Chucko the clown died ÔÇª what a bummer ÔÇªno disrespect for Chucko but me and my boys use to call him Chuco the Clown, payaso to the peewees.
I've said it before, Chucko more than Bozo and even Cantinflas "represented". It's true that Cantinflas, the lovable pachuco with his calo slang and his low slung pants, something widely imitated today, scores big points. But in the 50's and 60's when I was coming up, this dude who painted his face white with big arched blue eyebrow makeup, long dark mascara and ruby red lipstick taking half his face reminded me of my Tia Lenora. The bald head sporting a little merry-go-round hat cocked sideways looked like a Stagga Lee pimp lid from far away and what looked like tattoos of tear drops coming from both eyes reminded me of my cousin Santos, both from the bad side of the family (that's what my mom said).
No I'm not putting down anyone. Clowning is a serious profession but the benchmarks of a good TV clown were the cartoons presented in his show. We didn't want to see no pinche Popeye, he was Yugoslavian or something, Tom and Jerry no me callo, Felix, Baby Huey, Lil' Lulu didn't mean a thing. I was into Clutch Cargo and Super Car ... you know the high tech stuff. Chucko delivered the goods. Like a 18th St. dope dealer, the clavo was set. I would spend many an hour dodging my mom and trying to get my cartoon groove on.
Unlike the Three Stooges or the Lil' Rascals, the TV clown shows with their program agendas actually babysat us little rug rats. The reality was that although a lot of our mothers didn't work then, they had huge families to care for and that meant that TV was a Godsend. Mine tried getting me to go outside and play but as some of you know that meant playing in the adjacent dirt alley where the gangsters smoked cigarettes and looked for small fries like me to come along. I already knew how to get my ass kicked, and running from those dudes through the busy streets of East Los was not an option for a chorizo-legged, chubby dude (although I prefer "portly").
The Catholic school I attended which will remain anonymous (Our Lady of Assumption) always had an objection to cartoons and TV in general. They felt that good Catholic ethics did not condone the superfluous use of television as a learning or academic alternative to say, reading a book from the long list of gems recommended by Sister Mary Baptist. Well, I was just as afraid of hell and especially the good Sister as anyone else but after eight hours of rugged Catholic indoctrination, Chucko and the cartoons seem to take the edge off.
Cartoons and children's local programming in those days were special to us shorties, especially the ones of us who were casualties of the school system. They opened up a new world of make-believe, where the hero slayed the dragon and adventurers came home after the conquest, where the cowboy saved the farm and the nice guy got the girl. Programming where children's birthdays were celebrated in this new technology that in reality was a blessing for so many in the barrio that could not afford to celebrate otherwise. It just took a letter from mom or grandma for a child's name to be mentioned. Those non-politically-correct moments that seemed as innocent as a child's eyes.
At a time when the Viet Nam War was looming in the background and we were too young to understand the prejudice and the injustices of the world, entertainers like Chucko the Clown, Bozo, Sheriff John and Engineer Bill filled our lives with hope and dreams. They made us laugh and reassured us that the world out there was not only ours too, but that great and wonderful things could happen, no matter who you are.
Rest now sweet prince, your carousel Charles M. (Chucko the Birthday Clown) Runyan, your good work is done.