Britt Allcroft is the Santa Monica-based creator of "Shining Time Station" on PBS and "Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends." If you have been the parent of young children, you probably know the shows. Allcroft writes that all the tributes being published about George Carlin miss the man who worked on her shows.
Like anyone else, I have been saddened by his passing, realizing the depth of our collective loss when I watch the hours of news coverage showing clips of the edgy, sometimes angry, comic whose hilarious stand-up routines, such as "The Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV," became cultural touchstones....But I have yet to see the George I knew.
For the entire six years we collaborated during the 1990s on the PBS television show "Shining Time Station," this George worked with a teddy bear at his side. This George was swamped by children wanting to talk to him or get his autograph. This George could take the same voice known for angry rants about society's hypocrisies and turn it into a gentle invitation to kids to explore a safe, accessible fantasy world.
George starred as Mr. Conductor, the tiny magical guy who lived in the station house wall, came and went in gold dust and told the stories of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. He succeeded Ringo Starr, our first Mr. Conductor.
George came into my life when Ringo decided to leave our show to focus on his music again. We began to panic. The voice and presence of our tiny storyteller was critical to the show.
My collaborator, Rick Siggelkow, asked me to listen to a voice, never telling me who it was. The first word I heard, "stuff," won me over. As one who was living in England during the peak of his popularity here, I had no idea it was from one of George's most famous monologues.
But although the words were aimed at adults, I heard a universal voice. I heard a sound that, for children, could be intimate, lyrical, sometimes spooky, soothing and, most important, kind.