Born Eugene Yulish, London was the host of the long-running Cartoon Corners children’s show, which was later called The Gene London Show and The Wonderful World of Gene London. The kiddie franchise aired in Philadelphia from 1959 to 1977. London was beloved by generations of fans and was known as “Philadelphia’s Pied Piper” during his heyday as a children’s TV host.
On Twitter, nostalgic fans reacted to the death of the beloved Philadelphia television pioneer.
“Oh, nooooo, not Gene London. He was supposed to live forever,” one fan wrote.
“Growing up in Philly, we had great LIVE kids’ TV programming. Sally Starr, Pixanne, Bertie the Bunyip. Gene London topped my list,” another added.
“Don’t know if I could have made it through my childhood without Gene London. May his spirit soar,” a third fan wrote.
Others compared London to Mister Rogers.
Gene London was Mr. Rogers before Mr. Rogers. #RIPGeneLondon
— frank fitzpatrick (@philafitz) January 21, 2020
Of all the kid's shows I watched as a youngster, Gene London's was my favorite. He had such a kind, comforting way about him, and his storytelling was second to none. I loved watching him draw, too. Plus, he played The Beatles' music on his show. A lot. RIP. Gene.
— Andre Gardner (@andregardner) January 21, 2020
Fans may recall that Cartoon Corners featured cartoon shorts interspersed with London’s storytelling and drawing. Local children were in awe of the TV host’s stories and artistic talent.
In a 2013 interview with The Morning Call, London said he always loved to draw and dreamed of working for Walt Disney. He also loved puppets, and by the time he was a teenager, he was doing puppet shows for parties. London said that was how he learned to do his “trick voices.”
He later landed a job in New York working with ventriloquist Shari Lewis on her shows Kartoon Klub and Facts ‘n’ Fun. London was soon offered his own show, Tinker’s Workshop, in which he played toymaker Tinker Tom.
London told Morning Call that Tinker’s Workshop was an “overnight success,” but it featured “horrible cartoons.” He quit the show and auditioned for Philadelphia’s WCAU-TV, where he was on air within a week.
Over the years, London played a clerk at a general store as he used his large pad to illustrate the stories he told his loyal audience. In later years, the Gene London Show featured the haunted Quigley mansion that was located next door to the general store.
“It was magic,” London said of his show. “I was always driven to use my imagination.”
After his TV show went off the air, London’s hobby of collecting Hollywood costumes, gowns, and accessories spawned a second career as a fashion designer. London ran a vintage clothing shop called Gene London: The Fan Club in Manhattan until 2001, and he designed dresses for Broadway shows, TV, and film. He also hosted art museum exhibits that featured his 60,000-piece collection of Hollywood memorabilia.
London’s exhibit at the Allentown Art Museum, titled “Designing Hollywood: Golden Age Costumes from the Gene London Cinema Collection,” showcased items from the late 1920s through the 1950s. The exhibit included costumes worn by the famous stars of the films Gigi and The Unsinkable Molly Brown. A collection of London’s Marilyn Monroe gowns and accessories was also on exhibit in Italy. London was planning future exhibitions when he passed away.