“I made a couple trips to New York to be the next Marlon Brando or Montgomery Cliff,” says Lake Highlands resident Jerry Haynes.
“But things didn’t turn out as I planned.”
Instead of becoming an international movie star, Haynes returned to his hometown, outfitted himself in a candy-caned, pin-striped suit and began talking to a puppet named Muffin.
He did all this on Dallas’ longest-running children’s show, “Peppermint Place,” and he’s saying good-bye this month to his role as Mr. Peppermint after 30 years.
Haynes, 69, was born in Dallas and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School.
He graduated from Southern Methodist University and after his plans fell through in New York, he returned to Dallas as a sports director for Channel 8.
He then began hosting television shows for the station, including the “Dallas Bandstand.”
“I was the local Dick Clark,” Haynes says.
After gaining quite a bit of TV hosting experience, Channel 8 asked Haynes if he would like to host his own children’s show.
“I was surprised because I had never done a kids’ show,” Haynes says.
“I had seen kid shows come and go. I knew it better be a well-received one, or I’d be out of a job. You do a bad kids’ show, and you’re dead meat.”
Haynes needed a theme, so he turned to “The Music Man,” a 1920s-era American musical, which is one of his favorite productions. It’s the story of a man who drifted through small Iowa towns spreading his love of music.
The musical’s main character was outfitted in a striped, red-and-white suit with a matching straw hat, and that’s what inspired Mr. Peppermint’s eye-stopping suit, Haynes says.
“It was a bright and happy movie, and I wanted a bright and happy show,” Haynes says.
At the same time, Haynes knew a Channel 8 director who passed out peppermint candies to co-workers.
Haynes just put two and two together.
“I let the costume do the talking,” Haynes says. “Rather than do something I wasn’t, I did something I was. A soft-spoken, low-key, friendly person.”
His three children were under six years old when he first developed the show, so he applied his family experiences to his work.
For the first nine years, the program was live with no audience. Later, children joined the set, and they added a fresh element to the show, Haynes says.
In 1970, Channel 8 took “Peppermint Place” off the air to compete with a surge of morning talk shows, Haynes says.
Then, in 1975, the Federal Communications Commission suggested educational shows should take precedence to morning talk shows. Soon, Mr. Peppermint was back on the air.
“We’ve never considered it an instructional program. It’s a two-person show,” Haynes says.
The other person he’s referring to is Vern Dailey, the first and only voice behind Mr. Peppermint’s puppet co-star, Muffin.
Mr. Peppermint and Muffin will be saying their farewells July 5 in a special hour-long episode at 7 p.m. on Channel 8.
Fortunately for fans, KDTN-Ch. 2 will be airing re-runs Mondays through Thursdays at 1 p.m. The show also can be seen on Channel 8 Saturday and Sunday mornings at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.
Mr. Peppermint is Haynes’ longest-lasting role, but over the years, he also has starred in films, TV movies and plays.
“RoboCop,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Places in the Heart,” are just a few of the films he has been in.
He’s acted in over 30 TV movies, such as “Bonnie & Clyde: The True Story,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Texas Justice.”
He’ll play Faye Dunaway’s husband on a CBS movie titled “The People Next Door” in the fall.”
His passion for the entertainment industry seemed to rub off on two of his three children, who are all Lake Highlands High School graduates.
Gibby Haynes lives in Austin and is the lead singer of the Butthole Surfers, a punk-band that broke into the national music spotlight five years ago. (Haynes says he likes the band’s music, but sometimes finds it hard to understand.)
Haynes’ daughter, Carla, is the mother of four and lives in Longview; another son, Andrew, attends an arts school in Austin and is interested in acting.
As for his future, Haynes is thinking about moving to Southern California with his wife of 41 years, Doris, to pursue additional acting opportunities.