Wednesday, May 09, 2007


I love YouTube. I love YouTube. I LOVE YOUTUBE! Almost as much as I love Ms. Dewey, Lisa Rinna and the woman. And that's saying a lot.

No, not because I have a soft spot for halfassed home movies or the antics of drunken college kids cut loose with camcorders. It's because YouTube has reconnected Brother John with a long-lost relic of his youth. Let's hang a sharp left, if you please, down Memory Lane. . .

It's the mid-1970s. After spending half a day sitting in a classroom corner for throwing crayons at Jo-Anne the Paste-Eating Girl, kindergarten student Johnny Left hurried home, with his Chicago Bears windbreaker (attached to his body only by the hood string tied around his neck) flapping behind him like the cape of a copyrighted comic book superhero who shall remain nameless.

Upon arriving home, the hyperactive young lad was corralled by his mother at the front door. After being thoroughly bitched out for abusing his windbreaker, young John was hauled into the living room and planted in a folding chair. The chair was stationed before a little folding table, the same folding table which doubled as "the kiddie table" at holiday dinners. Sitting on the table in front of John was his lunch: a steaming bowl of Campbell's chicken & stars soup, half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, a glass of milk, and three or four prunes on a small dish. The prunes were to counteract the threat of constipation posed by the peanut butter (Old Country ways, you see).

"Now, sit there, be quiet and don't make a mess!" said Mom, as she moved toward the TV set located before John's table. "If you're a good boy and eat everything, I may know where we can find some Oreos for dessert."

Mom switched on the hulking Zenith at the console. A sharp buzz followed the click of the ON/OFF knob. The lights in the room dimmed momentarily. The audio came up first; slowly, the screen lit up and the video came into focus. A show, a wonderous show! My favorite program in the whole entire world! The very best cartoon ever: Prince Planet.

In a nutshell: Prince Planet was a boy superhero from the far-off, superadvanced, utopian planet of Radion. He comes to Earth to, as far as I remember, save Earthlings from their halfassed, warlike ways. His powers were derived from a magic pendant which enabled him to fly, shoot laser beams from said pendant and do all kinds of other plenty-wonderful, superheroly stuff that thrilled my 5-year old heart.

I was a hardcore Prince Planet fan. I used to drive my teacher insane, lingering on the playground at the end of recess, until I was the last kid left out there. I'd perch at the top of the slide, gripping 'my' imaginary Prince Planet pendant in my grubby little paws.

"Johnny! Oh, Johnny!" called Ms. Wollsham, my kindergarten teacher, who bore a resemblance to the actress who played Aunt Bea on "The Andy Griffith Show". "Recess is over now, Johnny. It's film-strip time. You like film-strips, don't you? Please climb down from there. You could get hurt. . ."

Ignoring Ms. Wollsham, I pushed a hidden button on my imaginary pendant and leapt into the air. In my mind, a burst of light erupted from the pendant. "PPPPPPP-PA-ZOW!" I shouted, just like my hero as he transformed himself from his secret identity, the timid Earth boy 'Bobby,' into the unstoppable galactic prince. When my feet hit the ground, I too was superpowered space royalty. Ms. Wollsham destroyed the fantasy by grabbing me by the collar and dragging me back into school. She had Aunt Bea's face, but a beeyotch's temper, you see.

Sometime around 1976 or so, Prince Planet disappeared from the airwaves. I moved on with my life. A couple of times over the years, I'd mention the show to friends of mine. Many of them were cartoon/comic book junkies, like me. None of them had heard of the fantastic hero from planet Radion. After a while, I got to thinking that it was something I'd dreamed up myself, a side effect of mixing prunes and childhood adrenalin. Then I put it out of my mind.

The other day, I was noodling around on YouTube. I was semi-impressed by the fact that, there, I could locate clips of the battle scene from Orson Welles' "Chimes At Midnight", rare footage of poet Anne Sexton reading her work and scenes from Winsor McKay's first-ever animated cartoons. YouTube's search engine beckoned me, all but challenged me, to play stump the Web. Somehow, out of the primordial ooze of my subconsciousness, Prince Planet emerged. I keyed in the name and suddenly, after thirty years, there he was in all of his black-and-white glory.

Today, I have no idea where any of my kindergarten classmates might be. I don't know what became of Ms. Wollsham after I left her class (much to her relief). Even the school itself has disappeared, the victim of demolition in favor of an addition onto the nearby junior high building. That big old Zenith was chucked out years ago, replaced by at least four or five other sets, the most recent being my father's treasured widescreen Sony. Nearly everyone and everything of that time that seemed so solid, so permanent, has vanished into the vapor of memory.

But not Prince Planet. He's still steadfast, undaunted and unchanged. Right down to the little gleam you can see in his eye as he's kicking the villian's ass. Godspeed, Prince Planet. And thank you, YouTube.


Blogger Happy Villain said...

A. Sorry, I've never heard of your hero nor do I recall watching the cartoon, even though I was a cartoon addict. I'm glad you found him, though, if just to give your earlier years some validation. I should check for Son of Svengoolie clips and Great Space Coaster episodes, myself.

B. I hope that you still do not have a home computer, because with 24 hour access to YouTube, I fear our friend Johnny might never again see the light of day.

11:16 PM  
Blogger BeckEye said...

YouTube is a thing of beauty.

Prince Planet! That's so funny...I had forgotten all about that. My oldest brother liked that show, and when he forced me to watch it, I fell in love with the theme song. I loved it so much that I taped it from TV with my boombox and used to listen to it all the time!

2:27 PM  

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