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Paul Winchell photoPaul Winchell & Jerry Mahoney
One of the very first hit Saturday morning kid shows

Paul Winchell"I remember a version of the Paul Winchell show when I was a kid. I'm guessing it was between 1963-1968. All I can picture in my mind are 3 things:

"One is the inside of a barn or something, with a big desk like thing that Jerry Mahoney & Knucklehead Smiff are sitting on/behind. There was also a slide that Jerry slid down into . . . maybe it was hay? And I also remember Jerry in a bed with a nightcap (the hat, not the drink) on his head and Paul is talking to him. I believe the show was in black-and-white unless it was just my TV.

"Please tell me I wasn't just dreaming this. I was a big Paul Winchell fan and I had a wild imagination as a kid."
- Frank Blefari

 

Long before he was the voice of 'Tigger' in the Winnie the Pooh series, Paul Winchell and his puppet pal Jerry Mahoney starred in many early TV programs; the first was on NBC in 1948 called The Bigelow Show. (1948 was the first year that the networks began programming seven nights a week; in fact, NBC had only 9 regular series on the air in 1947.)

On the series, ventriloquist Winchell and his hand-carved wooden dummy Jerry Mahoney introduced acts headlined by mentalist Joseph Dunniger. In 1949, this half-hour variety show proto-type moved to CBS, airing Wednesdays at 9:00 before being cancelled that same year.

Paul Winchell show

In 1950, The Speidel Show (later The Paul Winchell-Jerry Mahoney Show) debuted on NBC Tuesday nights as a thirty-minute variety show for adults and kids; it was on this show that Winchell introduced another popular character, Knucklehead Sniff. This series ran for four years and featured regular players Dorothy Claire, Hilda Vaughn, Patricia Bright, Jimmy Blaine and Sid Raymond.

Jerry MahoneyIn a 1954 newspaper interview, Paul Winchell spoke of the problem he was having with the successful show - "Gradually I found myself faced with the dilemma that comes to most ventriloquists. I was snowed under by the personality of the dummy. Mail began to pour in to 'Paul Mahoney' and 'Jerry Winchell.' I was Jerry's straight man.

"Everybody knew who Jerry was, but they were beginning to forget the name of the guy who operated him. To that extent it was jealousy."

Jerry Mahoney records

The Paul Winchell-Jerry Mahoney Show was moved to Sunday nights in 1953 but left the air in 1954 to be a part of the network's important new venture.

Winch In the fall 1954, following the success of the Today Show on weekday mornings, NBC had the bright idea of posting original children's programming on Saturday mornings; the Winchell and Mahoney Show was one of the network's first efforts. The series featured band leader Milton DeLugg (Gong Show) playing accordion along with a live audience of kids. The set was decorated in a clubhouse motif.

Jerry Mahoney dollThis effervescent Saturday series, which featured some of the first appearances of a young Carol Burnett, ended its run in February, 1956.

Circus Time debuted on ABC in October of 1956, an hour-long Thursday night show starring Winchell and Mahoney, this time presenting various circus and musical acts.

Paul Winchell & his puppetsThe show was moved to Sunday afternoons the following year and revamped. The Paul Winchell Show had the familiar gang back, this time in a familiar variety show format with Frank Fontaine ('Crazy Googenhiem') and Milton DeLugg joining the cast. The production ran until 1960.

After that, the 'duo' hosted a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon show called Cartoonies from April through September of 1963.

In 1965, Winchell-Mahoney Time was offered up in syndication. This hour long kiddie program was in production for three years - 288 episodes - all erased by Metromedia in a dispute over ownership in 1986. (Winchell sued and won 17.8 million dollars for the destruction of those only existing copies.) Jim Hilliker remarks, "Paul Winchell said these shows done in Los Angeles on videotape were the only permanent record of his work with Jerry, Knucklehead and his other dummies, and because most of his TV work in the '50s and later was live and lost forever, he was hoping to syndicate or sell these shows again to new generations."

TVparty-er Jeff tells us, "There were two Paul Winchell television spots which belong among the funniest of the 1960s. In one, he brought Snitchy the Snail to The Dick Van Dyke Show, with Snitchy playing a rather diva-ish television star named Jellybean who was in need of a new writing team - and guess which team the smartass snail nearly landed when they had a mild labor tiff with Alan (The Mouth That Roared) Brady?

"Winchell and Snitchy driving poor Rob Petrie to befuddled bemusement with one of their classic routine was the highlight; I never saw a ventriloquist more facile at performing a true conversation, with all the natural nuances, than Winchell with his puppets.

"Winchell also brought Tessie Mahoney and, I think, Knucklehead, to an episode of The Lucy Show. At a certain point, Winchell lets Lucy borrow one of the dummies (Knuck, I think) and she tries - hilariously - to make like a ventriloquist, using pompous Mr. Mooney as their target... until he walks into the room just in time to hear Lucy's bad ventriloquism schpritzing, a hilarious round of raging, making the old boy fume in classic Gale Gordon style."

