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Farewell, Eddie Driscoll

September 28, 2006

[Crossposted.]

Local television giant, Eddie Driscoll, has passed away. Here’s a part of one obit piece:

Quiet and more reserved when not on camera, Driscoll morphed into another personality, dozens of personalities over the years, once he hit the sound stage.

“As soon as that camera came on he just turned into a totally different person,” said Margo Cobb, former general manager and vice president of WLBZ 2 in Bangor.

Through his slapstick, visual comedy style and quirky characters such as the baggy-dressed Margaret, the dim-witted Bruce Budworm and the lovable Mason Mutt, Driscoll became a household name in Maine and the Maritime Provinces. [Bangor Daily News: TV pioneer Eddie Driscoll dies at 81]

I remember Mason Mutt, and I once witnessed Driscoll’s his “quiet and more reserved” off-camera persona. When in elementary school I once became awestruck upon seeing him at a dingy local shopping center. I couldn’t bring myself to speak to him, but seeing the glow of adulation on my face, he simply smiled graciously.

Eddie DriscollI mostly remember watching him on The Great Money Movie when I was a little bit older; calling people at random during the breaks to ask if they knew the word that had flashed up on the screen during the movie; dialing the numbers with the flair required to make operating a rotary telephone on TV entertaining; and narrating the call as he waited for the person to pick up, “One ringy-dingy . . . Two ringy-dingy . . .” For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, I loved that shtick. I was scarred by watching Hitchcock’s The Birds on the Great Money Movie, but I most looked forward to Battlestar Galactica week, and the Woody Woodpecker and Chilly Willy cartoons they showed to fill up the airtime allotted for the program.

But there was more to the man than what I remember. Long before my time, he cut his teeth in the early days of television. Here’s a bit of a retrospective piece from a couple of years ago:

Eddie had one of the first TV morning shows. He’d do interviews and comedy bits and, of course, the commercials. Cobb says no one thought the morning show would work, “The powers-that-be decided that no one would watch television in the morning.”

Eddie Driscoll was a natural TV performer and a natural comedian in his prime in the era of the legendary TV comics like Sid Cesar. “He was as good as they were,” says Cobb, “Regrettably he lived in Bangor, Maine and didn’t have the promoter to push him into New York.” [aroundmaine.com: The Genius of Eddie Driscoll]

And apparently he was among the first television performers to be hassled by uptight company censors:

Sometimes Eddie would push the envelope. “He needed a censor.” Margo Cobb says, “Unless you really got on top of him he could be a little naughty.” Eddie wasn’t above letting humorous double entendre slip out over the pristine air of WLBZ. Green agrees sometime Eddie let things slip that maybe shouldn’t have been said on TV. [Ibid.]

Sadly, in his fifties, the changed nature of the television business and early effects of Alzheimer’s disease, meant less opportunity for him to shine. He retired from the business in 1987 after 33 years. Over time, Alzheimer’s would take a heartbreaking toll and rob Driscoll of the ability to communicate.

Over the years, quite often, Eddie Driscoll entered my thoughts. I wondered. “Whatever happened to him?” Today, I know it is time to mourn the suffering he and his family endured, mark his death, but most importantly, continue celebrating his career. Farewell, Eddie Driscoll.

[The image, and much of the biographical information comes from that aroundmaine.com link.]

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Ken from Ken's Kitchen permalink
    September 28, 2006 12:25 PM

    I remember Eddie Driscoll, local troublemaker and hot-rodder. He scared everyone with his reckless driving, but used his dance moves and neo-realist black-and-white skits of life in the Maritime Provinces to earn the respect and acceptance of one and all. When he offered to entertain the good people of Bangor free of charge, they agreed and made him the crown prince of their small kingdom. Eddie was deposed after the citizenry tired of the garish color commercials and royal station breaks that constantly interrupted their lives. Eddie lived out his days in a cabin on Moosehead Lake with a formerly glamorous model for the LL Bean catalogue.

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