As mentioned, the 2010 Horrorhound Weekend in Indianapolis saw the largest gathering of horror hosts – all there to pay tribute to the “Mother of Horror Hosting,” herself; Maila Nurmi’s Vampira!
A couple of days ago I apparently set off a firestorm regarding the current state of Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive-in. While I can see the first portion of my post appearing a bit dismal, my intention was to be positive and motivate my favorite werewolf, not to cause him stress. Unfortunately, some readers were under the impression that I was lamenting the end of his show.
Exactly one year ago, Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive-in appeared to be on the fast track to stardom. I’d just attended his studio Open House (Part 1 of 3 covered HERE) that previous September and watched the former DJ- turned-horror host surrounded by his adoring fans – an impressive legion (or pack, if you will) that had grown steadily in the few short years since his character’s inception. It was a night I’d never forget. As we gathered near, Mac grabbed a loud speaker and proudly announced that 2011 would see his show go “international” as the crowd went wild. One didn’t feel the need to consult with Madame Nina’ in forecasting the success of Wolfman Mac.
By: Jamie Lee Cortese
I’m pretty sure it was at this point that I stopped over at the Chiller Drive-In table. Having not seen Wolfman Mac around yet (but seeing many of his fellow cast members, including Professor M. Balmer and Torg), I began to talk to the woman at the table (whom I later found out is Wolfman Mac’s assistant) while perusing the merchandise.
She said that she thought she remembered him mentioning the e-mail to them, but informed me that he actually wouldn’t be able to make it to the convention this year, and was “really bummed about it”. Nevertheless, she handed me one of their promotion cards and asked me to write down my e-mail address on it. I promptly got down on my knees and proceeded to do so. When I stood up again to hand it to her, I suddenly saw that she was on the phone. Not wanting to interrupt her conversation, I stood there silently and waited patiently.
“Hey, Mac?” I heard her say. Huh?! My heart skipped a beat.
But I didn’t have very much time to wonder if it was really Wolfman Mac on the phone with her, because she immediately followed up with:
“Yeah, I’ve got someone here who wants to talk to you!” Without hesitating, she held the cell phone out to me. I probably looked really silly as I took it and stared at it wide-eyed as if it were a foreign object, asking her incredulously, “Really?”
She nodded, and I finally put the phone to my ear.
“Hello?” I asked anxiously, as if I had never used such a device as a cell phone before (which, for the record, I have).
The voice that responded instantly and so enthusiastically was undeniably that of Wolfman Mac himself. My own voice shook as I nervously began to introduce myself to him. Before I could get too far, however, he jumped in, saying, “Yeah, you know what, Jamie? I think I remember seeing your e-mail!”
As the conversation went on, he said that he’d love to be a part of my project, and instructed me to ask his assistant for his cell phone number so I could call him later in the week for an interview! After we hung up, she happily did so, and I couldn’t stop staring at it as I carefully slipped it into one of the page protectors in my binder. By the end of the convention, I ended up buying a very cool Chiller Drive-In pin, and three DVDs from the show: Island of Lost Content: Skits That We’ll Never Show Again. EVER! Volume 1, Evil Brain From Outer Space, and HorrorHound Special: Hercules Against the Moon Men!
I went on to meet even more members of the cast of Chiller Drive-In during the convention, including Son of Froggy and Morbid Melvin!
I called Wolfman Mac on Sunday night, and after a couple of more brief phone conversations, we succeeded in setting up a phone interview later on in the week. Like all of the other horror hosts I was fortunate enough to meet, he really impressed me with his enthusiasm and willingness to be a part of my project, especially since I had never actually met him “in the fur”. However, I hope that I will have the chance someday soon, so I can thank him in person!
Anyway, back at the convention, there was still no sign of Ms. Monster or Count Gregula, but who was that over at the Midnite Mausoleum booth?
Coming up in Part 6: The Daves! Yes, it’s finally time to find out just why I’m here writing this (kind of long, come to think of it) blog series in the first place!
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.)”
As Mac attended to his grateful fans, he would occasionally stop what he was doing to make announcements. This not only fired up the guests but also made it abundantly clear who ”The Chiller Drive-In’s” top dog really was.
