Remembering Gene London

Steve Vertlieb and Gene London in 1981.
  • Gene London: June 9, 1931 – January 19, 2020

By Steve Vertlieb: Gene London was one of the most beloved children’s television hosts in Philadelphia broadcast history. Gene hosted “Cartoon Corners,” and “The Gene London Show” on WCAU TV, the owned and operated CBS affiliate for decades here in the City of Brotherly Love. Born Eugene Norman Yulish on June 9, 1931, this sweet, gentle soul became an integral part of Philadelphia broadcast history, and a pioneer of children’s television, enriching young, impressionable lives and minds with his soft, endearing manner and tender persona. He was, perhaps, as cherished a television personality locally as Mister Rogers was nationally. Gene, however, was ours. He belonged to Philadelphia, and we adored him. Generations of children grew up in the light of his subtle wisdom and infinite compassion.

Early in 1981, Gene produced and hosted a four-week series at the prestigious Philadelphia Art Museum on The Parkway, exploring filmdom’s rich cultural history. Titled “Hollywood Screen Fantasies,” the series entertained a live audience on four successive Sunday mornings, and presented such Hollywood luminaries as Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz), and acclaimed puppeteer Bill Baird who operated Julie Andrews’ marionettes in The Sound of Music. One of Gene guests during that cherished series was myself. Gene invited me to appear with him in front of a live audience to discuss the making and production of the original King Kong. We appeared on stage together for an hour discussing the ins and outs of the classic 1933 fantasy classic, and the experience remains one of the happiest memories of my seventy-four years.

Gene and I remained in touch, ever friends, for nearly forty years. He would periodically invite me to join him for some new live appearance or project. I last saw Gene at The Philadelphia Flower Show several years ago when he graced the halls of the large convention center with his gracious affection and remembrances. Children of all ages stood in line for hours to say hello to the little boy who had helped to shape their hearts … for Gene was, in truth, a little boy himself. He could relate to his many thousands of children because he was, in his heart, a gentle innocent, a loving, inspired child. Gene never entirely grew up and it is for this reason that we were so blessed by his goodness.

Rest Well, Sweet Prince. You shall remain forever vital, alive, and beloved by all those whose lives you so wonderfully touched and enriched.

[The family obituary is here.]

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2 thoughts on “Remembering Gene London

  1. Wow, I haven’t thought about Gene London in decades. I watched his show often in the mid-1960s, up until I was 12 or so. Sally Starr and Pixanne, too. We received all the Philadelphia stations pretty well in the Lehigh Valley – as well as the New York stations, so I also could watch Winchell-Mahoney Time.

    For some reason, the only actual Gene London segment I clearly remember concerned the new John Wayne movie The War Wagon.

  2. I recall Gene’s slightly excitable pitch when he talked, often getting some giggles from me and my friends. He did move to NYC area and did do prop loaning and background sets for off Broadway shows, like CLOUD 9 (which I saw with my wife).

    Also from those ear;y days, let’s not forget Peter Boyle, of PETE’S GANG. Father of the actor.

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