Today, a part of my childhood died.
Chris Wedes (pronounced WEE-DUSS), better known as JP Patches passed away this morning at the age of 84.
People in Western Washington and Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island areas of British Columbia, Canada grew up watching The JP Patches Show regularly in the '60s and '70s. He was a staple of Seattle's KIRO-TV 7 until 1981 when the station dropped the program in favour of an expanded morning newscast. A move that was LOUDLY protested, but to no avail.
Every weekday morning, JP Patches was watched by thousands. His characters, including (from Wikipedia) Sturdley the Bookworm, Esmerelda (portrayed by a Raggedy Ann doll), Ketchikan the Animal Man (a sort of Jack Hanna character), Boris S. Wort (the "second meanest man in the world"), LeRoy Frump (a character obviously based on Art Carney's Ed Norton), Tikey Turkey (a rubber chicken), Grandpa Tick Tock (a grandfather clock with an elderly face where the pendulum would be), The Swami of Pastrami, Ggoorrsstt the Friendly Frpl (a one-eyed shag carpet), Miss Smith (a motorcycle riding delivery woman who told mostly awful jokes), Superclown (a JP like superhero), J.P.'s evil counterpart P. J. Scratches, and J.P.'s girlfriend, Gertrude
They were all portrayed by show producer and sidekick, Bob Newman) and rounded out the show. The shows viewers were Patches Pals.
The show was interspersed with Warner Brothers cartoons between acts. JP Patches was also a favourite for adults. JP Patches' humour was filled with sly double entendre, but it was NEVER filthy.
Every morning, he would read off his viewers birthdays on a segment he called ICU2 TV.
I remember having my name read on my 7th birthday (my mom had sent in a postcard with my name and birthday a month earlier and I'll never forget how he stumbled all over my last name!) He eerily "knew" where a birthday present of mine was hidden (The oven. Great place mom!)
14 years later. I met Chris Wedes personally (out of the JP Patches costume and makeup) and I mentioned it to him. To my surprise, he actually remembered it! "Oh, you're the one with that crazy last name!" he joked. He mentioned that before the ICU2 TV segment that he was figuring out how to pronounce it. "And that's why yours was the very last name I read that morning." And it was!
He then added "Plus it was at the bottom of the list anyway"
I told him to break it down into syllables Wald-Bill-Ig
"And now you finally tell me this!" he replied with a big laugh. "What other secrets have you been hiding from me?"
I could barely keep it together, I was laughing so hard.
In costume and out, Chris Wedes himself was just as funny as his beloved character. He was JP Patches.
My favourite JP Patches episode was the one on the SUPER chilly morning in 1975 (it was 12 degrees!) when Ggoorrsstt the Friendly Frpl (rhymes with "purple") had a dilemma. He needed fresh frpl fodder from Fife (an area closer to Seattle) for food. But he got the frozen frpl fodder flown in from Ferndale (90 miles to the north). Far from fresh!
They still have it on video.....It was one of his best.
But sadly, KIRO-TV only saved a few episodes on tape (professional video tape at that time was incredibly expensive.) And we never had a home VCR (there were very few home models at that time and they were also incredibly expensive in the '70s.) Barring any lucky finds on YouTube that somebody else may have recorded, the rest of JP Patches shows are sadly forever lost to time.
But they will forever be in our memories.......
Thank You JP Patches. It's hard to hold back the tears because laughter is your legacy. And sometimes in this crazy world today, I think we need you now more than ever.
Forever a Patches Pal,