Recently we shared some pictures taken by Svengoolie fan, Jerry Victory, while visiting the host at The Little Boots Rodeo. Jerry also had the privilege of addressing Elvira: Mistress of the Dark during a recent appearance on The Stephanie Miller Show. Svengoolie and Elvira met at The Flashback Weekend convention in 2008. See that clip below… and she had this to say…
National Horror Host Svengoolie has been doing a whirlwind tour of summer appearances which included at stop at The Little Boots Rodeo in Elk Grove Village! I was attending Monsterbash that weekend and asked our dear friend, Jamie Lee Cortese, to cover this event with the same amazing detail she did for us last year (relive that great experience by clicking HERE). I did end up making it to his appearance that Sunday after all but, as I was fatigued from travel and the blistering heat, would be far less effective at handling this event like Jamie can. She attended both days with her amazing family and I can’t wait to hear the full story coming soon!
Not long ago we interviewed the winner of the 2007 FOX Reality Show – “Search for the Next Elvira,” April Wahlin. TERROR FROM BEYOND THE DAVES is now pleased to welcome one of the quintessential Elvira-impersonators, Patterson Lundquist, who graciously agreed to do this interview as well as share even more insights regarding the show! We’d like to thank Patterson for not only answering all of our questions but doing so with an amazing amount of honesty.
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 October of 2007, TV Horror Hostess - Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, debuted her FOX Reality TV show “The Search for the Next Elvira.” The premise of the show was for attractive young contestants to don their own slinky, black dresses while displaying their own hosting skills via a televised competition. Though technically a “reality” game show, this was no “Survivor” nor ”Donald Trump’s Apprentice.” The show never took itself too seriously and the “camp” factor was about as high as the very films Elvira had been famous for hosting. Losing contestants scream in terror as they are ”disintegrated” in a cavalcade of computerized fire and brimstone.
Adding to the cheese was the presence of her midget maid running around sweeping up their left-over ashes along with Elvira’s two drag queen “Manvira” judges; Christian Greenia and Patterson Lundquist.
I distinctly recall the anticipation I had regarding this show when it first aired, as well as being glued to the TV when the big moment finally arrived. Keep in mind, this was back when I was under the impression that Svengoolie and Elvira were the only two hosts in existence and, having just rediscovered Sven’s return to TV three years prior, was anxious to bring his female equivalent back into my life as well. Unfortunately, after watching the first couple of shows, I decided it was probably best that I just stick with Svengoolie while relegating the Mistress of the Dark to those fond memories I had of my 1980′s “Elvira Midnight Madness” VHS tapes!
I felt the show was just too corny (even for me) and was confused by some of the “challenges” presented (e.g. run around a hot theme park and get someone to drink a cup of coffee). Also, I wasn’t sure why they chose to have the winner be a new “Elvira” when Cassandra Peterson is so intertwined with that character they could never be fully accepted. I felt that it would have been more appropriate to have “Elvira Presents: Search for the Next Horror Hostess” where contestants could showcase their own unique characters and hosting schtick rather than just emulating another. Needless to say, I never did stick around long enough to see who finally won.
Nearly four years later, it was a whole new world and perspective. I discovered many more hosts across the globe and joined forces with the other Dave – David Albaugh - in creating this site. We’ve been truly blessed in not only learning a lot regarding the history of horror hosting but also being able to meet them and sample their work We would also see the return of Elvira, herself, to commercial TV via a brand new Movies Macabre series. While her show has received mixed reactions (and for the record we Daves don’t give a hoot what people think, we still love her) it begged the question; “If Cassandra Peterson’s Elvira is back on the air, whatever happened to the “Next” one from the TV competition?”
Having tracked down a copy of the series, I popped it on and watched it from beginning to end. While it was still a bit painful to sit through, after awhile I started getting more into it and picked my own favorite contestant to win. Her name was April Wahlin and she would indeed take home the crown! After conducting my own “Search,” I was able to track her down and was delighted when she took a break during a trip to Europe, to answer a few questions.
DAVE: In the opening episode, it’s hard to gauge how many people actually turned out for their chance at becomming a contestant on “Search for the Next Elvira.” Can you describe that first day on The Queen Mary (where initial auditions took place)?
APRIL: There looked to be about 500 people when I arrived at the Queen Mary, but I didn’t get there until later in the day. The place looked like “Goth night” on the lido deck. My day at the Queen Mary was about 4 hours and, in the end, I never got to go up on stage in front of Elvira. I was kinda heartbroken. They had run out of time so they had us California locals do video interviews. Apparently my tape was the only one that made it out of the cutting room. LOL!
DAVE: Unlike most reality show competitions, there didn’t seem to be a lot of backstabbing and drama between the contestants. Was it safe in assuming you gals all got along pretty well?
APRIL: The other contestants and I got along famously. We had a great time together! Jenny (fellow contestant Jenny Jenson)and I hung out a lot while on set.
DAVE: How much contact did you have with Elvira during filming?
APRIL: No contact with Elvira at all. She had her own dressing room. The only time we saw her was on set.
DAVE: Were the “Man-viras” as tough on contestants as they appeared to be on screen?
APRIL: No the man-viras were sweethearts. Christian was actually really cool.
DAVE: What was life like for you immediately after the show?
APRIL: Stressful, because I wasn’t sure what winning meant. I was very excited, but had no idea what was going on.
APRIL: Officially, for Elvira, I made one appearance as the “Next” Elvira at a Halloween parade in Oklahoma. Had a lot of fun there.
DAVE: Obviously those stilettos are a bit tough to fill. What was the reaction from fans?
APRIL: Fans were mixed on the idea of a new Elvira. Half of them didn’t want the original Elvira to go, even though she really wasn’t, LOL. Others were excited that there might be a new Elvira to return and host movies. There was a lot of confusion. Elvira was never going anywhere, but some people thought she was so they were very critical. I was just supposed to pick up some of the extra work, but that never happened.
APRIL: I’m a nerd. I love comic books and movies. I’m a big STAR WARS fan. I very much enjoy Halloween and all the things that come with it.
DAVE: Overall, do you look at your participation with and winning of the contest as a positive or negative experience?
APRIL: I have thought about horror hosting but don’t really have a way to go about it honestly. Elvira herself was hired to the hosting job and given guidelines for the costume. Everything was set up for her and she could just go. I would have to set up all that if I were to become a horror hostess.. So yes I have considered it but don’t really have a way to go about it.
Special thanks to April Wahlin for her participation in this piece!
We’ve mentioned the documentary, AMERICAN SCARY, many times on this site and for good reason. It has not only served as a road-map to those interested in learning their horror host history, but also provided introductions to some of its most notable examples. If left to cover ALL of the greats, however, the movie would have probably had a running time of approximately 72 hours!
It is for this reason that the independent work done by individual fans – who spend their own time researching and spotlighting their favorite hosts from their specific regions, have proven invaluable! Some prime examples include documentaries such as EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN and VIRGINIA CREEPERS as well as books like FROM SHOCK THEATRE TO SVENGOOLIE.
