Sunday, March 04, 2007
Monte and I were talking with our girls over breakfast last weekend. Trying to teach them a lesson. The phrase, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" came out of the deep recesses of my subconscious and out of my mouth before I knew it. I heard this phrase more than 47 billion times growing up--by my mom, my dad and Cowboy Bob. Cowboy Bob was a grown man dressed in a brown leather vest, brown belt with a huge buckle, a cowboy hat and boots that hosted "Cowboy Bob's Corral" on Channel 4 out of Indianapolis. He introduced Bugs Bunny cartoons in the afternoon when he wasn't talking with a puppet biscuit named Sourdough (that was always perched on a split rail fence), Cookie the chuckwagon chef that was never seen yet made quite a racket with the pots and pans or Tumbleweed his dog. You can talk with ANYONE my age that grew up in Indiana and they watched Cowboy Bob. There were only 4 stations. In the morning there was "Popeye and Janie". She introduced, you guessed it, Popeye cartoons. My brother Kyle, sent in a crayon created drawing and it got air time on "Popeye and Janie". He woke at 4:00 am to ensure he wouldn't miss it. Remember when there was literally NOTHING on at 4:00 am because TV actually went off the air?? My cousin, Natalie was on "Popeye and Janie" and got to say her name into a microphone. She was wearing one of my hand-me-down outfits and I somehow felt famous too because of it.
Monte and I happily skipped along this long forgotten memory lane. In Florida, Monte watched Captain somebody (I've tried but can't find his name online and Monte can't remember it). But the concept was the same: low budget in studio set with puppets and real kids who get to introduce themselves and show their art work from time to time. These people became very famous in the lives of children. They entertained us, dropped a few golden rules on us and introduced semi-violent, non-educational and politically incorrect cartoons. We watched them before school and after.
McDaniel and Ellie didn't get it. "You mean, you couldn't watch cartoons whenever you wanted?"
"There wasn't a channel with just cartoons?"
"You got to watch cartoons BEFORE you went to school?"
"Umm, yeah, but don't even ask, we know better now."
Monte and I laughed. What a culturally different world of cartoons our children are growing up with. They actually are LEARNING something when they watch. Other than a few catch phrases and sassy remarks that sent us to our room--Monte and I got nothing. Wait, eating spinach makes you strong--that's something.
When I went to college, I met a girl who actually had Cowboy Bob at her prom (it was a western theme). He showed up drunk and pinched her on the bottom as he whispered a proposition in her ear while she was posing for a picture. Shocked, I called home to tell my mom the sad, disappointing news. As it turns out, Janie had been fighting alcohol-induced charges as well. WHAT?!
Telling Monte of my gruesome discoveries made him nervous of his own beloved Captain (somebody). What if there was a support group somewhere of ex-1970s cartoon introducer personalities? I envisioned a circle of Janies and Cowboy Bobs, Captain (somebodies), Peggys, Bozos, Ranger Rons and possibly a Willy. Academy award hopes were revealed during share time--dreams collectively stifled in a local independently owned station environment. Sidekick grievances were aired through angry tears: "Biscuits don't talk man, they don't talk!"
Quickly the conversation turned and the cartoons themselves became targets: "Seriously, Olive has GOT to move on! Like Popeye and Bluto are the only men in the world?"
"Sometimes I wish I could be like the Road Runner and just run away--far, far away."
"I will go insane if I have to hear Woody Woodpecker's laugh one more time! I swear it!"
So they all in some way or another as cartoon introducer personalities felt the need to medicate themselves which brought them to the imaginary support group in my head. I wonder what they think of the introducerless cartoons of today? Entire networks dedicated to 24 hours a day everyday cartoon viewing? And what of Boomerang? They show some of the very cartoons these personalities once built a career around. I can feel the tension. I can almost hear the dialogue…"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Darn you, Cowboy Bob!