1969: What’s an H.R. Pufnstuf?
It was at the San Antionio HemisFair in 1968 where inspiration for the Krofft brothers first TV show came from. Sid and Marty also put together a children’s stage show called Kaleidoscope which featured a dragon called Luther and they had hopes of making a Luther Land TV show. NBC didn’t like the name, so the Krofft’s came up with Pufnstuf inspired by the song, “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Sid later added H.R. to the name meaning “royal highness” only backwards.
Premiering on this day in 1969, the show featured Jimmy (Jack Wild who played Oliver Twist in the movie musical, Oliver!) and his talking flute who boarded a happy-looking boat promising to take them on an adventure. Instead, the boat, which was was owned by Wilhelmina W. Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes), was a trap to steal the flute. Jimmy is rescued by H.R. Pufnstuf (voiced by the show’s writer, Lennie Weinrib) and together they spent the next 16 episodes trying to get the boy back home. He never made it.
The show’s theme song was written by Les Szarvas but is also credited to Paul Simon when he successfully sued the Krofft brothers for mimicking his song, “Feelin’ Groovy,” too closely.
Though the show was a huge success, it was just too expensive for the Kroffts to produce. However, Pufnstuf the character made appearances in Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, C.H.I.P.S. and even The George Lopez Show.
1975: ‘The Lost Saucer’ and the ‘Far Out Space Nuts’ Fly for the First Time
On this day in 1975, Sid & Marty Krofft created two similar “lost in space” series that starred two different comedy duos for both ABC and CBS. The Lost Saucer, which was mildly more successful, starred Ruth Buzzi and Jim Neighbors as the androids Fi ad Fum from the year 2369. In the show’s premiere, the couple land on Earth and invite a young boy, Jerry (Jarrod Johnson) and his babysitter Alice (Alice Playte) to check out their digs in the saucer, but accidentally take off with the kids still inside. Inside the ship they meet the android’s pet Dorse (half dog, half horse).
Some people like to think of Far Out Space Nuts as “Gilligan in Space” because the show featured former Gilligan’s Island star Bob Denver who worked alongside Chuck McCann who resembled the Skipper slightly. The effect the Kroffts was going for was a modern take on Laurel and Hardy. The two played Junior (Denver) and Barney (McCann), two dimwitted NASA maintenance workers who actually “launch” a space craft instead of having “lunch.” The pair found themselves in different misadventures for 15 episodes aided by their furry friend Honk who spoke with horn noise out of the top of his head.
- 1944: Swoosie Kurtz (actress)
- 1947: Jane Curtin (actress)
- 1958: Jeff Foxworthy (comedian)
- 1962: Elizabeth Vargas (journalist)
- 1964: Rosie Perez (actress)
- 1965: Christopher Nolan (film director)
- 1967: Macy Gray (singer)
- 1972: Idris Elba (actor)
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.