Back in 1984, the rural town of Kenosha, Wisconsin became the unlikely venue for a unique type of art show. Local resident, Dale Wamboldt, was determined to create a venue where artists such as himself (who delve in the more ominous side of creativity) could showcase their work for a public audience. A fan of Oscar Wilde’s classic novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Dale was fascinated by the concept of using art to express his own darker side. Years later, he would adopt his own alter ego as a horror host, Dr. Destruction, while continuing the annual tradition of the “The Dorian Gray Art Show.”
This was my first year attending the show and I drove up with my friends, The Count & Countess Gregula, who have occasionally hosted films via Illinois Public Access. Their presence made sense as the theme of this year’s show was “Night of the Horror Hosts.” We arrived at the Rhode Opera House in downtown Kenosha and were greeted by Destruction’s sidekick, Deadgar Winters, as we entered the main show room. The theater, which opened in 1927, was beautiful and retained many of its original projectors and concession machines for public display.
Having missed the earlier crowds, there was plenty of opportunity to talk to the featured artists while enjoying their creations. First, I said hello to my friend, Dr Destruction, who quickly introduced me to his old pal, Ari Lehman. Mr. Lehman has the distinction of being the first physical incarnation of Jason Vorhees from the FRIDAY THE 13TH films. He was the young boy who jumped out of the waters of Crystal Lake to attack an unsuspecting Adrienne King at the original film’s conclusion. Ari was very personable and, like Dr Destruction, had lots of energy.
Dr. Destruction showed off some of his pieces which included some dedicated to classic Horror Hosts. This consisted of two large portraits dedicated to the “mother” and “father” of all horror hosts, Vampira and Zacherley! The one that caught my eye, however, was smaller and to the left. It was a painting of Rich Koz’s “Son of Svengoolie” (still on the air and now simply Svengoolie) whom I had grown up with.
As Dr Destruction went off to greet more of his guests, I socialized with the artists. The first was Josh Lucas, who created an amazing clock that immediately caught my eye. Josh was very friendly and talked about his devotion to the Rob Zombie HALLOWEEN films, while showing off an amazing tattoo of Michael Myers on his right shoulder. Josh is looking forward to attending the upcoming FLASHBACK WEEKEND where he hopes to finally meet Danielle Harris – who starred in films from both of the HALLOWEEN series. As for the clock, I was intent on buying one but Josh had, not surprisingly, sold out. I am hoping to catch him again at event hosted by Deadgar Winters later this month.
When I had first entered the gallery, my eye was immediately drawn to a painting of Karoff’s FRANKENSTEIN. The creator of the piece was John Bonior who said he did it in 3 hours. I thought it was unbelievable and the artist, himself, seemed surprised. “This is my first year here and I just never thought I was good enough,” he said. I’m quite sure that anyone seeing these pictures would disagree. His work was amazing and, had I brought more cash with me, it’s likely I would have walked home with Frank. John had also painted young Michael Brody from the film JAWS in the scene where he stares in horror as a man nearby gets eaten by the famed Great White Shark. This would later prompt a discussion between John and I where John recounted a story of meeting Richard Deryfuss and his apparent feud with actor, Bill Murray. It isn’t my tale to tell but, suffice it to say, it’s the kind of story a blogger dreams of.
Also featured at the show was the works of Michael Ables and Jody Elizabeth. The couple each share a love of the macabre and this is evident through John’s prints and Jody’s amazing paintings. “Before Dorian Gray, there was nowhere artists like us could show our work,” said John.”We really appreciate ‘Dorian Gray.”
Jody’s work was not just interesting due to her dramatic renderings, but also for their “texture.” She encouraged visitors to touch her work which was often layered and 3 Dimensional. One of the most interesting pieces depicted a maniacal clown in which Jody cleverly used real ice cream cones to finish the presentation. She is also a talented jewelry maker and created a unique bracelet proudly worn by Michael.
As this was “Night of the Horror Hosts,” there were a few of those on hand as well. Marlena Midnite from Midnite Mausoleum drove up from Iowa to attend the event and stationed her own booth selling episodes of her show & “Midnite Mausoleum” swag.
The Gregulas and I had split off after arriving but met back up later. They were being very social and enjoyed talking with Dr. Destruction as well as a fellow Svengoolie fan who calls herself “Svengirlie.” I’ve noticed in the course of my Svengoolie fandom quite a few gals who routinely dress up like Sven. If I had musical talent, I think I’d create a Svengoolie tribute band and perform some of Sven’s parody songs with the Sven gals in the background. Sort of like the ones in those Robert Palmer videos back in the 1980’s. I didn’t get a chance to chat much with “Svengirlie” as she was leaving just as I’d finally met up with them, but both her and her boyfriend seemed like a lot of fun.
Ivan Cryptosis was also in attendance and we spoke a bit about the history of his character as well as his story in SCARY MONSTERS MAGAZINE which was featured in the 2009 Monster Memories issue. The writer of that piece, the late Dick Nitelinger, had also written an early story on Dr. Destruction when his show first began some ten years ago. My article on Dr Destruction (slated to appear in the summer 2011 issue) will continue where that one left off.
While there is an existing feud between The Gregulas and Ivan, they jabbed each other throughout the evening in a civil manner, thereby making a potentially uncomfortable situation rather humorous. Gregula and I also filmed some interviews and we had quite a few laughs. It’s always a lot of fun going on road trips to Kenosha with both he and his “Greg”arious wife!
By the evening’s close, I approached Dr Destruction and asked how much he was selling his “Son of Svengoolie” painting. “I’m not selling that one,” he said as my spirits began to drop. “That one belongs to you.” I couldn’t believe his generosity and eagerly took my painting back to Chicago. I had a great time at The Dorian Gray Art Show and look forward to returning next year.