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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Gumby's creator, Art Clokey, has died

Art Clokey created Gumby in the early 50's and the character debuted on the Howdy Doody show but Gumby really didn't take off until the "boomers" embraced him in the 60's. He was the original "green" TV personality (eat your heart out Ed Begley, Jr.) and Clokey really was a lifelong environmentalist. Gumby's humble beginnings were the mud figures Clokey made as a child on his grandparents' farm, and his son John said that he "already has this in him, even as a child." Clokey's programs were the first to feature "claymation" and his Davey and Goliath was one of the first childrens' Christian TV series (sort of like a clay Lassie with homiles at the end of each episode instead of rescues). Unlike Jim Henson, the man behind Gumby was not a household name, probably just as well since that anonymity allowed him to work on movies like "How To Stuff A Wild Bikini" and dabble in psychedlic drugs on his spiritual quest during the 60's. His son said that period was "well after" the creation of Gumby. The style of Gumby's "hair/head" is said to have been based on his own father's swooping hairstyle -- one of those slicked up 30's or 40's era pompadours? While Clokey never reached the level of success of Disney, his "Gumbasia" set to jazz music in the early 50's, the clay equivalent of Fantasia, helped launched the Gumby series. Gumby merchandise continues to sell (mostly to us boomers) and I insisted on buying my son a Gumby and Pokey when he was little -- more for myself than him -- his recollection of Gumby was Eddie Murphy's version on Saturday Night Live. Visit for more info on Gumby, Davey and Goliath, the Blockheads, et al. Gumby's values were Clokey's, and their simple message was "If you've got a heart, then Gumby's a part of you." Bless your little clay heart Art Clokey, RIP.

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