Paul Winchell

Paul Winchell

Winchell with Jerry Mahoney in 1951
Born Paul Wilchinsky
(1922-12-21)December 21, 1922
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died June 24, 2005(2005-06-24) (aged 82)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Natural causes
Occupation Ventriloquist, comedian, actor, humanitarian, inventor
Years active 1938–1999
Spouse(s) Dorothy "Dottie" Movitz (divorced)
Nina Russel (m. 1961; div. 1972)
Jean Freeman (m. 1974; his death 2005)
Children 3, including April Winchell

Paul Winchell (born Paul Wilchinsky; December 21, 1922 – June 24, 2005) was an American ventriloquist, comedian, actor, humanitarian, and inventor whose career flourished in the 1950s and 1960s. From 1950 to 1954, he hosted The Paul Winchell Show, which also used two other titles during its prime time run on NBC, The Speidel Show, and What's My Name?. From 1965–1968, Winchell hosted the children's television series, Winchell-Mahoney Time.

Winchell made guest appearances on Emmy Award-winning television series from the late 1950s to the mid 1970s, such as Perry Mason, The Dick Van Dyke Show, McMillan & Wife, The Donna Reed Show, and two appearances as Homer Winch on The Beverly Hillbillies in 1962. In animation, he was the original voice of Tigger, Dick Dastardly, Gargamel, and other characters.

Winchell, who had medical training, was also an inventor, becoming the first person to build and patent a mechanical artificial heart, implantable in the chest cavity (US Patent #3097366).[1] He has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in television.

Early life

Winchell was born Paul Wilchinsky in New York City on December 21, 1922 to Solomon Wilchinsky and Clara Fuchs. His father was a tailor; his grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Russian Poland and Austria-Hungary.[2][3][4] Winchell's initial ambition was to become a doctor, but the Depression wiped out any chance of his family's ability to afford medical school tuition. At age 13, he contracted polio; while recovering, he happened upon a magazine advertisement offering a ventriloquism kit for ten cents. Back at school, he asked his art teacher, Jerod Magon, if he could receive class credit for creating a ventriloquist's dummy. Mr. Magon was agreeable, and Winchell named his creation Jerry Mahoney, by way of thanks.[5] Winchell went back to reading magazines, gathering jokes from them and putting together a comedy routine, which he then took to the Major Bowes Amateur Hour in 1938, winning first prize.[6] A touring offer, playing various theaters with the Major Bowes Review, was part of the prize. Bandleader Ted Weems saw the young Winchell while on tour; he visited Winchell and made him an offer of employment. Winchell accepted and became a professional at age 14.[5][7][8]

Entertainment career

Ventriloquist work

Winchell with Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff (right) in 1958.

Winchell's best-known ventriloquist dummies were Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff. Mahoney was carved by Chicago-based figure maker Frank Marshall. Sometime later Winchell had basswood copies of Jerry's head made by a commercial duplicating service. One became the upgraded Jerry Mahoney that is seen primarily throughout Winchell's television career. The television versions of Jerry and Knucklehead also featured Winchell's innovation of actors slipping their hands into the sleeves of the dummies, giving the visual effect of gesturing with their hands while "conversing" with each other. He modified two other copies to create Knucklehead Smiff. The original Marshall Jerry Mahoney and one copy of Knucklehead Smiff are in storage at the Smithsonian Institution. The other two figures are in the collection of illusionist David Copperfield.

Winchell's first show as a ventriloquist was on radio with Jerry Mahoney in 1943. The program was short-lived, however, as he was overshadowed by Edgar Bergen. Winchell also created Ozwald, a character that resembled Humpty Dumpty. The effect was accomplished by painting eyes and a nose on his chin, then adding a "body" covering the rest of his face, and finally electronically turning the camera image upside down. In 1961, Berwin Novelties introduced a home version of the character that included an Oswald body, creative pencils to draw the eyes and nose and a "magic mirror" that automatically turned a reflection upside down.

