Okay, I admit it. I am not a car person. Never was, never will be. Cars are, to me, a necessary evil; always needing to be maintained an sometimes requiring lots of cash to do so. Yet, when I happened upon a notice advertising the Volo Auto Museum’s 12th Annual Charity Car Show would be featuring the featuring the legendary Munster Coach and Dragula cars reunited after 46 years, something inside me went, “Hmmmmm.”
Friday night at the 2010 Indianapolis Horrorhound Weekend, my friend Jason and I covered quite a bit! We managed to meet a bunch of great celebrities (including Ton Savini) as well as a bulk of the horror hosts I’d listed as priorities (including Elvira!).
With both Terror Daves currently running amok in New England, we’re pleased to welcome the great Thomas Berdinski as our guest blogger! Mr. Berdinski directs, writes, and produces for The Cult of Moi and Vous Film Producioni Company LLC as well as runs a great site called The Italian Zombie Movie. If his name sounds familiar, that’s because Berdinski and his wonderful work is no stranger to TERROR FROM BETOND THE DAVES! Be sure to check out his wonderful GIANT RUBBER MONSTER MOVIE post HERE. Today, he’ll be sharing his own narrative of an exciting event that took place last weekend….
While it was the National Horror Host, Svengoolie, who is indirectly responsible for bringing the Daves together as friends, it has always been our stance that TERROR FROM BEYOND THE DAVES was really the bastard child of the 2010 Vampira Tribute and SCARY MONSTERS MAGAZINE. In reality, the two are complimentary of each other. Within the pulpy pages of the world’s only “REAL Monsters Magazine,” classic monsters as well as Horror Hosts have always been featured side-by-side. And why shouldn’t they be? For many of us adult Monster kids, it was the classic commercial hosts who introduced us to all the greats be it Godzilla, The Universal Monsters, the films of Hammer Studios, the wonderful “B” movies of Roger Corman, as well as those from directors who were slightly…ahem…less gifted.
By: Jamie Lee Cortese
Later on that first day at the convention, my family had to practically tear me away from Horror Host Alley in order to bring me into the massive MaskFest room. Now, I have to admit, I did see some amazing masks there, and I really did enjoy exploring that room! I met two of the Killer Klowns from Killer Klowns From Outer Space, and also saw, but didn’t get a chance to speak to, the male and female leads from the film. The Klowns were both very kind, and were more than willing to take a picture with me when I bought their autographs! They also both confirmed something I had read on the Internet and had been wondering about for a while: Apparently, the Chiodo brothers have been attempting for a few years… to make a sequel to Killer Klowns From Outer Space! I’ll be on the lookout!
Another highlight of the MaskFest room was The Late Dr. Lady’s table. Recognizing his name from The Daves’ blog, I went over and had a very nice talk with him as I perused the surprisingly varied merchandise he was selling. My family ended up buying a couple of funny-yet-fully-functional weekly pill cases, each of which bore the warning, “DANGER: MAY CONTAIN EXPERIMENTAL MONSTER TRANSFORMATION PILLS.” We also bought a Horror Hotel CD.
Having made our rounds around the MaskFest room, I begged to be allowed to return to Horror Host Alley. After receiving permission, I bolted back to the room, marveling once more at how the room just kept becoming more and more elaborate as the day went on and more and more horror hosts arrived.
As far as I could tell at the time, Ms. Monster had still not yet made her entrance. But even before she arrived, I still had one horror host left on my list to meet: Count Gregula. Though I had been actively looking around for him all day, I had seen absolutely no sign of him or the Countess.
Well, that was about to change. My mother was with me this time as I re-entered the room, and, looking to my left, I suddenly saw him, conversing with Professor M. Balmer! I wasted no time in rushing over there, as if I were afraid he would just as suddenly disappear!
Not wanting to interrupt their conversation, I lingered near them for a brief moment before Count Gregula saw me and said hello. I eagerly responded, “Hi! I’ve been looking for you all day!” (Note: I am not usually this upfront and frank about, well, anything. In hindsight, I guess it was because, well, I had been looking for him all day!)
To my complete surprise, he gave me the sort of reaction that I myself had been giving all day:
“For me?” Being on the receiving end of this kind of comment really threw me for a loop. Later on that day, he said that his first thought when I said that was, “Do I owe you money or something?” For some reason, he was really genuinely surprised that someone was actually looking for him at the convention!
Count Gregula and Professor M. Balmer! One of the most fascinating parts of the convention for me was witnessing horror hosts from across the country, all of whom were so different, actually interacting with each other. They really are like one big, happy family!
At any rate, Count Gregula apologized for not seeing my e-mail that I had sent him a few days before (As if he really had to!), and he was very kind (and patient) as I explained my project to him. He agreed very readily to be interviewed on camera by me that very night, so that I could get him on film while he was still in costume!
I met the Countess a short while after meeting Count Gregula, and she was just as kind and fun to talk to!
We conducted his interview right after the deeply moving Zacherley tribute had concluded Saturday night, and he was very informative and entertaining!
Both Count and Countess Gregula were great people to meet and talk to, and were certainly worth the search to actually find them!
Coming up in Part 8: Ms. Monster! I must apologize to her now, because, with the way I’ve written these articles so far, it may seem like it took her forever to make her grand entrance on Saturday, when in reality, it was only about a few hours after I arrived that morning. I was just being insane checking her table about, oh, every five minutes or so. At any rate, Ms. Monster and her Monster Melons (uh… the puppets, Tit and Tat) are up next, and they certainly didn’t leave me “blue”! (Ha ha! Get it? Ouch! Hey, who threw that rubber chicken?!)
It was hot down in Kentucky for the recent FRIGHT NIGHT FILM FEST which saw the appearance of John Carpenter, Linda Blair, and Henry Winkler – along with a cache’ of independent films to be unveiled to an overheated (it was humid and like 100 degrees, I kid you not) horror audience. Among all these events and “A-list” horror celebrities was a small conclave of horror hosts who were invited by Horrorhound’s Jason Hignite to put on a LIVE show. While nowhere near the number of hosts seen at the Indy Horrorhound, FRIGHT NIGHT was visited by Midnite Mausoleum, Captain Crypt & Fenriz Fatal from Horror Dungeon, and The Count & Countess Gregula. Mr. Lobo & Dixie from Cinema Insomnia also made a stop through (to be covered in a future post) and I am pretty sure I saw Mel Praxis walking around too, but was on my way to the John Carpenter Q&A and never able to formerly meet him.
The plan was that there would be a showing of John Carpenter’s earliest film, DARK STAR and that each host would get up for 10-15 minutes and do a RIFF TRAX like performance, ripping on the lackluster film. The Gregulas carpooled down with me and both they and Dr Destruction (who had to cancel last minute) seemed uneasy regarding what to expect. Despite being familiar with performing, the prospect of getting up unscripted in front of an audience was a nerve wracking one at that. But there was one group of performers who had NO problem performing LIVE – with or without a script…
Atomic Age Cinema – featuring Dr Calamari, Basement Boy, Baron Mardi and Woody the Clown are no strangers to working a crowd and have been doing so for over six years. “It began in 2004 as a fundraiser for the Cinephile Film Arts Organization,” says Calamari. “It was dedicated to helping local filmmakers get their films made and shown. Cinephile eventually transformed into the Dark Carnival Film Festival and the profits from AAC!” I’d met them before at Horrorhound Weekend and always enjoyed talking with Doc Calamari who is not only a great guy but has one of the coolest & original looks. His tentacled face is matched only by his lone silvery eyeball that will have you quickly forgetting there’s a man underneath!
Despite the nature of this site, my original goals for attending FRIGHT NIGHT was less about covering hosts as it was about gathering info from THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW reunion. However, no respectable “Dave” would ever shy away from a horror hosted event and it should come as great comfort to my host friends that I skipped the “nude body painting show” in favor of attending this one. I knew it was slated to begin at 10:30 pm and tracked down a FRIGHT NIGHT attendant to assist me in finding its location. “Uh….I don’t know. Maybe look at the wall and see if there’s a sign?” Gee, thanks Einstein! Listen,when you’re done NOT helping anyone here, maybe you can check out the next room. I think I saw something shiny!
