Howdy Doody, NBC's popular cowboy puppet (TIME, April 5), had his huge audience of kids worried. Howdy had disappeared.
A month ago, when NBC refused to give him a raise, Frank Paris, Howdy's builder and manipulator, huffed out of the studio with Puppet Howdy under his arm. For awhile, the program's fate dangled by a marionette string. But M.C. Bob Smith still owned Howdy's name and voice, and NBC still had Smith. So, while a West Coast puppetmaker hurriedly whittled a new $2,000 marionette, harried Announcer Smith fenced with his young audience and concocted desperate excuses for the puppet's absence: Howdy was invisible, he was on a "presidential campaign tour," he was having his "face lifted."
Last week the new Howdy, looking more like Pinocchio and less like Mortimer Snerd, was joined to the old voice. "I think your new face is beautiful," wrote one little admirer. But youngsters who are suffering through television's growing pains will have their loyalties severely strained this week when Peter Pixie, a new property of Puppeteer Paris, turns up on a rival station, the New York Daily News's WPIX. The old Howdy, says Paris, is "only good for kindling now."