Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, March 18, 1999

Star-Bulletin file photo
The third Mr. Checkers (Jim Demarest) and Pogo
(Morgan White) chat with a young fan in 1974.

A fine Checkered past

Bullet "Checkers and Pogo Remembered"
Bullet Time and Day: 8 p.m. today
Bullet Channel: KGMB/CBS

By Burl Burlingame


A couple of generations ago, programmers realized the vast wasteland of television was even more arid in the afternoons. So they went for the audience that was the least discerning -- the thousands of latch-key kids with time to kill between the end of school and when Mom and Dad got home.

Local kid-show celebrities -- such as Chuck McCann, Buffalo Bob, Zacherly the Ghoul, Soupy Sales -- became part of the national consciousness as TV stations carved out an identity with localized programming. Today, these substitute-parent figures are fondly remembered by boomers raised on TV.

The proliferation of cheap reruns, chatfests and homogenized network "product" have essentially killed the locally produced afternoon kids' show. The real nail in the coffin was the realization that TV is no longer magical. It used to be a big deal to see a neighbor kid sitting dazed among a dozen other kids on a kids' show. No more.

"Checkers and Pogo" was born in 1967 at KGMB, and became the longest-running and most beloved of Hawaii's kid shows. KGMB airs a special on the show tonight at 8 p.m.

Not much remains in the vaults. The show was created live every day, taped on a giant two-inch video unit, replayed the next morning, then erased.

Station owner Cec Heftel approached weatherman Jim Hawthorne -- whose owlish glasses earned him the nickname "Weather Eyes" -- about creating an afternoon kids' show. Hawthorne would be a father figure to his childish pal Pogo -- played by Morgan "Pogo Poge" White -- and the show would feature simple -- albeit mysterious -- plots that would draw the kids back every day.

The "Weather Eyes and Pogo Show" quickly became the more-merchandizable "Checkers and Pogo Show," and it debuted May 26, 1967.

Hawthorne left after three months and Mr. Checkers was played for the next year by disc jockey Dave Donnelly, who has since scored work elsewhere. Donnelly was replaced by veteran character actor Jim Demarest, who perfected the blustery Mr. Checkers character for 11 years.

Supporting characters on the show included all-purpose villain Super Spy McPig, snotty nephew Sylvester Heftel, Dr. Fruitcake, the Hawaiian Humane Society's Mr. Mac, Red the Friendly Pharmacist, Freddie Morris and Moku Kahana, Sneed the Monster, Jake the Janitor, and The Three Clowns From Davenport.

Demarest hung up his checkered glasses in 1979, and Pogo soldiered on alone until 1982. All of the original stars are still alive; White lives in Utah, Hawthorne lives in Colorado, Demarest lives in Illinois and Donnelly lives at Murphy's.

More information is available at the excellent Checkers and Pogo web site created by Lawrence Pacheco at http://

The Checkers and Pogo home page.


Weekend Television


Bullet "The Harry Awards," 5 and 9 p.m., History Channel. The first annual presentation of the Harry Award, which will be presented to the movie that has done the most to promote the understanding and appreciation of history.

Bullet "Biography," 7 p.m., A&E. Part two of the two-part profile "Steven Spielberg: An Empire of Dreams."

Bullet "Fox Files," 8 p.m., KHON/Fox. Scheduled: doctors enlist the help of drug addicts to scam health insurance providers; the sexual mores of college coeds.


Bullet "First Wave," 5 and 9 p.m., Sci-Fi. Debut of a new series created by former "X-Files" writer Chris Brancato and executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola. This one revolves around a secret alien invasion of earth and a man who has been framed for the murder of his wife by the "First Wave" of invaders.

Bullet "Kamehameha Schools Song Contest," 7 p.m. pre-show special and 7:30 p.m. contest presentation, KHON/Fox. The 77th annual song fest in which Kamehameha Schools students in grades 9-12 compete in song and dance.

Bullet "Providence," 7 p.m., KHNL/ NBC. Sydney (Melina Kanakaredes) is staggered by the indecent proposal of an eccentric, elderly but lustful millionaire (guest star Henry Gibson) who offers her cash-starved medical clinic a fortune if she'll spend 48 hours traveling with him.

Bullet "Biography," 7 p.m., A&E. "Gwyneth Paltrow/William Shakespeare" is a profile of actress Gwyneth Paltrow ("Shakespeare in Love") and playwright William Shakespeare.


Bullet "The Puerto Ricans: Our American Story," 6 p.m., KHET/PBS. Filmed on the U.S. mainland and on Puerto Rico, the special explores the customs and traditions of Puerto Rican families.

Bullet "Aloha Vision III," 6:30 p.m., KHON/Fox. Half-hour special created by Ray Bumatai, based on the series of the late Tremaine Tamayose. The program is based on the premise of a television station run by kids, for kids, and features music videos, public service announcements, commercials and sketches.

Bullet "Early Edition," 7 p.m., KGMB/CBS. Producers of "Early Edition," one of the better shows on TV, rarely engage in too much hype, which is why their enthusiasm over this episode, "Fate," may be a good reason to tune in. In this episode Gary Hobson (Kyle Chandler), who always knows what's going to happen later in the day, fails to act, creating a situation in which a homeless man falls to his death. And then he gets a chance to read his own obituary.

Bullet "Earthly Possessions," 8 p.m., HBO. This HBO original stars Susan Sarandon and Stephen Dorff in an off-beat comedy based on the novel of the same name by Anne Tyler. Sarandon plays a bored housewife who makes a trip to the bank to withdraw everything that she can to quietly escape from the humdrum. She winds up standing in line when Jake (Dorff), an edgy young bank robber, begins ordering everyone to drop to the floor as he announces a holdup. Their lives then become intertwined when he uses her as a hostage to make his escape.

Bullet "Saturday Night Live," 10:30 p.m., KHNL/NBC. Host: actress Drew Barrymore. Music guest: Garbage. TV-14.


Bullet "Countdown to the Academy Awards," 1 p.m., E!. A six-hour special that leads into the annual "E! Academy Awards Live Pre-Show '99," hosted by Joan and Melissa Rivers.

Bullet "Academy Awards: Film, Fame and Fashion," 2 p.m., CNN. Lauren Sydney and Jim Moret report on the 1999 Academy Awards. Live.

Bullet "The Beth Littleford Interview Special," 5 p.m., Comedy Central. The special highlights some of Littleford'smore memorable interviews from the past year, all of which have previously appeared on "The Daily Show." The interviews subjects are Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Boy George, Dionne Warwick, David Cassidy and Jerry Springer.

Bullet "Oscar Preview," 6 p.m., KITV/ABC. Preview of the Academy Awards ceremony includes interviews with attendees.

Bullet "Academy Awards," 6:30 p.m., KITV/ABC. Whoopi Goldberg hosts the 71st annual ceremony honoring the best in motion pictures.

Bullet "The Sopranos," 7 p.m., HBO. Tony must find out if one of his men is wearing a wire; Makazian is arrested at a brothel; Jimmy is released from prison and visits the Sopranos.

Bullet "The Barbara Walters Special," 9:30 p.m., KITV/ABC. Susan Sarandon, Celine Dion and Elizabeth Taylor, three extraordinary women from the world of entertainment, chat with Walters.

Staff and wire reports

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