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Johnny Jellybean

Johnny Jellybean was a favorite of mine as a '50's preschooler in the Bronx. My mom served lunch to me when Johnny had his, and my sandwich had a bite taken out of it, just like Johnny's!

I got to sit in the bleachers during one of the shows, and a friend of my mom's brought her two little blond-haired boys. They sat in the front row, and when Johnny's "assistant" (a very pretty young woman) led a cute little white pig with a red bow out to Johnny, the two boys ran onto the set to pet the pig! I often wondered if that made it on the air.

After the show, we saw the host, still dressed in his Johnny Jellybean attire, getting a sandwich out of a vending machine. The ladies said hello, and he was very gracious, hoping we had enjoyed ourselves and would come back again. I thought that was great, a big TV star (in my 5-year-old eyes) taking the time to chat with us.

-Daniel Moran


I think Johnny Jellybean starred Ted Ziegler with Peter Cullen (both supporting cast members of the Sonny and Cher Show) as Razzle Dazzle Bathroom. Am a little hazy on details, but it might have been on around 1965 or '6.

- Pete Jock


I seem to recall that The Johnny Jellybean Show was on Channel 7, ABC. I was born in New York in 1954, and my aunt took me too the show. This was 1959 or 1960. Mom was at home watching, so it must have been live.

I remember Johnny having a live cow in the studio, another show was about the polio vaccine. Johnny rolled up his sleeve and let a nice nurse give him his shot. Probably helped a lot of kids with their fear of needles. Johnny had a beanie hat with an egg on the top. Sometimes he found secret messages here.

- John Hedland


Johnny Jellybean (CFCF-TV Montreal) had a squawk box hanging from the ceiling and gave us a choice as to which sledgehammer to use to destroy the squawkbox He would pick up the small one, the the midsize one and then make us all unanimously agree that the masher would do the job. But this didn't happen everyday. (Although we were all hoping it would).

- Patrick Meindersma


"I was a huge Jellybean fan in the late 50's. Watched out of NYC. My mother bought me a small stuffed mouse for me to keep in my chest of drawers just like Johnny's "Chester Drawers". If I was unable to watch Johnny I would sit my Patty Playpal doll in front of the set to watch for me. Still have slides of Patty and I watching Johnny and singing along with the opening song ( one hand under chin and one on top of head). So pleased to learn that he is not forgotten."

- Jean Valentine


"Amazing, who would have thought that anyone remembered Ted Ziegler. Who could forget Enzio Pesta, Aqua Duck, Morrie the Mailboy ("I'm a hunnert and forty-two") and the shower of mail, Burd in his cage, the Squawk box with Masher,Basher and Smasher, or Johnny as "The Ole Wrangler" -

"You never know what lonesome is 'til you get to herdin' cows". The pranks of the crew were legendary. Each day, Johnny would drink a large class of milk, to the most horrible gulping sound effects. Well, one New Year's day show, it was rather apparent that our hero was a bit "tired" from the night before. The glass that day was the largest glass of milk anyone had ever seen. He did manage it, though..

Johnny made countless school appearances in the Montreal area and was loved by all. He took great delight in meeting and talking with the kids, especially those who didn't seem to fit in well... He always managed to find something to cheer them up and make them feel better.

My wife met Johnny once at her school.. According to her, Ted Zeigler was an accredited child psychologist wha did work for the Montreal Protestant school board. They found that as Johnny Jellybean, he could get kids who were having problems or were in abusive situations to talk much more easily.

So here's to Johnny! He'd be glad to know that there are those of us who still remember.. IMHO, he was even better than Magic Tom!

- Cheers, Harold Clitheroe


Lunchtime Little Theatre, ran from noon to 1 p.m. weekdays from 1962 to 1967. It was 60 minutes of live TV on which Zeigler, as the candy-stripe-suited Johnny Jellybean, mugged, performed comic pratfalls, did funny voices, ran cartoons and flashed reaction shots at a collection of off-camera characters: Morrie the Mailman, Toomie the Duck, Duck Tracy, Enzio Pesta and Marmaduke.

