Aldo Farnese, while serving in the United States Armed forces, was a cinematographer, responsible for capturing various training implementations and filming operational procedures. He finished his time in the Army in 1955.
Aldo’s older brother Andrew, an aspiring actor in Hollywood, California, was co- producing a feature length motion picture titled “The Girl in The Glass Case” with producer Merle Gould of White Knight Productions. Andrew hired younger brother Aldo as the Director of Photography. Aldo packed his bags and immediately moved to Los Angeles to work on the film.
Although the film was a flop, Aldo’s knack for performing and charismatic personality caught the attention of producer Merle Gould who hired Aldo to star in his next film, “The Dead Talk Back (1957).
Aldo played Henry Krasker, a psychic researcher attempting to solve a murder by using a radio that enables him to speak with the dead. Needless to say, this film was not a critical success. It wasn’t until 1993 that the popular COMEDY CENTRAL show “Mystery Science Theatre” featuring puppets in silhouette taking negative, sarcastic shots at really bad B and C movies, that the “The Dead Talk Back” resurfaced. Ironically enough it has become a current cult favorite. The real “Ed Wood.”
Aldo dejectedly left Hollywood in 1959 and married his hometown sweetheart, Dolores Pignoula. Aldo’s father had passed away and they moved in with mother Caroline. Aldo, a trained musician, teamed up with childhood friend and artist Anthony (Chic) Laganella to create a children’s show “Dickory Doc.
In his North Pole toyshop, D ickory Doc would make toys for Santa Claus to leave for good little children on Christmas Eve. He was assisted by his puppet elves, Choo-Choo, Professor Schnitzel, Jingle Jim, Little Jock, Mr. Bigsby, the Buka Bird and Riddles All the puppets were created by Chic Laganella.
They presented a pilot audition for the executives at Kaiser Broadcasting (Channel 48 in Philadelphia). They loved it and signed Aldo and Chic to start production of “Dickory Doc” in the fall of 1966.
The show was an instant hit throughout the Delaware Valley, and the other Kaiser affiliates in Boston and Detroit. Aldo and Chic produced two record albums under the Post Records Label in Philadelphia, “Dickory Doc & Friends and “More Dickory Doc.” Dickory Doc made several personal appearances. A highlight was being named Ring Leader in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus at the Spectrum in 1969.
In 1970, Kaiser Broadcasting, as did many television stations at that time, moved away from producing live shows for syndicated programming from the major networks and cancelled Dickory Doc while the rating were at their highest. This came as a shock to Aldo and Chic and to the Philadelphia television audience, but didn’t stop the creative juices from flowing in the artistic minds of Farnese and Laganella.
Aldo and Chic, feeding off America’s fascination with the first man on the moon, developed a show that took place on a spaceship, floating through the galaxies. At the helm of the spaceship was Adam Android, played by Farnese, and joined by his shipmate puppets, created once again by Laganella. The show was titled “Adam Android” and it aired on WTAF 29 for three years.
The show gained popularity with live contests where audience members could call in and win a trip to Dorney Park or a Huffy bike. One of the games was a Gerbil Race, where callers would pick a winner live. This became so popular that adults in taverns all over Philly would place bets on the winning Gerbil. To say the least, the ratings were sky high and Farnese and Laganella had another Children’s Show hit in Philadelphia.
It was the first time in local Philadelphia television history that one performer created two different children character shows.
In 1974, most UHF channels did away with producing original live content and began to air syndicated programming from sister networks and other sources.
Aldo and Chic went their separate ways with Laganella getting involved in the Fine Arts while Farnese slipped from in front of the camera to behind it.
He began to work as a freelance Director/Producer/Writer working at various production houses in Philadelphia directing television commercials for clients. He did this for a few years until an opportunity opened up to work as a camera operator for the Philly sports teams Phillies, Flyers and Sixers.
Over the next decade, Aldo worked as a freelance camera operator/stage manager for shows such as Dancin’ On Air and Dance Party USA and Nickelodeon’s Double Dare produced at WHYY-TV.
This led to a short stint as a site producer for road Philadelphia Flyers games for Channel 57 in Philadelphia. He occasionally would appear in front of the camera on various local television commercials like “Mr. LivingRoom.” His favorite was working along side Philadelphia television icon Mike Douglas, when Douglas’ syndicated talk show was syndicated from Philly.
Aldo plays a “man on the street” and has a funny exchange with Douglas on camera. Another highlight was being on the production team at Channel 10 when Philadelphia native Jack Klugman performed “The Petrified Forest” a role he played in 1955. It was directed by Delbert Mann and was a proud moment for Aldo.
Aldo Farnese made a mark in Philadelphia Broadcasting in front of the camera as a performer and behind the fourth wall as an accomplished production technician. Aldo was born in 1936 and passed away in July 1994.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Written by Greg Farnese, Aldo's son
Photos originally donated by Greg Farnese
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