Archive for July 6th, 2010

No, It’s Not Oh-Tay!

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Remember Buckwheat – the Black child on the ‘Our Gang’ comedies? In the series, he was almost as popular as Spanky and Alfalfa and was famous for his phrase, “O-tay!” What became of him?

William Thomas, the young actor who played Buckwheat, took a dive into oblivion. The respected investigative reporting show, 20/20 of ABC, decided to find him. In October, 1990, the show claimed it had tracked down Buckwheat to Tempe, Arizona where, sadly, he worked as a grocery bagger.

In the televised interview. ‘Buckwheat’ told his sad tale and many viewers felt sorry for him. It was a great story except for one thing: the real Buckwheat, William Thomas, died over 10-years before the 20/20 show. His impostor, Bill English, pretended to be Buckwheat for over 30-years! Uh, oh.

Within a week, a red-faced ABC admitted its mistake, fired the producer of the piece – and was sued by the child star’s son.

William Thomas wouldn’t have liked any of this. He was a quiet, modest man, who worked for many years in Hollywood as a film lab technician. And he never could understand the nostalgia that was making famous, once again, the ‘Our Gang’ series which made him a fleeting star.

Nonetheless, in 1980, Mr. Thomas graciously accepted an invitation to a ‘Nostalgia TV’ convention. He doubted many people would even remember ‘Our Gang’ – much less what he considered his minor contribution. He was wrong. Even before his introduction was finished, the audience burst into a spontaneous, loud and long, standing ovation which moved him to tears.

It was Buckwheat’s last shining moment. Just three months later, Mr. William Thomas dropped dead of a heart attack. He was 49.

“And Awaaaay We Go!”

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Jackie Gleason’s Cavalcade of Stars featured an opening number by the June Taylor Dancers. The troupe’s signature camera shot was an overhead kalodescopic  view of the dancers making geometric patterns. The high-kicking, smiling routines that formed the first three minutes of each broadcast reminded the audience of the Rockettes.

These naked dancers are not from either of those famous dance ensembles.  Most people agree that the dancers above do not dance as well as Ginger Rogers – nor even Roy Rogers – but who cares?

To see what was considered “great television” in the 1950’s, see:  youtube.com/watch?v

Try to stay awake for the 5-minutes.

Can’t Beat the Heat

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010