Throughout the course of the evening, I was fortunate to inspire two Wolfman Mac “shout-outs.” When we first met up with Mac he thanked us for making the journey and asked how long we had been on the road. After I told him he grabbed the megaphone and yelled, “Listen up wolf pack! Our friend Dave here drove up all the way from Chicago! Four and half hours to see us!!!” My face turned scarlet as the onlookers cheered.
The girls were elated to finally meet their favorite celebrity. While posing next to Boney Bob, I asked Mac if he wouldn’t mind doing his Boney Bob voice for them. He happily obliged and it wasn’t until about a half hour later I realized my error. The girl’s looked at me confused and said, “Wolfman Mac is Boney Bob?” (Doh!) “Uh…yeah,” I quickly backpedaled, “But only when the real one isn’t around.”
Mac was great with the kids and, after posing for a few pictures, became very serious. He grabbed a small book that was sitting amongst his myriad of artifacts and said, “I want to share something with you that I don’t normally let folks see. This is my personal scrapbook.” After he began flipping through the pages, the gathering group began laughing. From his “baby” photos and on through college, normal photos were enhanced with the addition of the cut-out visage of a noticeably “adult” Wolfman Mac.
Prior to getting our turn at meeting Mac a second time, a fan had him sign a copy of the latest issue of “Scary Monsters Magazine.” After he turned to me I informed him that I had been given confirmation from the magazine’s editor, Dennis Druktenis, that the story and interview I had done on Mac over the summer was to be published in the next issue – January 2011. He immediately grabbed the megaphone and gave another “shout out” alerting fans to this fact.
I soon felt a tap on the back of my shoulder and, after turning around, was face to face with one of the show’s supporting cast members, Morbid Melvin. “I know who you are!” he said. I happily took photos with one of my favorite characters on the show.
Later, the girls and I sat back in a booth located in the “The Chiller Drive-in” concession set, enjoying some of the tasty treats put out for the guests. Mac had left the projector room but soon returned along with another, rather interesting, cast member. In walked a hulking creature that was, literally, spewing smoke from his maw. The character was “Oscar the Ogre” and, I didn’t know it at the time, was being maneuvered by its creator – a certain Dave Ivey.
Dave Ivey has actually played multiple roles on the show, both on camera and off. Aside from Oscar the Ogre, he also plays one of the most hilarious characters ever to grace any show, “The Milkman.” This would-be super villain threatened Boney Bob during Mac’s presentation of EVIL BRAIN FROM OUTER SPACE. While Boney Bob laments about becoming a super hero, he is accosted by The Milkman and his band of thugs. “Get him boys!” hisses The Milkman, “let’s show him just how intolerant lactose can be!”
The true talents of Mr. Ivey, however, lie with his ability at making unique and amazing props. Many of the foam sculpts and puppets created for “The Chiller Drive-In”, as well as the impressive demon sculpture highlighting the entrance to Erebus itself, were created by Dave Ivey.
I had actually seen Mr. Ivey before at the Horrorhound Convention last March. On that occasion, however, he was wearing another of his other creations – the mad scientist from television’s “Robot Chicken.” Mr. Ivey used to work with the legendary Ohio horror host, The Ghoul (Ron Sweed), who as mentioned in a previous entry enjoyed success on Michigan airwaves as well. Ivey has kept The Ghoul’s spirit alive at “The Chiller Drive-in” by creating the “Son of Froggy” suit worn by cast member Mike Murphy. For those unaware of the connection, The Ghoul was famous for tormenting a rubber frog on his show (along with routinely blowing up model kits) leading to his own costumed mascot, Froggy (played by Dave Ivey).
Mr. Ivey has worked alongside Bruce Campbell as well as Ted & Sam Raimi. Vicki Vanderkolk told me that at the Horrorhound Convention, mask making icon, Don Post Jr, referred to Ivey as a “Fucking Genius.” I really hope that I can formally meet Mr. Ivey (hopefully as The Milkman”) and shake his hand. He has truly added a lot to the success of “Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive in.”
As we walked back to our car, ready to embark on the long drive home, my eldest daughter (who detests car rides even for short distances) exclaimed, “That was SO worth it!” She was right, too. While I had already been a fan of the show I walked away with a whole new respect for it after attending this Open House. I later wrote Vicki and thanked her for her assistance in arriving and for the work she, as well as her fellow team members, do. “The Chiller Drive-In” is interwoven with so much local history and respect from its creative team its future success is all but assured. Proof of this was revealed in one of Mac’s final megaphone shout outs. “Three years ago I was filming in my basement,” said Mac. “Now we’re seen nationwide and next year will be going International.”
