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Old August 3rd, 2010, 07:21 PM
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Default Pirate Puppet Show

In 1977, two attractions were added to Six Flags over Texas: the Spinnaker ride and the Pirate Puppet show. Billed as “The Pirate Puppet show” in all advance advertisements, in the park the show was titled “Captain LaFeet’s Flagship Follies.”
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Captain LaFeet’s Flagship Follies was a part of Skull Island – which, by 1977, had lost its raft ride and all slides. Skull Rock remained as a walk-through attraction, and the floating barrel bridges, but almost all the remainder of Skull Island was gone. The seating area for the Pirate Puppet show was directly below (north of) Skull Rock, the puppet show itself was in a boat-shaped building set actually in the river around Skull Island, between Skull Island and the Tower area. The Spindle top ride was to the northeast, the Dolphin Show was to the north, and the barrel bridges to the west.
The puppet show building was built to look like a wooden three-masted pirate ship, with the bow to the east (audience right) and the stern to the west. The mainsail was turned to face the audience and served as the primary show back drop, jibs were on the two smaller masts. The sides of the ship were about 7 feet tall; most of the show was done by operating rod puppets from below through a large opening in the roof (where the starboard deck would be). Additional puppets appeared in three portholes to the audience right, and marionettes were operated from a low drawbridge to audience left.
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Old August 3rd, 2010, 07:22 PM
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Default Pirate Puppet Show

Show Order for the 1977 season
(I might have some of this out of order: it’s been 30+ years! There are also gaps where I don’t recall all of the script, lyrics, or gags.)
The pre-show would start with music played through loudspeakers (masqueraded as crates) on the dock between the audience area and the pirate ship. Partway through, a skull on an ornate plaque on the forward part of the ship would address the audience: “Avast ye maties, the show be starting in five minutes, so be finding a plank to be sitting on…” the spiel ended with “…or ye be feeling the tip of me cutlass blade.”
The show started with a call that the captain was coming, so the crew had to get ready. First, three mops (later 2, one mop irreparably broke) and three buckets sang a song about cleaning the decks, then six large cutlasses marched back and forth, singing a song about practice drills.
Interstitial: Three movie character cameos appeared in the portholes, one after the other. Each one was from a nautical-themed movie: Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh in “Mutiny on the Bounty”, (I can’t remember the 2nd one), and Humphrey Bogart as Queeg in “The Caine Mutiny.” In addition to talking about stolen strawberries, Queeg mentioned his concern over the theft of Pink Things.
Next, a reference to treasure in the hold of the ship led to a square drawbridge lowering from the bottom right of the ship, where two black-light skeletons danced to “Shake your Booty.” First the skeleton’s skulls flew off, the skulls came back down, then the skulls and torsos flew up, leaving the arms and legs dancing. The skeletons number ended with the skeletons turning around and doing the “bump.”
At some point in the show, all three portholes swung open and three mice in pirate outfits (think mini Chuck E. Cheeses), in an open-front box, danced in unison. (Later 2 mice: see the “Funny Mishaps” section of this report.) The mice were cut from the show by the summer season as being too unwieldy and too hard for the audience to see.
Two crewmates reminiscing about a furlough in the Caribbean led into the mainsail rolling upwards to reveal a painted backdrop of an idyllic island scene. A female crow with a Carmen Miranda-type headdress appeared on stage, where three oranges in her headdress sang the “Rum and Coca-Cola” calypso. Next, three crows in straw hats, island shirts and white shorts had a Limbo contest, where one big-bellied crow kept refusing to go under the bar, saying “Lower!” When the bar was impossibly low, the crow went under by deflating his belly. A crow in the crows’ nest called out that the captain was coming.
The next sequence was the arrival of Captain LaFeet: who was only a large hat, a face with a bulbous nose, a large black beard, and two very large bare feet. Captain LaFeet danced and sang (to the tune of “I’ve Got Rhythm”):
I’ve got rickets, I’ve got scurvy, beriberi; who could ask for anything more?
(I’ve got a mental block about the 2nd line)
Impetigo! Halitosis! Acid tummy, lumbago!
I’ve got rickets, I’ve got swine flu, merci beau coup, who could ask for anything more!
The song would suddenly break and a small Shirley Temple puppet would pop up and dance to “the Good Ship Lollipop”, after the line “On the sunny shores of Peppermint Bay”, Captain LaFeet would kick Shirley, saying “down, brat!”
