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Lee Reynolds as Cap'n Tugg
"Cap'n Tugg"
Still Image  *Popeye and Cap'n Tugg*  (Donated by Jack Maier)
(TV Still Photos Donated by Jack Maier)
Aired on WTTG-TV 5,
Mondays Through Fridays,
(Saturdays too, for a while)
 Late Afternoon/Evenings, 
From March 1958 to July 1966;
6:20 to 7:00PM (3/3/58-59)
6:00 to 6:30PM (1959-60)
5:30 to 6:00PM (1960-61)
5:15 to 6:00PM (1961-62)
"Rocky & Friends, Popeye,
and Space Angel Cartoons"
5:00 to 6:00PM (1962-63)
"Popeye, Hercules & Friends"
5:00 to 6:00PM (1963-64)
5:00 to 5:30PM (1964-65)
"Popeye and Cap'n Tugg"
5:00 to 5:30PM (1965-7/8/66)

Aired on WTTG-TV 5,
On Saturday Mornings:

"Captain Lee and Mates"
8:00 to 10:00AM (Fall '64 - 7/9/66) 
Lee Reynolds, circa 1963 (Donated by Skip McCloskey)
Lee Reynolds
In the 1963 AFTRA Directory
(Courtesy Skip McCloskey)
Lee Reynolds as "Cap'n Tugg" and all the "Channel Queen" characters and voices, like "Commander Salamander", "Charlie Noble", "Fantail the parrot", "Guthrie Gudgeon" and "Mister Flannagan" in "back-aft".

On Saturdays, from 1964 to '66, Reynolds hosted "Captain Lee and Mates" with special visits from the weekday "Tugg" characters.

July 1961 TV Magazine ad (Courtesy
July 1961 ad (Courtesy
Broadcast live from WTTG's Raleigh Hotel studios; later at Wisconsin Ave, with taped bits, "Popeye" cartoons, and other film features, such as "Clutch Cargo", "Mighty Hercules", "Space Angel", "Rocky & Friends".

(Not listed as broadcast in color.)

The Mighty Hercules
In a message to Gary Helton (CrabCityKidsTV.Com), Lee Reynolds wrote:

"I was doing 'Grandpa's Place' at the time WTTG purchased the Popeye cartoon package.  They held auditions, looking for a  personality to act as host for a program featuring these cartoons.  I was encouraged by friends at the station to create a suitable character, preferably a sailor. It had to be radically different in appearance from the Grandpa makeup. Tugg and all the characters, plus the sets, were all my creation."

Connect-the Dots From 1963 AFTRA Directory (Donated by Skip McCloskey)

"The show ended when I joined a geology professor and a crew of students from American University on a 'round-the-world' cruise to explore volcanos. This left the void which was filled by new programs. Money was not a factor. Nothing could have been cheaper than the budget for my shows. (Incidentally, the expedition failed when our 72-foot ketch was damaged in a storm in the Red Sea in 1966.)"

Tugg Rebus (From the 1963 AFTRA Directory... Courtesy: Skip McCloskey)

"Unfortunately, I don't think children's programming as it existed in those days will ever come back.  ... Whenever people ask 'what happened to Capt. Tugg?' my answer depends upon my mood.  Sometimes I say 'He drowned in the Red Sea' and when I'm in a more pleasant mood, I simply say 'He retired from sea duty.' (But he still sails with me on our little sloop, Courageous Too.  At present, Mr. Flannagan is having trouble with our inboard engine. Ha!)"

"I worked in TV, mostly behind the scenes and off-camera, for almost 25 years after my return from Africa.  From this experience, I do not feel that I could cope with the attitudes of the people running TV in this day and age.  And they certainly could not cope with my particular way of doing things.  Almost all of my shows in the old days were ad-libbed.  This method would not be tolerated today. Yes, I still have Fantail, but he is not in good shape these day, due to being stored in a plastic bag."

Mr. Flannagan - (Donated by Skip McCloskey)(From 1963 AFTRA Directory)
Fun Page Items From the 1963 AFTRA Directory
(Donated by Skip McCloskey)

Jack Maier remembers: "In addition to tugboat engine sounds, we heard foghorns from other ship traffic as the Cap'n cruised the Potomac.  On a snowy day, I distinctly recall fake snow would be falling in front of the Channel Queen's bridge!  One holiday season, a small (artificial) Christmas tree rested on the table next to the radio on the Channel Queen."

