Waldo's Topless Beach Scandal

For Eileen Godfrey of Nashua, New Hampshire, there could be no doubt: There was definitely nipple.

It was October of 1992, and Godfrey had just returned from shopping at a local BJ’s Wholesale Club with a puzzle for her five-year-old daughter, Jessica, to assemble. It was a sprawling beach scene populated by hundreds of characters, including one dressed slightly inappropriately for the climate: Waldo, the sweater-sporting explorer who “hides” in every crowd scene illustrated by Martin Handford for his Where’s Waldo? line of books. (The series, which debuted in 1987, is referred to as Where’s Wally? in Handford’s native England.)

Jessica did not get a chance to locate him. While looking at the pieces, Godfrey spotted a woman reacting in surprise to a little boy poking her in the back with an ice cream cone. Though the tiny figure was no bigger than a dime, it was clear that Handford had drawn a breast and accompanying nipple on the sunbather. Her bikini top was laid out in front of her.

Angry, Godfrey put the puzzle out of reach of both Jessica and her 10-year-old son. She phoned BJ’s, which pulled the remaining boxes from the shelves. The story made the Associated Press wires, with the Great American Puzzle Company blithely telling a reporter that they had received a couple of other complaints about the illustration the year prior.

Great American was probably indifferent because they had merely reproduced the artwork: It originated with Walker Books, the UK publishing house that issued all of Handford’s Wally/Waldo works. Since it’s unlikely anyone had tampered with the drawing, Godfrey’s discovery meant that the book likely featured the exact same scene.

That was proven just a few months later, when another mother—this one in East Hampton, New York—discovered the book her 10-year-old son had borrowed from his school library contained the covert anatomy lesson.

“I think it’s, like, disgusting,” the boy, Ken Coleman, told the Times-Post News Service in March 1993. Disgusting or not, he felt compelled to show the book to his younger brother before alerting his parents; his stepmother, Shirley Coleman, successfully rallied to have her school district pull the book from circulation.

From that point on, the original Where’s Waldo? collection spent much of the 1990s occupying the American Library Association’s list of the 100 Most Challenged Books, just behind Howard Stern's Private Parts. In the UK, nudity is not quite the taboo it is in the United States—nude sunbathing is legal on any beach, though someone might ask you politely to cover up—making it unlikely the illustrator or his UK publisher would be overly concerned with a minor puritanical controversy. (Some Waldo fans have reported the sunbather recovered her top for later editions; Walker Books did not respond to mental_floss's request for confirmation.)

Handford, who rarely grants interviews, never addressed the controversy directly. Speaking briefly to the Los Angeles Times and other media for the character’s tenth anniversary in 1997, however, Handford said that he considered Wally a “cool guy” and “very open-minded.”

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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Good Gnews: Remembering The Great Space Coaster

Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
YouTube

Tubby Baxter. Gary Gnu. Goriddle Gorilla. Speed Reader. For people of a certain age, these names probably tug on distant memories of a television series that blended live-action, puppetry, and animation. It was The Great Space Coaster, and it aired daily in syndication from 1981 to 1986. Earning both a Daytime Emmy and a Peabody Award for excellence in children’s programming, The Great Space Coaster fell somewhere in between Sesame Street and The Muppet Show—a series for kids who wanted a little more edge to their puppet performances.

Unlike most classic kid’s shows, fans have had a hard time locating footage of The Great Space Coaster. Even after five seasons and 250 episodes, no collections are available on home video. So what happened?

Get On Board

The Great Space Coaster was created by Kermit Love, who worked closely with Jim Henson on Sesame Street and created Big Bird, and Jim Martin, a master puppeteer who also collaborated with Henson. Produced by Sunbow Productions and sponsored by the Kellogg Company and toy manufacturer Hasbro, The Great Space Coaster took the same approach as Sesame Street of being educational entertainment. In fact, many of the puppeteers and writers were veterans of Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Producers met with educators to determine subjects and content that could result in a positive cognitive or personal development goal for the audience, which was intended to be children from ages 6 to 11. There would be music, comedy, and cartoons, but all of it would be working toward a lesson on everything from claustrophobia to the hazards of being a litterbug.

The premise involved three teens—Danny (Chris Gifford), Roy (Ray Stephens), and Francine (Emily Bindiger)—who hitch a ride on a space vehicle piloted by a clown named Tubby Baxter. The crew would head for an asteroid populated by a variety of characters like Goriddle Gorilla (Kevin Clash). Roy carried a monitor that played La Linea, an animated segment from Italian creator Osvaldo Cavandoli that featured a figure at odds with his animator. The kids—all of whom looked a fair bit older than their purported teens—also sang in segments with original or cover songs.

The most memorable segment might have been the newscast with Gary Gnu, a stuffy puppet broadcaster who delivered the day’s top stories with his catchphrase: “No gnews is good gnews!” Aside from Gnu, there was Speed Reader (Ken Myles), a super-fast sprinter and reader who reviewed the books he breezed through. Often, the show would also have guest stars, including Mark Hamill, boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard, and Henry Winkler.

All of it had a slightly irreverent tone, with humor that was more biting than most other kid’s programming of the era. The circus that Tubby Baxter ran away from was run by a character named M.T. Promises. Gnu had subversive takes on his news stories. Other characters weren’t always as well-intentioned as the residents of Sesame Street.

Off We Go

The Great Space Coaster was popular among viewers and critics. In 1982, it won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children’s Programming—Graphic Design and a Peabody Award in 1983. But after the show ceased production in 1986, it failed to have a second life in reruns or on video. Only one VHS tape, The Great Space Coaster Supershow, was ever released in the 1980s. And while fan sites like TheGreatSpaceCoaster.TV surfaced, it was difficult to compile a complete library of the series.

In 2012, Tanslin Media, which had acquired the rights to the show, explained why. Owing to the musical interludes, re-licensing songs would be prohibitively expensive—potentially far more than the company would make selling the program. Worse, the original episodes, which were recorded on 1-inch or 2-inch reel tapes, were in the process of degrading.

That same year, Jim Martin mounted an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to begin salvaging episodes and digitizing them for preservation. That work has continued over the years, with Tanslin releasing episodes and clips online that don’t require expensive licensing agreements and fans uploading episodes from their original VHS recordings to YouTube.

There’s been no further word on digitizing efforts for the complete series, though Tanslin has reported that a future home video release isn’t out of the question. If that materializes, it’s likely Gary Gnu will be first to deliver the news.