In 1948, Winchell and Joseph Dunninger were featured on Floor Show on NBC. Recorded via kinescope and replayed on WNBQ-TV in Chicago, Illinois, the 8:30-9 p.m. Central Time show on Thursdays was the station's first mid-week program.[9]

During the 1950s, Winchell hosted children's and adult programs with his figures for NBC Television, and later for syndication. The NBC Saturday morning program, sponsored by Tootsie Roll, featured a clubhouse motif and a theme song co-written by Winchell and his longtime bandleader and on-air sidekick, Milton DeLugg. The theme song was entitled "HOORAY, HOORAH" which featured the secret password "SCOLLY WALLY DOO DOO". An ending song entitled "Friends, Friends, Friends" was sung by the children in the audience. On one episode, The Three Stooges appeared on the show to promote their joint feature film venture, Stop, Look, and Laugh, in late 1959. He made an appearance on Nanny and the Professor (Season 2, Episode 13) as a "mean old man" (a puppeteer who had retired into seclusion after losing his wife in an accident). In 1996, Winchell contracted with figure maker Tim Selberg to construct a more contemporary version of Jerry Mahoney, which Winch described as "Disney-esque". Winchell used the new figure version to pitch a new TV series idea to Michael Eisner. In 2009 Winchell was featured in the comedy documentary I'm No Dummy,[10][11] directed by Bryan W. Simon.

Voice acting

Winchell's career after 1968 included various voice roles for animated television series. For Hanna-Barbera, he played the character Dick Dastardly in multiple series (including Wacky Races and Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines); Clyde and Softy on Wacky Races and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop; and Fleegle on The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, and Gargamel on The Smurfs.

He also provided the voice of Bubi Bear in Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch! in 1971, the voice of Revs on Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, as Moe on The Robonic Stooges (a role he previously played on The New Scooby Doo Movies), and Shake on The CB Bears. In 1973, he did the voice of Goober the Dog on the H-B show Goober and the Ghost Chasers and also guest starred as the rain-making villain on an episode of Hong Kong Phooey. For Disney, Winchell voiced Tigger in Disney's Winnie-the-Pooh featurettes, and won a Grammy Award for his performance in Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too.[4]

Beginning with the television series The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, he alternated in the role with Jim Cummings, the current voice of Pooh. Winchell's final performances as Tigger were in 1999 for Winnie the Pooh: A Valentine for You and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction at Walt Disney World. Following his retirement, Cummings permanently took over the role of Tigger starting with Sing a Song with Pooh Bear in 1999 (though some of Winchell's vocals from previous Pooh animations were included). Other Disney roles included parts in The Aristocats as a Siamese cat named Shun Gon, and The Fox and the Hound as Boomer the woodpecker. He was also the original voice of Zummi Gummi on the TV series Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears for seasons 1–5; Jim Cummings took over for the final season in 1990.

Winchell provided the voices of Sam-I-Am and the unnamed character Sam pesters in Green Eggs and Ham from the animated television special Dr. Seuss on the Loose in 1973. He played Fleabag on The Oddball Couple, Fearless Freddy the Shark Hunter on the Pink Panther spin-off Misterjaw in 1976, as well as a number of one-shot characters in The Blue Racer series. In commercials, he voiced the character of Burger Chef for the fast food chain of the same name, the Scrubbing Bubbles for Dow Chemicals and Mr. Owl for Tootsie Roll Pops.

From 1981–89, Winchell voiced Gargamel on The Smurfs as well as on several Smurfs television movies. During the 1980s, he was called upon by Hanna-Barbera to reprise his role of Dick Dastardly on Yogi's Treasure Hunt (which was a tour-de-force featuring all of the H-B characters) and later on Wake, Rattle and Roll (which was a Wacky Races spin-off). Also on the animated movie Yogi Bear and the Magical Flight of the Spruce Goose, he did the voice of the Dread Baron, who was previously voiced by John Stephenson on the Laugh-a-Lympics.