One region of the United States whose hosts I, as a Midwesterner, knew very little about was Southern California. While doing a blind search for “horror hosts” on ebay, I stumbled upon a book titled CREATURES OF THE NIGHT THAT WE LOVED SO WELL: TV Horror Hosts of Southern California. For someone like myself, eager to learn more about horror hosts, it seemed too good to be true. Needless to say, I wasted no time taking advantage of the “Buy it Now” option. I was further delighted when the seller contacted me and revealed that he was also the book’s author, James Fetters. Mr. Fetters delighted me by not only offering to personalize his book, but by also agreeing to do an interview for this site.
Prior to reading CREATURES, I wondered if my lack of familiarity with the featured hosts (save for Vampira and Elvira) would detract from my overall enjoyment of it. I was happy to discover that this could not be further from the case! While the diverse collection of hosts were certainly different than any I’d previously known, the common theme of what they meant to their young monster fans was very much the same. I didn’t have to go any further than the book’s introduction for this to be made clear. Mr. Fetters grew up in the 1960′s, an avid fan of Jeepers Creepers Theatre.’ While reading his recollections of tape recording his favorite host via an audio recorder (this was before the advent of VCR’s, folks), I literally had to put the book down as I became overwhelmed with nostalgia. I, too, had indulged in this very same practice here in Chicago with my own childhood host, the Son of Svengoolie.
The rest of “CREATURES..” was no less profound. While reading about the various hosts I was taken aback with stories chock full of laughs, struggles, legal battles, some unexpected celebrity fans, and all the trappings of a great reality TV drama (hence the BRAVO-do inspired title of this post). But enough from this starstruck reader….. to really gain insight, one should really hear from the author himself.
Dave F: What prompted you to take on the task of researching and writing CREATURES?
James Fetters: Back in 1998 I had found a bunch of reel to reel tapes I made as a kid back in 1962-63… some had news reports of JFK’s assassination, some had me doing stupid 12 year old things that I’ll never admit to, HA! And then Jeepers was found! I transcribed the reel tapes to cassette then uploaded into my computer to enhance the sound and edit into individual shows. I then created my first website… ‘Jeepers Creepers Theatre’ with the shows in Real Audio and my memories. Soon contact was made with Mitch Waldow, News Director for KCOP the station that aired Jeepers, and with his help contact was made with Jim Sullivan (Film Director for KCOP), Lietta Harvey (Ghoulita) and Bob Burns (horror and sci-fi Film Historian). Of course I wanted to know everything they knew about Jeepers Creepers Theatre… so, between emails, phone calls and trips to California what started out as a trip down memory lane for me quickly turned into interviews and a series of articles in Scary Monsters Magazine. From that point it was a natural to find the other horror hosts of SoCal… Grimsley, Famous Morris, Seymour… so I started searching for anything and everything I could find. And boy, was I surprised at what I found! Totally forgotten hosts like Dr. Diablo and Arach and his friend Nid. I was addicted… had to have more…
Dave F: I noticed in the Vampira chapter a woman named “Voluptua” being mentioned. Was this an example of a non-horror hostess? Did people actually believe she was hexed by Vampira?
James Fetters: Ah, Voluptua! With the success that Vampira was having, KABC decided to host another show. A weekly romance movie with the seductive Voluptua hosting… while lounging in sexy outfits and being quite suggestive… she raised a lot of eyebrows! Very risqué for 1954-55 television! Eventually, religious groups with letter campaigns to the shows sponsors and to KABC took its toll and Voluptua was cancelled. Vampira took advantage of the situation and with news releases about her dislike for Voluptua… Vampira ran with the idea of Voluptua being cancelled because of her hexing the show. No, I don’t think anyone ever believed the hex story… but it was great press for Vampira! Vampira was also under the gun from the same religious groups and their letter campaigns and survived them.
Dave F: How difficult is it researching classic horror hosts when very little footage exists from their time on air?
James Fetters: Very difficult! Vampira’s Attic has the only known footage of Vampira available to the public. A very short clip of Seymour has just turned up and I’ve put that clip up on youtube… a great outtake of Seymour and a failed prop! Also a short clip of Moona Lisa is there too. But there’s a lot of Elvira footage available… thanks to the invention of VHS. But almost all of the pre-VHS hosts are lost in time… save for a very few kinescopes that turn up now and again… Ghoulita’s audition tape and one episode of Jeepers’ Creepers Theatre… it is wonderful to see what’s available and as time goes on maybe more will be found. So to chronicle the hosts in ‘Creatures of the Night…’ I relied on my memories of watching them plus interviews with the hosts themselves along with script writers and fellow ‘Horror Hostorians’. That’s a catchy title developed by Michael Monahan!
Dave F: In the book, you state that you virtually stumbled upon the existence of Dr Diablo by accident. Do you believe there are a lot more hosts out there yet to be re-discovered?
Dr. Diablo 1957 KCOP 13
James Fetters: I’m sure that there are more hosts, nationwide, that are lurking in the shadows waiting to be remembered. I found Dr. Diablo while searching The Old Woman. They had a head to head competition going on in 1957! I traveled to the Los Angeles Central Library and perused their huge microfilm library of every SoCal TV Guide between 1954 and 1981. A huge endeavor! Then searching San Diego and Los Angeles newspaper archives… there is a lot of great info there! I think all of the SoCal hosts between 1954 and 1981 are pretty much found now… but who knows? A host with no promotion from the station… no ads or press releases… you’ll be the first to know, Dave, if I find more!
Dave F: (Laughs) Thanks, Jim. I guess in the mean time we’d best focus on the ones we KNOW existed. Such as “The Old Woman” who counted among her fans the great Vampira, herself. What do you think made her so appealing?
James Fetters: The Old Woman… very unique! A demented old soul that lived in an attic and saw herself as the ‘lady in distress’ in each of the films she showed. The most famous was the premiere of her show ‘Nightmare!’ portraying herself as Mae Clarke in FRANKENSTEIN’S first airing October 1957. This brought a lawsuit from Mae Clarke against KTLA and Ottola Nesmith (The Old Woman)! So many people believed it was Mae Clarke and the remarks The Old Woman made about being a down and out has-been… well, people actually started sending money to Mae Clarke to help her out! As embarrassing as this was for Mae Clarke and I do feel for her position in this, I have to rate this whole incident as ‘right up there with Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds’ radio broadcast. To get so many people to believe that what she was saying was true… she was quite a character! I’d love to see her hosting the films she actually appeared in! I’ll bet those were a hoot!
Dave F: I was most moved by the chapter on Sinister Seymour. Here was someone putting on hilarious shtick (love the joke about THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON & Mickey Mouse which readers will have to read for themselves) while he knew he was dying. He also appeared to have some famous fans (including Groucho Marx). Were you surprised by the impact some of these hosts had on their public during the course of this project?
