Hey guys — I’ve got a Name That Trauma just in time for Halloween…
I remember watching an HBO variety special, featuring a live audience, in the late ’70s or early ’80s. Only two acts still stick in my head: One was a ventriloquist whose dummy was a plant name Phil O’Dendron. (Sample dialogue between man and dummy: “O’Dendron. Is that Irish?” Dummy: “Well, I’m wearing green!”)
The other act was this elaborate set of a scientist’s lab, a la Dr. Frankenstein. A scientist in a white lab coat, mop-top hair, and sunglasses (?) brings a Frankenstein-like monster to life from the operating table. The monster’s dressed in all black, green skin, but a normal-shaped head (no square noggin). Via remote control, the scientist makes the monster do all kinds of body movements, including a forward lean a la MICHAEL JACKSON in the “Smooth Criminal” video. Audience applauds.
Satisfied with what he’s done, the scientist puts down the remote and turns his back to work on something else. Suddenly, the monster becomes self-aware, shoots a look at the scientist and starts walking towards him. He stops directly behind the scientist, the scientist turns around, and the monster grabs both sides of the scientist’s head and twists it off his body.
The audience gasps as the doctor’s headless body falls to the ground. The monster then raises the head to his face, turns to the camera and, in a close-up, smirks. Turns out the monster was the performer and the scientist was the “monster.”
Pretty cool, yes, but as a kid I was not ready for that whole head-tearing-off thing.
Anybody else remember this show, or if there’s a clip online somewhere?
AUNT JOHN SEZ: FilmFather, this sounds so familiar but all of my searches are coming up empty handed.
The guy with the plant was Jay Johnson (Chuck & Bob from Soap) which means the show was probably The Great 1978 Adult Ventriloquism and Comedy Show which I vaguely, vaguely remember.
i know this is a little late in the game, but the only variety/talk show i can remember from HBO was called Bizarre, and all i remember about Bizarre was the boobs!
Good Lord!! This very subject has been haunting me for years. and yes…I too was scared silly by the performance. i have tried every kind of search, with no luck. But for some reason i’m thinking it was on a 1982 show on HBO called Blockheads. there were a ton of ventriloquist shows on HBO during those years, but that was really comes to mind. If anyone, ANYONE, has any luck finding out info on this, or at least the name of the performer, i could die a happy man.
The style of life-sized puppets acting as puppeteers, let me to the name of the Pupeteer Richard Termine, who incidentally works with Children’s Television Workshop. If he’s not the one responsible for the act, then his play The Death of Dr. Faust most likely inspired it.
This from the Kindertrauma mailbox….
DALE B. writes:
“The HBO Special you are thinking of is The 4th annual adult ventriloquism show
“Blockheads” from 1981″
FOUND! Better late than never. (What’s a decade, give or take?)
From the 1982 HBO Special – Blockheads 4th Annual Ventriloquism Show (jump to 20:40):
Eric, aka FilmFather