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Published: Thursday, 1/26/2006

Lots of laughs: Comedian Johnny Ginger returns to town for a show at the Ohio Theatre

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Johnny Ginger will appear Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Ohio Theatre, 3114 Lagrange St. Tickets are $15 for orchestra seating and $10 for stadium seating. Information: 419-241-6785.
Johnny Ginger will appear Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Ohio Theatre, 3114 Lagrange St. Tickets are $15 for orchestra seating and $10 for stadium seating. Information: 419-241-6785.
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Funny thing about comedian Johnny Ginger - he's been everything from the host of a popular children's show on Detroit television to one of Toledo's Most Wanted.

Back in 1969, the Scott High School graduate returned to town for a gig and was met by police, who had read about his appearance and served him with an 11-year-old warrant.

The alleged crime that warranted such careful vigilance: driving with one headlight and having no driver's license.

Ginger said he originally was pulled over after performing here in 1958, but moved to Detroit the next day and forgot all about it. Toledo didn't, as a woman pointed out in a sarcastic letter to the editor printed in The Blade soon after his arrest:

"Congratulations to the Toledo police department which has won the first of my 'Chump of the Week' awards for its quick action in the recent apprehension of one of the most wanted criminals in this city's history, 'Johnny Ginger.'‚óŹ"

"I still have that in my scrapbook," Ginger said. "I thought that was fabulous. Anything to make headlines."

The entertainer will return to Toledo Saturday for a comedy show in the Ohio Theatre.

He made a name for himself - at least for thousands of youngsters - as the star of Curtain Time Theater and The Johnny Ginger Show on WXYZ-TV, Channel 7, in Detroit.

The job started as a 13-week deal, but it eventually became permanent and lasted from 1957 to 1968. Ginger would introduce Three Stooges bits and write his own skits.

"I would go on adventures," he said. "I created a little time machine. I could go into the past. I could go into the future. Eventually, they started cutting down the Stooges to fit what I was doing."

Ginger, 71, who now lives in Farmington Hills, Mich., actually met the Stooges years before, when he first got into the business. At age 6, he performed on stage with his family (his father was a comic singer) in Toledo's downtown Paramount Theater, where the Stooges put on a show.

The entertainer - his real name is Galen Grindle - was reunited with the Stooges as an adult. He performed with them in Michigan and they asked him to play Billy the Kid in their 1965 movie, The Outlaws is Coming. It was an offer he accepted enthusiastically.

"I went absolutely nuts," he said.

Ginger, who also appeared in The Rifleman, ended up moving to California in hopes of making a career of it.

"Once I got out there, I could not buy a part," he said. "That was a rude awakening."

Over the years, he has settled in different parts of the country, at different times owning a restaurant in Florida, a radio station in North Carolina, and traveling with his night club act.

His show in Toledo this weekend will feature a lot of impressions, he said. Think Jack Benny doing Ray Charles.

Ginger said he's excited to be in Toledo again, but just wishes his old haunt, the Paramount, was still here. It was torn down in 1965.

"I stood there when the wrecking ball hit the theater," he said. "When it went down, I cried like a baby 'cus that's where I started my career. I never got over that."

Johnny Ginger will appear Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Ohio Theatre, 3114 Lagrange St. Tickets are $15 for orchestra seating and $10 for stadium seating. Information: 419-241-6785.

Contact Ryan E. Smith at:

ryansmith@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.



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