Chaka and Wolf Boy (1979) (allegedly)

A really quick-ish recap: The rarest Sid and Marty Krofft production is 1979’s Krofft Superstar Hour, which was hosted by the Bay City Rollers and co-written by a fellow I admire a great deal, Mark Evanier. The Hour comprised two shows-within-a-show, Horror Hotel and Lost Island, and unless you watched these episodes at the end of 1979, before NBC cancelled the Hour, then the only way you could have seen them is thanks to the bootlegging efforts of the Bay City Rollers’ fan base. Horror Hotel and Lost Island were never merchandised on coloring books or lunchboxes, they were never repeated, they were never syndicated. One, and only one, installment of Hotel has ever been released on home video, and we wrote about it in this post from last year.

So ten years after the Hour was axed, and with half-formed memories of the one Lost Island segment that I saw as a kid still bothering me, I often wondered what the heck that show was called, because I couldn’t remember. And one day in late 1989, I found the answer. It was called Chaka and Wolf Boy, apparently.

In the UGA Library, I found a two-volume book written by George W. Woolery and published by the Scarecrow Press in 1985 called Children’s Television: The First Thirty-Five Years, 1946-1981. Volume one was the cartoons and volume two was the live-action stuff. And the writer of this book claimed that just six years previously, Horror Hotel‘s companion was Chaka and Wolf Boy. Here, read it yourself:

“Timberland fantasy”?

I didn’t completely swallow this, because there was an awful lot of bad information circulating about programs that didn’t have a big fan base back then. As I’ve mentioned before, there were people who claimed in print that there were 88 episodes of Ark II. But it was the late eighties and people talked a lot of crap then. There was this one friend-of-a-friend who swore blind that there were five seasons of the Japanese cartoon Space Battleship Yamato when there were only three, and don’t even get me started on that con pest who once insisted that Paul McCartney had a chair right next to the director’s on the shoot of that Sgt. Pepper movie with the Bee Gees.

Then again, some friends and I once spent a weekend at a con in Dallas spreading a rumor about an old live-action Captain Harlock series until somebody fell for it and told us they had some episodes, so it’s not like we’re totally innocent here.

But back to this book. See, the problem with looking for rare television details in 1989-90 is that your research options were really limited then. I just mentally filed Chaka and Wolf Boy with an asterisk, finding absolutely nobody who watched this dopey show in the first place and no other reference to it in any book. A few years later, I found Usenet and saw lots of posts in the TV newsgroups from Mark Evanier, who seemed to know everything. I figured it was worth a shot to email him – our email addresses, then, were often longer than the emails – and was very pleasantly surprised when he replied that he co-wrote the show, that the segment was called Lost Island, and that Woolery’s book was wrong. When I finally did land a VHS bootleg of what is said to be the first episode of Krofft Superstar Hour from a Rollers fan about a decade later, it was the very episode I remembered from 1979.

(That first installment of Lost Island is also the only one that has turned up on YouTube. It starts with Pufnstuf with an ice pack on his head sucking on a big thermometer. The claim is that this is the episode that was shown on September 9, 1979. Only eight of the thirteen episodes were ever screened in the first place. I despair that the other five may not exist any longer. Some of the later Bay City Rollers Show edits, after the show was cut to a half-hour and Island was dropped, have also survived as bootlegs, so at least there’s a little more of Horror Hotel circulating.)

The mystery solved, I soon forgot about the book and its author. I just remembered that the book existed and it had an egregious fib in it. As time went on, I forgot the author’s name and misremembered the publisher, and started blaming some other company for releasing something that wasn’t fact-checked. (Sorry, McFarland.) So when I did decide that I’d like to keep a copy of this mistake and/or lie for posterity, I had a heck of a time identifying the book! Once I did figure out what it was, I was thrilled to learn that the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Library had a copy, and that building is literally three blocks from my parking space at work, so I walked over there earlier this week.

I’d still like to know why the book has such an unbelievable claim in it, but I’m afraid we can’t call upon the author to explain. George W. Woolery was born in 1931, and even that contradicts the date of 1937 on the copyright page of the book! He wrote these two volumes for Scarecrow along with another book called Animated TV Specials. Woolery joined the TKE fraternity at USC in 1948, and later received his MA there. He is listed among TKE’s distinguished alumni. I am not certain when he passed away, as I have been unable to find an obituary, but TKE administers a memorial scholarship in his name.

With Woolery dead, we’ll probably never know where he got the notion of Chaka and Wolf Boy. It’s possible that he just got some bad intel from somebody when he was doing his research, or it’s possible that somebody was acting in deliberately bad faith. It’s also possible that this might have been an attempt at a copyright trap to catch somebody plagiarizing his work. I think that’s the most generous possibility, except that people devising copyright traps usually can’t resist coming up with lots of extra fake detail, and Woolery didn’t provide many facts at all about Chaka and Wolf Boy.

Whatever’s the case, it’s probably fair to say that the only Krofft show rarer than Lost Island is… the one that they never actually made in the first place.


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