’ hot rack than to fight the Forces of Darkness, these days. Fighting evil with magic swords? Nah, we didn’t bring that part of the show into the new millennium. We just brought the hotness and the Evil.

Thank you, Filmation!

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: Here’s 10 indispensable He-Man quotes steeped in the kind of wisdom that explains exactly why your kids turned out the way they did.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: The classic He-Man Intro. Note how the “pre-transformed” Adam (Prince of Eternia) appears to be voiced by a 59-year-old Presbyterian radio-announcer from Topanga with a deviated septum.

______________________

Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, Friends, if only for a few hours. A sweeping modern fairy-tale is born with the Rowan Blaize series of books. Click on the book covers to the right or have a look below …

Watch the Rowan Blaize Book Trailer HERE.

Book One = The magical cornerstone – a lavishly illustrated epic narrative poem … a genuine “spell” for the young and young-at-heart to treasure for a lifetime, telling the story of sorcerer Rowan Blaize’s battle to regain his magic powers. (Think Beowulf-meets-Dr.Seuss or an epic story-in-verse of a scope similar to Tolkien’s soon-to-be-released The Fall of Arthur, only contemporary.)

Book Two = The rip-roaring novel that continues the adventures of Rowan Blaize and introduces the three hilarious witches of the Ancient City, along with its dysfunctional werewolves, wraiths, ghosts, vampires, dryads, banshees and a beauty pageant brat that just might destroy the world.

Book Three = The next novel that finds Rowan trapped by a spell in another world, caught between a faery-squashing sorceress who’ll stop at nothing to conquer the kingdom … and a feisty teenage prince who’s determined to get it back.

Click here to purchase the Kindle e-books and watch a video of Jonathan discussing his work.
__________________________________________
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
Books-A-Million
Rowan Blaize Official Website
Goodreads

Classic Retro-Kids’ TV On-the-CHEAP! MR. DRESSUP #exposed

Watch the Rowan Blaize Book Trailer HERE.

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HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF FAME: CHILDREN’S TV ON-THE-CHEAP! by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: MR. DRESSUP (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 1967-1996)

A single adult man who keeps a biologically unrelated little boy living in a tree in his backyard? Welcome to kids' TV from the CBC!

A single adult man who kept a biologically unrelated little boy living in a tree in his backyard? Welcome to kids’ TV from the CBC!

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Ernie Coombs (Canada’s answer to Mr. Rogers … only a lot more caffeinated and likely to bounce off the cardboard walls)

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Nothing touches the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for producing tatty but creative kids’ shows that were built to last and rife with mangy-looking puppets suffering from Borderline Personality Disorders! As a bumpkin-child in the woods of upstate New York, I couldn’t wait to fill my impressionable mind with that one-of-a-kind brand of folksy Canadian Crazy that the CBC pumped into our living rooms on a daily basis via programming like The Friendly Giant and the legendary Mr. Dressup.

Mr. Dressup was probably the “King” of cheesy children’s TV, at least for youngsters in our region who depended upon the seemingly limitless pipeline of entertainment thrift utilized by producers just across the border — producers who had to stage a show with nothing but four or five Ping-Pong balls, construction paper, two asbestos oven-mits and maybe a ukulele. The brain-trusts in Toronto knew how to BRING IT! I only wish today’s bloated and shiftless TV execs could do in an hour with their $9 million budgets what Mr. Dressup’s team obviously did in 10 minutes for a few bucks and a six-pack of Carling-O’Keefe.

Mr. Dressup ran daily from 1967-1996, amassing over 4,000 episodes packed with wanton childishness. That was the whole point! Like most children’s TV programs since the days of Caesar and Cleopatra, the setting and context of the actual characters on Mr. Dressup lacked verisimilitude. Wait. Scratch that. The set-up made absolutely no freakin’ sense whatsoever. First of all, you had a loner-type adult person with no fashion-sense and no apparent prospects for marriage (Mr. Dressup) living in a tiny house crammed with semi-magical knick knacks and strange outfits that were kept in something called a “Tickle Trunk” while, out in the back yard, a child biologically unrelated to the adult lived in a tree.

Uh huh.