As I looked around for the Gregulas (passing a long line of conventioneers who suddenly had an interest in art) I ran into Jason Hignite. Let me state for the record that, when I die, I am hoping to come back as him. Not only does he get to work with horror hosts and write for Horrorhound Magazine, but he can always be seen at conventions with a cocktail in one arm and an attractive woman (in this case TWO) in the other. I mean no sarcasm when I say this; don’t bother reading a Martha Stewart magazine if you want to know the definition of “Living,” just hang around with Jason!
Hignite saw me and gave a warm greeting (despite neither offering me a sip of his drink nor one of his companions) and pointed in the direction of the show. I followed a winding hallway and, if there had been any question that I was headed to the right place, it was soon squelched at the sight of Woody the Clown pacing by the entrance. “We don’t have a f*cking movie!” he yelled. “No one has a copy of DARK STAR!” Well, at that point, I had no more reservations about missing the nude art show and knew that this was the place to be!
Before the main event we were treated to a screening of Dark Carnival’s DVD featuring The Vampira Tribute from 2010 – HOSTING HORROR: THE LEGACY OF VAMPIRA. Many people don’t realize that it was Dark Carnival who came up with the idea of a Vampira Tribute – eventually finding its way to Horrorhound. In this we should all be eternally grateful. The video features clips from that amazing afternoon as well as interviews from many of the participating hosts; Penny Dreadful, The Bone Jangler, and Karlos Borloff to name but a few. David and I each bought a copy of this video at the last Horrorhound and it has always been sad to me that the “other Dave” wasn’t there to see it LIVE with me. He, like myself, loves horror hosts and I know he’d have really enjoyed it. I appreciate Dark Carnival for creating this DVD – if only so he , and others unable to attend, could get a glimpse of it. Tonight’s venue was a small room but most seats were taken. As I settled in, I looked around and noticed Midnite Mausoleum’s Robyn Graves kicking back in more seasonal attire.
Horror Host “summer fashion” continued with the arrival of The Count and Countess Gregula – Gregula sporting a rather unique vampire look with a T-shirt, overcoat, and shorts. Here’s an interesting tidbit; not long after FRIGHT NIGHT, Gregula was cast for a role in a new NBC Fall series called “The Playboy Club.” I can’t help but think that the casting director may have seen one of these shots from the DARK STAR event before making their decision!
Soon the big moment arrived with a copy of the film arriving just in the nick of time. Showing their mettle as LIVE performers, it should be noted that the gang from Atomic Age Cinema were willing to perform to a DVD copy of ANY movie so long as it was readily available. As the lights went down, the show became less like RIFF TRAX and more like THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. The Atomic Age Cinema guys remained standing while everyone in the audience was encouraged to belt out comments and participate. In this I was at a distinct disadvantage having no alcohol in me, though this in no way stopped The Countess from stealing the show.
I’m here to tell you that she was absolutely hilarious utilizing her dry sense of humor like an artist delves in oil. Many folks believe that vampires have no blood but I can safely say that isn’t true as some of the “adults only” comments flying out of The Countess’ mouth left her counterpart turning a decisive shade of RED. Further adding to Gregula’s chagrin was my suggesting to him that perhaps his wife was the actual horror host and he should start thinking of himself as the sidekick. Gregula looked like I just “staked” him but, rest assured, I meant it only in good fun and they BOTH added a lot to this event.
In between bouts of laughter, and inappropriate comments, were special “games” organized by Atomic Age Cinema complete with prizes. The first of which was a drinking challenge in which Jason Hignite further secured his status as a party god and one we should all revere. As I write this I am making definite plans to start stalking him!
As for the movie it self, what can I say? If ever there was a film in need of the “horror host treatment,” this was it. I’d like to say that it was a rip-off of STAR WARS had it not been for the fact that this film was made a few years before. DARK STAR is definitely not something you’d want to watch again and again but, for these purposes, it was a welcomed attraction. A few members of the audience got so caught up, one eager participant ended up wearing a popcorn bucket on his head before winning a prize for his belly dancing.
The highlight of this event, however, was turning the lights on and seeing the film’s lead cast member, Brian Narelle, sitting amongst the audience! Sadly, the director of the film, John Carpenter was no where to be seen (no doubt sitting up in his hotel room issuing “Order 66″ and the extermination of the Jedi Knights). Narelle seemed to enjoy the show and was given a special Atomic Age Cinema T-shirt for being such a good sport!
As the event ended, everyone left with big smiles on their faces (probably equaling the hang-overs they’d have the next day) and it was clear that, despite recently losing their regular performing venue, Atomic Age Cinema is far from beaten. In the spirit of their new-found solidarity, they would not be confined to a booth at FRIGHT NIGHT and moved freely about the entire weekend. Everywhere they went they brought laughs and smiles at a convention that desperately needed it. This was further illustrated on the last day of the convention when, eager to take advantage of the familiar looking walkway that joined the two buildings of the hotel together, they decided to re-enact the cover of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road.”
I look forward to seeing them again, hopefully at the next March Horrorhound Weekend which, I am told, will take place in Columbus, Ohio this time instead of Indianapolis. We Daves will definitely be there and hope you will be as well!
Now…. if you’ll excuse me, I must hurry on my way! Jason Hignite just “tweeted” that he’s leaving his apartment.
I just returned from the FRIGHT NIGHT convention in Kentucky but wanted to wrap up this event before delving into that one. I attended the VIP party there as well but, it was so horrendous, I couldn’t make a blog out of it if I tried. Let’s just say that the one I describe below was 1,000 times better and showed that sometimes the “new kids on the block” could teach a thing or two to the older ones!
Saturday was a busy day at DAYS OF THE DEAD and, as the doors to the main convention halls closed, I tiredly dragged myself up to my room. I took a shower and, as I was organizing all the materials I’d acquired during the day, was jarred by the ringing of my cell phone. Upon answering, I soon heard the monotone voice of Illinois Public Access host, Count Gregula, asking what I was up to. After revealing that I had no plans for the evening (save zoning out in front of TV) Gregula asked the question that every horror conventioneer longs to hear, “Would you like to attend the VIP party with us?”
For those unfamiliar with fan conventions, many offer an opportunity for fans and celebrities to mingle in a social setting after convention hours. It’s not included with the standard ticket and is usually, on its own, more expensive than your weekend pass. For this reason, I had never attended one before – wanting as much cash as possible for autographs and vendors. When DAYS OF THE DEAD organizer, Adolfo Dorta, agreed to give me press passes for the event, he made it clear that the VIP party was not included.
Needless to say, the prospect of actually being able to experience a VIP party first hand immediately perked me up. I quickly dressed and zoomed down to the lobby to meet up with the Count & Countess Gregula. The party took place in the hotel lounge and many fans and celebs had already arrived.
As we waited for Adolfo to let us in, a small boy dressed as the iconic slasher, Jason, entertained us by running around and mock “slashing” random people. Everyone commented how cute it was and laughed as the little boy happily “murdered” his sister and various guests (including me at one point). Only at a horror convention could a scene like this draw smiles as opposed to a quick call to DCFS. This soon attracted the attention of the real “Jason” from the 2009 FRIDAY THE 13th remake, Derrick Mears. Mears was about as tall as the child was short and it made an interesting contrast, not to mention a great photo op.
After Adolfo arrived and let us into the lounge we could see it was already a full house. A small buffet table offered a fruit and cheese tray which was soon followed by a crate of White Castle sliders. The Midwestern delicacy (and favored food for late night partiers) was set on the main stage while everyone rushed to it like zombies to a brain.
