Monday, January 11, 2016

The Life & Death of Captain Kremmen – Thanks For The Mammaries*

Words: St. Paco 
(*Originally published in KFG #2)

It’s pretty amazing to me to think that it's been nearly twenty-five years now since I last saw Captain Kremmen, a witty animated segment that once ran during television’s Kenny Everett Video Show. And that somehow––after well more than two decades––I can still hear the husky voice of space cadet Carla, Kremmen’s busty co-pilot, high-heel-bootin’ it through adolescent memory. 

At only about three minutes in length, the animated shorts that featured the exploits of Captain Kremmen and Carla made up a very small portion of the The Kenny Everett Video Show. Nonetheless, those ‘toons are the portions of the program that I remember most.

British Invasion

For those of you who missed it, were simply too young, or happened to live way out in the boonies, The Kenny Everett Video Show was a raunchy British television import that was, in some ways, even more racy than the mindlessly popular Benny Hill Show that was also being aired in America at the time. 

With its mature-minded content, Kenny Everett’s program wasn’t exactly appropriate viewing material for youth audiences––or Benny Hill either for that matter. Nevertheless, all across Chicago throngs of pubescent males were awake after hours watching, and oft’ times drooling.

This was back around 1982, when having a remote control for the television almost seemed like an upper middle-class luxury. Back then, most TVs had two large, round turning dials for tuning in both the lower band (VHF) and higher band (UHF) stations. 

Thanks to public television, my early interest in British import programs had been primed since the late 1970s with transatlantic TV transplants like Monty Python’s Flying CircusFaulty TowersThe Two Ronnies and perhaps best of all, Doctor Who. Those shows, and a few others, were broadcast by the respectable PBS station WTTW, channel 11. 

By glaring contrast, the more risque shows like The Kenny Everett Video Show and The Benny Hill Show were both aired by the campy upstart WFLD, channel 32. 

Petting Frenzy

The Benny Hill Show was slotted to run on weeknights, airing right after the nightly news in the 10:30 PM slot. Kenny Everett's show, geared towards a younger, hipper viewing audience, aired in the 10:30 PM time slot on Saturdays.

Far more than The Kenny Everett Show, though, it was the sexualized humor of The Benny Hill Show that appealed my elementary school playmates who also stayed up past their curfew. In class each day, episodes that aired the night before were discussed in whispered tones like arcane mysteries shared between the young initiates of a secret society. 

Almost single-handedly, it was The Benny Hill Show that ignited a wave of sexual awareness among elementary school students across Chicago. Overnight, pubescent boys––once mainly concerned with the playground games of tag, dodge ball and Johnny-run-across––became booty chasing molesters in training, as life imitated the lowbrow art of The Benny Hill Show.

Dimwitted skits on the show regularly featured Hill and his horny middle-aged cronies as they ogled, fondled and chased sexy young ladies across the British landscape. The petty frenzy was often performed to the blaring tenor of the closing theme song “Yakety Sax.” On the playground each day, just as on the screen, pubescent girls would shriek and dart about, pursued by lustful, outstretched hands grasping for the feel of butt flesh across a blur of asphalt.

To be honest, I never participated in the rite-of-passage petting orgy. Even at that age I found it distasteful to force myself on the opposite sex. 

Also, since I was actually a fucking kid at the time, the little interest I had in girls then was greatly overshadowed by my interest my in science-fiction, art, toys, cartoons and comic books. These would maintain large portions of my attention, and help explain why I was particularly drawn to The Kenny Everett Show. The inclusion of an animated segment detailing the star-spanning exploits of a wacky space captain and his busty cadet virtually guaranteed an appeal. 

Flesh Peddlers

With its sexy space opera subject matter, the cartoon art of Captain Kremmen seemed to have blasted right from the pages of the illustrated adult fantasy art magazine Heavy Metal. Founded in 1977, the popular adult publication featured mature science fiction and fantasy tales written and illustrated by several renowned artists of the day like French cartoonists Jean ‘Moebius’ Girard, Milo Manara, American cartoonists Richard Corben, Vaughn Bode and others.

