Dancing Bear, Dancing Bare… #socs

Remember Edu-Cards? They were decks of playing cards specifically for children, where they could play a game and be educated at the same time. We had one game that was based on Concentration, but it had circus-related stuff on it, like clowns, lions, trapeze artists, and my brother’s favorite, Dancing Bear. When he’d get that card, he would say, “dancing bear, dancing bear, dancing bear” in a goofy voice, and I thought it was hilarious. Don’t ask me why; just as I’m scared of weird things, other weird things make me laugh.

Speaking of weird things that make me laugh, remember the show Captain Kangaroo? He had a character on there called Dancing Bear.

Bob Keeshan played the Captain, Hugh “Lumpy” Brannum played Mr. Green Jeans, and they had a host of other characters, including Dancing Bear, played by Cosmo Allegretti. They also had Grandfather Clock (a talking grandfather clock and told long and often pointless stories), Mr. Moose (who spoke in a high pitched voice and liked to drop ping-pong balls on the Captain), Bunny Rabbit (who was mute and, despite his love of carrots, wore glasses), Magic Drawing Board (someone standing behind a sheet of paper drawing pictures — backward — with a pen that bled through), and a character called The Banana Man, originally played by Adolph Proper, who… just watch.

That show was on for thirty years, and I thought it was kind of surreal. Once during the summer, when I was in high school, I pulled an all-nighter (too much Dr Pepper). When I got up (or whatever you do after an all-nighter), I turned on the Captain, and he was doing something where there was a tiny band walking around (camera tricks, 1970’s style) and the Captain was the only person who could see them. Everyone else looked at him like he was nuts. At the end of the show, he marched behind them playing a kazoo. Cracked me up, and I wasn’t on drugs, just sitting there, smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo after playing solitaire ’til dawn with a deck of 51… That’d make a pretty good song, don’t you think?

I swear, that just happened. I wasn’t planning it.

Of course, “dancing bear” is a homophone for “dancing bare,” meaning dancing with no clothes on, i.e. naked. Here in the South, we have two words, “naked” and “nekkid.” As Lewis Grizzard once said, “naked” means ya ain’t got no clothes on, while “nekkid” means ya ain’t got no clothes on and you’re up to something.


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Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

19 thoughts on “Dancing Bear, Dancing Bare… #socs”

  1. I grew up watching the Captain and I really enjoyed the show. I transitioned from Captain Kangaroo to Rocky & Bullwinkle. I didn’t realize the degree to which R&B wasn’t just a kids’ show until much later. I love naked/nekkid – someone once pointed that distinction out to me in a comment. Nice job with the prompt.

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    1. Until they started running on TV, few cartoons were intended for kids, and even after that there were some, like Rocky & Bullwinkle and The Flintstones (who were sponsored by Winston cigarettes; a few of the commercials with Fred and Barney having a butt are on YouTube), aimed almost exclusively at adults. The Max Fleischer cartoons (Popeye, Betty Boop, Koko the Clown, etc.) were loaded with adult themes and language (particularly Popeye; if you could figure out what he was saying under his breath, you got quite an education in profanity). The early Warner Brothers cartoons got funnier as I got older (kind of like the movie A Hard Day’s Night), because I knew some of the historical background and understood the humor in them. Then there was Woody Woodpecker, who, in his early incarnations, was batcrap crazy; definitely not for kids…

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  2. I watched Captain Kangaroo as well but I don’t remember the banana man. When the kids were little I would say “Naykey” for naked. Now, not so much 🙂 Happy Saturday.

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  3. I remember Captain Kangaroo well. The magic drawing board was my favorite. And the animals. Mom would always call us in (if we were getting dressed or eating breakfast) when the live animals came on. I don’t remember it being surreal, so maybe that’s why I have the imagination I have. Surreal became my normal? at that early age.

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    1. The surrealism was roughly akin to that of the Teletubbies. The younger you were, the more sense it made. It was classic television, though. Magic Drawing Board… the only way I can figure it was done was someone sitting behind it and drawing everything backwards, which would make it one of the coolest things ever. The only other way might be stop-action photography, or like someone doing a cartoon. I should look it up…

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  4. I rarely missed an episode of Captain Kangaroo in its earliest incarnation. Some weird stuff that appealed to kids. Probably was part of my fascination with the surrealistic movement. The Banana Man was a big favorite. And those hokey low tech musical numbers worked for me as well. Remember “Mr. Tap Toes”…Mr. Tappy tappy toes. Ah, yes, who needed high tech effects?

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. The only thing I remember really clearly, besides Mr. Moose dropping ping-pong balls on the Captain and the Banana Man, was the song that went “M A double S, A C H U S E double T S, Massachusetts my home state!” Hokey, yes, but preschoolers loved it. I’ll have to watch the episodes that are on YouTube (some of which are ancient).

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  5. I always watched Captain Kangaroo all the time, and was one of my favorites. The song, “Countin’ Flowers on the Wall”, is a favorite, too, which I like to quote whenever someone asks me what I’m doing. 🙂

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  6. This was delightful to read, John. I was so addicted to Captain Kangaroo as a child. I would fight my dad for the tv in the mornings (he always wanted to watch the news). Sometimes I would even win, but not often. I’d get to see maybe 15 mins of it before he came home and took over the television. But I still have my memories! Your south must be similar to my Virginia southern roots.. we also have ‘naked’ and ‘nakkid’ and yes, the same meanings for them. laughs

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    1. I live in Georgia, and Lewis Grizzard was from here as well (it’s his joke).

      My grandmother and I used to get into battles over what we would watch at noon, cartoons or “As The World Turns.” I think she’d just wait until I was distracted elsewhere and change the channel.

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