Friday night at our vigil in Carleton Place we had Pat Willbond sing a song to open the event. I wanted to announce him properly and found out he had won Home Grown Cafe in the 90s. Home Grown Cafe???
That of course set my mind wandering and I had to document it so people would remember and never forget that 30 minutes a week the family was glued to the TV.
There are 150,000 viewers every Sunday night to see what appears to be endless lineup of eight-year-old tapdancers. Arrive at CJOH studios half -hour before taping begins. Big lineups outside for members of audience, mostly relatives and friends of performers. Demand for tickets so great that bleachers added to Cafe set to accommodate 140 people. Tickets all gone a week ago.
Wait in hallway with dancers, singers, etc. Hear someone doing vocal exercises. Hear someone practising stepdancing. Try to remain anonymous to forestall lobbying. Judge must be impartial. Say hello to Joel Stapansky, show’s producer, diminutive fireball constantly busy doing several jobs at once, Stapansky tells us tonight’s shows, taped two at time for fall season that started Sunday, will feature adult entertainers.
This is a relief. Younger performers are more difficult to judge, and Stapansky has many stories of mothers of children waiting for him after show to attack him physically. Big change in program this season is that there are now eight acts per show instead of six, cutting performance time from 21/2 minutes to two.
The idea is to make things go more quickly, givethe show brighter pace, provide TV exposure to more of 1,400 people a year who audition. Stapansky perpetually amazed at program’s success, thrilled to have it mentioned in same breath as such ratings giants. “Any time you see Homegrown Cafe and Roseanne in any proximity at all” he says, shaking head. Studio finally opens.
Take seat on raised dais with fellow judges, talent agent Eileen Hennemann, radio host Michael O’Brien. Receive briefing sheet instructing us how to rate performers. Key is entertainment value: must judge two acts in each of vocal, dance, variety categories, rate each on scale of 1 to 10 on basis of self-confidence, material, salesmanship, pizzazz, which act we would rather see again. Asked not to consult each other before marking scoresheets.
Program director tells audience to applaud quickly to make it sound like more people. Applaud like mad for host J. J. Clarke, CJOH weatherman who dons tuxedo for Homegrown Cafe gig. Clarke introduces acts, keeps audience amused during breaks when microphones go on blink, lights go off, other small disasters of taped television.
Clarke has large supply of shameless jokes: the two Newfie moose hunters; the Englishman, the Irishman and the Scotsman at the Olympics; the bee at the bar mitzvah, the stuttering Bible salesman, etc. Taping begins with two female singers, continues with two sets of dancers, two male singers. Have seconds to decide who is better and by how much.
Things get trickier in variety category, when two women from area church, one playing piano and the other ringing bells, compete against older gentleman who performs ragtime piano number, occasionally shouting, “Boogie woogie!” Even more difficult is variety pair in second show when short, grandmotherly woman doing bare-legged jitterbug with tall, young partner ” competes against South American man in costume playing pan flute and some kind of Peruvian mandolin.
However, I do my best, and sense that choices would be the same if winners had been chosen by audience vote. Stapansky, who says he can’t wait for interactive -TV will let viewers at home decide which act is best, and involve the public more. This I would eliminate the need for celebrity judges, spell end of career on bench. On the other hand, I did manage to get out without being attacked by mothers of any losing eight-year-old tapdancers.
PROFILE Team creates Special Effects for charity and fun The CJOH Special Effects baseball team is a group of people dedicated to having fun and helping others. “We’re game for anything,” says Marlene Pauly, studio director at CJOH and manager for the team. And she means it the team has not only played baseball to raise money for charity, but donkey baseball, snow pitch, volleyball and water ball.
The team comprised of CJOH staff and their spouses can be booked to play against a community team. The proceeds raised go to a charity chosen by the Special Effects’ opponent. “Some charge admission at the gate, and some pass a hat although in Iroquois they pass a firefighter’s boot,” says Pauly. “It’s easier that way because people can decide how much they want to donate.” The Special Effects was formed in the mid-1960s. The team’s popularity has grown steadily, and members played as many as 40 to 45 games a season at one point. They have now cut back to just under 30 games a season, and in 1993 they raised more than $10,000 Special Effects team is made for charities. “We were playing every weekend, during the week, and then going into work. It was just too much,” explains Pauly. The team has about 20 players each year to accommodate shift workers, with Photo courtesy of CJOH up of CJOH staff and spouses about 11 making it to each event. Team members are known for their distinctive style on the field. “People think we’re nuts,” says Pauly, who declined to reveal their secret game plan. “We start off playing serious and then every- thing breaks loose.” Popular gags include throwing grapefruit and water balloons painted to resemble baseballs. Pauly’s reasoning: “First they get sticky, then they get clean!” But like all comedians, the Special Effects find that some crowds are more responsive than others. The team operates on a budget from CJOH that allows members to purchase their uniforms, and Discount Car and Truck Rentals supplies a van to get them to outlying communities. Bookings for the team are taken only in February or March for the year ahead, and they fill up quickly. To book the team, call publicist Rosemary Fitzpatrick during those months at 224-1320, ext 377. See the team’s antics at the final two games of the season tonight the team plays at 7 p.m. against the Chesterville Winter Carnival team at the Chesterville Ball Park to raise money for a new playground facility; and on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. the team plays an exhibition team at Alexander Grove Park in Stittsville to raise money for the Harvestfest Committee.
Once upon a time I found out from the locals that the front of my home in Carleton Place was featured in the opening of theHi Diddle Dayshow. Hi Diddle Day was a CBC Ottawa production designed to entertain and inform young viewers for years. The uniquely-produced series starred a number of puppet characters (created, manipulated and voiced by Noreen Young) who “lived” in an unusual household.
