KIDDIE A-GO-GO INTERVIEW
"Kiddie a-go-go, that's your thing
Never too young to dance and scream
Doing the Freddie, swim and frug
Where the action is, that's the groove
You're growin' up, you're growin' up, you're growin' up, you're growin' up"
- from Kiddie A-Go-Go theme song, by Raymond Jaimes
Following a video swap with Mike Stax, editor of Ugly Things zine, I found myself recently viewing a mind-boggling black-and-white clip of The New Colony Six, in full Revolutionary War drag, lip-syncing to their 45, "I Lie Awake." The NC6, mind you, were a pretty decent group, but it wasn't their performance that so upset my equilibrium. What did get to me was that there in front of the band were a couple dozen children, all frugging and Freddying like their little lives depended on it. The show the clip was extracted from seemed to be some sort of American Bandstand for pre-pubescents, and it was wild. I immediately got Stax on the horn and demanded, "Screw the New Colony Six, send me the rest of the show!" And that, friends, is how I came to discover the magical world of Kiddie A-Go-Go.
Along with quickly and graciously fulfilling my order, Stax filled me in on a few details about the show. Kiddie A-Go-Go was a half-hour Chicago program that ran locally throughout most of the 1960s, and was indeed a Dick Clark for the Romper Room set. Two episodes had recently been making the underground rounds.
The full hour-long blast (yes, with commercials intact) of pre-teen dancing madness that Stax laid on me sent me reeling. The hostess was a tiny blonde woman dressed in harlequin outfits who called herself Pandora. She would banter, Kukla, Fran & Ollie-style, with an assortment of hand puppets telling awful jokes, lip-sync the show's jaunty, Farfisa-driven theme song (see lyrics above), shill for Mickelberry's meats and Wanzer's milk, and exhort the little ones as they awkwardly but enthusiastically shimmed along to the latest releases. The first episode on the tape included the New Colony Six appearance, while the second featured a promotional film for The Cowsills' "Rain, The Park, And Other Things."
As I cursed myself for being brought up in New Jersey and not Illinois, I found myself becoming obsessed with Kiddie A-Go-Go, particularly with this Pandora chick. It wasn't long before I was compelled to dig deeper into the Pandora myth. I began poking around the edges of the memory banks of friends of mine who had been raised in Chicago; one thing led to another, and within a few weeks I was on the phone with Pandora herself.
It turns out that the original, official name of the program was Mulqueen's Kiddie A-Go-Go, with the prefix referring to the show's creator and producer, Jack Mulqueen. Jack was, and still is, married to a woman named Elaine, who used to perform part-time under the name … you got it: Pandora. I was thrilled to be speaking with Elaine/Pandora, but she, apparently, wasn't so thrilled to be speaking with me. It wasn't that she was hostile or anything, just disinterested, and referred all questions to her husband Jack. Jack Mulqueen and I subsequently engaged in a pair of long, rambling conversations about his and Elaine's broadcasting careers, and during our second session, after some mild prodding on my part, managed to coax Elaine into picking up the extension and going on the record for a bit. As our talk was all over the map, I've had to sprinkle Elaine/Pandora's answers hither and thither throughout the transcription.
Phil: Not having grown up in Chicago, I've only recently seen the the two episodes of the Kiddie A-Go-Go show that are available on videotape, and I thought they were really fascinating. How long did the program run?
Jack: We came on TV in 1962, doing Coca-Cola commercials. The wife performed in front of the puppet stage, and I had a background as a puppeteer. We created a show called The Mulqueens that went on WGN-TV, Channel 9, on April 13, 1963, and we stayed on 'til 1970. After a couple years of doing the show on 'GN, I went over to Channel 7 - which now is WLS-TV, an ABC affiliate, but was called WBKB at the time - and because the trend was go-go (there were such songs as "Popsicle" by Jan and Dean, and "Little Red Riding Hood" by Sam the Sham the Pharoah [sic]), so much of it was juvenile-oriented, with dances like The Popeye, The Swim, The Frug, etc. We decided to create a format around that. We had everybody from, believe it or not, Dick Clark to Sonny & Cher dancing on the show.
Phil: Dancing, huh?
Jack: And singing, and performing.
Phil: Were they dancing with the kids, on the dance floor?
Jack: Yeah. In fact, I have a classic letter from Dick Clark that says that Elaine showed him how to do the different dances. "That's the first show I ever danced on," he said, even though he was on American Bandstand.
