Ernie Kovacs Presents: Percy Dovetonsils thpeaks Vinyl
Percy Dovetonsils was born in 1951 or 1952 at the WPTZ studios in Philadelphia. It was there that Ernie Kovacs was doing a three-hour wake-up TV show called Three To Get Ready. He was an on-camera disc jockey 30 years before MTV launched with its own brand of VJs—playing records, talking, acting out skits and characters, holding contests… anything to kill time (Kovacs had already been a radio DJ for several years in his hometown of Trenton, NJ). Three To Get Ready had hardly any budget for props and costumes, so Andy McKay, Ernie’s assistant, would forage in five-and-dime stores looking for any cheap prop that might become a gag or a piece of a costume for a character. One day McKay arrived with a pair of gag eyeglasses with fake eyeballs glued on; but the conception-to-birth stages of Percy that followed are gone in the mauve (or is it cerise) clouds of the cigar smoke of time. Kovacs may very well have had an instant reaction to seeing himself wearing the glasses in a mirror or on camera… and that Percy persona may have just come out of him. Surviving pairs of the original Percy glasses show that the eyelids at half-mast appear to be drawn on with a china marker—another Kovacs touch, no doubt. Percy Dovetonsils was popular with viewers and became one of Ernie’s signature characters/bits. Along with the Nairobi Trio, born the following year during the run of Kovacs Unlimited on CBS, the Percy character is probably what Ernie is most identified with by members of the general public. Percy was a staple of Kovacs’ shows over the years, and Kovacs appeared as Percy on late-1950s guest shots and in clues on Kovacs’ ersatz panel show Take A Good Look (1959–1961).