WMAQ Channel 5 - Kidding Around - "Kid Contortionist-Acrobat" (1979)
Here's an installment from Kidding Around, a Saturday kids' show that ran from 1978 to 1985 on WMAQ Channel 5.
The main host was Steve Smith (not to be confused with the Canadian comedian of the same name who is best known as outdoorsman Red Green on a long-running TV series, The Red Green Show), and his co-hostess here is Shawn Gourdie (who, at the time, was 13 years old and a seventh-grader at Sudling Junior High in Palatine; a Chicago Tribune piece on the program that was published in their Sunday TV magazine on March 18th 1979 [which had cited her age as 12] called her "not a model, nor . . . an aspiring actress").
This section deals with an eight-year-old contortionist and acrobat, Cheryl Merlin. (The other parts of this show, which are not included here, consisted of a showing of a film called "The Maverick Meatball" which was set to the tune "On Top of Spaghetti," an interview with pet-shop owner Joe Zeiler, and a visit with a 6-year-old button collector, plus a look at Erik Estrada and a song by Earth, Wind & Fire.)
Incomplete opening credits, with hosts Steve Smith and Shawn Gourdie previewing what's to come
Kidding Around video animated bumper (commercials are cut out)
Return bumper, with Steve mentioning it's Shawn's 13th birthday ("an official teenager"), before they introduce contortionist / acrobat Cheryl Merlin who demonstrates her particular athletic prowess to the accompaniment of a recording of the longtime theme of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, "Entrance of the Gladiators," written in 1897 by Julius Fučik and whose main melody was sampled over the years in other tunes as diverse as "Goodbye Cruel World" by James Darren, "Yakety Sax" by Boots Randolph (a.k.a. the closing theme to The Benny Hill Show) and "The Show Must Go On" by Three Dog Night.
After her demonstration, Cheryl is interviewed by Steve. There, we learn that at the time, she was a third-grader at St. Benedict's School, and had been taking lessons in contortionism for the past two years. She had previously performed at a Springfield county fair and Chicago Park District competitions.
After their interview is over, we see a brief intro by Shawn of Joe Zeiler, who owned the Animal World pet shop, before cutting to the ending sequence where all the guests wave goodbye to the viewers watching at home as the credits roll (with a voiceover by Shawn advising where to send poetry, jokes, riddles, artwork, photography and anything else):
Produced by Diane Bloomgarden
Directed by Sandy Whiteley
Associate Producer - Audrey O'Kelley
Technical Director - Hollis Richardson
Associate Director - Roger Adams
Video Tape - Jesse Steward, Charles Walker
Lighting Director - Harvey Pahnke
Audio - Glenn Hannigan
Video - Paul Hampen, Wil Powell
Cameras - Jim Edwards, Bill Jenkins, Art Reed
Art Director - Jack Hakman
Graphic Artist - Bob Minami
Electronic Graphics - Elijah Mondy, Jr.
Stagehands - Dick Bernico, Bob Collins, Ed Collins, Claude Lynch
Theme Music by Bobby Whiteside
(tape cuts out at this point)
"I would suggest that most kids at home don't try what you saw Cheryl doing."
This aired on local Chicago TV on Saturday, March 3rd 1979.
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