Just as promised, the fans were able to mingle freely with their favorite stars. I noticed James Downing from MONSTERS FROM THE BASEMENT enjoying the company of WALKING DEAD’s Melissa Cowen at a nearby table and waved hello. I’d met Melissa back in October at Rock & Shock covered HERE. Over by the bar, showing off pictures of bikini clad gals on his cell phone to a friend, was Jake Busey. Busey was very friendly and didn’t mind taking a break to pose for a picture. I confessed to him that STARSHIP TROOPERS, with its gratuitous use of nudity and gore, was a guilty pleasure. He gave me warm, “Why, thank you!” while posing for a shot.
Another friendly celeb was William Katt. Like Ms Cowan, I had the privilege of also meeting Katt at Rock n Shock in Massachusetts. He was very personable and we talked about my how my younger brother, Keith, was obsessed with Katt’s GREATEST AMERICAN HERO TV show and made frequent trips to the doctor – a result of his many failed attempts at flight. Katt retained his reputation for being personable here as we discussed the fact that, had Mark Hamill turned down the role, he was the next choice in playing Luke Skywalker in STAR WARS
Other notable celebs who freely mingled with guests was NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD alumnus John Russo and Russell Streiner! I met up with Streiner the next day during an interview with Gregula and asked if he’s recite his famous line, “They’re coming to get you Barbara!” He agreed and then pointed to a pile of quarters at his table. Every time a fan asks him to recite the line they are to pay 25 cents – all in could fun. Before leaving, I had no choice but to ante up!
You assume that celebrities are just there because they have to be but I noticed this was not the case. All the celebs I observed were clearing having a lot of fun and dished out many compliments regarding how the event was set up. Everyone I asked – both celebrity and fan stated they would love to attend another convention such as this.
Soon, all attention was back on the main stage as Adolfo took the microphone…
Thanking everyone for making the first official DAYS OF THE DEAD a huge success, Dorta then began giving away some great prizes for those lucky enough to be carrying a winning raffle ticket. Some of which included some unique gifts from Fable Foundry Creative Studio. We’ll be giving Fable Foundry a much closer look soon.
Freddy fans will be VERY interested in the unique, hand-crafted items coming soon from Fable Foundry!
Aside from generously donating items (that many of us would pine away for) as gifts for lucky raffle winners, the company’s founder and Creative Director, Eriq Chang, has a philosophy that we Daves have come to live by. Unable to attend the event itself, he gave Adolfo some positive words to share with guests. We’ll be sharing those when we delve into why this is a company horror fans can be proud to support so stay tuned and keep your eyes on this company!
The happy mood, ever present but enriched by the words of Mr. Chang, reached a fever pitch when Adolfo unveiled two posters which effectively answered the question we all had on our minds; will there be another DAYS OF THE DEAD? The answer was a resounding YES as not one, but TWO more DAYS OF THE DEAD conventions were revealed!
For horror fans, there are a LOT of events to choose from these days and while many of us base our choices on the celebrities featured let me say that we also would like to be treated like VIP’s. For that experience I urge everyone to consider attending DAYS OF THE DEAD! I’ve done quite a few conventions this year and can safely say that Adolfo and his amazing team will see to it that you receive the best of both worlds!
Back in 1984, the rural town of Kenosha, Wisconsin became the unlikely venue for a unique type of art show. Local resident, Dale Wamboldt, was determined to create a venue where artists such as himself (who delve in the more ominous side of creativity) could showcase their work for a public audience. A fan of Oscar Wilde’s classic novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Dale was fascinated by the concept of using art to express his own darker side. Years later, he would adopt his own alter ego as a horror host, Dr. Destruction, while continuing the annual tradition of the “The Dorian Gray Art Show.”
This was my first year attending the show and I drove up with my friends, The Count & Countess Gregula, who have occasionally hosted films via Illinois Public Access. Their presence made sense as the theme of this year’s show was “Night of the Horror Hosts.” We arrived at the Rhode Opera House in downtown Kenosha and were greeted by Destruction’s sidekick, Deadgar Winters, as we entered the main show room. The theater, which opened in 1927, was beautiful and retained many of its original projectors and concession machines for public display.
Having missed the earlier crowds, there was plenty of opportunity to talk to the featured artists while enjoying their creations. First, I said hello to my friend, Dr Destruction, who quickly introduced me to his old pal, Ari Lehman. Mr. Lehman has the distinction of being the first physical incarnation of Jason Vorhees from the FRIDAY THE 13TH films. He was the young boy who jumped out of the waters of Crystal Lake to attack an unsuspecting Adrienne King at the original film’s conclusion. Ari was very personable and, like Dr Destruction, had lots of energy.
Dr. Destruction showed off some of his pieces which included some dedicated to classic Horror Hosts. This consisted of two large portraits dedicated to the “mother” and “father” of all horror hosts, Vampira and Zacherley! The one that caught my eye, however, was smaller and to the left. It was a painting of Rich Koz’s “Son of Svengoolie” (still on the air and now simply Svengoolie) whom I had grown up with.
As Dr Destruction went off to greet more of his guests, I socialized with the artists. The first was Josh Lucas, who created an amazing clock that immediately caught my eye. Josh was very friendly and talked about his devotion to the Rob Zombie HALLOWEEN films, while showing off an amazing tattoo of Michael Myers on his right shoulder. Josh is looking forward to attending the upcoming FLASHBACK WEEKEND where he hopes to finally meet Danielle Harris – who starred in films from both of the HALLOWEEN series. As for the clock, I was intent on buying one but Josh had, not surprisingly, sold out. I am hoping to catch him again at event hosted by Deadgar Winters later this month.
Sharing a booth with Josh was Rebecca Hilbert who was selling her homemade “voodoo dolls.” I ended up buying one of them myself and look forward to using it (smile).
When I had first entered the gallery, my eye was immediately drawn to a painting of Karoff’s FRANKENSTEIN. The creator of the piece was John Bonior who said he did it in 3 hours. I thought it was unbelievable and the artist, himself, seemed surprised. “This is my first year here and I just never thought I was good enough,” he said. I’m quite sure that anyone seeing these pictures would disagree. His work was amazing and, had I brought more cash with me, it’s likely I would have walked home with Frank. John had also painted young Michael Brody from the film JAWS in the scene where he stares in horror as a man nearby gets eaten by the famed Great White Shark. This would later prompt a discussion between John and I where John recounted a story of meeting Richard Deryfuss and his apparent feud with actor, Bill Murray. It isn’t my tale to tell but, suffice it to say, it’s the kind of story a blogger dreams of.
Also featured at the show was the works of Michael Ables and Jody Elizabeth. The couple each share a love of the macabre and this is evident through John’s prints and Jody’s amazing paintings. “Before Dorian Gray, there was nowhere artists like us could show our work,” said John.”We really appreciate ‘Dorian Gray.”
Jody’s work was not just interesting due to her dramatic renderings, but also for their “texture.” She encouraged visitors to touch her work which was often layered and 3 Dimensional. One of the most interesting pieces depicted a maniacal clown in which Jody cleverly used real ice cream cones to finish the presentation. She is also a talented jewelry maker and created a unique bracelet proudly worn by Michael.
As this was “Night of the Horror Hosts,” there were a few of those on hand as well. Marlena Midnite from Midnite Mausoleum drove up from Iowa to attend the event and stationed her own booth selling episodes of her show & “Midnite Mausoleum” swag.
The Gregulas and I had split off after arriving but met back up later. They were being very social and enjoyed talking with Dr. Destruction as well as a fellow Svengoolie fan who calls herself “Svengirlie.” I’ve noticed in the course of my Svengoolie fandom quite a few gals who routinely dress up like Sven. If I had musical talent, I think I’d create a Svengoolie tribute band and perform some of Sven’s parody songs with the Sven gals in the background. Sort of like the ones in those Robert Palmer videos back in the 1980′s. I didn’t get a chance to chat much with “Svengirlie” as she was leaving just as I’d finally met up with them, but both her and her boyfriend seemed like a lot of fun.
Ivan Cryptosis was also in attendance and we spoke a bit about the history of his character as well as his story in SCARY MONSTERS MAGAZINE which was featured in the 2009 Monster Memories issue. The writer of that piece, the late Dick Nitelinger, had also written an early story on Dr. Destruction when his show first began some ten years ago. My article on Dr Destruction (slated to appear in the summer 2011 issue) will continue where that one left off.
