Thursday, August 29, 2002
Recant, You Blackguard!
By ROGER M. GRACE
Our attorneys have instructed that we run the following letter.
Editor, you impertinent knave:
By this missive I fulfill what is required by section 48a of that collection of strictures and trite maxims which comprise the California Civil Code. I make demand for retraction. Indeed, I instruct that there be contrite recantation, lest you anger me further.
In a writing to which you rashly confessed authorship by means of a byline—which was published on Aug. 8 in space that might instead have contained worthwhile matter such as a sonnet—you alleged that “Willy the Wolf…[was] a character which…took the form of a puppet on Time for Beany.” You defame and demean me by so alleging!
That I, William Shakespeare Wolf, would have appeared as a mere supporting player in any production is preposterous. To go beyond that, however, as you have done, and to convey that I played a role inferior to that of “Beany” (addressed by his uncle, Capt. Huffenpuff, as “Beany Boy”)—a mere adolescent, and one with a penchant for sporting a beanie which, even in the 1950s, was outdated and ludicrous garb—maligns me beyond canine endurance.
For your edification, I was the star of “The Willy the Wolf Show.” I, like Ed Sullivan, hosted a weekly variety show, yet with more vitality and erudition than my New York City counterpart.
I have traveled the seas on luxury liners, yet you would have the public associate me with the “Leakin’ Lena,” an unfashionable tub commanded by Huffenpuff, a nautical Gabby Hayes.
You would have the unwary, those too young to remember me as the star that I was, suppose that I was in the same cast as, and had no loftier stature in the arts than, Beany’s compatriot, Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent. It is, indeed, sharper than that serpent’s tooth to read the calumny authored by you, a thankless viewer. Before multitudes of admiring groundlings I hath spake the words of the Immortal Bard trippingly on the tongue with a skill unparalleled by any rival, man or wolf. Yet, you would have your readers believe that I was an peer of a sea serpent who constantly sang “Program.” (“I say R. I say R-A. R-A-G. R-A-G. R-A-G-O-O, room, did-do-do, room!”)
Unless you do as I bid—proclaim to all mankind that you unconscionably sullied my reputation—I shall take vengeance. The fate of the edifice housing your offices could be the same as that of the abodes of two young swine who defied me. I shall huff and puff and blow your place down! Or, should the construction be of steel and concrete, rather than sticks or straw, I shall enlist the services of a kinsman in sheep’s clothing (or, perchance, a wool suit), and brother Steve will again disperse his troops and seize possession of your premises.
WILLIAM S. WOLF
RESPONSE: Alas, Willy is right. I apologize to him.
Willy the Wolf was not a character in Bob Clampett’s puppet show, “Time for Beany.”
Beany was on the air from 1950-55, for 15 minutes, five nights a week, live (first on Channel 5, in later years on Channel 11). For awhile, he also had a 30-minute show on Saturdays. Following his success as a local personality (with his show piped down to San Diego for airing on KFOB), he became a network star of the 1960s, in cartoon form.
Indeed, I can identify with that show; the good guys’ nemesis was the villain “DJ”—in their case, the initials standing for “Dishonest John.”
Willy, the Shakespearean canid, was also created by Clampett. His voice was supplied by Walker Edmiston, who later recalled:
“William Shakespeare Wolf: he was a kind of a John Carridine, Hans Conreid, John Barrimore type of character, always trying to mislead the poor harmless type of creatures. And he always lost, somehow.”
His weekly show was on Channel 11—which also aired Clampett’s “Thunderbolt the Wondercolt” and “Buffalo Billy.”
Thunderbolt (a horse with super-equine powers) had a 15-minute show each night at 6. He shared the half-hour with reruns of “Ramar of the Jungle.” Since Ramar was a 30-minute show, it meant chopping the episode in half, airing each half on a successive evening. The first segment had the full opening; the next night, there was an abbreviated opening.
Buffalo Billy was on in the early afternoon, following Sheriff John’s “Lunch Brigade.”
Now, just in case you thought the letter appearing above was really penned by Willy the Wolf, I’d better let you know that it wasn’t. I was sued once by the Superior Court’s presiding judge for “false personation” in connection with a memo I authored which I parodically attributed to him. He lost. But, to play it safe—even though I suspect the real Willy the Wolf does possess more of a sense of humor and intelligence than the plaintiff in that action—I acknowledge that the foregoing letter was not authored by a wolf.
Actually, it was written by a female coyote who is engaged in a meretricious relationship with Willy.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company
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