Sad news for all Tulsa baby boomers....
Uncle Zeb has died.
Carl Bartholomew, better known in the area as "Uncle Zeb," the host of a popular childrens' show from Tulsa, has died. He was 78.
Bartholomew is recognizable to two generations of Tulsans for his enduring role on the Unlce Zeb's show, famous for its "Cartoon Camp" had two runs on the airwaves — the first on KTUL, channel 8, from 1969 to '79, and then on cable from 1990 through '97.
Bartholomew also executive-produced, directed, co-scripted and starred in a 1988 vigilante movie called "Cole Justice," whose popularity in the home video market got him an improbable gig as the grand marshal of a holiday parade in Florala, Ala., sharing the spotlight "with a guy who could pick up 20 chickens," he recalled.
"Cole Justice" also played on Showtime and the Movie Channel and is still available from the Tulsa-based VCI Home Entertainment.
Bartholomew spent many years as the promotions manager for channel 8, where he created the well-remembered "Eight's the Place" campaign. In those brief spots — Bartholomew called them "micro-mini-movies" — he put the station's news team on horseback, into a '30s convertible, and even in Hower's biplane.
"That's kind of where I got bitten by the movie bug," he said. "Now, everything I write, I see in my mind as a film. This book is no different." Bartholomew was also an accomplished childrens' author. In 1998, his debut book, "Granmax: The Saving of a Steam Train," came out. He also released "Plane Phenomenon: The Pawnshop Mysteries," which mixed "Twilight Zone"-style thrills with
a plot line about a boy whose passion is remote-control planes, especially a Stearman biplane.
For those of you who don't understand, let me try to explain. Your boy scout/girl scout/ bluebird group would book a visit to the Cartoon Camp. You would then ride up a twisty road in the back of a station wagon to the top of Turkey Mountain in west Tulsa to the studios of Channel 8. You would walk onto the set, and there was Uncle Zeb. He'd tell jokes. He made squirrels out of handkerchiefs and made them jump at you with his fingers. You'd watch classic cartoons. At the end, you all got to line up and say your name into the microphone and get your 2 seconds of fame. Then you'd all jump around during the closing credits.
It was a blast. He was the nicest man.He was just so fun, and it never felt like he was talking down to you, even if you were six years old.
A while back I actually found some website about Tulsa TV personalities, and actually found a way to email him. Here I was, definitely middle aged, and I was thrilled that I got an email from Uncle Zeb. He was a true gem, and a gentleman. Now I just wish I'd asked him how to make those squirrels out of a handkerchief.
God bless you, Carl. You gave thousands of kids the gift of laughter.