"Remember Axel Grackle? (one of two spys). Tugg would eavesdrop on their devious plans over the radio. There'd be lots of skits with them, too.  Fantail the Parrot's favorite snack was only one thing; seaweed crackers.  The Captain snacked on whatever he was pitching that day - one was Planter's Peanut Butter."

Still Image  *The Channel Queen*  (Donated by Jack Maier)

Ernest Moncada comments: "Fantail was scheduled to be launched into space. Seaweed crackers produced no crumbs.  Can't have crumbs floating inside the capsule in outer space.  On the subject of villains, don't forget the 'Seahag'."

John Bevilacqua adds: "I also remember when the Captain would try to sing the theme song to 'The Mighty Hercules'."

Will Ravenel recalls : "I remember watching Cap'n Tugg every after- noon after school. ... he opened the show with 'Ahoy, mateys!' from behind a porthole.  I could never figure out his relationship with Axel Grackel, his nemesis. Axel was a spy, I think; Tugg was a sort of government agent, chasing spies in his tugboat on the Potomac.

Tugg had a great sense of humor--there was a segment of each show that had Tugg speaking into this wireless receiver, like you'd see used on boats in films, usually to his allies, to discuss Axel's movements. The voice at the other end was also supplied by the actor playing Tugg, but recorded with gaps for Tugg to fill in with his lines. If Tugg didn't say his lines quickly enough, the person 'at the other end' would just roll right over him. Tugg would respond to this in a variety of ways--roll his eyes, shake his head at the camera, throw his microphone in the air, respond with a botched line that made no sense. These exchanges never went smoothly --Tugg was always trying to keep from laughing.

Inside The Channel Queen (Donated by Jack Maier)

"Occasionally his first mate would fill in for Tugg-- again, the actor who played Tugg in a different outfit and makeup. And sometimes you'd see the guy who played Tugg, sans makeup, as the guy at HQ directing agents in their never-ending search for Axel Grackel.

Still Image  *Cap'n Tugg at the wheel.*  (Donated by Jack Maier)

Tugg programs featured two Fleischer 'Popeyes' with the cabin doors that open and close over the titles and credits. My first introduction to the Fleischers and the beginning of an on again/off again affair with the world-famous spinach-eater. 

