Friday, April 25, 2008

Peach Pony Mambo

Puppets scared the living hell outta me. Once, when my mother took me to a department store to watch a production of Punch and Judy, I flipped. The sight of hand puppets hitting each other with sticks not only unsettled me, I thought that they were real, and would bolt the stage to attack me personally. I cried and begged my mother to leave, but we stayed till the end, me hiding behind her, waiting for the puppet assault.

Soupy Sales cured me. His mid-60s syndicated show remains one of my earliest happy memories. Broadcast live from New York, Soupy and his pals improvised around cheap sets and corny gags; but the one character whom I adored was Pookie the Lion, a hand puppet who bounced to R&B when not using Soupy as a straightman. I don't remember if I thought Pookie was real, but he inspired me to jump in front of our black and white set to songs I didn't understand.

Charlie Callas wasn't a puppet, but he could pass for one if necessary. Callas was utterly ridiculous, his comedy bizarre (Christopher Guest once did a great Callas as an Oxford professor on "SNL"). See if you can follow this story (note the brief, off-stage Jerry Lewis cameo), then try not to make similar noises throughout the day. It's early and I've already failed.

She wasn't Lisa Lisa or Pebbles, but Stacey Q made her one-hit mark with "Two Of Hearts." It's a dreadful tune, but catchy, and I must admit that I had a jones for Q when this video was in heavy rotation. Though she channels both Nancy Sinatra and Stevie Nicks, it was the little red top that drove me mad. I wanted to devour all 4' 11" of Q while making Charlie Callas noises. Oh, as if that's somehow beneath you.