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…
May 19, 2011
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.
Max Cheney’s The Drunken Severed Head Blog.
The Rondo Awards website.