Captain LaFeet finished his dance and song and then left the deck, advising the crew to prepare for battle. Three cannons popped out of the portholes – the first shot out smoke and coughed, the other two mentioned how the first had been smoking too much. Then, four cannonballs did a square dance to a musical version of “the Wabash Cannonball.” The cannonball dance ended with all four cannonballs balanced on top of each other, then toppling over.
Five pirates (in a stack resembling a stack of cannonballs) appeared on deck and sang a short song. The song ended with a very high note; one additional pirate’s head shot up on a very long neck.
Two very long arms appeared from below deck, pointing to various parts of rigging and instructing the crew to stow the mainsail, etc. Two crewmen ran back and forth, running face-first into each other.
The battle: mayhem. Pirate crew, mops, blasts of smoke, , the mainsail rolled up to reveal a battle-blasted sail, two swords dueling, a sword chasing a pirate, flame boxes from fore and aft on the ship. The battle ended with a cannonball rolling the length of the deck and a surrender flag waving back and forth.
As a result of the surrender, “Anchors Away” played on the sound system, the battle backdrop rolled down to review a 1940’s patriotic battleship superstructure. Strings of American flags ran up the fore and aft masks. The stack of pirates reappeared wearing white U.S. Navy sailor suits, and Shirley Temple popped back up, tap-dancing like mad.
The show ended with the four puppeteers popping up out of the deck and waving to the audience.
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Old August 3rd, 2010, 07:24 PM
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Default Pirate Puppet Show

Behind the Scenes
The time between shows was spent resetting show elements, repairing puppets (hot-gluing eyes back on, re-tying broken strings),trying to stay cool in the summer heat, and listening to 8-track tapes of shows such as “A Chorus Line”, “Annie”, and “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
All the male voices in “Captain Lafeet’s Flagship Follies” were taped by John Hardman (Argyle the Snake). There was one female voice somewhere in the show, done by an acquaintance of John’s.
The show was entirely pre-recorded; we played it from a large reel-to-reel tape player mounted above and to the left of the marionette drawbridge.
Almost all the puppets in “Captain Lafeet’s Flagship Follies” were rod puppets (head and shoulders, or a full torso puppet, with a metal rod to support from underneath.) Mouth controls were operated by strings running from hinges in the puppets down through the rods to levers.
The two skeletons were marionettes (string puppets, operated from above), the cannons were hand puppets, and Captain LaFeet was a half body costume puppet. The pre-show skull and the crow in the crow’s nest were permanently mounted on the ship; both were manually operated by cables.
The puppets were not all built to the same scale: the mops were life-size; the buckets were a little bigger than a pickle bucket. The cutlasses were four feet tall; the cannonballs were about the size of beach balls. The crows were around three feet tall. The pirate crew was much smaller – heads about 9 inches tall, the skeleton marionettes were about two feet tall, and the movie cameo heads were six inch tall head and shoulder puppets.
The puppeteers all wore flag-carrier’s harnesses to be able to hold the rod puppets up through the roof opening, so that the puppets would be visible at deck level.
In subsequent years The Pirate Puppet Show(and the show building) was revamped to support different scripts and show elements, until the final elimination of Skull Island (in preparation for the Roaring Rapids ride), the Pirate Ship building was removed and shipped to another Six Flags park (Magic Mountain, I think).
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Old August 3rd, 2010, 07:25 PM
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Default Pirate Puppet Show

• The big-belied crow had a black balloon under his shirt with a corked tube leading down to the puppeteer’s mouth. To cross under the limbo stick, the puppeteer pulled the cork with their teeth.
• Lafeet’s head was built on a construction hat and fit over the puppeteer’s head; they couldn’t see out, LaFeet’s nose was right about the puppeteer’s sternum. The puppeteer wore a loose, long-sleeved black-out black velvet shirt, hidden by the massive beard. LaFeet’s feet fit over the puppeteer’s hands and arms, they were about 3 feet long and (after I had beaten them up by hitting them against guy wires for the side masts during the captain’s dance – remember, the puppeteer couldn’t see out) they were coated in Fiberglas, so they were very heavy. The puppeteer stood on a fold-out platform 3 feet high, so that their upper body would be visible out of the deck opening.
(In the 1978 version of the show, the Captain was shrunk to about 40% of his size from the year before, so that he could be operated as a rod puppet, his feet were operated by two other puppeteers as separate rod puppets.)
