Updated: Jul 17
The Canadian Press
HORNBY ISLAND, B.C. — A onetime colleague has been arrested in connection with the death of Canada’s first gender fluid child influencer.
RCMP in this Gulf Island resort community said charges are pending against long-eared canine puppet Finnegan in the fatal fall of his longtime puppet companion, Casey, of no fixed sexual identity.
A Hornby Island neighbour who insisted on being identified only as “Alligator Al” said he found Casey’s broken body at the foot of a treehouse co-habited by the victim and the accused.
“As on Mr. Dressup, even in death his arms and oversized hands were flailing menacingly and uncontrollably,” a shaken Alligator Al said.
“His? I always thought Casey was a girl,” said bystander Aunt Bird. “And what’s with the crocodile tears, Al? We all hated the prissy little minx.”
RCMP Const. John Constable said that judging by the disordered state of the Tickle Trunk, Casey appears to have been savagely head-butted from the treehouse balcony. A police forensic team has been called in from Vancouver to search for DNA and/or papier-mâché clues among ripped feathered boas, chew toys and Village People costumes strewn about the site, now swaddled in crime scene tape.
Mr. Dressup, starring Mr. Rogers understudy Ernie Coombs in the title role, was a popular children’s entertainment series that ran weekday mornings on CBC Television from 1967 to 1996, becoming an iconic presence rivalling the popularity even of Uncle Bobby, Maggie Muggins and The Olive Diefenbaker Comedy Hour.
During a typical segment, Casey and Finnegan would participate — the former in the clipped patter of a middle-aged Australian matron; the latter silently, but with a deft series of head bobs to show he was paying attention — as Mr. Dressup would pull a costume from the Tickle Trunk, such as a police or firefighter uniform or a cheaply made animal getup.
Donning the outfit, the bespectacled and mild-mannered Mr. Dressup would take on the assumed role, mannerisms and speaking voice of his fantasies while continuing to converse with Casey, whose level of excitement was indicated by the rising or falling pitch of his/her/their voice.
“You’re darn tooting it was creepy,” said Jerome the Giraffe, formerly one of the stars of The Friendly Giant, a rival CBC children’s show from the same era.
“Casey’s orange Beatle haircut and funereal rouged cheeks scared the ossicles off me,” said Jerome, reached at a retirement home for three-toed ruminants outside Phoenix. “But that was the least of it.
“When the Tickle Trunk wouldn’t open, Mr. Dressup would sing a song and tickle the lock. I don’t know what you make of that, but Dr. Ruth (German-American sex therapist Ruth Westheimer) had a field day,” added Jerome, who snorted as he recalled the time chanticleer colleague Rusty escaped the book bag for an afternoon’s frolic with the writhing boas and silk scarves inside the Tickle Trunk.
“Even though we called him Mr. Big and Stupid behind his back, I don’t think even Friendly ever bought Rusty’s story about the lock malfunctioning. In any case, the squalid affair led to the biggest dry-cleaning bill CBC ever had to pay.
“Not involving Mike Duffy, that is.”
Const. Constable said Finnegan has so far refused to make a statement, but is nodding yes or no in response to police questions. (In an odd quirk, Casey’s will stipulates that Finnegan is to deliver the eulogy at the funeral.)
Casey and Finnegan retired to Hornby Island after being phased out of the show in its later years. Mr. Dressup explained their disappearance by announcing that they had “gone to kindergarten,” another euphemism explored on an episode of Dr. Ruth’s radio call-in show, Puppetry Meets Puberty.
“Casey was particularly burned up about being discarded for Lorenzo the Raccoon and Mark the Repairman,” Alligator Al said. “In his plastic sippy cups, as Casey often was near the end, he wouldn’t shut up about it. That nasal Aussie motor mouth would run and run and run. It looks like Finnegan finally had enough. We all had.”
“In her plastic sippy cups,” Aunt Bird said, insistently.