RIP Patches. I was saddened to learn of his death on October 5. I would like to celebrate his life by telling whoever reads this blog about the first time I ever met him.
Patches was a local television personality in Philadelphia in the 50s when I was young, and when I was maybe 8 or 9 years of age, he did a show at the elementary school in Berwyn PA where I was a student. I vaguely remember this as a special event, probably held during the day, but I can't be sure of the time. What I do remember was that he was very friendly, looked just like he did on TV and was fun type of act for kids. I would love to know now how the school got him to perform for it.
We were all an auditorium full of lively kids. We were enjoying ourselves. I had an empty spearmint Chiclets box. In those days, you could blow on the empty box, and it would make an interesting kazoo-like noise. I must have made enough noise for Patches to notice, because he called me up on stage with him and announced that we would play a duet together, he singing with guitar and me blowing on my Chiclet box. I had no professionalism in those days and was instantly attacked by a fit of the giggles. He started up the song, which was "On Top of Old Smoky" and at the end of each line I was to blow on the box. Things went okay for 2 or 3 lines, and then the Chiclet box stopped making its noise. The box would get damp from your breath causing the noise to go away. I stopped and blushed and whispered to Patches "I can't go on. It's damp." He turned to the audience announcing loudly something like "this world-renowned musician has to stop playing, because 'it's damp.'" I left the stage to thunderous laughter and applause.
When I met Patches again many years later after I had grown up and become a club performer, I reminded him of this moment. He had the good grace to pretend to remember it, and we shared a laugh over it. Through the years that I performed at his club, he and Liz both were generous warmhearted hospitable bosses.