After a long and busy Saturday at Horrorhound Weekend, Brian and I relaxed and ordered dinner in our room. While it’s rarely a positive experience for any Chicagoan to order pizza outside of city limits, this was the perfect food choice when one planned on following it up with copious amounts of alcohol. Saturday nights at Horrorhound were notorious for their raucous all night gatherings…and this year I was determined to join their party! Afterwards, I headed outside for some air and met a guy in the lobby who pulled out a mason jar that looked as if it were half full of motor oil. “Want some moonshine?” he asked.
I smiled but hesitated. It had only been the week before on St. Patrick’s Day when I’d indulged in another home-made concoction with my fellow pod-caster, Jason, resulting in a drunken argument between us. I’m batting a 1,000 with friends these days, folks! Please check out the “Podcast” link at the top of this page to hear our first (and possibly final) eight episodes of Terror on Tequila!
Written by Dr. Destruction…
Back in Junior High, I was one of many aspiring young artists who enjoyed drawing comic book characters. I guess 9th grade is when adolescent boys start to notice the opposite sex and I became enthralled with female comic heroines. While many of my talented friends were sketching Marvel’s “The Incredible Hulk,” I preferred drawing their lesser known characters such as “Valkyrie.”
Open letter from Kenosha Horror Host, Dr. Destruction, to fans of The Big Top Radio Show…
It has been almost a year now since I brought back the Big-Top Radio broadcast. With all the connections I had made since it originally aired in 2009, I looked forward to it making a huge comeback and indeed it had. The AM radio show was a wild combination of Horror Hosts and underground bands that, as a fan, never got the air play that I felt they deserved. Having Horror Host guests like Svengoolie, Count Gore de Vol, Son of Ghoul, Stella Desire, and Ivonna Cadaver along with musical guests such as Sylvain Sylvain, Cheetah Chrome, and Sami Yaffa was like a dream come true for me.
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!).
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.
I was happily surprised to run into Mr. Lobo and Dixie at the annual FRIGHT NIGHT FILM FEST in Kentucky! As mentioned in our recent Atomic Age Cinema piece, horror hosts were slated to appear at this event but Mr. Lobo wasn’t one of them. Needless to say, the sight of the spectacled host wearing his signature suit & green/black striped tie was a welcomed one at that! I found the mastermind of Cinema Insomnia chatting with Blake Powell, the guru behind Midnite Mausoleum, and wasted no time interrupting the two late night TV mavericks.
Despite my intrusion, Lobo was as warm and friendly as he had been when the other Dave and I first met him this past March. Ironically, I had another opportunity to chat with him just the previous week via “Dr Destruction’s Big Top Radio Show.” I joined the Kenosha host and his co-host, Charlotte, in the WLIP studio during its debut broadcast – an event that featured phone interviews with Lobo, Stella Desire, and A. Ghastlee Ghoul. Despite my best efforts, however, I was unable to get a word in edge-wise! One thing about Mr. Lobo, he does not fumble for words and busily recited “on-air” all the work that he and Dixie had been up to this past summer. I made a couple of awkward attempts to chime in (particularly regarding his newest “Elvira” issue of HORROR HOSTS magazine) but, as it turns out, Lobo didn’t even know I was in the station. Fate, however, was prepared to give me a second chance.
Mr. Lobo was embarking on a cross-country journey back to his native California when he and his fiance’/business partner, Dixie Dellamorte, decided to make a pit stop at FRIGHT NIGHT. We stood in an entryway that connected the main dealer room to a hallway that featured the hosts – Midnite Mausoleum, Horror Dungeon, and the host friendly Thomas Berdinsky from THE ITALIAN ZOMBIE MOVIE and had a nice conversation.
Lobo reiterated what he’d stated on Destruction’s radio show; he had just wrapped up work in Virginia on a film spin-off of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, worked with film-maker, Sean Kotz, on a documentary featuring classic Virginia host – The Bowman Body (see story HERE), and spent some time hanging out with fellow host pal - the incomparable Karlos Borloff from MONSTER MADHOUSE!
Both David and I are great admirers of Cinema Insomnia and I mentioned to Lobo some of my favorite CI moments. Moments such as the racially ambiguous jokes from his presentation of MONSTER FROM A PREHISTORIC PLANET, his disgust of Peter Graves participating in BIGFOOT: MYSTERIOUS MONSTER, and the awkward yet hilarious exchanges between himself and his idol, the late Bob Wilkins, during a past Halloween Special to name but a few.
