Chatter! What’s The Matter With You? #socs

Two of my favorite topics on this blog are Chicago and television, and when I get the opportunity to combine them, it’s even better. I have a book in both paper and Kindle formats called The Golden Age of Chicago Children’s Television by Ted Okuda and Jack Mulqueen. Jack was a real insider: he and his wife Elaine (who went by the name Pandora) had several kids’ TV shows during the “Golden Age,” which was from the time the first station signed on in 1948 until sometime in the late ’60’s or early ’70’s. In other words, pretty much my entire childhood.

In the book, Okuda and Mulqueen tell the story about Chatter, a chimpanzee who was the star of his own six-minute TV show in 1960. Before that, he worked at WGN, which during the ’50’s and ’60’s was the last word in Chicago kids’ TV. There’s a story about Chatter in the book, who for a time was teamed up with Carl Greyson, a news anchor who was doing the after-school Three Stooges show (he needed the money). In between the films, Greyson and Chatter would have guests on. One of the guests was a woman who had a well-trained parakeet that could talk and do tricks. At one point, Chatter grabbed the bird from the woman, bit its head off, and handed the headless bird back to her. The woman fainted, Greyson stared at the chimp in shock, and they quickly cut to a commercial.

That didn’t get Chatter fired, strangely enough. That only happened after he got into the engineers’ storage area and busted up a bunch of expensive equipment. Soon after, he was hired by WBKB, who filmed a number of shorts that aired on that station and made the rounds around several Chicago stations over the next many years. They were, as you can probably guess, not exactly the pinnacle of intelligent and cultured entertainment, but we liked them, and we hadn’t even seen the parakeet incident. Here’s an example called “Chatter’s Bandstand.”

The Museum of Classic Chicago Television has a couple more “Chatter” episodes, in case this has piqued your interest.


Stream of Consciousness Saturday is brought to you each week by Linda Hill and this station. Now a word from Boushelle, who’s running their 2 for 1 carpet, drapery and furniture cleaning sale!

This post put me in a Chicago mood, so I decided to run with a commercial from one of the better-known local advertisers, who is still in business…

32 thoughts on “Chatter! What’s The Matter With You? #socs

  1. Wow – I vaguely remember seeing a re-run of that show. That sounds like what would’ve happened on a Johnny Carson show too – interesting that they didn’t try to edit it out of the show, but if it was live (or, dead as in this case) guess that wouldn’t work? Chatter was a good dancer, that’s for sure!

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  2. Never trust a chimp with a parakeet. Maybe Chatter was disgruntled about his pay or working conditions. The Planet of the Apes movies come to mind.

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  3. More interesting historic tidbits, John! I thought of you yesterday when I read about the Max Headroom broadcast hijack in Chicago back in1987. Those guys (or gals) were never caught. I thought, β€œI bet John knows about this.”

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    1. It so happens that Ben, who runs The Oddity Archive channel on YouTube (highly recommended), used the Max Headroom incident as the basis for his first show…

      He did a followup show a few years later…

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  4. You just can’t make this stuff up! Glad I didn’t see the parakeet incident. To me this is another example of going against what nature intended by dressing up the monkey for a TV show. Poor Chatter. Well poor parakeet too.

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    1. As much fun as it is to see chimps dressed like people and doing all kinds of funny things, we forget that they’re still wild animals. Mary and I were at the Lincoln Park Zoo many years ago, where they had the chimps behind a glass wall so you could watch them being chimps. Some bonehead was banging on the glass (despite al the signs that said “Don’t bang on the glass, bonehead!”) and one of the chimps started banging back. Itold Mary “we better get out of here before that monkey breaks the glass and goes after that guy.” Even though the glass was the heavy-duty type that they build aquariums out of (by which I mean like the Shedd Aquarium or the Georgia Aquarium), the chimp was big and powerful and the glass was bowing out when he’d hit it…

      You’re right, Chatter didn’t see the parakeet as a valuable trained performer, he saw it as a snack. That’s what chimps do…

      Do you remember a show called “The Hathaways” with Peggy Cass (in one of her few roles other than game show contestant)? Or the movie “Monkeys, Go Home”? Just curious…

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      1. We watched a bunch of kinescope episodes of early show at The Museum of Television and Radio (now The Paly Center) in New York. We were members for several years. They had preserved thousands of those videos.

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