Memory Lane: Sandy Becker

Growing up in the New York media market in the 1950s and 60s, you just can’t imagine it without Sandy Becker on TV. Which he was, from 1955 through 1968, mostly on WNEW.

This guy was a volcano of talent: nobody like him, anymore, to entertain little kids and young teens. Original puppets? Sandy not only performed them; he made them. Far-out characters? Sandy played them: Norton Nork, Hambone, the Big Professor, and the inscrutable Dr. Gesundheit. He also did cartoons.

Much of his show was live, and, alas, little of it was recorded. Much of it was ad-libbed. And you also heard a lot of Bert Kaempfert music: the theme for his daytime show, heard in this video, was That Happy Feeling. When he was on at night, it was Afrikaan Beat.

Kids’ TV in this era was overrun with talent. Along with Sandy, we had the immortal Soupy Sales and the incredible Chuck McCann, who gained national recognition by winning an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter… and his “Hi, guy! One shot and I’m good for the whole day!” deodorant commercials. Remember those? The protagonist was an ordinary gtuy who had to share a medicine cabinet with McCann’s weird character. But I digress.

Well, I can’t hear any of Bert Kaempfert’s music without thinking of Sandy Becker–gone, but lovingly remembered by probably millions of people who were kids then.

Let me see if I can get you just a tiny Hambone clip or something…

14 comments on “Memory Lane: Sandy Becker

    1. In those days, WNEW never kept anything on videotape; they just recorded over it. So most of Sandy’s work is lost forever. What a shame!

  1. That is a shame. I was noticing the faces of the puppets, friendly and inviting. This is so much better than the stilted, frequently negative things we see on TV these days.

    1. From a kind heart comes art that reflects that kindness.

      As time goes on, I’m coming to an ever greater appreciation of the beauty of goodness. The media has tried to make it seem old fashioned and irrelevant, but true goodness is a wonderful thing and still with us . . . if people would only turn off their reality shows and take the time to look for it.

    1. Oh, yeah! And it really did say “vaneela, vaneela, vaneela!” And “Catch Max”–gee, I’d forgotten all about him.
      Thanks for bringing back those memories. Good old Sandy Becker!

  2. I had never heard of him until you posted this thread, Lee. He seemed very personable and very talented. He sounded, to my ear, somewhat like Arthur Godfrey. I really admire his ability to keep the patter going without sounding inane. If I tried to do that, people would be slipping into irreversible comas within 30 seconds. 🙂

    Just for the heck of it, I looked up those cookies, which seem to be no longer made. But the Arthur Bread people are still around and they actually do pride themselves on the highest quality ingredients. That’s a novel way to build a company, by having great products. I betcha no one has thought of that approach, now that we have all of these hyper-educated biz majors and marketing men. 🙂

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