Sydney had Oprah Winfrey at the Opera House. Melbourne had the Giggle and Hoot Pyjama Party at Eastland Shopping Centre, in the outer eastern suburb of Ringwood.
Jimmy Giggle (James Rees) and the puppet owl Hoot have been together less than twelve months but the star duo of ABC Children’s TV are already famous enough to fill a vast suburban shopping centre.
It’s hard to imagine Mr Squiggle and Miss Jane at their peak attracting such a crowd. Of course in their day Eastland was merely a Myer store and a carport.
Mr Squiggle, currently locked away in a dust-filled ABC props cupboard, would be green with envy and sickened by the spectacle. Adding to the annoyance of old pencil-nose would be the fact that Giggle and Hoot’s fame is largely undeserved. They don’t have his special skills – their ‘show’ is really just a pleasant means of presenting ABC’s vast catalogue of children’s programmes.
No one ever feels completely safe in modern shopping malls. Feet don’t quite hold on the slippery surfaces and you lean against the laminated poles with a sense of foreboding.
So perhaps Eastland’s Myer atrium – comprising a narrow circular walkway with a vast central cavity, a two storey vertical drop between four lovely palm trees to the tiled floor of Salotti Del Caffe below – was not the ideal place to host a horde of titillated children and frazzled parents.
When Giggle and Hoot haven’t arrived fifteen minutes after the advertised time the crowd, compressed into a tight circle for over an hour, stops its excited twittering and begins disaffected murmuring.
Then the children start to squirm with boredom and frustration, the press of annoyed infants intensifying. Suddenly the atrium’s lovely balustrade, which has been doing its best to corral the little beasts, looks like it may just pop its rivets and send the tykes cascading from the plastic-domed heavens, to richocet off the escalator arms and shop fittings, bits of kids dropping (pitter, patter …plop) into Salotti’s tray of assorted sweetmeats.
The parents standing behind their offspring would come down next – harder and straighter – obliterating the tables, smashing the floor tiles. Herbert, a stay-at-home dad (he should have stayed at home), would be decapitated on a table edge.
Unfortunately such an entertaining spectacle does not eventuate because the rail, belying its cheap appearance, holds.
Childless couples stop to find out what all the fuss is about. “Giggle and Hooch?!” giggles one woman. An elderly lady is hoping it’ll be Engelbert Humperdinck singing A Night To Remember.
Just as everyone is wondering where on earth G & H are the security staff begin pointing to the left, towards the carpark entrance. Desperate to create a path they start to push the crowd backwards. And then …there is Jimmy Giggle, waving. “What’s that on his hand?”, asks my son as I see a lame, undersized hand puppet of Hoot.
Suddenly, Rees stops waving and with a lifeless Hoot dangling by his side appears to give up the pretence of being an entertainer. Perhaps it is the shock of a live audience, or the realisation that his acting career is shot – he has been TYPECAST as a children’s TV presenter, FOREVER. Not even Home and Away will touch him now, let alone City Homicide.
With Hoot hiding under the table and Giggle signing merchandise my son scoffs: “Let’s go and see the real Giggle and Hoot”.
So we went home to watch them on television – where they belong.
PS Hoot has returned to Eastland – along with his new purple “pal” Hootabelle – for a series of shows during the midyear holidays.
Presumably the production values are superior to that initial visit. Rather than a limp and lifeless hand puppet the kids will be hoping the authentic Hoot appears – quickly annoying high pitched voice included.
Due to major renovation construction Eastland currently looks like Dresden after its fire bombing in 1945. If you’re attending, be sure to check those rivets.
Rees has successfully avoided the fortnight of incessant noise and giggling and the possibility of a building collapsing on top of him by claiming Jimmy Giggle will be too busy playing with his Magic Button.
Oh, and Mister Maker won’t be making it either.