James Fetters: Larry was much more than an actor showing up for a gig. As Seymour, he gave us an escape from our everyday realities… to be a part of his world each week and I do believe in doing that for us fans, he had the chance, as Seymour, to escape Larry’s realities… a chance to live forever as Seymour and he accomplished that very well. Surprised? No… look what Jeepers and Ghoulita did to me! So many fans were not only addicted to the hosts but also influenced. Don Glut loved Jeepers’ Keeper and now is a film maker and author. Mark Shepard, who sadly passed a few years ago, was Ghoulita’s Fan Club President at 12 years old and became a film maker, Douglas McEwan who loved Jeepers and Ghoulita grew up to become a script writer for Seymour… and then auditioned to be a horror host himself! And Sylvester Stallone… he loved Famous Morris! That’s how Famous (Don Sherman) got the part of ‘Andy the Bartender’ in all of the ‘Rocky’ films. Mitch Waldow who, as a kid watched Jeepers’ Creepers Theatre, became the News Director for the station that showed Jeepers years earlier. Seymour, like the other SoCal horror hosts, were more than actors showing up for a gig. They made their alter egos believable and lovable! And look at Dave and David! You know… ‘TERROR FROM BEYOND THE DAVES’? Yeah, buddy! The horror hosts filled our imagination, captivated us and as for me… I’m an over 60 year old monsterkid because of them!
Dave F: (Holds hands up and laughs) Guilty as charged! This is, no doubt, why your book really resonated with me. I must confess, however, that of all the personalities featured in your book, I was most enamored with Ghoulita! What an amazing look for someone so glamorous to adopt! Especially in a genre when most horror hostesses choose to market their sex appeal. What was it like getting to meet her in 1998?
James Fetters: Ah, Ghoulita! Close your eyes and imagine… imagine you can read this with your eyes closed! HA! Meeting Ghoulita was a very magical experience! Lietta is a very kind and caring lady. When we met she knew I was star struck… when I spoke I tripped over my tongue… we were sitting at a long table with Lietta next to me. She held my hand under the table! Maybe that’s why I was tripping over my tongue!
We talked… she shared her memories of being Ghoulita and her life before and after Jeepers’ Creepers Theatre. A wonderful time that will never be forgotten. After a several hours it was time to part and allow Lietta, Jim and his wife Jeanette to return to their busy lives and my wife and I to head back up to Los Angeles. As we stood in the parking lot saying our good byes Lietta gave me a hug that lasted forever… a dream come true. Lietta Harvey, a tall knock-out, and Ghoulita hugging me at the same time! WOOHOO!! It don’t get any better than that! I watched as Ghoulita started out as a demure undead hostess and change into the grotesque Ghoulita that we all fell in love with… then to meet this beautiful lady in person… indescribable! I still have a tape of the message she left on my answering machine in 1998… “Hello, Jim! Guess who this is…”
Dave F: With the exception of Elvira, the host with the longest tenure in your region was Moona Lisa (1963-1976). What would you attribute her longevity too?
James Fetters: Moona Lisa was San Diego’s only ‘real’ horror host and that made her special to San Diegans! She was our answer to all the hosts from Los Angeles. As long as she aired on KOGO-10 there were no other hosts, in San Diego, challenging her reign. She was fun to watch and had her own unique hosting premise… Moona was the first, in Southern California, to take horror hosts out of their dungeon, attic, haunted studios and become more of a sci-fi host than horror… a host that was alien and lived on the moon!
Dave F: I love the concept for the character of “Famous Morris” being an agent for the monsters. Was this reflective of a time period when the classic monsters were becoming “old fashioned” in the public’s eyes?
James Fetters: The classics monsters were becoming ‘old hat’ so to say. All the Universal monsters were shown by everyone, over and over and Famous was showing the new foreign film packages that were new to the viewers… so, of course, the classic monsters needed an agent to get them work and coming by his agency gave Famous a lot of unique shows to do… the Invisible Man stopping by, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy… Famous tied them all in to create a fun premise especially when also tying them into his private life… Hermy the Gorilla married to Famous’ sister and their troubles… it was a fun show that was very popular. Famous did show a classic now and again but not very often and boy Frankenstein, Dracula and the Mummy needed an agent back then as they do now!
Dave F: You are currently working on a follow-up project. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
James Fetters: Sure can and thanks for asking. First up is ‘More TV Horror Hosts’. There were so many photos and ads not included in ‘Creatures of the Night…’ that I thought a photo companion was called for. ‘More TV Horror Hosts’ has a at least a hundred more photos, ads and news articles not included in ‘Creatures…’ plus national hosts and ads have been included along with a couple current hosts keeping the genre alive and well! And the best part is that it’s laid out in a larger format so the newspaper articles are much easier to read along with all of the scripts. The photos and ads are much larger too! There are so many new treasures shared… like full Seymour newsletters, newly found Vampira and Grimsley photos and ads… and so much more. And there are more items popping up every day… even an interview done with one of the hosts that was never published and that is included after hiding in the shadows for over 33 years! Just too many new ads, photos and articles to list but if you liked ‘Creatures of the Night…’ You’ll love this photo companion book! And in the works is a special item that will be included… produced by Sherilyn McCleary… it’s too soon to describe in detail but makes this project a very special and a one of a kind SoCal horror host treasure!
There are a few more projects in the works… enough to keep me busy for the next few years! And, if I may, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank ‘Terror From Beyond The Daves’ for not only keeping us all updated with current horror hosts and convention activities but for showing that there is a brave, new world out there full of those remembering and honoring the hosts of yesteryear and praising the hosts of today and tomorrow… keep up the great work, Daves!
And the Daves would like to extend our deep appreciation to James Fetters for honoring this site with his insights as well as for all the amazing he work he’s done (and continues to do) archiving Horror Hosts from a bygone era. Anyone interested in purchasing their own copy are encouraged to visit…http://www.trc4u.com/
Who, Me? Part 1: A Little “Superstition” Leads To Elvira And Svengoolie, Inspiring A Late-Blooming Monster Kid! by Jamie Lee Cortese
The Daves would like to welcome our latest guest blogger, Jamie Lee Cortese. We met Jamie recently at HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis and were immediately impressed with her, especially with her horror host knowledge! We think she has a huge future ahead of her and we are honored to have her writing on our site!
Let me start off by admitting that I have not been a real “Monster Kid” for very long. In fact, the first full-blown horror movie I ever saw all the way through was Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street when it was in theaters. However, as I began my “monster” journey, I quickly realized that from the very beginning, all signs pointed to my eventual transformation into one. For one thing, I’ve always been drawn to offbeat, “weird” things: I am a huge fan of Tim Burton (hence my seeing Sweeney Todd), and a consistent highlight of any October is my family’s annual visit to Fright Fest at Six Flags.
If someone had told me even two years ago that I would soon be watching a new horror movie every week, hosted by “the guy who comes on after Stooge-A-Palooza” (Stooge-A-Palooza is a local show where Three Stooges shorts are presented uncut and uninterrupted by the host, Rich Koz), I would’ve stared at you and responded with the title of this article: “Who, me?”
And yet, not only have I done just that, but I have also been relentlessly researching since September for a school project I’ve chosen to do on horror hosts. Shockingly, in the mere year and a half since I began faithfully watching Svengoolie every week, I have met the man in person so many times that he now recognizes my name in e-mails I send to him, and even recognizes me and my family when we’re in line at appearances. Pictures of us have appeared on his show multiple times, and he always makes it a point to say at each and every appearance I see him at that he’s received my latest e-mail. Not only this, but I have followed a blog, and now find myself writing for that very blog! My reaction to all of these events, including my writing being published at all, is always a stunned, “Who, me?”
