By: Jamie Lee Cortese
After I met Count Gore De Vol, Mr. Lobo, and Count and Countess Gregula, and spoke to Wolfman Mac on the phone, there was just one more horror host on my list of people to meet that I had yet to introduce myself to: Ms. Monster.
I had met her costars, the Monster Melons, Tit and Tat, a few times during the day, as I had stopped at their table multiple times throughout the day (probably more times than I really should have).
The reason I was so anxious to meet her was because earlier in the week, when I had sent out an e-mail to five of the horror hosts who were scheduled to appear at HorrorHound, she was one of the hosts who replied within just a few hours (the other was Mr. Lobo)!
I originally found out about Ms. Monster, ironically enough, because of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. During my research on the latter, I eventually discovered her reality show, The Search for the Next Elvira. I found the episodes online and began to watch, and, there she was! Intrigued, I researched Ms. Monster further, and found her and her Monster Melons to be hilarious! As soon as I saw that she would be attending HorrorHound, I immediately put her on my list of people to meet!
At any rate, I was very excited to meet her, which is why I kept stopping by her table to see if she had arrived yet.
Finally, a few hours after my family had arrived at the convention center Saturday morning, I looked across Horror Host Alley and saw that a sizeable crowd had gathered near her table. I quickly scanned the group and, sure enough, Ms. Monster emerged at the head of it.
I wasted no time in rushing over there to join the other fans hoping for a picture with her. The crowd actually shifted around relatively quickly, so before I knew it, I was right next to her! As more people snapped pictures with her and my turn was coming ever closer, I realized that, unfortunately, this was one of those moments during the convention when my camera was buried deep inside my quickly-filling backpack. Not wanting to lose my place in “line” (which actually consisted of a much more amiable group of people than about ninety-five percent of the real lines I’ve been in), I knelt down and began to fish through it.
As I dug through the already-loaded bag, a man with what appeared to be pantyhose over his head and a jack-o-lantern face painted on it suddenly crouched down next to me and asked, “Do you want me to take the picture for you?”
Oops. I realized that, indeed, since neither of my parents was with me at the time, I didn’t have anyone to take the picture for me. However, I was, of course, very happy for (and, actually, a bit surprised at) his kind gesture, and quickly jumped on the opportunity, thanked him, and handed him my camera, which I had since found.
Since there were still a few more patient people in front of us still waiting to pose for a picture with Ms. Monster, we chatted a little more as our turn approached. I told him a bit about my school project on horror hosts, how I had e-mailed a few of the horror hosts scheduled to appear at HorrorHound earlier in the week, and how, to my surprise, Ms. Monster had actually sent me a response! He seemed pretty interested in the topic, and I really enjoyed talking to him as we waited.
At last, our turn arrived! The man I had just met took the picture, and then immediately told Ms. Monster, “You know, she’s doing a project on horror hosts!”
Ms. Monster and I quickly and simultaneously turned to each other, but before I could even begin to elaborate and officially introduce myself, she responded (with a huge smile on her face):
“Oh, are you Jamie?”
Well, what could I say?
“Yes!” We shook hands and expressed our mutual pleasure at finally meeting each other. We chatted very quickly, as there were still more people patiently waiting their turn.
At last… Ms. Monster! Thank you to the man who took this picture! She certainly didn’t make any of her fans “blue”! (You see? Now that’s why I was holding the rubber chicken: So that nobody would throw it at me!)
Ms. Monster had expressed in her e-mail to me that she was very willing to be interviewed on camera by me that weekend, and, as we arranged for hers to be later on in the afternoon on Saturday, she holds the distinction of being the very first horror host I interviewed at HorrorHound!
To my surprise, as we were setting up for the interview, I found out that the Monster Melons wanted in on it, too! I hadn’t expected this, but was very excited at this new development!
Ms. Monster, Tit, and Tat were clearly having a ton of fun during the interview, and not only proved that they are all masters of improvisation, but also that they can create an inside joke within the span of about five minutes!
Ms. Monster described her show as “Elvira meets Pee-wee’s Playhouse”––– Yes, I can see that. It’s sort of a “mish-mosh” of the two… You know, sort of a “hodge-podge”… (Ms. Monster and the Monster Melons will get it.)
