Saturday, 10 February 2018

Party With Jay Ward

If you had a chance to party with Jay Ward, Bill Scott, Hans Conried and June Foray at one of Ward’s wacky promotional events, wouldn’t you go? I would. And it appears an entertainment writer with the Philadelphia Inquirer agreed with me.

The Ward studio made some of the fastest and funniest cartoons ever put on television. But until I read Keith Scott’s great book The Moose That Roared (if you don’t have a copy, why don’t you?), I had no idea of the outrageous publicity campaigns that Ward and his PR people invented for their cartoons. Maybe the era was just insanely creative. Media promotions in the 1960s always seemed to be hilariously over-the-top.

Keith related the tale of the Bullwinkle “premiere” in his book. Here’s a first-hand account from a reporter who doesn’t seem to know what to make of it. It was published September 6, 1961.

(The photos that accompany this post are random).
Bullwinkle Premiere Is Completely Mad...Even for Hollywood

WE SAW only about 20-odd (very odd) minutes of television during our week-long sojourn in Hollywood, but those few minutes—from an upcoming cartoon series, "The Bullwinkle Show"—were accorded the kind of Hollywood premiere raztma-tazz usually reserved for star-stuffed epics. (In fact, Rock Huston's "Come September" opened the same night, and all reports indicated a resounding hoopla victory for moose over man.)
There were klieg lights and red carpets and traffic-directing policemen and gaping Sunset Strip fans. As members of the press arrived, they were greeted with bursts of canned applause and hustled to the microphone while the usual recipients of premiere-fussing — people like ex-"Maverick" star James Garner, "Angel's" Marshal Thompson, "Rescue 8's Jim Davis — were most enthusiastically ignored.
Each arrival was welcomed by "Bullwinkle's" papas, Jay Ward and Bill Scott, the former nattily attired in top hat, white tie and tails — plus white Bermuda shorts and sneakers.
Guests were crowned with antler-bearing beanies, handed helium balloons proclaiming, "You're a little old for this sort of thing" and "You look silly holding a balloon at your age" (before the evening was over, dozens had soared ceiling-ward), and propelled toward a well-stocked bar.
Lobby displays included Yul Brynner's pocket comb — sans teeth — and a pile of unsold Jay Ward pilot films, including "Adventures of John Birch," "The Charles Van Doren Show" and "Sing Along with Conrad Nagel."
The showing of sample "Bullwinkle" segments was preceded by remarks from Bullwinkle J. Moose himself, self-proclaimed "singing, dancing, poetry-reciting fool, the Sammy Davis with antlers," who noted that he was "available for wakes, weddings and bar mitzvahs.
THE request of network, sponsor and just about everybody else, bellowed Bullwinkle, none of the show's commercials had been included in the evening's entertainment. To make up for this viewer-disturbing omission, sample sales spiels were performed onstage at intervals by Hans Conried, Paul Frees and June Foray.
They turned out to be no-holds-barred lampoons. One unctuous voice advertised "the home of low, low prices, made possible by a revolutionary new technique—child labor!"
"What," asked an impeccably clad Conried, "do eight out of 19 doctors do for relief of stomach distress? BELCH!"
Miss Foray, her back to the audience, wielded a comb. "Does she or doesn't she?" asked an unseen announcer. "Only her hairdresser knows for sure." Whereupon she turned, revealing a full beard.
A beatnik sang the praises of a new smoking sensation — "pot." "Smoke Western," he urged. "It's the only way to fly!"
And, asked why she always appeared in television commercials gaily smiling, "America's favorite homemaker," Betty Crocker, hiccupped that she was a crocked Crocker.
Similar commercial-clobbering blackouts popped up in "Parade," a sprightly revue we attended a few nights later. The familiar ode to the number of coffee beans in every cup of a particular brand of java was graphically demonstrated by a performer who took a sip and ejected a cascade of beans, and a touching family portrait, with two males cuddling an infant, was accompanied by the stirring strains of "They said it couldn't be done!"
Here’s another report on the event, this one from United Press International. It hit the wire September 25th. (**Late note: Historian Harry McCracken tells me this was a different event altogether. His research is this describes a Bullwinkle Block Party at the studio on September 20th).
Hollywood Meets a Moose


