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updated: 5/31/2012 1:17 PM

Bartlett woman starred in Chicago children's television

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  • Elaine Mulqueen of Bartlett was a star of Chicago children's television on three different stations during the 1960s. Here, she plays the clown Pandora interacting with Marvin the Lion on "The Mulqueens" on WGN-TV.

      Elaine Mulqueen of Bartlett was a star of Chicago children's television on three different stations during the 1960s. Here, she plays the clown Pandora interacting with Marvin the Lion on "The Mulqueens" on WGN-TV.
    Courtesy Museum of Broadcast Communications

  • Video: Mulqueen on Kiddie A-Go-Go

 
By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent

One of Chicago's pioneers in children's television -- once named as part of "television royalty" by the Chicago's Museum of Broadcast Communications -- has died from cancer at age 80.

Elaine Mulqueen, a 35-year Bartlett resident, holds an endearing place in early TV lore as the woman who played the bubbly clown Pandora on a trendsetting preteen dance show called "Kiddie A-Go-Go."

"Elaine was a truly charismatic performer with a perky, animated on-screen persona that resonated with the Chicago kids of the '60s who watched her shows," says Jim Engel, kids' TV curator for the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago.

He describes Pandora as the pixie-like clown who popped out of her box in a puff of smoke before she performed skits with a cast of puppet characters created by her husband, Jack Mulqueen and studio children.

After the show evolved into the famous "Kiddie A-Go-Go," she taught Chicago preteens the latest dance crazes as well.

"Like all good local kids' TV personalities, she could and did transcend her material," Engel adds, "and she has left fond memories."

Through the magic of YouTube and the Internet, Mulqueen and her Pandora character have left more than memories. One of their early shows, which featured the band, New Colony Six, singing their hit single, "I Lie Awake," while youngsters danced American Bandstand-style, is something of a YouTube hit, with nearly 95,000 views.

"It was one of our earliest TV appearances," says Ray Graffia Jr., one of the original New Colony Six members, "and in retrospect, it's one of the greatest things we ever did. It has drawn more hits on YouTube than anything else we did."

Mulqueen and her husband produced "Kiddie A-Go-Go" for four years, from 1966-1970 on WCIU Channel 26. What started as a Saturday morning feature soon switched to five days a week and drew such stars as The Four Seasons, Leslie Gore, Sonny and Cher and the Cowsills.

Their career in television started in 1962, when Elaine Mulqueen did Coca-Cola commercials on Bozo Circus while her husband operated some of the show's puppets.

By 1963, the husband-and-wife team branched out on their own, with "The Mulqueens" on WGN-TV.

"We were drawing 247,000 fans every Saturday morning," says Jack Mulqueen, "and all during prime kiddie time when we were battling Saturday morning cartoons."

Two years later, in 1965, they moved to WLS-TV, where they debuted a new format for children, called the "Mulqueen's Kiddie A-Go-Go."

"It just so happened that at that time, go-go music was very juvenile," Jack Mulqueen adds, pointing to such songs as "Little Red Riding Hood," "The Popsicle Song" and "The Hula-Hoop Song."

The name was shortened to "Kiddie A-Go-Go" when they jumped to WCIU in 1966, and it is that version that is the most memorable.

In 2010, Jack and Elaine Mulqueen were invited to join the first reunion of three generations of Chicago television icons, as part of a "Salute to Chicago Television," hosted by the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

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