Ray Paulsen, a Northland broadcasting pioneer best known for his portrayal of the clown “Mr. Toot” on a children’s TV show, died Friday in Duluth at age 80.
Paulsen also played the character “Sparx,” a radio operator, first as a sidekick to Jack McKenna’s “Captain Q,” and then on his own show, “Sparx Time.” And, Paulsen played Bozo the Clown before moving on to Mr. Toot.
“You do things as a character that you’d never try as yourself,” Paulsen, who performed in front of a live audience, told the News Tribune in 1984. “I used to do back flips in the air and land on a concrete floor. In my street clothes I would have just killed myself. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline flowing, or what.”
Aside from all those kids’ TV characters, he was a weathercaster on WDSM-TV in the 1960s, and on KBJR-TV in the 1970s. Clippings from the News Tribune files say that Paulsen’s twice-nightly weathercast on WDSM in 1964 was among the first live, local programs to be broadcast in color in the Northland.
Here are a couple of video clips people have posted to YouTube that show Paulsen at work. First, as Mr. Toot. The first clip also has footage of McKenna as Captain Q:
And here is a clip of Paulsen on a weathercast from 1975:
Paulsen became general manager of Superior’s Mariner Mall when it opened in 1980, and served in that role until 1989. In more recent years, he joined McKenna and Lew Martin to produce the “Radio Superior” show on KUWS-FM.
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