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Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Fri Sep 18, 2015 11:59 pm

Elvis Presley was known for many things, among them a fondness for animals, especially horses and dogs. An early canine named Tex was so beloved that he inspired one of Presley's earliest and most heartfelt ballads, "Old Shep." Tex, you see, contracted mange, and had to be put down. The sadness of that event is remembered in Elvis' tender 1956 reading of the Red Foley country number. That same year he bought a spider monkey named Jayhew, who lived in a cage at 1034 Audubon in Memphis.



620300_w Scatter at Paramount 01.JPG



Fast-forward five years, to the fall of 1961, and Elvis adopted a new pet. But it wasn't another dog or spider monkey. It was a chimpanzee named Scatter. Most sites make scant mention of how he came to join the Presley family, but it turns out the ape was originally part of a local, Saturday morning TV show in Memphis hosted by "Cap'n Bill" Killebrew. Sponsored by Hart's Bread, Killebrew decided he wanted to have one less chimp on the program, and somehow Presley friend Alan Fortas got Elvis to take him. And so, a legend was born. Below is a Memphis blog which reveals more about Cap'n Bill and his talented TV companion. Don't miss the part where Scatter bites Dee Presley, which I'm sure will please some here to no end.

At last, the secret origin of Scatter is revealed ... on FECC! Enjoy.



620300_w Scatter at Paramount 02.JPG



Cap’n Bill
Ask Vance
Memphis Magazine / October 2013


610000_Scatter_Capn Bill.JPG
Scatter at the wheel of Bill Killebrew’s 1952 Pontiac
PHOTOGRAPHS AND SCATTER CLUB CARD COURTESY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS LIBRARIES


Dear Vance: What was the name of that kids’ show in the 1960s that featured a host with a monkey, who drew cartoons for the children?
— s.h., memphis


Dear S.H.: In our May issue, one of my talented colleagues — a real prince of a fellow — wrote about the perils of keeping exotic pets. Creatures like chimpanzees may seem cute in the Tarzan movies, but they can be downright dangerous when they grow older. They don’t exactly have the best manners or hygiene. And then, when the monkey we’re talking about here is named Scatter, well, that should tell you right away that he might be trouble.

Let’s begin this story by clarifying that it was the host, “Captain” Bill Killebrew, who drew the cartoons (caricatures, actually), not the monkey. That monkey had many other talents, and we’ll get to him in a second, if you’ll stay with me here.

I’m sorry to confess that I have no distant memories of this particular show, because Mother and Father wouldn’t allow television in the Mansion, believing that the live performances of the Memphis Symphony, Moscow Ballet, and Ringling Bros. Circus in the Lauderdale Ballroom were entertainment enough. So I turned to my 126,897 Facebook friends for help, but most of them offered contradictory accounts of this show and its genial host. So most of what you’re about to read comes from Commercial Appeal and Memphis Press-Scimitar accounts archived in the local libraries.

Just trying to give credit where it’s due, you see. And to assign blame if the facts happen to be wrong.

To begin with, “Captain” (actually, he preferred it spelled “Cap’n”) Bill Killebrew wasn’t really a captain of anything. I hope that doesn’t destroy any precious childhood illusions, but it’s true. He also wasn’t a native Memphian, but we can’t hold that against him.

Killebrew was born in 1911 in Dresden, Tennessee, a little town about 100 miles northeast of here. He claimed he never took any drawing lessons, but somehow got hired to create advertisements for the high school basketball team — announcing upcoming games and such — on the town sidewalks using colored chalk. He also drew a few cartoons, so I’m told, for the local newspaper.

I don’t know what drew him to our city, but sometime in the 1940s, he came here and got a job as a draftsman for Memphis Light, Gas and Water in the Hydrant Engineering Department. That’s right; he was paid to draw pictures of fire hydrants, a dream job if there ever was one.

One day, so the story goes, he wandered across the street to the Goodwyn Institute Building, where the offices of WMC-TV were located. This was in 1949, and television was just coming of age here. A local business called Ferguson’s Record Shop was sponsoring a TV show, and the producers were looking for a way to make the show more visual. I guess the plan of showing records on a turntable didn’t occur to them. Anyway, they hired Killebrew — look, I’m going to call him Bill here — as the artist for a show called Spinning Images.

This show sounds (and must have looked) rather surreal. Viewers tuning in heard music but basically saw a blank screen. A dot formed in the middle of that gray image, and it turned into a line, which gradually turned into a drawing. That was the work of Bill, standing behind a thin sheet of paper clipped to a pane of glass. As my pal Michael Donahue reported in one of the Press-Scimitar articles, it wasn’t until the show’s producers came up with a “mirror contraption” that Bill didn’t have to draw everything backwards, so it would appear correctly to viewers from the front.

