Thursday, October 30, 2014

COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN (Day 30): MONSTER CARRY-ON

From old movies, comics and television, we all know that the monsters, mutants, monkeys and missing links are easily obsessed with our women.  They like 'em, they like 'em a lot!  Maybe even as much as we seem to like them--or more!


This usually ends up with at least a scene  or two in which a menace has seized ahold of a gal and walked off with her in his arms or over his shoulder...













But there is one character, one monster who out-carries them all!  Dracula from Marvel's macabre and moody classic "TOMB OF DRACULA"!
Just check out the greatest creature of the night in action:

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That''s all for now, folks, but stay tuned tomorrow--Halloween itself, for my wee little tribute to the Creature who hails from the Black Lagoon!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN (Day 29): ZACHERLEY

We end our Countdown of Horror Hosts with the Granddaddy of all Ghouls, Zacherley...

John Zacherle was born in 1918 on September 27th in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to parents who wouldn’t allow him to go see the popular horror films of the time.  Upon graduation from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in english Literature, America entered the war and Zach enlisted in the army—seeing action in North Africa and Europe, for which he attianed the rank of Major.



In an attempt to enjoy the postwar world, Zach joined local repertory group the Stagecrafters and picked up a job as a radio announcer.  Eventually making his way to television, Zacherle had many bit parts in a local serialized western called “Action in the Afternoon”.

At one point it was decided that Zach would play the town undertaker.  The budget sensitive costume department dressed him a long black frock coat and this would be come one of Zacherle’s most important props, which still remains with him.

And then over 70 films were released and stations  all around the country lined up to make deals to play them in the fall of 1957.  WCAU-Channel 10 in Philadelphia and WABC-Channel 7 in New York both signed up to play these movies during late night.



Zach got a phone call from WCAU and was asked to host “Shock Theatre” out of the blue.  Someone had remembered him from that western show and he never even had to try out.  Out came the black coat he wore as the undertaker and he parted his hair down the middle—an application of the ghoul makeup and the original cool ghoul, “Roland”, pronounced Ro-LAND, was born!

Roland would have an assistant named Igor, and his wife lived in a coffin and was only referred to as “my dear” , and finally there was Gasport, Roland’s son who hung from a wall in a burlap sack and only moaned.



Roland would sometimes thrust a wooden stake into his wife’s coffin much to her delight and would occasionally climb in with her to enjoy the film.  On one occasion he fired his unwilling son, Gasport, into outer space on a guided missile.

Occasionally, Roland would “break-in”—inserting himself into the actual film, this first occurred during “The Black Cat” where Karloff is presiding over a satanic ceremony and as the camera panned to close-ups of the participants, Zach made a face and the shot was inserted.  It was so funny that it became a regular bit.



The show was so popular it was moved from late Monday night to Friday and Saturday.  This only increased Roland’s popularity—so much so that there were over 800 fan clubs in Philadelphia devoted to the ghoul.  Kids all over the city sported large black buttons that read “Roland” or “I Like Igor”.  By August of ’58 Zach was featured in the Saturday Evening Post.

WCAU held an open house at the studio so that Roland’s fans could meet him.  Executives expected 1,200 or maybe as many as 2,000, but 14,000 arrived, stopping Philadelphia traffic and damaging the facility.  They dared not to hold another meet-and-greet.





Record label owner Bernie Lowe found his daughter glued to Roland on television and discovered his popularity, charisma and even watched him recite horror limericks that fans had sent in and got the idea to record the ghoul.


“Dinner with Drac” was the record, a rock song which had Zacherle singing and reciting while being back by Dave Appell and the Applejacks, the house band at Cameo Records.  Rumor sez that because Dick Clark refused to play it on “American Bandstand”, so it was recut with milder lyrics.  The record was a big hit and made it to number 6 on the Billboard chart, getting the ghoul on shows like “American Bandstand” and other teen-oriented fare.




Around this time, John made the move to New York, ending his run on WCAU prematurely due to general dislike on both sides regarding salary and ownership of the character, etc.  WABC in Manhattan had been airing the shock package without a host, but picked up  Zacherle just as his other contract ended.