I also made a point to tell him how much I enjoyed his music. Cinema Insomnia’s anthem – “I’m Watching TV” successfully captures the 1970′s “Banana Splits/Creature Feature” era I grew up in and receives year-round play in my household.
Another favorite Lobo song, “Halloween Candy,” is performed by the man himself and, despite being packed with lots of tricks, is a definite musical treat! This irreverent, seasonal favorite of mine has been featured on The Dr. Demento Halloween Show and highlights the signature, dry sense of humor that makes Lobo so “laugh out loud” funny. I was happy to have an opportunity to convey this to him personally – while encouraging him to create his own novelty CD. Lobo stated he is currently working on a seasonal music collection featuring scary sounds ala’ vintage Walt Disney.
Even more exciting is the highly anticipated next issue of the aforementioned HORROR HOSTS Magazine featuring The Mistress of the Dark! Glimpses of its cover show a skillfully crafted Elvira/mummy whose bandages in NO way detract from the physical attributes that helped make her famous. This cover, like last issue’s amazing Al Lewis portrait, was created by both Lobo and Dixie – a clear indication that this is one artistic couple who knows how to harmonize their skills. The actual painting will be given to Elvira (who participated in this issue) after the magazine’s printing. For those of us who can’t get enough of the “gal in black, who works on her back,” this will definitely be a must read!
HORROR HOSTS Magazine is prepared to go deeper than a mere expose’ by seeking the origins of Elvira’s famous look. While many will be quick to site Vampira as her direct influence (which of course she was) and Vampira’s to Morticia Addams – HORROR HOSTS Magazine will take us even further back! I was shocked to discover that our culture’s image of the archetype sinister female (svelte, macabre woman wearing a black dress) actually pre-dates The Adams Family and am eager to get my hands on the next issue to learn more!
This is the very essence as to why Mr. Lobo’s Cinema Insomnia works so well for me as an adult fan. Lobo manages to keep a respectful eye on classic horror hosts & their history, while forging ahead as a unique, modern one. This was illustrated last March at the Horror Host Hall of Fame Ceremony (conducted at Horrorhound) where Lobo gave an emotional explanation for why fans who grew up with a commercial host (such as myself) have such a deep/admiration for them as adults. “He was your guy.” said Lobo. (MORE QUOTES FROM INDUCTION). At the same time, he shows no obvious influences from previous hosts; portraying himself as both snarky and self-depreciating – a contradiction Lobo balances well. Whether the joke is on him, the viewer, the movie, or one of his guests it is almost always funny and has me quickly seeking out another episode. And, in that regard, the future is bright…
As mandated by his recent successful telethon, Mr. Lobo will soon be filming his next full season of Cinema Insomnia in which he promises to continue his quest in presenting films less common in the hosting realm. This is a challenge to most horror hosts operating today but Mr. Lobo has already established himself as one who has no trouble overcoming odds. This was never more evident than his recent triumphant fund-raising campaign which saw him reach his goal of $10,000 despite being conducted during an economic crises and amid the holidays! It was a risky gamble but, in the end, his devoted Cinsomniacs would not let him down and we can now all look forward to new episodes.
The next day we met up again in the dealer’s room and said our goodbyes. Just like I did when we parted at Horrorhound, I always give Dixie a big hug while singing a slow, acapella version of “Watching TV.” Sort of like having an end “theme song” like the old Carol Burnett Show or Donnie and Marie Osmond. It’s humorous and more than a bit odd I must admit.
What can I say? Being around Mr. Lobo and Dixie somehow makes me feel nostalgic….and that’s a feeling we horror host fans live for!
“Back in the day,” classic horror hosts not only thrived on commercial television but also retained a powerful connection to their local communities. Whether attending a parade, shaking hands at a mall, or giving a birthday message “shout out” on their programs – these men & women endeared themselves to viewers in ways national celebrities could not.
Often their popularity and legacy was never fully realized until many years later when their younger fans would “grow up” and associate them with carefree times, now lost to the stressful adult world they live in today. Filled with nostalgia, these fans develop a strong devotion towards their host that can almost be considered “religious” in nature.
As a Chicago man, I understand this phenomena quite well. We middle-aged fans in the “Windy City” are fortunate to have the same host from our youth (Rich Koz/Svengoolie) still churning out weekly presentations on local, commercial television today. This is an extremely rare situation when looked at from a national perspective and has also created an interesting mindset amongst Chicago viewers.
Frustrating to many “outsiders,” Chicagoans have been living in a proverbial horror host “box.” Svengoolie’s longevity, coupled with our nostalgic devotion, have caused us to become “Svengoolie-centric.” This condition is characterized by not only living under the false belief that Svengoolie is the only horror host, but that he is the inventor of many time-honored horror host traditions such as “Svensurround” (injecting comments and sound effects into the films being presented), the “man at the door” shtick (made famous by Soupy Sales) and commercial/song parodies.
