Does having appeared in the audience
of a Donahue show once
qualify as a "career"?

Well, maybe not.

Still, my first full-time paying job
did bring me into the television world.
Specifically, I got hired to be an assistant to Cliff Holman Sr.,
who in 1964 was the art director at WAPI-TV/Channel 13 in Birmingham.

I'd love to give you a full visual picture of my stint at WAPI,
but I can't because I didn't bring a cameras to work
and Google refuses to supply me
with any photos of Cliff Senior, my boss.
So I'll have to make do with photos of my boss's son, Cliff Junior,
who under the stage name "Cousin Cliff"
helmed the station's daily afternoon kiddie show.

Google was no help, either, in finding
a photo of the station's exterior
as it looked when I was working there in 1964-65.
So you'll have to use your imagination about that, too.

(It was just up the street from Vulcan's bare butt, if that helps.)

Above: The one photo from my WAPI days that I do have.
That's me being a background vote-tally runner for the live election coverage
capping the 1964 contest between LBJ and Goldwater.

My salaried role at Channel 13 was strictly behind the scenes,
but I had actually had spent time in front of a camera the summer before,
when my old pal Grady Clarkson and I spent a summer
writing and performing in The Grady and Howard Show
every week on WBIQ, Alabama's pioneering educational television station.

This was before Public Broadcasting existed, y'remember,
so WBIQ was always hungry for local, volunteer talent.

As you can see from the photo above,
I repurposed my old Jerry Mahoney dummy
yet again for Grady's and my show.
This time he was "Magical Mitch,"
a wizard who had cotton for whiskers.

Volunteering aside, my longest stint as a television profession came in 1969,
when I was hired first as a director and then as the art director
for WBMG-TV/Channel 42, a UHF TV station in Birmingham.
My supervisors let me be creative in every way possible,
including in my fashion decisions, as you can see in the photo above.

Notice that I tastefully deleted said fashion statement
in the self-portrait I partially derived from that photo 35 years later

Besides my graphics-related duties,
my hands and voice became famous as the animating forces
behind Oscar the Yellow Monkey and Wilbur the Groundhog,
who improvised a short segment every day with Neal ("Sgt. Jack") Miller,
the host of The Sgt. Jack Show.
Sarge's show was Channel 42's competitor
for Cousin Cliff's similar kiddie show over at Channel 13.

FUN FACT: Neal Miller got the "Sgt. Jack" name
because one of his show's early sponsors was Jack's Hamburgers.

After a while, though, the show switched sponsors
Sarge's favorite hamburger joint suddenly became McDonald's!
Neal kept the stage name "Jack," though, so as not to confuse viewers.

If you were a northern-Alabama TV Guide reader between 1970 and 1973,
you might have seen some of the cartoon-style ads for Channel 42 shows
that I was allowed to come up with from time to time

Above: my splash panel for a 4-page "Wilbur & Oscar" comic book story
that I hoped would serve as the pilot episode
for an ongoing free promotional giveaway series
that would be available McDonald's outlets within WBMG's broadcast range.
My proposal was politely ignored by station brass, however,
so the story never saw print.

(Get me drunk sometime and I'll explain
why Wilbur's unused stash of "duck food"
became a running gag on Sarge's show for a while.)

Above: Us Channel 42 staffers taking time for hi-jinks on the studio floor.
That's camera operator Mike Fairfield on the left.
(Unfortunately I can't coax the name of the staffer on Mike's left
out of my fading memory to save my life!
If you're reading this and recognize yourself in this photo, pal,
how about emailing me so I can fill in the blank.)

Next in line are Sarge and me, obviously.

At home and during my down time at Channel 42,
I was busily creating episodes of my cartoon series Tops & Button,
which ran daily for two years in the Birmingham Post-Herald.
I'm sure most visitors to this web site

already know what Tops & Button led to!

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