File Under: Terrifying Early Childhood Memories

In addition to Greatest American Hero, my other earliest childhood television memory is Zoobilee Zoo. Zoobilee Z00 was essentially a half hour of humans dressed as stuffed animals making wild facial expressions and erratic movements whilst singing about problems every human child faces-- like making silly mistakes. Or being an anthropomorphic cockatoo.

I mainly remember Ben Vereen, dressed in what appeared to be a dusty, bedraggled leopard costume stolen from a dumpster behind an off-Broadway production of Cats and one of Prince's least favorite jackets, slinking over the top of a piano while attempting to impart a condescending moral lesson. As always, I turned to YouTube to jog my memory further. I was pleased to find that the voices are badly out of sync with the characters' mouths, and sound as if they were recorded separately using a YakBak.

The characters whine and shriek in infantile voices while capering about an obvious soundstage, scattered with irrelevant props painted in garish day-glo colors. There is a pink thing that looks a lot like a live-action Popple, but is supposedly a kangaroo flautist. There is a beaver who looks like Orville Redenbacher, a Teddy Ruxpin-esque "adventure" bear (whatever that is), an irritating squawking bird with a Chiquita Banana style accent and headress (easily the most believable character), a lion whose interest in art is eclipsed only by his uncanny likeness to Chaka Khan in the "I Feel For You" video, and finally, the most terrifying character, Bravo Fox.

Bravo Fox, I believe, must have been styled heavily after John Worthington Foulfellow, the manipulative fox in Pinocchio, only with a curious middle Atlantic accent that usually sounded like he ran afoul of Betty Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. He is played by a statuesque balding man in a threadbare butler's uniform with orange tufts of "fur" bursting from every seam. Bravo Fox haunted me for years after I stopped watching the show, and was the subject of several recurring nightmares when I was seven. In these nightmares, he was usually a criminal mastermind with supernatural powers. He would send me puzzling letters ala the zodiac killer detailing his evil schemes. I eventually published a book about him and appeared on talk shows to educate the good citizens of our country about the impending danger. This only made him want to kill me, and I'd spend the remainder of the dream seeking protection from the skeptical, unfeeling police department.

Probably the weirdest thing about this show is that it's only weird in retrospect. When I was a kid, I loved it and wanted to be a Zooble.


The Man with Golden Buttered Popcorn Tresses

I realize that, originally, I started this blog to catalog my adolescent experiences with Easy Listening. I realize, also, that I have become very tangential. Gentle reader, I apologize for straying, but I've only just begun. I want to share with you my first crush ever, who I had forgotten about until yesterday.
Here's how I remembered:
I'm on the horn with Amanda, discussing the trajectory of our journeys through life as ENFPs (I wish I were joking). I admit to her that sometimes, when confused about my personal trajectory, I listen to the original Broadway recording of Pippin. I identify with the main character, I say. I explain that the themes of Pippin-- coming of age, the restlessness and confusion of early adulthood, trying to find one's place-- are very relevant now. Pippin, I suggest, is a total ENFP. "Rachel," she says, "you sound like some kind of second rate theater school reject." Fair enough. This derisive comment didn't stop me from watching Pippin on Youtube for the next hour. I wrote the lyrics to this song in more than one high school yearbook. Second rate theater school reject. Once I saw William Katt as Pippin, I got a strange feeling of familiarity. Where had I seen him? After some truly wild synapse firings, I remembered:
Of course! He's Ralph, AKA Greatest American Hero AKA My First Crush Ever. Considering the competence of my television babysitter, it's no small wonder that the opening sequence of Greatest American Hero is, without a doubt, the cradle of some of my earliest memories. I remember forcing my dad to rush me home from my grandparents house so that I could watch this show, it being a life or death (tantrum) situation. I also remember him fashioning some homemade "I Love Ralph" stickers on a primitive label maker for me. I stuck them on the blue chair I sat in during rapt Greatest American Hero viewings. I'm not sure why, at age 3, I found him so appealing. Perhaps I was just recognizing the universal appeal of semi-androgynous men with hair the color and texture of buttered popcorn (see also: Christopher Atkins). I can't remember what the show is about, really... I think Ralph found a red suit which, when worn, imbued him with superhero powers. He never really mastered flying in the suit, and would usually make hilarious crash landings.
This is my first crush. This is my earliest memory. Second rate theater school reject. Something worse?