If it wasn’t for this man, Michigan kids may have been deprived of watching The Three Stooges on local TV. I’m talking about one of the pioneers of Detroit television: Johnny Ginger.

Johnny began as “Jerry Gale,” a stand-up comedian performing in southern Michigan and Ohio, when he heard of an open audition to host a program on Detroit's WXYZ-TV Channel 7. He passed the audition but the vice prez of WXYZ, John Pival, told him to lose the ‘Jerry Gale’ moniker. He chose the name that would make him famous, “Johnny Ginger,” after a bottle of Johnny Bull Ginger Beer.

The name of the show was titled Curtain Time Theater and featured short 20-minute comedy films from the 1930s and 40s that featured Billy Gilbert, Buster Keaton, Charley Chase, Edgar Kennedy, Harry Langdon…..and The Three Stooges. All those short films were enjoyed by kids and adults, but it was The Three Stooges films that became the most popular with the TV-viewing crowd. Curtain Time Theater had a good, albeit short, three-year run from 1957-1960.

99.1 WFMK logo
Get our free mobile app

Johnny’s role as host was appearing as a janitor of the studio; he would be seen between films in his overalls doing skits throughout the TV station or talking to an image of himself on a TV monitor.

In 1960, the Jerry Lewis film, The Bellboy, was one of the year’s favorite movies…it was also one of Johnny’s. Beginning in 1960, Johnny adopted a new persona, that of the ‘head bellboy’ and changed the name of Curtain Time Theater to The Johnny Ginger Show. He showed mostly cartoons and Stooges films for the next few years.

In 1966, as a way to thank Johnny for playing his films, Moe Howard of The Three Stooges had Johnny appear in the Stooges’ last full-length film, The Outlaws is Coming. Afterward, Johnny had roles in TV programs like The Rifleman and The Real McCoys.

After the show went off the air, he became the star of a whole new show hosting cartoons on WKBD-TV, Captain Detroit (as the Captain). That lasted for one year until Tom Ryan took over hosting duties as “Sgt. Sacto.” Johnny moved to North Carolina, did a deejay stint on WMAP and even ran a clothing store.

Born in 1934, Johnny will be 90 in June 2024.
Thanks for bringing us the Stooges, Johnny...

Johnny Ginger: A Detroit TV Pioneer


Soupy Sales' House in Detroit: 1953-1960


Rita Bell's Prize Movie: 1960-1977





More From 99.1 WFMK