“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.
And for a film about Bill and his whole career…
Insightful Sites Cited: