BJ and Dirty Dragon on The Beat Chicago

BJ And Dirty Dragon

Watch BJ And Dirty Dragon from back in the day on Chicago TV

Updated 1/18/2022: R.I.P. Bill Jackson, Mr. Jackson passed away on Tuesday at the age of 86

BJ And Dirty Dragon was part of any kid’s childhood growing up in Chicago. From 1968 to 1973, BJ and Dirty Dragon with the cast of characters that included Blob, Weird, Maynard (Dead Bird!), Lemon Joe Kid, and more would make their way into Chicago broadcast history.

Unlike Zoom, Electric Company or Sesame Street or Captain Kangaroo, BJ And Dirty Dragon was part of the children’s programming from Chicago for us in Chicago. Other great shows we had growing up included Ray Rayner, Garfield Goose & Friends as well as Bozo’s Circus and others that we’d wake to before getting ready to go to school.

When I was a kid, Bill Jackson (BJ) went on the road to promote the show. He showed up at theaters and venues around the area. In 1970, he was at The Olympic theater in Cicero. Part of the show included him and Dirty Dragon choosing kids from the audience to participate in a game. I was one of those lucky kids. We had to compete against other kids on the stage to do the best Dirty Dragon ‘Fi” impression.

I won. My Dad was so proud of me. For my amazing achievement, I was awarded a close n’ play record player

About 20 years ago, when I was running another network, I had reached out to Bill, told him my story, and asked him if he’d be interested in us promoting and help sell the VHS tape copies or DVDs of his show online. What an honor it was for me when he said yes.

People often wonder, how does a show actually happen? How did he get his show on TV? Back then, with WGN the ‘boss of bosses’ for kids programming on morning TV, independently owned WFLD was looking to go up against them.

Enter Bill Jackson. Jackson, a gifted artist, comedian, and puppeteer responded in 1968 with a program initially called Cartoon Town, but later renamed The BJ and Dirty Dragon Show.

It was here that Jackson, playing the mayor of the cartoon town, reached great heights with characters such as Dirty Dragon, “Weird” and “Wally Goodscout”, “Mother Plumtree”, the “Old Professor”, and a town monument called “Blob” (no relation to the movie) who was made of clay and could, with Jackson’s help, assume any form.

Jackson wrote and produced the show, performed all of the puppet characters’ voices, built and designed the sets and puppets.

The show featured a variety of cartoons, including Underdog, Popeye (the early 1960s made-for-TV King Features version), “Out Of The Inkwell” (the made-for-TV version produced by Hal Seeger) and George Of The Jungle.

The show was broadcast for five years on WFLD, but ended after the station’s owner, Field Communications sold an interest to Kaiser Broadcasting, and Kaiser streamlined local productions on its group of stations. The final WFLD episode (#1311) was broadcast July 27, 1973; one month later, The BJ & Dirty Dragon Show (now set in “Carefree Corners”) began a one-year run on WGN.

Meanwhile, Jackson began commuting between Chicago and New York, where he produced and hosted another local show, BJ’s Bunch, featuring many of the same characters.

By the fall of 1974, WGN canceled The BJ & Dirty Dragon Show, after which Jackson produced a one-shot holiday special, A Gift For Granny, which aired on WMAQ-TV, Chicago’s NBC affiliate.

From there it was on to the syndicated “Gigglesnort Hotel” which lasted a few seasons…

Sal Amato

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