In hindsight, strangely enough, my being a fan of horror, and especially horror hosts, can actually all be traced back to Fright Fest. For as long as I can remember, the Six Flags park my family goes to has had a motion simulator ride. At Fright Fest, it was a tradition to show “Superstition”, hosted by none other than Elvira, Mistress of the Dark! In the introduction video shown before you enter the ride, Elvira greets you and tells you about her soon-to-open “scream park” (cue a bloodcurdling off-screen screech), which she calls “Elvira’s Tragic Kingdom”! Of course, it took me many years to finally understand all of her double entendres, but the humor I did pick up on had me splitting my sides with laughter! At the end of the introduction, she reveals that she is going to take you on a virtual tour of the park, and for a ride on her “personal favorite” of the thirteen attractions, “The House of Superstition”. A bolt of lightning sucks you and Elvira into the computer system, whereupon the theater doors open, and you are taken on a wild ride! Unfortunately, the entire attraction was shut down just a few years ago.
“Superstition” was always my family’s first stop at Fright Fest, and we’d stop back frequently throughout the day, usually ending up being on one of the last rides of the night when the park closed.
A few years ago, my mother and brother went out to run some errands, and came home with an unexpected treat! Apparently, while they had been out, my brother had recognized Elvira on one of the DVD covers on the shelf and pointed it out. That movie was Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. My family set a night aside to watch it for the first time and, in short, we LOVED it! Ecstatic at the realization that there was more to Elvira than a motion simulator ride, I decided to do some research and find out more. Here is what I found out that fateful night:
1. Elvira was a horror host. (A horror host? What the heck is that?)
2. Horror hosts… host horror movies.
3. This is not a new concept.
4. Most horror hosts are on local television stations. (Local television? What the heck is that?)
5. Local television… is television that is only broadcast in a certain area. Locally.
6. This is not a new concept, either. (Huh. That sounds pretty cool. Does Chicago have a local horror host?)
7. Uh… yeah. Svengoolie. (Oh yeah! He’s the guy who comes on after Stooge-A-Palooza, right?)
8. Uh… yeah, sure. Oh, and by the way…
9. Svengoolie is the host of Stooge-A-Palooza. (WHAT?! No way! … Really?)
So that’s how this all got started. Right after I started watching, I also found out that Svengoolie himself would be appearing to meet fans, sign autographs, and take pictures at… Fright Fest! We had ordered our official Svengoolie T-shirts, but they had not arrived yet by the time the appearance rolled around. So, the night before, using some pictures I found on the Internet and some drippy fonts (which proudly proclaimed, “I HAVE A FEELING WE’RE NOT IN BERWYN ANYMORE!!!”) I created my own T-shirt design, printed it out on iron-on paper, and (with the help of my mother) made T-shirts for my brother and myself to wear when we met Svengoolie the next day.
We made sure we got in line very early the next day (believe it or not, we actually ended up being around third in line). From our incredible vantage point, I was hoping to catch at least a quick glimpse of Svengoolie before we actually climbed the steps to approach his table. Just before he was supposed to arrive, as if they knew we were all trying to get a sneak peak at Mr. Goolie, some people came in to arrange the table, and propped a big, framed picture of Sven on the corner of it that was facing us, and at just the right angle so that we couldn’t possibly see him until we were literally right in front of him. Honestly, it was like something out of a movie.
When the moment finally came and I suddenly found myself face-to-face with the man himself, my mind instantly became a total blank. All I could say was, “Hi, Svengoolie!” and “We love your show!” My mom pointed out my shirt to him, and he turned around to look at it. Upon reading it, he even laughed! Words cannot describe the immense joy and excitement that was simply overflowing from me at that moment. I wondered in awe to myself, “He thought something I wrote was funny? Who, me?”
Exactly one week later, we were lucky enough to meet him once again at Party City. While we were waiting in line, my brother wondered aloud if Svengoolie remembered us. I reminded him that Svengoolie meets a lot of people at every appearance, especially at Six Flags, so he might not. During the wait, Party City employees began walking around the line selling rubber chickens to the fans! We ended up buying two: One for me and one for my brother. Svengoolie was even kind enough to sign them for us! Suddenly, the line began moving. We were on our way!
When we got up there, my brother immediately asked, “Do you remember us?” I hurriedly tried to jump in and remind him again of the legions of fans Svengoolie meets all the time, but before I could, Sven responded:
“Yes, I do!”
My jaw dropped wide open.
Not knowing what else to say, I enthusiastically added, “We were the ones who made the shirts!”
“Yes, I remember you guys!”
He remembered us? He remembered me? Who, me?
The, uh, very second time I ever met the great Svengoolie! The rubber chicken seen here is the one he signed for me! And yes, for those of you who noticed (both of you), I am indeed wearing the same shirt as before… but, in my defense, so is Sven!
The next month, footage from the Fright Fest appearance was shown on his show, and my brother and I began bouncing off the walls when we suddenly saw ourselves on the screen! Who, me?
As fate would have it, the very next year found us meeting him once more at Fright Fest, at the exact same location in the park as the year before. I got in line an hour and a half early, and, to put it bluntly, had an extreme case of nerves. But I had already met the man three times in the last year: Why was I so nervous? Because this time, I had an agenda: I had been assigned a school project for which I could research any topic I wanted, so long as it had something to do with my planned major or career. I hope to be both a screenwriter and a performer; unfortunately, there aren’t too many people currently who consistently work on both sides of the camera. Then, one night, while I was watching Svengoolie, it hit me (no, not a rubber chicken): Rich Koz always writes his own material! Upon further research, I found out that it was the same with many horror hosts. And, boom! I had my topic: Horror hosts. My parents had encouraged me to ask him for an interview. Now, I already knew that he was a really nice guy, but I also knew that he was a very busy man as well. As my heart bounced about heavily in my chest, I tightly clutched a small gift I had for him in my hand. Over the summer, while on vacation, I had seen an amusing little red magnet in a small store that said in yellow letters, “MY MOOD IS:” with a green Godzilla pictured next to them. I laughed and immediately bought two: One for myself, and one to give to Svengoolie at his next appearance. A wave of self-consciousness suddenly washed over me as I anxiously sat on a bench awaiting Sven’s arrival. Who was I kidding? He doesn’t have time for a school project! And, really? A tiny magnet with Godzilla on it? It’s not like I was six years old and this could be considered “cute”. But still I waited, holding onto my gift to Sven, and even checking every minute or so to make sure it was still there.
At last, a line began to form, and all of us Sven fans were enthusiastically socializing to pass the time while we shuffled our feet and checked the time every thirty seconds. Those of us in front watched happily as the line grew exponentially.
Suddenly, people behind us started cheering, and my mother announced to me, “Look! There he is!”
“What?!” I spun around, and sure enough, there he was: A smiling Svengoolie walking up behind us, greeting the fans as he made his way up to the table set up for him. He actually startled a few people in the unsuspecting crowd, including myself, since I did not expect for him to be about two feet behind me when I turned around.