Phil: When did the program actually become Kiddie A-Go-Go?
Jack: We moved to Channel 7 in '65, and as of the first of the new year  it became Kiddie A-Go-Go, and stayed with that name until the end.
Phil: Did you have an age range that the dancers would be selected from?
Jack: It was strictly pre-teens, under 12 years of age. But, because of the fact that the young people had no outlet, and the record companies had no outlet, everyone from Leslie Gore to the 4 Seasons were performing on our show.
Phil: They felt this was an avenue into a younger market?
Jack: Well, we had a tremendous following. We were on Saturday morning, which is considered prime kiddie-time, for 30 minutes. That's the first show that's on the tape you saw. We were competing against cartoons at that time, and we came out in second place. The number one show on Saturday morning had 251,000, and we had 247,600. So we were fine, the program manager Tom Miller, and the program director were all very happy with the show, and the show had top ratings. We had sponsors standing in line. But then, like everything else, we had a battle with a new manager who came in after the second year, and he was not pleased with this kind of a show. He said, "This is like Whiskey A-Go-Go," and was panning the whole thing. The new broom threw out everybody, including my show and the program director.
The program director offered me to go with him to Philadelphia, but I just didn't want to follow him. At that time Channel 26 offered us Monday through Friday across the board, plus a salary, plus a commission. So we went to an hour-and-a-half a day 'cause we were selling it like crazy, but Mike Moore had an article in the Tribune where they referred to the station as "the attic of the Board of Trade." It was not an attractive station - it was a very garage-like atmosphere, but we got the signal out and we had a tremendous following in spite of it all. We were getting 100,000 [viewers].
Phil: Was there a long waiting list for kids to get on?
Jack: Oh, yeah. When we were at WGN, where we had a large studio, we'd have about 200 every Saturday come down and do the show. Later, when were were on Monday through Friday, we had a different group of kids every day. We'd send out about 50 invitations, and about 30 or 40 would show up.
Phil: Jake had told me that he heard that in order for kids to get tickets for the Chicago version of Bozo, their parents had to apply before the kid was even born.
Jack: No, those stories are all exaggerated. Ninety percent hype.
Phil: How long would the dancers stay with the show?
Jack: We had a ticket system where people would write in for free passes for the show, so the families would bring them down and we would take the kids onto the set, and they'd be a part of the show. And for the following program there'd be a whole new group.
Phil: So you never really got to know any of the kids?
Jack: No. At the beginning, I recruited shills from dance schools.
Phil: That seems to have led, in the tape I saw, to some very weird dancing, with kids who were playing out their lessons very well, who knew the steps and all, but who had no natural rhythm whatsoever. A couple of the kids in particular [okay, one chubby little boy] come across as incredibly hammy. Were any of the kids particularly difficult to work with?
Jack: No, we never had any problems with them. Most of the kids that came down were fans of ours, so Elaine was able to keep them in check. Elaine's training came from doing puppet shows in parking lots for Borden's and Coca-Cola for several years, so she knew how to handle an audience. She's been known to stop a show and to tell them to shape up or get out. She could handle an audience and that was real key. She didn't have any trouble with the kids when they came in. We used to have a floor manager who would help her in that area too, plus I was there. So I don't remember having any problem with any kids on any of our shows. Maybe a mother now and then, but not the kids.
Phil: That was my next question.
Jack: Oh, one or two of the parents were problems. I remember one time the floor manager saying [affecting funny voice], "Who are you, lady? Who are you?"
Phil: It strikes me that for you, doing this show on a regular basis, it's work, but the kids go in there thinking it's gonna be a blast. I'm wondering if it was as much fun for them as they might have thought it would be, or if in actuality it was work for them, too.
Elaine: No, that time we're on the air goes fast, and the only ones who may have been dragging a little bit would have been the real young ones. Jack said you have to be five or six to get on, but some of the mothers would want them on even younger. But even there we would cover, because Jack had a song called "The Sit Song," and they'd sit and Jack would have the camera pan them. That would give them a break. Did you ever tell him about the two drums, Jack? God, we had more fights with those two drums. He had two great big giant drums, and that would raise two kids up over the others. Well, there's only so much time on each one, getting on this drum … I mean, it was a catastrophe sometimes, the fights just to get on the darn drums! That's one of the things we heard even years and years later: "I was on your show, and I was on the drums." They would come on there so wound up, and the time always went fast, and I enjoyed working with the kids. It was fun. There were five million and one problems, but after a while, no matter what would come up you'd never panic anymore, you'd know you just gotta work through it.
