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.
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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…