Interview conducted by The Bone Jangler
The Bone Jangler: What made you decide to become a Horror Host?
Remo D: I grew up with the genre, and I have my father to thank for that. My earliest “movie” memory involves watching THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN with him on television–while I’m told that the “giant” spider scene drove many a child to hide behind the couch, I was simply fascinated. Watching the Saturday night “Creature Features” on WGN became a tradition (at least while Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart were in reruns).
Vacation time took us to San Francisco, where I got my first look at Bob Wilkins (not that I was ever allowed to stay up to watch his entire show)–I was very pleased to learn more about the movies I was watching in the process. Back in Chicagoland (I grew up in Valparaiso, Indiana, which showed Chicago television, of course), I occasionally got to see fuzzy UHF airings of the original Svengoolie and The Ghoul–I still remember a sketch from the latter show involving Froggy and something he had swallowed. There it was–my first combination of a creature-feature (THE CRAWLING EYE, in fact) and a host who provided wacky comedy to go with it.
As I stayed up for late-night weekend horror movies over my grade-school years, I improvised host segments and the occasional sketch–my unnamed host played to an audience in my own head (if I fell asleep on the movie, the audience would even see me napping between segments, so I decreed).
But of course, it took Rich Koz to surface as the Son of Svengoolie to really spark me off–here was a guy who was DOING everything I was imagining and more. If I wasn’t the first fan to write to him, I was definitely the first fan whose name he read on the air (and the proof is on YouTube!)–so I continue to declare myself Sven’s “original fan.” I never missed an episode–I cheered when he won local Emmys–he was the complete and total validation of my imagination (and yes, I continued to “host” every NON-Sven horror movie I watched with vigor).
The process of actually becoming a host took much, much longer, of course–but Rich “Svengoolie” Koz remains my most potent inspiration and the main reason I chose to pursue the reality.
TBJ: Who is Remo D.?
Remo D: In the parlance of professional wrestling, he’s “me with the volume turned up.”
Had I been born Shane today, it’s unlikely that the name would ever have changed. But when you’re born Shane in 1965, you can expect to have “Come back, Shane” jokes directed at you throughout your lifetime (as in “Gee, that was funny when I first heard it the first hundred times twenty years ago”). A move from Valparaiso to study film in San Francisco in the 1980s gave me the opportunity to start with a clean slate, and while I never legally changed my name, I made use of the nickname “Remo” (which I’d picked up because I was frequently seen reading the Destroyer paperback series featuring the character of Remo Williams). The “D” simply stands for my last name–I signed up to entertain in a campus cantina in San Francisco and was introduced as “Remo D.” Plain and simple–I liked that. Eventually, I got to host my own cantina show: REMO D.’S MAYHEM. Yep–sketches, comedians, musical acts–AND a movie… technically, this was my first “horror hosting” gig (and yes, I already had the hook hand).
As seen at the MANOR OF MAYHEM, Remo is exactly what I am–an enthusiastic fan who simply loves to share–not just the movies, but the trivia and stories behind both the movies and the people who made them. And just like me, he’s got a pretty twisted sense of humor which is more than capable of getting him into trouble. The storylines and situations the MANOR crews get into are equally inspired by the movies we show and what’s been going on in our lives.
The key difference between Shane and Remo (besides the former’s obligation to tone it down in the workplace) is that Shane constantly reviews movies in print and calls them exactly as he sees them… Remo would prefer to let the weekly movie speak for itself without any critical commentary. “Here’s this week’s movie, and here’s the story behind it. This explains why I wanted to share it with you–and I hope you enjoy it.”
TBJ: “Manor Of Mayhem” first aired on what date?
