Thursday, 7 December 2006

PUPPET POWER

I was perhaps seven or eight years old and - rare event - had been given some money as a Christmas present!

So, what to spend it on? Well, in my mind there was no question! It was sitting there in the toyshop window and I been eyeing it up for weeks!

It was -- and you must promise NOT to laugh -- a Lenny the Lion glove puppet!

There! I’ve said it!

I was hooked on puppets and ventriloquial acts (my favourite radio show was Educating Archie with Peter Brough and Archie Andrews) and on television Lenny the Lion made a HUGE impact by being one of the first - if not the first - vent doll to be a character other than a child or an old man…

Lenny’s partner was Terry Hall who had the ability to operate the lion’s right arm (paw) in addition to the usual facial movements and this greatly increased the sense of animation.

I was an avid fan of Lenny’s television shows (one of which featured an early appearance by The Beatles), his weekly appearance in TV Comic as well as various spin-off books and annuals, not to mention records (he and Terry memorably recorded the seasonal hit I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas); and, I suppose, that what I really loved about Lenny was his personality that was - well, frankly - CAMP!

Lenny (or Terry) had considerable trouble with his “r’s” which meant that the character had a bit of a lisp! He was also very easily embarrassed which frequently resulted in a gesture - which all TV-Oldies will recall in which Lenny would fling a paw across his eyes and say: “Oh, Tewwy, don’t embawwass me!”

So the truth of the matter is that Lenny was very probably my first gay icon!

Anyway, back to the subject in hand - or to be precise the puppet in (or on) hand…

I really, REALLY wanted it and very, VERY nearly got it...

But (not for the last time in my life) sensible adults put a great deal of sensible pressure on the wayward child and finally convinced him that, instead, he should buy ---- a WRISTWATCH.

Useful, admittedly, but boring… So, I got the Junior Timex and waved goodbye to a life with the Lion.

To be brutally honest, I'ver never quite got over making what was obviously a very stupid mistake and one which, in all likelihood, accounts for the fact that I now only ever wear Mickey Mouse or Snoopy watches and explains why I’m still scanning eBay in the hope of - one day - finding a Lenny the Lion glove puppet…

21 comments:

Suzanne said...

Oooohh! You poor little boy! I remember hankering after a string puppet, and getting it. Which was a big mistake... I never did manage to master the stupid thing and it spent more time under my bed in a hopeless tangle than actually hanging up... or even performing! See what you missed!
Have a lovely day... a very early rising Suzanne!

Scrooge said...

Spielburg's Santa '85 rewards a wayward policeman with a toy raygun he never got as a child.Why not write a letter to old St Nick asking for it ! It used to work.....

Brian Sibley said...

Is it still the usual method...? Letter up the chimney...?

Suzanne said...

Chimney? Not many people have those nowadays... I used to tell my girls that Santa came through the skylight and that he had a special key... Oh, and don't forget the mince pie and the glass of brandy!
One year, after doing the shopping, I forgot to put everything away before the girls got home from school and everything was lying on the dining table...
I had to put my imagination to really good use that day I can tell you...

Brian Sibley said...

BRANDY? That's a bloody expensive tip!

Jen said...

We still have a working chimney & when our son was small I used to help him put the notes up because he
thought his wish list wouldn't count if it burnt. With a bit of fidgeting the notes lodged behind the draught flap. We now have a delightful collection of slightly scorched childhood dreams.I became quite adept at Rudolph's sooty prints & reckoned that Santa earned her dram of Malt! (Cheap @ the price!!)

Brian Sibley said...

Ah!! So, that's how it was done!

Diva of Deception said...

Gosh - are we just two people with the same childhood loves or what??? I was a HUGE Lenny the Lion fan. Loved TV comic - never realised Lenny was gay? Oh well....

Talking of comics, in today's Guardian there was a copy of Look and Learn. My dad bought that for me from the first issue and, this morning I did what I had done as a child - I read only the bits with pictures and limited amounts of writing, deciding the rest was dull and only of use when I need to know! Nothing changes..

