Sep 6, 2012

Lidsville: Butch Patrick's Nude Bubble Bath

One of many Krofft Saturday morning tv shows about boys trapped far from home, Lidsville (1971-73) starred Butch Patrick, formerly Eddie the werewolf-boy on The Munsters, as seventeen-year old Mark, more macho than the androgynous Jack Wild of H.R. Pufnstuf, with a firm, tanned body and a fondness for shirts opened to the navel (unfortunately, their color was so close to his natural skin tone that from across the room you thought you were getting beefcake).

 In the opening segment, Mark visits an amusement park and sees a performance by Merlo the Magician. Intrigued, he lags behind his friends and sneaks backstage, where Merlo’s magical top hat sits unguarded. He peers inside. Suddenly the hat gets larger, the room shakes, and Mark falls down a rabbit hole – through a kaleidoscope of sinister Day-Glo colors, with gape-jawed monsters and maniacal laughter. It seems that Merlo has orchestrated the entire sequence of events.  But what does he want with Mark? 

The only thing I could think of in 1971 was: don't trust strangers.  They want to kidnap you and take you away.

Mark falls into Lidsville, a land of badly stereotyped living hats (Nurse Hat, Chef Hat, Hillbilly Hat, and so on).

They are all terrorized by the evil magician Hoo Doo (gay actor Charles Nelson Riley), who has green skin and Satanic fire-red hair.  My friends and I found him scarier than any movie monster.

Most episodes involve Mark's increasingly desperate attempts to escape, while the lecherous Hoo Doo tries to capture him for an unspecified sinister purpose.  

Although fast-paced and frenetic, with Butch Patrick providing ample eye candy, Lidsville had none of the domesticity that made Living Island a desirable home: we never find out where Mark sleeps or how he eats. And he has no strong same-sex bonds, just an androgynous genie named Weenie (Billie Hayes in male drag), who is too weak and servile to become a chum.  
In Pufnstuf, the threat is female, but in Lidsville, it is male, the leering, gay-vague Hoo Doo.  Same-sex desire lurks in the shadows, unwholesome, festering, potentially violent.

Even Butch Patrick's only beefcake photo was disquieting.  Butch naked in a bubble bath, his leg raised to cover his privates, holding a rubber duck, leering at the camera:

My friends and I only watched a few episodes.  Lidsville did not offer a glimpse of "the good place."

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