The Bugaloos was a 1970’s-era children’s TV show in which four live-action teenagers – all dressed as bugs and insects – sang sunshine pop songs and cavorted around in a paisley-colored landscape. The songs were catchy – if you were seven years old and your tastes in music leaned more towards the Monkees than to the Jimi Hendrix Experience – and the show’s plotlines were typical 22-minute Saturday morning exposition-filled fare.
And I remembered The Bugaloos today because of a broken ankle.
Follow along with me.
In 1970, The Bugaloos debuted on NBC’s Saturday morning lineup. It was the second live-action children’s show from the Sid and Marty Krofft studios, following the ratings blockbuster H.R. Pufnstuf. Sid and Marty Krofft made several of these live-action-with-puppet shows, and many of them were extremely successful – they sold tons of toys and dolls, and even today these shows still have a dedicated fanbase.
Of course, there was also the theory that Sid and Marty Krofft came up with all their gimmicks and ideas after ingesting some form of mind-altering pharmaceutical. Yeah, H.R. Puff ‘n stuff, right. Sounds like a Beavis and Butthead punchline.
But my first experience with The Bugaloos came when I had broken my arm. Fell out of the second level of a bunk bed and snapped my elbow into chunks. Spent the weekend in the hospital until the bones could be re-set. And over that weekend, I watched a lot of cartoons. Mostly because the TV set in the hospital room was set fort one channel – the NBC affiliate.
But in that moment, while my elbow slowly mended itself, I watched the surreal adventures of I.Q., Harmony, Courage and Joy. And 30 minutes later, I wanted to watch another episode. Listen, when you’re seven years old and Joy the Bugaloo appeared on the screen … serious kid-crush, let me tell you.
The Bugaloos only lasted for seventeen episodes, and after 1972 it flew off to the world of reruns and “wait, I just missed that episode” timeslots. But in that time, I grew up – went to college – and eventually set up a nice side hustle as a freelance writer, which I still do today.
In 2008, I received an assignment in which I would interview Sid and Marty Krofft, along with several former cast members from the Krofft programs, as part of an article to promote the 2008 motion picture version of Land of the Lost. By the way, the movie version of Land of the Lost was dreadful. Made me want to watch the old 1970’s version just to clear my head.
Believe me, I was having fun with this project. I interviewed the Kroffts, then received a phone interview with Billie Hayes – I’m freakin’ speaking with Witchiepoo, I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy – and then, just as the project was about to end, I wanted to find out if there was a way to interview one of the actors who starred in The Bugaloos.
Trust me, this is my adult self trying to fulfill a wish to that seven-year-old kid with a broken arm.
Interviewing anyone from the Bugaloos, however, was a more difficult proposition. Martha Raye, who played the loud-mouthed main villain Benita Bizarre, had passed away, and the four Bugaloos actors/singers – John McIndoe, Wayne Laryea, John Philpott and Caroline Ellis – all returned to England after the original 17 episodes of The Bugaloos were taped. They never came back for any other Hollywood productions, and finding any of them for an interview would be daunting at best.
Thankfully, a contact of a contact of a contact, a person who operated a Bugaloos tribute page (yes, there does exist such things), said he had Caroline Ellis’ e-mail and would send my questions to her.
Right. He’s got Caroline Ellis’ e-mail. Joy the Bugaloo.
Well, you know what? I tried it. A few days later, I received an e-mail from Ellis herself. All the way from her home in Spain. I might have sprouted wings and flew around the room the minute I saw that e-mail.
We corresponded via e-mail, and she recalled several great memories from the show and her interactions with the fans, who still remember her today and who still send her fan mail via the fan website.
“It was for me, a dream come true, to be working in Hollywood doing what I loved best and being paid for it,” said Ellis. “As a cast and team, we all got on very well. We were there to do a job and a lot of money had been invested in us. We all wanted it to be successful. Martha Raye, who played our nemesis Benita Bizzare, was outrageous, as you would expect, and often had us in fits of laughter even on the set. We would then be told off by the director for wasting time. ‘Time is money!’ was his favorite expression.
Billy Barty [who played the firefly Sparky] was sweet and a real professional. It was a great atmosphere both with the cast and the ‘behind the scenes’ team, i.e. hairdresser, makeup, lighting, everybody. We saw Sid and Marty Krofft a lot on the set of The Bugaloos. Sid was much quieter and was the creative one, whereas Marty was more the business organizer and much more outgoing. They were completely different characters.”
Holy cow. I finished the article, it ran in the magazine, my editor was extremely pleased, and I had a smile on my face that I thought would never wipe away.
Last week, while leaving my building, I slipped on some snowy steps and – long story short – I fractured my ankle. It’s now wrapped up in a splint, I’ve had screws and pins and rods inserted, and for the most part, I’m kinda immobile.
The other day, I was flittering through YouTube, looking for some fun videos to keep my mind off my broken ankle …
There it was. Several episodes of the classic NBC children’s show.
And once again, I felt like I had returned to my childhood, where I could enjoy Saturday morning escapism one more time.
Still feels good.