Entering the set behind a pushcart to the tune of "The Sidewalks of New York" came "Pop-Pop," in clown makeup, a slouch hat, and a false nose courtesy of "Mr. Poplolly." Ed Bakey portrayed the afternoon kid's show host for Channel 13 in the late 1950's. Station officials had asked announcer Bakey to come up with a new character to host "Popeye Theatre." Borrowing Poplolly's false nose from Royal Parker (which he never relinquished), "Pop-Pop" was a quick hit with youngsters, thanks in no small part to a fair amount of billboard advertisements around town. After leaving WJZ, Bakey took the "Pop-Pop" character to New York's Channel 7, WABC-TV, renaming him "Tommy Seven." Not long afterward, and following the lead of former Channel 13 co-worker Pernell Roberts who would become Adam Cartwright on "Bonanza," Bakey went into acting and appeared in small parts in over a dozen films from the '60's to the '80's, including "The Philadelphia Experiment," "For Pete's Sake," and "The Sting." As a television actor, Ed Bakey's roles included the mini-series "Centennial," plus appearances in "Gunsmoke," "Charlie's Angels," "Starsky & Hutch," "Star Trek," "Bonanza," "Night Gallery," "Mission: Impossible," and "The Fall Guy" among others. Bakey's final appearance was in a 1987 episode of "Highway To Heaven." Baltimore's "Pop-Pop," Ed Bakey, died on May 4, 1988.
"When you come to the end of a lollypop, plop goes your heart."
Little did anyone imagine in 1962 that a tramp from Arkansas would send sales of Tootsie Pops through the roof, plus make a Nashville saxophonist an overnight success. Gerry Wheeler endeared himself to youngsters and adults alike as the lovable mute, Lorenzo. He was a bum--a hobo--a tramp, dressed in tattered clothes with a slouch hat, a stubble of beard, and a putty nose. And from 1962 until 1965, he made countless Baltimore children late for school each morning. Wheeler played other characters too, like Clarence the Country Boy, complete with buck teeth and a straw hat, and Nevada Ned, a dusty old cowpoke from the old west. But it was Lorenzo who won the hearts of viewers, reacting to the unseen questioner (news anchor Jerry Turner often filled this role which had been previously declined by Royal Parker), or begging for lollypops from youngsters in the studio. Mary Ellen Helton of Bel Air visited the set in 1964 with her younger sister Marcee Zakwieia of Dundalk:
"They told us in advance not to give Lorenzo our lollypops, but my sister was only three so she gave him hers. But my fondest memory was when we all danced with him."
That dance, "The Lorenzo Stomp," took place on every show to the tune of Boots Randolph's "Yakety Sax." Randolph was a session musician from Nashville, and although he'd been heard for years on hit records like Johnny Tillotson's "Poetry In Motion," he'd been unable to break out as a solo artist. When released nationally, "Yakety Sax" was a marginal hit. But in Baltimore, the song hit the top of the charts on the strength on "The Lorenzo Stomp," and it's still referred to by that name by most local baby boomers. Years later, it would be heard worldwide as the theme music for Britain's outrageous "Benny Hill Show."
After leaving Baltimore, Lorenzo went to KYW-TV in Philadelphia and was later syndicated by Westinghouse, appearing on Channel 9 (then WTOP-TV) in Washington, KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, and elsewhere. We welcome your pictures and memories of "The Lorenzo Show."
|Ed Bakey as "Pop-Pop," circa 1958.
Photo Courtesy Royal Parker
|A 1969 Washington Star TV Magazine
ad, featuring Gerry (not Jerry) Wheeler as "Lorenzo."