Seven Year Old Randy Bucknoff Remembers the Lesson he Learned From Watching Sonny on Wonderama.
The year was 1964, the Beatles were on the horizon, Lyndon Johnson was
President of the United States, and more importantly, to a kid living in the New York City
suburb of Spring Valley, Sonny Fox, was the host of Wonderama. The show ran every
Sunday morning for four hours.
This how it went, Sunday mornings while my parents were sound asleep, I would quietly
descend the stairs, as not to wake them up, arrive in our bottom floor den, and open up
the huge cabinet that was housing a five inch television. For four hours undisturbed,
by neither man nor beast, I would watch Sonny Fox hosting, playing, and talking with
other kids of my age.
I was mesmerized by this affable gentleman, in a suit and tie. I had never seen an adult having
fun playing games like, Stump Sonny, Simon Says and Tongue Twisters. Sonny was also
the teacher,he introduced us to celebrities, politicians of the day and rewarded us with prizes
for following the rules. Subtle message, play the game correctly and you shall be rewarded,
something that craftily if not subliminally, I have carried through into my adult life.
Years went by and I got married had two children of my own, divorced, became homeless,
I have since recovered from all. During this time I never lost sight of those simpler times with
In a way it kept me going, follow the rules of the game and you shall be rewarded.
I decided to find out what happened to Mr. Fox.
I looked him up on the internet and found a little known site called TV Party. Under children’s
show hosts from the 50's - 60's , I found a bio on Sonny, and a blurb he wrote asking us,
his Wonderama kids, to drop him a line. He had posted his email address so I sent him
an Email and elucidated on my vivid memory of learning how to cook scrambled eggs by
watching a boy on Wonderama demonstrate.
Within an hour, my reward came by email, “Hi Randy, this is your childhood idol, Sonny Fox
and that boy demonstrating how to make scrambled eggs on the show, was my son.”
Sonny and I remained in touch on and off for a long time, then I got the idea to host a
Wonderama with Sonny Fox Facebook group. The group went from 6 members to almost
900 members in a short period of time. I emailed Sonny about it and he was delighted and
still surprised about the vividness of the memories shared by his “Wonderama Kids.”
In our correspondences Sonny mentioned 1) He is writing his memoirs and would I send him
some of the written memories of the Facebook group to him. Which I did. 2) He was coming
back east to New York for a visit, he now lives on the West Coast. Having heard the news
about his trip east, I using all the NY Chutzpah I could muster, asked if I could meet him for
lunch. He magnanimously said yes.I finally met Sonny, had a lovely lunch meeting and we have been buddies ever since.
When he published his memoirs, But You Made the Front Page he was going to do a book
signing tour. Through the Facebook group and contacts of my own I arranged for a book
signing at a theater in Stamford, CT. Sonny did a marvelous presentation with clips from his
career including Wonderama. Also by request, while he was here, I introduced him through
the Facebook group to an interested book store owner in NJ. That too was a success.
Sonny is also a member of the Wonderama Facebook group and sometimes comments
on peoples memories.
I had followed the rules of the game with love, admiration and respect for the man who made
my Sunday mornings something to look forward to.
Another reward followed. Sonny’s way of saying thank you was to invite me to The Paley Center
in NYC, where he was to be interviewed by Whoopi Goldberg and talk about his long career
in Television and producing. He sat me next to his son-in law, within the first three rows of
the auditorium. To me I was a kid in a candy store.
We have remained friends; have since seen each other at his unique Broadway Songwriters
presentation,at the Westport, CT. Library, where yet again he made me feel like no one else
was in the room by rewarding me a front row seat. It seems that overall, how many people
can say that although the “golden ticket”, was a ticket to be in the audience of Wonderama,
I would have the real golden ticket of being a friend to my childhood idol, Sonny Fox.