Royal Parker Pollokoff, Baltimore TV pioneer, dies

Royal Parker was a beloved fixture on Baltimore television.

Royal Parker Pollokoff, a Baltimore television pioneer known for his comic characters on children's shows of the black-and-white era, died Friday of congestive heart failure.

The Pikesville resident was 86.

From the 1950s until the 1990s, Mr. Pollokoff was a constant presence on Baltimore TV screens in multiple roles, from entertainer to news anchor to announcer to voice-over artist for commercials. In his later years, he was frequently approached by middle-aged Baltimoreans who remembered him from childhood as Mr. Poplolly, Big Pud or P. W. Doodle — all characters he created under the stage name Royal Parker.

"He was proud that he created a legacy in his hometown — didn't go to New York or other markets chasing the dollars. He was happy to be just a hometown character," said his son, Bob Pollokoff of Stevenson.

Royal Pollokoff was born in Park Circle to a local merchant, Aaron Pollokoff, and the former Bessie Sherr.

He graduated from Poly in 1943 at the age of 14, then went to St. John's College in Annapolis for two years. He left college at age 16 and returned to Baltimore to study at City College until 1946.

In 1949, Mr. Pollokoff landed his first radio job with WASA in Havre de Grace.

Bob Pollokoff said that one of his father's qualifications was a deep, mellifluous voice.

"I heard it referred to as basso profundo," he said.

Royal Parker made his television debut in 1951 at WAAM, the predecessor of what is now WJZ, Channel 13, where he began developing the children's TV characters that would make him a local star. The first of them was Mr. Poplolly, a train conductor. That character was followed by Big Pud, who wore a sailor hat and sweater full of badges. P. W. Doodle, who ran a news stand, came along after Mr. Pollokoff left for Channel 11 in 1962.

Bob Pollokoff said that in those early days of TV, "it was more about the craft than the business."

"They had no special effects. There were no computer-generated graphics," he said.

Parker's stint at WAAM was interrupted by Army service from 1953 to 1955. He then returned to WAAM, which became WJZ a few years later.

At the station he became a jack of all trades. Sometimes he would substitute as host of Buddy Deane's popular dance show and at other times would be the face of "The Mickey Mouse Club."

After leaving for WBAL, Channel 11, he would again play many roles. Though he stopped doing children's variety TV shows in the mid-1960s, he became the substitute host of the "Duckpins for Dollars" bowling show and permanent host of "Pinbusters" bowling show for kids in the 1970s.

During that time, Mr. Pollokoff also became well-known for ads he did for slipcovers in which his catch phrase was "Hey, you kids, get off that sofa!" They would run 12 years and help put his sons through college.

Richard Sher, moderator of WMAR Channel 2's Square Off program and a veteran of Baltimore TV, recalled Mr. Pollokoff as "a true Baltimore television icon back in the good ol' days when TV was a lot more fun."

"Whether he was playing P. W. Doodle, screaming at kids to 'get off that sofa," hosting Pinbusters or Duckpins and Dollars, doing the Channel 11 station announcements or anchoring the news or co-hosting a telethon, television viewers in Baltimore knew Royal Parker," Sher said.

Mr. Pollokoff retired from television in the early 1990s and took a shot at politics. He ran as a Democrat for the House of Delegates in the old 42nd District in Northwest Baltimore, but finished fourth in a race for three seats. He would later take a job as an inspector with the city liquor board. He retired from that job in 2006.

Mr. Pollokoff was preceded in death by his wife of 59 years, the former Phyllis Gordon, in December 2014, and by a son, Arky Pollokoff, in 2001.

In addition to his son Bob, Mr. Pollokoff is survived by another son, Gordon Pollokoff of Ellicott City, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Services are Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Sol Levinson funeral establishment at 8900 Reisterstown Road.

Sun reporter Frederick W. Rasmussen contributed to this article.

mdresser@baltsum.com


Editor's note: In an earlier version, the last name of Mr. Pollokoff was spelled incorrectly in a headline. The Sun regrets the error.

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