Mentioning to my Svengoolie brothers and sisters that other hosts exist is guaranteed to be met with a mixture of disbelief and scorn, especially if you dare mention that you have come to appreciate their work as well. A local fan, such as myself, who dares to broaden his horizons can quickly be viewed as a modern day Benedict Arnold if not careful. Even the national “Mistress of the Dark,” Elvira, was far from achieving a hero’s welcome when her new “Movie Macabre” debuted a few weeks ago. So far as many Chicago genre fans are concerned, she can place that low-cut, black dress back into mothballs and keep it there. This is despite the fact that she not only shares the same channel as Svengoolie (at a much inferior time slot), but is also able to claim Rich Koz as one of her fans.
This “invisible fence” has successfully kept many ambitious commercial hosts from achieving syndication in Chicago’s powerful media market. It is important to note that this shield is composed of “fans” and not Svengoolie himself. Our patron host, for his part, has never said anything negative about his fellow hosts. In his unique position, however, he really doesn’t have to. So powerful is the fervor of his fan base that I believe it will retain its hold for many years after Svengoolie is (God forbid) no longer on the air. It may be a long time before any new host is accepted, no matter how talented he or she is, unless Svengoolie were to crown them himself. Even in that unlikely event, this would still be far from a guarantee.
But what of the public access hosts who dwell within this barrier? How do you attempt to build your own flock amidst the presence of an active “god” and his fanatical followers who view you as a hapless “wannabe” and interloper? On the Northern edge of Svengoolie’s vast empire, lies the quaint town of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Here you can find another host, whom locals know as Dr. Destruction (Dale Wamboldt). This public access host caught my attention shortly before the Horrorhound convention last March and, upon viewing some of his work, completely fascinates me.
I can only describe his show as a sort of macabre version of the “Tonight Show,” featuring a horror host in place of a regular one. Dr Destruction sits at his desk while having an open, unscripted conversation with his guests. These individuals range from other hosts, a colorful ”sidekick,” or local personalities which may include (but are not limited to) politicians, artisans, Kenosha union workers, or even a Chicago dominatrix. He discusses a myriad of topics but his favorites deal with current events and local politics. Not being employed by a television station gives him the freedom to discuss virtually anything he wants, and Dr Destruction is a highly dogmatic individual.
I drove up to Kenosha to commune with him at the Jerry Smith Pumpkin Farm this past Saturday. It’s about 90 minutes from where I live and I made record time. This fall festival features camel/pony/hayrides, home grown pumpkins, apple cider, and face-painting.
For older fans looking to explore the more sinister side of Halloween, there is Dr. Destruction’s Haunted Forest. This attraction has been part of the festival since 1992 – eight years before Dale would begin work as a host. It’s structure was created by Destruction himself and features many classic monsters of whom he is a fan.
Tickets were to be purchased directly from Dr Destruction (in costume) who sat at the entrance, inside a replica of the old gypsy wagon from THE WOLF MAN. This was also a creation of the Wisconsin host and, as a big fan of the Universal classic, I found it utterly fantastic!
Destruction greeted me before inviting me to go through his attraction. Lots of twists and turns through a corn maze led me to encounter some of the denizens of his haunted woods. Some lucky Kenosha teens have an opportunity to make extra cash by dressing in their own costumes to haunt the visitors. Dale refers to them as his “spooks” and allows everyone an opportunity to make a contribution without being micro-managed. It’s a delicate business dealing with teenagers, but Destruction is careful to treat them like adults, while not allowing them to forget that he is always the boss.
Afterwards, he invited me into the wagon to chat. I was expecting to stay and socialize for about hour, but it would be another four hours before I’d leave. I found the experience to be highly informative, if not surreal. Dr. Destruction’s quick wit, coupled with his unerring ability to “tell it like it is,” played like a “Live” horror host presentation, with me as his only audience and the visitors his unwitting cast.
While most of us genre fans savor and enjoy the Halloween season, Dr Destruction is hard at work at the farm, though still filming his “Crimson Theater” shows every Friday morning. “In many ways I am like a farmer,” said Dale. “I work hard all year round and don’t see the pay-off until harvest time (Halloween season).” When it comes to hard work, Dr Destruction is, hands down, one of the most productive hosts operating today. According to Dale, in the nine years he has been hosting films, almost EVERY week has been a new episode with the word “re-run” scarcely in his vocabulary.
