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Tinker's Workshop


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Characters & Voices
Tinker The Toymaker - Bob Keeshan
Tinker The Toymaker - Henry Burbig
Tinker Tom The Toymaker - Gene London
Tinker The Toymaker - Dom Deluise
While serving as the first host/ performer of WJZ/WABC TV Ch.7 NYC's "Time For Fun!"/ "The Johnny Jellybean Show", Bob Keeshan felt that there was a need for an educational children's program for pre-schoolers that could air in the weekday morning timeslot.

For a year he requested that the station management allow him to host such a series. His request for a weekday morning educational kids tv show was rejected by Ch.7's programming director Adrian Riodian until the late fall of 1954.

On Friday November 12, 1954, Keeshan and his tv director Jack Miller were called into Riodian's office and the PD told them "We're going to give your educational kids tv show a chance?" "Can you have the format ready by Monday Morning"?

Working feverishly Keeshan and Miller had a costume, set and concept developed over the weekend. By Monday November 15, 1954 "Tinker's Workshop!" was open for business.

Set against the backdrop of an Alpine toyshop, "Tinker The Toymaker" (Keeshan)would entertain and educate his viewers with games, stories, craftmaking, informational segments, interviews with guest educators, performers and personalities and comedy and puppets skits that were wrapped around reruns of old movie cartoons and comedies.

Keeshan would continue to educate and entertain his visitors to"Tinker's Workshop" until Sepetember of 1955. When he left the program and WJZ TV to begin his 29 year stint as the host/ instructor and performer of CBS TV's "Captain Kangaroo". In order for him to leave "Tinker's Workshop" and WJZ TV Ch.7 Keeshan and Miller had to give up their rights to the format and the character of "Tinker's Workshop" so that Keeshan could become a free agent.

The series continue with former Burlesque, stage and radio comic/ character actor, dialectician and storyteller Henry Burbig playing the kindly old toymaker. But Burbig's interpretation of "Tinker" was not appropriate for the children. Since he performed risque' material and he depended on old radio skits that were meant for a more sophisticated audience. He left the show in late December of 1957 and he was replaced by Gene London. A popular radio performer, Gene London began his tv career as a puppeteer for Red Benson's NYC based kids tv puppet show "Little Tom Tom At The Wigwam Party", which was seen weekday evenings on WOR TV Ch. 9 in NYC from 1950 to 1955. He also served as the puppeteer and cartoonist for Herb Sheldon's WNBT TV Ch.4 and WABD TV Ch.5 kids tv shows. He was also the second and last puppeteer and puppet maker for the nationally syndicated version of "Johnny Jupiter" with Wright King, Gil Mack, Cliff Hall And Par Peardon.

In 1957, London was working on as an assistant puppeteer with Shari Lewis on WRCA TV Ch.4 NYC's "Hi Mom!" when he was invited to audition for the hosting spot on"Tinker's Workshop".

Changing the character of the old toymaker to a big brother image and ultilizing his talents as a singer, dancer, cartoonist and puppeteer, he made the program more fun and fanciful than his predicessors. London's version of the show became a hit with NYC kids and he became one of the first NYC based kids tv hosts/ performers to be featured on one of the floats at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades.

Unfortunately, London's efforts as a kids tv host/ performer and educator were not appreciated by the station's new programming director Alvin Hollander, who refused London's request to either edit out the offensive characters and scenes in the old movie cartoons and comedies that were being screened on the program. When London again approached Mr. Hollander to either edit or take the films off of his show, Hollander angrily replied "Get the Hell out of here You're Fired!".

Gene London left the series in early 1958 and he was replaced by Dom Deluise. Long before he would gain recognition for his work in adult oriented films and tv shows, Mr. Deluise began his tv career as a comedy assistant on "Uncle Joe" Bova's Cleveland, Ohio based kids tv show "Tip Top Clubhouse". Deluise returned to NYC where he was invited to become the fourth(and last) host/ performer and instructor of "Tinker's Workshop!".

Playing the character of "Tinker The Toymaker", Mr. Deluise would educate, and entertain his visitors to "Tinker's Workshop!". Until the station execs at WABC TV Ch.7 in NYC closed down the toy workshop for good on Friday August 22, 1958.
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