Friday, February 08, 2008

Larry and Dinky

Back in October, during the Southern California wildfires, I wrote that nobody I knew had lost their home. Unfortunately, I learned months later that I was wrong. Larry Himmel lost his home in the fires.

I've never met Larry, but like so many people growing up near San Diego, I feel as though I know him. Officially, Larry is a reporter for channel 8, the CBS affiliate in San Diego. But that's not exactly all of what Larry does. Think of Larry as a humor columnist for a television station. His fun commentary has been a part of San Diego newscasts since before my high school days.

Larry was the host and I think the head writer for “San Diego At Large,” a fun show that included comedy and parodies and featured many local celebrities and stories. Imagine a public access comedy show with a slightly higher-than-usual budget, and you've got “San Diego at Large.” The show ran for a few years in the 1980s and may (unfortunately) go down in history as one of the last locally produced entertainment shows in San Diego. Like just about every TV station in the nation, the local programming in San Diego is pretty much limited to news and PBS pledge breaks. That's it! Everything else on the air that isn't a commercial comes from Hollywood or from reruns. Larry is one of the few local celebrities to change the trend. That's pretty impressive, when you think about it. Even though the show is long-gone, the fact that it survived for as long as it did was impressive.

If you have a good memory, you may recall Larry being featured on a prime-time “bloopers” show hosted by Steve Allen. (It wasn’t officially a bloopers show, but essentially that’s what it was!) Larry is shown doing his best trying to get through one of his commentaries, but it being “one of those days,” he keeps making mistakes. At one point, about half way through, he asks, “Can we just end it there?”

If you have a really good memory, you may recall that Larry's co-stars on “San Diego at Large” included Rick Rockwell. Rick would later go on to infamy as the multi-millionaire in “Who wants to marry a Multi-millionaire?” Actually, the perfect title would be “Who wants to get married just so they can get TV exposure?”

If you have a REALLY REALLY good memory (and a good imagination), you may remember my appearance on “San Diego At Large.” Larry visited my high school back in 1985 for a show about the school's homecoming. I wasn't really visible, but the camera did pan over to the crowd of students where I was sitting. I can still point to where I “sort of” was. They actually got a better shot of one of my friends dancing the night away at the homecoming dance. And they interviewed old pal Darren from grade school! Way to go, Darren! That particular show is a real treasure for me, since it contains scenes of people and places from my high school days.

But Larry's reporting isn't always funny- like when he actually stood in front of his burning house while the cameras were rolling. It's not always good for a reporter to get “too involved” in a story. But in this case, can you blame him for wanting to be there? As the structure was overcome with flames, he turned to the camera and said, “Ordinarily I would say, 'Welcome to my home...'”

Thankfully Larry and his family were OK. After the fires were gone, they returned to their home site to look at what little had been left behind. There wasn't a lot to see. It's a scary situation that most of us hope never happens to us. But now it has happened to “someone I know,” and that brings it home. By this time, I assume Larry's life is slowly getting back to normal. But it definitely makes you realize that you can't take it with you. My best to you and yours, Larry. I'm glad the important things were saved (namely you and yours). Thanks for many years of fun times, and here's to many more.

Keep up with this story by reading Larry's blog:


DINKY'S REVENGE: This portion of our post is dedicated to my Grandmother, who loved Dinky. Let's take a pop quiz. Which of these two characters would you expect more people to recognize?

Popeye the sailor
Dinky the dog.

I'm guessing most would pick number one. For the uninitiated, Dinky the dog started out as a tiny puppy who grew to gigantic proportions (not quite Clifford-size, but more like Barkley. And maybe just a step above Marmaduke). Dinky the dog was actually a “fill-in” during the “All new Popeye hour” on Saturday mornings. You know, kind of like the “Go-go gophers” or “Klondike Kat.” It was one of those shows that really was a “co-star” to the main event. So why, WHY is Dinky getting his OWN DVD RELEASE WITHOUT ANY POPEYE CARTOONS? Well, blow me down! According to the article at tvshowsondvd dot com, there was a "Dinky" series, but again, why Dinky and not Popeye?

Don't get me wrong- I'm not against this release at all. But Dinky seems so obscure compared to “Mr. P.” It's as if someone took all the veggies out of your dinner and just gave you the meat. Well, meat is fine, but without veggies, you can't get a healthy diet! Watching these Dinky cartoons won't be the same without Popeye!

The long answer I think has to do with copyright issues, but the short answer? Probably “because it's there.” Since they have access to these cartoons, why not release them? Sounds fine to me. I'm just wondering how successful this release will be without Popeye. It’s going to be an interesting experiment. Good luck, Dinky. Hope your sales don't match up to your name.

Read more about the Dinky issue below.

You prefer Popeye? Enjoy my post about him:


ON YOUTUBE: THROUGH, THROUGH, THROUGH. A few days ago, I had never heard of Robert Cunniff. Now, thanks to a poster on the Muppet Central site, I know that he had much to do with the early "golden age" of Sesame Street. Sadly, he recently passed away. He also worked on many other classic TV shows. Apparently he had much to do with "The Ballad of Casey McPhee," which featured Cookie Monster trying to get the train through the dangerous mountain pass. For a limited time, that clip can be seen by clicking on it in my "favorites" folder on my YouTube page.