In 1981, at the same time that the Kremmen segments were causing a stir with the Kenny Everett Show, an animated feature film adaptation of stories from Heavy Metal was released to theatres. Cut from the same scanty cloth of mature 2-D entertainment as both the magazine and its subsequent movie, Captain Kremmen would have made a fine complement to that groundbreaking film. 

Still, while not exactly kid-oriented fare, Kremmen was still tailor-made for the small screen, with stylish production done by Cosgrove Hall Animation. Years later, Cosgrove Hall would be responsible for creating such cross-continental kid favorites as Count DuckulaDanger Mouse and the stop-motion classic Wind in the Willows

In addition to its silly adult subject matter, Captain Kremmen also featured an interracial relationship between the Captain and his sexy cadet, Carla. It was one of the few such relationships depicted on television at the time––animated or otherwise. 

What's more, at the time the Kremmen segments were airing, Carla stood out as one of few animated characters of African ancestry appearing anywhere. Painted with a carmel complexion, a pretty face, a massive smile, wide hips, slender waist and breasts like flesh zeppelins, Carla was also one of the sexiest characters in animation––period.

Clothed in crotch length, olive green mini-dress and white high heel boots that nibbled at the character’s knees, she was a pubescent teen’s wet dream. In fact, had it been possible for me to loose my virginity to a cartoon character, I would probably have sacrificed my comic book collection to the devil for the chance to have Carla turn the boy I was into a man.

Naughty Bits

Kenny Everett, the creator of Captain Kremmen, began his career in British entertainment as a disc jockey and radio show comedian. Kremmen actually started as a comedic spoof from his radio days around 1977. The following year, the radio funny man was tapped to host his own television show. 

Taking advantage of his bustling catalog of characters during the course of the shows run, Captain Kremmen and company were adapted for the small screen, appearing as short animated segments around the summer of 1980. The animated segment was popularly received. Within a few years the segment would spawn a series of books, records, comic books, and a daily cartoon strip featured in The Evening Standard newspaper.  

Despite its popularity, Kremmen was dropped from Everett’s program for reasons that to this day are still unclear. The glaring, albeit officially unacknowledged absence of the animated shorts caused many like myself to think that with the absence of Captain Kremmen, The Kenny Everett Show had lost some of its cool, candy-coated edge. 

In a decision completely unrelated to the exclusion of Kremmen, The Kenny Everett Video Show itself was dropped from the WFLD-TV weekend line-up. The Benny Hill Show, however, continued to run in the usual weekday slot. In the UK, Everett’s show would continue to air until 1988 when, after a decade of television success, the show was actually cancelled at the request of Kenny Everett, who yearned for a return to his radio broadcast roots. 

In May of 1993, British news sources broke the story that Kenny Everett had been diagnosed with HIV. Soon after the story had swept the headlines Everett would step forward to confirm the grim report –– all to the shock and dismay of both devoted and casual fans. Two years later, in April of 1995, the brilliant creator and comedic voice of Captain Kremmen died of AIDS related complications.

Now more than two decades since I last saw the amusing characters born from the genius of Kenny Everett, it’s still easy recall the bold impression that his show left, the fan of me that Captain Kremmen quickly made, and the adolescent hormones that space cadet Carla stirred long ago, from a galaxy far, far away.

With a two-hour “best of” compilation of the show presently available, Kenny Everett Show: The Complete Naughty Bits, I think it’s time that I call in a marker held by a shady acquaintance in the UK to see if I can acquire a bootleg copy. 

If not, it would still be well worth the cost of overseas import to see if my mammary... er,  “memory” of Carla, Kremmen, and the rest of The Kenny Everett Video Show is as good as the powers of recollection lead me to believe.

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