Local children’s television icon Corky the Clown, beloved by baby boomers, died today. He was 91.
Clif St. James, of Webster Groves, had been experiencing complications related to pneumonia.
During the 1950s and 60s St. James was a veritable mainstay on KSD-TV. He appeared daily on the channel after school as his clown persona from 4 to 4:30 p.m., but also held duties as a weatherman and occasional news anchor. Occasionally, he even performed his weather duties as Corky. His career at the station spanned 30 years.
In an interview posted in 2012, he said versatility was the key to a long TV career.
“It behooved anybody in the business to have several bowls in the air at the same time because when one of them dropped out you weren’t left with nothing,” he said.
Considered a “legend” in local television, St. James was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame in 2014.
Born Clifford Scrivener, in Niagara Falls, N.Y., he began his media career in his hometown after serving in the Army during World War II in France and Germany. He then landed a broadcasting job at a South Carolina radio station and changed his name to Clif St. James when he realized many people couldn’t spell his given name or pronounce it.
He came to St. Louis for a summer replacement position at KWK and KSD radio. In 1962, he became a freelance announcer at KSD-TV, St. Louis’ only television station. He later became the television personality loved by children of the era. His show, “Corky’s Colorama,” aired seven days a week and at one time there was a three-year waiting list to attend the live television show. It was the first locally produced color program in St. Louis.
The live television environment created a hotbed of improvisation. Each show was outlined, but the clown made children laugh without a script.
After three decades on the air, St. James left the station, renamed KSDK, when it came under new management.
According to the Post Dispatch, survivors include his wife, Nance; a son, Chip St. James; two daughters, Stacy Physioc and Lori Doll; five grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
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Clarification: An earlier version of this story misstated the original call letters of KSDK. When Clif St. James began his television career in St. Louis, the station's call letters were KSD-TV. The station later became KSDK.