From the Archives of Early Television: Howdy Doody and Winky Dink

Buffalo Bob: “What time is it?”

Peanut Gallery: “It’s Howdy Doody Time!”

Buffalo Bob Smith and Howdy Doody, c. 1955

Buffalo Bob Smith and Howdy Doody, c. 1955

My age is showing, but what the %#@.  If you’re an American baby boomer the name Howdy Doody (1947-1960) is synonymous with seminal children’s television–perhaps the most recognized name of 1950’s kiddie fare.    If you happen to be be a boomer of a certain age–over sixty too many years old–you might just recall another oddball TV name from that era:  Winky Dink (1953-1957).

For you uninitiated, uncultured whippersnappers, I’ll elaborate.

Howdy Doody–In the 1940’s,  a Buffalo New York native, Bob Smith, created the character Howdy Doody for a WNBC radio program.  The popularity of the program led him to make the move to television in 1947.  the program featured both human and puppet characters, which included:

Flub-A-Dub. What happens wnen puppeteers get high.

Flub-A-Dub. What happens when puppeteers get high.

  • Heidi Doody–Howdy Doody’s sister
  • Phineus T. Bluster–The local mayor
  • Flub-a-Dub–an odd creature composed of body parts of 8 different animals
  • Inspector John J. Fadoozle, private eye
  • Dilly Dally–A circus performer
  • Clarabell Hornblower–a mute clown originally played by one Bob Keeshan of Capatain Kangaroo fame.




Phineas T. Bluster.  Politics hasn't changed.

Phineas T. Bluster. Politics hasn’t changed.

Perhaps the most interesting sidebar to the entire Howdy Doody run on NBC, was an ongoing battle between Smith and puppet-maker Frank Paris.   Paris made the original Howdy Doody puppet and complained constantly of being cheated out of royalties.  Howdy Doody dolls were all the rage, and Bob Smity owned the property rights to the character.  You’ve heard the phrase”I’ll take my football and go home?”  Well on more than one occasion, the irate Smith took his Howdy Doody puppet from the studio and went home.  Problem.  The show was aired live in those pre-video tape days, forcing a last minute plot and script change making excuses for why Howdy wasn’t around.

By the way, the term Peanut Gallery, actually dates to Vaudeville.  It referred to the cheapest seats where the cheapest snack–peanuts–were sold.  But most of us today know the term from The Howdy Doody Show, which resurrected the term for the live studio audience of kids.

Winky Dink–The name Jack Barry will forever live in TV infamy, for his roll in rigging the game show Twenty-One. It lead to congressional hearings, national disgrace, and ultimately the book and movie Quiz Show.  What only a few of us who were watching kiddie TV in the mid-1950’s will remember, though, was that he was the host of a quirky live and animated program Winky Dink and You.

Long before twitter and other social media, Winky Dink was probably the first interactive TV show, though in the most lo-tech of manners.  The show featured Barry interacting with the cartoons projected beside him.  The interaction with audience was by means of a coded message or connect the dots puzzle, that could only be read by writing directly on the TV, or rather on a clear plastic film covering the TV.  Problem.  You had to send in to the network to get the clear plastic film.   I didn’t have one and I couldn’t bear the suspense of not knowing what that image or message was, so I took a crayon and wrote, sans clear film, directly on our ancient TV screen.   My mother was not pleased.  Let’s just say, Howdy Doody, I got my Winky Dinked!

More contemporary samples of my madness available on my own blog, The Millennium Conjectures.







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Rusty Kuntz and the Funniest Names at the 2014 World Series

We continue our extensive topical sports coverage today by taking a look at the baseball World Series going on right now. Well, technically we’re not really looking at the baseball, just the names of the players participating.

Before you ask, yes, there really is a Rusty Kuntz involved. He obviously takes the cake for greatest name ever, but let’s keep reading on for the best names on both teams this year.

The Giants

First of all, we look to the San Francisco Giants, whose roster is jam-packed with high-achieving funny named individuals.

Buster Posey

Buster Posey, in addition to reminding us of fine actresses some of us are quite fond of, is quite the catch…or catcher, I should say. He won the National League MVP award in 2012 ,and has since led the Giants to their second World Series appearance in three years. This, for people like me who don’t follow baseball, I believe is a sign of goodness.

Madison Bumgarner

The pitcher out of Hickory, North Carolina has had a fine playoff this season, breaking some nearly 100-year-old records while sporting a fashionable beard, and a name straight out of a newspaper comic strip from 1973. I could easily envision Walter Matthau playing a character with his name.

Ángel Pagán

Ángel Pagán, personifying the battle between good and evil in baseball since 2006. Seriously, that’s just a wonderful combination of names. Right up there with Rusty Kuntz (I’m not going to let that one go for the duration of my one baseball article).

Angel Pagan looks like bit of a badass.

Angel Pagan looks like bit of a badass.

 The Royals

The Kansas City team have their own collection of finely named players as well, lest we think this series is wholly one-sided.

