Songs That Made Childhood Magical … #SesameStreet

Okay, so a hitherto planned “Ten Best Meals I Ever Ate” List is not going to appear today. I’m on the fourth day of a complete fast/cleanse, i.e. no solid food and only lemon-water, honey and cayenne pepper to sustain me. Thus, my long and illustrious history of gastronomic adventure is the last thing I want to expound-upon, at the moment. Instead, we’ll opt for some HazMat pop-culture profiling. Behold, the Alligator King and his brood of seven toothy tots.

You can COUNT on this song being stuck in your head all the livelong day!

You can COUNT on this song being stuck in your head all the livelong day!

Jonathan Kieran’s HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF FAME 

TODAY’S HONOREE: “7” by the Alligator King of Sesame Street (Voiced by Bud Luckey)

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Nothing warms the sweet cockles of wistful Kiddie Heart-Land like the memory of a Sesame Street “number song” that you couldn’t get out of your head at age five if you’d even tried. Forget about the fact that you used to you drive your poor mother bananas with endless repetitions of what you had learned. Forget about your mother’s desperate prayers that you would one day employ your knowledge of figures and digits to conquer Wall Street and put her in the most posh Park Avenue spread that money could buy. Irrelevant! These “number songs” were magical, and they were the top of the Toddler Hit Parade, back in the day, before Barney and Sponge-Bob and Ninja Turtles and Tellytubbies came around to rip the innocence of youth from our tender, fluttering souls with all manner of subtle-but-wanton devilry. Okay, so Barney wasn’t all that Evil. Still, none of the others could match Sesame Street’s penchant for producing cartoon ditties that made you want to COUNT until the cows came home! The plight of the Alligator King and his Seven Sons was one of the best, made all the more immortal by the swampy New Orleans ragtime inflections of the great Bud Luckey. What are you waiting for? 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 … SING IT!

DEFINITIVE LYRIC:Said the alligator king to his seventh son, “My son, you win the crown. You didn’t give me diamonds or rubies BUT you helped me up when I was down.”

SEMI-TWISTED “ADULT HUMOR” MOMENT: When the second son gives the Alligator King “seven statues of girls with clocks where their stomachs should be.” Surely this was some sort of perverted metaphor, but our beloved Jim Henson has taken the secret to his grave. Talk amongst yourselves about it, philosophers and sociologists.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: No one can swing like the ALLIGATOR KING!

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Jonathan Kieran is the author of the Rowan Blaize series of epic contemporary fantasy books, as well as the critically acclaimed (Midwestern Book Review) Confessions From The Comments Section: The Secret Lives of Internet Commenters and Other Pop-Culture Zombies. His work has also been featured on The Daily Dot.com and in a plethora of other ‘zines. Click on the book covers to the right if you want to learn more about Jonathan’s titles or spend some of your hard-earned money on his multi-formatted gifts to the human race. Jonathan is currently writing and illustrating a new novel. Drop-in once in awhile for updates; he promises to provide them … once in awhile.

Pop HazMat HOF: Lovably Bad Candy from Childhood … Licorice Laces! posted by JONATHAN KIERAN

A sweeping modern fairy-tale is born with the adventures of Rowan Blaize. Book One is the timeless magical cornerstone … the subsequent books lift our warlock’s world into the framework of several spellbinding novels. Click here for all of the special $0.99 Kindle e-book downloads!

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF LAME (LOVABLY BAD FOOD FROM CHILDHOOD) by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: SHOESTRING LICORICE! or “LICORICE LACES”

Buy Your Kids a Bag of This Goodness and Be Ready for a Night of Regret

Buy Your Kids a Bag of This Goodness and Be Ready for a Night of Regret

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: I have no idea what possessed parents (or grandparents) to purchase this kind of Tangled-Up Edible Wickedness for children. It was probably due to the relentless begging, pleading, screaming and high-octane tantrum throwing — all respectable, finely honed skills at which any child worth his or her sweet tooth excelled on a par with the most prize-winning and peer-reviewed astrophysicist. Woe to the adult who was foolhardy enough to trundle their child into a Stuckey’s or an Ames or some other derelict establishment where this kind of product was displayed like so many gloriously gleaming bags of freshly scalped Muppet hair. If you were a child with any sense of gastronomic discrimination whatsoever, you pulled out all of your best, most time-tested Brat Routines and hurled them at your parents like a whistling barrage of razor-sharp Shuriken Throwing Stars.

A Kid Had to Bring Out His Best Weapons When it Came to Scoring a Bag of Licorice Laces from Uncertain Parental Units ...

