Here's Ray Rayner!

Chicago Television's Busiest Man

Cuddly Duddly dolls in mint condition- with his car and house have been sold on eBay for over $700.00!  From The Video Veteran Collection.  Photo by Greg West

The original Cuddly Duddly sits on display at The MBC in Chicago.  From The Video Veteran collection.  Photo by Greg West.


Ray took over Breakfast With Bugs Bunny, a morning affair hosted by Dick Coughlan in 1962.  Two years later the show was renamed Ray Rayner & Friends.  He would remain a favorite morning fixture until 1981 when he decided to move to Albuquerque New Mexico where he would do a similar morning program.  WGN-TV expanded The Bozo Show (which had already been bounced to mornings from its noon slot by channel 9's new interest in local news competition) to include features originally seen on the Rayner show including trips to Cuddly Duddly's house, school closing announcements, and weather reports.   

Everyday Ray would visit the home of Cuddly Duddly, a life-size yellow stuffed dog that was designed and voiced by Roy Brown,  based on a promotional doll the Chicago Tribune had offered in the mid sixties to sell subscriptions. WGN-TV program manager Sheldon Cooper approached Brown with the idea of turning the doll into a puppet character and having Brown operate and voice the character on the Rayner show. If the interaction between Ray and Cuddly seemed off the cuff, it was. Most of the time it was 99% ad-lib.

Not all were puppets or stuffed animals, one was for real- Chelveston, a rather vicious duck, was a regular staple of the Rayner show. Ray named the duck after his World War II air force base in Chelveston England.

Another regular feature on the show was "The Ark In The Park," where Dr. Lester Fisher, head of the Lincoln Park Zoo would come on with an animal or two and describe it's habits. Ray also started the first "PBS," the "Pretend Broadcasting System" on which Ray would don his special broadcasting hat and sit in front of what appeared to be a 1930s microphone reading humorous newscasts. There was also the unseen couple of Mr. & Mrs. David, who responded to Rayner's jokes and antics by sound effects. Mr. David would occasionally attempt to "sing" the "Toreador" song from the opera "Carmen" but could never hit that high note. Mrs. David could be heard laughing. Ray would also give the previous day's sports scores, making sure to mention the results from Slippery Rock College in Pennsylvania.

Perhaps most memorable of the morning show was the crafts which Ray would attempt to make on camera. They never did turn out the way they were meant to be! Ray would put his project side by side with one that was made before the show. Ray often referred to Chauncey, a name he used when he would break the fourth wall and joke with the WGN crew. Ray would always say Chauncey made the good projects, as if anyone would have a hard time distinguishing one from the other. In reality the projects were created and built by Diane Flanders who worked in the WGN-TV art department.  The show's last first-run show aired on December 18, 1980. 

On January 21, 2004, Ray Rayner died from complications caused by pneumonia.  We can only hope that Bob Bell and Roy Brown were there to meet him at the gates of Heaven with seltzer water and pie in hand!   



copyright 2000-2003 Steve Jajkowski