Live action work

Winchell (often with Jerry Mahoney) was a frequent guest panelist on What's My Line? in 1956. Other work included on-camera guest appearances on such series as The Polly Bergen Show, as Homer Winch on The Beverly Hillbillies, The Virginian, The Lucy Show, The Donna Reed Show, Claude Wilbur on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Dan Raven, and The Brady Bunch, as well as a 1960 movie that included a compilation of Three Stooges shorts (Stop!, Look and Laugh), and a part in the Jerry Lewis movie Which Way to the Front?.

Winchell appeared as himself in 1963 in the NBC game show Your First Impression. He appeared in the late 1960s in a sketch on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in as a French ventriloquist named Lucky Pierre, who has the misfortune of having his elderly dummy die of a heart attack in the middle of his act. On Love, American Style, he appeared with fellow ventriloquist Shari Lewis in a sketch about two shy people in a waiting room who choose to introduce themselves to each other through their dummies.

Winchell-Mahoney Time

Winchell's most successful TV show was Winchell-Mahoney Time (1965–1968), a children's show written by his then wife, actress Nina Russel. Winchell played several onscreen characters, including Knucklehead Smiff's father, Bonehead Smiff. He also played himself as friend and adult advisor to Mahoney and Smiff. He also created "Mr. Goody-good," a surreal character, by painting eyes and a nose on his chin, covering his face with a small costume, then having the camera image inverted. The resulting pinheaded character seemed to have an immensely wide mouth and a highly mobile head. Winchell created this illusion by moving his chin back and forth. The show was produced at KTTV in Los Angeles, which was owned by Metromedia.

Winchell started "negotiating with Metromedia in 1970 to syndicate the 305 color segments of the show" but nothing came of it. Finally, "Winchell offered to purchase the tapes outright for $100,000. Metromedia responded with an ultimatum...: Agree on a syndication plan or the tapes will be destroyed." When Winchell did not agree, Metromedia carried out with its threat and the tapes were erased and destroyed. Winchell sued Metromedia and in 1986 a jury awarded him "$3.8 million for the value of the tapes and $14 million in punitive damages against Metromedia."[12] Metromedia appealed the award all the way to the Supreme Court but was unsuccessful.[13]

Winchell's last regular on-camera TV appearances working with his puppets were Storybook Squares, a children's version of the adult celebrity game show Hollywood Squares which was seen Saturday mornings on NBC during the 1969 TV season, and Runaround, another children's TV game show seen Saturday mornings on NBC from September 1972 to September 1973.

Other pursuits

Medical and patents

Winchell was a pre-med student at Columbia University. He graduated from The Acupuncture Research College of Los Angeles in 1974, and became an acupuncturist. He also worked as a medical hypnotist at the Gibbs Institute in Hollywood.[1] He developed over 30 patents in his lifetime. He invented an artificial heart with the assistance of Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver, and held an early but not the first U.S. patent for such a device. The University of Utah developed a similar apparatus around the same time, but when they tried to patent it, Winchell's heart was cited as prior art. The university requested that Winchell donate the heart to the University of Utah, which he did.

There is some debate as to how much of Winchell's design Dr. Robert Jarvik used in creating Jarvik's artificial heart. Dr. Heimlich states, "I saw the heart, I saw the patent and I saw the letters. The basic principle used in Winchell's heart and Jarvik's heart is exactly the same."[14]

Jarvik denies that any of Winchell's design elements were incorporated into the device he fabricated for humans — the Jarvik-7, which was successfully implanted into Barney Clark in 1982.[1][15][16]

Winchell established more medical patents while working on projects for the Leukemia Society (now known as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) and the American Red Cross. Other devices which he invented and patented include a disposable razor, a blood plasma defroster, a flameless cigarette lighter, an "invisible" garter belt, a fountain pen with a retractable tip, and battery-heated gloves.[1]

