Lee: "So, here is a different look at the first Lee and Lionel
As the prospect of being a groom was becoming a reality, I knew I had to find a better venue for my emerging talents. I once again sent out resumes across the land. I didn't get any response until about three weeks. I got an offer in San Antonio, one in Odessa (just a few miles down the road.) No thanks! And an offer for an audition at KOTV in Tulsa, Oklahoma! Living in Abilene and looking at a map, Tulsa didn't look too far from Arlington. The fellow offering the audition was Dale Hart (Program Director.) It seemed that his recently hired booth announcer, a fellow named Robert Reed, had gotten a call from his Hollywood agent about some little film shoot. So Robert caught a "smoker" to L.A. (and future fame), and Woody drove the Ford to Tulsa and checked into The Mayo Hotel. From the window in my room, I could almost see KOTV. You can imagine what a fitful night that was. This, my man, was a "City!"
The next morning I found my way to KOTV. I met Dale Hart and we chatted awhile. It was then I learned that he had worked as an announcer at WBAP prior to my time there. The WBAP connection was what got me here. He would ultimately hire another WBAP alumni, Bob Mills...to come up to Tulsa.
The morning I auditioned, the kids' show "Time for Richut" was being aired live. This was cartoonist Richard Ruhl drawing Disney-type characters and chatting with "Clarabell Cow" (Ralph Bardgett). Marvin Lawill was running boom mike. Don't remember the camera crew (Roy Dieterlen was on camera, we learned in Guestbook 173...webmaster, 12/21/2004). Could have been a number of people. The audition went well and I was hired as a booth announcer/talent for $100.00 a week! I believe that Les Lampson and Sid Lasher as well as Jim Ruddle were on staff as well.
The first time I saw the hand puppet that was to become Lionel was on the hand of a lady whose name I believe, was Doris Rogers (that is Miss Peter Pan at left, not Doris Rogers...webmaster). She was using it to host an afternoon movie or some such thing. The character's name was "Lippy The Lion" and of course was a "SHE!" Doris would hold the "figure" up into a box, which from the camera angle looked like the lion was inside a TV set. Doris was then free to read a script , watch the monitor, etc., for the brief period she was on.
This show wasn't on much longer after I came to KOTV and the puppet (Or "figure" as we "vents" call them) was tossed into a storage bin upstairs over Engineering.
I think I had been at 6 about a year when one day we were going through some things in the storage bin and I came across this hand puppet that had been "Lippy." It was still in decent shape. Still had hair. The paint on its nose and eyes was getting worn. Anyway, I took it to the booth with me and during those long boring evenings in the booth, I started working with this figure. I had always had a knack for creating voices, but had never remotely thought of becoming a ventriloquist. Before too long, I was able to do voices without my mouth moving, and at the same time, working on the movements of the figure. I couldn't find just the right voice for this figure and had not yet decided what its persona was to be. Then one evening I was watching a nature program featuring a pride of lions. It was so simple, I thought. This lion puppet was to be a KING! And at that moment (and I don't know why), I had let out my breath in relief at having come up with this idea, and said the word..."Well" as I inhaled! It had this guttural quality and sound. I did it again and again. And I knew at once that this was the right voice for King Lionel. Doing the voice while inhaling also created less mouth movement. In a matter of weeks I was using Lionel in little sketches inside the afternoon movie breaks. Usually, the set was anything that we could get behind so as to hide the obvious. Lionel had no clothes, no crown. I think I may have put a cap on him sometimes.
So now, we are getting some mentions in the press from Chuck Wheat and others over the comments and observations of this duo. It is suggested that it's time to do some kind of steady thing. That turned out to be hosting the afternoon movies as well as doing all the cut-in's.