Remember Edu-Cards? They were decks of playing cards specifically for children, where they could play a game and be educated at the same time. We had one game that was based on Concentration, but it had circus-related stuff on it, like clowns, lions, trapeze artists, and my brother’s favorite, Dancing Bear. When he’d get that card, he would say, “dancing bear, dancing bear, dancing bear” in a goofy voice, and I thought it was hilarious. Don’t ask me why; just as I’m scared of weird things, other weird things make me laugh.
Speaking of weird things that make me laugh, remember the show Captain Kangaroo? He had a character on there called Dancing Bear.
Bob Keeshan played the Captain, Hugh “Lumpy” Brannum played Mr. Green Jeans, and they had a host of other characters, including Dancing Bear, played by Cosmo Allegretti. They also had Grandfather Clock (a talking grandfather clock and told long and often pointless stories), Mr. Moose (who spoke in a high pitched voice and liked to drop ping-pong balls on the Captain), Bunny Rabbit (who was mute and, despite his love of carrots, wore glasses), Magic Drawing Board (someone standing behind a sheet of paper drawing pictures — backward — with a pen that bled through), and a character called The Banana Man, originally played by Adolph Proper, who… just watch.
That show was on for thirty years, and I thought it was kind of surreal. Once during the summer, when I was in high school, I pulled an all-nighter (too much Dr Pepper). When I got up (or whatever you do after an all-nighter), I turned on the Captain, and he was doing something where there was a tiny band walking around (camera tricks, 1970’s style) and the Captain was the only person who could see them. Everyone else looked at him like he was nuts. At the end of the show, he marched behind them playing a kazoo. Cracked me up, and I wasn’t on drugs, just sitting there, smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo after playing solitaire ’til dawn with a deck of 51… That’d make a pretty good song, don’t you think?
I swear, that just happened. I wasn’t planning it.
Of course, “dancing bear” is a homophone for “dancing bare,” meaning dancing with no clothes on, i.e. naked. Here in the South, we have two words, “naked” and “nekkid.” As Lewis Grizzard once said, “naked” means ya ain’t got no clothes on, while “nekkid” means ya ain’t got no clothes on and you’re up to something.
Stream of Consciousness Saturday is brought to you each week by Linda Hill and this station.