Rusty Kuntz

Leading the way now and forever is the Royals’ first base coach, whose name I’m obligated to report is actually pronounced with a long “oo” sound. So, get your minds out of the gutter, it’s “Roosty Kuntz”.

Billy Butler & Danny Duffy

These two have names right out of a Reno, Nevada jazz trio from the 1950s. I’m also happy to tell you that Butler’s nickname is “Country Breakfast”, presumably because he brings home the bacon, is extremely gritsy, and has an eggsellent batting average. Mr Duffy perhaps also has a nickname, but not one I’m aware of. He did, however, once play for the Idaho Falls Chukars, which is a great team name.

Kansas City sports fans can have some odd choices in fashion accessories.

Kansas City sports fans can have some odd choices in fashion accessories.

Omar Infante

The fully grown Venezuelan Omar Infante was an All-Star in 2010 and is now in his second season with the Royals. Don’t call him in an emergency though, because an anagram of his name is Not A Fireman.

Mike Moustakas

Mike “Moose” Moustakas is a popular figure among the Royals faithful, who like to make moose calls when he is announced as batter. Moose antlers are also a popular item at the team gift shop, which seems odd for a sports team, but then you remember this is baseball, and everything is weird in baseball.

That concludes our summary of the funniest names at the World Series 2014! You are now ready to tune in and enjoy game 6 tonight live from Kansas City!

Werner Forssmann, perhaps the maddest of all mad scientists!

Werner Forßmann, looking like a distinguished Nobel prize winner and not a crazed lunatic who happened to change the history of cardiology.

Werner Forßmann, looking like a distinguished Nobel prize winner and not a crazed lunatic who happened to change the history of cardiology.

There’s a funny thing about applying yourself to your craft. You must do it in order to be successful, but then people start thinking you’re a tad wacky.

Today’s subject was such a character, and his increasingly insane behavior led him all the way from POW camp to the Nobel Prize.

Werner Forssmann was born in Germany in 1904, and at age 25, he graduated medical school at the University of Berlin and passed the State Examination in 1929. Not even a year out of medical school, Forssmann postulated that a catheter could be inserted directly into the heart for various medical purposes, but the fear at the time was that such an intrusion would be fatal.

So Forssmann did what all innovative scientists do – try the procedure out on himself.

He went to extraordinary lengths to pull this off. The department chief said no, but he persuaded an OR nurse named Gerda Ditzen to assist him. She agreed, but only if he would do it on her rather than himself.

This is where it starts getting weird…

Being the scrupulous, scientific type, Forssmann decided that he would TRICK HIS ONLY SUPPORTER, by restraining nurse Ditzen to a table, and then pretending to inject local anesthetic into her arm, when he was actually anesthetizing his own arm. He then inserted a URINARY CATHETER (they didn’t have cardiac ones at the time) into his arm at the antecubital vein, then told Ms. Ditzen to call the X-ray department.

Werner's revolutionary X-ray. The catheter is the thin black line advancing inward from his left arm.

Werner’s revolutionary X-ray. The catheter is the thin black line advancing inward from his left arm.

Bleeding and with a catheter in his arm, they walked over to the X-ray room, where Dr. Forssmann, aided by the fluoroscope, advanced the catheter all the way into the right ventricle of his heart, and they took X-ray images showing the catheter in his right atrium.

Werner Forssmann’s superiors were annoyed, but also impressed, and when they recognized his discovery, they let him do a catheterization to deliver drugs directly to the heart of a terminally ill woman. His reputation – both for medical insight and for being a bit unhinged – was growing, but he began to be passed over for surgical positions.

In 1933, he married Dr. Elsbet Engel, a urology specialist, and himself converted over to urology after his reputation in the cardiological field prevented him from getting work. He was successful, and later became Chief of the Surgical Clinic at 2 hospitals.

Here’s where it gets weirder… 

Forsmann was a member of the Nazi Party from 1932 to 1945, and rose to the rank of Major due to his medical expertise.

During World War II, as a medical officer, he was captured and put into a U.S. POW camp. While he was in prison, Andre Frederic Cournand and Dickinson W. Richards read his paper, to develop ways of applying heart catheterization to heart disease diagnosis and research. This work later resulted in Cournand, Richards and Forßmann earning the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

An artist's depiction of what was clearly meant to be a later-day Werner Forsmann.

An artist’s depiction of what was clearly meant to be a later-day Werner Forsmann.

After his release from prison, he worked as a LUMBERJACK, and then returned to medicine, practicing as a country doctor with his wife, then later opening a urology practice in the awesomely-named Bad Kreuznach. He later became an Honorary Professor at several top European universities, and a high-ranking member of many medical societies.

He and Elsbet had six children with cool names: Klaus Forßmann, Knut Forßmann, Jörg Forßmann, Wolf Forßmann, Bernd Forßmann, and Renate Forßmann. Two of them had impressive clinical careers – Wolf was the first to isolate the atrial natriuretic peptide (a pretty big deal), and Bernd helped develop the “lithotriptor” method of removing kidney stones acoustically – a process still used on over 1 million people in the US every year.

