Friday, September 09, 2011

Grampa Geezer

I have been going through some old family photos of distant relatives recently.  Funny that this wooden relative would show up...on YouTube no less. Steve Axtell saw it first. Thanks Ax for the link. 
I remember doing this special in Nashville many years ago. If I recall it was titled Country Comedy II.  If I have a copy, it would be on an alien video tape format in the closet. I have only seen it once or twice.
I don't know who put this up on YouTube or if they have permission from the original producers. Mike Algers are you still in Hernando, Miss?  Most of these are James Hampton jokes with some of mine thrown in, certainly not the work of the writers on the show.  The producer took writers screen credit for the show. He did write the checks I suppose.
The puppet's original name was Farmer Frogurt. Just before I got the role on SOAP the Hood Dairy Company contracted me to create a trademark puppet and travel around the country promoting their new frozen yogurt product.  Variety newspaper  would  proclaim: "Puppet product promoter pure profit". 
I had done  research for a PBS children's television show in Houston, as part of the writing staff.  It was the job I got just after Sandi and I were married. I based the Farmer character on known marketing positives I learned at college and this show.When I pitched this concept I could tell you why the color scheme worked, why he favors the Quaker Oaks man, and why he is a white male rural grandfather type. He was created based upon my own sketches, plans and research.  The material is still in the original case I took to the pitch. 
A sculptress named Pat Neuman did the clay model and I had a mold and two copies made out of fiberglass. The Frankie Brothers did the movement and it is Rene hands and legs. The face painting was done by another female artist who's name escapes me. I was very pleased with the way he came together from the sketches.
I was set to become the wrangler for the Dough Boy of the Dairy business.  They allowed me to post pone the tour until after my first season of SOAP. They didn't have to contractually, but thought it would only help the tour.  I thought they would cash in on the fact that I had been on ABC television for a  year and tour me like a bus.  But,  by the time hiatus came for the first year of SOAP, the frozen yogurt market had gone cold. Literally it was the phrase they used,  gone cold. They decided not to promote the product with a guy and a puppet and I was paid to do nothing. But, they paid for the puppets and would keep them.

For several years I didn't know what happened to the Farmer Frogurt puppets. They were pawns in the slimy frozen yogurt game.  To get the settlement check I had to send the puppets to the home office in Boston, those Bastards. What was a lawyer going to do with a puppet.  The puppets were identical in identical cases. I knew the one I preferred to operate, but it was a feel no one else would get. I numbered the inside of the cases so even a stranger could tell the difference.  I suppose I thought I might see them again one day and from a distance I wanted to be able to tell them apart.  SOAP continued on and I slowly forgot about the puppets.  It was at least five years before I saw them again.

I was opening the show for Shields and Yarnell in vaudeville theatres around the country. Having one of the great times in my life.  A theatre show with a full orchestra. Norman Mamie actually conducted Bob and I doing "The Great Figero Challenge" with the orchestra.  Very exciting.
Robert Shields, in addition to being famous for his artistry in pantomime, was also famous for his unique toy collection at one time. I don't know if he still has it. At the time I think Robert and I were on a frequency that was compatible.  Whatever planet he is on, I have visited at least once so we quickly became friends.  One conversation led to another and I told him about this farmer puppet I had designed and lost in the cold market of frozen yogurt.
Over the next few weeks Robert persuaded me to call the Hood Dairy people and find out what happened to the puppet.  He wanted to buy it for his collection. He seriously wanted to buy it for his collection.  So I decided to see what I could find out. It was not easy at first to find anyone still at the company who knew anything about puppets.  (Over dinner or cocktails there is much more I add to the story here)                   CUT:
Robert Sheilds owns one of these puppets and this one is mine.  As far as I can tell they were never out of their cases the entire time they were in Boston. Other than jokes about the dummies becoming president and chairman of the company, I was told they were stored at a warehouse.  I like the character and I finally got to use him on this  TNN special.  I had forgotten what a nice face his has... perhaps it is time for him to un-retire. 
As I was,

As you were,


Bob Conrad said...

Nice looking figure, interesting story to go with him. I enjoyed the youtube clip, liked the voice you gave him, and the Charlie Weaver personality.

Anonymous said...

Love the arms control you have on Grampa.
Your figure manipulation and lip control are, as always, flawless!

Tom Farrell

Ron said...

I posted this clip. Not sure who owns the rights. If they are watching they can flag it and have it removed. I also have the bit you did about the haunted house with Ruth Buzzy interupting. I also have the HBO Vent shows you did with Squeeky and Phil.

Ron S

Bob Baker said...

"It's a COW joke!"

The future foretold...

Russ Lewis Russo said...

This is you at your best. Jay. As the source of Old Geezer's voice, you create no ordinary other as far as characters go. You used wonderful techniques. The cow and farmer jokes are tight and flawlessly timed for optimum effect. Today's audiences are again ready for The Old Geezer I do believe.