Last week, it happened. Hal Fryar died. Hal, better known to generations of Hoosiers as Harlow Hickenlooper, made it to his 90th birthday on June 8th but died peacefully in his sleep a couple weeks later on June 25th. I would like to thank all of you who sent birthday cards to Hal down in Florida. His son Gary informs me that they were the highlight of the party and Hal appreciated each and every one of them. WISH-TV Channel 8 reporter Dick Wolfsie contacted me about filming a tribute to Hal for his July 1st show and I was honored to do it for Hal.
Wolfsie had a long history with Hal and his interview segment filmed back in 2008 remains a classic. Hal’s alter ego Harlow was known as an affable schlemiel whose just compensation was always a pie in the face. Not only did Dick share space with Hal in the TV broadcasting fraternity, Mr. Wolfsie also shares membership with Hal in the pie-in-the-face fraternity. (Okay, there is no such thing but there should be.) Dick Wolfsie was once “pie’d in the face” by none other than the king of the genre, Soupy Sales, himself back in 1998.
Dick felt a proper way to honor his pal Hal was to take a pie in the face himself. That show, which you can find on the WISH-TV website under the Dick Wolfsie/Hal Fryar segment name, went off without a hitch and was a suitable tribute to Hal Fryar. I had the honor of “Pie-ing” Dick in the face just as Hal Fryar himself had showed me at the Irving Theatre so many years ago. As for Mr. Wolfsie, he was such a trooper that he actually took TWO pies in the face. Now that is dedication.
As fate would have it, a few days before appearing on Dick Wolfsie’s segments I attended an antique show and ran across a photo of Hal and his co-stars Curley Myers and Cap’n Star (Jerry Vance, a.k.a. Larry Vincent). These photos, which were actually giveaways from WFBM-TV Channel 6 back in the early 1960s, brought back memories. Having grown up in Indy around that time, I clearly remember getting things like this whenever and wherever the TV stars would show up for promos. Store, bank and restaurant openings, live shows and taped segments; the stars would hand these out to their young fans as souvenirs. I found the timing of the card’s discovery ironic because they came into my world just after Hal’s 90th birthday and the day before I had found out he had passed. Life is funny that way.
I realized that I had written several article on Hal Fryar but had never touched on the lives of his cohorts. By now, you know that Hal rose to prominence as Harlow Hickenlooper, the host of The Three Stooges Show on Channel 6 in Indianapolis from 1960 to 1972. Together, Hal, Curley and Cap’n Star sang songs and performed skits for a live studio audience of children. Fryar also hosted several other children’s shows over 43 years in local television. In 1965, Fryar was cast in the Three Stooges movie, The Outlaws Is Coming, playing the part of Johnny Ringo. On October 2, 2008, Fryar was inducted into the Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame. But what became of his costars?
Gerald L. “Curley” Myers, known by fans as “your ole buckaroo buddy,” was born April 1, 1920, twelve miles east of Lebanon, Indiana. Curley grew up on a farm in Clinton County and attended grade school in Forest and Frankfort, Indiana. From the age of eight he was in love with music and played his bass violin in the school orchestra, at church and fiddled at neighborhood hoedowns on the weekends. He graduated from Frankfort High School in 1938. Somewhere along the way, Curley took up the banjo and guitar, which opened the door to a successful career in show business.
Curley’s list of bands reads like a page out of country music history: Woodside Harmonica Band (19334-36), The Hoosier Ramblers (1936-38), the Semi Solid Ramblers (1938-39), Cap’n Stubby and the Buccaneers (1939-45) and the Shady Acres Ranch Cowboys (1949-57). Curley’s Cap’n Stubby years were spent at WLW in Cincinnati performing on the same slate as Doris Day, The Williams Brothers with Andy Williams, Merle Travis, The Girls of the Golden West, Lulu Belle and Scotty, Bradley Kincaid, and the Delmore Brothers, to name a few.
Early in 1955 WFBM Channel 6 began airing the Indiana Hoedown, starring entertainers who had been on WLW in Cincinnati. In addition to working the Hoedown, Curley had Curley’s Cowboy Theater for seven or eight years, then did a Saturday morning kid’s show with Cap’n Star and Harlow Hickenlooper. Altogether, Curley spent over 15 years there as the “Saturday Morning Cowboy.” In May, 1972 the TV station was sold and the new owners planned a change of programming formats and personalities.
