Sunday, August 2, 2009

Flood your yard, Steven Spielberg, Wallace and Ladmo and The Doctor.

In the yard weeding and managing the flood irrigation this late afternoon. That's a challenge in 110 plus degree heat. If you don't know what flood irrigation is, Flood irrigation is an efficient way to keep a large yard green in 110 degree heat. It is exactly what it sounds like. You open an eight inch irrigation valve and flood your yard. Seriously, a foot or more deep in some spots. In the summer heat the water is gone in a day or two and your repeat every two weeks. Here's a couple of pictures.
My back yard being flooded

While waiting at the valve to shut off the water, I captured the sunset.

Anyway back to the story. The combination of the rising irrigation water level and the heat reminded me of the summers I spent in Phoenix as a youngster.

With school out there wasn't much to do all day. During summer recess, the schools would flood irrigate the playgrounds and sports fields every two weeks or so. A kid could take a plank of wood over to the elementary school and boogie board, sort of. Otherwise, if your family didn't have a swimming pool, you were trapped inside by the extreme heat of day. That meant you watched a lot of TV, way too much TV and if you were a kid, that meant only one thing, Wallace and Ladmo.

Who or what the heck are Wallace and Ladmo?

The Wallace and Ladmo show was one of the longest running programs in television history. It ran non-stop for 35 years. Ten's of thousands, no, hundreds of thousands of kids grew up watching these guys. Literally multiple generations.

Counted in the ranks of kids who grew up on Wallace and Ladmo are Steven Spielberg and Alice Cooper, in fact Alice Cooper played on Wallace and Ladmo show in his earlier band, Alice Cooper and the Earwigs. See photos.

Years later Cooper was in the Wallace and Ladmo audience were he received the coveted "Ladmo Bag".

Steven Spielberg called Wallace and Ladmo "Very hip" and "the Saturday Night Live before there was a Saturday Night Live"

Here is a clip is from about 10 years ago and was part of the Ladmo tribute show that was done when Ladamir pasted away. It includes Spielberg's comments.

The show ran from 1954 until 1989. I am way to young too have seen when it started, but I remember its heyday. In those days Phoenix was still a small town, and still the wild west. It was a time when you could strap on a handgun and go for a walk downtown. It was a time when you could have a kids show that was watched by kids as well as the grown-ups down at the corner bar.

Bill Thompson and Ladimir Kwiatkowski played the parts of Wallace and Ladmo and the things that they did I have not seen replicated since. The most important thing they did is treat the kids with respect, they did not talk down to their audience. As kids we knew it and appreciated it. The comedy sketches and skits seemed like they were designed for kids but usually would go horribly off of the rails at some point sometimes leading squarely into adult land. If the kids didn't get the joke the cast and crew did and you would often hear off camera laughter from the camera men.

Wallace and Ladmo had a host of other characters, Captain Super, Gerald the brat, Marshall Good, Boffo the Clown, Aunt Maud and others. Most of these characters were played by Pat McMahon.

The characters were always more than just the superficial name and costume. Marshall Good was an old time Hollywood actor who found himself in bad times and always looking for a way to scam a buck. Boffo the clown was downright mean and probably not safe around your mother. Sweet Aunt Maud would read children stories that often went very very wrong.

Below are YouTube video clips of an Aunt Maud Christmas story, Santa gets plowed under at an office party, gets into a fight and ends up in a drunk tank. Another Aunt Maud story is of a child's mother who wins a trip to Las Vegas from her neighbor Vito down the street, but never returns. Just precious

In both of these clips Aunt Maude is joined by Ladmo. Ladmo is doing his best to make this kid friendly by acting like a kid himself, but he knows whats coming and we all knew from the look on his face where this was going.

This all may sound horrible but you absolutely must understand that as a five year old I knew I was "in" on the joke, Wallace and Ladmo were my friends and we were just having some fun.

My family moved to southern California in the late sixties and although it was great place to live with good weather and great lifestyle, California kid shows were just a big huge pile of steaming dog shit by comparison. The kids shows in LA were sanitized and approved for viewing by responsible adults, and complete crap.

That's was OK because skateboarding was a new thing in SoCal, so were mini-bikes, spent my time mini-bike riding on the foothills outside of LA. But still there were days that I missed just sitting in front of Wallace and Ladmo.

One day, as I was switching through the channels of crap on daytime TV I happened across the local public station, weird music came out of the TV, a shaky gray image of a wooden box about the size of a phone booth and a grumpy old man who called himself The Doctor was on.

Doctor Who

Finally, another kids show that knew how to respect its audience and it too is one of the longest running shows in television history.

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