Humanitarian efforts

In the 1980s Winchell, concerned about the starvation in Africa, developed a method to cultivate tilapia fish in tribal villages and small communities. The fish thrives in brackish waters, which made it particularly well suited for sub-Saharan Africa. Winchell appeared before a Congressional Committee with several other celebrities, including actors Richard Dreyfuss and Ed Asner, and Dr. Henry Heimlich. The Committee declined to finance a pilot program for the tilapia aquaculture project (in Africa) because it required digging a well into non-potable water, which the Committee deemed to be inadvisable.[4]

Personal life

Winchell with his older daughter and Jerry Mahoney in the Howdy Doody studio audience, circa 1948.

Winchell had three children: a son, Stacy Paul Winchell; a daughter, Stephanie, from his first marriage to Dorothy (Dottie) Movitz; and a daughter, April Winchell (the current voice of Clarabelle Cow), who is a comedian and voice actress, from his second marriage to actress Nina Russel. His third wife was the former Jean Freeman.[4] Winchell's autobiography, Winch (2004), exposed many dark areas of Winchell's life, which had hitherto been kept private, including early stories of an abused childhood, a long history of depression and at least one mental breakdown and a short stint in an institution.[17] The autobiography opened old wounds within the Winchell family, prompting daughter April to publicly defend her mother who was negatively portrayed in the book. Winchell was estranged from his children, and thus they were not immediately informed of his death. A message on April's website stated:

I got a phone call a few minutes ago, telling me that my father passed away yesterday. A source close to my dad, or at least, closer than I was, decided to tell me himself, instead of letting me find out on the news, which I appreciate. Apparently a decision had been made not to tell me, or my father's other children. My father was a very troubled and unhappy man. If there is another place after this one, it is my hope that he now has the peace that eluded him on earth.[18]

Winchell was interested and involved in technology right up to the time of his death. He created and maintained a personal website until 2004. For a short time, he operated the now-defunct website, which discussed the theology of the latter years of his life.


Winchell died of natural causes on June 24, 2005, aged 82. He was survived by his wife, his three children, and three grandchildren. His body was cremated and his ashes remained on his home property.



Year Title Role Notes
1960 Stop! Look! and Laugh Himself – The Ventriloquist Live action
1968 Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day Tigger
1970 The Aristocats Shun Gon - Siamese Cat
1970 Which Way to the Front? Schroeder Live action
1977 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Tigger
1981 The Fox and the Hound Boomer - Woodpecker
1983 Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore Tigger
1997 Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin Tigger Direct-to-Video
1999 Seasons of Giving Tigger (flashback voice) Direct-To-Video; Archive Footage
2002 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: The Story Behind the Masterpiece Himself - Voice of 'Tigger' Video documentary short