Noreen Young, producer Audrey Jordan and the rest of the Hi Diddle Day crew always felt that Gertrude Diddle and her menage were different. Moulded from latex, they were capable of much more than “lip-syncing” to the words put in their mouths by puppeteers Young, Johni Keyworth and Stephen Brathwaite. The puppets indulged in enough horseplay to keep the very young giggling while, through situation gags and punning jokes, and they also appealed to the more sophisticated youngsters and older teenagers like myself.
Anyone that knows me knows how much I worship the ground puppeteer Noreen Young walks on. I have been honoured to participate in the late great Puppets Up! parade in Almonte, Ontario and try to follow her every word like:
“Linda, your Elvis puppet is looking a little ragged. His hair is “off” and he needs an eye!”You know things like that.
The setting of Hi Diddle Day was a remodeled Victorian house in Crabgrass, in a typical small Canadian community (Carleton Place). In the house lived Mrs. Dibble, and a host of zany puppet characters. Other puppets were Basil the Beagle, Durwood the Dragon, Wolfgang Von Wolf, Granny, Chico The Crow, a French-Canadian moose called Ti, Lucy Goose and others.
Being an extreme puppet lover I was thrilled that my home on Lake Ave East was home to Hi Diddle Day. When my youngest son vacated the house for his own new home Mom converted his room into a Puppet Room. She took apart his gun case and fashioned it into a puppet theatre filled with vintage puppets– mostly from the Hub in Almonte. Her grandchildren still look at the room today full of strange puppets and do not want to go in there— and their poor grandmother wonders why. I believe the word creepy has been used.
This week Gord Cross, who has been sending me in some local stories, sent in one that had me screaming in the house. I have a hard time moving these days but I can still scream.
When I was young and lived at 16 Rochester St. we knew your home as the Raeburn house. During the 50’s a picture of it was used in the CBC TV show “Uncle Chichimus” (this sounds right but I am not sure of the spelling). The show was in black and white, of course, but the Marching Saints Marching Bandwere invited to the show once and I, as the band leader, was invited to interview with the puppet Uncle Chichimus. I was amazed to see that he was red and green with lots of paint chips . The band was lined up on one side of the room and played a number.Hopefully, someone may have a picture for you because that would be an interesting sidelight about your home.You might have to poll retired members.
Granted I was 2 when the program began but I knew nothing about this and was really intrigued that another puppet had graced my home. Uncle Chichimus was an intellectual puppet down on his luck and scorned almanacs. Knowing a good thing he moved in with puppeteer John Conway and Hollyhock, the mop-haired secretary housekeeper. The program, which originated in Toronto was seen in Ottawa five times weekly. Weatherman Percy Salzman used to drop in to do the weather and they would all talk about what was on TV that night. The director of this show was none other than Norman Jewison. Yes, that Norman Jewison who went on to make Hollywood films like Moonstruck, The Hurricane and, Jesus Christ Superstar among many. Please note that Uncle Chichimus is not noted on his Wikipedia page.
To make this story way more interesting Uncle Chichimus and Hollyhock were kidnapped in 1954. In what became front-page news in Canada Toronto’s CBLT-TV studio switchboards were jammed with calls by worried friends and admirers of the popular puppet stars. John Conway, creator of Uncle Chichimus, publisher, and world traveller decided to act as a detective to find his two puppets. He offered a $300 reward for the return of the two missing 24 hours after the daring kidnapping on the downtown streets. The CBC coughed up an additional $25 reward the next day. About 200 children called the studios offering their dolls or puppets as replacements for the two “stars”. Who would guess people would steal puppets? Apparently, it is a common thing as in Was Wayne Rostad’s Puppet Ever Found?
Conway had insured the puppets for $150 each and said that it would take about four days to reproduce them. No ransom demands had been received by the puppeteer. Conway, whose studio was on downtown King Street West, left his station wagon parked in front of his offices. On the rear seat was a duffle bag with the pair enclosed. Conway, unfortunately, forgot to lock his car door, and when he made a search of the car the next morning, the bag and its contents were missing.
CBC-TV officials were concerned over the disappearance and featured the kidnapping on the News Roundup films. The kidnapping had occurred on the eve of Chichy’s, Hollyhock’s and Larry Mann’s departure via a recently-acquired sailing vessel from Lobster Landing, in the Maritimes. Departure had been delayed when corks, used in the hull to stop leakage, kept coming out.
Uncle Chichimus was actually the first personality seen on CBC TV when it began broadcasting. He was revived for a for a 26-episode The Adventures of Uncle Chichimus in 1957. Later he and Hollyhock jumped ship to CJOH in 1961 as nothing seemed to be the same after the abduction as part of a new show called Cartoonerville. CBC replaced their time slot with a show called AdLib– and trivia buffs should note that: no, it was not the game show AdLib. This is CBC we are talking about, and the AdLib we are talking about was set in a rural setting. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Since then, the surviving puppets have been put into mothballs at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, and the collection is reputedly complete. John Conway became a teacher in the Glebe. The original puppets were never found and it does not look like everything ended up happily ever after.
Carole Ann BennettMy mother took me to see a live show I believe being broadcast from Ogilvy’s Department Store around 1952 or 53.I think that Chich was coloured green and Hollyhock was yellow!-Lost Ottawa
Skip LaytonI was on this show with my art class, and won a pencil sharpener,shaped like Timothy, the mouse who rode around in Dumbo’s hat. I still have it. Fun memories. I remember being startled that Chichimus was green. Guess it looked better on B&W TV.-Lost Ottawa
Mikey Artelle has some great info on shows-– CLICK