Harlow and Curley Side By Side Again<META NAME="description" CONTENT="feature story on Hal Frayar and Curley Myers, former kids' show performers"><META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="feature story, Harlow Hickenlooper, Curley Myers, children's television, WFBM-TV, Indianapolis, Ind., Franklin, Ind."> harlow & curley photo

"HARLOW HICKENLOOPER & 'CURLEY'

SIDE BY SIDE ONCE AGAIN"

Published in the Indianapolis Star (StarSouth), Aug. 30, 2003 ©

         From the comfort of the sofa in Hal Fryar's sunny living room on the east side of Franklin, two of the icons of every central Indiana kid who spent Saturdays morning in front of a TV set in the 1960s and early '70s are still in perfect tune with one another.

         "Remember the time we performed at that new shopping center in Logansport?" Fryar's co-host and pal of more than 40 years, Gerald "Curley" Myers, is asking in his familiar baritone voice.

         And Fryar easily remembers. Myers is talking about the time a kid in their audience flipped a bent pin at Fryar's alter-ego, Harlow Hickenlooper, and hit him squarely in the eye, drawing blood. "That's the only occasion I ever remember someone doing something of an untoward nature," Fryar recollects, his kid-friendly voice bouncing between a high-baritone and alto as his made-for-TV personality always did.

         Fryar and Myers are still talking the old talk, telling the old jokes, singing the old songs as Myers visits his old TV buddy's new home in Franklin. Anyone with a memory probably can still recall every note, every laugh from the pair's routines on their children's show on Channel 6 (then WFBM-TV) two generations ago or from their numerous personal appearances together around central Indiana, past and present.

         All that are missing are the (shaving) cream pies that the hapless Hickenlooper always took in the face, both on television and in person. "They always wanted the pies," Fryar recalls, with a Saturday morning-style smile.

         "They wanted the pies at our personal appearances, and you had to fulfill that part of it."

         And the two buddies from a whole generation's mental scrapbook are still fulfilling the promises of one of their signature songs, "Side By Side," and taking to the stage again together. Myers' hair is no longer as curly or as thick as it once was, and Fryar's hairline has edged up a bit, making a bigger target for those obligatory pies.

         But Myers still has his shiny shamrock-green guitar at the ready, along with his white cowboy hat, string tie and silver Western belt buckle, and Fryar has the broken-down straw hat and his striped coat of many wild colors in his wardrobe.

         So, since Fryar's return from Florida earlier this year, the two have performed at Franklin's Artcraft Theater and have more shows geared up for area audiences after Myers recovers from surgery that is scheduled for this week.

         "If health permits, and time permits, by golly, we'll be doing something again, beginning probably in October," Myers, who lives in Mulberry, Ind., says.

         The two, who readily own up to being "a couple of hams," also have produced a new CD of recreations of the songs, jokes and riddles they have done for audiences for more than 40 years. "We tried to keep it as near as possible to what we did 40 years ago," Myers notes, in the rich baritone voice that still can carry the tunes of trademark songs like "Singin' in the Kitchen" and "On Top of Spaghetti."

         Fryar, 76, and Myers, 83, go back a long, long way. They were paired up at the Indianapolis TV station in 1965, where Hickenlooper was hosting a Three Stooges show and Myers was moved over to it after his "Cowboy Theater" had run its course.

         They also did a weekday afternoon kids' show with Jerry Vance, aka Cap'n Star, for a while.

         The two held onto the Saturday morning slot until 1973, when FCC regulations and network programming for kids squeezed them out of the Channel 6 lineup. Myers started selling encyclopedias, then water conditioners, and kept on performing in the Frankfort area.

         Fryar, a product of Tech High School and Indiana University, went on to do commercials and corporate films, then worked at an advertising agency and did motivational speaking. He returned to Indianapolis television as Grandpa Harlow on WFYI-TV (20) from 1990 to 1995.

         He and his wife, Henrietta, then moved to Florida, where he continued to perform for senior citizens. The couple returned to Indiana in March to be closer to family members. "We were just missing too many family activities," notes Fryar, who still performs solo at local retirement homes.

         It didn't take long for Fryar to team up with Myers again in the spotlight. "I hadn't even been back a month and Curley had a thing booked for us at the theater here in Franklin, opening for a bluegrass band," he says, with another lilting laugh.

         The return to performing is only the latest chapter in the story of the Fryar character who apparently can't be forced into retirement. Hickenlooper, who borrowed his last name from Iowa Sen. Burke Hickenlooper, is still finding an audience with the former kids who grew up with him on Saturday mornings and now their kids and grandkids.

         "I always loved to make people laugh," says the tall performer who traces his performing for kids to the time in college when he dressed up as the Easter Bunny at a department store. "Even in high school, I was always clowning around. I wasn't good at sports, I was only an average student, so to be noticed I had to make a fool of myself."

         Even in the privacy of his Franklin living room, Fryar still clowns around with Myers, whether doing an impromptu rendition of Hickenlooper's pseudo-operatic version of "Happy Birthday" - which always used to end with a well-aimed pie to the face -- or a familiar duet of "Side by Side," Myers strumming along on his green guitar.

         "I think that there is something that just keeps your juices going," Fryar says of the longevity of his and Myers' careers, which, as the song says, just keep traveling along, singing the songs, side by side.

         "It really is a nice story, because we know of so many instances where, behind the scenes, people couldn't stand each other," he adds, the Hickenlooper laugh coming on stage for an encore with his long-time partner. "It would have been very easy for the tempers to get short or something like that, but they never did with Curley and me."

----------

 Photo courtesy of Hal Fryar and Gerald Myers

 Return to Writings page