Friday, August 6, 2010

Race Riot!

Saturday morning cartoons used to be my life’s blood as a child. I couldn’t wait to get up and plop in front of the TV set with a bowl of cereal or (if I was lucky) a stack of pancakes and watch my favorite shows one after the other as either my grandmother or my mother complained to me about how I a) ought to be outside or b) was sitting too close to the television. My unqualified favorite show was Super Friends. I was most fond of Wonder Woman, but I also had a strange attraction to Aquaman that I didn’t understand 100%. I also greatly enjoyed Josie and the Pussycats. I loved blonde, dippy Melody the most, but also had an odd fascination with Josie’s boyfriend Alan. Likewise, on Scooby-Doo I worshipped Daphne, but had a strange fixation on strapping Freddie. (Alan and Freddie could have passed for brothers, by the way. Oh my GOD, I’m talking about cartoon characters as if they are real!) Are ya seeing a pattern here?!

There were also, of course, re-broadcasts of all the older cartoon shows during the week on the local station. This is where I saw Popeye, Casper, Bugs Bunny and many others.

One show I had precious little interest in was Jonny Quest. It didn’t have a beautiful girl character and seemed a little too masculine for my tastes. But oh how my tastes would later change! Ha Ha! Eventually, I caught a rerun of it one day and I fell, fell hard, for one of the key characters: Race Bannon. From then on, my gay little heart would race whenever he was on the scene.
Don’t think I don’t realize how stupid this posting is. I do. But I have to get everything out, sooner or later, the good the bad and the ugly! Jonny was the eleven year-old, blonde son of esteemed scientist Dr. Benton Quest. Jonny was voiced, in case you don’t know, by Tim Matheson, future costar of Animal House, 1941 and many other films. Tim grew up to become something of a cutie himself, with pretty blue eyes and an arresting smile.

Anyway, the motherless Jonny would accompany his father on many dangerous and mysterious missions. Along for the ride was Hadji, the East Indian orphan boy (also eleven years of age) who Dr. Quest had previously adopted and who was rarely seen without his turban with its ruby pin on the front. The family dog Bandit, sort of a hybrid of a bulldog and a Pekinese with black around his eyes (hence, his name!) joined in the melee as well.

Dr. Quest also had a hired pilot/adventurer/bodyguard (ostensibly for Jonny) named Roger “Race” Bannon. The hunky, prematurely grey, muscleman provided strength whenever needed and his worldly background helped get the team out of many a pinch. Bannon wore either blue or grey slacks and a vivid red shirt, which complimented his white hair. He leapt into action to try to save the day whenever Jonny was in trouble. He is yet another candidate who could be responsible for my youngish, silver-daddy fixation.

When the creator of Jonny Quest, Doug Wildey, was dreaming up the character of Race Bannon, he used 1950s Hollywood actor Jeff Chandler as a reference. Chandler was deeply tan with prematurely grey hair as well and a considerable physique. He was frequently cast as Indians (notably as Cochise in three films) and also headlined various war and western films. (He is notable to Joan Crawford fans for having played her lover in the campy scream-fest Female on the Beach and is notable to aficionados of old Hollywood due to Esther Williams reporting in her autobiography that in the middle of a hot and heavy romance with the man, he revealed to her that he was a cross-dresser with a penchant for polka-dots! People are still debating the veracity of that catty story, so unbelievable is it, but stranger things have happened!) Here, Jeff shows off his torso while standing next to the divine Lex Barker.
The opening credits of Jonny Quest featured a pounding jazz theme song along with various scenes of action, sometimes with a science fiction flavor to them. The show originated in prime time, so the characters were introduced with their faces and names, much the way all 1960s TV shows did (a practice I miss more than anyone can ever know.) For whatever reason, the animators had both Benton and Race shifting their eyes back and forth as they were shown and people have had a lot of fun with this ever since. Click the link below to see how one youtuber has endeavored to turn this into a sensual experience between the men!

