Monday, May 18, 2020

Horrible Gompie

I've written obsessively about Tom Tichenor and the puppets he created for the 1961 Broadway production of Carnivalhere and here and also here. But did I know that Tichenor's Carnival puppets were the stars of a children's TV show in the Netherlands? No, I did not.

So: It seems that Jaap Molenaar, a Dutch filmmaker, director, and performer, had a series of children's shows on public TV station NCRV in the Netherlands, in which he played Papa Wirrewarre. From his show Het Koerhuis van Papa Wirrewarre came a spinoff show called Gompie en zijn vriendjes, which concerned a walrus named Gompie, a fox named Ritsaard, a grande dame named Majolica, and a young rogue named Peentje. This show ran six years, from 1966 to 1972.

And somehow, the stars of "Gompie" were a set of the puppet characters Tom Tichenor created for Carnival! Horrible Henry became Gompie, Carrot Top was Peentje, Renardo was Ritsaard, and Marguerite was Majolica.

How did this happen? How did Molenaar acquire a set of Carnival puppets? Was this in any way an "authorized" enterprise, approved by David Merrick or Tichenor or anyone else?

Thanks immensely to the help of Erik Lippe on Facebook, I think we're beginning to unravel this mystery. It seems NCRV also broadcast TV versions of musical comedies in the 1960s. They did Brigadoon in 1964, they did one called Jij en ikke which was a Dutch version of Me and My Girl in 1965, and according to one source they did Carnival at around the same time too. I can't find any detailed info on their Carnival, but Jij en ikke featured Jaap Molenaar as one of the writers, probably a translator. It's not too hard to imagine that Molenaar worked on NCRV's Carnival in the same capacity as well, for which NCRV might have bought a set of Tichenor's puppets, perhaps from a European tour. After the show was broadcast...well, NCRV owned a set of charming puppets, Molenaar was doing children's shows for starts to add up.

It at least seems obvious that Molenaar was aware of the puppets' previous identities. He renamed Carrot Top "peentje", which is a Dutch word for a type of carrot, and also the similarities of Renardo/Ritsaard and Marguerite/Majolica suggest a knowledge of their Carnival names.

As far as I can find, no one has thus far made this Carnival/Gompie connection anywhere on the internet. Does anyone out there know anything more about how this came to pass?

Here are a bunch of photos and video clips from the show, including some book and record merchandising:

Some of the illustrations from this book are viewable here.