A Kid Had to Bring Out His Best Weapons When it Came to Scoring a Bag of Licorice Laces from Uncertain Parental Units …

You soon scored that bag of Colorfully Candied Colonic Tapeworms and, if you were particularly adept in the Ancient Art of Wheedling, you got more than one bag — sometimes you nabbed enough of the stuff to cover the Entire Corn Syrup Flavor-Spectrum! Sure, Mommy and Daddy may have ground their teeth and thought fleetingly of using some of that newly purchased Purple Grape String to strangle you down in the cellar at midnight and make it look like an accident, but once you had your candy, you gave your parents back a shred of their sanity … at least until you puked globs of green Sour Apple bile onto the bed-sheets or spent the night on the toilet expelling buckets of blood-colored Wacky Watermelon. And friends, that is what inevitably occurred because shoestring licorice was like kiddie crack. You couldn’t eat just one or two strings the length of your arm and be content. No way. You had to finish an entire bag of 225 yards or else playground bragging-rights would be lost forever, and that was a far more frightening prospect than an entire night of Tectonic Intestinal Death-Cramps. What a great candy!

DEFINITIVE QUALITY: Provided hours of flavorful, stringy, non-stop nibbling child-gluttony!

BRUSH WITH GREATNESS: Legendary enough to inspire Broadway-caliber spectaculars. THESE are the TRUE Heroes of Tomorrow.

LAMENTABLE LEGACY: The night my poor naive grandparents had to clean-up after a simultaneous Projectile Vomit & Pajama Bottom-Filling “shoestring licorice accident” at a desolate Howard Johnson’s somewhere in the bleak wasteland of Pennsylvania. At midnight. Yessir, yessir, Three. Bags. FULL.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Still being made by some daring confectioners who are apparently undaunted by the more litigious breed of strung-out parents inhabiting this New Millennium.

SPRUCE IT UP WITH A COCKTAIL!: Coil a few green strings into your next refreshing Appletini!

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Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, Friends, if Only for a Few Hours. Get acquainted with the comparatively sane world of Rowan Blaize …

One witty 2,800 year-old warlock. A suspicious storm that hurls him to earth near London. A goddess who wants to destroy the world. The catch? She needs Rowan’s face. REMOVED.

A deliciously twisted magical adventure is born with Rowan Blaize and the Enchanted Heritage Chronicles. Use any of the Rowan Blaize book icons on the upper-right (or use the links below) to learn more or purchase with an enchanted click.
Amazon Kindle Version (Only $0.99 Each!)
Book One
Book Two
Book Three
Amazon Author Page (Kindle and Paperback versions)
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
Books-A-Million
Rowan Blaize Official Website
Goodreads

HAZMAT HOF presents CLASSIC KIDS’ TV ON-THE-CHEAP! The Friendly Giant

Seriously ... Blame Canada for this Fabulous Mess

Seriously … Blame Canada for this Fabulous Mess

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF FAME: CLASSIC KIDS’ TV ON-THE-CHEAP!

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: The Friendly Giant brought to you by CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) 1958-1985

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Producer Daniel McArthy, Robert Homme (The Friendly Giant), Rodney Coneybeare (Puppeteer)

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: You Tube, of course, is great for any kind of retro “disAstral projection” because any kid’s show ever featured for even a minute on the most obscure airwave imaginable is preserved on You Tube, so long as any given show’s creators had two googly eyed sock-puppets to rub together. It is with inestimable veneration that I present today’s Featured Object of Childhood Wonder and Idolatry:The Friendly Giant.

Yeah, yeah, I know — even back then the name had a sort of “Whatever you do, don’t take candy from a friendly giant” vibe, and in this case, the vibe might have some validity. Like Paulus the Woodgnome, The Friendly Giant program was another piece of high-tech brilliance smuggled across the Canadian border via malformed TV transmission towers and warped antennae. With titular Big Guy, Robert Homme (French for “Bob MAN“) in the title role, the series endured (in all of its cardboard and papier-mache splendor) for over thirty years!

The premise? Well, each 13-minute show opened with a camera panning across a miniature “town” that made the model of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood look like an aerial shot of Bel Air, by comparison. During the opening credits, an insistent and somewhat creepy adult voice chanted a bit about the goings-on in “Little Town” and then –POW!– suddenly you saw a massive boot stuck in the frame. This was followed by the drill-sergeant admonition for children to “Look up. Look WAAAYYYYY up!” as the camera traveled slowly, luxuriously up Bob Homme’s leg, across his somewhat paunchy midsection and smack into his taciturn Giant Face.

"Friendly" near the Little Town giraffe-dung processing plant.

“Friendly” near the Little Town giraffe-dung processing plant.

