Tulsa TV Memories

Photo by Robert Kerby

An interview with Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi in East Central High School's newspaper, "Cardinal Quill" (1971)

by James Vance and the staff of the Cardinal Quill, including TTM reader Carolyn (Goshen) Peterson and photographer Rob Kerby

A revealing snapshot of Gailard Sartain before his acting career took off...

CQ: We know that you have a considerable amount of material to cover each week...

M: Achoo!

CQ: We know that you have a considerable amount of material to cover each week, and that it must be a strain coming up with fresh bits each show. Have you ever been approached by anyone concerning the subject of taste -- good or bad -- in some of your segments?

Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet M: I leave the taste to the Galloping Gourmet, people like that -- have you found some offensive material?

CQ: No, but other people have mentioned certain things -- there was a film one time which ended with you picking your nose...

M: Oh, disgusting! I don't know if I did that -- yeah, I did that. But Mickey Rooney's done it on TV, numerous other people...Carl Reiner's done it before -- I figure I'm in good company -- just trying to identify with the biggies...

CQ: Does the station ever give you any trouble?

M: No, as long as we don't touch on the obvious, like dope and sex -- really obvious, dirty stuff, you know, sometimes you slip...they've only had to bleep one thing -- I think I said "God," or something...

CQ: We'd like to change the subject a bit now, if you don't mind...

M: Not at all. Pick your nose, if you like.

CQ: There was a cover of a Tulsa Magazine which you did some months ago, a surrealistic piece with popsicles escaping from an ice cream truck. Have you done any other work like this recently? (Found the picture at the library and added the actual sound of an ice cream truck, too...webmaster)

M: Well, no, I haven't -- not exactly like that. I'm working on some things now...Art is what I guess you'd call my forte. I'm going to graduate school at the University of Tulsa, working for my master's degree in art, and I pick up a few extra bucks doing freelance work.

CQ: Are you ever going to get rid of the "Adam's-apple" portrait of the chinless man you have on your show?

M: We can't get rid of it. (See a very similar picture on the Art of Gailard Sartain page at Mazeppa.com)

CQ: What's the problem -- no takers, or what?

M: Well, we gave it away, and the guy we gave it to never came to get it; we've been trying to give it away ever since. I kinda like it, but I guess the populace doesn't think so...

CQ: We've traced the name "Mazeppa"...

M: Oh, good.

CQ: -- and you've mentioned the comic strip...

M: That's where I got it. Now, there's a Yiddish word -- "muzpah", or whatever it was; well, anyway, it's a good luck thing. But Mazeppa was --

CQ: Oh, "mazel tov." (meaning "good luck" in Hebrew...MR)

M: I don't know.

CQ: No, that wouldn't be it.

M: No, that's a cocktail -- it's just slipped my mind right now! I'm sorry. But anyway, when I first heard that, it was a long time ago, just one of those things that stick in your mind. And when we decided to do this show, I was trying to think of some curious thing. "Pompazoidi" was my own invention, and I was trying to think of something to go with it, and this friend of mine brought over an old Denver Post comic strip dated 1902, that had "The Flip Boys Try in Vain To Play Mazeppa with Fatty Felix", and I figured, Fatty Felix" -- you can't go wrong. So I used it, and of course there's been a million people who say, "I know what that means, it's something filthy and arrogant -- let's take you off the air!" But -- what did you research on it?

CQ: I believe someone sent you a picture from a magazine -- "Mazeppa" being the name of a brand of booze?

M: Yeah, right.Mazeppa butter

CQ: (Lord Byron) had written a poem called "Mazeppa." (Tchaikovsky's opera "Mazeppa" is based on Pushkin's poem "Poltava," which depicts the historical Ukrainian separatist, Mazeppa, in both his political and romantic exploits...webmaster)

M: Is that right?

CQ: And finally, we traced it back to 1709. It was the name of the head of the Cossacks -- so we were wondering where you got it.

M: I wonder what ethnic origin it is? Whether it's Russian...I thought it was Italian for awhile, but I guess it isn't.

CQ: Maybe it is Russian...

M: I don't know. It's like the swastika -- crops up everywhere.

CQ: You've had some interesting people on your show as regulars --

M: Yes, some very curious people....

CQ: There was John Baker -- Lazlo -- who got drafted, and now you're using Judy Owen and Armin Sebran -- how do people rate getting spots on the Uncanny Film Festival?

M: You have to show a decided lack of intelligence, and you have to have a curious glint in your eye -- no, actually, they're just personal friends. We've tried to get people to take part in the thing from all around; we know there's about five or six clowns in each school. I'd like to set up some kind of deal in the future of using everybody from everywhere -- make the show more of a thing where everybody can take part. We didn't plan it to be as really different as the way it is; I don't know if any other medium-sized market does anything like that. And while we've doing it, we might as well do everything that we can with it. People who want to learn something about TV can just enjoy it with me and everybody else.

CQ: How did your family come to accept your late night habits?

M: Well, I was born at night, so it started out that way. My mother was watching the horror movie and didn't even know she was pregnant and went to get some Kool-Aid, and by golly -- BARROOOM! -- WAAA! LAWZEE! I'm sorry, what did you ask me? Oh, the family. They thought I'd be in McAlester by now, so it came as a pleasant surprise that I'm not.

CQ: How has being Mazeppa affected your personal life?

Photo by Robert Kerby M: It has changed quite a bit; I now live in an underground bunker outside of Sperry, Oklahoma. It's just changed; suddenly, more people know who you are. You can't be inconspicuous anymore. You know, if you want to scratch yourself or pick your nose in public, somebody will go "Look at that clod, that's that guy on TV. He is really a big ---" or something. It's weird, but I guess I enjoy it. I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't. There is some stuff I don't enjoy, though. Some people think they can pull your hair or break your nose, or something so you can recognize that you're alive. That happens every once in awhile.

