SEATTLE - Chris Wedes, the loveable iconic clown known for decades as the KIRO 7 children’s TV personality J.P. Patches, has died.
He was 84.
The J.P. Patches show was first broadcasted in black and white on KIRO-TV in 1958, live from the “city dump” where he served as mayor.
“We didn’t have any of those miracle, electronic gee-whiz effects. We were pioneers and we didn’t know what we were doing. I still don’t know what I’m doing,” said Wedes in an interview.
Wedes brought the character with him from a Minneapolis TV station but confessed he never really thought of himself as a clown.
“I didn’t know how to juggle, I didn’t know how to make balloons, I didn’t know any of that stuff. I wasn’t a clown. I was more of an actor.”
But as an actor, he had the ability to make people laugh.
The shows were spontaneous. Nothing was scripted. And if something went wrong on live television, they just rolled with it.
JP was joined by other characters from the KIRO studio crew, including J.P.’s girlfriend, Gertrude.
Wedes encouraged kids to become Patches Pals, to mind their parents, wash up, drink milk and to say their prayers.
“I don't think the writing was meant to be psychological or educational lessons to be learned other than have fun. Take care of your parents your brothers and sisters and be a good friend to everyone,” said Wedes.
Off-camera, friends described Wedes as a complete ham; a hilarious man who was always cracking jokes and was a master storyteller. Wedes didn’t have to assume the role of a clown, it came to him naturally.
After 23 years on the air, the last JP Patches broadcast was in 1981. It was the longest running locally produced children's show in the country.
Wedes continued to work at KIRO as a floor director until he retired at 62.
But his work as J.P. Patches didn’t end there. He continued to put the makeup on for personal appearances to crowds of adult Patches Pals who brought along their children and grandchildren.
Even as he aged into his 70s and 80s, Wedes was still clowning around with no plans to retire.
In 2008, J.P. and Gertrude, along with hundreds of Patches Pals, went to the Fremont neighborhood to unveil a lasting tribute to them and their characters – a statue.
Gov. Chris Gregoire attended the ceremony and thanked them for “letting us be kids forever.”
At the age of 83, Wedes announced that due to illness, he would make only a few more appearances.
One of his last was at the Evergreen State Fair where Wedes exhibited classic J.P. as kindergartners recited the pledge of allegiance, played a game of Simon Says and took part in a hula hoop contest.
When it was over, more than one person stood up to thank Wedes for the memories.
Wedes said he would never consider his appearances as work. He felt honored and blessed.
“Thank you very much. I love you all, I really do. And that’s sincere.”