• The Shirley Temple puppet was an actual Shirley Temple doll, supported on a metal rod and with wooden dowels attached by eyelets to her heels – so her legs moved backwards when she danced. (One puppeteer held her up, or she was clipped into a holder on the inside of the deck edge, a second puppeteer operated her legs.)
• The cannons were hand puppets made from foam rubber; the smoke for the smoking cannon was from a bug fogger filled with stage smoke juice. The same bug fogger was used for the battle scene.
• The flames in the battle were from two blower boxes, hidden by trim on the fore and aft decks. The flames were red and orange nylon strips.
• There was no ground-level access into the ship; the puppeteers climbed a ladder from the back of the ship to the port deck. A large hatch covered the starboard opening at nights and during heavy rains. (The hatch was bungeed to the mainsail during show times.)
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Old August 3rd, 2010, 07:28 PM
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Funny Mishaps
Since an earlier play-area pirate ship had been in generally the same area, some guests would climb up on top of our building – until we got a “restricted entry” sign on the narrow dock leading to the back of the ship, and we figured out a way to secure the ladder leading to our roof…
The nighttime Grounds Crew would often use the crow in the crow’s nest for water hose target practice. This would mean that the furled mainsail would fill with water, which would be dumped on whichever puppeteer unfurled the mainsail the next morning.
The building was so hot, and we had no AC, we would often perform in just our underwear (and our one female puppeteer in a peach tube top), only putting on our show-themed T-shirts for our bows. Immediately after the show we would open all available openings (the portholes and the marionette’s drawbridge) just to get air circulating. Often, our female puppeteer would stand in front of the opened portholes (which were at her shoulder level), dramatically state “Oh! It’s So Hot!” and whip off her T-shirt – leaving the audience craning to see what she was actually wearing….
That was, until after a top officer’s daughter wanted to visit our backstage, but she had to wait until we got dressed… well then we were given enough funds for an air conditioner to be installed in the backside of the ship.
A string would break from a marionette skeleton’s hip or shoulder, leaving a leg or an arm dancing unintended away from the skeletons.
The middle mouse in the “mouse box’ would fall off his support – since the puppeteer couldn’t see this, he would continue to operate the strings that made the mice’s feet kick – leaving the middle mouse lying on the floor and spasmodically kicking. Once between shows, one puppeteer tried deepening the hole in the mouse’s back with a drill, but he didn’t remove the mouse’s striped pirate shirt. The drill grabbed the shirt, spun the mouse… the result was mouse parts flying all over… We couldn’t rebuild the mouse, and so had to replace the mouse’s position with cans painted to look like barrels.
The Captain was performed on a fold-away platform about 3 feet off the floor. Occasionally the platform would drop out from under me, leaving Captain LaFeet with his nose on the deck and both feet sticking toes-up from below deck.
The bug fogger would occasionally become clogged and would surprise us by shooting out a two-foot length of real flame… and there were no fire sprinklers in the building (at least for that first year).
Space below desk was very tight – for example, one of the strings of American flags was tied off directly beside where the skeleton marionettes were stored. In this cramped space we did ten to twelve shows a day during the summer, to the point that we got to know our routines so well, we perform the show somewhat on auto-pilot -- without thinking, carrying on conversations, making lewd comments... One time while our lead had his a day off, we all decided to switch parts. The show was going fairly OK, until… Disaster! Someone let go of a limbo crow’s rod and the puppet fell overboard and went floating on its back down the river – since the boat had no back door, we had to send a puppeteer out of the hatch during the show, in front of the audience, to retrieve it. More mishaps in this one show: missed cues, out-of sync puppets, then during the finale, the marionettes got tangled in the American flag string -- up went the flags, dragging along with a pair of black-light skeleton puppets, up the aft mast...
We had to cancel the next show (and Argyle’s next show) in order the crow puppet to dry out, and we had to go get John Hardman to come over to untangle and re-string the skeletons.
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Old August 3rd, 2010, 10:26 PM
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Wow, a great memory! Thanks for sharing this as I do remember the show. Don't you wish camcorders were common back then as they are now?
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Old August 4th, 2010, 08:50 PM
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Didn't the show have a musical number of "In The Mood" featuring a bunch of chickens sometime after the first season?
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Old August 4th, 2010, 09:13 PM
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Thanks for sharing this with the forum!
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