Lunchtime Little Theatre reached an average of almost 190,000 TV households every day - an impressive number in the 1960s and absolutely unheard-of for a midday TV show today.

In addition to Lunchtime Little Theatre, Zeigler's Montreal credits included Funny You Should Say That for CBC Radio, Comedy Crackers and Comedy Cafe for CBMT-6 and Squeeze, a satirical revue that ran a record-breaking 15 months at Martin's downtown dinner theatre.
- from the Montreal Gazette obituary for Ted Zeigler who died in 1999.
 


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Johnny Jellybean
by YOU

I used to watch Johnny Jellybean in the '50s. The theme song to 'Johnny Jellybean went something like this:

Jelly beaners, jelly beaners, jelly beaners one and all,
when you see our jelly beaners give the jelly beaner call.

Here's the signal, here's the signal,
here's the signal to begin,
put your right hand on your head,
and your left hand under your chin.

Jelly beaners, jelly beaners,
jelly beaners one and all,
when you see our jelly beaners
give the jelly beaner call."

note--both hands were curled into binoculars over one's eyes during the line "when you see our jelly beaners", and both hands were cupped around the mouth during the line "give the jelly beaner call.

The show was on around lunchtime, and one of the wonderful things for us preschoolers was to watch it and "have lunch with Johnny Jellybean"!

- David M


Long before the late Ted Zeigler played zany but gentle clubhouse leader "Johnny Jellybean" on Canadian TV, Bill Britten became the first kid's TV host to play everyone's favorite "Jellybeaner".

A former nightclub entertainer, circus clown and puppeteer, Britten began his career in NYC kiddie TV as the second and last puppeteer and cartoonist on WJZ TV (now WABC) Channel 7's "Jolly Gene & His Fun Machine".

Jolly Gene first went on the air on Monday Evening, September 21, 1953. Mike King (who went onto to become one of the puppeteers on Rootie Kazootie) was the series first puppeteer and Chuck Luchsinger was the the show's cartoonist who would sketch pictures for the young audience on the Fun Machine.

Mr. Britten provided the voices for the puppets Jolly Gene, YooHoo The Cuckoo & Waldo The Dodo. When Messers King & Luchsinger left the series, Mr. Britten drew the pictures on the screen of his Fun Machine and manipulated and voiced all the puppets himself.

Jolly Gene continued to operate his Fun Machine on WJZ until the show went off the air on Friday, February 25, 1955. Bill Britten went on to become the third host/performer of Channel 7's Time For Fun as Johnny Jellybean.

Time For Fun first went on the air on WJZ (WABC TV) on Monday afternoon September 21, 1953. Bob Keeshan (formerly Clarabell The Clown and Prof. Oscar on Howdy Doody) was the first host/performer on the show. Playing a gentle, soft spoken clown named Corney. Mr. Keeshan's Corney The Clown would entertain his viewers against the backdrop of a city park.

Weekday afternoons on TFF he would also entertain and educate his viewers on Tinker's Workshop that aired weekday mornings on Channel 7 from Monday November 15, 1954 to Friday, September 9, 1955. Keeshan would continue to host TFF weekday afternoons until Friday July 29, 1955.

When he began filming the pilot for CBS's Captain Kangaroo, Keeshan left the show and was succeeded as the host/performer of Time For Fun by Cleveland, Ohio based entertainer and radio/TV host/performer Joe Bova. A former stage and radio performer, Bova would entertain and inform his viewers against the backdrop of a local clubhouse as "Uncle Joe." Mr. Bova hosted TFF weekday afternoons from Monday August 1, 1955 until Friday, December 21, 1956.

Uncle Joe Bova went on to host two more kid's TV shows at Channel 7 - the weekday evening Little Rascals Show and Tales From Animalland on Saturday mornings from 1957 to 1960.

Mr. Britten would become the third host/performer of TFF and the first entertainer to portray Johnny Jellybean. He joined Time For Fun on Monday, December 31, 1956. Britten's Johnny Jellybean was the only host/performer of TFF to have a studio audience of kids on hand for the taping. Britten took the opportunity to entertain and inform his audience in a gentle, intimate manner.

