Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Wayne and Wanda - The Glorious Muppet Singing Duo, The Appendectomy And The Fever...

The Muppet Show! Jim Henson's lovely Muppet puppet concept had been around in one form or another since its very first manifestation in the 1950s. In 1976, this all-American phenomenon sprouted new characters and descended on a clapped-out old English music hall to become one of the fondest remembered kids' TV shows of all time - and it's still a thriving comicdom, fandom and filmdom today.

I loved the show, which ran from 1976 to 1981. Who could forget the Swedish Chef? Pigs In Space? The Great Gonzo? The horrifically scientific Dr Bunsen Honeydew? Poor, terrified Beaker? Fozzie Bear's bravery and optimism in the face of an indifferent or hostile audience? Sam the Eagle, battling (and failing) to keep things decent? The fabulous Great Gonzo? Or the strange success of Mah Na Na? This song took over the pop culture like a rocket. Suddenly, everybody was saying it. Mum, opening the door to the insurance man: 'Ma nah ma nah'. Insurance man: 'Funny you should you say that - ma nah ma nah'.

Me, to a bus conductor: 'Ma nah ma nah!'

Bus conductor: 'Where do you want to go, you stupid XXXXXXX kid?'

Well, maybe not everybody.

My own personal favourite Muppet characters were Miss Piggy - that gorgeous purveyor of sweetness, glamour and violence - and the singing duo of the first series, Wayne and Wanda.

Wayne and Wanda? Yes. Kermit fired them after series one. They sang lovely old songs in Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy style. But things were not nearly as good. Wanda had a terrible voice (I liked Wayne's) and the props and other things always ensured they never got very far into their act.

Wayne and Wanda struck my own personal funny bone in a sketch which featured Wayne sawing Wanda in two while she warbled You Do Something To Me. This was the famous old magician's sketch, but it ended abruptly when Wanda suddenly began shrieking. Something had gone wrong.

I was, for some reason, in stitches. My adolescent humour was aroused and I guffawed and guffawed and guffawed. And so, Wayne and Wanda became favourites.

Not long afterwards, I was literally in stitches - in hospital.

I'd been ill for a while and finally ended up fearing for my life as I experienced pain which took my breath away. This was quickly traced to my appendix - perforated - and so into hospital I was rushed and the offending part removed.

It was September 1977, I was less than a month from my 12th birthday, and I was ill. I was ill for a few days after the operation - experiencing high temperatures and delusions. Into this unhappy state came a set of brand new annuals - bought by the neighbours who had collected for the poorly lad in hospital. The annuals were The Quest (now long forgotten Western series), The Sweeney (hated it) and The Muppet Show.

I perused the annuals during lucid times. In the Muppet annual, Wayne serenaded a Spanish woman: 'Lady of Spain I adore you!' Wanda responded by kicking him off the stage: 'Make another pass at her and I'll floor you!' This interested me. After all, the concept of making a pass at somebody seemed a little adult for a kids' annual. I also looked at The Quest. In my fevered states, the two worked together to create a strange world in which Wayne and Wanda were present at my bedside and I was, at the same time, a cowboy in the desert.

'Howdy!' I drawled to a nurse at one point.

'Where's Wanda gone?' I asked at another.

It was all highly embarrassing in retrospect because the nurse reported these fascinating facts, with great amusement, to my mother.

Wayne and Wanda were kind enough to refrain from singing during their attendance at my bedside.

Anyway, I survived to see 1978 (blurgh) and Wayne and Wanda, now gone from The Muppet Show, were etched on my memory.

They returned in an episode shown in December 1979 in which they reproached Kermit the frog for firing them. Wayne was now fulfilling his 'life's ambition' as a manual labourer, and the pair were okay - thanks to help from Wanda's mother's pension money.

By then 14, I was dead chuffed to see them. Guilt-ridden Kermit rehired them, and then promptly refired them when they burst into a spirited rendition of that lovely 1930s number Sweet Mystery Of Life.

I never forgave Kermit.

Wayne and Wanda have cropped up a few times since, but there is a shocking lack of Muppet merchandise devoted to them. I want figurines of this legendary pair to pop on my mantelpiece. They will forever remind me of their out-of-this-world visit to my hospital bedside in 1977.

And I will smile.

Go to it, please, Disney.

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