Our modest host wasn’t making this announcement to brag. Rather, he was using it as an opportunity to thank the devoted fans who have supported his work these last few years. This night dedicated for his beloved “wolf pack” and, by opening his home and going out his way to make us all feel so welcome, Mac showed that he wasn’t just a good horror host, but a phenomenal host in its classic definition as well.
“The Chiller Drive-in” is divided into four sets. Across from the concession were three additional venues for Mac and his fellow cast members to carry out their signature story-lines. On the far right was a faux laboratory complete with its own mad scientist. The table was littered with science beakers containing unknown liquids that appeared even more diabolical via illumination.
To the left of this set was The Projector Room, where Mac greeted fans and made numerous announcements. I had seen this room many times while watching the show and always enjoyed seeing the great embellishments that, literally, covered its walls. What I did not know, however, was how much history existed here. While “The Chiller Drive-in” is, in itself, a tribute to a bygone era of our cinematic history (even peppering it’s own show with public domain clips of drive-in advertisements and messages to its patrons), I discovered during the open house that it actually goes much deeper than this.
Sitting in the room is an actual projector from a vintage Michigan Drive-in. As my brain tried to register all the amazing sights in the room, a friendly crew member invited me to come on in and take as many pictures as I’d like. The man’s name was Todd Vierk and he is part of the drive-in’s creative team. While I ogled the enormous projector, Todd explained that it was from the Gratiot Drive-in from Roseville, Michigan (east side of Detroit).
Vicki Vanderkolk shared the following information regarding the outdoor theater…
The Gratiot Drive-in, which opened in April, 1948 was billed as the world’s largest drive-in, featuring free pony rides, merry-go-round and other playground amusements for the kids, a large restaurant that even warmed baby bottles on schedule for patrons, and a living curtain waterfall illuminated by colored lights to simulate Niagara Falls.
The Gratiot Drive-in opened in 1948 and closed down in 1984. “If you drive there now it’s a big Sam’s Club and strip mall, ” said Todd, “it’s really kinda sad.” While the site was demolished a short time after its closing, some of its artifacts live on at “The Chiller Drive-in.” Along with the immense projector, there are also original film canisters containing actual movies shown during it’s 36 year tenure. “We’re not sure what movies these are,” said Wolfman Mac. “For all we know it could be GONE WITH THE WIND and we’re spilling Pepsi on em’ every week.” Mac’s jesting aside, I could tell that he, as well as the entire cast and crew, viewed these items as sacred.
To the left of the projection room, is a smaller set designed as the crypt for the Drive-in’s newest cast member, Scary Grant (see previous entry). Despite its recent addition to “The Chiller Drive-in,” this set boasts an amazing bit of local history itself.
While Ohio’s, The Ghoul (Ron Sweed) enjoyed a healthy tenure on Detroit air waves, Michigan already had a classic host of its own. Sir Graves Ghastly (Lawson J. Deming) reigned supreme from the late 1960′s into the early 1980′s. His legion of fans include many of “The Chiller Drive-in” crew members as well as Wolfman Mac himself.
As Ghastly’s show began, the camera led viewers through a set of iron gates to his signature coffin. These very same gates have been given new life at “The Chiller Drive-in” and are now featured in Scary Grant’s locale (allowing the S.G. initials to remain relevant to this show). Even my refined friend, Michael Monahan (Doktor Goulfinger), lost his composure when I shared with him my picture of the gates. “HOLY CRAP! The Sir Graves gates!?! That is so super cool! I have one of his capes in the vast Goulfinger Archives – but this is just too, too amazing! Wow!…I am so jealous at the moment!”
One of the crew members shared this poignant story. “I’ll never forget when those gates arrived, ” he said. It was at night and many of use were still working. When they carried them in we all stood around it and stared silently. It was an amazing moment for us.”
Tune in next time as I focus on meeting Wolfman Mac, as well as the most talented ogre you’ll ever meet….
Since delving into the world of horror hosting, I have come across many diverse points of view. Debates regarding who is worthy of the title of “horror host,” who’s the better and most original host, or whether or not true hosts even exist in a post local TV world often come up. This is not surprising since hosts and their fans are, above all else, human beings. Despite all these varying opinions, I was surprised to discover that there was one thing just about everyone agreed on -
Horror hostess, Penny Dreadful is the one to watch!
