Several weeks ago, while fighting that nasty respiratory bug that's been going around, I developed an unhealthy habit. I slept so much during the day, I found myself wide awake after midnight but still feeling too lousy to use the time productively. That's how I got hooked on late-late-night TV. Old sitcoms, specifically. Now, no matter what time I go to bed, my body insists on waking at 3 a.m. and turning on the Hallmark Channel for my Lucy fix.
I hadn't even been born when the original "I Love Lucy" series ended in 1957, but I've been an avid fan of the reruns from as far back as I can remember. Whenever I see it listed on a TV guide, I feel not just enticed, but obligated to watch. The black-and-white antics of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo always give me the warm-and-fuzzies, comfort food for my brain.
As with any addiction, indulgence only fuels desire for more. The other night, as Lucy did some 'splaining for the umpteenth time, my drowsy mind started wandering and I drifted back to sleep, longing for a local-style TV Land. Checkers and Pogo would be there, of course, along with Miss Robin from Romper Room and - my personal favorite - Captain Honolulu.
In the 1960s, he was the local answer to Captain Kangaroo, hosting an afternoon cartoon show daily. But instead of a kindly old naval officer, which is how I always thought of Captain Kangaroo, Captain Honolulu was a dashing flyboy who actually climbed into his chopper and flew off at the end of each show. To this day, it is impossible for me to think about Captain Honolulu without doing the special salute: thumbs and forefingers together in the "OK" sign turned upside down on either side of the face, like a fleshy pair of goggles. Even while lying in bed at 4 o'clock in the morning.
Sadly for him, the Captain was no match for Checkers and Pogo, who made their debut in 1967 and became beloved babysitters for an entire generation of latchkey keiki. Not only were Mr. Checkers and Pogo Poge full of fun and frivolity, they were in actual living color. (Side note: Remember when the networks began the transition from black and white? Those first shows were preceded by a proudly booming declaration, "The following program is presented in living color.")
You're a Johnny-come-lately if you only remember one Mr. Checkers, and a true old-time kamaaina if you recall there were three, not two, successive curmudgeons wearing the trademark checkered shirt and glasses. Jim Hawthorne was the first, replaced after a few months by Dave Donnelly, who played the role for a year. Jim Demarest took over for the next 11 years, and he was great, but I always thought of Donnelly as the real Mr. Checkers. Of course, there could only be one Pogo Poge, the lovable Morgan White.
Lucky Luck was another one-of-a-kind character, as was Lippy Espinda, the King of Pidgin and, some say, the originator of the shaka sign. I remember watching Lucky's Luau and Lippy's Lanai Theater with my parents. On Sunday mornings, I was enthralled by the dancers on Filipino Fiesta, hosted by Faustino Respicio.
Then there were folks who became local celebrities just by doing their own commercials, like Island Getaways' Didi Ah Yo (" . . . and away we go!") and Jacques Adler ("If you are not buying your diamonds at the House of Adler, you ARE paying too much"). And, of course, the always grateful Lex Brodie. Thank you . . . very much.
But as far as I was concerned, the best parts of local commercials were the jingles.
The Exchange goes 'round, 'round, 'round
And down, down, down
In your tum, tum, tum.
Makes your mind think yum, yum, yum,
That orangeade called Exchange.
Almost all my local friends will sing along to that one, but I seem to be the only one who remembers the Love's Bread jingle that was set to the tune of "Hilo March" - which is a shame, because I can't recall the last few lines. After asking dozens of folks, I'm starting to think I made the whole thing up.
Love's Soft-Rolled Bread,
It's just as fresh as it can be,
As the showcase wrapper
Plainly lets you see.
It's enriched and it's nutritious . . .
. . . Satisfaction guaranteed? Surely someone out there knows. Please write.
Finally, the biggest stars of my local Nickelodeon channel would be the hunks and hulks of 50th State Big Time Wrestling. But I've already paid tribute to them in a previous column, and I've no more room in this one. Besides, it's past my bedtime, and I need to get some sleep before my early-morning date with the Ricardos.
I love Lucy and she loves me . . .
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.