Raised by a blue collar/union worker, Dr. Destruction not only exhibits the spirit of his father’s legacy through his own work ethic but by routinely paying homage to local Kenosha workers (devastated by the exportation of jobs during the current economic crisis) themselves. His show has featured some of these men, many recently unemployed, treating them like celebrities – allowing them a public forum to vent their frustrations while also providing much needed encouragement.
In between customers, Dr. Destruction took the time to chat with me, despite having to manage the ”spooks,” coaxing leery customers into the attraction, and attending to his own personal matters via text messages. It was chaotic, but multitasking is one thing Destruction appears to do quite well and, might I add, humorously.
Despite the laughs, there are issues plaguing the mind of Destruction this day. The local paper, which has for the last several years featured him on the cover of their weekend “Get Out” entertainment section, has decided that, in the spirit of sensationalism, they would pit him against another costumed personality who runs a local haunted attraction named “The Mayor.”
The unusual photo blends the two mens faces together so that they are literally sharing the middle eye ball. Making matters worse, the paper listed a non-existent rivalry by stating “The Mayor vs Dr Destruction.” This was a slap in the face to a man who has a devout love of classic monsters. “Everyone knows that whenever there is a title that shows ’versus” the first one listed is always the one who wins!” says Destruction.
While the paper may have inadvertently declared a “winner,” his public would no doubt disagree. Destruction’s presence in Kenosha is not reserved for Halloween and he has actively plugged local activities on his show while also overseeing many of his own. A student of art, he has worked at art fairs (most recently the “Summer of Lovecraft” featured on this blog), created some of his own amazing paintings, organized a Godzilla festival at a local Dinosaur Museum, mesmerized guests with his “Haunted Bus” attraction, while tirelessly performing with his punk band, “The Dead Leathers.”
It is hard to fathom anyone so creative having the moniker “Destruction” but Dale suggests that the name, held by him since 1980, may be indicative of his own “Jekyll & Hyde” personality. While casting the paper aside he says, “These people don’t understand that there is another side to me and it will come out.”
Ultimately it is the mind of Destruction that would temper any impending violence. Summoning his old friend, and fan of horror hosts, Ari Lehman to provide some star-powered support in lieu of the newspaper’s apparent betrayal. Dr. Destruction is not merely a man in a costume, he is exactly the same person on camera as off. He has built strong ties in the horror/music world and Lehman exemplifies the marriage of both. The actor/musician is most famous for playing the young Jason Vorhees from the original FRIDAY THE 13th. He will forever be remembered by horror fans as the young boy leaping out of the water during the film’s dramatic conclusion. This weekend, Ari Lehman will perform with his band (known as “First Jason”) at the pumpkin farm to celebrate the haunted forest – and Destruction himself.
The ironic part of this situation is that Destruction very nearly became an ACTUAL mayor, having thrown his top hat into Kenosha politics a few years back. For those who find the idea of a horror host becoming mayor far-fetched, I’d like to turn their attention to the town of Chatfield, Ohio run by a certain David Lady. Mr.Lady is not only the town’s mayor but also a horror host, accomplished mask maker, and proprietor of a Haunted Hotel once featured on HGTV.
Dale suggests that he may run again someday, hoping that this time the locals will have become more accustomed with the notion. It is important to note that, despite his political ambitions, he never once violated his public access forum by discussing it on his own show. This could have been no easy feat for a man as outspoken as Dr. Destruction.
Despite his various projects, Destruction asserts that he is more committed than ever to his show. He has expanded his viewership to Milwaukee and, during a recent visit, was inundated by fans he scarcely knew he had. For a man routinely mistaken for Svengoolie, perhaps his future lies here. He is close enough to be considered a local, yet far enough away to no longer be eclipsed under the shadow of a Chicago icon. I have no doubt that a community once home to classic hosts such as Touloose NoNeck and Dr. Cadaverino would be hungry for a new host of their own and can’t think of a better candidate than Dr. Destruction.
As the evening came to a close (a prosperous night for the Haunted Forest in lieu of the beautiful weather) the mood became somber. Destruction leans back, stares out into the now empty festival grounds and laments his own future. “I wonder sometimes where this will all lead. Like 20 years after I’m gone, what will people say about me? Will they even remember who I was?”
Not long before, a young boy seeking admittance to the Haunted Forest pointed to Dr Destruction, beamed a huge smile and said, “You’re that guy on TV!” Unbeknownst to Dr. Destruction, the child may very well have already answered his question.
