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Louis Heyward, 81; Created 'Winky Dink'

April 07, 2002|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Louis "Deke" Heyward, an award-winning writer and producer for radio, television and movies who created "Winky Dink and You" in the 1950s--the first interactive TV show--died of complications from pneumonia March 26 in Los Angeles. He was 81.

In a career that began in the early '50s, when he joined television's "The Garry Moore Show" as a staff writer, Heyward wrote for many New York-based TV programs.

In 1956, while head writer of "The Ernie Kovacs Show," he won a Sylvania Award for comedy writing.

But in 1953, Heyward made TV history with his creation of "Winky Dink and You," a partially animated Saturday morning children's show with in-studio host Jack Berry.

The gimmick: Young viewers at home could help the cartoon character Winky Dink--a large-headed boy with a shock of blond hair--and his dog Woofer out of their predicaments.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday June 29, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 9 inches; 348 words Type of Material: Correction
Heyward obituary--An April 7 obituary on writer-producer Louis "Deke" Heyward said Heyward created the 1950s children's television series "Winky Dink and You," the first interactive television show. In fact, the show's credits, according to the Museum of Television & Radio in New York, list Harry W. Prichett and Edwin Brit Wyckoff as having "originated" the series. Heyward was the first writer on the partially animated show, which enabled viewers at home to help the cartoon character Winky Dink and his dog Woofer out of their predicaments by drawing on a "magic screen"--a clear piece of clingy plastic placed on the TV screen. A delay in running a correction was caused, in part, by a search of the U.S. Copyright Office in an attempt to determine the show's creator.

For 50 cents, viewers could send away for a Winky Dink Kit, which included a "magic screen"--a piece of clear, clingy plastic they placed on their TV screens--and "magic" crayons.

If Winky Dink and Woofer were stuck on the side of a rushing stream, for example, those viewers with "magic screens" could draw a bridge for them to cross over.

Winky Dink was a hit with baby boomers, some of whom apparently didn't have 50 cents for a "magic screen" and drew directly on their TV screens.

The show ran for many years in syndication.

In the late '50s, Heyward served briefly as producer of "The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beechnut Show," a derivative of Clark's popular daytime "American Bandstand."

"I looked up to him," Clark said.

"He not only became my mentor, but was one of the most adaptable and versatile gentlemen I met in my life. He was involved in all kinds of projects all his life and never lost his enthusiasm."

In 1961, Heyward became director of development for 20th Century Fox Television. Two years later, he became vice president of production for American International Pictures.

During his 10 years at AIP, he produced 25 pictures, including "Murder in the Rue Morgue," "The Girl From Rio" and "War, Italian Style."

He also wrote "Pajama Party," "Ghost in the Invisible Bikini," "Spy in Your Eye" and "Bang, Bang, You're Dead," among others.

In the '70s, Heyward served briefly as vice president of development for Four Star Films, and then became a senior vice president at Hanna-Barbera, where he was in charge of live programming and movies of the week.

Among his projects was the Emmy Award-winning "The Gathering," a 1977 television movie starring Ed Asner and Maureen Stapleton.

In 1980, Heyward rejoined Barry & Enright, the company that had produced "Winky Dink and You," as vice president of development.

During his 12 years there, he was instrumental in relaunching the game shows "Twenty-One" and "Tic Tac Dough."

Born in New York City in 1920, Heyward studied at New York University and Brooklyn Law School before enlisting in the Army Air Corps nine months before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

During the war, he flew numerous bombing missions in North Africa and Europe.

In 1947, he went to work for the Associated Press as a senior editor in the radio transcription division and wrote scripts for various radio shows.

In his later years, Heyward served as a consultant for DIC Entertainment, a children's entertainment company headed by his son, Andy, creator of "Inspector Gadget."

"The thing he was probably most proud of was something that had nothing to do with his professional life," Andy Heyward said.

Three days a week for the last three years, Louis Heyward taught writing at Camp Kilpatrick, a Los Angeles County Probation Department facility.

He also taught writing for Rushmore University, an Internet-based university.

"He had a student he was working with, a young Palestinian, and another student was a young Israeli," Andy Heyward said, "and he was trying to get them to work together on a project. That was a special satisfaction to him."

In addition to his son, Heyward is survived by his wife, Sandra; a daughter, Patti of West Los Angeles; and five grandchildren.

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