Thursday, April 17, 2014

EASTER IS...

One of my many childhood obsessions was oddly enough Lutheran Television. Growing up Catholic, it seemed like our Protestant friends had better choices when it came to TV productions. They had the terrifically soapy THIS IS THE LIFE, we had SUNDAY MASS. They had the claymation duo of DAVEY & GOLIATH, we had SUNDAY MASS FOR SHUT-INS. They had EASTER IS... and we had EASTER SUNDAY MASS.
 EASTER IS...was an animated special about a boy and his dog from the early 1970s that was a sequel to CHRISTMAS IS... (which I also loved and will be covering in December). I recently found both these Lutheran TV classics unwrapped on VHS at a gay thrift shop in Palm Springs! It's an Easter miracle!
 Actress/singer/game show icon Leslie Uggams lent her talents to the production, a few years before her appearance in the disturbing exploitation film POOR PRETTY EDDIE, which also involved a dog.
 Our story focuses on Benjy, a young boy and his poor sense of what it means to be a good pet owner. His sheepdog Waldo wanders around the neighborhood without a leash, gets attacked by bees and is left sitting on the bus stop waiting for Benjy to come home from school. Probably doesn't get his shots either.
 At school, Easter season is in full swing - and everyone knows what that means : girls dressed as pink bunnies while boys point at them, colored eggs and baskets full of candy.
 Benjy's teacher (Leslie) tells the class that they are going to be competing against the other classes in an Easter decorating contest. Think of it as PROJECT: RUNWAY with lots of pastels.
 The teacher assigns Benjy the most important task of designing the poster for the classroom door. She doesn't want it to look like crap, so he's gotta really work hard on this. I mean real hard.
 As his hippie Jesus poster looks over him, Benjy begins to toil away night after night on his Easter poster, ignoring Waldo and becoming more and more obsessed with conveying the true meaning of Easter.
 The following day, Benjy scolds Waldo for being too co-dependant and the poor dog wanders off in a state of distress, only to be attacked by a magical (yes, I said magical) Siamese cat on loan from LADY & THE TRAMP.
 Waldo ends up spending the night on the streets, in a dump, and drinking polluted water.
 Meanwhile Benjy's ignorant parents think that all the boy needs to do is put food outside and Waldo will turn up.
They don't even offer to drive around and look for the dog. Out of sight, out of mind. I really want to smack these two smug assholes.
 Benjy prays to God to bring Waldo home. Maybe he should have thought about getting Waldo a leash and harness at some point and treated him better?
 But God doesn't listen - and Waldo ends up getting captured by a red-headed brat. It's always a red-head. Even Lex Luthor was ginger before he lost his hair.
 Red decides to hold Waldo hostage, thinking that his owner actually cared about him.
 Benjy is told that he needs to come up with FIVE DOLLARS in ransom otherwise he'll never see Waldo again. Great orange phone by the way.
 Rather than going to his stupid parents for help, Benjy decides to steal $3.05 out of the family piggy bank. Luckily his African-American friend is around to help him.
 Benjy and his friend confront the read-headed kidnapper, but its too late-Waldo was attacked by rats during the night and escaped Red's garage...leaving behind a trail of blood!!!
 Oh Hippie Jesus - what is Benjy going to do? What will become of poor neglected Waldo? Where did you get that awesome vest? PROJECT: RUNWAY, perhaps?
 Well, the next day Benjy's dumb-ass parents convince him to go to church for Easter - and Waldo just shows up. All dirty, but not bleeding. The two are happily reunited and all is forgiven. Did Benjy learn his lesson? Did he learn anything at all? I really don't think so.
 Benjy's stoned Sunday school teacher lets him bring Waldo into the classroom. "Like, that dog is so intense!"
 The creepy Sunday School students listen as Benjy and the teacher tell the miracle of Waldo's Christ-like return.
 The next day at Albrecht PUBLIC SCHOOL. (I typed it in all caps for a reason).
 Tim Gunn shows up to judge the Easter-decorating contest - and guess who's class wins?
Turns out that Benjy's Hippie Jesus collage is just what a PUBLIC SCHOOL wants hanging on a classroom door! I guess maybe Tim Gunn thought it was the Brawny Man or some other hunky dude and not Jesus. Well that's where Benhy's story ends...but actually I have a confession...
When this show aired in the 1970s, I loved it so much I mailed away for an EASTER IS...Hippie Jesus poster, which I proudly displayed on my closet door for years, until it was replaced by Lynda Carter. Amen!

3 comments:

Unknown said...

Doug-you are awesome. I want to mail you every ugly religious item from my Mother's house after reading that. I think your finding the videos in Palm Springs (get it, PALM)is an Easter miracle of sorts! Keep it up, you are as sick as I am, in a good way.
Chris in NYC

Unknown said...

Doug-you are awesome. I want to mail you every ugly religious item from my Mother's house after reading that. I think your finding the videos in Palm Springs (get it, PALM)is an Easter miracle of sorts! Keep it up, you are as sick as I am, in a good way.
Chris in NYC

toycoon said...

Awww, what a wonderful Easter miracle! Hippie Jesus is the One and only groovy Savior! Hallelujah!