The day after the news of Chuck McCann's death appeared. I received when I can only describe as an emotional outburst from a friend of mine, Steve Friedman.
Steve came into my life as a photographer always seem to be at press conferences for covering stories in which I was involved my performing years. Even after I stop being “famous", if I was around, he still made me feel famous.
What he wrote seems to be in the voice of all who watched Chuck, I asked him for permission to use it as our recognition of Chuck's wonderful talents.
To Baby Boomers such as myself, this is a blow that resonates. There were The Four Horsemen of Kid's Local Television in New York, giants who meant a great deal to us - boys and girls.
We depended upon for them for entertainment, information, counsel, camaraderie...and warmth.They were there for us, With a click of dial, in B/W on a 15" or 17" screen - complete with the "ghosts" we called them, overlapping images from the best reception we can get from a roof antenna, with the occasional but dependable vertical roll, horizontal roll - they provided us immediate acceptance and unconditionally. We didn't always get that from home. Or maybe or especially, our "outer family" - the latter being true for me.
There were others on television who played kind of a role and called themselves "Uncle." They were okay; they were fine. But The Giants, our Heroes - and truly - were Sandy, Sonny, Chuck and Soupy. No family-like salutations we needed for them. Sandy Becker, Sonny Fox, Chuck McCann, Soupy Sales. They showed us cartoons - funny ones, sly ones, so well constructed that we could see them ad infinitum without tiring: We saw games, art, sketches, places. And sometimes even Presidents & World Leaders. Classical music too.
And it was fun. They were fun. We watched them alone. We watched with siblings and friends. We watched them with parents. And the parents enjoyed them too: they laughed, they were interested. But even with parents or company, watching always was intimate to us.
They were authentic. The best ones were our heroes - Sandy, Sonny, Chuck and Soupy. They ushered us to our next phase.
The last man standing is Sonny.
Many years ago, I had the distinction of sitting next to Chuck McCann at the Academy Tribute to Preston Sturges in Los Angeles. After I told him of the other distinction of being home from school when Sandy Becker decided not to show up for his morning show on Channel 5 and gave it to 19 year-old McCann. No announcement. I was unprepared and six. To step into Sandy's shoes was no small undertaking and would definitively be under scrutiny. I Had no concept of how young 19 was. But I was . It is emblazoned in my memory. Chuck was funny and he was free. Unforced. Genuine. Magical. And at the end of the what 2 hours, he looked at us at home, clearly moved, surrounded by his puppets who then seemed most real to us and it seemed to him too. I can see his face now. More than 60 years ago.
Always wondered if Our Giants, Our Horsemen, could actually fathom what impact they
had on us, our formative years, our emotional formative years.