Kids in the Valley of the Sun growing up in the late Fifties (or Sixties, or Seventies, or Eighties) were in a sense the luckiest kids on Earth. There was something on TV that was special beyond belief. Early on it was called “It’s Wallace?” and its name changed over time, but it was where you could see not only great cartoons but a fine ensemble cast. There was Wallace, the host–wore a polka-dot shirt and a funny hat, liked to sketch on an easel with Magic Marker, congenial and yet subversive–and there was Ladmo: tall guy, tall top hat, outrageously huge tie, rubber longface, sweet and gullible. And there was an insufferable Scottsdale upper-cruster with blonde locks, sometimes Dutch-boy straight, sometimes curly, dressed in mutant Little Lord Fauntleroy garb. That was Gerald. There was a delusional unsuper superhero who claimed to be able to rip apart phone books and crush uncrushable objects–but even the Ajo (population low, low, low) phone book was too much for him, and while he did manage to crush a Hostess Fruit Pie in his bare hand, it took all he had to do so. That was Captain Super.
And there was a salty old lady in a shawl with a glad eye for a gray-haired Phoenix cop. She told fairy tales that were not only fractured, but twisted. That was Aunt Maud. And a Gunsmokey guy without a clue. That was Marshall Good. And a dissipated, dispirited clown who demoed his bag of tricks, like a triple-take with nyuk-nyuks. That was Boffo the Clown, also known as Ozob the Clown. And there were many others.
All but the first two mentioned were performed by Pat McMahon, who, more than a decade before Saturday Night Live came to be, brought a Sybil-like spectrum of zany personalities to the service of sketch comedy. He had endless energy and he could improvise like nobody’s business. As Gerald he responded to boos from the kids in the studio audience with the pristinest of prissy hissy fits. “Public School brats!” he’d rage.
There were dozens of other characters. One attained national prominence via Steve Allen–the gargantuan-eyebrowed, juvenile-delinquent-haired Hub Kapp, who with his Wheels performed on Mr. Allen’s show in 1964. Interested parties need only do a search on “Steve Allen” “Hub Kapp” to find a video of their performances.
After Wallace, Ladmo and Gerald-et-al folded up their TV tent and transitioned to legend, Mr. McMahon had–and has–an enormously successful career as pitchman (examples: HBO, Ottawa University, Lennar Homes) and radio (KOOL 94.5) and TV-show host (Arizona TV). His body of work is enormous and impactive. One impact is on me, who at 60 years of age still have enough kid in my heart to think of Mr. McMahon’s endlessly inventive shenanigans and smile–and chuckle–and laugh out loud. So I mustered all the wherewithal I had to do this page of him.
Funny how this makes two limerick acrostics in a row. The limerick form does suit the subject’s Irishness. I was only able to directly reference two characters, but “Alakazam” evokes Wallace’s summoning of Captain Super with a magic wand. However, the Secret Word was not Alakazam, but “JUSTICE!”
Recipe for Success
Pour 3 cups of Alakazam
Add Maud-ified Honey Baked Ham–a
Teaspoon of Scoff…oh,
Mix well–fold in Boffo
Chill–heat–serve–enjoy: it’s Hot Damn