Ms. Monster and her Melons (Uh… I meant Tit and Tat… What were you thinking of?) were extremely entertaining, kind, and accommodating, as well as just all-around amazing people (Do the Monster Melons count as people?) to meet and converse with!
Coming up in Part 9: Where am I now? Answer: In front of my computer screen. Seriously, though, this is the part that you’ve all been waiting for: The grand finale! Find out how my project went, and how, amazingly enough, it’s as if it never even ended!
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!
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!
Ever since Vampira cooed to her pet spider, “Rolo,” and the great Zacherly whispered “my dear” to an invisible paramour just outside the camera’s reach, sidekicks have been a common feature of horror hosted shows.
These companions are often as colorful and diverse as their host creators. Some are the skeletal variety such as Svengoolie’s Tombstone or Wolfman Mac’s conniving Boney Bob. Others are even more bizarre and imaginative such as Doktor Goulfinger’s Count Zygote (the world’s first horror host fan), Ms Monster’s..”ahem”.. melons “Tit & Tat,” or even a coy houseplant whom Mr. Lobo affectionately refers to as “Miss Mittens.”
For matters of horror host history, I always seek out my friend, Michael Monahan (Doktor Goulfinger), to supply the answers. I asked him if he had any idea who some of the first host sidekicks were and, expecting him to need some time to ponder the question, was surprised when he responded almost immediately. The following is a list of early host sidekicks the good Doktor shared “just off the top of his head.”
Aside from the aforementioned Vampira, he also listed Kansas City’s The Host – Rodney, Son of Ghoul in the 90′s – Fidge, Sammy Terry – George the Spider, Dr. Paul Bearer – a spider named Spinjamin Bock, Commander USA – Lefty, The Ghoul - Froggie, and Morgus the Magnificent – Chopsley.
Less common were the “living” sidekicks. This was a luxury few commercial hosts could afford with barely enough money in the station’s budget allotted for themselves let alone an assistant. This, of course, is not an issue with hosts working on public access as it is all the labor of love. Good friends, loved ones, and fellow horror fans show their support by acting as supporting cast members.
One should, however, take their time before adding names to their roster. This is a lesson Kenosha’s Dr. Destruction learned the hard way. Once, while hosting a dinner party that utilized multiple sidekicks, an on-air battle erupted between them (apparently jealous over their host’s attention). Destruction, none too pleased at having to interrupt his performance to put an end to the altercation, decided to leave all the footage intact for public viewing. I would like to add that I met his latest sidekick, Deadgar Winters, last weekend and he was one of the nicest, easy going guys you could ever meet. The on-air sidekick battle was clearly before his time.
Behind every great man lies a great woman and this is certainly the case with many other hosts such as Zomboo’s Miss Transyvania, The Bone Jangler’s beautiful Enchantress Nocturna, Dr. Dreck’s Moaner Lisa, Count Gregula’s Countess, and Undead Johnny’s Romania. Perhaps in these instances the word “partner” would be more appropriate than sidekick, though they still serve the same role of enhancing the performance of their host.
Great hostesses can also rely on their men to back them up as well. If not a great man, than certainly a great “wolfman!”As is the case of Penny Dreadful’s partner, both on and off screen, Garou!
I met Garou last March at the Indianapolis Horrorhound Convention and then again at “Rock & Shock” last month. This was the first time David met the wily lycanthrope and he was very impressed with the way he stayed so flawlessly in character.
This was something I had witnessed at Horrorhound and I wasn’t alone. Brian Maze, the fantastic artist who created the horror host illustrations used in our current updates, also met Garou at Horrorhound. Apparently Mr. Maize made the mistake of handing Garou a “silver” marker to sign his autograph, prompting the werewolf to toss the Sharpie while reacting as if he’d just been burned.
Garou is played by Penny’s real life husband, Magoo Gelehrter. While putting together her show, Penny recognized Magoo’s comic potential and asked if he’d mind playing a non-speaking werewolf character. According to Penny, his response was a simple and direct, “Cool, Baby!” And the rest is “Shilling Shocker” history.
With the aid of a werewolf translator, Garou delighted me by taking some time out and answering a few questions….
DAVE: Tell us how you came to be “Garou?”
GAROU: I’m always pulling faces to make Danielle laugh, and when we decided on the witch, werewolf and monster hunter characters, the name Garou, as in Loup Garou, just came to me, and that was decidedly that.
