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Brakeman Bill with Crazy Donkey

BRAKEMAN BILL (Bill McLain) was a popular children’s show on KTNT-TV (later KSTW-TV) in the Seattle/Tacoma (Washington) market from 1955 to 1975. The Seattle Chapter of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences inducted McLain into its prestigious Silver Circle hall of Fame in 1993.

Produced and hosted by ex-DJ and sports announcer, Bill McLain was dressed as a railroad brakeman, who drew cartoons, ran elaborate model trains, showed Bugs Bunny and Popeye cartoons and starred with his zany hand puppet side-kick the CRAZY DONKEY (voiced by the late Warren Reed, who was also an ex-DJ).

CRAZY DONKEY frequently attempted various practical jokes on BRAKEMAN BILL, only to see his chicanery returned when the BRAKEMAN BILL got the upper hand. An example comes to mind of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” which CRAZY received with less than abundant enthusiasm.

Watching BRAKEMAN BILL and CRAZY DONKEY became a daily pastime for many children who were “latchkey kids”, before the term was coined. Their comedy patter was hip enough to be popular with young adults as well as kids. For many, the show became funnier as they got older. The show had fan clubs at local universities, even logging camps. Best of all, BRAKEMAN BILL and CRAZY DONKEY were funny, charming, cute and lovable with not one four-letter word EVER.

In the 70’s, the BRAKEMAN BILL show was syndicated and became a favorite in Oregon, Idaho, Montana and British Colombia. In addition, BRAKEMAN BILL performed at over 2,000 comedy magic stage shows, the majority of which were PTA fund raisers.
The BRAKEMAN BILL television show was performed live an un-scripted for 20 years. Only five minutes of the final show was ever videotaped. Today, Bill McLain, an award-winning watercolor artist, resides in the Tacoma area.


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