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We're Gonna Turn You On

 

 

 


Remember The Electric Company?

Watch the introduction.

Watch the 1st intro (I didn't even know this existed)

I was never a big Sesame Street fan but give me a half hour with "HEY YOU GUYS!!!" and I was mesmerized. Then the theme started and I was out of my head.

The big names I remember coming out of that show was Morgan Freeman as, among other characters, Easy Reader ("...that's my name, I say, uh, uh, uh, easy readin', that's my game...") and for some reason, his Dracula character comes to mind.

Although I never saw her in anything else, Rita Moreno was the other big star to emerge. She also provided the famous "HEY YOU GUYS!!!" that signaled the show's start and would send me scrambling into the living room.

There was Letterman (who tore the letter from his varsity sweater...(I always thought it was "... from the vest of his sweater...")) to foil the the Spellbinder.

The Electric Company also had a live version of Spiderman who, in hindsight, was as gay as Liberace's diamond encrusted black book. But the tune was catchy.

Bill Cosby showed up every once in awhile, too.

While researching around the net, I came across certain aspects of the show that I forgot completely about. Remember the two silhouettes that would say parts of words that would come out of their mouths and then they would repeat the whole word, all to some little tune?

Or how about the grouchy guy? I never would have remembered him unless I saw his face and then it all came back to me.

One of the things that makes me smile now is that it was an educational show but we watched it completely oblivious that we were learning anything. The thing I remember most about it is how I noticed at such a young age how fast the ½ hour would fly by. I have vivid memories of being astonished when the ending came and I couldn't fathom how it could have been a ½ hour since the show began.

I had plans to do some research and find out what the cast looked like. But I ran into a huge brick wall and got frustrated. Here is all I found:

Name
Then
Now-ish
Comments
Bill Cosby
Role: Hank; the Milkman; Ken Kane; the Ice Cream Man (1971-1972)
Of course, everyone knows who he is now. Also did Fat Albert voices.
Morgan Freeman
Role: Mark, Easy Reader, Mel Mounds - the DJ, Vincent the Vegetable Vampire, Mad Scientist, The Cop
Easily my favorite on the show and I STILL see "Easy Reader" even now when he's in modern films. Also starred in two of my top ten favorites of all time: The Shawshank Redemption and Lean On Me.
Rita Moreno
Role: Carmela; Otto the Director; Pandora the Little Girl; Millie the Helper
She seemed older to me even when she was on the show, Kind of motherly. Maybe it was my Mexican blood talking.
Gene Wilder
Role: Voice of Letterman (1972-1977)
I HAD NO IDEA!!!! You mean Willy Wonka is Letterman!?! This guy defined my entire childhood! To a lesser degree as Young Frankenstein and and even less in the Stir Crazy flicks but that's because I don't care much for Richard Pryer.
Mel Blanc: additional voices.
Of course he is best known as the voice of Bugs Bunny and just about every other Loony Toon character.
Irene Cara
Role: Michelle; member of the Short Circus (1971-1972).
I don’t remember her on the show but she went on to find fame in, well, Fame, and then singing the epic Flashdance theme.
Mel Brooks
Role: Blond-Haired Cartoon Man.
I THINK I remember the character. If I’m right, he had a straw hat and a cane, like a circus announcer guy.
Joan Rivers
Role: Narrator of 'The Adventures of Letterman' (1972-77)
Did not know this. But after relistening to an episode, yep, it's her. This may result in therapy.
Denise Nickerson
Role: Allison; member of the Short Circus (1972-1973)
Played Violet in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That's two people from the cast who went on to the Factory.
Judy Graubart
Role: Winnie; Jennifer of the Jungle; Julia Grownup; the Witch.
I have to admit I had the biggest crush on this lady when I was a kid. She was kind of goofy but I thought she was pretty and it’s evident that my brunette preference was there even as a kid.
Jimmy Boyd
Role: Andy; J. Arthur Crank; Paul the Gorilla; the Blue Beetle; the Wolfman; voice of Loreli the Chicken
There seems to be some discussion on the Web about this guy. There is another famous Jimmy Boyd who was a musician and it seems the two get mixed up.
Zero Mostel
Role: Spellbinder, Letterman's nemesis.
What a wonderfully evil voice he had. Died of a heart attack in 1977.
June Angela
Role: Julie; member of the Short Circus.
I vaguely remember her. She was the Asian girl in one of the early examples of getting a spectrum of different nationalities on a cast. It WAS an educational show, after all.

