Yo Ho Ho and All That Jazz

Anne Bonny illustration

The real Anne Bonny, the original pistol-packin' female pirate.

The most refreshing aspect of TLC's new special Pirates! was that for two hours I didn't hear one "arrrgh" or "avast ye mateys!" Instead, academic experts like David Cordingly speak at length about pirates and pirate history, while reenactments, stock Hollywood footage, location shots, and historical relics paint the picture in colorful detail.

Pirates! is hammy much of the time, as the reenactment enthusiasts tackle their roles with bloodlust, but the presence of Cordingly, author of 1995's treatise on piracy, Under the Black Flag, steers the show on course. It won't enlighten anyone who has done any Web research on pirates, and certainly anyone familiar with Cordingly's books, but it's a well-intentioned and largely entertaining adventure back to the days on the high seas.

While some of the better-known names are given attention -- Sir Francis Drake, Bartholemew Roberts, and Blackbeard, notably -- I really perked up at the segment featuring Anne Bonny. Bonny was the bastard daughter of an Irish lawyer, who emigrated to the Carolinas. Married off to a local seaman, Bonny and her husband moved to the Bahamas, where Bonny took up with a pirate named Calico Jack Rackham and soon joined his acts of plunder. Bonny and Rackham terrorized the Caribbean until a price was put on their heads and they were captured and brought to trial in Spanishtown, Jamaica. Bonny pleaded her belly but Rackham was hung for his misdeeds. "Sorry, Jack," she told him coldly, "but if ye'd fought like a man, ye would not now be about to die like a dog." Bonny was indeed pregnant, and vanished after her release, never to be heard from again.

Anne Bonny is a real obsession of mine, so I was both pleased to see her portrayed on the show and disappointed in their lack of speculation about her mysterious disappearance. The fact that she is only one of about five female pirates usually named -- Mary Read, Gráinne ni Mhaille (Grace O'Malley), Cheng I Sao (Ching Shih), and Charlotte de Berry are the others -- is not as significant as the lack of history on them all. I spent far too much time surfing the Net for info on them all and coming up empty-handed except for pictures of Stede Bonnet's flag.

Pirates! (12/12, 7 and 10pm; 12/19, 5pm) repeats three more times over the next two Saturdays. Forget the bottle of rum -- it's a fun armchair adventure.

We know what the

priority in this column is. It's cartoons. There is no longer any point in pretending either the readers or I care about much else. I write about cartoons; the letters flood in. I write about Lassie, Mr. Rogers, A&E, PBS, 90210, etc., and the letters slow to a trickle. I address an obscure TV cartoon from the Fifties and letters pour back in.

As reader Carl P. commented, the focus on cartoons "makes me feel like my childhood wasn't a complete waste." Of course, Carl also has to deal with a nine-year-old niece who is convinced Pee-Wee Herman is "in prison for showing his wiener to the kids on TV," but what is childhood without a few outrageous misconceptions? And I agree, Carl, that it takes "a real pervert to make a good kid show."

Carl had written in to say that there was a DePatie/Freleng cartoon called Here Comes the Grump, which is probably what a reader named Claudia had written and asked about. Another reader, David S., confirmed Carl's assertion that Here Comes the Grump had lyrics that ran in part as:

Here comes the Grump!

Here comes the Grump!

Here comes the Grump!

No hidden meaning there. David goes on to note that Dawes Butler did the voice of the Grump, a voice he remembers as Butler's one for Dick Dastardly in Wacky Races. David also demands the lyrics to Ruff and Reddy but I tell you what, I'll send them to you instead. Also, a pic of them ran a few weeks back, as you said you didn't remember what they looked like.

Unfortunately, David, you stepped into dangerous territory by bringing up the King Kong cartoon. I too remember next to nothing about the show itself but I do remember that booming, kettle drum-driven theme as well as you do. The original Chronicle sports editor Scott Bowles was also a big fan of that show, and for the last 15 years or so since he left, that's the theme we sing together whenever we see each other.

King Kong, you know the name of

King Kong, you know the fame of

King Kong, 10 times as big as a man.

Then Scott and I pound our chests and make grunting noises. Please don't ask me why.

But David, since you brought up King Kong, what about the mighty Hercules? Got the lyrics to that theme? There's a small prize waiting here for you if you do....

TVEye loves cartoons. Write TVEye@auschron.com

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This Month's Special On Tlc, Pirates!, Is A Two-hour Rollicking Adventure On The High Seas. And More Cartoons.

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