Jerry Mahoney dollThe duo were popular commercial pitchmen all throughout the sixties for cereals and candy bars, but after the mid-sixties Winchell concentrated on voice over work and on his unique inventions.

In 1972, Paul Winchell, Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff came out of semi-retirement to host the Saturday morning game show Runaround, so called because nine young contestants competed for prizes by running to the squares that contained the right answers to Winchell's questions. This show ran for one year.

ventriloquist Paul WinchellGuest shots followed on shows like Love, American Style, The Dean Martin Show, McMillan and Wife and Circle of Fear among many others.

Winchell also provided the voices for a prime time animated special called The Lorax, as well as the famous 'Scrubbing Bubbles' commercials and dozens of Saturday morning cartoons like Hong Kong Phooey, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, The Smurfs, The Gummi Bears and so many others. He won a Grammy in 1974 for best children's recording with "The Most Wonderful Things About Tiggers" from the movie Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too.

Paul Winchell devoted much of his time in the seventies and eighties to his inventions, which included an artificial heart and a method of transferring gasoline from one car to another. He also continued to provide voices for cartoons, in fact he was always the voice of 'Tigger' in the Disney Pooh series - that is until November, 1998 when he was canned because Disney thought he sounded too old.

Sadly, after months of declining health, Paul Winchell passed away on Friday, June 24th 2005. He was 82.

Lancelot Link Secret Chimp DVDsIf you're a Paul Winchell fan, you'll be glad to know he published his memoirs shortly before his death, get it here.


  The Storybook Squares
(and Paul Winchell
)
by Kevin S. Butler

Paul Winchell and his puppet pals Tessie Mahoney , Jerry Mahoney, Knuckelhead Smiff, & Cedric also appeared regularly on NBC-TV's and Heatter/Quigley's Storybook Squares.

Storybook Squares was a kids version of the adult quipping TV game show. (Sir) Peter Marshall and his Town Crier (Sir) Kenny Williams (the show's announcer) would introduce well known performers and personalities playing characters from kids stories, from history and from popular TV shows and movies.

EG: Soupy Sales appeared as King Henry the VIII and Tom A. Edison, the late Bob Crane as Col. Hogan , Wally Cox as Paul Revere and as Davey Crockett, Rose Marie as Pocahontas and Annie Oakley, Jim Backus as Mr. Magoo and as Thurston Howell The III, Judy Carne as Little Miss Muffett and so on.

Two young contestants, a little Miss Circle and a little Mr. X, would listen to the question presented to the storybook star that they picked. The Storybook star would try and give a correct answer to Sir Peter's question; for instance, "what is the correct name for a lot of Mice?" (Paul Winchell as Romeo and Juliet played by Tessie gave their answer as "meese" - shades of Mr. Jinx.

The kid then had to decide whether or not the answer was correct by saying "I agree" or "I disagree." (In this case the answer given by Mr. Winchell and his little puppet girlfriend was wrong.) The kid able to get the most correct answers from the storybook stars in a row (similar to the game of Tic Tac Toe) earned points and won toy prizes and a trip for the entire family to a popular vacation spot.

The Storybook Squares only lasted one season on NBC's Saturday morning schedule; the concept returned years later as a special kid's holiday edition of the weekday Hollywood Squares.

When the Squares went into national syndication in the 1970's, sadly Paul Winchell and his puppet pals were not a part of the special kid's holiday Storybook Squares.

Mr. Winchell's last regular kids TV hosting gig was another NBC / Heatter/ Quigley kids TV game show, Runaround.

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Paul Winchell & Jerry MahoneyAN E-MAIL FROM
PAUL WINCHELL:

These shows are coming back on my new website, Paul Winchell Kids Network.

Please let the children and the baby boomers know about this video streaming to view these programs and others that will soon be joining us.

- Paul Winchell


"One time I received a phone call (on-air) from Paul Winchell, Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff, and to this day, I do not know how my father and mother arranged it. To the kids at my school (P.S. 20 in Flushing) who heard it, I was a celebrity!"
- Andy Flacks

 "I never forgot a segment from the Paul Winchell show, wherein Jerry and Knucklehead were sitting at the big desk, gavel in hand. Poor Knucklehead had an inferiority complex -- he was bemoaning the fact that Jerry had "real" hair, whereas his was only painted on. He was also jealous of the fact that Jerry had moveable eyelids and he didn't! Also, Jerry had a higher position than he did. Knucklehead was really complaining and feeling sorry for himself, and Jerry was generously trying to bolster him up. Hilarious! I never forgot it!"

- Kolette Forest-Miller


"Once again I was all set to pull out of your Web site when I came across your 'Winchell and Mahoney Time' review.

"I remember watching the 1965 version in New Jersey on New York's Channel 5 (now a Fox station) though I was only 7 the night the New York City blackout occurred. Can I ask a question? Who was the dark-haired beautiful woman who starred on that syndicated version which only ran in 1965. I've tried to find out in several TV and trivia books but have been unsuccessful? Was that his wife? Even though I was only 7 at the time, she was quite attractive and quite game partaking in some of the routines. Thanks yet again."

- C Rader

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