This is an online encyclopedia of personalities of Old Time Radio. It is designed for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Paul Winchell (1922-2005)

Pinkas Wilchenski (later shortened to Wilchen) was born December 21, 1922, in New York City. As a boy, Pinkas had a terrible stuttering problem and tried to learn ventriloquism to overcome it. He considered his hero to be Edgar Bergen (who moved his mouth when he made Charlie McCarthy speak). Eventually, he became a good ventriloquist. In 1936, he went on Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour with a dummy named Terry. Terry was made by ventriloquist dummy maker, Frank Marshall. His appearance on the program was the first time he used his stage name, Paul Winchell. Paul won the program. With part of the money he won, Paul, who was only 12 years old at this time, told Frank Marshall he didn't like how Terry looked. So Frank took Terry bank and took a manufactured dummy called Noseyboy and with a few modifications Jerry Mahoney was born. Major Bowes got Paul and Jerry work in several venues all over New York City.

Planning to be a graphic artist, Paul continued through school. He attended Columbia University (on a scholarship but ended up dropping out). This was at the beginning of World War II but Paul wasn't called. He did a few radio pilot shows and ended up having his own radio series, the Paul Winchell Show, on Mutual. Listening to the program, it was a great show. However, it was a sustaining program (meaning it had no sponsor) and it had a virtually unknown host, even if he was really funny. Yes, he won Major Bowes'. At the same time, Frank Sinatra, who lost on Major Bowes', was one of the most successful singers of the period.

In 1939, Paul lent his voice to a ventriloquist dummy in the film, Everything's On Ice (Frolics on Ice).

Paul did guest spots on other programs. Eventually, he hosted a game program with Jerry Mahoney over radio station WOR in New York City in 1948.

In a couple of years after this, he began working on television. He was often seen on the Ed Sullivan Show (Talk of the Town) as well as other programs. His first appearance in TV was actually as an actor on the TV version of Lights Out in 1950. The character, Knucklehead Smiff, was first seen in 1950 for another game program he was doing, except that this one was on television. He did many other TV shows along the same idea as his character in the Lights Out episode throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1962, he began doing voice work for Hanna-Barbera Studios. The first work he did was on The Jetsons. After this, he began doing local children's television for KTTV, channel 11, in Los Angeles. The program was Winchell-Mahoney Time. (Bill's Note: Hit this link and hear the theme music.)

After Winchell-Mahoney Time went off the air in 1966, Paul had an extremely lucrative career in voicework in cartoons. Not only was he working for Hanna-Barbera, but he was also doing work for several Disney characters, including Tigger, of Winnie the Pooh fame. His voice became an everyday feature in many commercials, too.

Besides doing this, he also did some work in areas not involving entertainment. He was an amateur inventor, a medical hypnotist, an acupuncturist, and an evangelist of sorts. Until he died, he had a website called, Protect God. In it, he ascertained that God is not a nice God. It upset many Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Paul was Jewish by heritage, but his parents believed that God was very vengeful and all suffering comes from Him. (Paul, uh Pinkas, didn't have a very happy childhood.)

He didn't seem to have a very happy adulthood, either. He was first married to Dorothy Movitz. Paul called her "Dottie." Paul and Dottie had a son, Stacy Paul, and a daughter, Stephanie. After divorcing her, he married Nina Russel in 1961. Their daughter April was born in 1960. Paul divorced Nina in 1972. Two years later he married Jean Freeman. She had two young sons, whom Paul adopted--Larry and Keith.

Paul managed to finish his education at Columbia University in 1958. He received a Doctor of Divinity degree from National Christian University (Bill can't find it listed anywhere!) and a doctoral degree in acupuncture from the Acupuncture Research College in Los Angeles (it's legit).

Some of the things Paul invented include: a flameless cigarette lighter; an artificial heart; and his first one, a disposable razor. He made the first one.

Paul retired from the entertainment business in 1996. He moved with Jean to their home in Moorpark, California, just east of the westernmost part of Los Angeles at Woodland Hills. He died on June 24, 2005, of natural causes.

When he died, he didn't want his children to know about it. Daughter April found out through a family friend. The other children heard it on radio or TV before they were invited to the funeral.

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