UPI Hollywood Correspondent

HOLLYWOOD – Only in Hollywood would you get a crowd, estimated in the thousands, to attend a street dance honoring a make-believe moose.
That’s what happened the other night when Jay Ward and Bill Scott, a couple of cartoon show producers, introduced “Bullwinkle,” star of their NBC-TV series.
Part of Sunset Boulevard and an adjacent street were roped off for the festivities which included dancing to an 18-piece orchestra and community singing. Crowds of unemployed actors, residents of the neighborhood and curious passerbys [sic] flocked to the party, hoping for a glance at Bullwinkle, a perfect stranger to many guests.
Bull was undoubtedly the evening’s reigning star, but he shared his spotlight for a few moments with Jayne Mansfield. The shapely actress pulled a cord which unveiled the 18-foot high Bullwinkle statue.
As often happens at unveiling ceremonies, things went wrong and Miss Mansfield required assistance when the rope didn’t work.
Ward and Scott took over a glamorized hotdog stand for their party and also rented an adjacent parking lot to seat the overflow.
The street was decorated with signs, one of which said “Watching the Bullwinkle Show helps fight Communism.” Another shouted, “Bullwinkle si, tractors, no.”
Host Ward, attired in a baseball uniform, personally greeted many guests. Scott, dressed to look like Teddy Roosevelt, stumped the area plugging the “Bullmoose Party.”
More than a dozen police were on hand to control the crowd, which included some of the weirdest people in a town where being weird is often commonplace. One fellow strolled around without his shoes.
A bearded chap sat on the ground and serenaded himself with a rendition of “Melancholy Baby.” He had a right to. Community singing was the evening’s sport. Song books were passed out to guests who crooned such melodies as “Matt and Kitty,” “The Clan Song,” “Give My Regards to Fay Wray,” and “The Price is Fright.”
Ward said guests consumed about 3,000 bags of popcorn, 10,000 cups of soft drinks and hundreds of gallons of coffee. They blew up 4,000 balloons and sported 1,000 party hats. Everything was on the house.
The invited guest list read like a Movieland star director, including such names as Marlon Brando, Bobby Darin, Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren and Jack Paar.
Ward admitted none of them showed up. But prominent persons who accepted invitations included Bog Freen, Ortin Freenie, Mel Turgle, Lilla Munch, Martha Spink, Zelda Borg, Claude Fritzell and Clodd Hopper, all known only to Ward and Scott.
Ward and Scott continually complained that NBC never publicised the show; perhaps that was part of the motivation behind stunts like you’ve just read. But perhaps it’s no wonder. The network tried to push Bullwinkle during a segment of one of its daytime shows, but Ward and Scott turned it into a shambles. It sounds funny, though, and that’s all that mattered to Ward and Scott. This is from the Los Angeles edition of Variety from May 29, 1962.
Here's Hollywood
(Mon., 2:30-3:00 p.m., KRCA-NBC)
The question: "Where did you get the idea for 'Bullwinkle'?"
The answer: "We stole it from several other cartoon producers."
Thus transpired a typical exchange in Helen O'Connell's courageous but hapless attempt to obtain inside information from cartoonsmiths Jay Ward and Bill Scott on the NBC-TV edition of "Here's Hollywood," a madcap session that might aptly be subtitled "Fractured Interviews."
Nary a serious answer marked the 15-minute televisit to the forecourt of Ward's Sunset Strip studios, during which Miss O'Connell elbowed her way into wet cement, engaged in duets from "Sing Along With Bullwinkle" in company with the star, and made with the ill-fated queries as champagne glasses tinkled and a five-piece orch tootled in the forecourt background.
At face value, this was undoubtedly the most devastatingly fruitless interview since Burt Lancaster put the skids under Mike Wallace on "PM East" two weeks ago. Yet, as Ward chuckled and Scott dead-panned, and both tried perhaps a little too hard to prove there's madness in their method, the Ward-Scott nothing sacred attitude of enterprising irreverence managed to surface through the chaos, making it a novel, disarming and almost rewarding oasis in the electronic desert of daytime television.
Before the first season was over, NBC screwed around with the show. The network decided to move it for the 1962-62 season from 7 p.m. Sundays to 5:30 p.m.—then attempted to charge more for it. A bit of bargaining worked for Bullwinkle’s sponsors; the show had an offer from CBS to come on over and fill the Sunday 6:30 p.m. slot before Twentieth Century (Variety, April 25, 1962). The Ward studio was busy with things other than Bullwinkle that season; it set up a commercial production department under Pete Burness (Variety, July 23, 1962). It was a long-term deal with Quaker Oats to animate Cap’n Crunch spots that kept the studio running for years, not TV cartoons, no matter how funny they were.

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