Our family was second in line this time, and when I found myself face-to-face with Svengoolie himself for the fourth time in one year, my mind became a total blank. For the fourth time. Thankfully, I had enough of a grip on my senses to sheepishly present him with the little Godzilla magnet, preceding it by telling him that I had saw it while on vacation over the summer and immediately thought of him. He took it, looked at it, and laughed! He sincerely thanked me for the gift and proudly showed it off to the people around him, even going so far as to try to stick it on the frame that bore his picture on the table and, when that didn’t work, hunt around himself for something metal to put it on right then and there! Mr. Jim Roche, who accompanies him to every appearance armed with a camera, joked that he (Mr. Roche) had some metal in his head. Wow! Svengoolie himself was marveling over something I gave him? Who, me?
Svengoolie’s warm response to the gift lifted my spirits quite a bit, and helped me to remember the question I had for him. So, taking a deep breath, and summoning up all of my courage… I asked Mr. Roche. In my defense, Sven had a long line of fans waiting to meet him, and I didn’t want to bother him and hold up the line!
Mr. Roche listened intently, then replied, “Well, I’m not a horror host. You’d have to ask him.” So, still hoping to ride on the same bout of courage, I turned around to face Svengoolie.
My heart skipped about five beats.
Apparently, Sven had been listening the whole time! He answered me before I even began repeating my spiel!
For the rest of the day, that whole scene replayed over and over again in my mind. I began to doubt my memory; did I really gather up the guts to ask him? Did he really say yes? But, no matter how many times those memorable moments reran themselves throughout the day and even into the night, they were always, miraculously, the same.
Wasting no time, the very next day, I sent him an e-mail thanking him a million times over for his kindness the day before.
Exactly one week after the Fright Fest appearance, we found ourselves meeting Sven again, this time in (say it with me) Berrrwyyyn! As we all waited in line inside the jeweler’s store, we saw people constantly walking in and out one of the doors behind the counter. “Aha,” we fans figured. “He must be waiting right behind that door!”
Well, somebody forgot to tell Sven. At the designated time when he was supposed to appear, he appeared, all right, but not from that door in front of us! We suddenly heard cheers from the fans lined up outside the store, and when I turned around, I nearly jumped out of my skin when I found Sven right behind me (Notice a pattern here?)! We all hurriedly scurried out of the way to let him through, and the signing began. When our turn came, his face grew suddenly serious, and he asked me:
“Now, you and me are the ones who are going to be doing that special project, right?”
Numb with shock, I nodded and said yes. Completely at a loss for words, I asked him if he had by any chance gotten my e-mail. He smiled and nodded:
“Yes, I did, and I sent you a reply!” (Note: This reply was mysteriously lost in cyberspace. Neither Will Robinson nor Rod Serling could find it. But, that’s not the point here. The point is…)
Coming up in Part 2: HorrorHound! Find out how I finally met The Daves after reading and following their blog for months, what the various hosts’ reactions were to my project, what I look like in a different shirt, and why a certain horror host even thought my name was fake!
Getting an interview with Chicago’s classic (and modern) horror host, Svengoolie, isn’t easy. Aside from his numerous responsibilities to his station, WCIU, he is also a local celebrity and active in his city. Worse, I had the nerve to make this request amid one of his busiest months of public appearances (last October) that I had seen to date. I was, therefore, surprised when he agreed and answered my questions within a few short weeks. Rather than ask the usual biographical questions I, as a lifelong fan, already knew the answers to, I decided to go a different route. I asked myself, “If I was ever locked in an elevator with Rich Koz for an hour, what would I ask him?” Below are the questions I, as a devoted Svengoolie fan, really wanted to know. For anyone less familiar and interested in some you can check out his site HERE and my memories of Svengoolie HERE.
DAVE: The highlight of your show has, for me, always been your parody song. On average, how long does it take you to choose the prefect song and re-write the material to fit your presentation? Can you take us through the process?
SVENGOOLIE: Choosing the song is not an exact science. Sometimes, I’ll think of something right away that has a phrase in it that will work perfectly…other times, I will have to wrack my brain over a couple days to come up with something. Most of the time, I come up with a song that has one or two definite phrases that I know will work with the subject matter (with a little sound-alike tinkering)…I’ll then call Doug Graves, who does all the arrangements and instrumentation, tell him what song it is, and how much of it we’ll do…before I actually write it. then, when I sit down to write the whole show, which I usually do in one long session, I’ll write all the lyrics. so, maybe a day or two to choose the song and figure out how much we’ll use- then, pretty much an hour or so to write the song…
DAVE: Of all the parodies you’ve performed, which are you the most proud of?
SVENGOOLIE: Hard to say what I’d be most proud of- I love when I can get the parody words to match the original wording fairly closely. I still love “Boogie Woogie Boogie Man of Berwyn” – as well as “Werewolves of Berwyn”- the parody we did for one of the Mummy flicks of Pink’s “You and Ur Hand”… “Hit the Road, Drac”… wow, the thing is I can’t remember them all right now, so it’s tough to pick favorites. I did like the parody of “Holiday for Strings” that mentioned the titles of a lot of the movies we’d shown…
DAVE: In a few instances, you’ve taken your parodies a step further and made actual music videos (e.g. “Zombie #5 & “Tomb Digger”). How long does it take to put one of those together and are there any plans to do any more?
SVENGOOLIE: The music video type songs take fairly long taping sessions, and often, multiple takes for the various parts, which is what limits us from doing more- we only have so much production time. We have sometimes had to have a separate production day to do one of those.I always liked our Ricky Martin take-off “Putting the Heat on Hope-uh” for GHOST BREAKERS, which required dancers, me made up as Bob Hope, and even a rigged dolly shot…yes, if we have a good video to parody that we can pull off, we’ll do more...
DAVE: You just completed one of your busiest seasons of Svengoolie public appearances. I’ve been to many of these and am amazed at how diverse your fans are. Is it me, or does it seem like the lines are getting longer? Can you highlight some interesting interactions with your fans?
SVENGOOLIE: It does seem the lines have gotten longer! We usually do a two hour signing, and it’s very rare that we don’t have to cut off the line early to make sure that we’ll end on time.The reactions of the fans are amazing to me- they are so sincere, and lately, a lot of them thank me for still doing the show. I hear about how it’s been a bright spot in people’s lives for years, from their childhood on (yes, I AM old!)- how my show is a family viewing tradition- how it has brightened a dark part of someone’s life,or made someone who feels like an outsider feel special. I’ve had interaction with deaf fans, blind fans, people who have gone through or are going through tough physical illnesses, and it’s so touching that they feel like I’m a good friend.
DAVE: Your HD presentation of THE BIRDS was a ratings winner and definitely one of the highlights of 2010. Do you have any plans to do any more HD shows in the future?
SVENGOOLIE: We may do more HD- that’s the way the business is going, obviously. The problem is that a two-hour show shot in HD uses up a lot of space in our servers, as far as editing and storage, so that may limit us from doing too many shows like that for now…
DAVE: If you could gain the rights to show ANY movie which would you choose?
SVENGOOLIE: Wow- the wish list would be sooo long- but one I would absolutely LOVE to show is “Fiend Without a Face”- we’ve had so many requests for it, and people have such vivid memories of it- plus, we’d be able to have a lot of fun doing segments to surround it.