Being that the name of Zach’s character was in dispute, they simply added a “Y” to Zacherle’s name and that both made the character his and made it easier to pronounce for the kids.  Zach’s wife “My Dear” became “Isobel” at WABC, though Gasport stayed the same.

Zacherley became a household name in NYC and he made crossover appearances on The Steve Allen Show, The Jack Paar Show and Pat Boone’s show as well.  A third single was released pairing “I was a Teenage Caveman” with “Dummy Doll”.  In March of ’59, WABC announced that Zach was being given his own show Friday and Saturday night called “Zacherley at Large” in place of Shock Theatre.  But by late June, the ghoul appeared on the show for the last time, announcing that he would be moving to WOR- Channel 9.




Zach’s carreer as a horror host eventually led him to WPIX in ‘63 where he hosted first cartoons and, later, films. 

By 1965 “Zacherley’s Disco Teen” hit daily air in Newark, NJ on the UHF station, Channel 47 WNJU-TV.  It was a kind of Transylvanian Bandstand that featured local bands and dancers.  Because of the subpar reception.

And then the ghoul went into radio, where he stayed, for the most part, for more than a decade.  Zach has continued working for all these years since making personal appearances and doing signings.

We know that he is Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul, but as he usually says to viewers, unable to see them through the magic of television as we can see him:

Goodnight… whatever you are!


Zacherley hosts his own classic clips:

Zach kills on Mike Douglas:

Among others, Zacherley:

A tour of Zach’s place from just a few years ago:

Monday, October 27, 2014

COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN (Day 28): ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK


Six years after the death of Larry Vincent, who starred as Horror Host “Sinister Seymour” on “Fright Night” on KHJ-TV in Los Angeles, producers began the task of rebuilding the show in 1981.



They decided to go with a female host and went to the original hostess of horror films, Maila Nurmi, to see about reviving “The Vampira Show” with a new actress portraying the vamp.  Nurmi worked on the show for a little while, but it didn’t work out when they would not hire her choice to play Vampira—Lola Falana.



So the station sent out a casting call and after seeing around 200 potential hosts, picked Cassandra Peterson to be their host.  They left it up to her to create the image.  Cassandra and her best friend, Robert Redding, based their original look on Sharon Tate’s character from “The Fearless Vampire Killers”.  Tate was a red-head in that role and a vampire waif.



When the producers balked and told her to wear black instead, they came up with the sexy punk/vampire look and gave her the “Valley Girl” mannerisms and speech patterns.  And so “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark” was born.



Born in Kansas, Cassandra Peterson grew up in Randolph, until the area was flooded intentionally to created Tuttle Creek Reservoir.  Cassandra had severe burns over 30% of her body as a toddler when she overturned boiling water onto herself and had to have skin grafts.  This may be why that at an early age, she was fascinated with horror-themed toys over the usual dolls that girls usually played with at her age.

By her teens, Peterson was a go-go dancer at a local gay bar.  Right after High School graduation, she drove to Las Vegas and became a showgirl at “The Dunes” where she met Elvis Presley, who encouraged her to pursue a singing career.

In the early ‘70s, Peterson moved to Italy and was the lead singer of two Italian rock bands “I Latins Ochanats” and “The Snails”.  At this time, she ran into Federico Fellini on the street and he invited her to be in his movie “Roma” in a small role because she reminded him of his wife.  She had a tiny role as a showgirl in the James Bond film “Diamonds are Forever”, played a topless dancer in “The Working Girls” and probably posed for the cover of Tom Waits’ album, “Small Change”.  Peterson doesn’t really remember doing it, but admits that it looks like her.

(Click to Embigify)

Back in the states in nightclubs and discos, she toured with a musical/comedy act, “Mammas Boys”.  By 1979, she joined “The Groundlings” in L.A. where she created the persona of her Valley girl character who would eventually become Elvira.  In 1981, she auditioned for the third “Gilligan’s Island” TV movie in the role of Ginger Grant, just before KHJ-TV offered her the horror host position.  She was also a radio personality on KROQ from ’82-83.