DAVE: I know that prior to Penny Dreadful, Danielle had some experience with acting, had you as well?
GAROU: It has long been my ambition to be a silent film actor, but it’s very hard to find leading parts that don’t have spoken lines. Danielle and I were both in a film called THE ART OF ETIOLATION in 2002. I’ve also been in some plays. Danielle and I were in the play “The Hot_l Baltimore” together a few years ago.
DAVE: Did you grow up a fan of monster movies and, if so, what are your favorites?
GAROU: I used to watch Creature Feature when I was a kid, my favourite then was ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. My favorite classic horror film is of course, THE WOLFMAN but I also love so called “bad” horror films – like Ed Wood’s BRIDE OF THE MONSTER and Herschel Gordon Lewis’ GRUESOME TWOSOME and stuff like THE GIANT GILA MONSTER.
DAVE: What episode of SHILLING SHOCKERS are you the most proud of?
GAROU: This is the hardest question! I love the movie CARRY ON SCREAMING! (Season three). I also have a certain fondness for the Coffin Joe movie we showed in Episode 2 of Season Three, and our hijinks in that episode always make me laugh because we filmed some of it at my wonderful in-laws’ home with Danielle’s mother and her mom’s best friend Mary Lou and they nearly feed Garou until he explodes. They didn’t have prior acting experience but they sure were Method actors! They were really shoving the food in my yap, I was lucky I didn’t swallow my fangs! Seeing them dance with us around the coffee table and seeing little Twinkie the dog chasing us around makes me nearly cry with laughter. And the episode where we show SWEENEY TODD, Garou gets a haircut from Danielle’s since departed grandfather as the barber he was, so having family in the episodes always makes it extra special for me. Those are both pretty early episodes and we do get better technically in the later ones, so those might be more to be proud about. Our director Rebecca Paiva does the hard work of shooting the episodes and editing them, so she’d be the one to ask about what’s the episode to be proudest of. The episode where we showed THE SEVENTH SEAL was a very hard shoot. We shot on the beach in Rhode Island during the summertime and it was hot as blazes and we didn’t bring enough potable water. It is not the only episode where I found myself dangerously dehydrated, but I was really close to the edge when we were randomly saved by beach goers who let us join their picnic and revived us all with their generosity. They noticed we were running around and when we finished shooting they invited us over, and ended up doing a song for us which closes out the episode. They were real lifesavers!
DAVE: You were a lot of fun at “Horrorhound” and “Rock & Shock” – managing to always stay in character. Do you enjoy making public appearances?
GAROU: I love doing appearances! Being in character comes naturally once I am dressed as Garou. At most of the conventions we go to there are kids, and Garou tends to have a Pied Piper effect on them. They can relate to him because they know how it feels to be mis-understood, and to communicate non-verbally, plus he’s funny and not afraid to be silly. And I respect the right of children to enjoy their innocence, so staying in character is a must. I don’t want some little kid to see me break character when I’m Garou, and then start to wonder that if Garou isn’t real, then what about Santa and the Easter Bunny, and then poof- their childhood is over, just like that! I don’t wanna be that guy, the one who kills the joy of simple pleasures for them. Also being in character all day at a convention is a great way to get into character and come up with bits that we can use in the show. Doing a convention before we start a new shooting season really helps get me ready. And much as I love to talk, I really do enjoy communicating with people non-verbally. For me, that is the most addictive part of wanting to be an actor. Though being able to memorize large monologues would be great, and a well delivered line is a thing of great beauty, for me the soul of acting is not what you say, but what you convey when you’re not speaking. One reason I like to watch movies more than once is so I can enjoy watching the people in scenes when they are not the one speaking. That’s where the real acting is, if you can see them listening to the actor who is speaking, that’s where the magic happens.
DAVE: How long does it take to make your “transformation” into Garou? Do you do your own make-up?
GAROU: When the moon is full and the wolfbane is in bloom, it takes no time at all! I had no experience using makeup until we did this show, and I learned everything the hard way! I tried all kinds of different fixatives to apply the Garou nose before I finally found something reliable. But now that I know what to use and how to use it, it only takes about half an hour or so to pull myself together. It also depends on the humidity. The fixatives I use take a bit longer when it is very humid before I can attach the nose and ears.
DAVE: Your comic timing is impeccable. Who would you site as your comedic influences?
