Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Where's Floppy?

I was fortunate enough to have the entire week after Christmas off work.  I had big plans - plans to see a lot of movies with CT, plans to spend a lot of time with my girl, plans to get a lot of stuff done around the house.  None of those happened, because I ended up being sick the entire week...for the second year in a row.  My sickness wasn't as bad as last year...but it definitely limited the way I spent my time off.  Luckily, I did feel well enough to celebrate New Year's Eve with Angie and catch the 2nd Annual Floppy Film Festival.

For those who are too young, or don't live in central Iowa.  The Floppy Show (and it's many variations) was a locally produced children's show.  The show consisted of ventriloquist Duane Ellett and his dog puppet Floppy interacting with the audience of young children - mostly the kid's telling jokes or "beeping" Floppy's nose - between old Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry cartoons.  Each show started the same, Duane counting down "3...2...1" and the kids yelling "Where's Floppy?" as Floppy popped out of his box and each show ended the same, "Floppy yelling "Soooo Loooong Kids" and the kids replying "Goodbye Floppy".  Simplicity and low budget but yet it was magic.  It was a daily ritual for kids, much like the Pledge of Allegiance at school. Floppy (in one show form or another) aired from 1957-1987.  As a kid, I remember watching Floppy at noon while eating my PB&J sandwich lunch.  It was what you did as a kid.  I also remember being disappointed whenever President Carter or Reagan would disrupt my Floppy viewing with a live press conference  or speech. I would think "Who cares....Floppy should be on!"  My political attitude hasn't changed much since then.

Floppy logos and images copyright The Duane Ellett Family

I wouldn't say that The Floppy Show was that important in the larger scheme of things, but it is one of those things that will always remind me of my childhood.  I remember the day in second grade when our class took the field trip to be on the Floppy Show...it was literally THE field trip of the year.  Forget the fire station, forget the pumpkin patch, forget the museum - The Floppy Show field trip was the event of the year, the whole reason for second grade (oh and maybe some education).  So what did you get for your Floppy Show field trip?  You got to hangout on the Floppy Clubhouse set for 30 minutes while they taped a show (you very own (possible) TV extra appearance),  you got to either tell Floppy a joke or beep his nose, and you got a "goody bag" which had an orange, a soda, and maybe a small piece of candy.  It was great.

In May 1987, Duane and Floppy celebrated his 30th anniversary.  A month later, Duane Ellett died of a heart attack while jogging.  It was one of those moments for me - you know those moments that you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news.  Those older than me recall the the assassination of JFK and the moon landing.  I clearly remember three people dying:

  1. John Lennon - my mom and dad are huge Beatles fans, so it was a powerful moment for our house.
  2. John Denver - I am a big JD fan and happened to be thinking just the day before that JD would tour around here again soon. 
  3. Duane Ellett - I was old enough not to be into Floppy any more, but I was still saddened and it seemed like the end of an era.

I was always impressed by Duane and Floppy even as I grew older and past the target audience.  To me, it just always seemed like Duane loved what he was doing.  Most people would probably snap after hearing the same jokes over and over again.  Just imagine how many times Duane must have heard "Why'd the man throw the clock out the window?" or "What's the biggest pencil in the world?" or "Why did the man put the car in the oven?" (which is the joke I told!).  Literally, thousands of times over 30 years...but Duane always smiled and Floppy feigned ignorance...only jumping in with the answer if the joke was told twice in a row.  I am sure Duane had bad days, but he was always there to entertain the kids.  Even when the kids made his job difficult, he always kept smiling and making jokes with Floppy.  It really does take a special type of person to do this day in and day out.  I know some people here are probably saying that teachers, parents, or daycare providers do this, but really they don't...not to this degree - The Floppy Show was nearly identical for 30 years, every day.  That type of repetition would drive most people insane and I think most would turn into Rainbow Randolph from Death To Smoochy - a little bitter, a little crazy, and a little perverted.

Floppy logos and images copyright The Duane Ellett Family

The 2nd Annual Floppy Film Festival was very interesting.  I missed the first one due to severe illness.  So even though I wasn't feeling 100%, I was determined to go to this one (and special thanks to Angie for making all the arrangements and keeping it in mind when I couldn't concentrate on anything).  Basically, it was just a bunch of Floppy clips throughout the years edited together...but they all brought back lots of memories. I forgot about all the different versions of The Floppy Show - The Floppy Show, Duane and Friend, and The Floppytown Gazette to name a few...even though I had seen each hundreds of times.  All the different stage sets and to seeing Duane throughout the ages was just plain nostalgic.  I wish there were more interviews with Duane.  I thought it was fascinating to hear what he thought of the whole experience.  Maybe the interviews don't exist but I do hope somewhere there is more with Duane.  I watched the guy for years, and would just like to know a little more about who he was and what he thought when he wasn't performing with Floppy.  It was still a very entertaining experience though - clips of Bill Cosby and Adam West on the Floppy Show, clips throughout all 30 years, and a few cartoons thrown in for good measure.  You better believe that I bought a Floppy t-shirt like the one I always wanted as a kid.  I highly suggest any one who enjoyed Floppy as a kid to check out next year's festival.

Miss you Duane & Floppy.


kelly said...

It's uhhh, it's uhhh, IT'S A ROCKET SHIP! IT'S A ROCKET SHIP! Oh what a special day!

Michael said...

Such a great movie.

Lax Guy said...

Floppy was the bomb diggity shiznit. As soon as you mentioned the jokes, the race car in the oven joke popped in my head!
A few years back I had to go to Luthern Hospital every day for treatment on an infected surgical incision. We passed the Historical Center every day on the way there and stopped in once a week so I could walk around since the humidity prevented me from going outside. The wife and I watched the Floppy videos for like a solid hour or two a couple of times.
While the production quality was poor, the show will always hold a special place in my heart - and many others'. Sadly, today's kids will never have the benefit of a Floppy-type show.

Michael said...

I know...kids have no local shows any more. We were lucky...Floppy, Betty Lou and the Magic Window, and Dolph Pulliam. All great shows for kids.

We even had way better national shows - Sesame Street, Electric Company, Captain Kangaroo, Mister Rogers. I know Sesame Street continues and Electric Company is working on a come-back...but Captain Kangaroo left a huge blackhole in kids TV.

The only thing kids have now that we didn't is Barney and I believe even that is on hold.

jessov said...