Phil: I had been a contestant on a kid's show in New York when I was about seven or eight [a wild, four-hours-every-Sunday-morning program called Wonderama, which was much later devolved into the nationally syndicated Kids Are People, Too], and I remember there being a ton of free stuff that sponsors would line up for the studio audience, all sorts of food and soda and toys. Did your program have any similar kinds of giveaways for the kids?
Elaine: Oh, yeah. Jack's a White Castle fanatic, so we had them on. About 5,000 White Castles every day. I was never very big on them, but eventually even Jack said, "You reach a point …" I mean, every day they'd be at the door for the audience. Well, our audience number varied. Some days you'd be over and some days you'd be under. We didn't know, and sometimes there'd be White Castles up one wall and down the other! There was a lot of other stuff, especially when we were at 'GN and WLS. Central Grocers would give each kid a goodie bag.
Phil: Would you get meats when Mickelberry was a sponsor?
Jack: No, we didn't give away that. We gave a lot of records, though. I think a lot of them would be collectors' items today. When we were at 26 we gave away several hundred Three Stooges 45s, with pictures of them on there, singing "Happy Birthday." We could sell them now for $20 or $25 apiece.
Phil: Would all of your musical guests be lip-syncing, or did any of them sing live?
Jack: All lip-sync.
Phil: How did you contract with the bands that played your shows? Would they be groups that were on tour and passing through Chicago, or were they mostly local acts?
Jack: The record companies got them for us. Capitol, Mercury, etc. were very happy with us, and we got along great. We ran all kinds of contests: win a lunch with the 4 Seasons, or win it with Lesley Gore. We got Glen Campbell, Roger Miller … there really was no outlet for some of them to go on but our show. Mercury's main office was here in Chicago at the time. John Sippel was their head of promotions, and he and I had a great rapport.
Phil: When the show was 90 minutes long, would the act come on more than once in the program?
Jack: It depended on what their mood was. Roger Miller would do only one song, some would do two or three and enjoy the show. It depended on who the person or group was. The 4 Seasons came back on a lot. And then - I wish like heck I had held onto these - some groups, such as The Cowsills, would send in their film clips. I remember splicing all of them together at one point and it made up an hour reel.
Phil: Were all of your programs shot in black-and-white?
Jack: Ironically enough, the WGN show was in color, but when we went to Channel 26, they were the last station locally to go color, so the later shows were in black-and-white.
Phil: Howie [Samuelsohn, a former cameraman for the show who put me in touch with the Mulqueens] told me the cameras were left over from the Eisenhower inauguration, although I forgot to ask which Eisenhower inauguration.
Jack: I believe it. We had everything from Burger King to Wonder Bread on our show, but some of the sponsors were saying to me on the side, "Look, Mulqueen, when you get on another station we'll come back."
Phil: When you went daily, you had to fill 7-1/2 hours each week. Was it much more of a strain to put together that much good material?
Jack: Well, it is, but I think the biggest thing is that there were problems that I just couldn't handle, such as the transmitters going down. I got tired of fighting, and the sponsors were obviously looking at the station - the station was becoming more and more Spanish-oriented. It used to run the Little Rascals, it ran a lot of reruns, it ran old westerns before we went on, then after we went on they'd run September Bride [actually, it was called December Bride] and Our Miss Brooks, and they had respectable ratings for the day.
Phil: Right, but reruns seemed like a cheap alternative to original programming.
Jack: That's exactly it, and the sponsors weren't responding, so they changed their format. There was really no incentive to make the station a classier act.
Phil: How long did you last with Channel 26?
Jack: It was about three years. While we were there we rubbed shoulders with some great names. Jesse Owens - I kicked myself that I never had time to sit down and talk with him. He was doing the news on Channel 26 at the time. Angel Tompkins also used to be in the studio with us. She was doing a show called Ted & Angel, with a gentleman who came over from radio.
Phil: Sounds like a frustrating experience when you moved over there, putting in that much more work for less of a return.
Jack: But the strange part about it was that we made much more money. When I was at the other stations, I had to sell the time, and then I had to buy all the props and all the stuff myself. When I went to 26, they paid us a salary, plus a commission. And we had five days to sell, as opposed to a half hour on the weekends. Then the crowning glory was that the wife collapsed at a pool during the 4th of July weekend and I decided that I was going to retire the show. To be honest with you, my brother-in-law was working as an electrician and was making more money than I was.