DAVE: I loved watching the “Night of the Svengoolies” where you and Jerry G. Bishop (the original Svengoolie) shared a stage for Q&A. I know you mentioned that in the early “Son of Svengoolie” days Jerry made an appearance on your show. Was he in costume and have the two Svengoolies ever been seen in costume together?
SVENGOOLIE: Yes, Jerry was on, as himself…he was in town to visit, didn’t have his costume with him, nor would he have put it on…he just didn’t want to wear the stuff anymore (and I think he himself said “I can’t even fit in those pants anymore!” -I know the feeling…) especially after we had worked at WMAQ radio and, as an event for radio sponsors , they had a “Svengoolie wake”- with a dummy of him as Sven in a coffin! That was actually kinda creepy… so, no, actually, we never were both “Svenned-up” at the same time on a show…
DAVE: Your latest Svengoolie shirt design has out sold previous designs and I love your button collection. Any plans to expand your merchandising including perhaps DVD’s?
SVENGOOLIE: I have a meeting in the next two weeks to discuss further merchandising…we’ll have to see what comes of that. We discuss doing a dvd all the time, and have some choices to make before we actually do it. Isn’t doing things legally a pain?!
DAVE: Your blog has brightened many a dreary day at work. I am always amazed how you manage to not only post daily but never cease to run out of material to talk about. How do you find the time to do this? Do you plan your entries or do they just come to you?
SVENGOOLIE: I never intended to write the blog daily- until one production manager told me that was what they wanted. I write it even if it means staying up past my bedtime to have enough time to do so. I usually don’t do to much planning- it’s whatever hits me, or that I see or hear about. Naturally, when we have a show or event to plug, that becomes a subject. It’s kind of like writing a daily newspaper column- and shows me that, actually, I could do that! It’s really a matter of keeping your mind open to subject matter, and being willing to do research at times.
DAVE: You are currently sharing a station with The Mistress of the Dark. I know when I met her in March she clearly admired you. I asked her if she had heard of you prior to 2008 Flashback Weekend and she lit up and asnwered, “Definitely!” Any chance we’ll see you share a stage again with the great Elvira again?
SVENGOOLIE: Elvira was absolutely a charmer, and so incredibly nice! I was very flattered that she even knew about me- when we met at Flashback, she – an incredible horror icon- had said, “it’s nice to finally meet you after hearing so much about you”- and I was floored -”YOU heard about ME?!” She was such a good sport to break away from her signing to come up onstage with me. I’d love to do something with her again. I’d love to do some combo promos with her here at the station. She is so cute and funny,and, yes, guys, just plain gorgeous.
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!
Back in July of 2008, the Crown Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois saw the meeting of two legendary horror hosts. Chicago icon, Svengoolie, was joined on stage by national sensation – Elvira the Mistress of the Dark. This was part of the annual Flashback Weekend Convention, an event that Svengoolie had attended faithfully for years, often acting as MC of their popular costume contest. I was unable to attend this convention and, upon discovering that the two hosts had not only met but actually performed together, became literally sick for missing it.
Fortunately, the occasion was captured on film and Svengoolie proudly presented the footage on his own show, weeks later. He humorously introduced it as “the meeting of two horror legends ….and that’s just her!”
Seeing the two together was, for me, a surreal experience. For many Chicagoans, like myself, these were the only horror hosts they’d ever been exposed to. Prior to the convention, there was some fan trepidation regarding which host was better, why is Elvira entering Svengoolie territory, etc. Call it “King Kong vs Godzilla” syndrome, it has become human nature that we automatically assume rivalry when two titans of the same profession enter the same vicinity. Many of us fans were afraid to admit out loud that we loved BOTH of these hosts and that they each brought their own distinct style to the horror host table. Being one of those individuals, I was thrilled to see them take each others hand and share a genuinely warm moment on stage together.
At the end of Svengoolie’s clip, a shot of the two hosts together was shown along with the tag-line, “The new Sonny and Cher?” Funny as it was, it may not be as far fetched as you think…
While the two may not be sharing the same program, nor singing “I Got you Babe” among spiders and cobwebs – they may, it appears, be sharing the same station here in Chicago
The horror world was a buzz this past summer with the announcement that Elvira would be returning to her original role as TV horror hostess via the resurrection of her show “Elvira’s Movie Macabre.” While The Mistress of the Dark has made numerous hosting appearances on direct to VHS and DVD shows, this is the first time Cassandra Peterson has hosted on commercial television since the early 1980′s.
While reviewing messages from the Svengoolie YAHOO Group forum, I noticed a post from Dan Iocoveli which listed the WCIU Fall schedule. While the Saturday 9pm slot was still firmly in the hands of Svengoolie, a scroll down to the 3am slot was listed as “Elvira.” Dan humorously wrote “I am assuming that is Elvira Mistress of the Dark and not the Spanish talk show.”
It seemed too good to be true that the two hosts would actually share the same station, but this was all but confirmed by an article on the “Fangoria” website which stated (in regards to her new show) “You can catch the new season on THIS! Television as well as KDOC in Los Angeles, WCIU in Chicago, WATL/WXIA in Atlanta, WBGN in Pittsburgh and other stations.”
Some Svengoolie fans may worry about the prospect of Elvira’s Movie Macabre” making its way into the Windy City. However, I know first hand after meeting Elvira that she admires Rich Koz and it is obvious that he feels the same for her. Aside from that, us Svengoolie fans are a loyal bunch. God help any station that dumped Sven for another host, not to mention the unfortunate successor.
I can only hope that the revival of Elvira might inspire other stations to bring back commercial hosts to cities less fortunate than Chicago. I am also thrilled at the prospect that the two hosts, working for the same station, may make yet another appearance together only”officially” this time as opposed to impromptu. When and if that moment ever happens, I will be sure NOT to miss it again!
On the final day of the convention, we packed our belongings and loaded the car before making a final sweep of the main hall. The Vampira Tribute began mid day and I stood in line to enter the event. In the distance, I could see all the hosts talking and joking around with each other. After spending the previous days moving about the convention, attending to all their individual commitments, this was the moment that would bring all the participating hosts together.
Before the event began, eerie music played while images of deceased horror hosts filled a large screen featured on the center stage. Included in this montage were such memorable hosts as Bob Wilkins, Dr. Paul Bearer, and Dr. Shock to name but a few. In between these images, glimpses of footage depicting Vampira’s famous walk down a smoke filled corridor would appear. This presentation concluded with Vampira reaching the foreground, screaming in terror, before quickly reverting to a wry smile.
As the screen went dark the hosts marched in, single file, carrying a single lit candle. After reaching the stage they dropped there candles into a hanging cauldron before taking their seats. The ceremony opened with an introduction delivered by Dr. Shocker a.k.a. professional actor Daniel Roebuck, who has appeared in the recent Rob Zombie HALLOWEEN remakes. “I am overjoyed to be here with all of you…,” he proclaimed, “as we pay tribute to the mother of all horror hosts alive and dead today….the great Vampira.” His introduction was as moving as it was humorous, generating lots of laughs particularly when sharing his observations of the characters before him.
