If you've got a heart, then Gumby's a part of you
January 9, 2010 2:50 AM   Subscribe

Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby, died Friday January 8 at the age of 88. Gumby has always been one of my favorite shows, and the episode Of Clay and Critters is one of the weirdest things that has ever appeared on television.

Both the Wikipedia link and his IMDB entry mention the documentary Gumby Dharma which was produced in 2006. It is an amazingly well done portrait of an amazing man, which is unfortunately not in wide release. I'd always wondered about the "Zen Cafe" which appears in the unnamed downtown in the series, and the film answered that question - Art Clokey had become a Buddhist, even hanging out with Alan Watts.

His ex-wife Ruth, with whom he created Gumby and Davey and Goliath, died just over a year ago.

If you have a local video store, perhaps they have some of the old episodes from the 1950's-60's on VHS; the few 1980's Gumbys I've seen just weren't the same. Reissues of the originals are also available on DVD, although apparently the Rhino box set had a completely new and inferior soundtrack.

There was also a great album from 1989 (now sadly out of print) called The Green Album, which was a tribute to Gumby including songs by Dweezil & Moonunit Zappa, Sly and Robbie, Jonathan Richman, and Frank Sinatra Jr. doing the Gumby Theme in classic Frank Sr. big band style.

Farewell, Mr. Clokey, farewell. My condolences to your friends and family.
posted by foonly (59 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have molded a . out of clay for this sad occasion.


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posted by Spatch at 3:08 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by strixus at 3:12 AM on January 9, 2010


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posted by Skorgu at 3:26 AM on January 9, 2010


I never watched Gumby (although Bob Burden's comic adoptions are pretty fun), but I watched enough Davey and Goliath growing up that I I am still driven to say "I dunno, Daaavey..." when someone is about to do something ill-advised.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:33 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gumbasia (1953)

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posted by louche mustachio at 3:34 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by knave at 3:38 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dammit!
posted by chillmost at 4:03 AM on January 9, 2010


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posted by Smart Dalek at 4:16 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by balmore at 4:21 AM on January 9, 2010


Puny Gumby Dharma clip
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:48 AM on January 9, 2010


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posted by fixedgear at 4:52 AM on January 9, 2010


Totally coincidentally, I just made coffee in a Gumby mug.

Also,
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posted by Obscure Reference at 4:56 AM on January 9, 2010


I vaguely remember watching them back then, so long ago, on our giant metal black & white television. They must have been on Rocketship 7, back when Promo had square shoulders. My memory now is as fuzzy as our reception was then.

Art Clokey had become a Buddhist, even hanging out with Alan Watts.

Prickles and Goo --> Prickle and Goo.
posted by pracowity at 5:04 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


___/-
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posted by limeonaire at 5:14 AM on January 9, 2010 [15 favorites]


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posted by humanfont at 5:16 AM on January 9, 2010


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posted by usonian at 6:17 AM on January 9, 2010


Nobody's mentioned the Gumby movie? Came out right around the same time as Toy Story?

In a long list of things I found very, very funny while very, very high, this is right up there. A++
posted by stinkycheese at 6:24 AM on January 9, 2010


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posted by Scoo at 6:41 AM on January 9, 2010


I grew up with Gumby. Over the years the phrase "and his pony pal Pokey, too" has worked its way into my writing/conversation many times. Gumby was a great, imaginative series and we will not see its like again because now we are all too sophisticated.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:50 AM on January 9, 2010


Late 60's - my sister and I had a rubber Gumby and Pokey set for back seat entertainment during the 2 day drive down to Myrtle Beach. Thanks Art.

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posted by davebush at 7:12 AM on January 9, 2010


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The Rhino redub's generic, cloying, and overloud synthesizer intrusions sounded left over from a low budget shoe store commercial in 1990 and ruined the dvd box set for me. The original 1950's music conjured a woozier, slightly off-kilter Montovani involving a small orchestra I liked to imagine as tuxedo-clad, ship-bound, and missing just a few of its players due to seasickness. This original soundtrack blended lovingly with the visual action and was a substantial part of what made early era ("clay ball eyes" era) Gumby so unique and charming.
posted by applemeat at 7:15 AM on January 9, 2010


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posted by ardgedee at 7:18 AM on January 9, 2010


I loved Gumby and Pokey growing up....

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posted by bjgeiger at 8:05 AM on January 9, 2010



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posted by tinatiga at 8:10 AM on January 9, 2010


He was a graduate of my high school. We were deeply proud of him. And Gumby, of course.
posted by jscalzi at 8:10 AM on January 9, 2010


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posted by autoclavicle at 8:17 AM on January 9, 2010


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posted by CitizenD at 8:21 AM on January 9, 2010


Gumby was a work of realism. According to the LA Times obit of of Clokey, Clokey's father died in a car accident when he was a little boy, and "the unusual shape of Gumby's head would eventually be modeled after one of the few surviving photos of Clokey's father, which shows him with a large wave of hair protruding from the right side of his head."
Too poignant for words. Only for clay.
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posted by fullofragerie at 8:25 AM on January 9, 2010


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I loved Gumby as a child. His world was filled with wonder, imagination, and joy, and presented in a way that inspired laughter, curiosity and fear. To this day, Gumby evokes such feelings in me with an odd combination of the surreal and the familiar, a world that seemed to me a dark corner of an abandoned toy store come alive in the absence of people. It was a world where one could see kachinas come alive, robots on the loose, and even pyramid-like alien moon creatures depicted with a little endearing human touch. I'm thankful my kids got to enjoy Clokey's creation via some old VHS tapes I found a while back.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:47 AM on January 9, 2010


I have The Green Album. It rocks. Shame it's out of print.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:51 AM on January 9, 2010


[Beatles-style] "I'm not green and you're not green, but he is green and plasticine…"

[Western] "He rode out of the West with a star on his chest and he tried his best to make it stay. But tin stars don't stick to clay in the heat of the day…"

[Motown] "Bend me, shape me, anyway you want me…"

Paraphrased; it's been a while since I listened to the album.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:56 AM on January 9, 2010


[Zydeco] "Zydeco Gumby Ya-Ya"
posted by five fresh fish at 8:56 AM on January 9, 2010


[Funk] "Gumby we love you, Gumby we do; Gumby we love you, Gumby it's true."

[Polka] "Gumby!" (the one and only lyric in the song, actually. The rest is polka.)

Hellsa, guess I better put the album on my ipod now.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:59 AM on January 9, 2010


Of course you would use that line as your title. Of course.

As a semi-grown human this is, naturally, sad news, and I'll post the requisite dot to show my respect for the man's life and his work:

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That done, I hated this show as a child, and it's not really because of the show itself, but rather because of that one line in the song. Y'see, I seem to always have had difficulty not taking wordings somewhat literally (don't get me started on mainstream songs), but Gumby caused an existential crisis for me at the tender age of 6 or 7. I never liked Gumby, not so much disliked it but simply couldn't bring myself to care; I didn't see much to relate to in any of the characters, I can't walk through walls or have bits of me lopped off and then grow back miraculously. But the themesong declared very clearly that, unless I didn't have a heart, Gumby was 'a part of me'. I didn't consider Gumby anything like myself or in any way a 'part of me'.

Thing was, I didn't really hear this part of the song until my feelings towards the show was already well-established. So there was a multi-week period where, when we went to our babysitter's house and all the kids were apparently happily watching the show and allowing Gumby to be a part of their lives (kids with hearts, y'see), I was squirming in the back not because I didn't want to watch the show, but because I thought I was a bad person with no heart.

I got over it eventually when I suddenly became less gullible, but then I was tainted with a general bitterness for the show. How dare it suggest that, just because someone didn't like it, they were a heartless, empty husk of a human being? How dare they?

So I think that's where my modern distrust and critical nature towards television shows and marketing in general comes from. A healthy start, in a way; definitely prepared me for the world early.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 9:00 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Both the Wikipedia link and his IMDB entry mention the documentary Gumby Dharma which was produced in 2006. It is an amazingly well done portrait of an amazing man, which is unfortunately not in wide release. I'd always wondered about the "Zen Cafe" which appears in the unnamed downtown in the series, and the film answered that question - Art Clokey had become a Buddhist, even hanging out with Alan Watts.

Caught this on TV. It was really terrific. One of his children--his daughter, I believe?--died between Gumbasia and the production of other shorts, but you can see still see her work on there, at least.

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posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:05 AM on January 9, 2010


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posted by weederman at 9:10 AM on January 9, 2010


I guess Art was at least partly responsible for reviving Eddie Murphy's career in the 1980s too. "I'm Gumby, Dammit!"
posted by birdhaus at 9:33 AM on January 9, 2010


Condolences to his son Joe, who is a very sweet guy, and was my back fence neighbor growing up.

Art put his kids Ann and Joe in TV commercials for Gumby products, and sometimes included a lucky neighborhood kid too. I was in one for the Gumby board game, at about the time my profile picture was taken, and wearing that same dress.
posted by tula at 9:36 AM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't possibly type a period hard enough, but:

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posted by Aquaman at 9:50 AM on January 9, 2010


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posted by brundlefly at 10:38 AM on January 9, 2010


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posted by Thorzdad at 10:50 AM on January 9, 2010


Noooooooooooooooooooooo! Not Gumby's creator!

*Sob, hiccup*

RIP, Art and Ruth.
posted by Lynsey at 11:02 AM on January 9, 2010


I was shocked to learn upon hearing of Art Clokey's death that he lived about a dozen miles from me on the Central California Coast (in Los Osos, best known as the town that has taken 30 years to start building a sewer system). A beautiful area and a good life, but due to the nitrate levels in the soil, not so good clay.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:23 AM on January 9, 2010


and I almost forgot

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posted by oneswellfoop at 11:24 AM on January 9, 2010


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posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 12:19 PM on January 9, 2010


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posted by Splunge at 12:28 PM on January 9, 2010


I really liked the music in Gumbasia (linked the comment by louche mustachio). 1953 was, to me, just about the height of jazz.
posted by Daddy-O at 1:51 PM on January 9, 2010


My uncle was actually given a set of original clay models -- Gumby, Pokey, Prickle, and Goo -- by a close friend who had worked on the show. Incredibly, when I'd visit him a lot around ages 10-12, he would allow me to touch them and gently bend their arms and move their eyes around. They were beautiful, and unlike the rubbery plastic toy versions I had at home, they seemed infused with some kind of magic.

At the time, the only children's shows I was exposed to were Popeye and Gumby. So Gumby was cast as kind of an anti-Popeye to me, solving problems with cleverness and magic instead of with muscle. I don't know that there's ever been a character more ernest than Gumby in television history, and I think the show occupies a very special place in a lot of people's hearts.

Gumby made one more great appearance in my life, when I was 15 or 16 and dropped acid for the first time. Around five in the morning the movie came on television, and a guy I'd met that night -- who was also on acid, and would later become my best friend -- watched it with me, joyfully narrating throughout that he was realizing whole thing was a dramatic retelling of Hesse's Steppenwolf.

So long, Art and Ruth; the world and I are both better for having had your touch.


> As a semi-grown human this is, naturally, sad news, and I'll post the requisite dot to show my respect for the man's life and his work:
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That done, I hated this show as a child...


A dot is not "requisite", and you are perfectly welcome to forego it entirely, rather than add it with a begrudged qualifier.
posted by churl at 5:34 PM on January 9, 2010


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posted by lapolla at 7:12 PM on January 9, 2010


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posted by NoraCharles at 7:18 PM on January 9, 2010


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posted by Mael Oui at 8:22 PM on January 9, 2010


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posted by item at 9:37 PM on January 9, 2010


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posted by Ink-stained wretch at 10:10 PM on January 9, 2010


Gosh, it'd sure be nice to hear more memories.

Seriously.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:32 PM on January 9, 2010


A dot is not "requisite", and you are perfectly welcome to forego it entirely, rather than add it with a begrudged qualifier.

Sorry, churl. It was meant in good humor and I may not have made it clear enough that I honestly do respect the man's work in hindsight as an adult, both for the technical aspect and for the general 'personality' of the show, even if I didn't enjoy it as a child. I think as a kid it came off to me as frivolous. I do have some issues. As for the dot being 'requisite' I only meant that it was the seemingly best way to indicate the aforementioned sentiment towards Art's passing.

Anyway, I sincerely didn't mean to rain on your or others' parades, which (once again in hindsight) have likely already been rained on enough by the news. The post just brought back that memory remarkably strongly and it has always amused me to think about, and I may have gotten a little overexcited about sharing it before thinking through the possible effect and, reading it now, somewhat jarring tone to the rest of the thread. I also maybe should have added an obvious [hamburger] at the end of my post, or not chimed in it at all. But I guess I thought the fact that the show had affected me in some way at all and that, ultimately, it is a positive memory, was worth noting.

If it means anything, I truly am sorry, and hope I haven't made anything more difficult for anyone than it ought to be.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 1:16 AM on January 10, 2010


No, I clearly misunderstood you; I apologize.

I didn't mean to imply the story you shared was inappropriate or unwelcome. I like that there's all kinds of perspectives in this thread and I'm glad you brought an interesting one I'd never considered. Thanks for posting it, really. I was meaning to respond specifically to what I thought you meant by "requisite dot" -- bemoaning some obligation to 'pay respects'. But that's not what you meant. Totally my mistake.
posted by churl at 3:47 PM on January 10, 2010


Gumby, along with Reading Rainbow, made me very excited about books when I was a kid. Sure, I never figured out how to pass through into a book dimension but that didn't stop me from trying. My favorite episode was Mirrorland since it just furthered my suspicion that mirrors were gateways to parallel dimensions. My parents probably thought I was vain for the amount of time I'd stare into mirrors. Rather, I was just suspicious.
posted by Lokisbane at 3:28 PM on January 11, 2010


I think as a kid [Gumby] came off to me as frivolous.

This made me sad.
posted by applemeat at 12:00 PM on January 13, 2010


How did I miss this news! What a sad loss. I loved Davey and Goliath growing up and I love Gumby now.

I went to a Dan Clowes book signing 10 years ago and was wearing a Davey & Goliath T-Shirt. When I got up to the table to have my book signed Dan looked at the shirt and said:

"That is a truly scary T-Shirt."

Such great puppetry and design. He made his mark for sure.
posted by JBennett at 12:10 PM on January 21, 2010


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