I think those may have been the first three words I ever learned and spoke in English. Peace, Love and Happiness. I learned them on tv, sitting down in front of the tube with my grandparents and watching the Skipper Chuck Show.
Chuck Zink, the Skipper, died yesterday of a massive stroke. I cannot even begin to tell you how saddened I am. Skipper Chuck gave this boy fresh off the boat a true first glimpse of what America was. His demeanor and expressions and actions made me feel welcome in this new foreign world.
It was in the role of “Skipper Chuck” that Mr. Zink made his longest-lasting impression. He debuted as the skipper on Popeye’s Playhouse in January 1957 on WTVJ, which at the time was the CBS affiliate station on Channel 4 out of Miami. He played the part until 1979, when Skipper Chuck went off the air.
His job, strictly speaking, was to introduce cartoons starring Popeye, the muscle-bound, spinach-chugging sailor man created by illustrator Max Fleishman. But Mr. Zink made more of the assignment than just segues between cartoons. He and his on-air nautical sidekicks regaled their television audience with friendly chatter, games and giveaways. Local children formed his live, in-studio audience.
Soon after the program premiered it was renamed The Skipper Chuck Show, an acknowledgement that the host was at least as popular as the cartoons he introduced. Entertainers such as Jackie Gleason and Danny Thomas, and sports stars including then-Miami Dolphins’ coach Don Shula, would drop in to chat with the skipper and some of the estimated 14,000 children who sat in the studio bleachers during the show’s run.
The Skipper Chuck Show also broke ground by putting children of different races together on the air at a time when integration was a bitterly contested idea in parts of the country.
“Colored and white children are now going to school together. They should be able to sit on my show together,” Mr. Zink recalled in a 1999 interview.
After a while he began to end each broadcast by wishing his young audience “peace, love and happiness” and holding up three fingers. This variation on the two-fingered peace symbol became one of Skipper Chuck’s signatures, and a gesture he often saw flashed back at him by fans who spotted him in public.
Rest in Peace, Love and Happiness, Skipper.