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Perthy P. Pelican Puppet Show Stage


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I vaguely remember some of the earlier puppet shows, I remember the last show they had a live actor instead of a puppet playing a old sea salt type sailor. There was one part he tried to fish and hooked a Russian sub's periscope which would pop up though the dock.

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I miss Percy. He was always fun as a kid in the park. And he was pretty good at his wisecrack's on Guest's, really funny stuff for back in the day. Nowaday's, if a performer "busted" on guest's the way he did back then, there would be trouble for that little puppet. The whole park back then was so much fun, with Percy, The Castle, and the music blasting at "Musik Express". Those days are missed.

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It's such a shame that if that sort of thing happened today, there would be calls and complaint's that would have it removed or "toned down" so much that it wouldn't be funny. There were some "Dunk Tank's" on the Boardwalk's down the shore where the guy in the Cage would "bust" on passerby's and players that were funny too. They are long gone as well.

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The puppets did get complaints at GR all the time which is one of the reasons the show was removed. The performers always walked a fine line and often would be threatened with violence. Of course the guys they picked on (almost always guys and almost always "Jersey Shore" types) then even looked more ridiculous when they started threatening a puppet, which just made the joke even funnier. The guys who I knew that did the puppet would periodically need Security when they emerged from the building. Most of the time, the short attention spans of the people being made fun of meant they were dragged off by their friends or girlfriends after waiting around a few minutes.

 

The clowns and other face characters used to get complaints over their humor when they would insult guests. I always think of one of my favorite clown stories, where little a little kid kept saying "Do some magic clown" and the clown responded by waiving his hands over the kid and saying "Poof! You're a piece of ----".

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While some offensive humor can be funny, that girlfriend comment is a bit over the top -- while you can help being obese, you can't help being ugly. Or cursing in the park is pretty bad too - but at the same time, edginess is good. But sometimes you have to decide what kind of image you want.

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  • 1 year later...

Awhile back one of our trivia questions led to a discussion about "Gadzooks" - the puppet featured in 1985. In our conversations we weren't able to recall very much about him and our member Thunderbolt seemed to remember him the best.

 

Several years later, some of the mystery has been solved. Below are two photos of Gadzooks! Cold Case at its best! :P

 

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  • 4 months later...
  • 1 year later...

I was going though some old amusement park books I have and ran across the one pictured below from 1977. What caught my eye was this passage:

 

"An unusual puppet theater near the Gingerbread Fancy restaurant features puppets of Lilberace, Fay Wray, King Kong, and the duck from You Bet Your Life, Groucho Marx's tlevision quiz show."

 

This was prior to the Perthy P. Pellican show, but anyone know what made the first version of the puppet theater "unusual"?

 

 

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It sounds to me like they are describing the Music Hall and the puppet show there. I guess it was unusual because it was in the tent building rather than a real theater (although I believe that Astroworld had the same one)

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It sounds to me like they are describing the Music Hall and the puppet show there. I guess it was unusual because it was in the tent building rather than a real theater (although I believe that Astroworld had the same one)

Definitely not describing the Music Hall because it didn't even exist at the time... They were referring to the 1977 season, pre- Six Flags.

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  • 4 years later...

We recently received an email from a reader who shared with us his experiences as a performer at the Puppet Theater during 1990 and 1991 when Dastardly Dragon and Rappunzel were residents in the small show venue.  We share his message below in its entirety.  It's an interesting read!  Thanks RMW for sharing!

 

Quote

 

My name is R. Marshall Webber and I performed The Dastardly Dragon show for the entire 1990 season, and the first 2 months of Rappunzel of the 1991 season.

 
Some personal recollections that I have always wanted to share. Feel free to publish as much or as little as you like.
 
I had gotten turned on to the "insult comic" performance style when I'd seen the Perthy P. Pelican show in 1978 on a school trip. When the opportunity arose, I auditioned for the gig with a talent subcontractor in Brick, NJ and got it. 
 
