From The Birmingham (Alabama) News:
"Cousin Cliff" Holman - a local TV institution who was as big in
Birmingham as Captain Kangaroo or Bozo the Clown - died
Monday, September 8th at 7:46PM. He was surrounded by his wife, children, grandchildren and close family friends at Shepherd's Cove respite-care facility in Albertville, AL. Mr. Holman, who was 79, had Alzheimer's disease.
"He's such a sweet guy," his daughter Lynn Brown said Monday night. "We're going to miss him so bad. He was good to all of us. He was just a good man. I'm going to miss him - corny jokes and everything."
To a generation of baby boomers who grew up in Birmingham and around Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s, "Cousin Cliff" is a legend. "He did five shows a week, with 20 or 30 kids a show," Everett Holle, who hired Mr. Holman in 1954 and remained a close friend, told The Birmingham News earlier this year for a story. "That's more than 100 kids a week, 5,000 kids a year. Plus their parents. So his fan base was huge."
An only child who was born in Mobile and grew up in Roebuck, James Clifton Holman Jr. had just turned 14 when he discovered his life's calling inside a box of cereal. Not long after he sent off that cereal coupon and received a booklet of magic tricks, he nicknamed himself "Clifton the Mystic." By the time he graduated from Woodlawn High School in 1948, Holman was performing his magic-and-comedy routine at nightclubs.
After serving in the Army during the Korean War, Holman came back to Birmingham. He was hired by Holle at Channel 13 to star on the kiddie show "The Tip-Top Clubhouse" in 1954. All he needed was a catchy, kid- friendly nickname. He became "Cousin Cliff." "Cousin Cliff's Clubhouse" ran for 15 years on Channel 13. Kids from all over Birmingham and central Alabama came to celebrate their birthdays on his show.
In 1969, his show went off the air in Birmingham, so he traded in the sailor cap for a top hat and took his show to Anniston, where it ran for another three years. In between TV stints, he got the wild idea to get into politics in the early 1980s, and he ran successfully for a seat on the Vestavia Hills City Council. He served one term.
In 1990, Channel 6 brought back a Saturday-morning-only version of "Cousin Cliff's Clubhouse" for old-times' sake, and it lasted about three years.
Birmingham musician Bobby Horton, who grew up watching "Cousin Cliff" and later performed with him, had this to say in an interview earlier this year about Mr. Holman: "One thing that never fails, when anybody mentions Cousin Cliff, they smile. That shows you what kind of joy he brings to people, and brought to people."
Mr. Holman is survived by his wife, Ann; a daughter Lynn Brown; a son Kyle Holman; and two grandchildren. He also had a son, Cliff Holman III, who died in 2006.
I was truly sorry to read this. Cliff was not only a wonderful human being, but a fine entertainer. He was one of those rare individuals who could deliver a mind-numbingly corny joke and get gales of laughter with it. He could take the simplest magic trick and get solid entertainment out of it. He could take tricks we normally associate exclusively with kidshow performers and really "sell" them to adults (I saw him bring down the house with his "Billy Blockhead" routine on several occasions).
I didn't see Cliff more than once every few years...but he always remembered me and we'd always talk about past convention exploits. When saying goodbye, Cliff would always say in that great Alabama accent of his, "We had fun, didn't we?"
Yes, "Cuz"....we had fun. When you were in the house, we always had fun.
Rest in peace, my friend.