What's On? Wednesday: The Bugaloos
You can’t read a review of any early Krofft show, like H.R. Pufnstuf, The Bugaloos, or Lidsville, without seeing the word “psychedelic”. Sid and Marty Krofft created shows that were ahead of their time, while also being a sign of their time. In addition to the above-mentioned shows, they also created some of my other favorites like Land of the Lost, Bigfoot and Wildboy, The Lost Saucer, ElectraWoman and DynaGirl, and Wonderbug.
The Bugaloos is one of my favorite Krofft creations. In 1970, The Bugaloos hit the airwaves, but for me, it wasn’t until a few years later that I saw it. There is a large backstory to the creation of the show, the gathering of the talent, and the music behind the show, which I will not go into. There is a lot of that information available around the internet and in David Martindale’s great book Pufnstuf & Other Stuff.
With only one season of stories, which comprised of 17 episodes, the Bugaloos flew from adventure to adventure singing their songs of
The Bugaloos were a singing quartet of insects:
John McIndoe played I.Q. the grasshopper and guitar player.
Wayne Laryea played Harmony the bumblebee and keyboardist.
John Philpott played Courage the ladybug and drummer.
Caroline Ellis played Joy the butterfly and tambourine player.
They lived in Tranquility Forest with Sparky (Billy Barty), the firefly, who they met in the first episode.
When trouble threatened their peaceful home, Bluebell would sound an alarm and share information she got through the Grape Vine.
Ten miles away was Rock City and home of radio station KOOK where D.J. Peter Platter played the top hits.
On the outskirts of town was a giant jukebox, which was the home of Benita Bizarre (Martha Raye).
Martha Raye’s portrayal of Benita Bizarre is one of the campiest and most over-the-top characterizations ever for television.
Benita wanted desperately to become a famous singer and have her records played by Peter Platter, but unfortunately, she was the worst. After hearing the harmonizing melodies of the Bugaloos, she was determined to stop them, ruin them or destroy them.
Assisting her were her chauffeur Funky Rat (Sharon Baird)
and speakers Tweeter (Van Snowden) and Woofer (Joy Campbell).
I think she is probably the meanest villain in children’s entertainment outside of Cruella de Vil. Cruella wanted a coat made of puppy skins and that is probably the most evil of all, but Benita is pretty close to the top.
Some of her most horrendous acts were:
Shrinking the Bugaloos and putting them in a music box,
Stealing Joy’s voice,
Not just once, but twice,
Tricking an amnesiac Courage into thinking he’s her nephew and makes him do all the chores,
And then it gets worse,
Tying up the guys while she was going to have her giant record player put grooves in Joy.
But to top it all was the episode where she decides she wants to fly like the Bugaloos. Funky Rat’s sister fashions wings for her, but they never get her off the ground.
So what does she do? She kidnaps I.Q. and was going to cut off his wings for herself. AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
How terrifying that must have been for a youngster sitting in front of the television on a Saturday morning. At least at the end of the episode, I.Q. is safe and it’s back to Tranquility Forest and another song about friendship.
I love all the songs from the show and recently purchased the CD.
I don’t know why Sid and Marty didn’t take advantage of what they had and toured them around the country. They may not have been as big as The Beatles or even The Monkees, but they could have capitalized on some of their popularity. The songs are catchy and fun.
The last thing I want to mention is the LGBT themes that seem to exist. I know they weren’t intentional (maybe), but being who I am, I look for what’s between the lines.
First is the most obvious: Benita Bizarre is a camp drag queen icon. She has more feathers and sequins than anything you’ll see in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Next is the cross-dressing. I.Q. dresses up like Benita to infiltrate her jukebox. He actually made a really good drag queen and did a pretty good job at impersonating Martha Raye’s character.
But you don’t get just drag queens, but drag kings as well. Benita becomes J.W. Wooster to trick Sparky in the hopes that he might write a song for her.
Finally is the transgendered character of Courage. Now I know there are such things as male ladybugs, but as a small child I thought all ladybugs were “ladies”. John Philpott portrayed a male ladybug before Denis Leary did in the animated A Bug’s Life.
If you get a chance to buy the DVD collection, you must. It is fun and entertaining even as an adult and nostalgia is always a blast. Don't be disappointed in the transfer though. Unlike H.R Pufnstuf, The Bugaloos was videotaped instead of filmed. Yes, the sets and themes you see throughout the show are "psychedelic,", but it is a trip worth taking and one which I highly recommend.