GAROU: Thank you for the compliment! I’m sure my answer will surprise very few people: Harpo Marx is at the top of my comedy influence hit parade! But I am also a huge fan of George Burns, he is the all time best second banana ever. There isn’t a day in my life where I am not inspired by his words. I also love W.C. Fields and quote them both at least twice a day. But it’s not for a lack of love of the man that I never quote Harpo! He did it all without saying a word. I also love Mel Brooks, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy. I wish I could do a better Stan Laurel! Along with Burns & Allen, Ace Goodman and his wife Jane Ace were a great comedy duo who are not remembered often enough these days. And I love Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows.” That show had an amazing cast. Aside from Sid with his amazing physicality, he had Howie Morris whom I utterly revere, Imogen Coca, and Carl Reiner. Howie Morris is another huge influence. You might recall him as Professor Little Old Man in Mel Brooks HIGH ANXIETY. My mother took me to see my first Woody Allen film when I was seven and it had a huge influence on me. I hadn’t been too optimistic about my prospects until I saw that film- it let me know it was okay to be a nebbish and a runt, that you could still attract women not only in spite of that, but because of that! I have always loved his physical comedy for which he’s always been under-rated, yet he moves so well. He does some his best physical comedy in SHADOWS AND FOG and ZELIG. I know it’s not PC to like him these days, but funny is funny and he has always made me laugh and to feel less alone in this world. Aside from comedy, I think Lon Chaney Jr. is one of the all time great actors, his pop was no slouch either but I love the humanity Lon Junior conveys without having to say a word. Even in his last roles when his health was failing, he managed to impart incredible pathos. I put him right up there with actors like Cary Grant and George Sanders.
DAVE: I know that Danielle did not grow up with a horror host. Did you?
GAROU: I used to watch Creature Feature when I was a kid, they showed double features, lots of Godzilla movies mostly. They had a voice-over announcer telling us to stay tuned but not a character who appeared onscreen.
DAVE: What advice do you have for other horror host “sidekicks?”
GAROU: It’s okay to occasionally lick the scenery but try to avoid chewing it. You don’t want to drown out your co-hosts when they are speaking or pull focus from them with your antics. Try to find the balance between adding a little color without upstaging the focus.
DAVE: This one I can’t resist. I love the story of how Penny Dreadful, through a misguided spell, became a hostess. What is Garou’s back story and how did a werewolf end up the love interest of a 600 year old witch?
GAROU: I hate to leave you hanging but you’ll just have to stay tuned to Shilling Shockers to find out more about Garou’s past.
Well Dave, thanks for asking all these great questions, you gave me much to consider. I think this is where I should say goodnight but I’ve never been good at goodbyes, so I’ll leave it up to someone else. And to end, since I can’t quote Harpo, here is something one of his brothers once said. Groucho to be specific, though I love them all, even Gummo and Zeppo. Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Chico as well. “Until then, so long, skol, arrivederci, prosit, salud, hasta la vista, a bientot and ciao. (Ciao, in case you don’t know, is an Italian salutation. It is also a breed of dog that will bite your ass off for no reason at all.)”
If you mention “horror host” to someone randomly on the street more than likely the response will be Elvira. If you mention “horror host” to a fan chances are you will get a whole list of classic characters, including Vampira, Zacherley, Svengoolie, Morgus The Magnificent, The Ghoul, Sir Graves Ghastley, Dr. Paul Bearer, Ghoulardi and many, many others. Even names like Bob Wilkins and John Stanley may be mentioned. Though many of these hosts have come and gone, one is still going strong in the Washington, DC area. His name is Count Gore DeVol.
Count Gore made his debut in 1973 on WDCA with his show Creature Feature. Dick Dyszel, the man behind the makeup, also played Bozo The Clown in the morning and Captain 20, a Spock-like character, who would host cartoons in the afternoon. Initially Creature Feature ran from 1973 until 1979. Then, through persistance, he was able to revive it for a 2nd run from 1984-1987. By this time, WDCA was doing what most stations around the country were doing…cutting costs and getting rid of locally produced shows. Since then, the Count has reappeared online with his own weekly internet-based web cast, being the first horror host in history to do this! You can check out his show here.
