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For a crewmember, working on the J.P Patches Show meant looking forward to work every day; knowing that you got to start your day having fun, playing... and getting paid for it. Twice a day, five days a week, plus Saturday mornings, grown men and women took their places around the set and played make-believe for an hour. You know they were there, you could hear them – usually laughing.
The crew of The J.P. Patches Show in 1978 celebrating the show's 20th anniversary:
Top row (L to R): Bob Newman, John Lemmon (camera), Dave Drury (floor director), Duane Smart (audio), J.P., Bruce McCoy, Rick Jones (floor director), Dave Eyles, Joe Towey (director).
Bottom row (L to R): Jim Steenahl, Steve Brien, Bruce Beukelman, Roger Gilbert (camera), Sharon (Howard) Leinbacker (floor director), John Walters
Only occasionally would the viewers at home get a glimpse of it, but the crew was engaged in a gleeful war with Chris and Bob over who could get the better of whom. Water buckets and guile were their weapons, smiles were their victory spoils.
The crew was a mix of men, women, old, young, Republican and Democrat. And no one seemed to notice. A dozen people; a single labor of love.
Behind the camera, Joe Towey directed the J.P. Patches Show for 23 years. Joe received two Emmys for directing the show, sometimes while laying on the floor...
Not content to stay up in the control room, Joe jumped in front of the camera as the pre-Leroy Frump handyman Mal Content, J.P.'s evil brother I.M. Rags and the dictatorial director, Sam Gefeltafish.
Patches Pals who were up past their bedtime on Friday night probably remember Joe as The Count, the host of KIROs Nightmare Theater.
Occasionally, their worlds would collide, and The Count would make appearances on J.P.'s show and in public. Chris Wedes once made a guest appearance on Nightmare Theatre as an inebriated victim of The Count.
Joe tells a J.P. story (1980):
I started in broadcasting in the Army between 1953 and 1956. When I got out of the Army I went to the Edison Technical School of Broadcasting on the G.I. Bill. I was married and had our first son, Mark.
While going to school I worked at KCTS Channel 9 helping to move and install their studio to the University campus and doing "transmitter watch." In the evenings and weekends I worked for Casey's Radio and Television shop at Fisherman's Wharf installing two-way radios, depth finders, and radar, in fishing boats.
Towards the end of 1957 I went to work for KIRO just before they went on the air. I started as the Audio Man on the morning TV shows. Doing audio on the live J.P. Patches Show was on of the most fun times I've had in broadcasting. I worked mostly in the technical part of broadcasting although back then you also operated the equipment. When I left to go to the ABC Network in Hollywood in the Spring of 1967 I was one of the Day/Night Crew Chiefs.
I am now a happy and very lucky Snowbird who has been happily married, has three great kids and five Grandkids.
I first met JP while still working in radio. He came across the street, from the TV studios to record a commercial. He was in makeup. I sat him down in a studio and placed a microphone for him to use and went into the audio control room. Well, I was not quite ready for JP to pull off his nose and light a cigarette before I got a mic check and adjust sound levels!
It was beyond a major delight to work on the JP Patches show....a most wonderful, talented man....of course he was, he too was from Minnesota! I think the show helped us keep our sanity having so much fun and getting paid simultaneously.
After we moved to the new studios on 3rd and Broad and with improved equipment it allowed me far more freedom and capabilities to add more sound effects and music to the program. I spent lots of time looking for incidental music and themes and sound effects we could use on JP's show. I also chose music for almost all of the local studio productions KIRO did. Be it a public service show or a new news theme, The Big Money Movie or the theme music for Joe Towey's "Nightmare Theater".....the days before "packaged" theme music came into being at KIRO.
Mr. Music Man, like JP, did freelance work. I mixed audio, found and edited music for commercials. Actually, the first freelance job I did after starting at KIRO was initiated by Nick Freeman. I mixed, edited a TV spot voiced by Nick for some British Sports car dealership.
For more than 20 years I also did all the music that ran at Enchanted Village and Wild waves. Also helped them record some "shows" that were performed by Enchanted Village performers. The original owners of those parks, Byron and Mae Betts were wonderful folks to work with.
As with all good things nothing lasts forever and with the conclusion of JP's show we were bogged down with nothing by recycled news shows. Eventually KIRO-TV was sold and for me after 29 years I elected to retire.
So, how did Mr. Music Man cope when J.P. opens the door, looks outside and says, "Looks like Guardian the Elephant's coming ..."
Mr. Music Man cues up:
but then, J.P. says, "No... I think it's Carmen Dragon."
So then Mr. Music Man has to scramble to cue up:
but then, J.P. says, "No... Maybe it's Miss Smith ...."
Mr. Music Man has to quickly find:
but then... This could go on until Mr. Music Man snaps!
To let J.P. know it was time to stop playing with Mr. Music Man's mind, he'd play Shirley Temple saying:
or call on little Johnny ...
or ultimately, time to have Director Sam Gefeltafish call J.P. and chew him out.