What is it about Penny Dreadful that has earned such strong admiration from her peers? What sets her apart from her public access brothers and sisters that even the few remaining “classic” hosts turn their heads and nod in approval? To find the answer, one has only to meet her alter ego, Danielle Gelehrter.
“Penny Dreadful’s Shilling Shockers” has been entertaining New England horror fans for nearly five years. Prior to this, Ms Gelehrter was a classically trained actress who, ironically, found inspiration to become a television witch while performing as one on-stage. While portraying the mythological “Medea” from Ancient Greek literature, the seeds of Penny Dreadful began to slowly take root backstage. “I joked with the cast during a rehearsal,” says Penny. “The thought of this vengeful sorceress from a Greek tragedy making morbid puns seemed very horror host-like.” Leaving her fellow cast members in stitches, Danielle realized that she was definitely on to something.
Like many of us, Penny grew up a fan of classic horror. Although she did not have the privilege of having a horror host/hostess of her own, she was not without a facilitator. Her own Uncle Valdemar encouraged her love of the genre by feeding his niece a steady diet of “Famous Monsters of Filmland,”classic Universal horror, the film’s of Hammer studios, low-budget/Roger Corman classics, the literary works of Edgar Allen Poe, and television’s “Dark Shadows.”
It would not be until the 1980′s that Gelehrter would witness an actual horror host via 1980′s cable sensation, Commander USA. While she enjoyed this program, finding it “a lot of fun,” she was to discover her true inspiration via a New York cable access program called “Ghoul a Go-go.” The show has been described as “American Bandstand with monsters” and, as Penny states, “Combined elements of horror hosting, kiddie shows, 50′s educational films, and 60′s rock n’ roll.” I have since previewed some of these shows courtesy of my friend Larry Gibbs (a.k.a. horror host underground archivist – Uncle Lar), and the shows are indeed LOTS of fun.
“Ghoul a Go-go” illustrated to Penny just how far an independent, public access show can reach. Realizing that her home state of Massachusetts (famous for it’s Salem witch trials) has never actually had a witch hostess, the decision to assume the mantle was, in her words, a “no brainer.”
One might consider a witch to be a relatively easy character to assume. Not so in the case of Penny Dreadful, who is far from simplistic. In fact, she has one of the richest character mythologies I’ve seen applied to any host.
Penny Dreadful XIII is a 600+ year old witch who retains her youthful beauty courtesy of a supernatural elixir (addressed in more detail during her show’s seventh season). A fan of motion pictures, the ambitious Penny decides that she would make for a wonderful screen legend herself. Not wanting to bother with such mundane tasks such as screen tests or the dreaded casting couch, Penny concocts a spell designed to grant her instant fame. Unfortunately, the spell doesn’t work out as intended and she is transformed, instead, into a horror hostess – destined to show cheesy movies for the rest of her long years.
Thus, “Penny Dreadful’s Shilling Shockers” was born (eliciting no complaints from us mere mortals). Aside from the premise, Gelehrter also carefully selected the names of both her character as well as the show by taking a nod from 19th century literature. During this era, horror stories were often sold in chapter installments for the price of a cent. These stories, referred to as “penny dreadfuls,” were often quite lurid, containing graphic illustrations to accompany it’s gruesome subject matter.
Later on, similar stories were released (containing fewer illustrations) called “shilling shockers.” After choosing the name Penny Dreadful for herself, Gelehrter felt that calling the show “Shilling Shockers” was a logical choice. Making its debut in 2006, it was originally featured on public access channels located in New Bedford, Boston, & Salem Massachusetts as well as Providence, Rhode Island. It has since spread (as Penny describes it) “like a plague” across the United States, currently airing in over 150 cities nationwide!
Many horror hosts are accompanied by supporting cast members and Penny Dreadful is no exception. Joining her on the show is her werewolf companion, Garou (played by her real life husband Magoo Gelehrter). Garou adds humor to the show while also serving to humanize his wicked witch co-star. ”He’s just fantastic with all the facial expressions and physicality,” says Penny. “I thought he’d be great as a sort of funny, growling werewolf sidekick and he just completely took to it and made that persona come to life.” Having met Garou at the Indianapolis Horrorhound Convention, I’d have to concur with Penny. That meeting, along with Penny’s, is covered with greater detail in an earlier post (Horrorhound Part 3).