The puppet was very high quality, and really...small. The body was slush cast foam rubber, the right arm was stuffed, and the left arm was hollow with a glove. This gave me easy ability to gesture, point, smack my head, put my hand in my mouth, stick a claw up my nose, etc. The eyes were on shaker springs and while the body was built with ducting for stage smoke to leak out of the nostrils, we never used it in production. The smoke machine either put out so much that it leaked heavily inside the puppet building (causing me breathing problems as well as making it look like the whole structure was on fire) or even when throttled down to the minimum, caused the whole puppet to be obscured by a cloud, or again, appear to be on fire. We never did achieve the slow trickle effect the puppet was designed for.
 
The method for me to see was that of a scrim: The black cloth between myself and the audience allowed me to see out clearly, but without the audience able to see in. I had a headworn microphone for voice amplification. The drawbridge mechanism was driven by an electric winch that was raised and lowered by me.
 
When I arrived at the beginning of the season, I was given a list of jokes that were such deadwood, that the few weeks that I tried to perform them, I could not keep an audience. They were true buzz-kills. Guests who were resting on the seating would actually get up and leave when I started in on these jokes. Dastardly? No, Dreadful. I died on stage six times a day.
 
Since neither the management, nor the contract company took my comments about the show seriously, I lost my temper and went off the reservation. I either had to fix what was killing this show, or give up the gig because it was killing me. Remembering why I had gotten into this in the first place, I started channeling Perthy P. Pelican into the The Dastardly Dragon. I gave him a name ("Grendel", which got a chuckle out of the more literate members of the audience) and reasoning that dragons in castles belonged in England, gave the dragon a Cotswolds accent and UK vocabulary, grammar, and idiom.
 
Most importantly, I gave myself permission to be 'Dastardly.' I set a series of rules for myself to return the performance to an 'insult show' and still keep myself out of trouble with guest services:
 
1. No canned jokes. Predictable call and response with an audience member was fine, but never open with canned jokes, homogenized and aimed at anyone, and therefore ineffective with everyone.
2. Always start with the kids. In the USA, puppets are supposed to be for children, so always begin by addressing kids, getting them to stand, make poses, do silly things always with Grendel doing them first. About the riskiest thing I could do was stick my finger up Grendel's nose and have the kids ape me.
3. Expect hecklers. Welcome hecklers. This looks like a kids show, but it is actually a giant rat-trap. When some unpleasant adult makes a rude comment to the puppet, imagine the audience's surprise when the puppet turns, and unloads on them in  Perthy P. Pelican's grand tradition. This never failed to bring the house down.
4. Never, ever, ever, make fun of someone for something they can't change. Bald? Overweight? & etc? Leave it alone. 
5. Loudly dressed? Barely dressed? Rude? Extreme jewelry? All fair game. 

These rules meant that Grendel never picked on someone who didn't try to pick on the Grendel first. Grendel became an equal opportunity balloon popper.
 
The show whiplashed from being unable to keep an audience to being standing-room only in about a month. (Seating was about 70. The largest I ever counted was around 150.) I knew I was on to something when I started seeing repeat adult faces in the audience. Discreet inquiries after the show turned up a fan-base. Never knowing what outrageous thing Grendel was going to say in response to some stunned loudmouth adult was worth the price of admission for some guests. (Remember, this was the height of the Howard Stern 'shock-jock' era.)
 
Personally, I had made friends with the divers over at the dive show. When I introduced myself in the employee cafeteria and they found out who I was, they came over before their first show to provide some good-natured heckling. When they were rocked back on their heels by Grendel's response, one of the got into a chest beating "oh, yeah!" "Yeah!" "Oh, YEAH?" "YEAH!" with me. And then I introduced them as the Six Flags Great Adventure Divers, and their first show was in 30 minutes. The audience loved it (like royalty had shown up incognito), and we made it a regular thing for the first show of the day for about two weeks.
 