Phil: Was she just overworked from putting in that many hours a week? Jack: Part of it was that she had a tumor, and I think she had been trying to please me and wanting to give of herself and, yeah, the strain was there, and we walked away. We didn't have children up to that time. We wanted children, so we took in foster children.
Phil: Tell me about Mickelberry's. They were the sponsor for both shows I saw, and I was wondering how long they were with you and what kind of relationship you had.
Jack: It was a strange situation with Mickelberry's. We had them for two years while we were on Channel 7. When we went over to 26 we didn't bring them with us, and before we could get them back on again their whole company blew up. I mean literally - the owner of the company, the president of the company, the manager, and everyone I had been dealing with. One of their gas trucks pulled up and was feeding into the wrong pipe and caused a combustion. A fire broke out and they managed to climb up the stairs to the roof of the building, but then there was a huge explosion and they were blown up. Mickelberry's never returned after that.
Phil: That was the great Chicago fire the rest of us never heard about.
Jack: It was a catastrophe.
Phil: Those Mickelberry's commercials are really something, where they just hold on a still photograph for about 30 seconds while Elaine talks about the product.
Jack: That was probably my uncreativeness. It was very hard for me to be two things, work the puppets and direct the program at the same time. Even when you hear about people like Clint Eastwood or Kevin Costner, when they direct they've got so many assistant directors and so many technicians with them. In those days, we weren't sophisticated enough and I couldn't help 'em if I'm working puppets, y'know?
Phil: I thought that, in their way, the commercials were very imaginative, because I don't think anyone else would have thought to do it that way. The photo itself looks like a collage with the Mickelberry guy in the middle and a bunch of meat thrown in all around him.
Jack: The picture was an 11 x 14 cardboard that was supplied to us by the advertising agency. I'd love to show you some of the commercials I do today, which of course are a lot more technical.
Phil: Howie seemed to think that one of the reasons that you were doing a program with kids was because of not having kids of your own.
Jack: No, I was always working with kids, and to a certain extent I still do work with kids. I always wanted to create my own fantasy world. My first creation was a circus motif around the puppets.
Phil: When did you start doing puppeteering?
Jack: Going way back, in the Army. I was drafted into the Army when I was about 19 years old. My first TV program was sponsored by the United States Army on KKDV, in Colorado Springs. That got me into more of a professional status, and then I started doing bookings a lot. I did a lot of promotions - I started doing work with Borden's and Coca-Cola, a lot of food companies, promotional packaging with the puppet show before it went to television. And after television I got back in the independent food stores in the Chicago area, who were very strong and one of my sponsors at one time. I ended up - to this very day - taking over an advertising agency and putting together their commercials and all their promotions.
Phil: Did Elaine work with you on that?
Jack: She works very closely with me, she's very involved. She still does voice-overs and commercials, and different things that I put together. [In addition to his ad agency, Jack also runs movie memorabilia conventions in Chicago.]
Phil: Elaine, how did you came up with the name Pandora?
Elaine: I didn't, Jack did.
Phil: What was the connection to the story of Pandora's box?
Elaine: Funny, I never … what was that, Jack?
Jack: Pandora was just a name. Before Elaine got involved I did a lot of booking of shows, and it was just a name we added on. We kept looking for different names. When I was in the Army the name came up. I had every different girl … "this is Mary Ellen the Clown." I remember the first girl clown was Mary Ellen Pitts. We kept putting different names in, and I wanted to get a standard name with it.
Phil: It seems that the character was some sort of a pixie.
Jack: That's what it was meant to be, yeah. She wore a harlequin costume, more than just a clown costume.
Phil: How many of your programs do you still have copies of?
Jack: I've got several of the shows we did for WGN, maybe five half-hour shows that I have on tape, from when the show was just called The Mulqueens. I made the tapes out of kinescopes. At that time they used 2" tape, and 2" tape cost me $350 to make a copy.
Phil: Who were The Males, who back up Pandora on the Kiddie A-Go-Go single [and sing their own version of the song on the flip side]?
Jack: They were a local group. The guy who handled them ran Dunwich Records.
Phil: Did they ever actually play on the show?
Jack: Oh, yeah.
Phil: Did Elaine go into the studio and record with The Males?
Phil: Are the two sides of that record different recordings?
