Zippy unzipped: Puppeteer reveals lewd secrets of Rainbow

Zippy unzipped: Puppeteer reveals the lewd secrets of children’s TV classic Rainbow – from heavy drinking and backstage sexism to toys arranged in sexual positions and the time Jane showed the set her leather S&M outfit

  • Puppeteer Ronnie Le Drew is releasing a tell-all memoir called Zippy and Me
  • Some of it is about his time on the popular children’s programme Rainbow 
  • He reveals a culture of heavy drinking on the show and instances of sexism
  • Le Drew also reveals cast used to put the farm animals in sexual positions 

The puppeteer who operated Zippy has revealed the lewd secrets of children’s TV classic Rainbow.

Ronnie Le Drew is releasing a tell-all memoir called Zippy and Me, that is set to shatter the innocence of the children’s programme, often described as Britain’s answer to Sesame Street.

Rainbow ran for 27 series and 1,071 episodes, after its launch in 1972 and was famous for its three main characters: Bungle the teddy bear, George the hippopotamus and Zippy, an unknown yellowish creature.

Le Drew, who took over controlling Zippy from Violet Philpott after she suffered a slipped disk, has revealed the sexism backstage and also the culture of heavy drinking, as reported by The Telegraph.

Bungle, George, and Zippy on the hit children’s show Rainbow. Stood behind them is Geoffrey Hayes who presented the show for two decades

Puppeteer Ronnie Le Drew has revealed all about life on the rainbow set when he played Zippy

Some of the Rainbow cast and the puppets, including (pictured l-r) Jane Tucker, George, Rod Burton, Zippy, Bungle and Geoffrey Hayes

He said that Sid, the props man, would often make lewd suggestions about the show’s director Pamela Lonsdale, saying she had a ‘nice pair of Bristols’ or referring to her as ‘Titsalina.’

One of the show’s singer’s, Jane Tucker, had the nickname ‘Miss Whiplash’ because she would open her coat to show a ‘leather S&M outfit’ and would ask Zippy to ‘play with her maracas.’ 

Le Drew said: ‘Our exasperated directors could often be heard shouting, “make them stop!” from the control room.’

The cast would also regularly alter the positions of the zoo and farm animals so they were in sexual positions. 

The rainbow puppets Bungle (2nd left) Zippy (back right) and George (back left), with Geoffrey (centre) and Rod Burton, Jane Tucker and Roger Walker (in the blue, green and red stripes respectively)

Ronnie with his Zippy alter-ego in a photo from his time on the classic Thames TV  kids’ show

In one incident an archbishop was being given a tour of the studio while ‘Zippy was mounted upon George, going at it hammer and tong.’ 

There was also a strong culture of heavy drinking within the group who would often ‘get lashed’ and turn up drunk to rehearsals, said Le Drew. 

There were also tensions in the cast, as the host Geoffrey Hayes could at times be jealous of his puppet co-stars.

‘Geoffrey was afraid of being upstaged by Zippy and George’, remarks Le Drew.

The presenter was also annoyed the trio of puppets received more fan mail than he did. 

Rainbow was cancelled in 1992, and Le Drew delves into other aspects of his personal life in the memoir, including the death of his father when he was just 16. 

  • Zippy and Me by Ronnie Le Drew (with Duncan Barrett & Nuala Calvi) is published by Unbound on 25 July 2019 (£10.99)

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