While there is an existing feud between The Gregulas and Ivan, they jabbed each other throughout the evening in a civil manner, thereby making a potentially uncomfortable situation rather humorous. Gregula and I also filmed some interviews and we had quite a few laughs. It’s always a lot of fun going on road trips to Kenosha with both he and his “Greg”arious wife!
By the evening’s close, I approached Dr Destruction and asked how much he was selling his “Son of Svengoolie” painting. “I’m not selling that one,” he said as my spirits began to drop. “That one belongs to you.” I couldn’t believe his generosity and eagerly took my painting back to Chicago. I had a great time at The Dorian Gray Art Show and look forward to returning next year.
Last weekend I embarked on a journey back to Kenosha, Wisconsin to attend Dr. Destruction’s Sidekick Reunion Party. Joining me was Illinois Public Access host, Count Gregula, along with his wife – The Countess. Kenosha is about 2 hours from my Chicago suburban home and I certainly didn’t mind the company. We chatted about a range of topics, most of which revolved around the upcoming Horrorhound convention which is a major event in the horror hosting world. Countess, for her part, was snoozing in the back seat reserving her strength for the big event.
Attending Destruction’s party was an opportunity to get some great pictures for SCARY MONSTERS MAGAZINE. My story on Dr Destruction (“The Reconstruction of Dr. Destruction”) is tentatively slated for summer 2011 release and publisher, Dennis Druktenis, assured me that there was still time to add some shots. In the ten years that Dr. Destruction has been hosting films, he has had a prolific group of sidekicks. Over a dozen, in fact, and he has always tried staying in contact with the majority. While interviewing him for the SM piece a few months back, the subject of his sidekicks often came up.
Unfortunately, a full reunion was not possible. Two of Destruction’s past sidekicks are now deceased – losses the Kenosha host has never fully recovered from. He still often speaks of Sore Johnson and The Great Lampini; two men who died before their time and had both played integral roles in The Crimson Theater’s decade long history. Other sidekicks were unable to attend due to illness or out of town engagements. When I entered the DMZ lounge and saw Destruction’s face, he did not appear happy. His appearance at an expo earlier that day was less than stellar, attracting more business class, “stuffed-shirts,” versus monster fans. Such is the burden a horror host living in a more rural setting must bear. At the time of our arrival, the Gregulas appeared to be the only ones in costume aside from Destruction which, is fine, however they are their own hosts and not supporting cast members of The Crimson Theater.
Fortunately, the “Sidekick Reunion” wasn’t all about sidekicks. The highlight of the evening was Dr. Destruction performing with his punk band, “The Dead Leathers.” As Destruction geared up his equipment, the guests began to arrive. The first and most noticeable was one of Destruction’s more recent sidekicks, The Bedbug. This hulking monster came complete with scary mask and arm gear that reminded us of Virginia host, Karlos Borloff.
The next to arrive was the beautiful Tatiana. Tatiana enjoyed a nice run on The Crimson Theater back in 2005. For about six months she provided beauty to Destruction’s beast!
Just before Destruction took to the stage, his current sidekick – Deadgar Winters arrived. I had met Deadgar on the two occasions I had been a guest on The Crimson Theater and, despite his appearance, he is actually one of the nicest people in the horror host world. I remember the last visit o the show (taped on Friday mornings at the Time Warner station in Kenosha) we were all sitting in the control room and Destruction was looking at the newly posted Horror Host Report. As he scrolled down the list of hosts, he suddenly stopped at Reno’s Zomboo. “Hey Deadgar, looks like they got YOU on here!” he joked. There did appear to be a slight resemblance between the two and, as I saw Deadgar enter the lounge, I noticed he was sporting an all-new silver wig as opposed to his customary blond one. “I can’t go to Horrorhound looking like Zomboo,” Deadgar quipped.
Deadgar’s arrival coincided with that of a missing band mate (whom I mistook as a sidekick due to his own gruesome appearance). After a few moments to finish setting up, the show began. Prior to this night, I had seen photos of Dr Destruction performing and had heard some of his music courtesy of a CD he gave me back in October titled, “My Darkness Grows.” This was my first time seeing him LIVE and hearing him with “The Dead Leathers.” It had been a long time since I had attended a show with as much volume in a confined space. I felt my rib cage vibrate as Destruction let loose. I must say, however, I enjoyed every minute.
After the show was over and the second act, “Republicans on Welfare,” took the stage we posed together for shots. Destruction was concerned that his make-up (which was literally sweating off of his face) would be an issue. I assured him that no one will notice – one of the advantages of being featured in a black & white magazine.
The next day I wrote my friend, Jason Lucas, about the event. Jason is a big metal fan whose experiences in the rock world are worthy of their own publications. “Nothing like live music,” said Jason. “It’s a great way to let off some steam…especially punk or metal.” He was absolutely right!
Ever since Vampira cooed to her pet spider, “Rolo,” and the great Zacherly whispered “my dear” to an invisible paramour just outside the camera’s reach, sidekicks have been a common feature of horror hosted shows.
These companions are often as colorful and diverse as their host creators. Some are the skeletal variety such as Svengoolie’s Tombstone or Wolfman Mac’s conniving Boney Bob. Others are even more bizarre and imaginative such as Doktor Goulfinger’s Count Zygote (the world’s first horror host fan), Ms Monster’s..”ahem”.. melons “Tit & Tat,” or even a coy houseplant whom Mr. Lobo affectionately refers to as “Miss Mittens.”
For matters of horror host history, I always seek out my friend, Michael Monahan (Doktor Goulfinger), to supply the answers. I asked him if he had any idea who some of the first host sidekicks were and, expecting him to need some time to ponder the question, was surprised when he responded almost immediately. The following is a list of early host sidekicks the good Doktor shared “just off the top of his head.”
Aside from the aforementioned Vampira, he also listed Kansas City’s The Host – Rodney, Son of Ghoul in the 90′s – Fidge, Sammy Terry – George the Spider, Dr. Paul Bearer – a spider named Spinjamin Bock, Commander USA – Lefty, The Ghoul - Froggie, and Morgus the Magnificent – Chopsley.
Less common were the “living” sidekicks. This was a luxury few commercial hosts could afford with barely enough money in the station’s budget allotted for themselves let alone an assistant. This, of course, is not an issue with hosts working on public access as it is all the labor of love. Good friends, loved ones, and fellow horror fans show their support by acting as supporting cast members.
One should, however, take their time before adding names to their roster. This is a lesson Kenosha’s Dr. Destruction learned the hard way. Once, while hosting a dinner party that utilized multiple sidekicks, an on-air battle erupted between them (apparently jealous over their host’s attention). Destruction, none too pleased at having to interrupt his performance to put an end to the altercation, decided to leave all the footage intact for public viewing. I would like to add that I met his latest sidekick, Deadgar Winters, last weekend and he was one of the nicest, easy going guys you could ever meet. The on-air sidekick battle was clearly before his time.
Behind every great man lies a great woman and this is certainly the case with many other hosts such as Zomboo’s Miss Transyvania, The Bone Jangler’s beautiful Enchantress Nocturna, Dr. Dreck’s Moaner Lisa, Count Gregula’s Countess, and Undead Johnny’s Romania. Perhaps in these instances the word “partner” would be more appropriate than sidekick, though they still serve the same role of enhancing the performance of their host.
Great hostesses can also rely on their men to back them up as well. If not a great man, than certainly a great “wolfman!”As is the case of Penny Dreadful’s partner, both on and off screen, Garou!
I met Garou last March at the Indianapolis Horrorhound Convention and then again at “Rock & Shock” last month. This was the first time David met the wily lycanthrope and he was very impressed with the way he stayed so flawlessly in character.
