In memoriam: Cosmo “Gus” Allegretti

cosmo allegretti


You’ve seen me write about dead relatives, and the passing of friends, and even the passing of celebrities.

 

 

Well, a celebrity passed away a few weeks ago, though many of his fans didn’t even know his real name.

 

 

He was a puppeteer / actor / dancer named Cosmo Allegretti, known to his friends as Gus. He was a regular on the “Captain Kangaroo” program that ran from the 1950s into the 1980s. But you seldom saw him – during the first ten or fifteen years, anyway. He was always in disguise.

 

 

Sometimes he was Dancing Bear, who never spoke, but who communicated through clever little softshoe routines:

 

 

 

 

Sometimes he was fussy old Grandfather Clock, who had to be awakened very gently, and who told stories and recited poems:

 

 

grandfather clock

Later in the show’s history, he was Dennis the Apprentice, always dressed in a painter’s whites, big and earnest and clumsy (though at least he didn’t have to hide his face anymore):

 

 

 

dennis

Best of all, he was Mister Moose and Bunny Rabbit. Bob Keeshan, writing about the show, said that “these two were surrogates for children, demonstrating their playful power over adults.” I loved them both: they were sneaky and dishonest without being really bad. The Captain was often frustrated with both of them, but you could tell that he loved them too, and they seemed to love him too.

 

 

Mister Moose was a practical joker. He was always tricking the Captain into saying things like “Let ‘er rip!”, at which point a couple hundred ping-pong balls would fall from the ceiling all over the Captain’s head. And then Mister Moose would go into raptures. (Personal note: whenever I do a puppet voice, it’s Mister Moose’s reedy falsetto. Why not?)

 

 

Bunny Rabbit was silent, like Dancing Bear. He was small and wore glasses. He’d get the Captain’s attention by rapping on the tabletop, and he always ended up stealing all of the Captain’s delicious carrots.

 

 

Here they are together, bamboozling the Captain one more time:

 

 

 

 

So many good memories.

 

 

Rest in peace, Gus.


 

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