Other regular cast members (not present at Horrorhound) include Penny’s foil, Dr. Manfred Von Bulow, and her insane friend, Luna. Dr. Von Bulow (played by Ivan Bernier) is described by Penny as “a funny, cranky Van Helsing type.” He is a vampire hunter who reluctantly assists Penny on her many misadventures – despite his aversion to the underworld. It’s always great fun watching Dr. Von Bulow and Penny volley sarcastic jabs at each other during the course of each episode.
The insane Luna is played by real life friend, Rebecca Paiva. Ms Paiva often makes appearances on the show playing various supporting characters when required. My favorite of which was during an episode where she plays Dr. Von Bulow’s mother-turned vampire. Chiding her bachelor son as his ring-less hand thrusts a stake into her heart, her last words are, “When are you going to marry a nice girl?!?!” Most of Ms. Paiva’s work, however, is done behind the camera. A talented cinematographer, she is also the show’s esteemed director and editor.
During the shows early years, episodes featured skits that played throughout each night’s presentation. Penny welcomes her viewers, whom she refers to as her “Dreary ones,” before setting the show’s premise – often designed to compliment the movie. In one of my favorite first season shows, HORROR HOTEL, Penny Dreadful visits downtown Salem, Massachusetts. While enjoying the sites, Penny (a “real” witch) encounters a statue of Elizabeth Montgomery as her iconic character, Samantha, from “Bewitched.” While hilariously trying to contain her disgust, she is suddenly accosted by a disgruntled group of Wiccans. Displeased with her stereotypical (and less “empowering”) image, they bring the Salem witch saga full circle, by having Penny stand trial for her “negative energy.”
Both situations were handled with great comedic flair and showed, early on, the potential of its hostess/comedienne. “I was half expecting Wiccans to get annoyed about my on-screen persona…,” says Penny. “Instead we have quite a number of Wiccan viewers who get a kick out of the show.”
Despite Penny’s growing popularity and demography, she has retained a strong connection to her New England home. This has been particularly fascinating for me (a Midwestern guy) to be introduced to this region’s rich culture and history. Penny accomplishes this by flawlessly blending local history within her own fictional story lines.
During the seventh season, Penny discovers that her aforementioned youth elixir has been stolen. Without her frequent dosage, she quickly begins to revert back to her true age. With time as a factor, Penny realizes that she’s better off trying to recreate the potion first, as opposed to locating the culprit. Needing the blood of a vampire to complete the potion, she heads to real life Rhode Island cemetery, The Baptist Church of Exeter, to locate the remains of Mercy Brown.
Mercy Brown is prominent in New England lore as being a documented case of vampirism (in truth, most likely a victim of tuberculosis, but let’s not ruin the fun). Without the benefit of modern science, Brown’s body was exhumed and remains (no pun intended) one or the few documented cases where an undead ritual was performed in the United States.
For those interested in horror hosts, one of Penny’s finest contributions was her 2007 special which paid tribute to the hosts of New England. I found the show fascinating (having watched it several times) and particularly enjoyed seeing the work of deceased host, Simon (Gary Newton), from “Simon’s Sanctorum.”
Penny Dreadful’s versatility and innovation will be further illustrated in her highly anticipated eighth season. Boldly treading where no horror host/hostess has before,” six of the season’s seven episodes will feature classic silent films such as Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS. Penny hints that, during this season, her character may even make a trip into the future. There is little doubt that as far as this hostess is concerned, it’s destined to be a bright one.
Critics of public access hosts have, no doubt, been struck silent themselves at the genius of Danielle Gelehrter. Through her own brilliance and drive she has created a character that will leave as lasting an impression on New England as the infamous Salem witch trials themselves. Far from a modern day Elvira, her seductive cunning is matched only by the great Vampira herself – whom Penny sites as an influence. Like the great Maila Nurmi, Penny Dreadful is a rare combination of beauty, brains, and savvy that should inspire all of her fellow hosts. She is, to use one of her own terms, simply Hex-cellent!
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.
Wolfman Mac has the honor of being the first local horror host I’d ever watched after Svengoolie. Last January I was thumbing through YouTube clips when I stumbled upon “Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive-in.” Although Mac is a fellow Midwesterner (Michigan), it was the other Dave in Rhode Island who had access to his show via a cable channel called RTV (Retro Television). I asked him to send me some copies and he was happy to oblige.
