I don't know how I happened to so casually wander into Dante's Inferno, but here I am, somewhere in the ninth circle of hell, third row in the balcony. It took me a dashed long time to find any clips of Milky, since none of the Detroit kiddie shows I used to watch were taped. Or if they were, the tapes were soon erased to make way for Rita Bell's Prize Movie or George Pierrot's heartstopping travelogues.
Milky is like a fever dream from another dimension, someone who materialized out of pure evil. He wasn't a human being. What was he doing in that pointy-headed white Ku Klux Klan-like garb anyway? A proper clown, not one from the 20th century anyway, would never dress that way. You see this sort of costume in very bad productions of Pagliacci: by the last scene the homicidal clown stands there dripping with gore, ready to run on his dagger as the curtain comes down.
Were these shows really any good? Who knows, they were just there, just "on", so we watched them. Probably Soupy Sales, with his good-natured hound-dog looks and wacky stunts, was the best of them. The rest of the hosts were, like the kid's show personalities on SCTV, just people from around the station who had been pressed into service.
Captain Jolly was anything but jolly - he was bizarre. He mostly showed old Popeye cartoons from the 1930s, gave bad puppet shows and narrated silent movies from the 1920s, Little Rascals they were called - actually gave a running commentary, most of it inane. "Oh look, look! Look, there's little Farina falling into a barrel of flour! And now he's white, see? He's white! Oh, ho-ho-ho-ho!"
Then there was Poopdeck Paul, a faux sea captain who referred to us all as "maties" and had a weekly limbo contest where you could win fabulous prizes. I'm not sure if that was the one where you got to reach inside a jar full of pennies. Maybe that was Milky's Party Time with "Stars of the Future", a forerunner of America's Got Talent.
Jingles was pretty cool - a court jester, which was sort of original, though I have to say, the costume was a bit kinky, the kind that doesn't seem to have a zipper in it anywhere so it must be hard to go to the bathroom.
Why do I want to go back there? For I do, sometimes. I've made no secret of the fact that I had a bad childhood, with a few exceptions. I lived in my head most of the time and dealt very poorly with reality, an affliction I bear to this day. But I hang on to these grainy black-and-white ghost-images, my neighborhood in Chatham, the elm trees, the cicadas buzzing, what the air smelled like. I want to start over. And do things differently, this time?
Yes. Practically everything.
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