15 May 2024

Saying Uncle

I am delighted to have a story in the May/June issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.  "Professor Pie is Going to Die" is about an actor who starred in a local children's TV show in the sixties, returning to that city for a nostalgia fair, and finding out some people there don't like him. Don't like him a LOT.

I wrote a piece about that at the AHMM blog, Trace Evidence, and you might want to read it before we go any further. It talks about the hundreds of local kiddie shows that were on the air during that era.  But I want to write about one that started a little later.

I read the Wikipedia article about this program and it disagrees with my memory on some important points. Of course, Wikipedia is never wrong so be warned, because you are about to read what I remember hearing when I lived in New Jersey.   You can always check out their view.

When I was growing up the Garden State had zero TV stations (okay, there was an educational channel in Newark, but no kid worth his yoyo would watch that).  

But in the seventies cable television came along.  There was one such station in West Orange which made its living entirely on infomercials, but the FCC said they also had to make some cultural contribution.  So in 1974 they put out an ad for someone with experience in children's television.

What they got was Floyd Vivino.  

He had no experience in children's television.  He did have a sense of humor, some wacky friends, and the ability to play the piano.  What he created was The Uncle Floyd Show, which was a cross between a children's program and a satire on children's programs.  To say the structure was loose is like saying Antarctica is chilly.  Someone once told Floyd "I'd love to see your outtakes" and he said "You do.  Every day."  One episode consisted mostly of Floyd arguing with repo men who wanted to collect the station's piano.

The show had comedy sketches and puppets and music.  Not just Floyd's piano either.  Hipsters adored him and he therefore attracted some of the hottest bands of the time: the Ramones, Bon Jovi, Blue Oyster Cult, and Cyndi Lauper, to name a few.  David Bowie wrote a song about him, and explained that he had been introduced to the show by another fan, John Lennon.

Uncle Floyd even put out his own recordings.  I remember his puppet Oogie being interviewed on the hippest music station in New York and bragging that Floyd's new single was expected to sell "in the high dozens." Here  he is performing it live.

Like many kid's shows Floyd's received art from his admirers. He would show the camera a drawing submitted by little Jimmy in Brooklyn, age 23, or Bobby, 19, of Greenwich Village.  All reported with a straight face, of course. 

The show ran until 1988.  Not surprisingly Floyd has performed in various media and revivals to this day.

All of this has very little to do with my story in Hitchcock, but I guess it's part of my story in real life.


  1. Ans it is a most enjoyable story, too!

  2. Up here in South Dakota, everyone (except we immigrants) remember Captain 11, which ran for years. https://www.keloland.com/captain-11/#:~:text=With%20a%20new%20uniform%20and,their%20kids%20to%20the%20show.


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