Clutch Cargo cartoons

Popeye was later displaced by the unintentionally demented 'Clutch Cargo' cartoons, which everyone I knew regarded as boring and moronic. And STATIC; the opposite of Fleischer cartoons, in which EVERYTHING moved. No one could figure why Clutch and the other male characters wore lipstick, either. Creepy. I started to bail on the captain about this time; the novelty of Clutch Cargo passed quickly."
Tikes Wait At Glen Echo For a Personal Appearance (Photo Supplied By Richard Cook)
 Kids Lined-Up At Glen Echo Park
(Courtesy Richard Cook of The Glen Echoes)
  "KCS" wrote: "One of my worst 
memories was meeting Cap'n Tugg at Glen Echo. I was very young, and the meet-and-greet was televised. My dad stood with me in line, and when it was finally my turn to talk to Tugg in person, I froze out of fear... his long, fake nose poked out -- I was really frightened by his appearance!  Needless to say, family members at home were both disappointed and amused as the camera showed me there with a look of fear/anger/ disappointment on my face. <g>"
Listings for the show's March 3rd, 1958 debut suggests it almost featured  "Cap'n Charlie". (right)  However, Lee Reynolds states that Cap'n Tugg had no first name. Post TV Listing For 3-8-58 Premiere of Cap'n Tugg Show
Before "Cap'n Tugg", Reynolds directed "Milt Grant's Record Hop", "Miss Cindy Lou's Melody Ranch", and "The Billy Johnson Show" . He filled-in  occasionally as director for "Hoppity Skippity". He hosted "Grandpa's Place" from 1957 to '59. 
Cap'n Tugg made a
personal appearance
at the Koons Ford
Grand Opening in
Falls Church on
December 12, 1964.
*Commander Salamder* Store ButtonBy no later than the 1970s,
"Commander Salamander",
a catchy name... well-known
to young adult boomers...
would be adopted by a
trendy clothing boutique
at 1420 Wisconsin Ave.
in upscale Georgetown.
As far as Lee Reynolds
can recall, the store
paid no royalties for
the use of that name.
Bob-a-loopSkip McCloskey recalls: "Cap'n Tugg used to promote the 'Bob-A-Loop'. It was basically a stick with a sting tied to it.  At the other end of the string was another piece of wood... about 3" in diameter by 6" tall with a hole in one end. The purpose was to swing the large end up-and-onto the stick. Those daring enough could try to do the reverse and hold the large end while trying to swing the stick into it. The same thing sold on the West Coast as 'Mexican Tops'. HEY! ...  That was hi-tech for us back then!"
Lee Reynolds in 1993 (Washington Post Photo)
(1993 Washington Post Photo)
Buzz McClain's "Alma Mateys" in the 3/14/93 Washington Post Magazine (on the "J Street" page, captioned "living legends") gave the following fun facts (which have been subsequently updated/corrected by Mr. Lee Reynolds);
  • The Cap'n navigated the Channel Queen through "Tugg Harbor", "Pencil Point" and "Pavement Narrows".
  • The Channel Queen's rival tugboat was the "Nancy K." (named in honor of one of WTTG's secretaries Nancy Kane) and the Captain of the Nancy K. was named "'Flash' Flood."
  • Fantail the parrot was red and green.
  • Two regular villains were "Spike Marlin" & "Axel Grackle".
  • Lee Reynolds, born in 1926, retired in 1991 from WETA-TV after 23 years as announcer, director and writer there.
  • As of 1993, Reynolds had two sons, four grandkids.
  • While portraying Cap'n Tugg on TV, Reynolds actually lived on a 45-foot yawl at the Washington Sailing Marina. 
  • In 1966, Reynolds set on a two-year sailing expedition to explore volcanos. His boat sank during a storm in the Red Sea part-way through the journey.
  • As of 1993, he flew a red Cessna 150 several times a week, stating "I learned to fly before I could sail". (In 2004, Lee still flies the Cessna whenever time and the weather permit.)
Hear Sounds From The CAP'N TUGG Show at Kidshow Klips!
As a kid, Scott Marinoff visited Cap'n Tugg's Wisconsin Avenue set:  "...Sets for other shows were there - Countdown Carnival, and maybe even Panorama. I recall being hugely disappointed that none of it was real and how small it all was!  LOL  Fantail the parrot (when not in use) hung upside- down to the right of the Channel Queen's wheel; (out of camera range, of course). It was also a disappointment that Lee Reynolds had a fake beard & putty nose - AND - during the cartoons, he'd run-up some stairs to the control room and we all saw him sneak a puff on a cigarette!!! : ( "

Lee Reynolds, Early 1990s (Donated by Jack Maier)
Lee Reynolds, Early 1990s
(Donated by Jack Maier)

Lee Reynolds responds to Scott's account: "Yes, everything about the tug boat set was small.  The budget was small.  I even built and painted some of the set myself.  Do you remember the Channel Queen's engine?  That was my creation.  If the show were done today, remote facilities would probably allow me to do the program from a real vessel. My own sailboat would have been a better setting.

Fantail was a hand puppet given to me by a puppeteer who went by the name of Miss Verlain.  She did shows at Normandy Farms, and the puppet was in lieu of payment for some recordings I did for her show. Fantail's persona was only real in my mind, but he also had a mind of his own. I never felt responsible for what he would say next.  One day he said 'It's going to snow!' and it did!  I have no idea why I put those words in his beak.

Unfortunately, I did not hide my smoking habit from your view.  (I hope this traumatic revelation did not get you hooked on the habit!)  As for the make-up, I always felt vulnerable whenever I went out on a personal appearance.  A feisty little red-headed kid once threatened to pull my nose off, and he only relented when I threatened to pull HIS nose off.

Cap'n Tugg and Pipe
I always enjoyed meeting kids, but I was never enthusiastic about having children visit the studio, for the very reason you were disappointed. I was aware of the fact that the reality of the set and my make-up would be a source of disillusionment.  One of our salesmen once suggested that we make up a foam rubber anchor, then I was to eat some product or drink Bosco or whatever, then bend the anchor to show how strong I had become. This I declined.  I would never portray Tugg as doing anything that I would not do myself.