Mac has the distinction of being the favored host among my two daughters, Leia and Jade. In fact, they absolutely adore the guy. Every time a package arrives at the house they immediately ask, “Did you get more Wolfman Macs?” Last Saturday they watched THE BAT with Vincent Price from beginning to end. It’s probably a good bet that Jade is the only one in her 3rd grade class to have sat through an entire Vincent Price film, willingly. It’s an even surer bet that I’m one of few dad’s who gets filled with pride by saying this. Regardless, it has been great sitting back and watching vintage monster movies with the kids without having to bribe them.
Yes, I was definitely looking forward to meeting Wolfman Mac and was worried that, with all the activities going on at Horrorhound, I’d end up missing him. Prior to the convention, I did have some positive interaction with both Mac and his show’s producer, Vicki Vanderkolk. These were in the form of Facebook comments and a fan letter I sent him. When I arrived at The Chiller Drive-In booth, Mac was surrounded by a full television crew while busily interviewing people from a gathering crowd.
While Mac was busy on camera, I formally met Vicki and found her to be as genuine and pleasant in person as she was on Facebook. She introduced me to her husband, Raymond Dean Vanderkolk, who writes for the show. I was very happy to shake the hand of the person responsible for the show’s memorable skits. The next day I bumped into Mr. Vanderkolk again. This time he was clad in his own costume – that of a witchdoctor!
While talking to Vicki she said, “You’ve got to let Mac interview you for the show!” I waited my turn before finally meeting the man himself. He was a lot of fun and the same off screen as on. Definitely a “salt of the Earth” type…despite his affinity towards a full moon. I recounted the story of how a guy from Chicago became a fan of a host up in Michigan and then we howled together on camera which was lots of fun.
Mac signed a Chiller Drive-n Promo poster for both myself and the other Dave. After the convention I had it professionally framed and it is now prominently displayed over my desk at home.
After the convention I submitted a fan piece about “Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive-in” to “Scary Monster Magazine.” I really hope that it will see print. If my children are so taken by the show, it’s a good bet other kids out there will be as well. During G-Fest, I hand delivered some episodes of the show to Dennis Druktenis (publisher of “Scary Monsters Magazine”). He later wrote and thanked me for them. Not that I’m above bribery, but I really did want him to see the show for himself.
The only other cast member I saw from The Chiller Drive-in was the “Son of Froggy,” though we never formally met. I am hoping that I can someday meet the whole gang, perhaps at a Michigan based convention. It’s a trip I won’t be making alone…
After I had all my pictures from Horrorhound developed, my kids weren’t in the least bit impressed with my photos of Elvira, Romero, nor Savini. When the shot of Wolfman Mac and I popped up, however, they jumped up and down screaming, “I can’t believe you met Wolfman Mac!!!!” while telling me how unfair it was that I should be so lucky. They were right; meeting Wolfman Mac was one of my favorite memories from Horrorhound.
NOTE: Wolfman Mac’s third season premieres on September 4th and promises to the best ever! If you don’t receive RTV with your cable package, contact your provider and see what can be done about it!
(Horrorhound memories will continue in our 7th and final chapter…The Vampira Tribute!)
Saturday promised to be the busiest day of the Horrorhound convention. Wanting to get an early start, I immediately went down to the main hall after breakfast. Due to the large number of hosts attending the Vampira Tribute, I had no illusions about meeting them all. In an effort to stay focused, I created a short list of the ones I really wanted to meet.
As I approached the area designated for the hosts, I was happy to see that one of my “high priority” selections was present. Michael Monahan, a.k.a. Doktor Goulfinger, has the distinction of not only being a horror host, but a fervent fan of the art itself. His work on the documentary AMERICAN SCARY earned him a recent Rondo Award in the category of “Best Independent Film of 2009.” As I mentioned in an earlier blog, this is a “must see” for anyone interested in learning about the history of horror hosts, as well as a look at some of the colorful characters from its golden age.
Michael has since chosen to place his Doktor Goulfinger character on hiatus in an effort to focus on other projects. This includes extensive research on classic horror hosts for an upcoming book. Despite his relatively short tenure, I was able to track down a copy of his work as Doktor Goulfinger prior to Horrorhound. True to form, he not only used his show to perform his own hosting shtick, but also as a means of spotlighting classic hosts. During his presentation of THE DEVIL BAT, Goulfinger proudly shows off a mock candy wrapper used by the late Dr. Paul Bearer. This is just one of many artifacts Monahan has acquired during his years of collecting.
