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Remembering Kenny

Captured at the height of their popularity. Hans and Kenny were the ever-presents of weekend television entertainment. Outside of their enduring partnership, Hans was said to have served as a body double for both Vincent Price and Welsh snooker ace Ray Reardon.

There remains a narrow demographic - old enough to have seen them but not so old as to have forgotten they did so - which will recall, with fondness, all-round entertainer and much-loved "gutes ei"* Hans Upitzbuüm and his loveable leonine sidekick Kenny. Though of German dissent and held in some suspicion immediately after "the War", Hans and his woolly pal became a byword for innocent enjoyment and a gold-plated guarantee of harmless family fun throughout the 1950s and early 1960s - not least through their regular appearance on the weekly DBC variety show Sunday Night at the Lydlinch Palladium.

* "good egg"

Hans died in 1997 [Kenny followed shortly thereafter, reportedly sticken with grief and unable to speak or leave home without the support of his human animateur] but their names have lived on thanks in no small measure to the efforts of avid fans and dedicated Kenny-collectibles aficionados Horace and Doris Deepe-Stoat. Joint founders of the Chilfrome-based Hans Upitzbuüm Appreciation Society, the couple have dedicated the last 20 years to assembling props, scripts and memorabilia [including several pairs of soiled gloves*] as well as every known recording by and image of the loveable celebrity duo. Plans for a Hans and Kenny Museum remain in embryo, awaiting approval from the Chilfrome District Council as well as a suitable low-rent facility.

* Our Show Biz Correspondent - Grise Paynte - explains: For much of his adult life Hans experienced extreme sweating of the palms of his hands - something he attributed to spending “more than 8 hours a day on average with at least one hand up Kenny’s bum and inside his woollen entrails”. So copious was the flow that audience members often assumed Kenny was incontinent. Numerous complaints from theatre managers led Hans to investigate and eventually - in 1964 - he was diagnosed with Palmar Hyperhidrosis. The diagnosis, whilst reassuring, did not lead to a cure. Hans continued to experiment with absorbent materials finally settling on a pair of moleskin gloves stuffed with Rhino super-absorbent kitchen roll. “Kenny was a lion and my hands were wrapped in Rhino. I often thought what sort of creature might result from the encounter” [Hans Uppitzbuüm [1985] “Handy With A Lion”. The Threadbone Press ]

A considerable coup: Hornimint Records held off several rivals in the bid to release the rediscovered classic audio treat. Its vinyl release has caused a considerable stir with several outings on Radio Dorset and more than 3 sales reported by Simon's Spins: The Blandford Forum Record Store You Can Trust.

Thanks to Horace and Doris's efforts in acquiring and digitally restoring a rare 1956 radio recording of two Kenny stories, Hornimint Records are now able to release a two-sided vinyl LP of the famed act "at the height of their not very considerable powers" [Dorset Nostalgia Recordings Monthly, June 2023]. Kenny's Bathtime [a hilarious encounter with a bar of soap that goes missing and is finally retrieved from "a place it should never have gone"] and Hans Gets a Toupé [a self-deprecating exploration of a frequently asked tonsorial question] are both masterpieces of German humour, made the more intelligible by the fact that in the recording studio, Hans was relieved of the obligation not to move his lips. ["If there was one flaw in the performance it was that Hans struggled to articulate Kenny's part in the duologue under the constraint of the strict rules of ventriloquism. Having decided at the interval to circumvent this difficulty by holding a handkerchief over his lower face, the clarity of his performance improved significantly though the delivery of punchlines remained studied and sometimes less than effective, occasionally negating the value of the joke altogether" [Dorset Stage and Concert Varieties Review, December 1959].

Earlier this year the Hans Upitzbuüm Appreciation Society made headlines when they lent a copy of a rare DBCtv clip of Hans and Kenny to the Threadbone Primavera Festival On Day 3 it appeared in the Pyramid Tent, attracting some of the largest audiences of the Festival with more than 12 people viewing it at the same time at 3pm on 26th April2023.

Readers can judge for themselves that performance - said to be "as good as it ever got" - by clicking on the video below.

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