HERE'S RAY RAYNER!
|Chicago Television's Busiest Man|
SORRY! EXCUSE PLEASE...
|Rayner was undoubtedly the
busiest man at WGN-TV in the 1960s. Besides his morning show
(which at one time carried 70% of the Chicago viewing audience) and his
noontime antics as Oliver O. Oliver on Bozo's Circus,
Rayner also hosted a 4:30 live kid show that changed formats during the
decade. First was the above mentioned The Dick Tracy Show,
which Rayner appeared as Sgt. Pettibone, who handled radio
communications from the Crimestopper Cruiser, a vehicle equipped
with the latest in sophisticated crime stopping devices. He was
assisted by Tracer the Dog, though at first he didn't have a name.
A contest provided the canine's moniker.
Tracer was brought to life by Ron MacAdam, an impressionist who was also known for his well-produced and entertaining nightclub routines. MacAdam handled all the voices on the series which by the end of the show's run totaled more than 58 characters. Among the many were Gregory, the old mailman; Scoop Wilson, star reporter for The Exaggerated Press. Scoop sounded like James Cagney; and the nemesis of both Pettibone and Tracer, Reginald 'Reggie' R. Marplot. MacAdam would refer to Rayner as "Super Klutz" and loved to play pranks while Rayner was on camera. Since Tracer sat in a basket on the desk in front of Ray, MacAdam would be underneath the desk working the puppet. More than once Ray would get up only to find his shoelaces had been tied together! Then to add to the prank, MacAdam would have Dick Tracy appear on the Crime Stopper Cruiser video screen and order Sgt. Pettibone to march around the room! MacAdam would be the voice of Dick Tracy for all the local segments. Even producer Hal Stein would join in the fun ready to toss a bucket of water at Ray from off stage! On the show's final first-run episode, Pettibone and Tracer, disguised as villains, are off to Eviltania in pursuit of the evil Marplot. Fans would never learn what happened.
Next came Rocket To Adventure around 1965, in response to the NASA space race frenzy. Rayner appeared in a spacesuit and piloted a spaceship. The show featured a different cartoon for each day. It is one of the first exposures of Japanese animation with entries such as Gigantor and 8th Man.
He appeared as Oliver on The Bozo 25th Anniversary Special (considered by many as the best of the anniversary shows) and as himself on The Bozo Show 30th Anniversary program. His last Chicago appearance was at the grand opening celebration of the new "Puppets, Pies & Prizes" exhibit at The Museum Of Broadcast Communications in April of 2001 (along with old colleagues Don Sandburg and Marshall Brodien). Illness forced him to sit out The Bozo Show 40th Anniversary Finale. Ray is warmly remembered by children and adults alike even though he has not been on Chicago television on a regular basis since 1981. True testimony to the talent of this very special human being.
On January 21, 2004 Ray Rayner passed away at the age of 84.
copyright 2000-2003 Steve Jajkowski