Clif St. James, whose TV character Corky the Clown served as a comforting friend to tens of thousands of children growing up in the 1950s and '60s, has died.
Mr. St. James, a long-time resident of Webster Groves, died Dec. 9 of pneumonia at St. Luke's Hospital. He was 91.
Mr. St. James left KSD-TV in 1981, having started at the station as a freelance announcer in the early 1950s. He hosted the "Corky the Clown" show — later "Corky's Colorama" — from 1954 until 1980.
"I can still remember auditioning for Corky the Clown," said Mr. St. James in a Jan. 18, 1985, article in the Webster-Kirkwood Times. "I sketched out an egg-face and kept debating whether I wanted a happy smile or should I be a sad clown. One thing I was going to be sure of, I wouldn't wear the same outfit every day. A clown hosting a TV show for kids should change his clothes like anybody else."
Mr. St. James, of course, went with the happy-faced clown. His show was live, and featured an audience of enthusiastic children.
"The audio man had a lot of sound effects and I would never know what he was going to do with me," Mr. St. James was quoted as saying in 1985. "He would break into the show unexpectedly with a crazy whistle or he would have a ghost opening the door and thumping across the set — and I would have to figure out how to explain what was going on."
In those days, Mr. St. James said the station worked with a large boom microphone, a microphone that would invariably make its way into a shot. Mr. St. James used the microphone to his advantage.
"We made a picture of a little freckle-faced girl with braids and I used to have to deal with her and whisper in her ear when she got on camera," he said.
Following his career as Corky, Mr. St. James was very much in demand as a TV and radio personality.
Born July 3, 1925, in Niagra Falls, N.Y., Mr. St. James joined the Army in 1943, serving in northern France and Germany. His infantry division took part in the Battle of the Bulge.
It was in Rochester, N.Y., following the war, that Mr. St. James met his wife, Nance Babcock. A St. Louis native, Nance was in Rochester studying voice and acting at the Eastman School of Music. The two Eastman students wed in 1948.
The couple moved to St. Louis in the early 1950s where Mr. St. James took a job with KWK Radio. Both he and Nance hosted a show on KWK, as well as a 15-minute TV feature show after the 10 p.m. news on KSD.
Mr. St. James is survived by his wife, Nance, his son, Chip St. James, and daughters Stacy Physioc of Kansas City and Lori Doll of Dallas.
Funeral arrangements were pending as of Dec. 14.