Monday, August 20, 2007

Scooby Doo wants to be the new Buckskin Bill

When I was in college at Louisiana State, there was only one proper greeting if you ran across broadcasting instructor Bill Black, say, eating lunch at Mickey D's.

"Hey, Buckskin!"

For a whole generation of kids born and raised in Baton Rouge, La., the man was -- is -- Buckskin Bill. For 35 years on WAFB television, he would lead us young'uns in "The Monday Morning March" and tell us to sit up straight when we were slouching in front of the TV set.

I didn't know how he knew.

WHEN I WAS REALLY LITTLE, I thought Buckskin lived in the television. By the time I sat on Buckskin's lap -- on his show for my fourth birthday and terrified of the gigantic TV cameras -- I knew he lived at the WAFB studios and obviously was omniscient. That day in 1965, he was in the middle of a drive to collect aspirin for the medicine-poor Amazon region of Brazil. I brought some to drop into the big barrel of Bayer.

Likewise, Buckskin would remind us at the end of every morning Storyland or afternoon Buckskin Bill Show that Baton Rouge needed a zoo.

In 1969, he'd have kids march before the cameras, dropping their pennies into a safe to buy the first two elephants for the new Greater Baton Rouge Zoo.

Buckskin Bill was on WAFB -- first on Channel 28 and then after it moved to Channel 9 -- from 1955 to 1990. By the time new owners of Channel 9 yanked Storyland in favor of Regis and Kathie Lee, I had been married for seven years and living here in Omaha for two.

I may have cried when I heard the news. I know I wrote a scathing and outraged letter to the station manager.

See, a whole generation of us had grown up on Buckskin Bill and had continued to watch, from time to time, all the way into adulthood. You don't turn your back on family just because you're no longer in the targeted demographic, you know?

Family. That's what Buckskin Bill was. In some ways, he was more family for some of us than family was.

ALL OF THIS IS TO SAY that a couple of Baton Rouge media types -- one of whom happens to be the latest voice of Scooby Doo -- have some mighty humongous shoes to fill if they aspire to be the new Buckskin Bill.
Here's the story from 225 magazine:

The program Buckskin Bill’s Storyland was the last locally-produced children’s TV show, which means no one in Baton Rouge under 35 has grown up with a hometown TV hero.

Enter two distinctly local costumed characters—Hollywood Hal and Rhinestone Al. They’re the goofy, affable singing duo of Hollywood Hal and Rhinestone Al and the Wannabees. They entertain preschoolers with jokes and educational video clips each weekday at 7:30 a.m. on Cox Channel 4.

“It’s educational, motivational and inspirational,” says Jim Hogg, the show’s co-creator and the man inside the Rhinestone Al suit.

Radio DJ Scott Innes plays Hollywood Hal. He was Hogg’s co-anchor on local radio station WYNK-FM for years. Hogg left the station last year to devote his efforts full-time to the kids’ show, while Innes still takes the WYNK mic for afternoon drive time.

Like most shows that target viewers under the age of eight, the show is short on plot. The pair doesn’t really do much except sing a handful of twangy tunes, which cover everything from barnyard animals to the importance of saying no to drugs. The Wannabees are their backup singers, a trio of fuzzy yellow jacket puppets.

“The Wannabees are really all the kids in America who want to be something when they grow up,” Innes says.
YOU'VE GOT TO WISH these folks good luck for even trying to do local children's programming once again. But if you ask this Baby Boomer who was privileged to tap into the signal of "big, booming, powerful Channel 9" a couple of times a day, every day, to be entertained and taught by "Buckskin Bill" Black . . . well, no kiddie show is complete without Candy the Chimpanzee or Señor Puppet.

"And remember kids, you're never completely dressed until you put on a smile."

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To learn more about Buckskin Bill, go here and here. Here, too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks goes out to Buckskin Bill for many years of clean entertainment to us. Thanks to Hollywood Hal and Rhinestone Al for doing the same for a new generation in dire need of this type of entertainment.


Shawn "Co-Co" Ardoin