This led to a kind of semi-retirement from the music business for Curley Myers. He went to work for the Culligan Water Conditioning company but continued entertaining on nights and weekends at state fairs, parties and a long standing gig performing Wednesday through Saturday nights at the Best Western. Curley spent well over 60 years pickin’, singin’, and grinnin’ all ovr the midwest. Curley and Hal remained close until Curley’s death on May 19, 2013 at a retirement home in Mulberry, Indiana.
Larry Vincent (a.k.a. Larry Vance) was born Larry Francis Fitzgerald Vincent on June 14, 1924 in Boston, Massachusetts. Not much is known about Vincent’s early life. He first surfaced in the 1940s as an understudy to Kirk Douglas in the Broadway play Alice in Arms. The play ran for only 5 performances at the National Theatre in New York City, but is notable for being Kirk Douglas’ Broadway debut. Vincent teamed up with Don McArt to form a stand-up comedy act that performed in nightclubs all over New York City. Anderson, Indiana native Donald Craig McArt had previously appeared in the Walt Disney films Son of Flubber and the Absent Minded Professor.
Vincent landed in the Circle City in the early 1960s where he created his Cap’n Star character for WFBM in Indianapolis. Cap’n Star appeared alongside Harlow and Curley for children’s programming which showcased old Three Stooges shorts. Along with his pet monkey Davy Jones, Cap’n Star sang songs and performed skits on the show. Vincent lived in a house at 41st and Graham Avenue on the east side. Local children remember Vincent as a kind neighbor who always had time for kids, often letting them wear his sailor’s cap from the show and play with the show’s mascot monkey Davy Jones.
In 1968 he left Indianapolis to become staff director for KHJ-TV in Los Angeles. From 1969 to 1974 Vincent was the host for a Sammy Terry style Friday night horror show program known as “Fright Night” on KHJ-TV and later Seymour’s Monster Rally on KTLA-TV. Vincent’s Seymour horror host presented — and heckled — low-budget horror and science fiction movies on both local Los Angeles stations. He is remembered for his style of criticizing the movies he presented in an offbeat and funny manner, usually appearing in a small window which would pop up in the corner, tossing a quip, then vanishing again. Sometimes he would, using blue-screen, appear in the middle of the movie, apparently interacting with the characters in the movie.
Along with appearing in several episodes of The New Three Stooges during his Indianapolis years, Vincent also had small roles on Get Smart, Mission: Impossible, Mannix, The Flying Nun, and I Dream of Jeannie. Larry Vincent served as Knott’s Berry Farm’s inaugural “Ghost Host,” in 1973 at Knott’s Scary Farm Halloween Haunt. Vincent’s, a.k.a. Seymour’s, last show came in 1974. Traditionally, Seymour ended the show by saying, “I’d like to thank you… I’d like to, but it’s not my style! Bad Evening!” But on his final telecast, Seymour eschewed his familiar goodbye and said nothing. He merely waved as the stagehands disassembled the set behind him. Mr. Vincent quickly succumbed to stomach cancer and died less than a year later on March 9, 1975. Several years later, Elvira took over Larry’s place as horror-film hostess on Fright Night, which later morphed into her own series, “Elvira’s Movie Macabre.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Although these men and their genre has left the local TV scene, their legacy is recalled fondly by Baby Boomers all over the country. They don’t make men like Harlow, Curley and Cap’n Star anymore. Like Janie Hodge and Bob Glaze (Cowboy Bob) these people were integral parts of Indianapolis schoolkids’ lives. They entertained and informed us all by filling the hours after school until our parents came home. Corny, yes, old fashioned, sure, but they were our TV friends, We could always count on them to make us feel like they were all talking directly to us, Hal Fryar was really the first of his kind and his reach was a long one. He will be missed.
Al Hunter is the author of the “Haunted Indianapolis” and co-author of the “Haunted Irvington” and “Indiana National Road” book series. His newest book is “Bumps in the Night. Stories from the Weekly View.” Contact Al directly at Huntvault@aol.com or become a friend on Facebook.
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