Hard to believe, but Spinning Images stayed on the air for almost ten years. Somehow, during this time, Bill became the advertising manager for Hart’s Bread Company, the bakery on Summer with the tremendous heart-shaped neon sign topped by a rotating loaf of bread. To promote the Hart’s products, and to take advantage of his growing talents as an artist, the producers at Channel 5 put Bill in front of the camera, as host of a children’s show called Hartoon Time.

No, I’m not making that up: Hartoon Time.

This was the beginning of a long career on television featuring shows that basically followed the same format: a “peanut gallery” of children that Bill would interview and draw, interspersed with movies and cartoons. Do you remember the names of these shows? How about Bill and Charlie’s Diner, or Captain Bill’s Cliff Hanger Club, or Adventure Time, or simply Cap’n Bill?

Ah, and then there was Scatter’s World. Somewhere, somehow Bill acquired a cute little chimpanzee called Scatter, and he began to appear on the show, quickly becoming the star attraction. In fact, Scatter was featured in several of his own films. According to the Press-Scimitar, “Scatter is presented in a variety of roles and situations — as a business executive, as a baseball player, as a banquet speaker — all designed to show how ridiculous this people business can be.”

“I’ve been on television for 11 years. That dad-blamed monkey was only on television for one year. Now he’s in Hollywood, and I’m still a broken-down bread salesman. It’s just a monkey’s world.”

Bill, who often told reporters, “that monkey is smarter than most people I know,” taught him all sorts of tricks, and one of his best-known stunts was to take Scatter driving around town — with the monkey doing the driving. Bill, you see, would lie low in the front seat, while Scatter pretended to turn the wheel. As you might expect, it caused a commotion wherever they went.

But it made Scatter’s World incredibly popular with Memphis audiences, and any kids who wrote in could become members of the Scatter Club. I was delighted to discover that the University of Memphis Special Collections kept an original membership card (shown here) in their archives. It’s strange that the members were apparently given numbers, not names, but even stranger is this: I don’t know who scribbled “Bill Killebrew” in ink across the top of the card, but look at the bottom and you’ll see that Bill’s signature looks suspiciously like Scatter’s. I hate to destroy another childhood memory, but it looks like Scatter could not actually write his name. Oh, the shame of it.

Now, no good Memphis story is complete without an Elvis connection, and here it is. After about a year, Bill sold the chimp to the King of Rock-and-Roll, where it lived for years at Graceland. Being surrounded constantly by the guys who made up Elvis’ retinue wasn’t exactly the best environment for a growing monkey, and Scatter quickly developed bad habits. One day, the monkey bit Vernon Presley’s new wife on the finger.


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Hospitalized for an annual checkup, Cap’n Bill took time to visit other patients and draw their portraits.


When Elvis called Bill to ask if the monkey had his rabies shots, Bill retorted, “Yes, Scatter had his shots. Does Mrs. Presley have hers?” Among other things, Scatter ripped up the curtains at Graceland, yanked up the skirts of Elvis’ female visitors, and when he was in a really playful mood, tended to throw . . . you know, things . . . at visitors. Nasty things that made everyone scream and, well, scatter.

The chimp even went along when Elvis toured, and that prompted Bill to complain to reporters, “I’ve been on television for 11 years. That dad-blamed monkey was only on television for one year. Now he’s in Hollywood, and I’m still a broken-down bread salesman. It’s just a monkey’s world.”

But back to Bill. He stayed on television forever, it seems, first on Channel 5 and then moving to Channel 13. When Captain Bill’s Cliff Hanger Club ended, he claimed that he sent out more than 196,000 letters to the little “Cliff Hangers” who watched the show. He set up a booth at Libertyland and the Mid-South Fair and told reporters that he drew more than 5,000 caricatures one year alone. He visited nursing homes and hospitals and drew pictures for the patients. Even when he was in the hospital himself one year, he wandered the hallways in his pajamas, giving out caricatures of everyone he met. “I can’t help it,” he told reporters. “I have drawing sickness.”

When he finally left the world of television, he started a newspaper comic strip called Orbie Orbit, about the adventures of a little moon boy who wanted to visit earth, but I’m not sure what newspapers carried it. In later life, a series of strokes slowed him down, and he continued to draw even after losing his vision in one eye. In his whole life, he only made one oil painting. His wife, Helen, asked him to paint a picture of their home in Whitehaven. He complied, producing a lovely wintry scene — with their home depicted as an outhouse with a television antenna.

Cap’n Bill Killebrew passed away on January 14, 1987, at the age of 75 and was laid to rest in his hometown of Dresden. He certainly left thousands of drawings — and good memories — behind.


http://www.memphismagazine.com/October-2013/Capn-Bill/




Elvis and Scatter formed a bond that lasted until too many skirts were lifted, too many fingers bitten, and too much poop flung. He was retired to Graceland, where he lived out his final years, somewhat lonely and forgotten. When he died, Alan Fortas apparently cried his eyes out.

