Sunday, March 19, 2017

Gang life: Andy and the animals

It was only in the past week or so that I discovered the shame and disgrace that is Andy's Gang. This was a sort of grotesque Howdy Doody clone with a similar gallery of obnoxious kids, a creepy charmless host, and loud, bizarre characters running around pointlessly. That would be OK - sort of - except the drippy, creepy host is Andy Devine, the most irritating, smarmy actor ever to walk the face of the earth. He had this voice that was both whiny and abrasive, and a vacuous, my-brain-shrank-in-the-wash smile. 

But the show would have been tolerable - maybe - without the animal segments. In this case the creatures were literally wired to tiny musical instruments and made to "play" them to a seemingly endless tune. In this video the song is unrecognizable, but it involves a chicken, a chihuahua, a hamster, a rabbit, and - the only one who retains his dignity through the whole thing - Midnight the Cat.

I like Midnight. Though he is probably as glazed as the rest of them from the effects of sedation, he at least keeps his eyes open. His paws are literally controlled by wires that are quite visible at times, jerking his legs up and down, and in one case as he "plays" the banjo, one front paw is rapidly yanked back and forth with wrenching force.

This is abuse, of course, and I don't offer it here as anything else. But it is SO bizarre that I had to share it. One of the many facts I didn't want to know about Andy's Gang is that there was, in fact, no studio audience, just an endlessly repeated stock-footage clip of kids stomping and screaming. (This kind of takes the piss out of the theme song: "I got a gang, you got a gang, everybody's gotta have a gang" - Gang? There's nobody here!). Andy Devine taped all the season's episodes in the space of a couple of weeks, then went off to do his real work, usually on Westerns where he played a whiny, fatuous, gravel-voiced sidekick.

When I found the clips, I was shocked and horrified at what they were doing to these creatures. This is like something out of the Twilight Zone, an animal nightmare. This sort of thing would, I hope, be outlawed today, though I'm not sure in the third world. I thank God now for shelters, the SPCA, the Humane Society, and for people willing to adopt kitties and puppies who have already been through the mill. 

(Do you like my Midnight animation? I found two photos that are slightly different. And that is all it takes.)

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