Hattie Winston
Role: Sylvia; Valerie the Librarian (1973-1977)

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Nope, another one I don’t remember unless I saw a skit. She showed up as Chris Turk's mom on Scrubs in 2002 and 2004.
Danny Seagren
Role: Spiderman (1974-1977)
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I couldn’t find a picture but he also was the original voice for Big Bird.
Gregg Burge
Role: Dwayne; member of the Short Circus (1973-1975)
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I don’t remember but found out he died in 1998 of complications due to a brain hemorrhage.
Stephen Gustafson
Role: Buddy; member of the Short Circus (1971-1975)
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No memory.
Janina Mathews
Role: Gail; member of the Short Circus (1975-1977)
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No memory, no picture.
Rejane Magloire
Role: Samantha; member of the Short Circus (1975-1977)
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Didn’t find much on her but there is an opera singer with this name that I think was in Technotronic. No pics of her as a kid.

UPDATE! I got this email recently:

In the early 1980s, a few years after The Electric Company ended production, Rejane went on to provide vocals for a New York-based new-wave group Indeep. She later joined the Belgian project Technotronic and appeared on its 1991 album Body to Body. In 2005, she released the solo album Forbidden Opera(my personal Favorite) (Virgin Classics/EMI Records), a fusion of opera and contemporary R&B.

She is an awesome lady and spends her time in Dubai, Belgium, France, USA, and Asia. I hope this helps as I am a personal friend and one of her virtual personal assistants.

Have a wonderful Day.

Rodney Lewis
Role: Charlie; member of the Short Circus (1975-1977)
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In June of 2011, I received email from Rodney!!! He even sent some pictures!
Melanie Henderson
Role: Kathy; member of the Short Circus (1971-1975)
Again, someone I might recognize if I saw a skit but likely just one of the kids in the group. That's Irene Cara standing next to her.
Bayn Johnson
Role: Kelly; member of the Short Circus (1973-1975)
These are the only pictures I could find of her. I vaguely remember a blond girl in the Short Circus. Here is another I found.
Todd Graff
Role: Jesse; member of the Short Circus (1975-1977)
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He's a famous filmmaker now but couldn’t find a kid pic of him.
Lee Chamberlin
Role: Brenda; Vi; Madame Rosalie; Gladys the Glow-Worm (1971-1973)
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I remember her showing up in a lot of skits. This is the only picture I could find.
Luis Avalos
Role: Roberto; Dr. Doolats; Igor; Pedro (1972-1977)
I loved this guy, he played so many "good guy" characters and I have very fond memories of him. I'd love to meet him and let him know how much he affected my childhood memories.
Skip Hinnant
Role: J.J.; Fargo North, Decoder; Frankenstein; Supper Man; Clam; Boy, in Love of Chair
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Nothing. But I'm told this is definately not him in the picture.
Ken Roberts
Role: Announcer (1971-1973)
blank
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Nothing
Douglas Grant
Role: Zach; member of the Short Circus (1971-1973)
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Nothing

I also found this pic from the cover of The Electric Company's 2nd album and can identify some of them:

Top:

Bulb 1: Judy Graubart as Jennifer of the Jungle in the outfit I remember most vividly, probably because she was wearing it in the intro.

Bulb 2: Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader.

Bulb 3: I don't know who this is and don't remember her. I'm told it is Rita Moreno but it doesn't look like her. Then I heard it was a character called Madame Rosalie.

Bulb 4 : I recognize this guy and would love to find out which of the actors he was. He was a short blond guy who was a main actor. Update: I'm told it's Skip Hinnant as Fargo North Decoder.

Bottom:

Bulb 1: Jimmy Boyd as Andy; J. Arthur CranK

Bulb 2: I don't know if this is Lee Chamberlin or Hattie Winston. I'm told it's Hattie Wilson.

Bulb 3: My man, Luis Avalos

Bulb 4 : Jimmy Boyd as Paul the Gorilla (although, come on, anyone could play it)

Anyone remember A Very Short Book?


Email -- jason@grose.us
Web -- http://www.grose.us/