Year Title Role Notes
1950–1954 The Paul Winchell Show Host, Jerry Mahoney Live action
1953 Season's Greetings Himself TV special
1956 What's My Line? Himself – Panelist
1962 Saints and Sinners The Promoter Live action, "Dear George, The Siamese Cat is Missing"
1962 The Beverly Hillbillies Homer Winch Live action
1963 77 Sunset Strip Skeets Riley Live action, "Falling Stars"
1964 Perry Mason Henry Clement Live action, "The Case of the Nervous Neighbor"
1965–1968 Winchell-Mahoney Time Himself, Jerry Mahoney, Knucklehead Smiff, Bonehead Smiff, Mr. Goody-good Live action
1966 Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles Diabolical Dauber, Aquator, Devilish Dragster The Impossibles segments
1966 The Dick Van Dyke Show Claude Wilbur Live action, "Talk to the Snail"
1967 The Lucy Show Himself, Doc Putman Live action, "Lucy and Paul Winchell"
1967 The Dean Martin Show Himself "Episode #2.29"
1968 The Virginian Jingo Live action, "Dark Corridor"
1968–1969 Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In Lucky Pierre Live-Action
1968–1970 Wacky Races Dick Dastardly, Clyde, Private Meekly, Sawtooth
1968–1970 The Banana Splits Fleegle Beagle
1969 The Flying Nun Claudio Live action, "My Sister the Star"
1969–1970 Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines Dick Dastardly, The General, Additional voices
1969–1970 The Perils of Penelope Pitstop Clyde, Softy, Additional voices
1969–1970 Here's Lucy French Knife Thrower, Jeweler, Carlo, The Tailor Live action, "Lucy, the Cement Worker", "Lucy and Liberace"
1970 Nanny and the Professor Herbert T. Peabody Live action, "The Humanization of Herbert T. Peabody"
1971 The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show Rockhead, Father "Mayor May Not"
1971 The Brady Bunch Skip Farnum Live action, "And Now, a Word from Our Sponsor"
1971–1972 Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch! Bubi Bear, Furface the Lion, Slicks the Fox, Tiptoes the Ostrich, Gabby the Parrot, Specs the Mole, Pipsqueak the Mouse He did the voice of Slicks in the first episode, but from then on the character was voiced by Daws Butler, who also voiced Furface in some episodes. Also, Winchell did the voice of Pipsqueak in "Bridal Boo Boo" while in "Love Bug Bungle", the character was voiced by Janet Waldo.
1972 McMillan & Wife TV Interviewer Live action, "Cop of the Year"
1972 A Christmas Story Goober TV special
1972 Why We Have Elections, or The Kings of Snark The Narrator TV short
1972 The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie Fleegle, additional voices "The Banana Splits in Hocus Pocus Park" & "Tabitha and Adam and the Clown Family"
1972–1973 The New Scooby-Doo Movies Additional voices
1973 Circle of Fear Mr. Carlson Live action, "The Ghost of Potter's Field"
1973 Yogi's Gang Sheik of Selfishness "The Sheik of Selfishness"
1973 Dr. Seuss on the Loose Sam-I-Am, Grouchy Guy, Sneetches TV short
1973–1975 Goober and the Ghost Chasers Goober, Additional voices
1974 Hong Kong Phooey Mr. Shrink, The Mayor "Dr. Disguiso & The Incredible Mr. Shrink"
1974–1975 These Are the Days Additional voices
1974–1975 Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch Revs, Captain Tough, Mailman, Lifeguard
1975 Adams of Eagle Lake Monty Live action, "Treasure Chest Murder"
1975 The Tiny Tree Turtle TV short
1975 The Oddball Couple Fleabag
1976–1977 The Pink Panther Show Fearless Freddy the Shark Hunter
1976–1977 Clue Club Woofer, Additional voices
1977 CB Bears Shake Shake, Rattle & Roll segment
1977–1978 The Skatebirds Moe, The Amazing Bordoni, Professor Octane, Blob Leader, Woofer The Robonic Stooges and Woofer & Wimper, Dog Detectives segments
1977–1978 Fred Flintstone and Friends Goober, Additional Voices
1978 To Catch a Halibut Fearless Freddy TV short
1978 Hanna-Barbera's All-Star Comedy Ice Revue Bubi Bear/Fleego TV special
1979 Casper and the Angels Additional voices
1979 The Super Globetrotters Bad Blue Bart, The Phantom Cowboy
1980–1982 Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo Additional voices
1980–1982 Heathcliff Marmaduke, Phil Winslow, Additional voices
1981 Trollkins Mayor Lumpkin
1981 The Flintstones: Wind-Up Wilma Umpire, Thief, Reporter TV film
1981–1989 The Smurfs Gargamel
1982 My Smurfy Valentine Gargamel TV special
1982 The Smurfs Christmas Special Gargamel TV special
1982 The Smurfs' Springtime Special Gargamel TV special
1982 Spider-Man Silvermane "Wrath of the Sub-Mariner"
1982–1983 Meatballs & Spaghetti Additional voices
1983 The Smurfic Games Gargamel TV special
1984 Here are the Smurfs Gargamel TV movie
1985 The Jetsons Dr. Input "S'No Relative"
1985 The Disney Family Album Himself "Voice Actors"
1985–1988 Yogi's Treasure Hunt Dick Dastardly, Additional voices
1985–1990 Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears Zummi Gummi
1986 The Kingdom Chums: Little David's Adventure King Saul TV film
1986 Smurfquest Gargamel TV movie
1987 Yogi Bear and the Magical Flight of the Spruce Goose The Dread Baron TV film
1988–1990; 1991 The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Tigger, Additional voices He left the series in Season 3, however returned in the final episodes.
1990–1991 Wake, Rattle and Roll Dick Dastardly Fender Bender 500 segment
1991 Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too Tigger TV short
1991–1994 Garfield and Friends Additional voices Joined the cast in season 4
1993 Droopy, Master Detective Rumpley's Dad "A Chip off the old Block Head"
1998 A Winnie the Pooh Thanksgiving Tigger TV film
1999 A Valentine for You Tigger TV film

