Marley's Reviews > Big Chuck!: My Favorite Stories from 47 Years on Cleveland TV

Big Chuck! by Chuck Schodowski
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Apr 27, 12

Read from April 24 to 27, 2012

Some of my earliest memories are of Cleveland TV. Way back. We got a TV in 1948 and I can still name off early Cleveland TV folks: Bob Dale, Linn Sheldon, Miss Barbara, Earle Keyes, Pooch Parade. Why I would remember the name of a director on Channel 5 is beyond me, but I do. And commercials for Cotton Club, haluskha noodles, a pickles. Go figure. Later came Ernie Anderson and Tim Conway (then Tom) and Ernie's Place and their hilarious bread commercials. Then, of course, Ghoulardi (Ernie) and Big Chuck--later with Hoolie and Lil John. Was any television ever as good as Cleveland television?

I clearly remember Big Chuck's debut on Ghoulardi as the new Indian's pitching coach. I fell in love with Chuck at that moment and still am.

Big Chuck! is a wonderful walk through Chuck's wonderful life on Channel 8. I knew he was an engineer and later director, but I had no idea how much work Chuck put in all those years. The show would have been enough. But directing (news, specials), producing ,running lines at the stadium, playing football, basketball, baseball with the All Stars,, boxing Mike Tyson! And those skits. 2000 of them. And characters, Downstairs Neighbor Jerry Kleegle (Parma Place), the Kielbasy Kid, Soulman, King the Wonder Dog, Mushmouth Mariano, Ben Crazy, and hundreds more. The WSJ, in a front page story called Big Chuck and Lil John the last vaudeville show. Chuck never went beyond high school--except for broadcasting school. He started out working in a foundry his senior year, yet he won a gazillion local Emmys; had a chance at Hollywood, but chose Cleveland. Who needs freaking phony Hollywood when you've Cleveland: the best location in the nation.

The number of celebrities who graced Big Chuck/Hoolile/Lil John is outstanding. Muhammad Ali, Lawrence Welk, Andy Griffith, Mike Tyson, and many more. And the huge number of locals: Indians and Browns luminaries. One curious member of the All Stars was prominent heart specialist Dr. Robert White (the Pope. Gorbachev) who also, at Christmas, liked to clerk at Lil John's downtown jewelry store, Rinaldil Jewelers. I can't imagine this anyplace but Cleveland.

Big Chuck! is conversational and fun. It's also an important historical document in television history and shows us just how bereft local TV is today with its drones in suits and hairspray. The book is a great companion piece to Linn Sheldon's Barnaby and Me and Ghoulardi: Inside Cleveland TV's Wildest Ride--which I'm going to re-read next.

I haven't lived in the Cleveland area since 1979 and the one thing I've always missed is Big Chuck. I was sad when he finally went off the air, but at the age of 73 he's earned a rest. He and John are still dong personal appearances and remain as popular as ever. Compilation shows of the skits are now shown on Channel 8.

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