KiTiRiK tells all to Dave Ward
Dave Ward sits down with former Houston children’s show host KiTiRiK (aka Bunny Orsak), to talk about her memories serving as KTRK‘s iconic TV star and ambassador (WATCH ABOVE).
In his new biography available for purchase here, Dave talks about his early years at channel 13 with KiTiRiK. Two abc13 icons together in one studio!
The birth of KTRK
In the early 1950s, The FCC assigned KTRK what’s considered the unlucky channel assignment of 13. It was then decided the station’s mascot should be a black cat.
When station managers noticed young Bunny Orsak applying for a job in their lobby, they immediately knew she would bring them some much needed good luck to override that unlucky channel number.
“Willard Walbridge and Howard Finch called me into the office and said they had seen me and thought that I looked like a woman who could dress up like a cat,” Orsak told Dave. “I thought they were crazy. And they said, but come in a bathing suit and come back tomorrow. I came back. And so they decided that I would put on the leotard and the mesh hose and get the tail. And my mother made the original…well… she made the original head, but she also made the cat hat.”
On how the name Kitirik was chosen.
“They had a contest and a lot of people sent in all these different names…ridiculous names…but all kinds of names,” Orsak said. “And this woman, who was an artist, sent artwork that had KTRK with an I in between each letter. So we thought that was a really good idea because it could promote KTRK as well as my name. And they called it KiTiRiK.”
Kitirik becomes a Houston TV star
With the cat suit, whiskers drawn on her face using an eyebrow pencil and a winning personality, Kitirik and Orsak became a Houston TV phenomenon still remembered by viewers to this day.
Many Houston kids celebrated their birthdays on Kitirik’s show, learned a valuable lesson with her puppet friends and since the show was live, maybe even made Kitirik think fast on her feet.
“There was one that I said, what would you like? What are you going to be when you grow up? And she said, a call girl. And I said, ‘Oh, you’ll work for the telephone company. That’s good.'”
Kitirik also became the ambassador for channel 13. She visited countless children in the hospital and opened new shopping centers like the Palm Center.
The famous cat even made the move from the KTRK studios on Cullen to the now longtime location on 3310 Bissonnet. The new location had a domed studio which would serve as the basis for the Astrodome. It also had a pool.
“Poor channel 2 and 11, we out did them,” Orsak joked.
In 1974, after a 16 year run, the Kitirik show was cancelled.
“More than nine lives,” Orsak recalled. “Capital Cities Broadcasting bought Channel 13. They were budget conscious and to put on a local show with an audience and that many cameras and so forth was expensive. They replaced me with reruns of Leave It to Beaver or somebody.”
Bunny Orsak’s life after channel 13
Life after Kitirik for Bunny Orsak was just as busy as when she wore the famous cat suit. She ran a successful advertising agency. Then she moved to Ruidoso, New Mexico and opened a pottery shop. The soon to be 88 year old is now retired and is doing yoga twice a week.
She is grateful to have the lasting legacy of Kitirik in her life.