The first hosts designated to share their thoughts on Vampira were Ms. Monster and Doktor Goulfinger. The former credited Vampira with bringing “sexy, sultry, and sassy, to a whole new genre.” The blue-hued beauty, a featured contestant on the 2007 reality show “The Search for the next Elvira,” has certainly done her part in taking these attributes into the new age. As if to prove this point, she generated great applause by freeing the microphone from its stand and intimately sharing her appreciation for the many unsung contributions of Vampira.
She then handed the mike to the man she referred to as “a walking encyclopedia of horror hosts” (a title I have since learned is far from an exaggeration). His warm feelings towards Maila Nurmi evident, Doktor Goulfinger gave an incredibly moving tribute made even more powerful by his soft-spoken, methodical delivery. Goulfinger urged listeners to ponder the fact that for generations only a select group of Los Angeles viewers had ever actually heard the voice of Vampira. Most people (myself included) had only witnessed her mute performance in the infamous PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE or seen her photo in horror themed magazines. Goulfinger pointed to this as evidence of how powerful an artist Maila Nurmi was, having generated such influence via “the sheer, seductive power of an image.” He also asked that everyone take a moment to really think about Vampira and the importance of her work.
The next speakers who took to the stage were former TNT host, Joe Bob Briggs and (from my home state of Illinois) The Bone Jangler. Joe Bob reminded us of Maila’s Finnish heritage, characterized by a bitterly cold and harsh climate. This has, no doubt, contributed to one of the most important attributes for any horror host to embrace; the ability to be “tough.” He also credited her for breathing new life into films that Hollywood had long since labeled as “unwatchable and unplayable,” a unique role that horror hosts still carry out to this day.
The Bone Jangler opened his speech by stating how “indebted” he felt towards Maila Nurmi for “setting the template” as well as the “tone” by her appearance and style. He referred to his fellow hosts and hostesses as his “brothers and sisters,” while reminding them that they, like Vampira, are all “artists.”
The final duo to share there thoughts on Vampira were Penny Dreadful and Count Gore de Vol. Penny, accompanied by her companion Garou, reminded listeners that Maila Nurmi , aside from a horror host, was also “an independent woman…fearless in her convictions and in her thinking.” She went on to say that, “While Vampira is surely the black cloth from which we’ve all been cut, the memory of Maila Nurmi the artist and woman should embolden us to shed the shackles of main stream society’s constraints..” Creating loud applause she urged everyone to “drink a Vampira cocktail” in her honor. I must say that of all the hosts I’ve had the privilege of experiencing, Penny Dreadful reminds me the most of Vampira…even over The Mistress of the Dark who had initially been modeled after her.
Count Gore de Vol opened his speech with an invitation to his followers to “think about” the impact of Vampira who had appeared on a single station during a span that reached a paltry “14 months.” Despite this fact, Count Gore reminded the hosts, she is responsible for creating the ” legacy for which we all dibble our lives and careers.” This paved the way for himself, and fellow hosts, to go on and create their “own legacies.” Something that the Count knows first hand having created his own hosting dynasty.
As this was a horror-themed tribute, there could be no better way to conclude the show without actually raising the dead. Horror magician Ron Fitzgerald took to the stage and called on the lifeless body of Vampira (portrayed by horror hostess Evelle LeChant) to “rise.” Slowly she lifted herself up from her black altar, walked towards the crowd, and mimicked the famous scream for which the tribute began.
As light illuminated the chamber, the hosts gathered together for a group photo. While waiting for everyone to snap this priceless image depicting the largest massing of their kind, a few broke into song – belting the ending of The Beatles hit, “Hey Jude.” I almost dropped my own camera from laughing, though the scene was much more reminiscent of the cover of “Sgt Pepper.”
As I embarked on the journey back to Chicago I couldn’t help but reflect on the past few days. I had arrived at Horrorhound ignorant of Vampira, aside from the image of her walking as a zombie in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and the subsequent portrayal of her by Lisa Marie in the film ED WOOD. I can honestly say that I left with a much greater understanding of Vampira, as well as the mysterious woman behind her.
I knew that I had just experienced the most amazing convention of my life. There could be little doubt that it was the congregation of hosts (the ultimate horror fans) that had raised it to these heights. I couldn’t help but feel an immense sense of gratitude towards, not only them, but the woman who had made it all possible.
Several moments passed as I pondered Maila Nurmi and how wonderful my childhood had been enjoying one of the benefactors of her work, Svengoolie. Without Vampira there would have been no Svengoolie parodies, raucous laughter from Zomboo, or my daughters new appreciation for older films via Wolfman Mac. I can no longer discount the importance of Vampira as I, and my children, continue to enjoy these things. Doktor Goulfinger would be pleased.
Meeting Elvira: the Mistress of the Dark had been one of my top goals for Horrorhound! I had been unable to attend the 2008 Flashback Weekend here in Chicago; an event in which she shared a stage with Svengoolie. Missing that historic moment was something I never forgave myself for and I was determined to finally meet her.
Elvira is, without question, the most recognizable horror host in the country. Whether she was selling products such as Coors Beer, making numerous media appearances, or even starring in her own feature film, she remains an indelible figure of 1980′s popular culture. Women admired her brassy, valley girl attitude while men liked her for entirely different reasons. Her low cut dress and celebrated cleavage were the source of many a man’s fantasies as well as providing her character with infinite laughs. Although I haven’t actually counted, I would venture to guess that her self-titled first film contained more “boob” jokes than any others to date.
After our local Son of Svengoolie was canceled, Elvira became our only option. Although nothing like Svengoolie, I found her highly entertaining. As a teenager, I purchased all of her “Elvira Midnight Madness” videos and still enjoy them today – easily watching SHE DEMONS and FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER about 50 times. I also loved her Halloween CD’s – “Elvira’s Monster Hits” and “Revenge of the Monster Hits.” Those tunes, particularly my favorite – “Monster Rap,” still receive regular play in my household throughout the month of October.
A friend of mine had shared a story of his meeting Elvira at a convention some years back. Apparently the line to greet her was so long she would sign autographs only and take no photos. Negotiation was futile as her female assistant had enough muscle tone to bench press ME. I had a lot of anxiety that history would repeat itself at Horrorhound, especially since it had attracted such a large number of visitors. I was relieved when I saw that the line was relatively short and that she was allowing photographs. Now was definitely my chance!
She was very friendly and took a couple photos with both my friend and I. Although I had missed her performing with Svengoolie LIVE, I did get to see the event courtesy of Rich airing it on his own show along with a photo taken of the two together. Since he was unable to attend Horrorhound, I asked Elvira if she would sign something I could send to him. It was at that moment when she looked up and noticed I was wearing my Sven shirt. She beamed a big smile and said, “I really enjoyed working with him.” I asked her if she was familiar with his work prior to Flashback Weekend and she responded, “Oh, definitely!” During his HD presentation of THE BIRDS, Svengoolie showed the autograph and mentioned the meeting (though he was off on the correct year).
Before leaving her booth, she delighted us by doing a video introduction for our home movie, introducing the “Dave and Jason Horrorhound video” as if it were her own. She ended with her famous exit phrase, “Unpleasant dreams….” while waving goodbye. You could not have asked for a better way to cap our first night at the convention!
