Tadewurz Wladziu Chavlov Konopka has a large family. There are his wife, Dorothy; his son, Teddy, three months; the cats, Taffy and Cleo, and Bernard and Duncan, Mr. Konopka's supporting stars on TV.
Of the last two, Bernard is an impish boy puppet and Duncan is a large, rather hoitytoity toy dog. They bat banter back and forth with ventriloquist Mr. Konopka, known to his fans, employers and friends as Ted Knight, on Children's Theater, his fivedayaweek show on WJARTV.
Ted's great grandfather was a Polish lord, and there's a town in Poland that bears the family name, but he took the name Ted Knight when he became a disc jockey for the quite obvious reason that it's easier on everybody's radio tubes than Tadewurz Wladziu Chavlov Konopka.
Ted began broadcasting in Terryville, Conn., 31 years ago when he yelled for his two o'clock feeding. But he didn't get on the air until some years later when he did small radio stints in Hartford while attending the Randall School of Dramatic Arts.
This was after he was discharged from the Army at the end of World War II. Ted served with the First Army Group's combat engineers and was with the first American troops to enter Berlin.
It was in Hartford that Ted met Dorothy, who is also a Connecticut native, hailing from Niantic. Usually it is the man who forgets the date of his wedding, but in this family, it's mutual.
Said Dorothy, "We were married in Hartford in September, 1948. Let's see, was it the 19th? No, it was the 23rd. That's right, September 23rd. We go through this every year. Each September, about the 3rd, we start guessing when the date is, and it always ends up with my getting out the marriage certificate."
At the end of his twoyear course in Hartford, Ted went to Greensboro, N.C., where he was a disc jockey on radio and also did his first TV work. The latter, of course, was his choice, for Ted had been participating in dramatics since the age of five.
Soon, he switched to New York City, where he did free lance radio and television work and studied at the American Theater Wing. During his twoyear stay in the entertainment capital, Ted had roles on such radioTV dramas as Big Town, Suspense and Lux Video Theater.
"But my positively biggest thrill-not only there, but anywhere-was when I shared a lead with Betty Field and Melvin Douglas at a Purim Festival show in Madison Square Garden before 10,000 people." As Ted recalled that appearance, he spoke proudly and gazed affectionately into the past.
"You know," he said, "even though there may be a million people watching you over TV, it's not like standing up before 10,000 real, live people. It's a tremendous feeling, really."
It was from New York that Ted came to Providence, where he's kept rather busy. Besides his own afternoon show, Ted is also ringmaster on the Tip Top Circus and does some outside work. "I do quite a few benefits; I only wish I could go to all of them," he complains.
But the new Mr. Konopka, little Teddy, keeps his parents somewhat busy, for father and mother are in that early stage in which they are learning at least as much as baby is.
This is a phase that gives 143 Carr St. a very starryeyed atmosphere, however. It is a very homey home, where, besides the usual American comforts and luxuries, there are such art rarities as delicate Japanese prints and a chess set of Florentine design, which is kept lined up in case Ted finds the time and the opponent for a game in his own class, which he describes as "Novice."
Even adding, if possible, to the domesticity are Taffy, A part Persian with long red-blond fur and an aloof, blinking stare appropriate to her beauty; and Cleo, who used to be Leo before she went to a Danish veterinarian. At one time there were seven cats in the household, but you know how it is with cats.
Meanwhile, even though he may not be aware of the domestic and somewhat sentimental aura surrounding him, the son of Tadewurz Wladziu Chavlov Konopka is apparently quite content, for ho doesn't even say, "Goo."
[The Providence Journal, Wednesday, February 23, 1955]