Winchell & Jerry Mahoney - The multi-talented ventriloquist
Paul Winchell and his sassy wooden sidekick Jerry Mahoney appeared
on a number of television programs in the 1950s.
Paul Winchell with his dummies Jerry
Perhaps Winchell's most memorable program was THE PAUL WINCHELL AND
JERRY MAHONEY SHOW broadcast on the NBC network from 1950-54 both in
prime time and on Saturday morning.
Set in Jerry Mahoney's
Clubhouse, this musical/variety/comedy featured an audience of
twenty children who competed for prizes and were entertained by the
antics of Jerry Mahoney, the President of the club who didn't
particularly like woman.
Other clubhouse members included:
- Knucklehead Smiff, a stupid, country
bumpkin type created in 1950 (debuted in 1951 on "The Spiedel Show")
who was the club's vice-president;
- Irving the Mouse, a scholarly
rodent who lived in a piece of cheese at the clubhouse and helped
Knucklehead Smiff solve homework problems;
- Jelly Bean the Snail
- Paul Winchell who appeared as a variety of human characters.
Paul Winchell, who debuted on the MAJOR BOWES ORIGINAL AMATEUR HOUR
in 1936, became a ventriloquist at the age of fourteen after reading
a manual that revealed "the secrets of ventriloquism." He built his
first Jerry Mahoney dummy at the age of thirteen while working at
the Manhattan School of Industrial Arts.
Originally Jerry Mahoney was a hand puppet, but over time his
persona was transformed from a crude dummy to a professional 42-inch
wooden dummy (created by puppet carver Frank Marshall). Weighing
twenty-five pounds, it was composed of wood, metal, rubber and glass
Paul Winchell also appeared on POPSICLE FIVE STAR
COMEDY/ABC/1957, a short-lived musical/variety late afternoon show;
TOYLAND EXPRESS/SYN/1955-56, a 15-minute weekday show produced by
the Toy Guidance Council that advertised items available for
Christmas; CARTOONIES/ABC/1963, a 30-minute cartoon series with
Gremlin, Sheriff Saddle Head and Scat Skit cartoons; and
RUNAROUND/NBC/1972-73 a Saturday morning game show where nine
children answered questions and competed for prizes.
During his career Paul Winchell provided his voice-over
artistic skills to hundreds of cartoons including DASTARDLY AND MUTTLEY IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES/CBS/1969-71, GOOBER AND THE GHOST
CHASERS/ABC/1973-75, THE PERILS OF PENELOPE PITSTOP/1969-71, the
evil wizard, Gargamel on THE SMURFS/NBC/1981-90 and Tigger the Tiger
in Disney's Winnie the Pooh feature films beginning in 1968. He also
appeared in episode No. 7 "Lucy and Paul Winchell" on the sitcom THE
Besides his talent at vocal impressions and ventriloquism, Paul
Winchell was also an inventor who held 30 patents (a disposable
razor, a flameless cigarette lighter and an invisible garter belt)
as well as an early artificial heart he built in 1963 which he
donated to the University of Utah. Later, Dr. Robert Jarvik and
other researchers at the university invented an artificial heart,
dubbed the Jarvik-7, which was implanted into patients after 1982.
In January of 1980, Paul Winchell presented his dummy Jerry Mahoney
to the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute. Later in
July, 1982, Knucklehead Smiff joined his long time wooden companion.
Born Paul Wilchen in New York City on December 21, 1922, Paul
Winchell died in his sleep early Friday morning on June 24, 2005 at
his home in Moorpark, California He was 82.
Earlier in his life, Winchell had contracted polio at the age of
six. He overcame his disability by using a regimen of weightlifting.
He also overcame his speech impediment while learning to throw his
own voice as he practiced to be a ventriloquist.
Winchell is survived by his wife of 31 years, the former Jean
Freeman; five children and three grandchildren.
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