Oh, well. R.I.P. Scatter.
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=72013674



620300_w Scatter at Paramount 03.JPG
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Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Sat Sep 19, 2015 12:50 am

Elvis surely felt a wave of nostalgia in 1975, when The Return of the Pink Panther hit theaters.

"Try and do something about your filthy minkey."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnlIWpZSPXU

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Sat Sep 19, 2015 1:13 am

"Yes Scatter had his shots,does Mrs Presley have hers". Hee hee :smt005

Entertaining read Doc thanks.Scatter indeed !

norrie

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Sat Sep 19, 2015 2:38 am

Poor Scatter. Alan Fortas took care of him, and no doubt was saddened by his demise. He is another author that thought the maid poisoned him after he bit her, two days earlier. Another theory of Fortas was liver disease caused by Scatter's drinking. The boys apparently gave him straight Scotch or Bourbon! They didn't know better in those days. That's an example of seeing things in perspective. In 2015, they would get in deep poop if found giving alcohol to an animal! BTW..surprised Alanna Nash did not correct Alan that Scatter was an Ape not a Monkey. Monkey sounds funnier though...

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Sun Sep 20, 2015 12:49 am

elvisjock wrote:Elvis surely felt a wave of nostalgia in 1975, when The Return of the Pink Panther hit theaters.

"Try and do something about your filthy minkey."

phpBB [media]


Could be. Of course, Elvis knew Scatter was an ape. ;-)

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Sun Sep 20, 2015 1:33 am

Thanks for the story on Scatter.

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Sun Sep 20, 2015 1:21 pm

I enjoyed reading that, thanks for the new information. I wonder if there were any home movies taken of Scatter at one of Elvis' homes?

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Sun Sep 20, 2015 5:54 pm

BTW. What is the secret?

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Sun Sep 20, 2015 6:31 pm

Juan Luis wrote:BTW. What is the secret?


:smt005

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Mon Sep 21, 2015 12:11 am

norrie wrote:"Yes Scatter had his shots,does Mrs Presley have hers". Hee hee :smt005

Entertaining read Doc thanks.Scatter indeed !

norrie


That's a great line, indeed. Too bad, Dee.


And make no mistake, Scatter was a local TV star before he ever joined the Presley home.


620300_Scatter at Paramount_DETAIL.JPG
Long Live The Memory of Scatter!
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Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Mon Sep 21, 2015 2:55 am

Stvimpe wrote:Thanks for the story on Scatter.


Few realize what Scatter meant to the Presley juggernaut in the early 1960s. Perhaps this topic sheds a little light!

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:05 am

Juan Luis wrote:BTW. What is the secret?


It is clearly spelled out in the second paragraph of the original post. Try reading it. "Secret origin" is also a famous pop culture reference, which some here clearly get. You don't, feel free to work that answer out on your own. I don't appreciate you trolling this topic, which was posted for fun, and because it actually adds a little backstory to Elvis' most famous pet. Guess that's not enough for you. :smt023

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:36 am

FECC Team Note: Please review the guidelines. Thank you.

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:47 am

Please remove the word above my post........ "trolling" above ..thank you. Offensive to me...

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Mon Sep 21, 2015 4:38 am

JRtherealJR wrote:I enjoyed reading that, thanks for the new information. I wonder if there were any home movies taken of Scatter at one of Elvis' homes?


You are welcome. I almost always post up new and interesting things I find on the internet, to share with every good member here. As for your query, I've never seen any film, which seems unusual given how much Scatter was the center of attention at more than one Presley soiree. Maybe some exists, but in private hands.

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Tue Sep 22, 2015 1:44 am

Very interesting Doc. Thanks again for your time and efforts! ::rocks

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Wed Sep 23, 2015 11:27 pm

Joe Car wrote:Very interesting Doc. Thanks again for your time and efforts! ::rocks


Thank very much! Sometimes Elvis topics can be serious, sometimes they can be fun. This one is serious fun!

::rocks

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Thu Sep 24, 2015 6:56 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:Elvis and Scatter formed a bond that lasted until too many skirts were lifted.....


Not that much of a bond, then. Scatter was kept around until his novelty value wore off, and then discarded. For any animal this would be cruel. For an intelligent ape, very, very cruel.



Juan Luis wrote:Poor Scatter.


Indeed. In light of that, you have to wonder, did Elvis really care all that much about "Tex".

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Fri Sep 25, 2015 12:25 am

Here's another shot of Scatter, probably his first trip to an Elvis location, for the Mirsch Company's "Kid Galahad":


611100_w West_Fortas_Young_Scatter.JPG
With Delbert West (obscured), Alan Fortas, Gig Young and Scatter - set of "Kid Galahad," October 1961


The publicity for this is probably what caused former trainer Bill Killebrew to lament that “I’ve been on television for 11 years. That dad-blamed monkey was only on television for one year. Now he’s in Hollywood, and I’m still a broken-down bread salesman. It’s just a monkey’s world.”