Next came a clumsy, herky-jerky lowering of the drawbridge at the giant’s “castle”, which was something I could have built in an hour during crafts’ class in kindergarten. As the drawbridge –obviously rife with structural deficiencies– came down to reveal the words “The Friendly Giant” henscratched in magic marker on two discolored cardboard gates, someone on a recorder played a rather spotty version of Early One Morning.

The rest, my friends, is the stuff of legend. Bob Homme’s mammoth hand arranges itty-bitty pieces of furniture (“Just for you!”) around an itty-bitty fireplace in his huge castle, testifying to the fact that this giant was indeed friendly to little people, or had at least employed a “Little People Friendly” interior decorator when he first decided to build his castle out of an old Sears refrigerator box. Hijinks ensued. There was a bipolar rooster named “Rusty” who lived in a bag hung on a peg near the giant’s window. Rusty sounded like Julia Child on a possibly lethal dose of barbiturates. Rusty the Rooster was presumably a giant, as well, because in terms of scale Rusty could’ve easily wiped-out the little town at the foot of the giant’s domain with one flap of his checkerboard-tablecloth wing. No one on the show ever explained why Rusty was kept in a gunny sack. I like to think that the Friendly Giant was only being friendly to Rusty until the time came to chop his head off, pluck him, stuff him, truss him, and give him a slow roast as soon as the series was cancelled. Why else would anyone keep a truculent farm animal in a bag indoors for so long?

Rusty the Klonopin Rooster

Rusty the Klonopin Rooster

The folks at PETA would’ve been all over Rusty’s oppression, had they been eyeing Canada in the ’70s, when I was about two and addicted to the exploits of the giant. Also keeping the giant company was Jerome the Giraffe, a creature who sounded like he had a three-pack-a-day habit (Camels?) and who was clearly suffering from borderline Personality Disorder. Jerome would poke his head into the window, agitating the giant (and Rusty in his bag) at every opportunity. By my calculations, which were calculated through comparison with the approximated scale of Little Town, Jerome the Giraffe would’ve been about 600 or 700 feet tall! This led me to believe that the primary industry among the folks of Little Town involved the removal and/or processing of giraffe-dung. Judging from the ramshackle appearance of Little Town, this was not a particularly lucrative enterprise. They should have moved their Little Town nearer to a coal mine, but that’s only my opinion.

Otherwise, The Friendly Giant featured heaps of inane chat, endlessly fascinating props culled from Rusty’s bag (a doorknob, a pencil, a spool of thread, an old thumbtack, a rancid piece of popcorn), lots of impromptu blowing on flutes and glimpses into a Magic Lantern that constituted the only reason I ever watched the show in the first place. Magical props were the hook, line & sinker for this kid, on this show … on any show, frankly. The giant’s boot and his surly commands did nothing for me. Nothing.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “I’ll go in the back way so I can lower the drawbridge and open the gates for you.”

LAMENTABLE LEGACY: It’s a riot of sheer pap, to look at it now, but it remains hilarious to know (as an adult) that I was apparently undeveloped enough to need this sort of stuff as a toddler. I adored this program. In hindsight, I guess it goes without saying that the dangerous grown-ups who crafted the production must’ve all headed straight for the bottle after wrapping every shoot, no doubt storming some smoky out-of-the-way Toronto pub and plotting ways to inject double entendres and pervy inside-jokes into next week’s show (example: “What else do you use your mouth for, Rusty?). Yeah, I envision a lot of drunkenness on that set. I could be wrong. Very wrong. It’s only a theory. And it was only a kids’ show.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Have a look at an entire actual episode of the The Friendly Giant on YouTube. See for yourself what glories preceded the much later advent of mutant vampire robot zombie-children with digital super powers. Have a look. I dare you. (And beware of rooster-poop and giraffe-droppings.)

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Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, Friends, if Only for a Few Hours. Get acquainted with the comparatively sane world of Rowan Blaize …

One witty 2,800 year-old warlock. A suspicious storm that hurls him to earth near London. A goddess who wants to destroy the world. The catch? She needs Rowan’s face. REMOVED.

A deliciously twisted magical adventure is born with Rowan Blaize and the Enchanted Heritage Chronicles. Use any of the Rowan Blaize book icons on the upper-right (or use the links below) to learn more or purchase with an enchanted click.