Werner Forssmann died in 1979, of heart failure (of all things).

What the heck?!? This story is so crazy. Happy Friday everyone!

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tinapang bangus, with or without lumpia

Well, hello Funny Names Fans. It’s me, Liz, here to break the silence that seems to have fallen at Blog of Funny Names. Know that the ragtag collection of BoFN writers are busy folk, so posts may not always go up. In fact, I–your resident funny-names-in-food “expert”–had nothing planned for you this week.

After Fannie’s most excellent post on Mr. Greg Bear last week, I knew I was up next. (Thank you, Fannie, for being my marker.) No funny food names came to mind, but I assumed I’d be inspired at some point during the week. Turns out I assumed wrong. Inspiration did not hit and I had not the go-gettedness (that’s a word, right?) to hunt down a name. [shades of Diddy here]

So imagine my relief when I happened upon a post from a crazy-talented blogger friend entitled How To Make Lumpia with Tinapang Bangus. Wow. While Lumpia (which I had heard of before) and Tinapang Bangus (which I had not) are funnily named foods rather than funnily named folk, their funniness factor is high enough that I will build an entire post around them.

First, though, note that I am in no way making fun of Tinapang Bangus nor Lumpia. One of BoFN’s many tenets is that funny names are celebrated because of their greatness. Though you’ll occasionally find a wee bit of snark and ridicule, it’s mostly good clean fun and we pick our topics because we think they’re cool enough to be featured. And “tinapang bangus” (along with the slightly more familiar “lumpia”) blew me away. Such awesome words deserve to be shared.

tinapang bangus, on the menu at Puerto Rico's Bangus Restaurant, Greenhills Branch

tinapang bangus, on the menu at Puerto Rico’s Bangus Restaurant, Greenhills Branch

Wikipedia tells me that “tinapa” is the Filipino term for smoked fish and bangus is also known as milkfish. So Tinapang Bangus is simply smoked milkfish. You can learn to make your own here.

Though I knew lumpia as some type of dumpling, more research was needed for specifics. Again to Wikipedia for the knowledge that lumpia are “pastries of Chinese origin similar to … fried spring rolls.” Most food-based websites define lumpia as Filipino egg rolls, so there you have it. Hop over to YouTube for Judy’s lovely lumpia-making demo. I would totally eat these.

So what Jar of Salt has done in her post, then, is add flaked tinapang bangus to lumpia filling. Which is altogether brilliant. How yum! I’m just sorry she’s on another continent and I”ll never taste her amazing creation. But I’ve expanded my food world and am glad to have learned a few new (funny) food words. Here’s hoping you enjoyed them, too.


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Colorful Kandinsky

Today’s post spotlights Russian painter Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky (1866-1944). Born in Moscow to Lidia Ticheeva and Vasily Silvestrovich Kandinsky, he recalled being fascinated and stimulated by color as a child. He attended the University of Moscow, studying law and economics, as far from painting as the east is from the west. His interest in art began at the mature age of 30, at which point he settled in Munich, studying at Anton Ažbe‘s private school.

Kandinsky compared painting to composing music, writing, “Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.” Check out these good vibrations.


Munich Schwabing with the Church of St. Ursula

He focused on landscapes and towns, rather than human figures, except for Sunday, Old Russia (1904). Kandinsky spent the years from 1906 to 1908 travelling across Europe as an associate of the Blue Rose symbolist group of Moscow, settling in the Bavarian town of Murnau. During this time, The Blue Mountain (1908–1909) was painted, demonstrating his trend toward abstraction. I’m not keen on abstract art, so I’m delighted that we can make out horses and riders, as well as said blue mountain.

blue mountain

But Kandinsky was not a one-trick pony. In addition to painting, he was an art theorist. He helped found the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (Munich New Artists’ Association). When the group dissolved two years later, he then formed a new group, the Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter). At the onset of WWI in 1914, he returned to Russia. In 1917, at the age of FIFTY-ONE , he finally broke down and got married to a woman named Nina Andreievskaya. Again, he compared music to art. Imagine this being said in a Russian accent:

The sun melts all of Moscow down to a single spot that, like a mad tuba, starts all of the heart and all of the soul vibrating. But no, this uniformity of red is not the most beautiful hour. It is only the final chord of a symphony that takes every colour to the zenith of life that, like the fortissimo of a great orchestra, is both compelled and allowed by Moscow to ring out.

Nice as that sounds, it was time to get going. In 1921, he was invited back to Germany to attend the Bauhaus (no, not Peter Murphy’s goth-rock band) school of art, where he began teaching until the Nazis closed it in 1933. Not crazy about Nazis, he left Germany for France, where he spent the remainder of his life.

In 2012, Christie’s auctioned Kandinsky’s Studie für Improvisation 8 (Study for Improvisation 8), a 1909 view of a man wielding a broadsword in a rainbow-hued village, for $23 million. I bet that would have been music to his ears.

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