Saturday, May 29, 2010

Who is Beeper?

As I mentioned in the last few posts, I was given the letter 'L' to design as part of a giant sign that will read "FestivALL," which is an arts festival in my hometown of Charleston, WV. I chose to design my letter to look like Beeper. But who is Beeper? If you've lived in WV for any amount of time over the last half century you probably already know.

Beeper was the sidekick mascot on Mr. Cartoon, a kids television program local to the WV area. He didn't speak and would communicate (?) by honking a horn that he carried around. The show starred Mr. Cartoon, portrayed by George Lewis until 1969, and then by Jule Huffman until the show went off the air in 1995. Huffman is arguably the guy that most fans identify with the show.

The format of the show involved showing mostly Looney Tunes Cartoons between segments of Mr. Cartoon interacting and playing games with an audience of kids. I was lucky enough to be on the show when I was a kid, as were most of my friends. I remember Beeper laying across a group of us, and being disappointed that you didn't actually get to watch the cartoons when you sat in the audience, haha.

A bit of trivia I've heard is that in the early days of the show they acquired the costumes used on the 1968 Hannah Barbara show The Banana Splits, and Beeper is actually made from a modified costume of the character Drooper from that show. The information I've found online seems to support this, as apparently the Banana Splits themselves made appearances on Mr. Cartoon until 1974 when Beeper was introduced. How those costumes wound up in WV I have no idea.

An early intro for the show featured Mr. Cartoon driving one of those old cars that could actually go in water like a motorboat. You got to see him drive it right into a river, and apparently the car belonged to my great uncle. My dad remembers watching the intro when he was a kid.

Something I find funny is that WSAZ, the local NBC affiliate that aired the show, has started using Beeper as a little icon to accompany the news ticker that shows school closings in the winter. This cracks me up because any school-age kids will likely have no idea who Beeper is. Not that I want them to stop using it, I think it's an awesome throwback.

My friend Mike, part of the Brainwrap film crew, has often said that he would like to film a movie where Mr. Cartoon goes to the planet Beepo and enslaves a member of the Beeper race as his sidekick, haha.

This is an Old Mr. Cartoon membership card. I remember having one of these. Check out that downright ghastly drawing of Beeper!

I could go on about how fondly people of this area remember the show, or how cool it is to have a pop culture icon of sorts specific to your home town, but you can just check out the Facebook fanpage, which has an amazing 18,000 members.


Michael Valentine said...

You've got it all wrong, Glen. Mr Cartoon doesn't enslave Beeper, he rescues him from slavery and forced labor which is a result of planet Beepo being invaded by a hostile race. After being rescued, Beeper swears a life debt of carrying Mr. Cartoon's "Yucket Bucket" for all eternity.

Sean & Mary said...

I saw you on Mr. Cartoon when you were little.

Steve & I used to call it the "fuckit bucket". He'd run up to the kids with the bucket and say "1!!!! 2!!!! 3!!!! eh, fuck it."


Anonymous said...

Other than Mr Cartoon I was on the show more than anyone else.