There was no doubt that if I wanted to gain a better understanding of classic horror hosts, I would be wise to seek Doktor Goulfinger’s counsel. Prior attempts at contacting him proved futile as he had shut down the website featured on his program. I couldn’t locate him on Facebook and knew that if I walked away from this convention without obtaining his email address, I’d be making a grievous error.
As I approached him, I noticed he was wearing his signature 3D glasses while holding his character’s cigarette holder. Although he had since shaved off his beard, there was no doubt that it was him. As I did not want to offend my fellow conventioneers, I opted to forgo my sweaty “It Came from Berwyn” T-shirt in favor of “Zomboo’s House of Horror.” This elicited an immediate positive response from Goulfinger who, like myself, is also a big fan of Zomboo. I introduced myself and he gave a warm handshake.
We talked for about 2o minutes but I could have easily stretched that into hours. Most of our conversation revolved around the subject of the Tribute, Maila Nurmi. Doktor Ghoulfinger was one of the few hosts present who had not only met the great Vampira, but also acquired extensive interviews with her during his work on AMERICAN SCARY. I could tell by his eloquence that he truly cared for her as an artist and his insights helped me gain a much greater appreciation for her work. The next day he would provide a moving tribute to her at the event itself (to be covered in a future post).
I am happy to say that I was successful in my goal of obtaining Michael’s contact information and we have kept in touch since the convention. Despite my numerous questions and requests (like allowing me access to the wonderful photos attached to this blog), he is always willing to share his insights and help in any way that he can. Although I had once held on to the hope that he would, once again, stand in front of a camera and host movies of his own, I have since come to realize that his role as historian and preserver of this nation’s classic hosts is far more valuable. His contributions can not be overstated, and I am very happy that I had the honor of meeting him.
As I walked away from Doktor Goulfinger, I noticed a flurry of activity at the table featuring Count Gore de Vol. This classic host is not only a legend in Washington DC, where he hosted movies in the 1970′s and 80′s, but in the world of horror hosting itself. Regardless of his status as a “classic” host, Count Gore (Dick Dyszel) has proven himself downright innovative in our modern world. No longer interested in performing on commercial television, he is now available to the entire world courtesy of the World Wide Web. As Doktor Goulfinger states, “Count Gore actually led the way on the ‘net. He came from years of television, was always attentive and media savvy and saw the changes coming. He’s a real leader.”
To the vast majority of hosts working today, he is a great deal more than that. By using his status to reach out and bring hosts from all over the country together, he has become the ultimate elder Statesman. Dissolving the older practice of horror hosts being solitary performers – protective of their own territories, he now makes frequent appearances on other host’s programs while also encouraging them to support each other. He is the latest recipient of the Rondo Award for “Best Active Horror Host” and was also recently featured in the latest issue of “Rue Morgue.”
Count Gore was a pleasure to meet and, despite the noise of the convention, enjoyed talking about his show. The previous weekend, Count Gore had presented the film BEAST FROM YUCCA FLATS. During this Web-cast, he contended that this film was easily “the worst film ever made,” contradicting conventional wisdom that this honor belongs to the Ed Wood disaster-piece, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. After watching his show, I found myself in agreement with the Count though, in truth, there are many movies I find less enjoyable than PLAN 9. After sharing a laugh about that, the Count advised me to “be sure and catch next week’s show the night that it airs because there’s a good chance its going to be pulled.”
I was hoping that Count Gore would have had some advanced copies of his documentary EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN to purchase but he said that attempts to get some in time for the convention had failed. “They told me they could get some to me on Monday, but that defeats the whole purpose,” he sighed. He did, however, sign a poster of the film for me as well as a photo of himself to pass on to Svengoolie. That autograph, along with Penny Dreadful’s, was shown on a recent Svengoolie mail segment.
After my conversation with Count Gore de Vol, I saw a professional television crew set up on my left. The night before, I noticed an elaborate booth being set up for “The Chiller Drive-in.” Now, with the addition of its host Wolfman Mac, it was fully operational and the perfect time for a visit….