On the Mr. Dressup show, the treehouse-dwelling child was a freckled puppet named “Casey”. Casey looked like an unfinished Lady Elaine Fairchilde marionette stolen from the Mr. Rogers set, fitted with a blond page-boy wig and wrapped in a tea-cozy. A parade of disheveled, disoriented and equally unrelated puppet-people streamed constantly through the door of the little house to visit the adult loner and the boy he kept in the backyard tree. This highly unusual and improbable “family unit” was unexplained and therefore taken for granted by the viewing public at the time. We called it “the magic of children’s television.”

Today they call it “a particularly disturbing episode of Law and Order:SVU.”

But that’s how kids’ programming rolled in the days before unseen parents allowed their irritating real-life children to play in the park unsupervised with an obese purple dinosaur on Zoloft that taught them to chant endless verses of black magic composed by Lucifer, Lord of Hell.

In terms of plot, the Mr. Dressup show was rather formulaic and predictable, which was an attribute beneficial to a developing child’s mind, I believe. That whole dynamic has certainly changed. Mr. Dressup, ever-exuberant in his bow-tie and suspenders, would greet his friends in TV Land and prepare them for a morning of storytelling that always involved the retrieval of some indicative costume from the Tickle Trunk. The costume was usually made out of colored gauze, tinfoil and discarded candy wrappers, but we didn’t care, as kids. Sometimes, to our horror, the Tickle Trunk wouldn’t even open, forcing Mr. Dressup to actually “coochie-coo” the damn thing until it coughed-up the goods. That trunk was a coy little tramp.

Once Mr. Dressup donned the Kleenex cape or the fake beard made out of cotton yanked from a thousand Q-tips, he would tell some brief fairy tale that sent us all off to Imagination Town in our pea brains. After that it was time to head out into the backyard for a visit with Casey in the treehouse. The best part about Casey was actually his constant companion, Finnegan the Dog, who looked like an unlaundered sailor’s sock after a nine-month tour of duty. Finnegan the Dog was great because he was entirely mute. Couldn’t bark a note. Couldn’t growl. Couldn’t talk. He was the only silent creature of Irish extraction I ever saw. Mr. Dressup or Casey would talk to Finnegan or ask his opinion about something and the puppeteer would merely make Finnegan’s “mouth” move silently and he would whisper the answer in Casey’s ear. Casey would then translate/interpret Finnegan’s response. He was the original Dog-Whisperer, that Casey.

The entire, belovedly creepy Mr. Dressup crew -- l. to r. the clearly "out of it" and obviously overmedicated Aunt Bird, Alligator, Mr. Dressup, Casey, and Finnegan the Dog

The entire, belovedly creepy Mr. Dressup crew — l. to r. the clearly “out of it” and obviously overmedicated Aunt Bird, Alligator, Mr. Dressup, Casey, and Finnegan the Dog

An assortment of guests would soon follow. An alligator-puppet cleverly named “Alligator” might drop by to yammer-on about God-Knows-What and at least once a week you could count on a visit from Aunt Bird, who was the show’s requisite “dazed and confused” elderly puppet. Poor Aunt Bird never made much sense, always looked like she had possibly been mauled in an alley by Finnegan the Dog’s more aggressive canine relations, and she was a definite candidate for Lady Rogaine or whatever it is they recommend for women with unsightly bald patches. Sometimes in tow with Aunt Bird was her niece, Miss Biz, a bug-eyed specimen who was as neurotic and disconnected as Elaine Stritch. Miss Biz, with only about a dozen strands of pink, wispy boa-feathers protruding from her lumpy head as “hair” clearly inherited the Female-Pattern Baldness gene from her dizzy aunt. I always figured there must’ve been an ostrich or maybe a vulture in that follicle-challenged bird-family’s woodpile. Anyhow, after all of this pointless but riveting Goodness, Casey and Finnegan would go to sleep in the treehouse, Aunt Bird and Miss Biz would fly off to whatever sorry, hair-lined nest they called home and Mr. Dressup would conclude the show with a consultation of the Wise Old Owl, which was a framed picture of an owl that would magically come to life and open its cardboard eyes, roll them, say: “Who, who, to-wit, to-woo …” and then offer some word of encouragement to insecure children all over the world … or at least within a 150-mile radius of Toronto, Ontario.

