Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Knapps Sack" by Alan Kupperberg

"Knapps Sack"
by Alan Kupperberg

I TIVO the GSN reruns of the "What's My Line?" kinescopes every night and Debbi and I often watch them during dinner. Yesterday they broadcast the WML? episode of June 22, 1958. After mystery guest Andy Griffith failed to stump the panel, the fourth and final contestant, a Mr. Alois S. Knapp, entered and signed in.

Mr. Knapp was a slight, elderly gentleman, sporting a white spade beard. My Spider-Senses began to tingle!

I knew this guy!

Moderator John Charles Daly saw to it that Mr. Knapp was seated and a card was super-imposed to show the folks in the audience and the folks at home just what Mr. Knapp's line actually was. The card read, "Owns and Operates Nudist Camp (self-employed).”

That's when the light bulb flashed on over my head, and I knew where I knew this guy from.

In late 1972 I was working for Wally Wood, ghosting Sally Forth and Cannon. It was Woody's habit to "pull swipes" or scrap on as much of his drawing as possible. His motto was, "Don't draw it if you can swipe it, don't swipe it if you can trace it, don't trace it if you can Xerox and paste it." Generally, I do not subscribe to this philosophy. I maintain a healthy swipe file and library but only refer to it when my "talent" or lack of it fails me. But, to each, his own.

Woody had many file cabinets filled with reference. Lots of Hal Foster and Alex Raymond and Reed Crandall tear sheets. And photos, torn from periodicals. Of places, things, animals, equipment, uniforms, etc. And people. Children. Men. Women. Men standing. Men squatting. Women running. Etc., etc. Whatever you can think of. At least one folder for each action, for each gender.

For one particular Cannon sequence Woody needed to "cast" the part of Jake, a farmer whom Cannon worked for.

This is Jake:

A lot of Woody's "people swipes" came from old nudist magazines, one of the very few good places to obtain that kind of photo reference material, showing musculature, in the early fifties when Woody was growing his swipe file.

Well, no doubt you've seen this coming for several paragraphs.

Jake was Alois S. Knapp.

I remember the specific swipe. Woody needed a shot for Cannon squatting by a farm tractor, making repairs. Out came the "Men Squatting" folder, from which was selected a shot, ripped from an old Nudist magazine, which included Mr. Knapp, nude and squatting. That's how this characterization was born.

This is a part of the shot that resulted from that piece of swipe:

In the original photo swipe, the nude Mr. Knapp featured quite a bit of "danglage" and this caused Woody and I to spend a good half an hour howling with laughter and riffing on the subject.

Thirtyseven years ago I saw a photo of an elderly nudist.

Yesterday I encountered his image again. And instantly recognized him.

I dunno what, if any thing, this demonstrates, beyond what a remarkable thing the human mind is, but I sure impressed myself.

(Thanks Alan and here from YouTube is that actual appearance of Mr. Knapp on WHAT'S MY LINE from 1958.--ST)

Mr. Knapp's Zoro Nature Park in Roselawn, Indiana later became infamous as Dick Drost's Naked City.

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