a candid conversation with


Ned Locke, Bob Bell, and Don









VV:  Was the show you did at WGN the same show you did at WLW?

DS:  Exactly.  We repeated a lot of stuff.  Why not?  Nobody had ever seen it.  So we did that for a couple of years.  It never did make it like it did in Cincinnati where it was top rated on WLW's five city network.

VV:  Why do you think that was so?

DS:  Never could figure that out.  First of all they kept changing the times and the days.  We tried four different shows.  We started out with an hour show at nine o'clock in the morning.   We should have been on in the evening.

VV:  Well it's been proven time and again.  If you want to destroy a show's chances of becoming a hit, move it all around the schedule.

DS:  Yea well they did that with Bozo too.

VV:  I felt that when WGN made the first time change, from noon to weekday mornings, that was the beginning of the end.

DS:  And that was a long time ago.  I'm not surprised it's off the air.  I'm surprised it stayed on so long.

VV:  Tell me about the genesis of the Sandy character.

DS:  As you know, people behind the scenes don't get paid like those on camera.  At the time they were paid poorly.  When the show went on the air I was not the producer, nor was Bell on as Bozo.  It started out with a clown called Tails.  He was a trampoline artist and a good acrobat.  But he wasn't a clown.  And you had Ned and Tails, the audience and the band.  They put the band on because they were on staff and they had to pay them anyway.  Which is good because that circus band added immensely to the warmth and the excitement of the show.  Anyway Bob and I watched from the control room the first day and it wasn't well received. 

Then I was approached by the producer to write the show.  Now writers were never paid much.  WGN's attitude was "shows write themselves."  Actually everything was written by talent or the directors assigned to the shows.  Bugs Bunny with Dick Coughlan, I wrote that.   And Breakfast with Bugs Bunny when Fred Silverman got on it.   It was supposed to show a different breakfast everyday.  It was Fred's job to arrange that.   And I asked him how come he kept putting a bagel on in every breakfast?  I don't think the Chinese eat bagels!  

So getting back to Sandy and the offer to write the show.  I said no I won't do it but I'll tell you what I will do.  If you let me appear as a character once a week, I'll write your material in gratis.  And I'll come out ahead and you'll come out ahead.  So the producer agreed.  I went home and created a character.  I thought I'll be a silent clown because there's enough conversation on the show.  I also emulated Harpo Marx.  I thought it be a nice contrast with a silent clown.  All the Ringling Bros. clowns are mute clowns.  

VV:  Right.  All their comedy is physical.

DS:  And I was in good shape.  In fact for my first show I had a horizontal bar built by the carpenter shop because I used to work out on the horizontal bars.  So I thought well I'll do that.  And it was a steel bar but it was held up by a wooden structure, sandbagged down at the feet.  I got up there, ended up with a giant swing and the thing came apart.

VV:  Was Emmett Kelly an inspiration too?