The star of beloved children’s TV show Rainbow has revealed the cast engaged in heavy drinking and lewd behavior, in a revealing new memoir.
Ronnie Le Drew, the puppeteer who played Zippy, says the show’s performers rearranged the stuffed animals into “weird sex positions” and often “staggered” drunk at rehearsals.
Rainbow featured three main puppet characters – Zippy, Bungle the Bear and George the Hippopotamus – whose antics were mastered by the late presenter Geoffrey Hayes.
In a scandalous incident, Le Drew, 73, said an archbishop was being given a tour of Thames Television studios – where the show was filmed – when he saw the team laughing, with “Zippy mounted on George, going there hammer and pliers”.
The Drew said: “It was a bedroom scene, and once you put puppets to bed, it’s hard to stop them from doing naughty things.
“The head of children’s television was telling the Archbishop how proud they were of the show. Then on a monitor was this picture of George and Zippy cuddling in bed.
“There was a call to say to us, ‘What’s going on there?'”
In the book, Zippy and Me, Le Drew also claims that Hayes was jealous of the puppets. He said: “Geoffrey was afraid of being upstaged by Zippy and George”, adding that he was “irritated” when they received more fan mail than he did.
The Drew said: “He was a brilliant straight man, and what you saw was Geoffrey. An actor trying to be himself is difficult.
“It must have been difficult – puppets like Zippy are great upstagers.
“They are mean and loud. Kids of all ages loved them and they could get away with a lot. Geoffrey was the parental figure.
The Drew said the show’s singer, Jane Tucker, was nicknamed Miss Whiplash because she opened her coat to show off a “leather S&M outfit” and asked Zippy to “play with her maracas.”
He said, “It was our pleasure during rehearsals. She did it for the cameramen. The Drew also claimed that some crew members made lewd comments about the show’s late director Pamela Lonsdale, saying she had a ‘nice pair of Bristols’ or calling her ‘T*tsalina’. .
Rainbow, launched in 1972, lasted 27 series. The revelations will shatter the wholesome image of the show, dubbed Britain’s answer to America’s children’s favorite Sesame Street.
But Le Drew insisted that the cast and crew were professional when they had to be.
He said: “We would be a little silly and we would have a lot of fun. We knew our lines and what we were going to do. So if there was some free time and we weren’t wasting time in the studio, we put the animals in the back.
“It was hilarious. We all laughed. It was like a school playground. It’s not mean, it’s fun.
Le Drew, a former debt collector, grew up in a housing estate in south London and wanted to be a puppeteer from an early age.
He played Zippy for 19 years, beginning in 1973 after the character’s original voice, Violet Philpott, was injured.