This was something I had witnessed at Horrorhound and I wasn’t alone. Brian Maze, the fantastic artist who created the horror host illustrations used in our current updates, also met Garou at Horrorhound. Apparently Mr. Maize made the mistake of handing Garou a “silver” marker to sign his autograph, prompting the werewolf to toss the Sharpie while reacting as if he’d just been burned.
Garou is played by Penny’s real life husband, Magoo Gelehrter. While putting together her show, Penny recognized Magoo’s comic potential and asked if he’d mind playing a non-speaking werewolf character. According to Penny, his response was a simple and direct, “Cool, Baby!” And the rest is “Shilling Shocker” history.
With the aid of a werewolf translator, Garou delighted me by taking some time out and answering a few questions….
DAVE: Tell us how you came to be “Garou?”
GAROU: I’m always pulling faces to make Danielle laugh, and when we decided on the witch, werewolf and monster hunter characters, the name Garou, as in Loup Garou, just came to me, and that was decidedly that.
DAVE: I know that prior to Penny Dreadful, Danielle had some experience with acting, had you as well?
GAROU: It has long been my ambition to be a silent film actor, but it’s very hard to find leading parts that don’t have spoken lines. Danielle and I were both in a film called THE ART OF ETIOLATION in 2002. I’ve also been in some plays. Danielle and I were in the play “The Hot_l Baltimore” together a few years ago.
DAVE: Did you grow up a fan of monster movies and, if so, what are your favorites?
GAROU: I used to watch Creature Feature when I was a kid, my favourite then was ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. My favorite classic horror film is of course, THE WOLFMAN but I also love so called “bad” horror films – like Ed Wood’s BRIDE OF THE MONSTER and Herschel Gordon Lewis’ GRUESOME TWOSOME and stuff like THE GIANT GILA MONSTER.
DAVE: What episode of SHILLING SHOCKERS are you the most proud of?
GAROU: This is the hardest question! I love the movie CARRY ON SCREAMING! (Season three). I also have a certain fondness for the Coffin Joe movie we showed in Episode 2 of Season Three, and our hijinks in that episode always make me laugh because we filmed some of it at my wonderful in-laws’ home with Danielle’s mother and her mom’s best friend Mary Lou and they nearly feed Garou until he explodes. They didn’t have prior acting experience but they sure were Method actors! They were really shoving the food in my yap, I was lucky I didn’t swallow my fangs! Seeing them dance with us around the coffee table and seeing little Twinkie the dog chasing us around makes me nearly cry with laughter. And the episode where we show SWEENEY TODD, Garou gets a haircut from Danielle’s since departed grandfather as the barber he was, so having family in the episodes always makes it extra special for me. Those are both pretty early episodes and we do get better technically in the later ones, so those might be more to be proud about. Our director Rebecca Paiva does the hard work of shooting the episodes and editing them, so she’d be the one to ask about what’s the episode to be proudest of. The episode where we showed THE SEVENTH SEAL was a very hard shoot. We shot on the beach in Rhode Island during the summertime and it was hot as blazes and we didn’t bring enough potable water. It is not the only episode where I found myself dangerously dehydrated, but I was really close to the edge when we were randomly saved by beach goers who let us join their picnic and revived us all with their generosity. They noticed we were running around and when we finished shooting they invited us over, and ended up doing a song for us which closes out the episode. They were real lifesavers!
DAVE: You were a lot of fun at “Horrorhound” and “Rock & Shock” – managing to always stay in character. Do you enjoy making public appearances?
GAROU: I love doing appearances! Being in character comes naturally once I am dressed as Garou. At most of the conventions we go to there are kids, and Garou tends to have a Pied Piper effect on them. They can relate to him because they know how it feels to be mis-understood, and to communicate non-verbally, plus he’s funny and not afraid to be silly. And I respect the right of children to enjoy their innocence, so staying in character is a must. I don’t want some little kid to see me break character when I’m Garou, and then start to wonder that if Garou isn’t real, then what about Santa and the Easter Bunny, and then poof- their childhood is over, just like that! I don’t wanna be that guy, the one who kills the joy of simple pleasures for them. Also being in character all day at a convention is a great way to get into character and come up with bits that we can use in the show. Doing a convention before we start a new shooting season really helps get me ready. And much as I love to talk, I really do enjoy communicating with people non-verbally. For me, that is the most addictive part of wanting to be an actor. Though being able to memorize large monologues would be great, and a well delivered line is a thing of great beauty, for me the soul of acting is not what you say, but what you convey when you’re not speaking. One reason I like to watch movies more than once is so I can enjoy watching the people in scenes when they are not the one speaking. That’s where the real acting is, if you can see them listening to the actor who is speaking, that’s where the magic happens.
DAVE: How long does it take to make your “transformation” into Garou? Do you do your own make-up?
GAROU: When the moon is full and the wolfbane is in bloom, it takes no time at all! I had no experience using makeup until we did this show, and I learned everything the hard way! I tried all kinds of different fixatives to apply the Garou nose before I finally found something reliable. But now that I know what to use and how to use it, it only takes about half an hour or so to pull myself together. It also depends on the humidity. The fixatives I use take a bit longer when it is very humid before I can attach the nose and ears.
DAVE: Your comic timing is impeccable. Who would you site as your comedic influences?
GAROU: Thank you for the compliment! I’m sure my answer will surprise very few people: Harpo Marx is at the top of my comedy influence hit parade! But I am also a huge fan of George Burns, he is the all time best second banana ever. There isn’t a day in my life where I am not inspired by his words. I also love W.C. Fields and quote them both at least twice a day. But it’s not for a lack of love of the man that I never quote Harpo! He did it all without saying a word. I also love Mel Brooks, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy. I wish I could do a better Stan Laurel! Along with Burns & Allen, Ace Goodman and his wife Jane Ace were a great comedy duo who are not remembered often enough these days. And I love Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows.” That show had an amazing cast. Aside from Sid with his amazing physicality, he had Howie Morris whom I utterly revere, Imogen Coca, and Carl Reiner. Howie Morris is another huge influence. You might recall him as Professor Little Old Man in Mel Brooks HIGH ANXIETY. My mother took me to see my first Woody Allen film when I was seven and it had a huge influence on me. I hadn’t been too optimistic about my prospects until I saw that film- it let me know it was okay to be a nebbish and a runt, that you could still attract women not only in spite of that, but because of that! I have always loved his physical comedy for which he’s always been under-rated, yet he moves so well. He does some his best physical comedy in SHADOWS AND FOG and ZELIG. I know it’s not PC to like him these days, but funny is funny and he has always made me laugh and to feel less alone in this world. Aside from comedy, I think Lon Chaney Jr. is one of the all time great actors, his pop was no slouch either but I love the humanity Lon Junior conveys without having to say a word. Even in his last roles when his health was failing, he managed to impart incredible pathos. I put him right up there with actors like Cary Grant and George Sanders.
DAVE: I know that Danielle did not grow up with a horror host. Did you?
GAROU: I used to watch Creature Feature when I was a kid, they showed double features, lots of Godzilla movies mostly. They had a voice-over announcer telling us to stay tuned but not a character who appeared onscreen.
DAVE: What advice do you have for other horror host “sidekicks?”
GAROU: It’s okay to occasionally lick the scenery but try to avoid chewing it. You don’t want to drown out your co-hosts when they are speaking or pull focus from them with your antics. Try to find the balance between adding a little color without upstaging the focus.
DAVE: This one I can’t resist. I love the story of how Penny Dreadful, through a misguided spell, became a hostess. What is Garou’s back story and how did a werewolf end up the love interest of a 600 year old witch?
GAROU: I hate to leave you hanging but you’ll just have to stay tuned to Shilling Shockers to find out more about Garou’s past.
Well Dave, thanks for asking all these great questions, you gave me much to consider. I think this is where I should say goodnight but I’ve never been good at goodbyes, so I’ll leave it up to someone else. And to end, since I can’t quote Harpo, here is something one of his brothers once said. Groucho to be specific, though I love them all, even Gummo and Zeppo. Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Chico as well. “Until then, so long, skol, arrivederci, prosit, salud, hasta la vista, a bientot and ciao. (Ciao, in case you don’t know, is an Italian salutation. It is also a breed of dog that will bite your ass off for no reason at all.)”