I myself didn’t become aware of the Count until just a few years ago when someone sent me copies of his show. I was immediately drawn to the Count’s character and loved his innocence and charm. He was someone who tried so very hard to succeed but just couldn’t seem to catch a break, especially with the ladies. The show oftentimes seemed ad-libbed which made the show more fun and it seemed to flow more naturally. He wasn’t afraid to make fun of himself and if something went wrong it was common for the footage to be left in and there were times you would see the Count start laughing. Even though he was usually showing the cheesiest of the b-grade monster flicks, he always managed to give them a degree of respectability. Because of his love of the movies, as well as his love for the Count, Dick Dyszel created a show that is often imitated but never duplicated.
To show how loved and respected Count Gore DeVol is, one only needs to look as far as his fellow horror hosts. There was a time when hosts were very territorial and possessive of their characters and shows. Now, thanks in part to the Count and the Horror Host Underground, these hosts are helping each other by promoting each others’ shows and even making guest appearances on each others’ programs. It certainly is a great time to be a fan of horror hosts! I spoke with a few hosts, all of which were more than willing to contribute to this piece with their thoughts on the good Count. This is what they had to say…
“Count Gore De Vol represents everything good about the horror host. He was part of the heyday of the hosts in the past and was responsible for bringing the hosts back to the spotlight in recent years when he was the first to have a weekly show online. He loves his fans as much as they love him and even after all these years he is as warm and friendly as ever. He has affected more peoples lives than he will ever know and I am grateful that he continues to do that voodoo that he do so well.” – Ormon Grimsby, host of Monster Creature Feature
“Count Gore is the Grandfather of the Internet Horror Host. Tales From The Graveyard Shift owes its start on the internet to Count Gore!” – Dr. Pureblood, host of Tales From The Graveyard Shift
“When I began tinkering with the notion of doing this hosting thing, I was searching for movie sites on-line and the first hosted one I came across was Count Gore DeVol’s. Seeing a real horror host doing his thing on the net gave me the motivation to go ahead with my planned project of doing an internet based show of my own. My top-hat is off to the count for being such a pioneer! It’s truly amazing that he began doing internet stuff in 98. Especially when you consider how “new” the whole internet idea was to all of us at that time!” – Sigmund Zoid, host of Alternative Realities TV
“I consider myself very lucky to have “grown up” during the 1970′s…having a TV host like Captain 20, and Count Gore De Vol, to educate and entertain. The influence of Dick Dyszel’s marvelous characters, reached almost a million kids in the DC area at the time, and it’s something that made television really special. You had to “be there” to watch it, there were no repeats, you couldn’t buy a tape, and there was nowhere else it could be seen. Kids were literally glued to their TV sets every afternoon for Captain 20 and Saturday nights for Count Gore. The fact that he is STILL doing his act on the web, is such a great thing for me, and all the people who grew up watching, as well as the people all over the world, who now get to literally “be involved” in the show, thru the internet on Creature Feature: the veekly veb program !!!!…Long may the Count continue to creaturize the country !!!!!!!!!” - Karlos Borloff, host of Monster Madhouse
“The man sucks blood–but oozes charm. People who’ve never even seen his show are drawn to him and the ladies fall down at his feet like a sack of wet phone books. Mr. Lobo sees him in action and thinks about possibly trying on some make-up and a cape…” – Mr. Lobo, host of Cinema Insomnia
“To me, Count Gore De Vol represents the ancient… er, classic Seventies era approach to Horror Hosting, and is the genuine relic… um, article, and a great deal of fun to watch, even if he is one of the 3 worst Horror Hosts in the history of the genre. Seriously, I have a great deal of respect for the man, no matter what goes on in his hotel rooms at these conventions with all of those underage Campfire Girls. And, his camera operator’s smokin’ hot!” – The Bone Jangler, host of The Bone Jangler’s Daytime Dungeon
“The word “legend” is tossed around a lot in the entertainment world. Well, Count Gore honestly and truly is a TV legend. While his talent, skill and professionalism absolutely play a large part in his status as a Horror Host icon, that isn’t all there is to it. You see, Count Gore is also a great guy – as in friendly, down-to-earth and approachable. A lot of people in the entertainment world would do well to take their cues from the Count. I am honored to call him a friend.” – Penny Dreadful, host of Shilling Shockers