Of all of his comedy skits that he performed on the show, Britten is best remembered for trying to get a drink from his malfunctioning water fountain. Britten departed Time For Fun on Friday, August 1, 1958 to become the third host/performer of WABD/WNEW 5's long-running kid's comedy/variety show Wonderama.

Keith Hefner (Hugh Hefner's Brother) became the second performer to play Johnny Jellybean. Mr. Hefner was the fourth and the last host/performer to MC Time For Fun. The series continued weekday afternoons from Monday, August 23, 1958 until it moved to weekday mornings around l959 and was retitled The Johnny Jellybean Show.

Mr. Hefner continued to entertain and inform his home viewers as Johnny Jellybean, until the series went off the air on Friday, June 24, 1960. Johnny Jellybean didn't return to kid's TV, until years later, this time in Canada when Ted Zeigler became the third and the last performer to play Johnny Jellybean. He did the show for Canadian kids only.

It's too bad that Mr. Zeigler didn't do his interpretation of Johnny Jellybean for American kids. The character and the show might have been very popular with children here in the states but I guess that it just wasn't to be. Zeigler went on to become a regular on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.

- Kevin S. Butler


I remember the Johnny Jellybean series out of Montreal, Quebec from the mid-1960s. It was on weekdays after school and also for a time at 12:00 noon (this version was known as Lunchtime Little Theatre). I don't think most Americans realize just how much of a legend this show was in Montreal.

Every time CFCF Channel 12 has an anniversary celebration, the one show everyone wants to talk about is Johnny Jellybean. In fact, Ted Ziegler (who played Johnny) often is flown into town from his home in Los Angeles to make the local radio & TV talk show circuit and relive some great memories.

Sadly, according to longtime CFCF-12 program director Bill Merrill, all of the Johnny Jellybean tapes, save for one or two promo clips, were erased in the early 70s when videotape recycling was in vogue (much like the BBC did with a lot of their Doctor Who library). Since the Montreal show was never syndicated, this classic collection of outstanding comedy and local nostalgia is unfortunately lost forever.

- Daren Gleason


Johnny Jellybean, in the early sixties, was the highlight of any snow day or sick day waaaay back when I was a kid. I live in Northern-most New York State right on the Canadian border. We did not have cable back then and only got a couple of Canadian Channels on TV.

I have many of the same fond memories, as others have noted, such as the squawk box and the guy in the cigar box "I was standing in bed one night when Somebody hit me on the head with a crowbar ... Oooow, I went, And then I started to cough Ah...hooo, Ah...hooo!" Priceless! I also remember the sounds of Johnny's food. The wooblie sound of Jell-O...the slucking drain sound when Johnny would drink his milk... and mail flying in through the door.

I entered a contest where we were asked to draw Toomey the duck. That was quite a challenge seeing no one ever got to see Toomey except for a flash when they would throw a rubber chicken (of sorts) across the set. I did not win the contest but I do have an autographed picture of Johnny and a thank you letter. I have them in a scrap book. I still remember the address...it was the same for Romper Room and Magic Tom too....it was 405 Ogilvy Avenue, Montreal. I have Miss Ellen's and Magic Tom's pictures too. I guess I got a kick out of writing to them.

I am sorry to find out that the shows were destroyed. What a shame. Ted Zeigler was a talented man and brought much joy to my life. I would have loved my nieces to see the Johnny Jellybeanshow... I would love to see it one more time...

Maureen from Malone, NY

Cynthia writes: I was on the Johnny Jellybean show twice.  (And on Bozo the Clown once.  I also had to drag a nephew to be on Romper Room.  There was no bigger deal on the planet than for mom to see her kid on television in those days.)

I believe it was live then.  And to be on any of those kiddie shows was an utter bore.  Much better on TV, way!

Anyway, there was the family legend, and there is my actual memory of being on the set.  I do not know if the family story and what I'm about to tell you of my own recollection span one or both occassions.