It’s amazing how such low-budget yet creative and lovingly crafted productions had the power to mesmerize children, once upon a time. These characters became as familiar to us as friends when we were young and life was a bit simpler. It all went down not that long ago — as noted, the Mr. Dressup show racked-up 29 years of whimsical entertainment and over 4000 little episodes before the Tickle Trunk demanded a cut of the syndication profits or went on the fritz and refused to reveal its secrets for the unappreciative ADHD demographic of the burgeoning Cyber Age. That’s okay. When the asteroid hits and the Zombie Apocalypse is unleashed upon what precious little is left of civilization, we’ll all be forced to live in treehouses with pets rendered mute by radiation poisoning. I figure I’ll be one of the few who’s ready.

Thank you, Mr. Dressup.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “Three little birdies, happy and gay. Three little birdies fly away.” (Classic chart-topping Mr. Dressup lyrics)

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Ernie Coombs, who played Mr. Dressup for almost 30 years on the CBC, went on to become a popular figure on the college lecture circuit, especially for generations of students who had “grown up” with the beloved children’s program. Ernie Coombs passed away in 2001. RIP, Mr. D.

Casey from the Treehouse

Perhaps scarred by a youth spent living in the backyard tree of an unrelated adult male, Casey found the transition to adulthood somewhat difficult. Between government checks and visits to his parole officer, he still finds time to audition for local children's theater and enjoys macaroni art. He lives in Winnipeg.

Perhaps scarred by a youth spent living in the backyard tree of an unrelated adult male, Casey found the transition to adulthood somewhat difficult. Between government checks and visits to his parole officer, he still finds time to audition for local children’s theater and enjoys macaroni art. He lives in Winnipeg.

The discombobulated Aunt Bird

WARNING GRAPHIC: This is a photo from the Ottawa Police Department's homicide unit, taken Thanksgiving Day 1996. It is the last known photograph of Aunt Bird. Her surviving family members refused to speak to Pop HazMat about the murder, which appears to have been related to the infamous "Savory Stuffer's" string of serial killings that terrorized Canada in the late 1990s.

WARNING GRAPHIC: This is a photo from the Ottawa Police Department’s homicide unit, taken Thanksgiving Day 1996. It is the last known photograph of Aunt Bird. Her surviving family members refused to speak to Pop HazMat about the murder, which appears to have been related to the infamous “Savory Stuffer’s” string of serial killings that terrorized Canada in the late 1990s.

Tickle Trunk

Of all the Mr. Dressup cast-members, the Tickle Trunk appears to have fared the best in private life. Tickle Trunk (pictured on the left) is now owned by Lance and Bartholomew,  a fabulous Greenwich Village couple who specialize in restoring worn-out receptacles of all shapes and sizes. "We needed a place to keep our collection of damask napkins and, well, we certainly love to tickle," said Lance. "It was really a no-brainer."

Of all the Mr. Dressup cast-members, the Tickle Trunk appears to have fared the best in private life. Tickle Trunk (pictured on the left) is now owned by Lance and Bartholomew, a fabulous Greenwich Village couple who specialize in restoring worn-out receptacles of all shapes and sizes. “We needed a place to keep our collection of damask napkins and, well, we certainly love to tickle,” said Lance. “It was really a no-brainer.”

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Casey and Finnegan … Classic Moments to Treasure.

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Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, Friends, if only for a few hours. A sweeping modern fairy-tale is born with the Rowan Blaize series of books …

Book One = The magical cornerstone – a lavishly illustrated epic narrative poem … a genuine “spell” for the young and young-at-heart to treasure for a lifetime, telling the story of sorcerer Rowan Blaize’s battle to regain his magic powers. (Think Beowulf-meets-Dr.Seuss or an epic story-in-verse of a scope similar to Tolkien’s soon-to-be-released The Fall of Arthur, only contemporary.)

Book Two = The rip-roaring novel that continues the adventures of Rowan Blaize and introduces the three hilarious witches of the Ancient City, along with its dysfunctional werewolves, wraiths, ghosts, vampires, dryads, banshees and a beauty pageant brat that might just destroy the world.

Book Three = The next novel that finds Rowan trapped by a spell in another world, caught between a faery-squashing sorceress who’ll stop at nothing to conquer the kingdom … and a feisty teenage prince who’s determined to get it back.

Click here to purchase the e-books and watch a video of Jonathan discussing his work.
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Rowan Blaize Official Website
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