Bring back Lenny not Look and Learn (which is going to be reissued for 48 issues apparently).

Brian Sibley said...

I'm not saying Lenny the Lion WAS gay - just that, looking back, he certainly LOOKED it!

I LOVED 'Look & Learn' and got very excited by today's give-away in 'The Guardian'...

The memories flooded back: my parents couldn't afford another comic (I already had 'The Children's Newspaper' and 'Mickey Mouse Weekly') but it was in the school library and I read it every week - probably because it had such GREAT artwork... I must say I'm tempted by the re-issue...

Anonymous said...

If you go to YouTube and type in 'Lenny The Lion' you will come across a clip of some 1960s singer called Joe Brown appearing on the Lenny the Lion show. I must admit, the voice and gestures of Lenny certainly seemed somewhat camp.

Anonymous said...

Hello again! Before yesterday I knew absolutely nothing about Lenny the Lion, then I searched the Internet about him (I came across a picture of him on the TelevisionHeaven website). That is how I came across that small clip on YouTube. However, there are few details about him and Terry Hall on the Web. So, why don't you do some research and find out what happened to Lenny the Lion and his creator? It shouldn't be too difficult surely? You obviously have some connections in the entertainments world. After all, a few years ago Jools Holland made a programme about the composer Edwin Astley who had written theme tunes in the 1960s, but had largely been forgotten by the general public in recent years.
Come on, Mr. Sibley, find out what happened to Lenny the Lion, and bring him back.

Brian Sibley said...

Hello, my Anonymous friend...

Thanks for the YouTube info - great clip! And I actually remember when Joe Brown looked like that!

And thanks for the prompt to do something to find out more about good old Lenny... I'll give it a shot!

Thank you, again... Whoever you are!

Er... You're NOT Lenny the Lion... are you?

Anonymous said...

Am I Lenny the Lion? You've discovered my secret...I'm embawassed!
Seriously though, I would love to know more about Lenny the Lion. If you do manage to find out about him and Terry Hall then perhaps you could also find out more about the merchandise that was available.
Until the other day I knew nothing about Lenny but having read your article about him and seen that small clip on YouTube then I would love to see him return. Of course, I would prefer to see him in his original form, not as a bland CGI reincarnation.
By the way, I'm glad that you enjoyed the clip.
I wish you all the best in your research into Lenny the Lion.
Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Hello again. With regards to your blog concerning the pronunciation of certain things I too used to pronounce the famous dinosaur's name as dip-lo-doe-cuss. It took a lot of time before I found it was generally not pronounced like that.
Incidentally, how are you getting on with your research in Lenny the Lion?
All the best.

Brian Sibley said...

I haven't had the time to take it further... But that's partly because I've had so much work, I've not been able to do much 'lion around'! ;-)

Anonymous said...

By the way, sorry to see that you had to have a period in hospital. I hope everything is fine now.
I look forward to eventually seeing a book written by you about Lenny.

Anonymous said...

Hello Mr.Sibley,
I have sad news for you. Terry Hall has died. His obituary appeared in yesterday's Daily Telegraph. I shall shortly send you the entire obituary.
Oddly enough, after encouraging you to find out more about Lenny The Lion I searched the 'net for Terry Hall and came across a discussion forum which claimed that he had died in 2002. Taking most things on the 'net with some degree of scepticism I decided not to inform of that.

Anonymous said...

Well, I was going to type out Terry Hall's obituary here, but I realised that it would be easier for you to read it on the Daily Telegraph website itself. You can download the obituary from:
www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries
Please do some research though about Lenny and his creator, I really hope that you will keep your promise about that.

Brian Sibley said...

I had heard the sad news, but am grateful for the obituary...

I will certainly try to find out more about Terry and Lenny, but I think a book JUST about them would be a very difficult project to sell to a publisher...

Anonymous said...

Yes, you are probably right about the idea of a book being difficult to sell. Still, it would be interesting to see what you can do.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever find out anything about Lenny the Lion?
By the way, I am the same 'Anonymous' person who wrote the comments in 2007.
Best regards.