Carl “Uncle Zeb” Bartholomew Dies at 78
Carl Bartholomew, who hosted “Uncle Zeb’s Cartoon Camp” on KTUL Channel 8 in Tulsa from 1969-79 and on TCI from 1990-97, died today at age 78. The show was something of an institution for kids growing up in the Tulsa area, in which kids sat on a wooden bleacher while Uncle Zeb organized games and brought animal wranglers on as guests.
Kids screamed and cried as expected, but the great joy for those who appeared on the show was just being on TV. After a round of old Merry Melodies, Looney Tunes and Tex Avery cartoons and some old west campfire hijinks, the kids would walk down a wooden “bridge” and Bartholomew would let them say “hi!” to “My mommy, my daddy, my dog, my brother and everybody I know.” Almost every one of them said a slight variation on this, every day, Monday through Friday.
Uncle Zeb’s sign-off was “I’ll be lookin’ for ya,” and Bartholomew would stare into the camera as an old audio clip of a tearful woman saying “Auf wiedersehen, John. Auf wiedersehen” played. It was a bizarre show from the waning days of free-form television, and it was a great place to see the kind of whacked-out Warner Bros. cartoons that were deemed either too strange or offensive to play on the “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour” on CBS.
I never went on the show, but classmates I knew who did often came back with reports that Uncle Zeb didn’t like kids too much, but I tend to think of it as part of his act. In a 2001 interview with Infinity Press, Bartholomew said he refused to talk down to the children who appeared on the show.
“I had people saying ‘You don’t like children.’ In fact I really love children, and the things they do, and the spontaneity; that’s what really made the show work,” Bartholomew said. “It was ‘Hey, it’s you and me, kids; we’re in this together.’ So I would order them around. That came as a result of the limited amount of time we had on the air. ‘Get over here. No, I didn’t say there, over here. Now you wait over there where I told you.’ I learned within a day or two that this was not my show, this was their show. I had to be very flexible without them running amuck or running me into the ground. We were just trying to get organized, but it always appeared to be just organized confusion.”
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