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Tweety and Sylvester!

Tweety & Sylvester It was one of the more unusual first day ceremonies I've attended. The Warner Bros. Studio Store is perched on the island between 7th Avenue and Broadway at 42nd Street, so it's more vertical than any other studio store I've seen.

The ceremony was on the third floor of the store, amid the racks of pre-school clothing and tables of knickknacks. At the top of the final escalator was the press area, and a tight turn to the rest of the floor. The stage and podium were set up at that junction, with the dignitaries and guests standing in that aisle. Between the press area and the stage risers were students from the Ralph Bunche School in Harlem, a school for gifted students, all wearing Stampers sweatshirts with the Tweety & Sylvester stamp on it.

There was an open bar (although I'm not sure if any of the beverages were alcoholic), and waiters serving hors d'oeurves. "Hey, maybe this stamp stuff isn't that bad," my oldest son, Karl, said.

A machine on the third floor dispensed stickers with your photo inserted into the scenes. Normally, it's $3 for a set of 16, but they were free this day. My son Marc chose Wile E. Coyote taking off on a fireworks rocket, right past the Roadrunner, as Wile holds a sign that says "Oops." Other backgrounds included New York themes and different characters.

Addressing the young stamp collectors, most of them ages 10-12, actor Bronson Pinchot, Balky on the popular TV series "Perfect Strangers" and now voicing Warner's "Quest for Camelot," told about the differences in collecting stamps when he was a boy and now. "We used to do a thing called 'licking.' You don't do that any more. You just peel it and stick it.

"Also, when I was a little boy in the late 60's and collected stamps, all the postage stamps had pictures of world leaders on them, and they had to look super serious. They all had double chins," and Pinchot made a funny face. "Now you have these cute little characters with swollen heads and big lips.

"Also, if we wanted to see cartoons, we had to turn on the TV. Now, all you have to do is go to the post office and get this (held up a new stamp) and if you want to see bloated politicians, then YOU can turn on the TV."

Terry Semel, chairman and co-CEO Warner Bros. and Warner Music, said it's a thrill working with Bugs Bunny, Tweety and Sylvester. "When I was your age, I also was a stamp collector, and I never thought that when I got to be this age, that I'd be working with somebody who would actually get their own stamp. It's a great deal of fun and a great pleasure to think that after collecting stamps for many years, I actually got to work with people - in this case, not quite people, but they're like people - who got their own stamps."

The ceremony was also a love fest between Postal Service and Warner officials. The USPS executives praised Warner's marketing savvy.

"It's actually a wonderful honor to have our characters forever commemorated on postage stamps," said Semel. "We're proud that last year, the US Postal Service...chose Bugs Bunny to be the first animated character ever to be put on a United States postage stamp.

"We're proud of Bugs and the significant contribution he's made to the hobby of stamp collecting."

Semel and Azeezaly S. Jaffer, manager of stamp services for the USPS, both attribute much of the growth of Stampers from 150,000 "pre-Bugs" to more than a million now, to the use of the rabbit in marketing the youth program.

William Henderson, Chief Operating Officer of the US Postal Service, and some think a likely successor to Postmaster General Marvin Runyon, pointed out that Bugs was one of the most successful stamps ever. "Last year the 'wascally wabbit,' Bugs Bunny, took center stage and became the most popular stamp of 1997," he said. "That's a tough act to follow. So this year, we've selected two legendary figures of the cartoon kingdom to follow in his wabbit twacks." There were chuckles, and Henderson then admitted, "I had to practice that."

Henderson declared the two a great comedy team. "Sylvester and Tweety go together like Abbott and Costello, like Laurel and Hardy. You can't think of one without thinking of the other, and you can't think of the two, without a chuckle.

"For more than 50 years, they've been delivering laughs - belly laughs - to the American people, of all ages."

At the end of the ceremony, life-size Bugs, Sylvester and Tweety were led out to the stage from behind the press area, and Bugs presented Sylvester with a postal mailbag - a passing of the baton.

"I tawt I taw a Puddy Tat!" Director and animator Chuck Jones tells the Virtual Stamp Club the behind-the-scenes story of that famous phrase! Read the story here!

Lloyd A. de Vries

Catch the
Tweety and Sylvester Picture Show
right here!

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