Theme parks

Year Title Role Notes
1999 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Tigger (Walt Disney World version)


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Inventor of the Week Archive". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. September 2005. Retrieved May 5, 2008.
  2. 1930 US Census, Brooklyn, NY, enumerators district 24-1447, sheet 19A
  4. 1 2 3 4 Salamon, Julie (2005-06-27). "Paul Winchell, 82, TV Host and Film Voice of Pooh's Tigger, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
  5. 1 2 Lawson, Tim; Persons, Alisa, eds. (2004). The magic behind the voices:a who's who of cartoon actors. University Press of Mississippi. p. 367. ISBN 1-57806-696-4. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  6. Michaud, John. "Paul Winchell Smurfs Gargamel & Tigger Cartoon Voices Interview 2004". Retrieved 1 December 2012. I went out to California in 1938. I was a kid going to school in NY city and I was studying commercial art. I went to a school called the School of Industrial Art in Manhattan. just about at that time, Edgar Bergan hit the scene. Rudy Valee presented him on his show, the Vallee show, and the rest was history. he became absolutely a rage. [.....] And three months later—it was only three months later—I appeared on the Major Bowes Original Amateur hour on CBS Radio in 1938. [.....] I asked my teacher if I would get credit if I built a ventriloquist figure, would that qualify for credit? And he says "well of course [.....] it requires sculptoring [sic], it requires casting, it requires molding, it requires all of the things that we're studying [.....] I kind of 'Mickey Moused the whole thing." [...]
  7. Herzog, Buck (15 October 1962). "Along Amusement Row". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  8. "On the Stage". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 21 October 1939. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  9. "NBC Chicago Adds Three TV Shows" (PDF). Broadcasting. November 15, 1948. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  10. Internet Movie Database: I'm No Dummy
  11. Digital Cinema Report
  12. Murphy, Kim (1986-07-03). "Paul Winchell Gets Last Word and $17.8 Million". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-10-16.
  13. "Justices Won't Review Punitive-Damage Cases". Los Angeles Times. 1989-07-04. Retrieved 2014-10-16. Without comment, the justices turned away the case of a $17.8-million award won by ventriloquist Paul Winchell over the destruction of all videotapes of his popular children's television show of the 1960s.
  14. "The Most Wonderful Thing about Tigger....". Wealth of Ideas. July 2005. Archived from the original on 2008-02-12. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
  15. "Paul Winchell – Erroneous Claims". Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  16. U.S. Patent 3,097,366, U.S. Patent 2,917,751
  17. "Winch," New York: Authorhouse, 2004 [ISBN 1414068972]
  18. Winchell, April. "T.T.F.N.". Retrieved 2008-05-08.
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