Tulsa TV Memories: Tulsa TV/radio/movies/pop culture of the past      

Lionel in the box he came in, with Lee and Miss Peter Pan

Lee: "So, here is a different look at the first Lee and Lionel
gig! Just Lionel in the box he came in. His name painted
on the front. Not even a crown. Also pictured is
"Miss Peter Pan". We had all kinds of drummers on
this show. No film exists, just photos like this!"

A brief overview of Lee Woodward's
entry into TV, and the birth of Lionel

(...via email, 6/24/2000) Lee Woodward said:

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 Robert Reed 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.

Alternate take of Lee, Lionel and Miss Peter PanThe 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.

(from GroupBlog 259, 1/2/2008) Lee and Lionel said::

There are many people who passed through the entertainment venues of Tulsa, who owe a great deal of gratitude to the former Tulsa World columnist, Chuck Wheat, who...sadly passed away in Vermont just the other day.

Chuck was an early promoter of King Lionel, even before we had a show as such. He was almost like a P.R. man for myself and for many others that he thought showed some promise. He was a very social person and we became good friends and remained so over the years.

I lost touch with him for years and through a fluke, found his e-mail address a few years back. We had been corresponding right up until a couple of weeks ago when, alarmed that I had not received his usual funny replies to a post, I called him on the phone. Happily he answered and we chatted for awhile.

Now he is gone at too early an age. He leaves his second wife, Diane as well as his son Jack and daughter, Barbara.

Our hearts are sad.

Cronkite with Charlemane
New! Walter Cronkite with Lionel's ancestor, Charlemane.
From CBS Sunday Morning, 11/12/2010. Click for larger.

Bil Baird and a relative of Lionel's Baird obit

Bil Baird, creator

In the meantime, I had found the history of this puppet. It was originally a marionette named "Charlemane" on the old CBS Morning Show (and before that, on the '51-'52 CBS show, "The Whistling Wizard"...webmaster). A product of the Bil Baird studios. The hand puppets had been marketed during the shows heyday. I finally found the company that made these puppets. I called them and got a nice old Jewish gentleman who asked what I wanted. He must have been with the company for a hundred years, because...when I told him what I wanted, he said, "I got four of dem! You vant how many?"

I said, "Four! How much are they?"

He said, "Four ninety-five each."

I said, "Done!"

1959 Three Stooges trading card

So, now I have a brand new lion and I have gotten myself a top hat and a cutaway coat. Some grey slacks and a rope for a belt. A large button on the hat proclaimed "The Three Stooges On TV Now!" They were used as fillers at the end of the show at this time.

Pookie the Lion, Mark IIPookie and SoupyThe original "Pookie the Lion" puppet on ABC's "The Soupy Sales Show" (1959-1961) was one of the Charlemane (Lionel) toy puppets, according to a correspondent at Yesterdayland.com.

For legal reasons, Soupy had a new "Pookie" puppet designed (above left), thus the family resemblance to Lionel.

See the revamped Pookie in action by clicking the link at the bottom of this page at TVparty! This is an excellent feature on Soupy's career, with several YouTube and media clips.

Soupy sez
Soupy is still working: see his agent or read his book, Soupy Sez. Like Lee, a funny, funny guy. Is it me, or does the young Soupy resemble Mel Gibson?

10/23/2009: I'm sorry to report that Soupy passed away yesterday.

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