I was told that I started crying and wouldn't stop so Johnny Jellybean held me through the entire program.  I'm guessing I was maybe 3.

I recall sitting with a bunch of other kids on the floor behind Mr. Jellybean.  To my right, next to the wall, was a donkey.  And I remember that on the floor all around the other ass was what looked like raisins.  And that's what I thought they were.  Never having seen donkey sh*t to this day, I still am not sure what that stuff was.

And that is everything I know.  If there are videos of either of these episodes anywhere please do let me know.


The two classic routines that Ted Zeigler did on the Johnny Jellybean show were:
The Squawk Box where he continually hit, with a hammer, a wooden birdhouse, that was hanging on a rope. He did this throughout many episodes until each time it was literally smashed to the a few splinters and left hanging. He did this while portraying a sense of paranoia about the house, like it was talking to him. And when he hit the box the audio man on the show had a cart cued up to play back sound effects each time it was wacked! With each hit it gasped, hacked, shreeked, etc, progressively getting more pathetic until it met its death on the show. It was hillarious! And the next day there would be a brand new squawk box ready to be demolished once again!

The other thing Ted used to do was put on the broad brimmed cowboy hat that you can see hanging on the wall in the publicity photo. When he did, they would cut to extreme close-up of him as the wilderness cowboy character swelled to life inside them. Then he would just stare in the camera, cross his eyes, bite his lip and slooowly mumble: "You never know what lonesome is, till you get to herding cows." Priceless!! And this was a kids' show!!

- George Dyke (I came home from school for lunch just to watch Johnny Jellybean on CFCF-TV in Montreal.)


This is one of the great shows! I would come home for lunch from school just to watch this show.

I was very saddened to hear about Ted Ziegler's passing on Dec. 15, 1999.

I'm sure many others, had wished to see him in action again just for posterity in reruns but this will be impossible as we know. All we have are memories and I have many such:

1. Maybe you'll remember the "Puff Grass" ads (brilliant, of course) whose refrain went something like this:

"Puff Grass, Puff Grass, Chuck full of vitamins and chlorophyll too! If it's good for Mossy, Mooooooo..., It's good for me and you, Puff Grass!! "

2. Enzio Pesta's lamentations: (Note the spoof (?) on Enzo Pinza, a famous Italian tenor).

"I was standing in bed one night when Somebody hit me on the head with a crowbar ... Oooow, I went, And then I started to cough Ah...hooo, Ah...hooo!"

3. The "McGarry sausage" commercials with the two puppets (one big one and one thin one) with the big one always trying to convince the little one to buy them, e.g.,

The little one hangs from a window while the big one watches him about to slip off... "Help save me (the little one says)!! AS the big one shuts the window over the little one's hands (ouch) he replies "Why don't you drop down by the store for some?"

Johnny Jellybean4. How about the one where the little one approaches a butcher and is about ready to say something while the big one says:"Do you want one pound of McGarry Sausages?" and the little one is about to reply:" No, I want ...", then a large cleaver comes down on the butcher's block and the little one, trembling, says:"Ten pounds of McGarry Sausages!!", Awright!" replies the big one.

5. The "Spanky and Our Gang" clips were fabulous and helped fire my imagination at this tender age. I eventually became a scientist but these clips were instrumental in my daring to build things with my friends in the allies of Montreal, using basic materials.

6. How about "Duck Twacy in the 21st and a half century?" where this crazy-looking duck has this pilot's helmet on and flies at 20,000 feet!? Occasionally, the duck showed its "green" mouth (no doubt as a result of eating "Puff Grass").

That's all I can remember for now. Thanks for your web site, Angelo Mingarelli


I loved the fact that you never saw Toomey the Duck except for his feet. Johnny Jellybean would talk, talk, talk to him and Toomey would quack away like crazy, not saying anything intelligible at all, but you could tell by the way those fake feet were moving that he was rocking back and forth in a rocking chair. For some reason, I found the mystery of that unseen duck just tantalizing!
- Suzanne Savoy

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