CQ: We've noticed that you've dropped some bits that were becoming sort of stock the first few weeks of the run...the vial of concentrated personality that you'd drink to become someone. You revived that not long ago.

M: Well, I can only do about three impersonations; I can do John Wayne, Brando; I just forgot. I'm an absent-minded sort of guy; I forget what I'm going to do from day to day. I think I'm going to reinstate that box with people's heads in it, but there's not many personalities around town that people recognize. I did Ike Horn, his kids...Sputnik Monroe...but I ran out of people who were funny. Sputnik's funny, but I forgot his phone number. Maybe he'll read this and call...

CQ: There's one line which at first looked as though it was going to be one of your classics -- that was the line about the tuna fish...

M: No, I didn't forget that; I just quit doing it. The same with Lawzee -- the first five or six weeks I used it, I thought, "That's just gettin' old." It's just now really catching on. I heard Lewis Meyer say that one day.

CQ: Well, you've made it, then. Is Mr. Mystery dead, now that the campaign's over?

M: No, he's very much alive; in fact, I just fed him this morning.

CQ: Will he return as Mr. Mystery?

M: Yeah, he'll be running, doing strange, perverted things... We got a lot of pro and con on that election show. Some people enjoyed it, but some said "Hey, what're you doing? You've gone bomb; you can't make it doing stuff like that, what happened?" I thought it was pretty good -- well, I liked part of it.

CQ: Whose idea was the character of Mr. Mystery?

M: Mr. Mystery's -- It was both ours, but about 90% was his; he's a friend of mine, name's Jim Millaway. He's done some of the funniest stuff on the show, or had me do it. We were trying to do it all with just me, but we fill up about 26 minutes of time a week, and that's hard to do. We try to do something new every time, but TV's like McLuhan says, it eats up everything; you do it, and it's gone. Maybe 60,000 people see it, and -- "I'm tired of seein' that damn thing"...We've shown the movies a couple of times now, and we're not really picky about stuff to do...not being a professional entertainer -- I'm not; this is not even a beginning as far as I'm concerned, I'm not counting on making my bread and butter as Mazeppa...

 CQ: How much longer do you give Mazeppa?

M: I really don't know. People are so fickle and strange -- some weeks I think it's about over -- this is our thirtieth week, we thought it'd be over at the tenth week -- sometimes I don't get any mail at all, and all of a sudden I get fifty letters the next day. As long as people enjoy it, want to see it, it'll go on -- or it'll die.

CQ: Does everyone who appears on the show get paid?

M: No, I'm the only one who gets paid -- There's a lot of donated talent; everybody likes to be in on it, it's that kind of spirit...

CQ: You had about three 1930's musicals on the program last month; were those all Busby Berkeley? (e.g., "42nd Street", "Golddiggers of 1933"; look in the Vault of Cinematic Treasures below...webmaster)

Vault of Cinematic TreasuresM: Yeah...

CQ: Do you plan on repeating those?

M: I was deluged with mail, saying that it was the most horrible **!?#@* they'd ever seen, and to get it off; they really got bugged over it. That was sort of depressing. I thought the people of Tulsa were a little more sophisticated than that.

CQ: Do you still have an audience?

M: Well, there are a few people who stumble in occasionally, but you have to be pretty drunk...(here is a personal story substantiating this!...webmaster)

CQ: A few people in the know have commented upon your activities outside the show --

M: I believe in living life with as much gusto as possible; you're only around once, you've got to grab all you can take! -- No, I don't mean, run naked -- But I do enjoy living; I think I have an intuitive knowledge that tells me it's O.T.O. -- One Time Only. So express yourself, enjoy.

CQ: Who's Delmo Gillette?

M: Gary Chew.

CQ: People have asked, and this should settle things for their little busy noses; is your hair and mustache real?

M: Yeah, they're both mine; the mustache was phony at first, but it kept falling off, and got on my nerves. But yes, it's all real now.

CQ: We don't want to start a run on the studio, but if someone who didn't know you thought they had something good enough to put on the show, would you encourage their coming out to show it to you?

M: Sure...well, don't come to the station; call Dino Economos, he's in the book. We'll try to fix something up. Anybody who wants to see me, calls him. The telephone person at Six has a head like an overripe casaba melon. I mainly want the show to be for kids your age...kids Mr. Payne's age...Little kids, I know, all stay up, and they think it's funny to see the fat guy in the suit, fallin' down...really, I don't even like to do that kind of slapstick, but you've got to entertain that kind of crowd...

CQ: Have you ever been hurt, out there in the audience with all those people?

M: That's a good thing, a funny thing; I was never harmed by anyone on the show when they attacked me at the end. The kids would even make bridges over me when the others would fall down. One kid brought a blank gun, one time -- I can't understand why he's want to do that; no one ever brought a gun to Captain Kangaroo, tried to take over...

CQ: Would you care to say anything regarding your part in the play "Indians", currently playing at Tulsa Little Theatre?

M: I'm just trying it out...I'm playing a Russian interpreter, and a German actor who plays an Indian...two small roles. It's just a personal thing; just do it, see what it's like.

CQ: Sir?

M: Huh?

CQ: In closing, do you have any valuable advice you'd care to leave to our readers here at East Central?

M: Yes; always slice your wieners before you eat them, never eat off dirty Formica tables, and never take chicken salad from strangers; it makes nasty welts on your back. -- And don't pick your nose in front of people; it can get to be a habit.

Ronco Rhinestone and Stud Setter

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