On Sunday, right after the Vampira Tribute (an event I’ll be covering soon), we passed by her booth a second time. No longer in character, she was signing as her alter ego, Cassandra Peterson. We decided that the opportunity to get a photo both with and without make-up was too good to pass up. The line was short and we went back for another meeting.
After Horrorhound, I remember reading some complaints on the magazine’s fan forum regarding Elvira’s choice not to participate in the actual Tribute. Those aware of the history between these two women surely understood. Maila Nurmi (who had retained the rights to her Vampira character) had worked with producers in creating a “new” Vampira for the 1980′s. She shared the design of her black costume, details of her former set, along with her famous walk down a dark corridor to a Victorian couch. A short time later, the producers kicked her out of the project and created “Elvira.” This, naturally, caused great stress to Ms Nurmi who unsuccessfully tried to sue Cassandra.
Regardless of what your thoughts are on this matter, there are two things I believe; 1) those television producers definitely screwed over Maila Nurmi and 2) while Elvira was obviously modeled after Vampira, it was ultimately Cassandra’s personality that made the role so successful – particularly for an 80′s audience. I bumped into a fan of Vampira’s at Horrorhound and asked him, “What do you think Maila Nurmi would say if she knew Elvira was participating in her tribute.”
“Oh…,” the man said while removing his glasses to wipe a lens, “I imagine she’d be in her grave doing a complete 180 degree spin!” He then placed the spectacles back on, giving a faint smile. While some chided Elvira for being “disrespectful” for not attending the tribute with the rest of the hosts, I believe in lieu of the circumstances she was being more respectful by bowing out.
For my part, meeting Elvira remains one of my Horrorhound highlights. I am also thrilled at the news that Elvira will be returning to hosting movies with all new episodes of her “Movies Macabre” later this year. We can also look forward to new “monster” music courtesy of “Elvira’s Gravest Hits,” and see her appearance in a film called ALL ABOUT EVIL. Regardless of her roots, Cassandra Peterson is a force to be reckoned with, and the success of Elvira must be credited to her.
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)
Last March, I attended my first (but definitely not last) Horrorhound Convention. As mentioned in my previous post, Horrorhound Magazine definitely ranks as one of my favorites. Like FANGORIA, they sponsor their own conventions too - attracting some very impressive guests! For the past few years, Horrorhound has done two conventions annually; one in Indianapolis (March) and another in Cincinnati (November).
I had planned to attend the Ohio show last fall, intent on meeting Tom Savini and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. I ended up canceling these plans, telling myself that I would attend the March show, come hell or high water! I’m very happy that I did. This convention, without question, was one of the BEST.
Joining me on this trip was my old pal, Jason. Although neither of us were sure of what to expect, we did have very specific goals about what we hoped to accomplish. Jason (a musician) wanted to acquire some rare horror music – particularly the scores to some Italian, gore classics. I, on the other hand, was thrilled at the prospect of meeting a number of the horror hosts who would be attending (more on that next time).
Both of us wanted to add new reference books, along with some rare 1980′s slasher films, to our collections. We were also anxious to meet some of the featured celebrity guests. These would include George Romero, Tom Savini, David Hess, and Elvira – to name but a few. I am happy to report that we not only met, but surpassed, ALL of our objectives!
We belted KISS parody songs all the way to Indianapolis, making the trip seem MUCH quicker (though it’s a wonder I could still speak after growling like Gene Simmons for four hours). When we pulled into the parking lot of the Marriott hotel, we saw horror host, Karlos Borloff (obviously, another fan of Simmons) outside enjoying a cigarette. There was no doubt, we had come to the right place.
Tom Savini was the next celebrity we met. He was sitting at a table with an interesting statue of a zombie eating Cheerios out of George Romero’s head. I found Savini to be a bit of a cold fish during this first encounter. I’ve been a huge fan of Savini for over twenty years and was anxious to have an opportunity to meet and talk with him. I started by telling him how much I loved THE GRINDHOUSE films and how happy I was that they had made a feature film of one of its faux trailers, MACHETE. He didn’t give eye contact and responded with a deadpan, “yeah.” He was slightly more communicative when I asked him about the Blu-Ray release date for his version of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990), stating that it should be at the end of this year after they add in some lost footage (cool!). Jason was gushing compliments left and right and he still barely cracked a smile. That initial meeting left me disappointed but, fortunately, the next meeting would be much better.
Our next celebrity encounter was with actor, David Hess. Hess starred in the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT as well as the 1980 Italian alternative, THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK. He also starred in HITCH-HIKE, SWAMP THING, and the rare Italian slasher BODY COUNT.
Hess’ co-star in THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK was Italian actor, Giovanni Lombardo Radice. Despite not being a fan of horror (particularly gore) movies, Radice has the distinction of starring in some of the gruesomest films ever made. These include Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD as well as Umberto Lenzi’s highly controversial, CANNIBAL FEROX. Hess was selling numerous photos at his table but the one that quickly caught my eye featured Radice and Hess together. It was more expensive than the other photos but was pre-signed by Radice himself. I was happy to add both autographs to my collection.
The 2010 Horrorhound Indianapolis Convention was a definite zombie paradise! On hand were plenty of representatives from Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD and DAY OF THE DEAD films. There was only one in attendance from his original, 1968 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and that was Charles Craig. Mr. Craig played the radio announcer in the horror classic (as well as a zombie extra) and was happy to pose with us using an actual microphone as a prop. He was a very nice guy and seemed genuinely surprised at the attention he received. I just felt bad that he was stuck handling money transactions while his “assistant” snoozed away!
I thought it was great that the original DAWN OF THE DEAD’s, Mike Christopher, appeared at the convention wearing his Hare Krishna zombie costume. I couldn’t believe that after 30 years he looked exactly the same as he did in that movie! We grabbed a beer off of the table (belonging to his irked assistant) and handed it to him for the shot. I hope I can meet him again so he can sign this photo! Jason returned to his booth on Sunday and we snapped a shot of him without the make up too.
On Saturday, we stood in line for about four hours to meet George Romero. It was well worth the wait. Mr. Romero is every bit as warm and ingratiating to his fans as we had heard. He signed a DAWN OF THE DEAD poster for Jason and a DAY OF DEAD one for me (I prefer DAWN to DAY also but Jason was lucky to snag his last available poster). We asked Romero if he wouldn’t mind doing an intro for our home made video. He said he would but kept flubbing the lines. It was actually pretty comical. Each time he’d mess up, he’d insist on being given another chance to get it right. So we not only received a video plug from Romero, but also plenty of bloopers!
The convention was very crowded and I heard a lot of complaints from fellow participants. I’m not sure if it was our careful planning or just blind luck, but we wouldn’t have changed a thing. We drove home constantly uttering the phrase, “I can’t believe we did it!” It was just an amazing experience and one we’ll never forget. Believe it or not, you’ve only heard ”half” the story. This convention also featured a special tribute to the late Maila Nurmi - Vampira. It would see the largest gathering of horror hosts from across the country. Little did I know at the time, my Svengoolie-centric world was about to bust wide open!