Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: Sea World superheroes water ski show—Bob LaPorta, Corporate Director of Productions

Introduction to series “Super ‘70s and ‘80s.”

Introduction to subseries “Sea World superheroes show” (including list of interviewees).

SWSH = Sea World superheroes

What was your role with the SWSH show?

The original concept for the superheroes show came from me. Before Sea World in Orlando, Florida had a ski stadium, we had one ski show in our park in Aurora, Ohio. We were looking to skew the ski show viewer demographics younger and I found the means to doing that right in my own home. I had two young sons, one was nine and the other eight years old. Every Saturday morning they watched superheroes on television faithfully and of course had many of the DC Comic books. It was right there in front of me.

As Corporate Director of Productions at the time, I had led the company into the realm of “themed” water ski shows with our “Roaring Twenties Water Frolics” in 1973. That was the first themed water ski show in the world (other than a Disney on Skis performance in a temporary stadium at Disney World in Orlando). For the 1975 season in Ohio, I pitched Sea World senior management the concept of theming the water ski show “Salute to the Superheroes.” With their tepid approval I approached and got permission from DC Comics to proceed.

I hired the same writer/directors who had done the “Twenties” ski show to do the same for “Superheroes.” They were Kenny Johnson [later producer of TV shows including The Incredible Hulk] and Dan Kibbie, friends of mine from our days on The Mike Douglas Show. Our San Diego Scenic Designer (George Yochum—also from the Douglas show) would do the set, which would be the first time we did behind the set ski takeoffs and landings. I hired Harry Blackstone, Jr. to produce three magical illusions for us that the superheroes would have sprung on them by the Joker. Lloyd Lambert of Hollywood was contracted to produce the costumes using spandex and under-costume muscles. This proved disastrous later when the elastic in the fabric melted in the dryer. When we moved the show to Florida for the new stadium, we built a special drying room for the costumes and eluded the Ohio problem.

What was the show’s story?

It was centered around Jimmy Olsen (the host on mic) introducing his pals the superheroes to the audience. Then the Joker steals a boat and tries to take over the show. He and his thugs were the only villains. They fought the superheroes [under] “pow” and “biff” balloon bubble signs.

How long was the show?

35 to 40 minutes.

What do you do for a living now? It looks like you produce films of some kind?

I am semi-retired. I produce fundraising and brand identity videos for non-profit organizations. These are non-broadcast as opposed to scores of network programming I produced while at Sea World and later programs produced by my firm—LaPorta & Company. In the spring [one year in] the early nineties (I want to say), we produced an ABC Network Special for Sea World [called] Mother Earth Celebration starring Miam Bialik; [it] also aired on Nickelodeon.

Were you friends with the SWSH skiers at the time, or was it purely professional?

I would say we were professional friends but it did not extend beyond that.

Have you been in touch with any SWSH skiers since the show ended?

I have not.

Do you still have the script of the SWSH show, or know who might?

It is possibly in the files in Florida.

Do you have a favorite memory about the SWSH show?

It would have to be when Robin in Ohio tried to pick up our 10-year-old son to put him in the Batboat for a ride around the show area and discovered how solid he was and needed assistance from Jimmy Olsen.

The three-tiered pyramid of superheroes was also a sight to behold!

pyramid key:

Wonder Woman—Kaci Whittenton (Hedstrum)
Batgirl—Gay Schwartz (Peteet), Black CanaryDebbie Blake, MeraShirley Duke,
—Sheri McNary
Robin—Kerry Lloyd, Batman—Randy Jones, Aquaman—Tom Weber, Superman—Bubby Snow, Green Arrow—Brad Whitmore or Roland Hillier

Next: Chuck Jordan, Supervisor of Entertainment.


Captain Blog said...

If I had a real time machine, aside from the obvious of saving loved ones and righting wrongs, I would have this show on a short list of self-indulgent things to do!
Enjoying the interviews!

PauliePecs said...

I remember watching all the Super Hero shows on TV.

Judy said...

I remember seeing the “Roaring Twenties Water Frolics” show at Sea World in Ohio in 1973. Someone in the show had worked at the Fort Steuben Council Boy Scout Reservation, and my brothers and father knew him. I thought (as a 14 yr old), that it was very glamorous to stand on the sand, after the show, chatting with one of the skiers!