“I met Count Gore DeVol at the National Haunters Convention over the summer. It was my first official outing as a brand-new horror host and Count Gore DeVol was just wonderful and charismatic! If only I had any more money left I would have wanted to walk away with one of everything at his table. Count Gore DeVol is an inspiring influence for both aspiring actors and horror hosts.” – Roxsy Tyler, host of Roxsy Tyler’s Carnival Of Horrors
“I have met Count Gore once and He is a true gentleman. He deserves a ton of respect not only for his many years on television but the fact that he gave birth to the whole “internet Horrorhost” genre with his website… a true visionary.” – Marlena Midnight, host of Midnight Mausoleum
“Count Gore DeVol is an original. He pioneered the web movement. CGDV is one classy sucker!” - Ms. Monster, host of Hel On Ice
“Count Gore DeVol is a true pioneer of the horror hosting genre! He has endured the test of time! He started out on TV in the ’70s then made the venture online in the ’90s to be the first Internet horror host! He is a real inspiration to me! I’ve met Count Gore at several conventions and he has alvays been very gracious and supportive tovards me. I had the opportunity to interview The Count at the recent HorrorHound Weekend Convention in Indy and learned even more insight about his background. Recently, a documentary vas made about his long career that included his other notable characters Captain 20 and Bozo! Gore is simply one amazing talent and a Cool Ghoul!” – Count Sam Gregula, host of Count Gregula’s Crypt
“I truly, truly admire the man. He’s been the most supportive individual in the world as a friend, and a true professional in all my horror host efforts! I mean, he could be using all of his energy to promote his own show, for chrissakes, but he’s taken time to help me with Spooky Movie Television as well. He still has no idea how hard it is not to to have a fanboy moment and go, “YOU’RE MY HERO! Ohmuhgod!” I never want to say, “I grew up watching you!” I don’t want to date either of ourselves! HAHAHAH!” - John “Doctor Sarcofiguy” Dimes, Spooky Movie Television, and author of “There Are No Bad Movies! (Only Bad Audiences)”
Over the last few years there have been a few horror host documentaries released, like AMERICAN SCARY and VIRGINIA CREEPERS. Though both are highly recommended only one was released dealing solely with the man of the hour, Count Gore DeVol. In mid 2010 the Count Gore documentary EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN was released on BrinkDVD. Needless to say, this much anticipated release did not disappoint and it is highly recommended for any horror host library. It was actually seeing this DVD that prompted me to write this piece! If you don’t have a copy you can order one by clicking on the image of the cover artwork below.
And now…what you have all been waiting for! My interview with Count Gore DeVol!!!
ME: Were you a fan of monster movies growing up? If so, what are some of your favorites?
COUNT GORE: I liked scary movies, some with monsters, some without. I grew up in the 50’s so I got to watch a lot of big bug films….atomic radiation was all the rage. I also liked films about outer space, most of which had monsters included at no extra charge.
ME: Did you have a favorite horror host growing up? If so, who?
COUNT GORE: I watched “Shock Theater” with Marvin on Channel 7 in Chicago. He was a beatnik with thick glasses and a tall, curvy wife whose face we never saw.
ME: What made you decide to be a horror host?
COUNT GORE: Too much beer. The general manager of the station, another co-worker and myself were watching a bunch of demo movie open packages very late one night after way too many beers. An open for a horror showcase came up and I yelled in my best Transylvanian accent, “That’s what we need, a horror host!” The GM turn around and said, “You’re hired!” the rest, as they say is history.
ME: What were your inspirations for the character of Count Gore De Vol?
COUNT GORE: Once it became obvious that the GM was serious, I looked to my closet to define the character. I had a tux, a cape (this was the 70’s) and could roll my Rs with the best of them. So I decided on a vampire. Besides, it gave me an excuse to bite the necks of pretty young girls (this was still the 70’s)!
ME: You are obviously very supportive of other horror hosts in that you have them on your show all of the time. Who are some of your favorites today and why?
COUNT GORE: Yes, in this global environment, there’s enough room for everyone who wants to be a host and the only way to find out if you are any good is to work at it and let the public decided. Once the Internet came about, I met and became friends with such hosts as A. Ghastlee Ghoul, The Bone Jangler, Laslo, Butch Cleaver, The Son of Ghoul, Karlos Borloff, Dr. Sarcofiguy, Mr. Lobo and Penny Dreadful, to name just a few. I really like to hang with them because they are so talented….and I hope some it rubs off!