Jack: Yes. When we were scouting for a group to do that record, we talked to a lot of different groups and The Males were about the only ones that were so virtually unknown that we could work some kind of a deal with them. Paul Sampson was the owner of The Cellar and did some work with Dunwich Records, and he's the one who our contracts [for the recording] were with. … Y'know who was strong on our show was The Riddles [a Chicago group who James Porter tells me had a big local hit with their Mercury release "Sweets For My Sweet" b/w "It's One Thing To Say"]. They were real steady with us, and they were very popular in Chicago. One of them went on to play for Kenny Rogers' group. One of the guys in The Males went on to do the recordings on The Hardy Boys.
Phil: I'd heard a story about The Riddles that when they were on TV one time the drummer's toupee was pulled off by one of the kids on the show!
Jack: That didn't happen on our show, and ours was the only music show with kids on it. [He repeats the story to Elaine] No, we would have known that.
Phil: Was this the kind of music that you and Elaine were listening to at home?
Phil: So you were rockers?
Jack: For promotional ideas, we'd go out to the different rock clubs in Chicago, and we were told by the management of these different places that we were among the very few adults that would attend these shows. I can remember going to one of them where the condensation that formed on the floor turned into slime! I always wondered if that came from the sheer blasting of the speakers. I actually loved that period. They had The Cheetah right here - that was another dance club in Chicago. Because of the TV show we were on the scene of a lot of different things going on.
Phil: I imagine that when you went out to clubs you'd be recognized by a lot of the kids there.
Jack: Yeah, Elaine was. She had a teen following, because the kids who watched her back in The Mulqueens days now had grown up a little. We even had some fan clubs from high school.
Phil: Tell me about Gary & The Hornets. I couldn't believe this article you sent me saying that the drummer was only seven years old! They were all young kids?
Phil: So they were younger than most of the dancers on the show.
Jack: That's right. They put out a couple of records, too, and they did fairly well. [According to James Porter, Gary & The Hornets had a minor Chicago hit with a version of The Troggs' "Hi Hi, Hazel."]
Phil: Did Elaine continue performing after the end of Kiddie A-Go-Go?
Jack: Just to do commercials. And we went out and did personal appearances for a while.
Phil: One of the tapes I have lists "Mr. Hands" in the credits, but I couldn't figure out from watching the show what that was about.
Jack: That was me, a character I did. I had a Three Stooge wig and a phony nose and an old broken-down hat, and did a [affects funny accented voice] "German pfofessor vit de voice," y'know? But it was hard for me to be the sales person, the director, the producer, plus doing the puppets as well … I just couldn't do everything, so on some shows Mr. Hands simply wouldn't appear. I broke the "license" of puppetry by sometimes even popping up through the stage. We had a lot of inside jokes, making fun with the stagehands and the cameramen.
Phil: I suppose that having 90 minutes a day to fill gave you the opportunity to really stretch out your material, and not have to stick to a prescribed script.
Jack: We filled it not only with dance numbers and some puppets, but we also had The Little Rascals, and we ran a serial on there, and a lot of other programming to break up the show.
Phil: Back then there were a lot of local and regional kid shows across the country. Were you able to communicate at all with any of these other programs?
Jack: No, no.
Phil: Did Elaine have any sort of dance background? She seemed like she knew what she was doing out there.
Jack: No, she trained privately with a gal who was dancing at the Whiskey A-Go-Go. We went out to check a few dance schools, but no one knew what we were talking about.
Phil: Wasn't the Whiskey A-Go-Go an L.A. club?
Jack: There was also a Whiskey A-Go-Go in Chicago.
Elaine: That was down on Rush Street, wasn't it, Jack?
Phil: How did the two of you meet?
Elaine: At a dance, actually. In Chicago.
Phil: How long have you been married for?
Jack: Over 35 years, believe it or not.
Phil: Are you from Chicago originally?
Phil: And Elaine as well?
Phil: Her accent is kind of unmistakable; yours not so much so. I'm curious about the dance wheel, where a kid would spin a roulette wheel that would determine the next dance. But there were blank spaces on the wheel. I can't figure out what those were meant to be. Would it be the kid's choice, if the blank came up?
Jack: It was probably because we didn't have anything to fill it with. I guess we would just keep spinning it. The show you saw that had that on it was from about only a month or two after we got started, and it was still in its early stages.
Phil: Maybe the idea was to add dances as each new craze came in.
Jack: Within about three or four months of our debut we were reaching 247,000. When they kicked us off in our second season I was doing my very best to finagle it elsewhere. I got CBS to look at the show, and when the program manager found out he got me in the hall and said, "So you went to New York, huh? You went around my back?" And I said, "Yeah, and it didn't do any good." The politics of the business doesn't mean your show isn't doing well when you have to leave and go to another station.
Phil: What did Channel 7 replace you with?
Phil: Something generic that you could see anywhere. I also enjoyed the stop-and-go game [a musical chairs-like game where the camera lens would be blacked out, except for a small, roving circular window; when the music stopped; whichever kid would be seen through the window would be the winner]. Would the cameraman hold the cardboard himself, or would you have a stagehand hold the cardboard over the lens?
Jack: Actually, that was done with a special-effects machine inside the control booth. Then we changed that - in the later shows we went to a circle that could show the rest of the kids, because I didn't like it when it blacked out everything else.
Phil: That may be true, but there was something kind of cool in the crudeness of how you'd blot out the rest of the kids while the viewers could only see through this jagged hole that moves about.
Jack: Everything we did was live. In the early days we'd go into our transitions live - we'd just run from one set to the other. If something went wrong, we had to live with it. One time they lost power on Channel 26, and l'm on the air as Mr. Hands and l'm saying [German accent again], "If you're out zere and you're listening to me and you hear me, I am drowning (it was raining at the time) on the 42nd floor of ze Board of Trade. Send help, send ze Fire Department or vatever you got!" I was so disgusted, but the kids were calling like crazy. We got the Fire Department, the Police Department … I wanted to crawl in a hole!
Phil: Perhaps in a way you did. I was also wondering if my father was the joke writer for the show. All of the jokes bear the same sense of humor that he has.
Jack: It goes with the age, I guess. The shows you saw don't really demonstrate it, but we had some very good writers when we were on WGN. We had George Bloom, for instance, who went on to write Welcome Back, Carter [sic].
Phil: What was The Swingin' Majority like?
Jack: That was a different set-up. We used drums in that, it was strictly teens, and we had from The Byrds to … you name it, Sonny & Cher on the show.
Phil: Was it a similar format to Kiddie A-Go-Go, but for an older audience?
Jack: Yeah. But it was more sophisticated. We had guests on there now and then where we did things a lot different. Talk about pioneering, I think we had on people who collected movie posters, way back then. We had kids tested on lie detectors, and all kinds of things.
Phil: How long did that show last?
Jack: It lasted about three years, and the third year I got caught in a battle with the MC of the show. Our phone lit up one day when we had Van, Van, Van … what the hell was his name?
Phil: Van Morrison?
Jack: Morrison! Right. Van Morrison was on the show and the phones lit up. The kids were all asking what dope he was on. What the problem was is that these guys would show up after the show had already started, and we didn't get a chance to screen and talk to them. When he staggered out and fell over that drum, I should have known there was something wrong. If I'd had just a few minutes with him before the show. …
Phil: Any other episodes of performers showing up in a similar condition?
Jack: No. The Byrds were supposed to be the same problem, but if so I wasn't aware of it at the time. I started to clamp down about pre-screening the performers - which I should have done with Morrison - and got into a big battle with Art Roberts [the Swingin' Majority MC], and I ended up leaving the show completely. Art just didn't see it as a problem. I fired him, and the station said they supported me, but within a couple of weeks he was back on the show and then I ended up getting bounced out of it myself. I had left anyway - it was kind of a mutual agreement. I just didn't want to be associated with anything that was unethical. It was my own moral convictions, which I still have. The show went on for a couple more months, and then they just went out.
Phil: Where was this on the timeline in relation to Kiddie A-Go-Go?
Jack: Both were going at the same time.
Phil: So Swingin' Majority ended first?
Jack: Yeah, that was the first one to go. One more thing you might find interesting is that when the movie The Bible came out, we had Eve on the show, on Kiddie A-Go-Go.
Phil: Wasn't that Ava Gardner?
Jack: No, the one playing Eve was a Swedish girl [Ulla Bergryd, although Ava Gardner was also in the film, playing Sarah, so I wasn't that far off]. Beautiful gal. So we had a lot of off-beat type of things that weren't aimed for the kids, that were more for the older ones.
Phil: Another thing I was curious about: Pandora had to dance with a huge microphone around her neck. Did that restrain her movement or dancing in any way?