The popularity and notoriety of Elvira and “Movie Macabre”grew rapidly with her tight-fitting, low-cut, cleavage-displaying black gown and satirical, sarcastic edge—she specialized in double entendres and ratings soared.  She hosted the show from 1981-1985 and did several specials.  Elvira was the first nationally syndicated TV Horror Host.

Soon the character evolved from cult figure to a brand and by the mid-1980s and well into the ‘90s Elvira was associated with costumes, comic books, action figures, pinball machines, model kits, calendars, beer, trading cards, perfume and dolls.





At he height of her popularity in 1988, the feature film “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark” was released.  Co-written by Peterson, the movie featured Elvira inheriting all of her late great-aunt Morgana’s earthly possessions: a home in the most conservative town in the country, Fallwell, Massachusetts, a poodle that may not be what it seems and a spellbook that Elvira mistakes for a cookbook.  Hijinks, of course, ensue.



In 2014, Elvira is hosting “13 Nights of Elvira” for Hulu—beginning October 19th through Halloween.  This series features all new material and some of the films are: “Cannibal Women in the Avacado Jungle of Death”, “Evil Bong”, “Seed People”, “Shrunken Heads” and on Halloween itself George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”.



Here’s Elvira’s 1986 MTV Halloween Special, care of a fella named Rockula and the power of VHS (beware the blur—I guess the signal was a bit top heavy):


In 1993, CBS did a pilot for a weekly sitcom for Elvira,
but it was a bust…




And now Elvira has a new song and video called “Two Big Pumpkins” written by Fred Schneider of the B-52s and Third Man Records released it onto the unsuspecting public—the single features heat-reactive ink on the sleeve that reveals Elvira when warmed:




Essential Sites Cited:



COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN (Day 27): GORGON THE GRUESOME

“When the night falls… when the shadows become deep and black… the silent pall of evil falls upon the Earth.”




Fondly remembered for his role on local Forth Worth’s KFJZ-TV Channel 11 as the children’s show host “Icky Twerp”, Bill Camfield was like a lot of broadcasters in his day—a jack-of-all-trades.

Having graduated from Texas Christian University in ’55, a friend suggested he try out for work at the television station.  Camfield ended up writing, producing and starring in many commercials.  His best remembered character from these was “Mortimer Moneybags”.

Eventually Camfield filled in for an ailing children’s show host, creating the sea-faring “Captain Swabbie” and another called “Ickabod Twerpwhistle”.  This character wore a rumpled black suit, bad toupee, tiny cowboy hat and black rimmed glasses.  Station management loved the character and had Bill hone it for a show that would feature blocks of cartoons and his live-action.


This show would be called “Slam Bang Theater”.  Ickabod became “Icky Twerp” and his skits revolved around the character and three gentlemen in ape masks named Ajax, Arkadelphia and Delphinium—usually playing pranks, fighting or throwing pies at each other.  The show was so popular, it was shown in mornings and afternoons during the week.

Slam Bang Theater showed cartoons such as The Mighty Hercules, Felix the Cat and Popeye, but what made it different was Camfield’s introduction of “The Three Stooges” to a new generation of children.  Because some parents wouldn’t allow their kids to watch SBT, it became a kind of underground hit with Dallas/Fort Worth children.

For the Stooges’ final movie “The Outlaws is Coming” local kids’ show personalities were featured as outlaws—a clever gimmick that they hoped would lure kids to the movies to see their local celebrities.  Bill Camfield played Wyatt Earp in the film.

(There he is between Moe and Larry--NOT the place you would want to be for fear of  SLAP-stick)


Meanwhile, in 1957, on Saturday nights, teenagers would tune in to Channel 11 to watch “Nightmare” and Bill Camfield was there, moonlighting as “Gorgon the Gruesome”, the caretaker of the show.  Gorgon was a deadly serious host who would not joke about the proceedings.  Death was in the air and it would not do one well to let one’s guard down.


And, holy crap, there’s actually a clip from an episode!