If you mention “horror host” to someone randomly on the street more than likely the response will be Elvira. If you mention “horror host” to a fan chances are you will get a whole list of classic characters, including Vampira, Zacherley, Svengoolie, Morgus The Magnificent, The Ghoul, Sir Graves Ghastley, Dr. Paul Bearer, Ghoulardi and many, many others. Even names like Bob Wilkins and John Stanley may be mentioned. Though many of these hosts have come and gone, one is still going strong in the Washington, DC area. His name is Count Gore DeVol.
Count Gore made his debut in 1973 on WDCA with his show Creature Feature. Dick Dyszel, the man behind the makeup, also played Bozo The Clown in the morning and Captain 20, a Spock-like character, who would host cartoons in the afternoon. Initially Creature Feature ran from 1973 until 1979. Then, through persistance, he was able to revive it for a 2nd run from 1984-1987. By this time, WDCA was doing what most stations around the country were doing…cutting costs and getting rid of locally produced shows. Since then, the Count has reappeared online with his own weekly internet-based web cast, being the first horror host in history to do this! You can check out his show here.
I myself didn’t become aware of the Count until just a few years ago when someone sent me copies of his show. I was immediately drawn to the Count’s character and loved his innocence and charm. He was someone who tried so very hard to succeed but just couldn’t seem to catch a break, especially with the ladies. The show oftentimes seemed ad-libbed which made the show more fun and it seemed to flow more naturally. He wasn’t afraid to make fun of himself and if something went wrong it was common for the footage to be left in and there were times you would see the Count start laughing. Even though he was usually showing the cheesiest of the b-grade monster flicks, he always managed to give them a degree of respectability. Because of his love of the movies, as well as his love for the Count, Dick Dyszel created a show that is often imitated but never duplicated.
To show how loved and respected Count Gore DeVol is, one only needs to look as far as his fellow horror hosts. There was a time when hosts were very territorial and possessive of their characters and shows. Now, thanks in part to the Count and the Horror Host Underground, these hosts are helping each other by promoting each others’ shows and even making guest appearances on each others’ programs. It certainly is a great time to be a fan of horror hosts! I spoke with a few hosts, all of which were more than willing to contribute to this piece with their thoughts on the good Count. This is what they had to say…
“Count Gore De Vol represents everything good about the horror host. He was part of the heyday of the hosts in the past and was responsible for bringing the hosts back to the spotlight in recent years when he was the first to have a weekly show online. He loves his fans as much as they love him and even after all these years he is as warm and friendly as ever. He has affected more peoples lives than he will ever know and I am grateful that he continues to do that voodoo that he do so well.” – Ormon Grimsby, host of Monster Creature Feature
“Count Gore is the Grandfather of the Internet Horror Host. Tales From The Graveyard Shift owes its start on the internet to Count Gore!” – Dr. Pureblood, host of Tales From The Graveyard Shift
“When I began tinkering with the notion of doing this hosting thing, I was searching for movie sites on-line and the first hosted one I came across was Count Gore DeVol’s. Seeing a real horror host doing his thing on the net gave me the motivation to go ahead with my planned project of doing an internet based show of my own. My top-hat is off to the count for being such a pioneer! It’s truly amazing that he began doing internet stuff in 98. Especially when you consider how “new” the whole internet idea was to all of us at that time!” – Sigmund Zoid, host of Alternative Realities TV
“I consider myself very lucky to have “grown up” during the 1970′s…having a TV host like Captain 20, and Count Gore De Vol, to educate and entertain. The influence of Dick Dyszel’s marvelous characters, reached almost a million kids in the DC area at the time, and it’s something that made television really special. You had to “be there” to watch it, there were no repeats, you couldn’t buy a tape, and there was nowhere else it could be seen. Kids were literally glued to their TV sets every afternoon for Captain 20 and Saturday nights for Count Gore. The fact that he is STILL doing his act on the web, is such a great thing for me, and all the people who grew up watching, as well as the people all over the world, who now get to literally “be involved” in the show, thru the internet on Creature Feature: the veekly veb program !!!!…Long may the Count continue to creaturize the country !!!!!!!!!” - Karlos Borloff, host of Monster Madhouse
“The man sucks blood–but oozes charm. People who’ve never even seen his show are drawn to him and the ladies fall down at his feet like a sack of wet phone books. Mr. Lobo sees him in action and thinks about possibly trying on some make-up and a cape…” – Mr. Lobo, host of Cinema Insomnia
“To me, Count Gore De Vol represents the ancient… er, classic Seventies era approach to Horror Hosting, and is the genuine relic… um, article, and a great deal of fun to watch, even if he is one of the 3 worst Horror Hosts in the history of the genre. Seriously, I have a great deal of respect for the man, no matter what goes on in his hotel rooms at these conventions with all of those underage Campfire Girls. And, his camera operator’s smokin’ hot!” – The Bone Jangler, host of The Bone Jangler’s Daytime Dungeon
“The word “legend” is tossed around a lot in the entertainment world. Well, Count Gore honestly and truly is a TV legend. While his talent, skill and professionalism absolutely play a large part in his status as a Horror Host icon, that isn’t all there is to it. You see, Count Gore is also a great guy – as in friendly, down-to-earth and approachable. A lot of people in the entertainment world would do well to take their cues from the Count. I am honored to call him a friend.” – Penny Dreadful, host of Shilling Shockers
“I met Count Gore DeVol at the National Haunters Convention over the summer. It was my first official outing as a brand-new horror host and Count Gore DeVol was just wonderful and charismatic! If only I had any more money left I would have wanted to walk away with one of everything at his table. Count Gore DeVol is an inspiring influence for both aspiring actors and horror hosts.” – Roxsy Tyler, host of Roxsy Tyler’s Carnival Of Horrors
“I have met Count Gore once and He is a true gentleman. He deserves a ton of respect not only for his many years on television but the fact that he gave birth to the whole “internet Horrorhost” genre with his website… a true visionary.” – Marlena Midnight, host of Midnight Mausoleum
“Count Gore DeVol is an original. He pioneered the web movement. CGDV is one classy sucker!” - Ms. Monster, host of Hel On Ice
“Count Gore DeVol is a true pioneer of the horror hosting genre! He has endured the test of time! He started out on TV in the ’70s then made the venture online in the ’90s to be the first Internet horror host! He is a real inspiration to me! I’ve met Count Gore at several conventions and he has alvays been very gracious and supportive tovards me. I had the opportunity to interview The Count at the recent HorrorHound Weekend Convention in Indy and learned even more insight about his background. Recently, a documentary vas made about his long career that included his other notable characters Captain 20 and Bozo! Gore is simply one amazing talent and a Cool Ghoul!” – Count Sam Gregula, host of Count Gregula’s Crypt
“I truly, truly admire the man. He’s been the most supportive individual in the world as a friend, and a true professional in all my horror host efforts! I mean, he could be using all of his energy to promote his own show, for chrissakes, but he’s taken time to help me with Spooky Movie Television as well. He still has no idea how hard it is not to to have a fanboy moment and go, “YOU’RE MY HERO! Ohmuhgod!” I never want to say, “I grew up watching you!” I don’t want to date either of ourselves! HAHAHAH!” - John “Doctor Sarcofiguy” Dimes, Spooky Movie Television, and author of “There Are No Bad Movies! (Only Bad Audiences)”
Over the last few years there have been a few horror host documentaries released, like AMERICAN SCARY and VIRGINIA CREEPERS. Though both are highly recommended only one was released dealing solely with the man of the hour, Count Gore DeVol. In mid 2010 the Count Gore documentary EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN was released on BrinkDVD. Needless to say, this much anticipated release did not disappoint and it is highly recommended for any horror host library. It was actually seeing this DVD that prompted me to write this piece! If you don’t have a copy you can order one by clicking on the image of the cover artwork below.