Jack: That was kind of a [wireless] remote. It was one of the first, probably, a primitive remote that she had to be wired to. Under her costume, she tied the transmitter around her waist, and the microphone came down in the front. It was a real contraption. It was like an antenna type of thing, that when she was getting dressed she would have to put it on and put the microphone in there. Part of it was around her neck and the other part was around her waist.
Phil: That's ironic, in that the idea of a wireless microphone is to liberate you from the wire, but instead, at least at that stage, it served to tie her down. Also, I imagine that the signal was very direct. Maybe if she moved too far in one direction or get too far away, it might start to cut out or something.
Jack: The original idea was to cut her microphone off when the opening music would start to play, and just show the kids dancing. If you recall from the video you saw, you hear her talking. That was not intended, but after I sat back and watched it - well, first I was in shock, and then after a while I thought maybe it's not a bad idea! Her talking was really talking to the kids at home, which worked. But it started out as an accident. We were very conscious of what should be heard in the studio and what should go over the air. I remember a time on our original show, The Mulqueens, when Elaine was ready to lip-sync a song - I think it was Doris Day's "Wish Upon A Star" - and they were not putting the music and the sound effects back into the studio. This was live, so we went into a transition slide and then over to the next set. Throw a slide on, then hit the music again. Well, when it went on, I yelled up, "Get the sound down here," and that went over the air. Thank God I didn't use any four-letter words. … I remember getting on an elevator with a stagehand who was moaning and groaning about the station. Elaine and I were going down, and I pointed to Elaine's mic, which she was carrying at the time, and I said to him, "They're listening to every word you're saying!"
Phil: Any other major mishaps that went out over the air?
Jack: No, but there was one which could have destroyed me if it had gone on the air. We did a scene where I had taken some stock footage from some U.S. Army camp showing snow scenes, and shot Elaine lip-syncing to "It's A Most Unusual Day," by Anna-Maria Alberghetti over that. This was in January or February, and the idea was to have her singing with background scenes of kids frolicking in the snow, and we'd cut back and forth to her pantomining in the studio. I was having breakfast while the show was being cut for broadcast the following week, and someone comes in and asks me, "What was that religious scene?" I said, "What religious scene?" "Well, during 'It's A Most Unusual Day'." So I ran up and demanded that the engineer show it to me, and sure enough Elaine's singing "It's A Most Unusual Day," which is a very up-tempo song - "As an old Californian would say / It's a most unusual day / There are people greeting people / There is friendship everywhere …" - then it cuts back and there is our Lord, on the cross being crucified!
Phil: You could have told them it was your Easter program.
Jack: I actually kicked up so much fuss I had the director tossed off the show. He kept saying to me, "This is gonna cost you money to get this edited out." I said, "I don't care if it's gonna cost a fortune, get it out!" Obviously, it's a damn shame that most of the episodes of Kiddie A-Go-Go have long since flaked into the ether. One of the items Jack sent me was a short list from memory of some of the acts that appeared, either "live" or via promotional film, on his programs. Besides those already mentioned, the list includes some mouthwatering names - The Left Banke, Blues Magoos, Leslie Gore, mime-rock combo The Hello People, Jerry Butler, The Buckinghams, Shadows Of Knight, and Carl Bonefede, "The Screaming Wildman." We conclude our follow-up talk by discussing what photos Jack might be able to lend us for our story, when he drops one last bombshell.
Jack: I've got a nice shot of Elaine talking to The Record Picker. That was kind of a monster character that we made a costume for, which one of the stagehands wore. The Record Picker was an individual who, if we didn't like the record, we'd have him eat it.
Phil: Whose choice would it be to have him eat the record?
Jack: It would be a combination of the studio and the kids and everything.
Phil: So it would be like Dick Clark's rate-a-record thing?
Jack: Yeah, only we'd have a Record Picker. It looked like one of these sunburst monster characters. He'd come on and grunt and moan. Elaine would say, "Well, the record pickers pick this one," etc., and the kids would ask, "What is a record picker?," and "What does it look like?" So we developed this character. At first, the engineer would literally take a record and toss it from his booth - open the door and throw it out. We built on that, and had The Record Picker come on the set and eat the record.
Thanks for help on this story go out to: Russ Forster, Dan Clowes, Jake Austen, Howie Samuelsohn, James Porter, Mike Stax, Jay Lynch, and Jack and Elaine Mulqueen.