Kitirik - A station mascot with at least nine lives

July 28, 2005 10:00:00 PM PDT
Long before Mister Roger's Neighborhood, Sesame Street or dozens of other children's programs, Houston had its own TV star for kids. She was the good luck charm for a station with an unlucky number. It seemed natural for channel 13 to have a mascot dressed as a black cat. And to the thousands of kids who grew up watching Kitirik every day, she was truly the cat's meow.

Her name is Bunny, but at age 23, she became a cat. Bunny Orsak answered an ad in 1954 at a TV station that hadn't even gone on the air yet -- channel 13.

Bunny Orsak/"Kitirik": "They said, 'We have in mind a station mascot and we want her to dress as a black cat.'"

So her mother made a hat with ears and a tail attached to black leotards. Bunny drew on the whiskers.

Bunny Orsak/"Kitirik": "I can do that to this day, without even looking."

In those days, everything was done live, so she read commercials, station breaks, even mail and introduced cartoons. A contest gave her a name -- Kitirik, by putting i's between the station's call letters, KTRK. Then came a studio audience, and the bleachers were filled with excited kids on live TV. But the carousel was the biggest thrill, reserved for kids having birthdays.

Carl McReight clearly remembers his ride on the carousel -- his fifth birthday, in 1971.

Carl McReight/Appeared On "Kitirik": "It was like, wow, this really is it, she really is there. Wow, she really does dress like a cat."

And he remembers what happened after the show.

Carl McReight/Appeared On "Kitirik": "I remember she started crying. I remember asking my mother why is Kitirik crying, because being that small it was really devastating to see someone like Kitirik crying. And mom explained this was going to be the last show."

Bunny Orsak/"Kitirik": "I found it out that afternoon, before I did the show. ... I wished I could have finished the year of the kids who had been waiting to come on their birthday, and I wished I could have explained it better."

These days, she works out regularly and at age 69, she's still trim enough to fit into her old leotard. Bunny's had nine lives since Kitirik, from business owner to great grandmother. The retiree divides her time between Lafayette, Louisiana, and Ruidoso, New Mexico. Her two sons live in Austin and the Woodlands.

Bunny Orsak/"Kitirik": "I just loved doing it and to have someone come up to me and tell me they enjoyed it makes me cry."

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