Cosmo Allegretti, the actor and puppeteer who starred as a menagerie of plush characters on CBS’s “Captain Kangaroo” children’s show, died July 26 in Phoenix. He was 86 years old.
The death was confirmed by John Munzel, Mr. Allegretti’s lawyer.
“Captain Kangaroo”, an hour-long program starring Bob Keeshan as the Captain, the benevolent owner of the Treasure House, debuted on October 3, 1955 and remained on the air for nearly 30 years. . Watched by millions, it included puppets, animated segments, songs, books read aloud and special guests like Dolly Parton and Andy Griffith.
Mr. Allegretti initially worked on the show as a set painter, but soon moved on to making and performing puppets. “’You sound too tough for a kids’ show. You’re going to scare the kids,’ they told me,” Mr. Allegretti told the Miami Herald in 1985. “So I was the puppeteer.”
He crouched behind sets to command the hand puppets Bunny Rabbit and Mr. Moose, who were provocateurs for Mr. Keeshan’s straight man. Bunny Rabbit was a dumb trickster who got carrots from the pocket-like pockets of the captain’s coat.
“He was clumsy, like a child,” Mr Allegretti said. “The little children sympathized with him. And he always got the best out of the captain, and they loved that.
Unlike Bunny Rabbit, Mr. Moose was outspoken. He cracked jokes in a falsetto and groomed the captain for regular showers of ping pong balls.
Mr. Allegretti also played Dancing Bear, in a life-size costume; and somewhat animated objects, like the grandfather clock and the magic drawing board. Later, he finally revealed his face, as Dennis the Apprentice.
Cosmo Francis Allegretti (he was often called Gus) was born in Manhattan on April 6, 1927 to Sergio and Anna Lepenna Allegretti. He studied art at Marietta College in Ohio and was in basic training when World War II ended.
He was a puppeteer for four years on “The Rootie Kazootie Show” before starting on “Captain Kangaroo”. He remained with the show until CBS canceled it in 1984 to free up space for a current affairs-focused morning show.
Mr Allegretti also played boxing promoter Perelli in the 1985 Broadway production of ‘Requiem for a Heavyweight’, alongside John Lithgow, and was in the films ‘Prince of the City’ (1981), directed by Sidney Lumet, and “Author! Author!” (1982), with Al Pacino.
In 1956, Mr. Allegretti married actress and singer Carol Lawrence. Their marriage was annulled. Her second marriage, to Ilolya Korody, ended in divorce. He is survived by his son Peter and two grandchildren.
Mr. Allegretti, who had homes in New River, Arizona, and Hampton Bays, NY, said he was glad “Captain Kangaroo” had a quieter sensibility than most children’s TV shows.
“Keeshan was looking to go against the grain, to put on a calm, soft show when the others were loud,” he said. “’Kangaroo’ was a visit, not a show.