Jeff’s Eccentric People, Places and Things: J. P. Patches

image from lunchwithcasey.com

 

Will someone please explain to me whatever happened with the image of clowns? When did they go from beloved bringers of merriment to soul-eating demons, pedofile serial killers, and even a depressed living metaphor for the meaninglessness of life. From the Joker to Pennywise (who is floating back to Derry, Maine on the big screen this September) to real life evil clown John Wayne Gacy, and the “Evil Clown Sighting,” fad last year doesn’t help.  In fact, I think the only mainstream clown people do not fear is now just Ronald McDonald, well maybe except for health inspectors and PETA.

 

First of all I want to apologise to any readers who have coulrophobia, but I feel that this may help you get over your fear. Besides look at that glowing, grandfatherly figure with a red nose. Do you really feel terrified by good old Chris Wedes? Known by children of three generations in Washington State as Julius Pierpont (J. P. to his friends) Patches, Mayor of the Seattle City Dump.

 

A local gem of great value, J. P. was the star of one of the longest local American children’s television. The character first appeared in 1953 in the Minnesota station WTCN Channel 11 played by Daryl Laub. He created the clown and played him for two years, however he left for a rival studio and Chris Wedes took over the role. Chris, already a professional local actor, was unsure at first; as he already was playing several characters on various shows and didn’t want to be overworked. He soon took to the clown like a frog takes to water and even took him to Seattle in 1958. The clown would perform on his own Emmy-winning tv show for over twenty years on KIRO-TV with over 10,000 on screen hours viewed. The show would be improv without a script, with most of the characters being played by the same person. There was Ketchikan the Animal Man, Miss Smith the delivery woman biker, J. P.’s arch enemy Boris S. Wort (Second meanest man in the world!) the Swami of Pastrami and especially not forgetting the Mayor of the City Dump’s pain-in-the-kester love interest Gertrude. All played by the versible and equally talented Bob Newman. One special gimmick the the show had was an amazing magical machine called the I.C.U.2.T.V. This miraculous device, which was most certainly not cardboard with a tv camera in it, J. P. could look into the homes of young Patches Pals (name for fans) on their birthday and tell where to look for presents, that had nothing to do with parents sending in letters ahead to the studio. The I.C.U.2.T.V. also worked as a teleporter to send J.P. and others to North Pole to help Santa with his naughty and nice list for Christmas

image from jppatches.com

 

The J.P. Patches Show aired twice a day, six days a week, for the first thirteen years. The next eight years it only ran in the morning and just Saturday morning for the last two. While the cast was small there were quite a number of famous guest stars including cartoonist Al Capp, the Harlem Globetrotters, Colonel Sanders and many more. The show entertained both children and adults and had over 10 thousand hours of on-air time. It had at least 100,000 viewers especially in the Puget Sound area and southwest British Columbia. The Mayor of the City Dump also visited the Seattle Children’s Hospital in the Laurelhurst neighborhood for the sick kids free of charge. The show was canceled in 1981 but this was far from the end of J. P. Patches

Image result for spud goodman j p patches

image from spudgoodman.com

 

You can’t keep a good clown down apparently. Chris Wedes and Bill Newman would continue to perform their roles in television specials as well as numerous public and private events across the state. Sadly even this circus has to close its doors eventually. On September 17 2011 J. P. put on the makeup and tattered, old, button covered, hat and coat for the last time at Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal. Fans all hoped for him a long and happy retirement but that did not come to be. Chris Wedes died ten months later on July 22, 2012 from a long battle with Multiple Myeloma, a type of cancer for white blood cells. He was 84 and survived by his wife, daughter and granddaughter. All of Puget Sound was moister than usual from the tears of Patches Pales of all ages.

 

Like many other long running local children’s show host in other states, J. P. Patches remains a minor cultural icon and almost a folk hero to the people of the Rain City. There are clips and episodes are on VHS, DVD, and the Internet. Archie McPhee, Seattle novelty company that created the “Horse Head Mask” for the internet menu, has among other weird goodies, J. P. Patches lunchboxes, socks, Christmas Tree and scented car ornaments. Along with Oregon’s clown Rusty Nails, J. P. is said to have inspired the Simpsons’ Krusty the Clown and had a shout out in the episode “Radio Bart” on Krusty’s “Birthday Buddies” list. The biggest monument, aside from the memories in fan’s hearts, is the statue, Late for the Interurban, in Fremont, Seattle, dedicated on the show’s fiftieth anniversary

 

image from wikipedia.org

 

You know what, I won’t do this for every article from now on, but here’s another YouTube video. I’m just in the mood.

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