May 19, 2011

Rondo and me

I picked up my Rondo Award for Best Blog last weekend at Wonderfest in Louisville, Kentucky. I was doubly honored that the trophy was handed to me by my dear friend — and last year’s Best Blog winner — Max Cheney. I winged and mumbled an acceptance speech that I’d spare you even if I remembered everything I said, but I do have a personal Rondo Hatton anecdote I’d like to share. The Rondo Award is named in honor of a beloved B-movie actor, and he entered my life many years ago…

It was 1961 or 62. I was a pre-teen. There’s this English-language television station in Montreal, CFCF, that used to do a lot of local programming. They had their own talk shows, variety programs and quiz shows. They had a Bandstand-type pop music program on Saturday afternoons and they had Shock Theater on Saturday nights, with their own horror host.

On weekdays, noon to one, they ran a kid’s show, Lunchtime Little Theater, but all the kids called it “The Johnny Jellybean Show”. Dressed in a striped coat, polka-dot bowtie and a beanie hat with a jellybean on top, Johnny Jellybean was a talented American comic, Ted Ziegler, who moved to Montreal to do this. He later returned to California to appear as a regular on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.
Johnny was alone on camera, interacting with offscreen characters. He would introduce cartoons and fill in with comedy bits. He ad-libbed and improvised wildly. It was surreal and spectacularly funny, or at least I thought so. I would run home from school every day to watch this while I was having lunch. All the kids in Montreal did. Johnny Jellybean was hugely popular.
Now, on Johnny’s playhouse set, back wall, he had a picture of Rondo Hatton. It’s the one seen here above, with his big hands out, and it had a sign under it that said “The Boss”.
Every day, halfway through the show, Johnny Jellybean would go over to the back wall. He’d set the picture off at a crooked angle, then he’d stand back and he solemnly saluted The Boss.
I loved it. I knew Rondo Hatton from Famous Monsters and the Sherlock Holmes movie he did. I was a Monster Kid — before I knew I was one — and I loved them having Rondo Hatton’s picture as part of this daily comedy show. I never forgot it.
Now I’ve got a Rondo of my own. It will be proudly and very prominently displayed on a high shelf in my studio. And now and then, I’m sure, I’ll look over… and I’ll salute The Boss.

Johnny Jellybean on TV Party.
­The Rondo Awards website.


David Lee said...

So can we get a photo of you and your award? Is the award actually something physical?

wich2 said...

Couldna happened to a nicer guy, Pierre - wish I could've been there, so please accept this cyber-heartyhandshake!


Pierre Fournier said...

David Lee: Yes! Pictures will follow. Something came up that I need to post about on Friday, so the pics will appear first thing next week.

Craig: Maybe it’s a good thing you couldn’t make it. I met so many wonderful people last weekend that if you’d been there on top of everything, my head would have exploded.

Thanks for your long and much appreciated support!