If you remember Capt. Lee, there was an episode in which he went down in a 'hard hat' diving rig.  I insisted on going to the Navy Diving School in Anacostia and taking basic training, and later actually diving on a wreck in the Potomac.  (This was great fun!) ...

I guess what I intended to say was that I am disappointed that you were disa- ppointed! Do you remember the line from 'The Wizard of Oz'?  When Dorothy discovered the wizard behind the curtain, he said, 'I'm not a bad man, I'm just a bad Wizard!' That's a bit how I felt whenever kids came to the studio.  As long as you could only see Tugg on the TV set, I hope he didn't appear to be such a bad Captain.

Anyway, it's good to be remembered from the old days.

LeeR  (Tugg)" 

Still Image  *Popeye and Capt.Tugg*  (Donated by Jack Maier)
Eric Umstead writes: "Born in 1954, I watched Cap'n Tugg from 1958-62. One thing I vividly remember was Tugg's radar used on Christmas Eve."

"In the middle of his program, the Cap'n would head to the back of the Channel Queen to announce he'd try to pick-up Santa leaving the North Pole (it was still about 5PM EST).  Sure enough, a blinking light would suddenly appear on the radar screen that was Santa. If I remember correctly, Tugg told his young audience that Santa was heading west from the North Pole because it was already nighttime in other countries. However, he told the boys and girls that by the time they got to sleep, Santa would be approaching the East coast. This was one additional thing that ALWAYS got me to bed early."

Project Mercury Fireworks Assortment (Courtesy: Jack Maier)
A correspondent named Kevin wrote NorVaPics.Com on 7/3/02 (in part):
"... How many other folks remember fireworks being advertised on Countdown Carnival and Captain Tugg? One of my favorite childhood summertime memories is of sitting at the dinner table eating my supper and watching TV, a fan droning in the background, as Bill Gormly described the various fireworks assortment boxes lined up neatly before him on a long table...

They were always hawked as 'safe and sane' (... as opposed to dangerous and crazy), were 'Avail- able at all local area Dart Drug, Drug Fair, and High's stores!', and had names like 'Spirit of '76', 'Miss Liberty', 'Project Mercury', and 'Liberty Bell'. The Cadillac of all the assortments (that all we kids dreamed of), came in a big red tube with a black cone on top, and looked like a rocket.

...After finally pestering our parents into getting them for us, all us kids in the neighborhood would take our fireworks out of the boxes, and then spend hours organizing, admiring, and playing with them, and showing them off to our friends, always for at least a week before the big night came.

My personal favorite item was always the 'House on Fire', a little red cardboard house with a (very lame) fountain (which always burned out too quickly) sticking out of the top like a chimney. When the fountain failed to catch the little house on fire, which was almost always (not that it was supposed to), my friends and I would dutifully light it ourselves, and ensure it 'burned to the ground', all the time dancing around, laughing and screaming 'Fire! Fire!'. ..."

In 1994, Lee Reynolds received the "Silver Circle"; established by The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to recognize individuals who have devoted a quarter-century or more to the broadcasting industry, and made a significant contribution to the D.C. community.
.Channel Queen Lifesaver Ring 2003 (Courtesy Lee Reynolds)
Sources: "Whatever Happened To Those Kiddie Show Hosts?" by Trisha Katson, 1977, George Mason Univ.'s Phoebe Magazine, (Courtesy: John Ahmad & Jack Maier). "Alma Mateys" by Buzz McClain, 3/14/93 "Washington Post Magazine" (on the "J Street" page, under "living legends").  Details/photos courtesy Lee Reynolds, Jack Maier, Eric Umstead, K.J. Armstrong, KCS, John Bevilacqua, Will Ravenel, Scott Marinoff, Ernest Moncada, Skip McCloskey, Don Thompson, Richard Cook of The Glen Echoes..Airtimes: Evening Star and Washington Post. David P. Samson (left) as Elmer Fishpaw in John Waters' POLYESTER
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Page Revised: 8/26/04

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