And now…what you have all been waiting for! My interview with Count Gore DeVol!!!
ME: Were you a fan of monster movies growing up? If so, what are some of your favorites?
COUNT GORE: I liked scary movies, some with monsters, some without. I grew up in the 50’s so I got to watch a lot of big bug films….atomic radiation was all the rage. I also liked films about outer space, most of which had monsters included at no extra charge.
ME: Did you have a favorite horror host growing up? If so, who?
COUNT GORE: I watched “Shock Theater” with Marvin on Channel 7 in Chicago. He was a beatnik with thick glasses and a tall, curvy wife whose face we never saw.
ME: What made you decide to be a horror host?
COUNT GORE: Too much beer. The general manager of the station, another co-worker and myself were watching a bunch of demo movie open packages very late one night after way too many beers. An open for a horror showcase came up and I yelled in my best Transylvanian accent, “That’s what we need, a horror host!” The GM turn around and said, “You’re hired!” the rest, as they say is history.
ME: What were your inspirations for the character of Count Gore De Vol?
COUNT GORE: Once it became obvious that the GM was serious, I looked to my closet to define the character. I had a tux, a cape (this was the 70’s) and could roll my Rs with the best of them. So I decided on a vampire. Besides, it gave me an excuse to bite the necks of pretty young girls (this was still the 70’s)!
ME: You are obviously very supportive of other horror hosts in that you have them on your show all of the time. Who are some of your favorites today and why?
COUNT GORE: Yes, in this global environment, there’s enough room for everyone who wants to be a host and the only way to find out if you are any good is to work at it and let the public decided. Once the Internet came about, I met and became friends with such hosts as A. Ghastlee Ghoul, The Bone Jangler, Laslo, Butch Cleaver, The Son of Ghoul, Karlos Borloff, Dr. Sarcofiguy, Mr. Lobo and Penny Dreadful, to name just a few. I really like to hang with them because they are so talented….and I hope some it rubs off!
ME: You have taken your show CREATURE FEATURE into an all new direction by having it online. Would you ever want to go back to network television?
COUNT GORE: My general response to that question is, “Why would I want to do that? I now have the whole world as an audience. Why would I want to go back to just one market?” The answer that I rarely give is, “For money!!!” The Internet is a great place but few people make a living by offering entertainment. So, if a station or network made me an offer I couldn’t refuse…I wouldn’t!”
ME: I loved the documentary of you EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN. Do you have plans of releasing any of your shows on DVD?
COUNT GORE: I’ve had shows and compilations out since 1998!!! The Legacy series covers studio segments from my TV days without the movies. The Classics series has the public domain films I showed on TV with the local segments…..just like they appeared on TV, but without all the cheezy commercials. they are available from my web program or at conventions I attend.
ME: What made you leave your native Chicago for Washington, DC. According to Wikipedia you are living back in Chicago now…is this true? Are you a fan of Chicago horror host Svengoolie?
COUNT GORE: See, you can’t believe everything you see on the Internet. I’ve been back in the DC area since 2005. I did spend 10 year back in Chicago, which is where I grew up, But for me DC is really home. On a recent trip back to the Windy City, I did finally meet and have lunch with Svengoolie. What a great guy! He is one of the last and best major market TV horror hosts and I hope to have him on my show someday.
ME: You have always been one of the most innovative of horror hosts…first to host NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD unedited, first to air in stereo, first to utilize the web…do you have any big plans for the future?
COUNT GORE: Actually the next “first” will be a show that is fully mobile compatible. As you know Apple products do not show video encoded with Flash. But, beginning on Step. 18, all of the video I produce for the web program…including the movies with be viewable on your iPod, iPhone, iPad, or any other iDevice Apple comes up with….and I do make some interesting guesses as to what they may be…as part of the movie showcase!
ME: You mentioned in your “Rue Morgue” piece (issue #103, August 2010) that back in the day horror hosts were territorial with each other. Did you have any contact with any of these hosts back then? Do you still find them to be territorial?
COUNT GORE: No, the only host from the “old” days that I actually met was the late Dr. Shock from Philly. Remember, it was very hard and expensive to move video tape around back then. Heck, it was only after the Internet came about that I finally saw some of Elvira’s shows! I guess in some ways we are all still a bit territorial when it comes to our work…no, I think protective is a better word.
ME: Do you watch any horror hosted shows?
COUNT GORE: From time to time I catch clips that are posted on various horror host forums. I really don’t have a lot of time to sit back and watch and enjoy movies. Besides being a horror host, I do have various other business interests that keep me very busy.
ME: You have had guests on your show but never a sidekick. Why didn’t you opt to have a sidekick like many of the hosts have?
COUNT GORE: When I was working on Washington TV, I was a union performer at a union station. The station wasn’t about to pay for a sidekick. So, I learned to work within that environment. We did have guests, but guests didn’t have to be paid. I’m still a member of the union and after 35+ years, doing a solo act is both natural and expected. That being said, however, I do have an annual sidekick in the form of the lovely Countess Von Stauffenberger, played by the talented author Eleanor Herman. Every New Year’s Eve she comes on the show for our annual date and every year the universe finds a new way from keep us from becoming….an item! My black heart gets broken again and again.
ME: Do you still feel that BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS is the worst movie ever made?
COUNT GORE: ABSOLUTELY!!!! Although I have seen a few new first time efforts that do give it a run for its money.
To show how popular horror hosts have been getting lately, you really only have to look at your newsstand these days. SCARY MONSTERS MAGAZINE regularly covers the horror host world and even recently HORRORHOUND MAGAZINE and RUE MORGUE have jumped on the proverbial bandwagon (and of course, who can forget the amazing HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis this past March 26-28th that featured the largest horror host gathering ever attempted to date?). Luckily for us the horror host world is going strong and it doesn’t look like it will be letting up anytime soon! Lucky us!
At this point I really want to express my thanks to ALL of the horror hosts that contributed to this piece. Not only has their support of Count Gore DeVol be great but their support of this website has been overwhelming. Also, I am extremely thankful that Count Gore DeVol himself took the time to do the interview with me…he is a true gentleman and I really appreciate it!
This past weekend, Chicago celebrated it’s annual Wizard Con at the Donald E. Stephen’s Convention Center in Rosemont. This is the Midwestern version of the famous San Diego Comic Con – largest of all fan events.
It’s been a long time since I collected comic books and about 12 years since my last Wizard Con (or whatever they called it back then as it has changed ownership periodically over the years). Upon discovering that THE EXORCIST star, Linda Blair, along with a few alumni from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” would be in attendance, I decided to give it another shot.
Last July I had attended G-Fest at the same location. Unlike the Godzilla Festival, which boasts about 1300-1500 attendees, Wizard Con utilized the full main floor of the convention center to accomodate it’s 500 celebrity guests (actors, artists, etc) and legions of fans.
In regards to fan conventions, I can safely say that bigger is not always better. Despite it’s immense size and impressive guest list, Wizard Con offers little to its fans aside from sore legs, hurt feelings, and empty pocket books.
We went on Friday, specifically avoiding the Saturday crowds, arriving a couple hours after the show opened to avoid waiting in line. Since I had prepaid online, we were able to enter the main hall with relative ease.
I walked past the “Buffy” section featuring James Marsters (Spike), Clare Kramer (Glory), and Nicholas Brendan (Xander). It was great seeing them “live” and I was about to enter their autograph lines when I noticed a sign hanging above them which read, “No Pose Photography.”
This was a common feature of Wizard Con along with their convention staff/volunteers acting more as gestapo (preventing anyone from getting close to their idols) as opposed to providing assistance to the conventioneers. Most of the celebrities, with a few exceptions, sat like automatons providing minimal interaction with thier fans.
Needless to say, I decided to remove myself from the line. I love “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and will always consider it to be one of my favorite television programs of all time. If I was meeting Sarah Michelle Gellar, that would have been one thing. However, we’re talking about supporting cast members who haven’t engaged in a whole lot of noteworthy projects since the show’s demise.
