When Burr Tillstrom
had visitors to his Saugatuck home he would often bring one of his famous
puppets into the conversation.
First there was Kukla, then came the egotistical Ollie, followed by the
whole troop: Madam Ooglepuss, Beulah the Witch, Cecil Bill, Fletcher
Rabbit, Colonel Crackie - all of whom were called "the kids" by their
creator, Burr Tillstrom.
Millions of Americans watched the kids' antics in the Kukla, Fran, and
Ollie show, television's first big puppet show. At one point the kids
received fifteen thousand fan letters a week. Burr moved them and gave
them voice and soul from behind the curtain and lovely Fran Allison
visited and sang with them in front of the camera. Their television
shenanigans and gossip became legendary. They even performed musicals and
operettas. Burr could make several kids appear to sing at the same time.
He once said, "You don't need a script when you're talking to your
Burr spent much of his life with the "Kuklapolitans" in Chicago - at
Marshall Field's department store for Saturday puppet shows, at the NBC
and ABC television studios, at their Chicago home - and frequently "on the
road" for special appearances.
Kukla, Ollie, and the others lived in Saugatuck as well - at Burr's house
on upper Spear Street - and it was on various Saugatuck and Holland
occasions that they gave some of their best performances. One of the best
remembered performances was as narrators for a Saugatuck civic celebration
Fran once said that Kukla and Ollie "are as real to me as people."
Burr Tillstrom died in 1985, Kukla and Ollie were recently discovered in
the attic of Burr's old Saugatuck house, patiently waiting for Burr.
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