The main hall of the convention was immense. Locating the horror hosts required careful navigation through crowds of people to reach the opposite side. Once there, you’d find an entire section dedicated to them, along with a schedule roster listing their availability. As many of them were also filming excerpts for their own shows or even entire web casts, catching them all would require frequent visits.
The first host I had the honor of meeting was Doctor Destruction from Wisconsin. My friend and I saw him earlier that evening while dining at the hotel’s restaurant. It was actually a comical moment; in walked the good doctor wearing full make-up, along with his assistant, Eyegore (photo below). I should mention that Horrorhound was not the only convention taking place at our hotel. A smaller group of Veterans had also convened that weekend, creating a bizarre mix of gore hounds and conservative, senior citizens. When Doctor Destruction entered the restaurant, you could of heard a pin drop as all the elderly patrons suddenly stopped conversing and began staring, awestruck. To ease the tension, I called across the room, “Hi Dr. Destruction!” He nodded in return, though I have no doubt he’d grown used to being stared at.
Prior to formally meeting him in the main hall, I had watched some of his “Crimson Theater” shows and enjoyed them. I approached his booth and introduced myself. He was very personable and I was thrilled that, along with his autograph, he was selling copies of his work. He asked which of his episodes I had seen and I responded, VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE. “Oh God, that’s so old!” he said. He pointed to a stack of DVD’s assuring me that, “These are much more current.” I went through them, buying just about every single title. After Horrorhound, I popped in one of these shows and was shocked at how much his program had evolved since VARAN. The sound quality had noticeably improved and he had expanded his empire from local public access in Kenosha, into Milwaukee, Racine, and Muskego via a local, commercial station.
Dr. Destruction has grown quite popular up in Wisconsin with a growing number of fans referred to as “Ghoulies.” He certainly warrants a closer look and will be featured in an upcoming Horror Host Spotlight.
The next host I had the privilege to meet was none other than Penny Dreadful herself! This New England hostess was the winner of the 2007 Rondo Award for “Favorite Active Horror Host(ess).” She was also one of six hosts featured in the latest issue of “Rue Morgue.” This is one witch whose ascension can not be credited to a mere broomstick! Smart and savvy, she has used more than an ample bosom to distinguish herself among her horror host peers (though tongue-wagging, male fans won’t be disappointed in that regard either). She will be covered in much greater detail in my next Horror Host Spotlight.
Penny was joined by her partner (both on and off the screen) the werewolf, Garou. They were both a lot of fun and delighted me by signing her season 5 box set of “Shilling Shockers.” Garou was a bundle of energy and actually very funny. After I left Penny, I was so enamored with meeting her that I left my autographed photo (duh)! True to his character, Garou tracked me down to bring it to me, which was very nice of him.
Prior to Horrorhound, I had watched Penny’s latest, 7th season. My kids and I decided to present her with a gift basket worthy of a witch; rubber creepy crawlies and potions courtesy of the local trick shop. I also included some Svengoolie clips I had burned onto a DVD and the WCIU promo card Svengoolie had signed for her the night before. She graciously reciprocated and that autograph (along with Count Gore de Vol’s) was aired on a recent episode of Svengoolie.
In an effort to support the “home team,” I wore my Svengoolie shirt that first night in the hall. This attracted the attention of another host, and fellow Illinoisan, The Bone Jangler. He was very warm and, despite being an imposing figure, immediately put us at ease. Clearly he loved his status as a horror host as well as being among his peers. I had recently watched his Web presentation of BLOOD FREAK and we talked about that as well as how disappointed I was at not being able to meet his co-host, Nocturna, who was appearing at another event.
Later, I saw The Bone Jangler conversing with the legendary, Son of Ghoul. He noticed me and used the opportunity to introduce me to his famous friend. I thought that was an incredibly nice gesture on his part and I was thrilled to meet the Ohio legend. Son of Ghoul is celebrating his 25th year on commercial television and has legions of Midwestern fans. I found him to be very down to earth and anxiously purchased a stack of his shows. I was alarmed when I heard that he recently suffered a heart attack , but am comforted at the news that he is recovering well. I know there are countless Ohio horror fans that feel the same way.
Others I met included Web hostesses Marlena Midnight and her co-host, Robyn Graves from “Midnight Mausoleum.” We also met Helena the Hussy. I had not viewed any of their works prior to meeting them but they eagerly sold me some episodes to rectify the matter.
As the night waned, I left the convention hall feeling a great sense of accomplishment. Little did I know, however, it was about to end on an even higher note. Exiting the hall, I noticed a VERY familiar face signing autographs to my right. My evening’s finale was about to be served up…..courtesy of The Mistress of the Dark!
(to be continued)