This is an excerpt from a rare interview with Toni Secanti conducted via email by Crispin Rosenkranz. Summer 2001. Ms. Secanti had not worked with or talked to her old friend Bob Griggs since the show went off the air in the mid 80ís. This interview served as inspiration for some of the scenes in Bumpity Returns and also lead to her and Bob reuniting.
CR: How did you first meet Bob and how did you get to be a producer of Bumpity?
Secanti: I first met Bob Griggs at the television station. The show was being produced by a friend of mine, Wayne Brown, who also worked in the newsroom, and I was interested in the concept and in producing a children's show. I asked to be given the chance to produce. Although I had no experience producing anything but radio and television spots, Roy Cooper, our Public Affairs Director at the time, agreed to let me try. It was a good fit and I stayed until the show was cancelled. I produced Bumpity for about 13 years, beginning in 1972.
CR: What kind of a fellow was Bob back then?
Secanti: Bob was always immensely talented and creative. He was talented in all areas, from creating props and painting back-drops, to making the puppets, writing scripts, doing all kinds of voices, etc. Bob is truly multi-talented. He was also a good friend. We did a lot of laughing while assembling and taping the show. He was always open to changes and 'rolled with the punches.'
CR: Can you think of any comparisons between him and Bumpity?
Secanti: The main comparison that comes to mind between Bob and Bumpity is their sense of humor .... dry, subtle and anything from slapstick to sophisticated. Adults enjoyed the show for that reason. Like Bumpity, Bob was never at a loss for words or an ad lib or two.
CR: Bumpity once said "If you're just a Bump in the lawn you just have to take what comes along." Does that give some insight into Bob's personality?
Secanti: I really couldn't say what gems of Bumpity wisdom gave insights into Bob's personality as Bob and Bumpity are indelibly entwined in my mind. It's pretty hard to separate the two sometimes. Although Bob is taller and I suspect better educated.
CR: Did Bob share with you his creation myth on how Bumpity came to exist?
Secanti: I heard Bob explain the origins of Bumpity many times but I think Bob knew it was just a creation myth for the kids. If I had thought otherwise, I would probably have recommended counseling.
CR: What was Fred's role? How would he interact with Bumpity?
Secanti: Fred was Gracie Allen to Bumpity's George Burns. Fred was the risk-taker, the cock-eyed optimist, the 'ant that thought he could move the rubber tree plant.' Bumpity was kind of the father-figure to Fred ... guiding him, warning him away from danger, admonishing him for some of his antics. He always had words of wisdom and advice, most of which were ignored until the damage was done. Fred spoke High-worm, as you know. So, we just had to take Bumpity's word for what he was saying when he talked. I loved Bumpity but I think I had a particular fondness for Fred. He never gave up or got discouraged. He rose above his 'wormness.'
CR: What was it like on the set or in the control room?
Secanti: Bob was usually alone behind the set on headphones tuned just to me in the control booth. I sat with the director, the technical director and the audio person. I gave Bob time cues, suggested questions or comments if we needed to stretch, gave him the camera's view, since he couldn't always see the monitor behind the set, reminded him of names, dates, if he needed it, and just let him know how the segment was going.
CR: What were some of the best shows?
Secanti: The best shows, for me, were always the ones that had unplanned events: the 'gentle' snake biting the handler, the lion trying to eat the set, the cook dropping broken glass into the cookie dough, the sets falling over, the puppets dropping the props, etc. On another type of show, these could have been disasters, but Bob Griggs was always at his best when he had to improvise, so we always left them in the finished product.
CR: How did some of the guests react to being in Bumpity Park?
Secanti: Most of our guests got used to talking to a puppet rather rapidly. A few never quite relaxed until taping was over. The live animals did not react as well. They knew that Bumpity wasn't 'real,' but they couldn't figure out just what he was. One notable guest, an organ grinder monkey went absolutely ballistic when he saw the puppets. He screamed, bared his teeth, hid under his 'blankey' and carried on so loudly that we could hardly do the segment. It was hysterical.
CR: Bob told me that for most shows, the things Bumpity said, and the show itself were all ab lib.
Secanti: I'm not sure that more preparation time would have helped the show. The very improvisational character of the show is what made it fun. Bob never ran out of ideas or things to say. We had a few tongue-tied guests ... There was a youngster in a giant Snoopy costume who had been told by his employers that he shouldn't speak. We didn't know going in that he wouldn't say anything so it was a pretty one-sided interview with Bumpity asking all the questions and then answering them while this big white dog just shook his head and looked stupid! It was hilarious. We were rolling on the floor in the booth, but I think it was a very long segment for Bob. It turned out great, however. Wish I had a copy. The only other time we had unexpected results from poor preparation was when someone from Circus Vargas brought a full grown, very wild lion on the set. The trainer was supposed to keep the cat docile by giving him treats, hunks of steak on the end of a stick. Unfortunately, the poor fellow was so nervous about the cat doing damage to the studio, he used up all the meat before the show. We were not prepared ourselves to bring out a raw side of beef, so we just prayed. The lion slept thru most of the segment, while Bumpity interviewed the trainer about the circus. But before we got out of the segment the Lion woke up and proceeded to take humongous bites out of the set. Bob was starting to feel a little intimidated as the Lion was leaning in his direction. The crew loved it! It was one of our better shows. Wish I had that one too.
CR: If you had been given a larger budget, are there things you would have done with the show? Ever any hopes for making it somehow bigger than it was?
Secanti: A budget, any budget at all, would have enabled us to do all kinds of things. We talked about a "bump on the street" segment where we would go into out into the community and talk to kids, tape little skits. We couldn't offer any fee of any kind to anyone so our guests were all public sector people, like Poison Prevention, library, police, firemen, people with a product or service to promote, or people who just wanted to be on the show, like magicians or musicians. A budget would have meant a completely different kind of show. We probably could have syndicated it if it hadn't been so obviously a local, public service show. But maybe that's the very reason it survived as long as it did.
CR: How was the show regarded by the management, other employees, at the station?
Secanti: The management liked the show but considered it a "public service" rather than a proud achievement of the station's programming department. The other employees seemed to really like it. We never had trouble getting a newsperson, anchor, weatherman, sportsguy or whatever to be on the show. They all seemed to get a real kick out of it. So did their kids.
CR: Any insights on why it was cancelled when it was?
Secanti: KATU wanted to come up with a new show that would fulfill the changes in the FCC requirements and win them some awards. I felt really bad when the show was cancelled. It had become an important part of my life and I loved it. I know Bob was disappointed as well. We had hopes of having it 'adopted' by another station and I did shop it around, but no dice. I don't know how Bumpity and Fred took it. We don't cross paths much anymore. They kind of keep to their drawer, and I keep to mine.
CR: What was the perception of Bumpity in the community?
Secanti: I think Bumpity had a good image in the community. Parents liked to watch with their kids. I got mail from parents that said that they liked the fact that ours was a "gentle" and "innocent" show. They knew that the only violence was the occasional stunt that went wrong for Fred, with no lasting harm.
CR: After all these years, what does the experience of producing Bumpity represent to you?
Secanti: Producing Bumpity was a great experience. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot. I also met many people who I still cross paths with today. I have never felt comfortable taking any credit for the success of Bumpity. It was on before I came aboard and the show's popularity and growth were strictly due to Bob Griggs and his talent. I simply lined up guests and watched the timing on the segments.