British Children's TV Puppet Personality
"Izzy Wizzy let's get busy,
Is his magic spell,
What will happen when he says it,
one can never tell"
- The "Sooty Show" theme song
Sooty had it all. Charm
, wit, cute black ears and a magic wand
A throwback to an earlier age, Sooty preferred the silent approach of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Poker-faced, mischievous and mute, he nonetheless stole the show with his antics. Aided and abetted by Soo, a pretty panda, and Sweep, a rascally young dog, the beloved little bear entertained children for over forty years, before retiring in 1996.
His career as a TV glove puppet star started in 1952 when his close friend, Harry Corbett first helped him in his first television appearance on the BBC's 'Talent Night' program. Harry, previously an amateur magician, adopted Sooty in 1948 for a fee of seven shillings and sixpence (37½ pence), and appeared with him on 'Saturday Special' and 'The Sooty Show' until he retired in 1976, when his son, Matthew, took over as Sooty's sidekick.
Sweep had joined the show in 1957, a hyperactive chap who spoke only with a squeak, adding an air of Marx Brothers to the mix, Soo joining them in 1964. (Incidentally, Sooty and Soo were not allowed to touch, to avoid giving the young audience improper sexual signals.)
Mischief and naughtiness were also a big part of what made him so popular - and whether that was by accident of by design, it's one of the things he's remembered for. He tried all sorts of magic, with the use of a magic wand and "oofle dust", with inevitably-hilarious consequences. His catchphrase of "Izzy Wizzy, let's get busy", as spoken by his human colleagues, echoes down the ages as a tribute to this wonderful star. He has a place in the hearts of so many, and for a new generation, his spirit lives on to some extent as a cartoon animation. But somehow, it's not the same.
21 October 2003: The original Sooty hand puppet is up for auction at Bonhams. He may fetch as much as £12,000, even though his "condition is good, although the material is wearing a bit thin". Take that how you will!