Monday, January 28, 2013

Sally Starr's Dilemma

Our Gal, Sal!
Growing up in the Philly suburbs in the 50's and 60's, there were more than a few Philly-centric local celebrities who hosted kids' afternoon programming, among them: Pixanne; Wee Willy Weber; Chief Halftown and Gene London. But there was only one gal for this l'il dogie -- Sally Starr, who hosted the Philadelphia market's highest rated children's program, "Popeye Theatre" on WPVI Channel 6 from the 50's until 1971, showing Popeye cartoons (the Max Fleischer ones were my favorites) and Three Stooges shorts. She made many personal appearances and retired from her last job as a C/W DJ in Vineland, NJ in 2006. Her career got its start from her 1958 single "Our Gal Sal," with Bill Haley and the Comets. I wish I could find a recording of it... but I did find this insane 1957 blatant attempt to cash in on Gene Autry's massive Christmas hit, an Easter ditty called "Rocky the Rockin' Rabbit" (I crap you not):

And here's a clip of Sal hosting "Western Theatre" for a local South Jersey channel in the 80's (sorry about the quality):

Sally made lots of personal appearances at local events and church carnivals, so when it was announced that Sal was coming to a church fair right in my own town when I was maybe 7 or 8, I begged my parents to take me. And when I say 'begged,' I literally mean down on my knees; hands clasped; eyes cast down begging like a condemned man pleading for his life. So, off we went to Our Lady of Perpetual Hope, a Greek Orthodox church very close by. The exact events of that amazing summer night are hazy lo these many years later, but I do remember the excitement as my father (back when he was my hero), pushed his way through the crowd to the edge of the stage with me on his shoulders and Sally reached down, patted and rubbed my head and said "Here ya go, darlin'" handing me a signed 8x10 which stayed in my room for many years after. My mother, who couldn't have been prouder, still thinks Sally secretly hated kids, but made an exception by rubbing my head. I say my mother is a little nutty, sometimes -- yes, I know. It does run in the family.

Our Gal Sal passed away yesterday, just 2 days after her 90th birthday and many Philadelphia-area boomers are very sad, right now.

All of that having been said, let's get to Sally's dilemma, shall we?

Of course, that requires a little more setup. At Saturday Night Fever High, we had two teachers named Jones. One was a burly bull-dog with a thick, coarse buzz-cut of white hair and a jet black unibrow that always made him look as if he was scowling. He taught chemistry, didn't understand creative people at all, and hated me. His was the only class in which I ever received an F. The other Mr. Jones... well, antithesis isn't quite the word. And because the mean Jones' first name started with a C, he was only listed as 'Jones' on your schedule. The fun Jones' first name was Lloyd, and he appeared on you class schedule as 'JonesL,' which led every student in the building call the beloved Lloyd Jones, 'Jonesal.' JonesL taught 10th Grade Social Studies. He claimed to be color-blind and that he let his dog pick out his clothes (which I suspect were purposely awful); introduced his students to ideas like free-thought, parody and political satire; taught with passion and humor and was probably only 10 years older than we were. So, as part of a lesson on ethics and freedom of choice, Jonesl told every class the tale of "Sally Starr's Dilemma." I have no idea where Lloyd Jones is these days. I have no idea if anyone has ever shared this story on the Internet. I give him full credit. If you are he, reading this, please contact me. If you are a classmate or contemporary and know anything about Mr. Jones, please let me know. *

Anyway, without further ado, "Sally Starr's Dilemma:"

JonesL and his cousin went to a local fair to see Sally Starr. They were so excited, they got there early and went on lots of rides and ate lots and lots of greasy, sugary, generally bad for you fair food. They almost forgot why they had come to the fair, when an announcement came over the P.A.: Our Gal Sal was taking the stage! JonesL and his cousin ran, but couldn't get close enough. That's when JonesL's cousin suggested they get on the Ferris Wheel next to the stage, where they could get a really good look at her. Needless to say, they got on, went around once and then stopped high over the stage. JonesL looked over and whether it was the swaying of the gondola, the height, the food or a combination of all three, let loose a spray of vomit right over the stage. And just as he did, he saw Sal look up at the sound of his wretching. So, her dilemma? Does Sal stay where she was and hope it misses her, or duck out of the way hope she avoids it? JonesL never told us what Sally actually did that day. He would only say that when she appeared on "Popeye Theatre" that afternoon, she wasn't wearing her hat. The moral of the story: no matter where you go, how you move or what you choose, you might get puked on from a kid on the Ferris Wheel. And if you get puked on, get over it and move on. There are seriously worse things in life.

*A high school classmate informed me today (Tuesday) that JonesL passed away last year. I was sad to hear that, too,

More, anon.


Pax Romano said...

Probably the best obit for Aunt Sal ever!

Prospero said...

Thanks, Pax!