My Journal

Good As Gnu Part One

Some years back I was lucky enough to purchase one of the original Howdy Doody show marionettes. This was not Howdy himself, or one of his notable co-stars like Flub-a-dub, but a later supporting critter named Paddle the Gnu. As very few of the Howdy episodes survive, I have not found any show footage of Paddle. There are a handful of publicity photos that feature him, one of which is posted here. As you can see he is an odd-looking ungulate, pretty much a gnu in name only. My hunch is he was originally built as a donkey as his operating control has the name “Candlewick” on it, which the name of the boy in the story of “Pinocchio” (renamed Lampwick in the Disney movie) who is turned into a jackass. The puppet’s creators were Rufus and Margo Rose, a famous puppeteering team, and one of their signature live marionette productions was in fact a version of “Pinocchio.” As the Roses also sculpted the other animal characters for Howdy, it makes sense they might recycle a few from old shows. I don’t know if that is precisely Paddle’s origin, given those few clues it seems logical.