While celebrity signatures make great collectibles, I prefer to have a photograph taken with them instead. An old friend of mine once had a room in his apartment covered with framed photos of himself along with members of the rock band KISS, Judas Priest, etc. To me, this was the ultimate trophy room and I could have stared at those walls for hours. At the very least, a genuine moment of me expressing admiration for their work along with a glimmer of appreciation from them (considering the lengths I took to tell them so) would suffice.
With my dreams of getting a photograph with the “Buffy” stars up in a proverbial cloud of “vampire dust,” it was now time to meet Linda Blair. There was no line to meet her and she was readily available. Handling her business transactions was “her neighbor” who was very friendly. Blair had a wide assortment of photos to choose from which could be divided into two main categories; EXORCIST shots and those depicting Blair cuddling with fuzzy puppies (hows that for contrast?).
An avid member of PETA, the 51 year old actress has dedicated her life to dog rescue and adoption. She does this via her own “Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation.” All the money she charges for her autographs ($25) and/or photo with her ($15) was exclusively donated to her charity. Her dedication to man’s best friend is admirable. In terms of celebrity meetings, however, I’d have to rate Ms Blair a paultry “four” out of ten.
She was not interested in talking about THE EXORCIST, only her foundation. Her appearance at Wizard Con was clearly all business, with little regard for the role that made her famous let alone her devoted fans. I could almost imagine the conversation that took place between Blair and her business manager while going over her foundation’s finances. Manager: “Gee, it looks like we may be going over budget.” Blair: “Oh crap, I guess I’ll have to do a few of those damn fan conventions! Don’t worry, Fido (while stroking a canine’s head) for you I’ll gladly enter the gates of Hell!”
As soon as you got in front of her, she handed you one of her fliers. When she saw me hand it off to my son so it wouldn’t show up in the photo I was taking with her, she looked annoyed and tossed another one at me. Don’t get me wrong, I love animals. But this was a fan event and not a dog show. Furthermore, if I want to support dog rescues, I have a local Humane Society that doesn’t have the benefit of Blair’s celebrity status to bring in much needed funds.
It would be in the best interest of the “WorldHeart Foundation” if Ms Blair took a tip from FRIDAY THE 13TH actress, Adrienne King. By embracing her horror heritage as opposed to shying away from it, Ms King discovered that cozying up to her fan base can be downright lucrative (see earlier post). Here’s an idea Linda, how about selling your own brand of pea soup with a shot of you possessed on the label? You’d please your fans by offering a hilarious collectible while, at the same time, make plenty of cash for your four-legged pals.
The one thing I will give Blair is that she was willing to personalize my autograph exactly as I specified. The photo I had taken with her ended up a bit too bright but this lovely collectible prevented the entire experience from literally going to the dogs!
I’m sure some people had better experiences than I had meeting with their respective celebrities. I’m not a Trekkie nor a Batman fan so I have no idea how they were treated. I saw that Illinois public access host, Count Sam Gregula, had a bit more luck thanks to his persistence and press pass. I’m hoping he’ll share his experience with this blog so perhaps readers can get a more rounded view. I did notice that TERMINATOR star, Linda Hamilton, was very ingratiating towards her fans and seemed genuinely pleased to meet them. During the numerous times I walked past her booth, I observed her joking around and happily posing for pictures. It’s nice to know that a few celebrities remembered the reason they were asked to attend this event in the first place. Ultimately, however, I hold Wizard Con responsible for allowing them free reign.
I noticed the following day that former Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, made an unscheduled appearance. It is my understanding that, for a price, he would pose for photos and sign autographs. The press treated it as a groundbreaking story though I exhibited no surprise. As far as I was concerned, the disgraced “pay to play” Governor had certainly come to the right place.
Slinking down a dark corridor, illuminated only by the glow of soft candles and dry ice, Maila Nurmi makes her grand entrance. In the unlikely event that her seductive gaze failed in seizing your immediate attention, there is no doubt that her skin tight black dress, accenting the quintessential “wasp” waist, certainly would.
Little did Los Angeles viewers of local channel, KABTV, know it at the time, they were not just witnessing the debut of Vampira but the birth of the American horror host. While the Finnish beauty stood alone in 1954, there were easily over 100 active horror hosts (including commercial television, cable, public access, and Web) at the time of her death in 2008.
Although her tenure was relatively short, her contribution to television can not be overstated. Whether you’re in Chicago (like myself) tuning in to Svengoolie every Saturday night, howling with Wolfman Mac in Michigan, or holding your sides from laughter while watching Zomboo in Reno, you are enjoying the fruits of Vampira. In March, 2010 a cavalcade of grateful, modern hosts descended upon the Indianapolis Horrorhound Convention to pay tribute to this remarkable woman.
For me, the timing could not have been better. It wasn’t long ago that I had been under the false impression that Svengoolie was the only horror host still active today. This past year I was able to experience the work of numerous others from across the country. They include men, women, vampires, witches, werewolves, and mad scientists. Horror hosting, it would appear, is the ultimate equal opportunity job. Some are creepy, some hilarious, and all are quite unique. Learning about them was not only fascinating but also highly entertaining.
The majority of horror hosts today are comprised of passionate individuals, taking their love of horror films to the “next level.” They return from their day jobs only to don make-up and adopt a clever alter ego. They are often joined by an attractive assistant, with their best friends acting as film crew. These dedicated folks air their shows via public access television. They can often be seen doing interviews at local conventions and eagerly selling the fruits of their labor. I always try to support them whenever I can which is probably why I now have over ten different versions of THE GIANT GILA MONSTER.
The rise of corporate television, and consequent near extinction of local channels, has all but killed the “classic” horror hosts that many of us were fortunate to grow up with. These are the ones that cause older fans, like myself, to develop lumps in their throats and become weepy with nostalgia at the mere mention of their names. Some have managed to survive the odds and are still standing today. They are the rarest and most influential in the horror host realm. They would include such titans as Svengoolie, Zomboo, and Son of Ghoul. Like their predecessors, these men are professional hosts working at local, commercial television stations. Their job security is based, like any network program, on ratings and viewership. This is no easy feat when one takes into account the movies that are available to them, and the fact that most people can readily access these same films from Netflix or the $1 DVD bin at Walmart.
Another emerging group of hosts are comprised of those who have taken their shows into the new age via weekly web casts. Classic host, Count Gore de Vol, has evolved into this medium. This year’s Rondo award winner for “Best Horror Host” has been presenting movies since the 1970′s. Consequently, he has developed a huge following of fans, one of which created an amazing documentary EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN. While watching that movie, I found it so fascinating that while I was enjoying the Son of Svengoolie in Chicago, kids my age in Washington DC were sharing the same devotion with Count Gore de Vol.
Representatives from all facets of hosting were represented at the Vampira Tribute. There was, however, one glaring exception. As I checked the Horrorhound website, I noticed that Svengoolie was not listed as one of the attendees. I started feeling like I was being disloyal celebrating horror hosts without my favorite one being present.
As fate should have it, Svengoolie was making an appearance at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo the day before Horrorhound. As a volunteer of the zoo, I had planned on attending the event anyway (raising money for “Vital Grounds” an organization dedicated to obtaining land for grizzlies) only to have my worlds collide with the announcement that Svengoolie was going to be our guest of honor.
I had met Rich Koz numerous times since 2003, but this visit was a bit different than the norm. This time I was seeking the blessing of my patron host, to fraternize with his peers (yes, folks, I was raised Catholic).
I researched some of the hosts attending Horrorhound and discovered that Penny Dreadful and Doktor Goulfinger were both fans of Svengoolie. When I met Rich at the zoo, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind signing one of his WCIU promo cards for these two hosts. I clenched my teeth, half expecting him to yell “TRAITOR!” while flicking the cards back at me. Instead, he was very happy to oblige. He instantly knew who both of these hosts were and I could tell by his facial expression that he liked them. He also told me he was sorry he was unable to attend the Tribute and wished me a great time. Phew!
My conscience clear, it was now time to meet some of the other hosts……
(To be continued…..)