(to be continued)
Slinking down a dark corridor, illuminated only by the glow of soft candles and dry ice, Maila Nurmi makes her grand entrance. In the unlikely event that her seductive gaze failed in seizing your immediate attention, there is no doubt that her skin tight black dress, accenting the quintessential “wasp” waist, certainly would.
Little did Los Angeles viewers of local channel, KABTV, know it at the time, they were not just witnessing the debut of Vampira but the birth of the American horror host. While the Finnish beauty stood alone in 1954, there were easily over 100 active horror hosts (including commercial television, cable, public access, and Web) at the time of her death in 2008.
Although her tenure was relatively short, her contribution to television can not be overstated. Whether you’re in Chicago (like myself) tuning in to Svengoolie every Saturday night, howling with Wolfman Mac in Michigan, or holding your sides from laughter while watching Zomboo in Reno, you are enjoying the fruits of Vampira. In March, 2010 a cavalcade of grateful, modern hosts descended upon the Indianapolis Horrorhound Convention to pay tribute to this remarkable woman.
For me, the timing could not have been better. It wasn’t long ago that I had been under the false impression that Svengoolie was the only horror host still active today. This past year I was able to experience the work of numerous others from across the country. They include men, women, vampires, witches, werewolves, and mad scientists. Horror hosting, it would appear, is the ultimate equal opportunity job. Some are creepy, some hilarious, and all are quite unique. Learning about them was not only fascinating but also highly entertaining.
The majority of horror hosts today are comprised of passionate individuals, taking their love of horror films to the “next level.” They return from their day jobs only to don make-up and adopt a clever alter ego. They are often joined by an attractive assistant, with their best friends acting as film crew. These dedicated folks air their shows via public access television. They can often be seen doing interviews at local conventions and eagerly selling the fruits of their labor. I always try to support them whenever I can which is probably why I now have over ten different versions of THE GIANT GILA MONSTER.
The rise of corporate television, and consequent near extinction of local channels, has all but killed the “classic” horror hosts that many of us were fortunate to grow up with. These are the ones that cause older fans, like myself, to develop lumps in their throats and become weepy with nostalgia at the mere mention of their names. Some have managed to survive the odds and are still standing today. They are the rarest and most influential in the horror host realm. They would include such titans as Svengoolie, Zomboo, and Son of Ghoul. Like their predecessors, these men are professional hosts working at local, commercial television stations. Their job security is based, like any network program, on ratings and viewership. This is no easy feat when one takes into account the movies that are available to them, and the fact that most people can readily access these same films from Netflix or the $1 DVD bin at Walmart.
Another emerging group of hosts are comprised of those who have taken their shows into the new age via weekly web casts. Classic host, Count Gore de Vol, has evolved into this medium. This year’s Rondo award winner for “Best Horror Host” has been presenting movies since the 1970′s. Consequently, he has developed a huge following of fans, one of which created an amazing documentary EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN. While watching that movie, I found it so fascinating that while I was enjoying the Son of Svengoolie in Chicago, kids my age in Washington DC were sharing the same devotion with Count Gore de Vol.
Representatives from all facets of hosting were represented at the Vampira Tribute. There was, however, one glaring exception. As I checked the Horrorhound website, I noticed that Svengoolie was not listed as one of the attendees. I started feeling like I was being disloyal celebrating horror hosts without my favorite one being present.
As fate should have it, Svengoolie was making an appearance at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo the day before Horrorhound. As a volunteer of the zoo, I had planned on attending the event anyway (raising money for “Vital Grounds” an organization dedicated to obtaining land for grizzlies) only to have my worlds collide with the announcement that Svengoolie was going to be our guest of honor.
I had met Rich Koz numerous times since 2003, but this visit was a bit different than the norm. This time I was seeking the blessing of my patron host, to fraternize with his peers (yes, folks, I was raised Catholic).
I researched some of the hosts attending Horrorhound and discovered that Penny Dreadful and Doktor Goulfinger were both fans of Svengoolie. When I met Rich at the zoo, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind signing one of his WCIU promo cards for these two hosts. I clenched my teeth, half expecting him to yell “TRAITOR!” while flicking the cards back at me. Instead, he was very happy to oblige. He instantly knew who both of these hosts were and I could tell by his facial expression that he liked them. He also told me he was sorry he was unable to attend the Tribute and wished me a great time. Phew!
My conscience clear, it was now time to meet some of the other hosts……
(To be continued…..)