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My Top 6 Closeted Gay Performers in Past Kidvid Shows

by D.K. Upshaw about a year ago in pop culture

Back then it really was "the love that dare not speak its name", especially in front of the kids.

Gay pride? Back then it was better to be humble...

Nowadays it's hard to imagine a time when the LGBTQ+ Community could not be "out & proud", especially when it came to children's programming. Here are my Top 6 Gay Kidvid Performers Who Had to Stay Closeted. I'm kind of stretching the meaning of "kidvid" to include primetime shows of special interest to kids. Here goes...

PAUL LYNDE (THE PERILS OF PENELOPE PITSTOP, IT'S THE WOLF)

Classic Hanna-Barbera Comic Villain

Paul Lynde, best known as "Paul Lynde to block" on the original HOLLYWOOD SQUARES and Samantha Stephens's Uncle Arthur, the wacky warlock, on the primetime sitcom BEWITCHED, also voiced (with the perfect sneer and hearty laugh) two of Hanna-Barbera's classic Saturday morning cartoon villains: the devilish Hooded Claw on THE PERILS OF PENELOPE PITSTOP, a spinoff of WACKY RACES, and the sneaky, lamb-stealing Mildew Wolf from the IT'S THE WOLF segment of CATANOOGA CATS.

As the Claw, he imperiled the titular heroine Penelope in order to inherit the Pitstop fortune as her guardian Sylvester Sneakly; as Mildew, he sought to capture the innocent Lambsy and would if not for the tough sheepdog Bristle Hound. Lynde did not, however, voice Mildew for LAFF-A-LYMPICS; that was John Stephenson.

Lynde's other Hanna-Barbera voice work included the persnickety next-door neighbor Claude Pertwee on the animated primetime sitcom WHERE'S HUDDLES and Templeton the Rat in the animated movie CHARLOTTE'S WEB.

JONATHAN HARRIS (LOST IN SPACE, Various Filmation Shows)

Harris's many faces...

Remember I said I'd stretch the meaning of "kidvid" to include certain kid-friendly primetime shows. Well, CBS's LOST IN SPACE is one of them, featuring Jonathan Harris, that most special of "Special Guest Stars", playing Dr. Zachary Smith, the enemy spy who got the Robinson family lost in space but ended up stuck on board the JUPITER II as well. Smith's specialties were palling around with young Will Robinson, scolding the family's Robot, complaining about "the pain, the pain" in "my delicate back" and trying to get himself back to Earth.

Later, in the Seventies, Harris started working for Filmation, the Number Two Saturday morning producer, where he starred in three shows for them, one animated and two live-action. He was the voice of Uncle Martin O'Hara the Martian on the pluralized cartoon MY FAVORITE MARTIANS on CBS, then did onscreen work as 300-year-old Cmdr. Gampu on CBS's SPACE ACADEMY and Basil Bitterbottom, the cantankerous kids' show director on ABC's UNCLE CROC'S BLOCK.

CHARLES NELSON REILLY (UNCLE CROC'S BLOCK, LIDSVILLE)

Ah, the life of Reilly...

Charles Nelson Reilly, famous in the Seventies as a celebrity game-show panelist on CBS's MATCH GAME and the syndicated IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT, starred in two network kidvid live-action shows, one for Filmation and one for Sid & Marty Krofft Productions, the Number Two and Number Three kidvid producers at the time, respectively.

, On Filmation's UNCLE CROC'S BLOCK, Reilly played Uncle Croc, the alligator-suited host of a local kiddie show he hated working at--but at least it payed for his condo! Croc had to put up with a disloyal little sidekick (Mr. Rabbit Ears), a fussy director (Basil Bitterbottom) who acts like he'd rather direct traffic, and various "celebrity guests" like the Six Dollar Ninety-Five Cent Man during his "Star Time" segment. On Sid & Marty Krofft's LIDSVILLE, he played the villainous magician Hoodoo, who, along with his henchmen the Bad Hats, plagued the Good Hats of Lidsville. Whenever Hoodoo suffered a loss, which was always, he would whine, "I want my Mommy Hoodoo!"

Both UNCLE CROC'S BLOCK and LIDSVILLE appeared on ABC.

RAY STEPHENS (THE GREAT SPACE COASTER)

What a gorgeous voice!

THE GREAT SPACE COASTER was an Eighties syndicated kidvid show where three kids from Earth--Francine, Danny and Roy--flew with Baxter the Clown in the titular vehicle to the asteroid Coasterville to play and sing in a rock band and visit puppet characters like Goriddle Gorilla, Knock Knock the Woodpecker and Gary Gnu (you pronounced the "G").

Ray Stephens played Roy, the band's pianist with the yellow T-shirt, white overalls and gorgeous voice who, when not performing with the band, was showing cartoons on his handheld projector.

Stephens was also the Policeman of the Village People on their 1985 album SEX OVER THE PHONE.

WESLEY EURE (LAND OF THE LOST)

Wesley then and now...

LAND OF THE LOST was a Sid & Marty Krofft production that ran on NBC's Saturday morning lineup in the Seventies. It was about the Marshalls, a modern-day family that found itself marooned in the titular land--a world full of dinosaurs, monkey-like people called the Pakuni and lizard-like people called the Sleestaks.

Wesley Eure played Will Marshall, the teenaged son of the family, and he was quite the teen heartthrob in his day. At the time he was doing LAND OF THE LOST, he was also playing Mike Horton on the NBC soap opera DAYS OF OUR LIVES. He almost got the chance to front the TV band THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY when David Cassidy threatened to leave the series. Cassidy, of course, changed his mind and stayed with the show.

FRANCOIS CLEMMONS (MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD)

When Officer Clemmons helped break barriers...

MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD was the classic PBS kidvid show starring Fred Rogers as every kid's favorite neighbor. One of his neighbors was the singing policeman Officer Clemmons, played by African American opera singer Francois Clemmons.

In 1969, the show helped ease racial tensions over segregated swimming pools in the U.S. by showing Mister Rogers and Officer Clemmons soaking their feet together in a kiddie pool on a hot day. The two of them recreated that famous scene in 1993. Both scenes have been shared on Twitter and Instagram.

Those are my picks for the Top 6 Closeted Gay Kidvid Stars. And, in those days, they wouldn't have been stars had they come out back in the day. What a different world we live in today, when Ellen DeGeneres can be "out and proud" and still play the voice of Dory in the FINDING NEMO animated franchise. Times change...

pop culture

D.K. Upshaw

I call myself the baby boomer with the heart of a millennial. As an animator/cartoonist/ caricaturist, I'm inspired by the SatAM cartoons of the 60s, 70s and 80s--a wonderful time to watch TV!

Read next: Marjorie Finnegan Temporal Criminal #3

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