ME: You have taken your show CREATURE FEATURE into an all new direction by having it online. Would you ever want to go back to network television?
COUNT GORE: My general response to that question is, “Why would I want to do that? I now have the whole world as an audience. Why would I want to go back to just one market?” The answer that I rarely give is, “For money!!!” The Internet is a great place but few people make a living by offering entertainment. So, if a station or network made me an offer I couldn’t refuse…I wouldn’t!”
ME: I loved the documentary of you EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN. Do you have plans of releasing any of your shows on DVD?
COUNT GORE: I’ve had shows and compilations out since 1998!!! The Legacy series covers studio segments from my TV days without the movies. The Classics series has the public domain films I showed on TV with the local segments…..just like they appeared on TV, but without all the cheezy commercials. they are available from my web program or at conventions I attend.
ME: What made you leave your native Chicago for Washington, DC. According to Wikipedia you are living back in Chicago now…is this true? Are you a fan of Chicago horror host Svengoolie?
COUNT GORE: See, you can’t believe everything you see on the Internet. I’ve been back in the DC area since 2005. I did spend 10 year back in Chicago, which is where I grew up, But for me DC is really home. On a recent trip back to the Windy City, I did finally meet and have lunch with Svengoolie. What a great guy! He is one of the last and best major market TV horror hosts and I hope to have him on my show someday.
ME: You have always been one of the most innovative of horror hosts…first to host NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD unedited, first to air in stereo, first to utilize the web…do you have any big plans for the future?
COUNT GORE: Actually the next “first” will be a show that is fully mobile compatible. As you know Apple products do not show video encoded with Flash. But, beginning on Step. 18, all of the video I produce for the web program…including the movies with be viewable on your iPod, iPhone, iPad, or any other iDevice Apple comes up with….and I do make some interesting guesses as to what they may be…as part of the movie showcase!
ME: You mentioned in your “Rue Morgue” piece (issue #103, August 2010) that back in the day horror hosts were territorial with each other. Did you have any contact with any of these hosts back then? Do you still find them to be territorial?
COUNT GORE: No, the only host from the “old” days that I actually met was the late Dr. Shock from Philly. Remember, it was very hard and expensive to move video tape around back then. Heck, it was only after the Internet came about that I finally saw some of Elvira’s shows! I guess in some ways we are all still a bit territorial when it comes to our work…no, I think protective is a better word.
ME: Do you watch any horror hosted shows?
COUNT GORE: From time to time I catch clips that are posted on various horror host forums. I really don’t have a lot of time to sit back and watch and enjoy movies. Besides being a horror host, I do have various other business interests that keep me very busy.
ME: You have had guests on your show but never a sidekick. Why didn’t you opt to have a sidekick like many of the hosts have?
COUNT GORE: When I was working on Washington TV, I was a union performer at a union station. The station wasn’t about to pay for a sidekick. So, I learned to work within that environment. We did have guests, but guests didn’t have to be paid. I’m still a member of the union and after 35+ years, doing a solo act is both natural and expected. That being said, however, I do have an annual sidekick in the form of the lovely Countess Von Stauffenberger, played by the talented author Eleanor Herman. Every New Year’s Eve she comes on the show for our annual date and every year the universe finds a new way from keep us from becoming….an item! My black heart gets broken again and again.
ME: Do you still feel that BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS is the worst movie ever made?
COUNT GORE: ABSOLUTELY!!!! Although I have seen a few new first time efforts that do give it a run for its money.
To show how popular horror hosts have been getting lately, you really only have to look at your newsstand these days. SCARY MONSTERS MAGAZINE regularly covers the horror host world and even recently HORRORHOUND MAGAZINE and RUE MORGUE have jumped on the proverbial bandwagon (and of course, who can forget the amazing HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis this past March 26-28th that featured the largest horror host gathering ever attempted to date?). Luckily for us the horror host world is going strong and it doesn’t look like it will be letting up anytime soon! Lucky us!
At this point I really want to express my thanks to ALL of the horror hosts that contributed to this piece. Not only has their support of Count Gore DeVol be great but their support of this website has been overwhelming. Also, I am extremely thankful that Count Gore DeVol himself took the time to do the interview with me…he is a true gentleman and I really appreciate it!
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.