Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is. - Oscar Wilde
Animation, Art, and Other Shiny Things
This has been a very full week around the Crow household and the next few days are going to be non-stop. Generally, when Mrs Crow is gone (in this case to dog-sit for one of the kids until Saturday) my starvation is a definate possibility, or at best, a vitamin deficiency from a diet consisting of raman-based products and candy bars.
This time, however, I’ll be smack in the middle of dozens of food booths down at Stan Sayres pits, and, provided I can climb my way out of the space in the middle of the broadcast tower scaffolding, there is a possibility of my feeding myself. I forsee a diet of skewers and coffee so I may still be in poor shape by Sunday night…
Anyways, the point of this post is to note that I’m volunteering at the Seafair Hydroplane races this year and I won’t have much, if any, time to check the blog here. I have scheduled posts through Sunday, but nothing beyond that. Considering we’ll be tearing down the network late into Sunday night, Monday’s animation is in question at the moment.
And if that isn’t enough to make my year, one other spot of news is the proverbial cherry on top: my post about J P Patches has been linked to by none other than the official JP Patches website! (a big thanks to Super Patches Pal and Webmaster over there !) It’s quite an honor!
I’ll put together a post of pictures and such sometime next week once I recover.
With apologies to the folks that are stopping in for a daily animation, but in addition to a full weekend working on Seafair stuff (more on that next week, perhaps) a Seattle icon died yesterday.
My son was almost apologetic when he brought me the news that Chris Wedes had succumed to the blood cancer that had plagued him for the last five or so years. Like many of my generation that grew up here, I had to sit down for a few moments and I will admit to tearing up again as I write this.
I wrote about J P Patches last year just after he retired from public appearances. During the 1960’s and 1970’s every kid I knew (including me, of course) watched JP’s show. We loved JP, and that’s not exaggeration.
Anyways, today I offer you a video of the clown’s last public appearance as well as one of Chris Wedes’ last interviews
Thanks, JP. It was our priviledge to have grown up with you, or rather, thanks for being a kid’s best friend whatever our ages.
[Update, July 22nd, 2012; Chris Wedes died today at the age of 84. There are nice obituaries in both local papers; the Seattle Times and Post-Intelligencer. He meant a lot to a generation of folks around here and he will be missed a great deal.]
[Update, July 23rd; I just posted a video of JP’s last public appearance, and a video of one of Chris Wedes’ last interviews.]
Julius Pierpont Patches, the Mayor of the City Dump, made his last public appearance at Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal September 17th capping a run of more than 50 years as an important part of Seattle culture.
If you don’t know who JP is then you aren’t from here and can’t call yourself a real “Seattleite” no matter how many Lattes you’ve drank at Starbucks. (at best you’re a ‘tourist’, at worst, a ‘transplant’)
In 1958, KIRO TV began airing the JP Patches show, which ran until 1981, marking it as the longest running locally produced children’s show in the country. Joined by Gertrude and a cast of thousands, JP showed cartoons, announced birthdays, joked with folks from the community, dinged extraordinary numbers of pigtails and braids, and basically improvised his way through tens of thousands of hours of live television to the delight of local kids. If you were the member of a local Cub Scout pack or Brownie troop at the time, then you probably visited JP on his show.
And not to worry, parents weren’t ignored. JP could throw a double entendre so fast that it whizzed well over little Johnny’s head faster than you could say “Geoduck“. There are a few shows available on video and watching them years later I was amazed and delighted at the amount of spice JP and Gertrude added to the cheese.
And the shenanigans didn’t end on the set. JP and Gertrude were active in the community:
One cause that Wedes supports is Children’s Hospital. Over the years, J.P. Patches has visited there quite often, cheering up those who need it the most. During J.P.’s 20th anniversary show, the hospital returned the favor by announcing that their new diagnostic play area had been named for J.P. (via HistoryLink)
I think one of the best examples of how loved JP is around this town can be illustrated with an anecdote from 1992, the height of the “Grunge” movement here in Seattle:
[A]n unruly audience was trashing the Paramount Theater while awaiting a Soundgarden Concert. Who should appear out of the wings but J.P. Patches. He quietly calmed down the audience before the band took the stage.
Yeah, a kid’s show clown calmed down a theater packed with teens and twenty-somethings. (take that, bozo!)
Chris Wedes is the man behind the red nose, and Bob Newman was his trusty sidekick. In addition to Gertrude, Bob played almost every other character on the show. From Boris S Wort (the second meanest man in the world) and Miss Smith (of miss smith’s delivery service) to The Swami of Pastrami and Ggoorrsstt, the Friendly Frpl (who ate farm fresh frpl fodder from farmer frank from fife or farmer fred from ferndale). The man who directed the show for those years was Joe Towey, who stepped onto the show a few times and also played “The Count” who introduced horror movies late Friday nights on “Nightmare Theater”.
Since 1981, he and Gertrude continued to make appearances at parties and fairs and countless community events including a couple evenings at our local PBS stations for their pledge drives.
In 2008 a statue in honor of the 50th anniversary of JP’s show was erected in the Fremont area (the center of the universe and the home neighborhood of the statue of lenin and the troll under the bridge) called “Late For the Interurban” (situated a few hundred feet from the statue of folks waiting for a bus called “waiting for the interurban“, of course)
In 2002, Bob Newman retired Gertrude from public appearances due to health issues. The Seattle Times’ Sherry Stripling (i assume that’s her real name) interviewed Mr Newman just afterwards and wrote a great piece on one of the best and most beloved second bananas in the business.
And just a few weeks ago, the clown himself retired. Not suddenly; Mr Wedes has been fighting with blood cancer for years already. But he just can’t keep up the schedule anymore. JP Patches is a very popular guy even after being off the air for 30 years!
Myself, I spent hundreds (if not thousands) of hours watching the show and was a Patches Pal like most of my friends and even some famous people! (I was definately NOT a Boris Buddy!) When the kids were young I dragged them around Seattle when JP (and often Gertrude) made appearances. They weren’t quite sure who The Clown was, and thought Gertrude was kinda scary (he is a big guy), but sure enjoyed the videos.
For all that these silly guys mean to me, and thousands of other Patches Pals to boot, I could write hundreds of pages and devote an entire blog to these gentlemen. Fortunately folks have done that for me and probably the best resource is JP Patches’ own website. It’s full of show info, pictures (of which i’ve gleefully lifted a few for this post), and several video clips. The page hierarchy is kind of funky and there’s alot there that’s not obvious from the side menus. Besides the drop-down chapter selection, make use of the pointy hand navigators for each chapter’s sub-pages. Just be careful; I have spent hours poking around what is probably over 100 pages and nearly that many video clips and I’m not done!
Let me close with a clip of a classic moment in local live tv. (and there’s plenty more clips there!)