For the show, unlike many of the other stations, the budget was decent as sets changed often and there were several assistants seen about.  The films were from the “Shock” package, though not all of them were used for “Nightmare”.  Bill aired these others on the station’s Saturday afternoon movie show “Mystery Matinee”.



For a Horror Host of that time, he had a fairly lengthy run.  While the show officially ended in 1959 due to station feeling that the films were overexposed, Gorgon would appear regularly on the airwaves, hosting Halloween specials.  It’s possible that Camfield’s busy schedule may have been a factor in the cancellation of a weekly show as Icky Twerp was so successful.

“Nightmare” returned in ’62 and so did Gorgon—proving just as popular by running for another two years each Saturday night showing one feature at 7:30pm.  It was then moved to Wednesday after Country-Western music programming took it’s place.



1972’s Halloween Spectacular brought Gorgon back in color and the station went all-out building a dungeon set to go along with it’s showing of “The Pit and the Pendulum”.

The Halloween Special four years later turned out to be the final appearance of Gorgon and “Nightmare”.



Not a bad run for a Horror Host, let alone one who set the standard for other Texas hosts to follow while proving so popular in his “day job” as a Kiddie Host.


Icky Twerp




And for a film about Bill and his whole career…



Insightful Sites Cited:




Sunday, October 26, 2014

COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN (Day 26): PENNY DREADFUL XIII


Penny Dreadful XIII or just plain old Penny Dreadful is a New England based horror host created by actress/writer/comedienne Danielle Gelehrter.  The persona was created because Danielle wanted to revive the concept of horror movie hosting on Boston-area television.  She is, appropriately enough for New England, a witch.



Her show is called “Shilling Shockers” and it premiered on local cable in January of 2006, first airing on Public-access television in Providence, Rhode Island; and, Boston, New Bedford and Salem, Massachusetts.  Throughout New England, it eventually expanded to over 200 cities and towns.


The witch, Penny Dreadful, is a mixture of both good and evil, being both silly and sinister at times.  She refers to her viewers as “Dreary Ones” and uses the exclaimation “hex-cellent!” when excited.

Penny had been a witch for centuries before going Hollywood.  She had cast a spell that backfired—she was poised to star in a never-made Universal horror film called ‘The Witch’—but the spell, instead, damned her to host the movies instead of starring in them.


“Shilling Shockers” is a rare horror hosting show in that there are storylines that develop throughout the season and they crossover into the hosted films at times.  Gelehrter has credited this to two influences, a horror host by the name of Dr. E. Nick Witty who hosted for about 20 years in Syracuse, NY and his storylines that ran on for multiple episodes and that the name and title of the character and show are serialized tales.  Readers would have to pick up the next installment of a penny dreadful or a shilling shocker to find out what came next.


Two-time winner of the Rondo Award for “Favorite Horror Host”, Penny was also the first host to recieve the award.


“The Dreadful HallowGreen Special”, a made-for-television film in which Dreadful co-produced and co-hosted with Larry Underwood aka horror host Dr. Gangrene, was nominated for a regional Midsouth Emmy Award in 2011.  In the special, Dreadful, Garou and Dr. Gangrene join forces to save Halloween.  In 2014, Penny Dreadful was inducted into the Horror Host Hall of Fame.


Penny’s sidekicks include Garou, who is a werewolf henchman and husband of the witch herself—portrayed by Magoo Gelehrter.  He communicates only through growls and facial expressions, as entusiastic as your average labrador retriever; Dr. Manfred Von Bulow is a semi-retired vampire killer with a thick German accent—he is Penny’s foil and is portrayed by Ivan Bernier; Luna is a highly intelligent madwoman who was released from the abandonded Danvers State Hospital.



Magoo Gelehrter, who was Danielle’s husband, died earier this year after a battle with cancer.  Due to this, the final and 9th season of “Shilling Shockers” won’t be completed and seen until some time in 2015.

Danielle has said that she may never appear at conventions or do another show as Penny, but that she is unsure how she will feel in five years.



Significant Sites Cited: