Hotel Balderdash was a children's television show in the 1970's with three zany hosts: Cannonball, Harvey and the wacky Raymond, who performed antics and slapstick in between cartoon clips.
This show was produced at KCPX/KTVX - TV in Salt Lake City. It was seen throughout Utah, but was also a regional show seen in parts of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Wyoming. The show debuted on KCPX-TV, the ABC affiliate in Salt Lake City, on September 11, 1972; soon after the debut of the show the station changed it's call letters to KTVX. Hotel Balderdash lasted for over ten years as the most popular local show of any type in the area. Between 55% to 65% of the entire morning audience - all ages - would get up to watch this "local" children's program.
Origins & Development
The show started out with a nearly two hour format, starting at 6:45 in the morning and finishing at 8:40, in time for a 20 minute news broadcast. It eventually settled into an hour format - 7:00am to 8:00am, when ABC debuted it's new morning program "AM America," to go against NBC's "Today Show." So popular was Hotel Balderdash, that a local newspaper wrote an article wondering what KTVX would do with their "proven winner," to air "AM America." The station knew they had a winner with "Balderdash," and decided to divide the two hours of "AM America," airing the first hour at 6:00am and the second hour at 8:00am. "Am America," would eventually have a name change to "Good Morning, America."
Harvey, Raymond & Cannonball
Episodes starred Larry "Cannonball" John, Randy "Harvey" Lovoi and Charlie "Raymond" LeSueur. John and LeSueur had been given the idea for the show from popular kid's show host, Bill "Wallace" Thompson of "Wallace and Ladmo" fame in Phoenix, Arizona. John had known Thompson from the time the young actor had been a co-host on a popular talent show in Phoenix called, "Lew King's Rangers." Thompson said that he had the idea for a show set in hotel and have the guests as the characters. He suggested the name "Balderdash," for the show.
Hotel Balderdash had the popular dynamic of being set in a Hotel with the manager, Cannonball, the bellhop, Harvey, and the owner's nephew, the spoiled brat Raymond. Monday through Friday, Raymond would continually try to get Harvey in trouble with Cannonball, only to be caught by Cannonball at the end of the show and punished for his mischief. The live audience of children and parents would go wild trying to warn Cannonball that Harvey was a victim of circumstance and that it was really Raymond causing the trouble.
Other characters on the show where mainly played by LeSueur, who also created most of the routines for the program. Everything the characters did on the show was ad-lib, with just the basic ideas that the threesome would go over in a meeting held before the taping. Five shows would be taped in a three hour period each Monday night for airplay Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and the following Monday morning. These "bits" would be played between cartoons giving the "Balderdash Gang," as they became known, approximately 25 minutes of air time per show; therefore, with the quick taping it was truly 'live on tape.'
The episodes originally used the popular "Mississippi Mud," as their theme song, but when LeSueur left the show in 1976, John and Lovoi quickly adjusted and recorded two popular albums of original songs. The Hotel Balderdash theme song that is fondly remembered was on the first album - which is why there is no mention of Raymond in the song. The show's popularity continued to soar with Harvey and Cannonball, even having a "Hotel Balderdash Day," declared in Utah. So strong was the popularity of the two characters that the show continued to entertain, though by now, without LeSueur's "double entendre" characters, it focused more on being strictly a children's show. LeSueur returned to the show at various times and finally returned on more or less a permanent basis in 1979.
At it's height of popularity the characters of Harvey, Cannonball, and Raymond would draw huge crowds at any personal appearances. At Christmas time, when they made their regular appearances at the Sears stores, Santa Claus would have to close up shop until they left because everyone wanted to see the Balderdash Gang. A story relating to their immense popularity is the year when the storyline had Raymond kidnapping Santa Claus on a Thursday morning installment. The Friday and Monday shows had already been taped and Santa was to be saved on the Monday show. KTVX was inundated Thursday with phone calls from angry parents whose kids were terribly upset at the kidnapping. The Threesome were called back Thursday night for an emergency taping session to make sure that Santa was saved by Cannonball and Harvey on Friday. Santa was saved and the kids - and parents - were happy.
By the time the show unceremoniously ended in the early 1980s, LeSueur was the only original member of the cast left on the program. By this time, the show was owned by a corporation who mishandled it terribly. They also made the fatal mistake of deciding to replace Lovoi as Harvey! Steve Farnworth replaced Lovoi as the lovable bellhop. Even though Harvey had always been a lovable, tall, lean, dark haired presence he now inexplicably became a short, dumpy, blond character. The chemistry had been destroyed. Eventually John left and the show was unceremoniously cancelled. By this time, ABC had put pressure on KTVX to place the two halves of "Good Morning America," together or lose their ABC affiliation. They relegated Hotel Balderdash,"to a 30 minute time slot at 6:30am with no cartoons. Today, not much of the show is left, as the station would use the same video tapes each week to tape the show.
Hotel Balderdash, was a classic example of the local Kid's shows which no longer exist, instead being replaced by the highly marketable syndicated cartoon packages like "Transformers."