Truth to tell, Benton was sort of a wimp compared to the strapping Race (prissy, fussy bottom?) and they did, at times, come off like some stereotypical version of a gay couple. They sometimes shared a room and even though there were two beds, Benton’s doesn’t look to me as if it has been slept in here! (Not to mention, Race looks terribly satisfied, lying there like Scarlett the morning after Rhett had his way with her!)
The original voice actor for Benton was let go after five episodes because his manly voice was too close in timbre to the man doing Race’s. The difference between the two characters’ voices wasn’t distinguishable enough until the second actor took over. Race’s voice was supplied by an actor named Mike Road. He wasn’t necessarily the beefcake that Race was, but he was a nice looking man and had worked on TV in many, many roles before this.

Race would sometimes watch over the boys and that occasionally included a trip to the beach where his body would be covered only by some short (red, natch!) trunks. He could easily take on both Jonny and Hadji in horseplay since his powerhouse presence was so far above the two spindly youngsters. Unintentional perversion would sometimes creep into the animation such as this instance in which it looks like Race has his hand up Jonny’s trunks!
There was another time when Race had to disguise himself with berries that left him stained a weird hue. He tried to scrub the color off in a bathtub. This gave us the opportunity to see him clad in nothing but a towel. (We never saw Alan, Freddie or Aquaman like this!) Race really popped my pre-teen Cocoa Puffs! Incidentally, I've always had a bit of a thing with the name Roger, too, and I only discovered today that that was Race's given name. I probably had that nugget buried in the ol' sub-conscience

What’s really hysterical about the show is its inherent innocence and earnestness when it comes to dialogue. They made it almost too easy to poke fun at the underlying threat of homosexual lust. True, if you are merely watching the program, everything makes sense, but try just only listening to an episode! (Again, if you look on, someone has strung together a series of clips with some of these lines.) My favorite example of this was during an episode in which Jonny and Hadji were amusing themselves over a turtle that had crept up. There were lines like (and I am using my memory here, so don’t sue me if a word or two is out of place!), “Look Hadji, the head is poking out!”, “Touch it!”, “It’s wet, Jonny!” and other such sentences.

An effort was made as the series progressed (and, in fact, the original show only lasted one season) to introduce a sort of mysterious love interest for Race Bannon. Her name was Jade and she was a vaguely villainous brunette who nevertheless helped out the team when needed. If I remember correctly, Race kissed her once and I (and probably Benton Quest, too!) wanted to put a cue ball inside a dress sock and hurl it at her until she was pummeled into ground beef! But I’m not jealous.

The show premiered in 1964 and soon thereafter a comic book version was produced. This cover gave Race a different outfit, though a lot of the shirt has been torn off (and there’s nothing wrong with that!) This was one Race I’d have wanted to win!

In the mid 80s, a new rendition was developed with more sophisticated animation and then still another redo came out several years later with Jonny and Hadji grown into their late teens. I never saw these incarnations of the show. The original concept of Dr. Quest and his handsome stud-for-hire was the real deal. Warner Brothers is currently in pre-production on a live-action movie version of Jonny Quest and Zac Efron, of all people, has been mentioned in the press as a possible actor to play the title character!

If you ever come across this show (on Boomerang or someplace else), try to listen to it without really watching it and see what sort of amusing mental pictures you come up with. It has become, for some deranged people out there (and I do count myself as at least partly deranged!) a bit of a hobby, if not an obsession!


Ima June Pullet said...

This is great! I watch Johnny Quest with the grandkids on Boomerang and have often had thoughts about just what was the relationship between the two men. At least I'm not alone...haha. I'll have to listen to it with my eyes closed next time.

Poseidon3 said...

In a megaton dose of gaity, the evening I posted this blurb, I crawled into bed and turned on the TV and there was Jonny Quest, followed by an episode of Penelope Pitstop!!! Any episode of that show is worth it just to hear Paul Lynde's pronunciation of the name Penelope.

Topaz said...

First the Legionnaires and now Race Bannon, you and I think alike, Poseidon.

I used to hate that bitch Jade for having a "history" with Race.

Topaz said...

And funny how Race is shown bare-chested with muscles but no nipples.

Poseidon3 said...

...and yet George Clooney's Batman was clothed, yet did have them! Ha! Thanks, Topaz.