Mike Boom, a recurring character who, on occasion, accidentally appeared on the show. Mike Boom of course was his "stage name." When not working on the show he went by his real name, E-V Model 688 Dynamic Cardioid Microphone.
When I landed the final available production job (Floor Director/Production Assistant) at KIRO-TV in February 1958, I didn't realize that it would also be necessary to enroll in CA (Clowns Anonymous).
You see, until then my impressions of employment in television had been formed while working in the dowdy and indigent Seattle offices and studio of Channel 13 KTVW (having made a meteoric rise from part time night telephone operator to station Operations Manager and studio/remote crew extra).
At that time Channel 13 was owned by J. Elroy McCaw-father of the now famous and obscenely wealthy boys of McCaw Cellular Communications.
So, with that background and a hardly pertinent 1952 UW BA degree in Communications-Radio/TV, I was ill prepared to work in the City Dump (Then located atop Queen Anne Hill).
Such lack of appropriate experience was, I believe, true of all members of the brand new KIRO-TV production staff.
We were all astonished to discover that as a condition of our employment we were expected to participate in and contribute to the unfathomable and addictive JP madness (not to mention the probably greater madness of Professor Fredelfurter of "Mystic Mountain" and "Andy and Sport"). Thus, you can see the necessity to seek the healing properties and mutual support of CA group therapy.
Remember that television was still a relatively new thing in the 50's. There was (fortunately) no guide or instruction manual. So we, led by JP of course, made-it-up-as-we-went-along (MIUAWWA). I became a more skilled practitioner of MIUAWWA when I was promoted to Producer/Director a few months after starting at KIRO. Director assignments were made on the seniority and shortest straw technique. My most memorable assignments were directing JP shows (and some "Andy and Sport" episodes).
These times being pre-videotape, all the shows were live. Planning and preproduction planning consisted of a few minutes hanging out in the dressing room while JP put on the clown paint, nose, ears and wig-trying to come up with the "schtick" or "bit" for the show. (Imagine being creative at 7:00AM.) With the "bit" being loosely defined, the Director dashed from the make up room to the studio to wake up the floor crew and give then the props/set/costume/pie requirements. Then a dash to the office to type and blue-ink-duplicate a "cue sheet" for the crew. The cue sheet loosely described the "bit" as well as the sequence and timing of cartoons and commercials. Cue sheets were usually one page or less. (I still have a few buried in my files.)
There was no dialogue written for JP or any of the bit players. While this may seem frantic and flaky (it was), the show most often came off well because JP was the anchor and the pro and the other characters almost intuitively went along - MIUAWWA at its finest. Our credo (or Mission Statement), as espoused by JP was, "Kids love to see adults fall on their butts." So, a lot of that was done - mostly by JP - for the kids. (But it has never been proven that any of Chris' shows were exclusively for kids.)
In the pre-Gertrude/Bob Newman days (known as the Sol Hassonian era) nearly everyone on the production staff was occasionally or often extracted from their paying job for a few minutes to do on or off-camera bits with the clown. In my professional opinion the best players of those days included Bill Gerald (one of the very few who could crack-up JP), Craig Shreeve, Joe Towey, Jack Armstrong, Dick Hawkins, Charles N. Hill and, of course, me.
Perhaps my greatest claim to infamy was when I was volunteered (by who I can't remember) to voice and manipulate the clever and lovable hip-talking puppet, "Bee Bop Buzzard." Bee Bop was the nutty Professor Fredelfurter's buddy and advisor at the creepy house high atop "Mystic Mountain." Bee Bop's rising career was nearly terminated when "Mystic Mountain" was abruptly cancelled within a few months of beginning. (The station owners wife didn't quite get it, so off with the Prof's bushy head.) But recognition of talent and coolness prevailed and Bee Bop somehow (I forget the bit) found his way to the City Dump and continued to amaze and delight JP fans world wide.
Bee Bop went into obscurity within a couple years when I was promoted to Production Manager. A great artistic loss to mankind (dumpkind?)
I stayed at KIRO-TV for a total of six years…once even surviving being fired and rehired without knowing it while I was on vacation (true story). Unable to find honest work, I continued in the TV/Film production biz for another 30 plus years.
This included Federal Government (US Information Agency, MP/TV Service, Producer/Director), Corporate (Boeing, Seattle, MP/TV, Video, Photo, Graphics, Writer/Producer/Director/Manager), Education (The Evergreen State College, Media Services Manager), Freelance (anything, nearly starved), back to Boeing (same stuff), and retired (l993).
I may be the only media production geek that tried all venues in nearly 40 years. The most fun of it all was without doubt the JP experience. The most interesting and exciting was USIA. The most frustrating was Evergreen College. The weirdest was Boeing.
Retirement is probably the best occupation on the list. But the hours suck! (No time off 24/7.)
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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