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Bob Newman started part-time at KIRO as a weekend film editor and floor director in 1960. The J.P. Patches Show was really gaining momentum and Newman began hanging around the set just to watch the action. A frequent bit on the show had J.P. grab the big phone and chat up the never seen, never heard city dump operator, Gertrude. One day, the clown asked Gertrude to send him down some food for a picnic. Bob, without warning, yelled out in a falsetto voice, "Okay, Julius, I'll send it right down." J.P. was as surprised as anyone but played along. Gertrude suddenly had a voice! It wasn't long before they eventually gave Gertrude some screen time, as well.
Back in those days, anybody who got on the show was paid $7.50 for each appearance, so everyone was looking for a chance to play a bit, including Newman. In the mid 1960s, a management decision was handed down that J.P. could only have ONE other person performing on his show. Chris had to choose someone who could do as many characters as possible. And right under his nose, he found "the Man of 1,000 Faces." (well... at least 17.) Bob, like the vaudeville comedians that he loved, would do anything for a laugh.
Bob Newman is recognizable to most Patches Pals as "everybody else" on the Patches show. His characters include: Gertrude, Ketchikan the Animal Man, Ggoorrsstt the Friendly Frpl, Boris S. Wort, Miss Smith, Dingbatman, The Swami of Pastrami, Leroy Frump, Sturdly the Bookworm, Officer Paddy Wagon, Santa Claus, Charlie Can-Do, Zenobia the Witch, Mr. X. R. Cise, Morgan the Frog, Howard Huge and just about anyone else that needed a voice.
It wasn't easy being all those characters. Bob often had to appear as multiple characters on a single show, or even in a single scene (e.g. Ketchikan would be talking to J.P. when Gertrude would call on the phone). But his broad, campy style and comic voices fit in perfectly with J.P. and the young viewers.
Chris Wedes and Bob Newman established a great on stage banter and a long, personal friendship.
The Korean war came along and I enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 1953. Of course, North Korea found out I'd enlisted so they called off the war. I graduated from the University of Washington School of Communications and started paying the dues.
"Hi there... Station KOMO can't get along without me. How about a job?" Next... A door slam!!!
Followed by ...
"Hi there... Station KING can't get along without me. How about a job?" Another SLAM!... and on and on.
Finally, the guys at KIRO gave in and hired me as a weekend floor director.
They were doing this J.P. Patches thing. One day J.P. picked up a block of wood that looked like a phone and talked to this mysterious telephone operator named Gertrude. J.P. asked her to bring him a ham sandwich because he wanted to have a picnic. God had looked down a long time ago and said this kid's gonna have a high voice, so when the phone didn't hang up or whatever, I screamed into the microphone "Okay Julius, I'll send it right down."
And the rest is history.
Sometime later, the director's wife, Bonny Flory (a seamstress extraordinaire), made me a Raggedy Ann dress and hair mop and on I went, showbiz, here I come. Then there was Ketchikan the Animal Man, Boris S. Wort, Gorst the friendly Frple, Ms. Smith the Delivery Lady, and on and on. I did a total of 18 characters on that show and to this day, when I'm in public, people ask about it all. HA!
It wasn't that I was so great... It was that we had a budget of $7.50 and nobody else would work that cheap.
Unfulfilled goals? I hear about goals all the time, but the only goals I know anything about are at the end of a football field.
I just keep on chuggin!
I am an epileptic and have multiple sclerosis, along with RLS and a bunch of other dumb medical stuff, but you know when the sun's out I look up and say, "Thanks for it all, Sir. Life is good, bring on the next item."
Robert Lee Newman passed away on December 13th, 2020.
It's a shame to cover up your smile, but now you can wear the famous smile of J.P. or Gertrude! Sure to bring a spark of joy and nostalgia to all who recognize it! A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Seattle Children's.
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