Scatter was probably the first and the last Presley pet who was a star (albeit locally, on Memphis TV) before Elvis took him in.
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Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Fri Sep 25, 2015 4:35 am

Elvis' pets - I like this topic and know little about it. Really interesting and well-researched as always. Thanks, Doc! Are there any topics about Elvis' pet dogs?

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Fri Sep 25, 2015 4:56 am

charro1971 wrote:Elvis' pets - I like this topic and know little about it. Really interesting and well-researched as always. Thanks, Doc! Are there any topics about Elvis' pet dogs?


Thanks for your kind words. I am sure there are some topics on the legendary chow Elvis owned, Gitlow. The singer even brought him onstage in Las Vegas in the spring of 1975.



750401cs_w Getlow_Las Vegas.JPG



Here's a melancholy, telling vignette from this little chapter in Elvis' life:

Interview with Linda Thompson by Alanna Nash

Elvis was a very tender soul. He had such a good heart. We literally bought out a pet shop one night. Elvis paid for about 20 dogs, just gave them out to his friends. And we kept this chow, little Getlow. He was a beautiful dog, but Elvis was going to get rid of him because we read an article that said chows turn on their masters 80 percent of the time. Elvis said, "I don’t want to have to be worried about leaving this dog with you, or come home and find you have to have plastic surgery." But I said, "Oh, give the little fella a chance. He may turn out all right."

So I raised him, and he turned out to be as gentle as a kitten. He was our sweetheart. But he had a congenital kidney ailment. I don’t know if that made him so lethargic he didn’t feel like being mean, but he had a wonderful disposition. About three o’clock one morning, Getlow was acting really strange, so we had a doctor come over. He said, "I don’t think the dog will make it through the night."

So Elvis leased a Learjet and flew Getlow, my girlfriend Jeannie LeMay, and me, and the doctor, up to Boston to a special clinic for kidney dialysis. We left him up there for about three months. But he didn’t live long after that. He was only about a year old. We were on tour when he died, and we were coming home on his plane when they told us. Elvis just cried.

https://chowtales.com/elvis-presley-chow-getlow/

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Last edited by drjohncarpenter on Thu Dec 22, 2016 12:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Sun Sep 27, 2015 3:44 pm

Does SCATTER have a fan club???

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Tue Sep 29, 2015 8:09 pm

CONFEDERATELVIS wrote:Does SCATTER have a fan club???


Some claim there are at least two active clubs, both in Europe. Once a star, always a star.

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Tue Sep 29, 2015 8:14 pm

It's always left to the European fans to carry the flag! :wink:

Re: Secret Origin of Scatter --> Revealed at Last!

Wed Sep 30, 2015 10:53 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
charro1971 wrote:Elvis' pets - I like this topic and know little about it. Really interesting and well-researched as always. Thanks, Doc! Are there any topics about Elvis' pet dogs?


Thanks for your kind words. I am sure there are some topics on the legendary chow Elvis owned, Getlow. The singer even brought him onstage in Las Vegas in the spring of 1975.



750401cs_w Getlow_Las Vegas.JPG



Here's a melancholy, telling vignette from this little chapter in Elvis' life:

Interview with Linda Thompson by Alanna Nash

Elvis was a very tender soul. He had such a good heart. We literally bought out a pet shop one night. Elvis paid for about 20 dogs, just gave them out to his friends. And we kept this chow, little Getlow. He was a beautiful dog, but Elvis was going to get rid of him because we read an article that said chows turn on their masters 80 percent of the time. Elvis said, "I don’t want to have to be worried about leaving this dog with you, or come home and find you have to have plastic surgery." But I said, "Oh, give the little fella a chance. He may turn out all right."

So I raised him, and he turned out to be as gentle as a kitten. He was our sweetheart. But he had a congenital kidney ailment. I don’t know if that made him so lethargic he didn’t feel like being mean, but he had a wonderful disposition. About three o’clock one morning, Getlow was acting really strange, so we had a doctor come over. He said, "I don’t think the dog will make it through the night."

So Elvis leased a Learjet and flew Getlow, my girlfriend Jeannie LeMay, and me, and the doctor, up to Boston to a special clinic for kidney dialysis. We left him up there for about three months. But he didn’t live long after that. He was only about a year old. We were on tour when he died, and we were coming home on his plane when they told us. Elvis just cried.

https://chowtales.com/elvis-presley-chow-getlow/



Wnderful and original topic. Thanks.
I wonder if Elvis thought of the name Getlow, by the way. Great name for a pet, also a great name for the blues album that never was!