|This comedy/variety kids tv program was NYC's last really fun children's show.
Originally conceived as a program for CBS TV weatherman Mark McEwen, the show would feature games, informational segments, craftmaking, hobbies and interviews with guest performers and personalities inbetween reruns of cartoons.
McEwen, however, was lured back to "CBS This Morning!" with a more lucrative contract and he turned down the offer to host "Steampipe Alley!". The station execs at WWOR TV were frantic and they held auditions to find a new host for the series.
They finally found him in the person of a nightclub and stage comic actor, mimic and singer named Mario Cantone. A vetrain entertainer since his teens, Cantone began his career performing in local stage and tv shows in Boston,Ma. Eventually, he moved to NYC, where he soon moved into the venue of nightclubs.
It was during a guest apperance on Ch.9's weekday morning talk/variety show "People Are Talking!"/ "The Richard Bey Show" that his talents as a comedy performer and singer came to the attention of tv producer Bob Woodruff.
Mr.Woodruff saw potential in Mr.Cantone's efforts as a kids tv host and he invited him to audition for the station's new comedy/variety kids show. Cantone won the audition and on Sunday Morning February 7,1988. "Steampipe Alley's" clubhouse meeting was offically opened.
Set against the backdrop of a makeshift clubhouse in the basement of an inner city apartment building, Cantone would lead a studio audience of kids in a series of games. "Brain Drain", where two kids (a girl and a boy) would try to successfully answer questions in the least amount of time in order for them to win prizes and a chance to run thru the obstacle course and win alot more prizes. The kids would also try to find a puzzle piece hidden inside of a balloon in a caged area filled with more balloons and a group of kids would play"Out Of Gas!" (A variation of Musical Chairs), only here the kids who is able to get to the last chair that does not have a whoopee cushion and is"Out Of Gas" is the winner.
More often than not, Cantone would use his comedic characters to host the game segments of the program. He would also perform comedy skits with a troop of performers. Judy Katschka (Cantone's producer) would manipulate and voice "Rosita The smart alecky Dragon" puppet, who would always upstage Cantone's egotisical singer "Julio Bodacus". "Angelo Antonelli" the loud mouth sewer worker would use his knowledge (or lack of knowledge) to his son (Played by an unknown child actor) and Cantone would dispense meaningful advice to his viewers as Teenage sage "Richie Morales".
The series would also feature a"Mystery Guest" segment, where a panel of three kids would try to guess the indentity of a famous person by asking the person questions while being blindfolded. "The Fat Boys", actors Fredrick Kohler (Of "Kate & Alley"TV Fame), Max Wright ("Willie Tanner"of "Alf") and controversial tv talk show host Morton Downey Jr. appeared in the segment. Other guest performers and personalities would appear on the show to perform and talk with the kids, Myram Biolick("Blossom"), Circus animal trainer Gunther Gabel Williams and pet training expert Warren Extine would appear on the program.
The series also featured reruns of "The Looney Tunes" and "Tom & Jerry" movie cartoons. For a time, the series was taped at the WWOR TV Studios in Seacacus, N.J. until the station was bought by Universal TV and Cantone would tape the show at The Universal Studios in L.A, Cal. But, Universal Tv gave up it's ownership of the station and Cantone returned to The New Jersey tv studios to tape the programs.
The series remained a popular Sunday morning children's series until the station was bought by ChrisCraft TV Inc. in 1993. The wife of the station's new owner was appalled at the series' lack of proper educational content and demanded that "Steampipe Alley" be cancelled. "Steampipe Alley's" last clubhouse meeting was called in April, 1993.
The theme song for "Steampipe Alley" was written by Joe Raposo and performed by Mario Cantone.