Amazon Kindle Version (Only $0.99 Each!)
Book One
Book Two
Book Three
Amazon Author Page (Kindle and Paperback versions)
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound
Books-A-Million
Rowan Blaize Official Website
Goodreads

HAZMAT-RETRO HOF: CHILDREN’S TV ON-THE-CHEAP! Paulus the Woodgnome (1967-1968)

Eucalypta the Possibly Pre-Operative Transgendered Witch (Paulus's Nemesis and Avid Unicorn-Huntress)

Eucalypta the Possibly Pre-Operative Transgendered Witch (Paulus’s Nemesis and Avid Unicorn-Huntress)

Paulus the possibly intoxicated Woodgnome. "Look, Ma, no (visible) strings!"

Paulus the possibly intoxicated Woodgnome. “Look, Ma, no (visible) strings!”

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

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: Paulus the Woodgnome (1967-1968) Dutch name: Paulus de boskabouter.

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Jan van Oort, the creator of Paulus the Woodgnome and all puppets and sets used in each gripping 10-minute episode of the late-1960s show. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Julian Bulieau and other “writers and manipulators.”

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: When I was a very little boy, growing-up in the ominous woodlands of Northern New York near the border of Quebec, I could relate to some of the ear-curlingly bad kids’ shows that filtered to us through rickety Canadian Broadcasting Corporation airwaves. It required the tremulous bleatings of a prepubescent Celine Dion (who dwelled in the nearby woods, too) or the powers of a seemingly lobotomized woodgnome to pierce the grainy static that loomed like a Bumpkin Berlin Wall separating Canadian and American entertainment. The woodgnome was a puppet named “Paulus” and I have since learned that Paulus was actually the product of Dutch minds — perhaps the kinds of minds sequestered in Amsterdam’s smokiest red-light “art salon” during the wild & wooly 1960s. Who can say? Paulus didn’t look like what a gnome ought to look like, to my thinking. Instead, he looked like an old local man who’d wandered into the forest due to severe bouts of dementia and/or familial neglect. This scenario was entirely plausible where I came from. On camera, Paulus spoke with the sort of indecipherable mumble one hears when really sleepy (and possibly starving) Canadian actors attempt to overdub pointless Dutch drivel. Paulus hallucinated various friends for himself in the forest; like him, they made absolutely no sense whatsoever. They also had questionable names that ought not to have appeared in kids’ programs, names like “Cracker” and “Snatch.” I used to wonder if something significant had been irrevocably lost in the translation from Dutch to English (UK) to French and then back to English.

There was a witch in the mix, of course — a witch who looked and sounded like my best friend’s perpetually drunken, foul-mouthed grandmother. His granny used to sit on a front porch, pull her frazzled black hair right out of her head, wad-it-up into spitballs, and throw it at passing children as she cackled in Polish or something Eastern European. She also used to chew on an old black shoe. Well, she would gum the shoe, seeing as she lacked teeth. Never the less, she was the doppelganger of the Paulus-show witch and a rather difficult woman to forget. Especially on nights when the moon was full and tree limbs were scraping against your bedroom window only a block away from her house. Anyway, there never seems to have been a plot on the Paulus show. No “imparting of childlike values” appears to have been involved (remember, the Dutch concocted this) and the program’s “special-effects team” pushed cardboard, string, and styrofoam balls to new, ever more dizzying heights of amateurism, for the time period. Frankly, every puppet looked as if it were suffering from a severe case of the DTs, so I can scarcely imagine the humans actually involved with putting this mess together on a regular basis. I was mesmerized, however. Glued. Didn’t care that the Paulus show only had a budget of maybe 25 guilders and one loaf of bread-per-episode. I was particularly enthralled when the Paulus Theme-Song heralded the beginning of the beloved spectacle, which was already a decade into reruns by the time I was old enough to even watch it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this theme song was clearly warbled by a group of children that had been force-fed dangerous amounts of cherry-flavored cough medicine and then probably locked in some frigid Toronto basement-studio. I would have sung for Paulus the Woodgnome while chained to a dilapidated radiator. But then again, I was only five.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “Cracker, did you know that, uh, a unicorn’s horn, uh, is more valuable than, uh, gold or diamonds?” — Eucalypta the witch

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Apparently the Dutch have been producing a new line of Paulus-themed comic books since 2002. I’d trade a whole pack of stroopwafels to have a gander at just one of those classics.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Behold Badness Par Excellence: the only surviving episode of Paulus the Woodgnome, CBC version, complete with the screamingly weird Zombie-Children Theme Song. See for yourself that I speak the truth.

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One witty 2,800 year-old warlock. A storm that hurls him to earth, powerless. A goddess who wants his face. REMOVED.

A deliciously twisted magical adventure is launched. Use any of the Rowan Blaize book icons on the upper-right to learn more or buy with an enchanted click at Amazon (Kindle or paperback).

Amazon Author Page
Rowan Blaize Official Website