And that's when things started to not go so well. The management, who had ignored me as long as I stayed in my hut and kept doing shows, suddenly heard a lot about this show during the month of July. Ironically, it wasn't from people who felt insulted, but rather from people who had laughed so hard they stopped at guest services to say what a good show it was and the divers had even been there! Management showed up to a standing room only performance, and after I closed, came back to the puppet hut to read me the riot act. This was NOT an insult show. The divers should not be over here! Who the hell did I think I was? 
 
"I'm the guy who is delighting your guests, that's who. Season pass holders don't show up at the beginning and end of their day to catch the Dragon show if they're not having a blast. You've got a hit? What are you crying about?"
 
It wasn't the corporate way, apparently. The divers were told to keep their distance. I was told to 'tone it down', though thankfully I was not told to go back to the dead-onstage joke book. So I backed off, but kept the vitriol just under the level of management detection. This was the point I found myself on a runaway train: The regulars expected a good roasting for adults who butted in on a "kid's show" and they became disappointed when they didn't get it. Some waylaid me after the shows and complained. So I explained and then they took their complaints to guest services, which actually made the situation worse.
 
At the end of the season, I was still drawing good crowds, despite the cooler weather and lower daily guest population. When we ran down to Halloween and the closing of the season, I was shocked and had my first feeling of stalker syndrome when middle-aged season pass holder who had frequented the show arrived for the last performance dressed AS Grendel. Head to toe. Full 'pajamas' style costume with a hoodie as the dragon's head and mouth. That freaked me out a little.
For the final performance, I put myself in front of the blackout curtain and performed so that the audience (at this point made up mostly of season pass holder 'fans') could see me and how I manipulated the puppet during performance. I got a dirty look from a supervisor walking the area, but I expected that this was the last performance I was going to be performing there, ever. The fans loved it, especially, the season pass holders who had not figured out who the puppeteer was. (It was miserable being cooped up in that puppet hut all summer, so I could sometimes be seen entering or leaving the puppet hut 10 minutes before or after a show.)
 
As with previous performers, I also experienced my share of adult 'children' who picked a fight with a puppet and wanted revenge for having lost face in public. I had several break in attempts after the show and was glad for a strong latch. Unfortunately, the security staff at the park thought that this was more funny than serious. This included a time when I prepared to go to lunch after a show only to hear someone growl from the other side of the door, "Come out here and say that again, and I'll break your legs." Obviously, I stayed put. 5 minutes later there's a pleasant knock on the door, "Security." I opened up and it turned out it was a pair of security patrolmen laughing at me. They were the "threat from outside." Since I had no phone, nor even a walkie-talkie at the puppet hut, I could be boxed in there and endangered and there was no way out. Not so funny.
 
I did not expect to receive a call from the talent agency for the 1991 season, since I had done everything right for my audience and apparently everything wrong by policy, but they contacted me in late winter of the next season asking me to come back. So I showed up to the castle and was presented with Rappunzel, a pink, effeminate (but still male) character meant to rap nursery rhymes. Yeah, it was every bit as bad as it sounds. It was like they had engineered the character so that it couldn't become an insult character. 
 
I tried. I did it all with a straight face for two months. The most heartbreaking thing was watching the season-pass regulars show up and getting this pink...thing, spouting childish rap to a squeaky syntha-pop music track. Some of them confronted me after shows and I suggested guest services as their only resort. After eight weeks, I couldn't take it anymore. I put in my two weeks notice courtesy. I was walked out within 5 minutes. I guess the show didn't run that day. After this point, I lost track of what happened with the show.
 
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to describe the story of being a professional entertainer for the 1990 season. I consider that summer to be both grueling, and tremendous fun. The exercise of having to be able to cleanly "(Hey! There are kids present!") mow down some rude heckler proved to be an amazing growth opportunity in theatrical improv, where you can never say no, but must always say, "yes,....and..." to keep the improv rolling. This one season performing Grendel caused me to learn to think fast on my feet and allowed me to successfully continue my education in theatre by moving West to  Southern Oregon University (associated with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival) and Seattle Pacific University. I wonder where Grendel is today?
 
R. Marshall Webber

 

 
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