Remo D: REMO D.’S MANOR OF MAYHEM debuted on Friday, January 4th, 2002 with a screening of ASSIGNMENT TERROR. The debut episode was a very simple affair, featuring only a movie and my stand-up trivia/patter. My first joke involved trying to track down all of the classic monsters featured in the movie, only to find that they were all selling Amway products. Who was behind it all? The Mummy of course… why do you think they call it a “pyramid scheme?” Next up was CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD, featuring the first on-camera appearances of our stalwart technical director Dave Deacon as Montag (later DR. Montag) and producer Gregg Galdo as a nervous messenger (he would debut as Kato, the Black Hornet in our second season).
TBJ: Who is your all-time favorite Horror Actor/Actress?
Remo D: With all profound respect to the late and living legends who have populated my entertainment life, no single performer associated with the genre has made more of an impact in my life than the great Paul Naschy.
He supplied the inspiration (not to mention the body of work) behind my very first published articles, and he’s been a MANOR fixture from the very beginning (see previous question). And this was BEFORE I had the privilege of personally befriending him and his family. When he passed away at the end of 2010, I simply had to break character and say goodbye to him on the air as plain old Shane…
As for my favorite genre actress? I must repeat my respects for the vast goldmine out there, but here I will tip my beret in particular to the iconic Barbara Steele, who lends an unforgettable presence to everything she touches (though I’ve never had the pleasure of knowing her personally).
TBJ: The Horror Host Underground came along at just the right time, I think. How influential do you think the HHU has been on the (Horror Hosting) genre(, and why)?
Remo D: Well, I can certainly tell you that the Horror Host Underground made a HUGE difference for me. I went nearly two years going it alone, convinced that aside from such established stars as Svengoolie and Elvira, I was the only one out there who was trying to keep the weekend “creature feature” a reality. It took an article from Crystal “Ghoulery” Guillory on the late, lamented Horror-Wood website to startle the hell out of me and let me know that I wasn’t even CLOSE to the only one… and I can’t imagine that my experience was unique.
Here it is. Since the dawn of the “infomercial,” the chances of succeeding with a horror-host program on paid broadcast television were reduced to nearly non-existent. That means that anyone who was actually DOING such a show was doing it for the sheer love of it. This meant that the Horror Host Underground was a like-minded community like no other. Not competitors or collaborators. All there to see to it that anybody who wanted their “creature feature” fix would GET it, no matter WHERE they lived.
The free trade of shows between hosts was a particular blessing–it’s great to be able to run samples of everybody else’s show between MANOR reruns as we work on a new season every year–and the fact that we can all see each other’s work gives plenty of opportunity for crossover projects the like of which would have been unthinkable in the ‘broadcast-only’ era–adding color and flavor to ALL of our shows. So–long answer short–the influence of the HHU has been strong and proud and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
TBJ: Of all of the Horror Hosts you’ve met in person, which are you personally closest to?
Remo D: The first HHU host to contact me once I introduced myself to the group was A. Ghastlee Ghoul–who has been a special friend to me and my entire family ever since. But of course, I’ve only MET the gentleman once–on the occasion of his Wasteland Wedding
At that same occasion, I forged true friendships with several more fellows I’d only met on-line previously… Halloween Jack, Professor Griffin and your good self among them. It was great to “Meet” the Cleavers, and I really hit it off with Hayden “I Zombi” Milligan, whom I still miss horrendously. But no host has made more of an impact outside of the convention zone than that patient storyteller known as Carpathian. Back in 2004, my MANOR buddies and I hosted a charity film festival in the name of Jonelle Snead–who was then doing her best to cope with her terminal cancer diagnosis… and it was Carpathian who made the trip to our neck of the woods (Monterey County, California) to lend his presence to the event–and his personal support to Jonelle. That was without a doubt the most moving host-related occasion I am likely to experience–and nothing will ever break that bond.
TBJ: Of all of the Horror Hosts that you have yet to meet, which ones are you looking forward to meeting the most?
Remo D: My family and I will return to Cinema Wasteland in October of 2012. There are so many more of you that I want to meet… Penny Dreadful springs immediately to mind. I hope to meet Dr. Dreck and Moaner, the Sinister Minister, Dr. Fear, Jebediah Buzzard, The Host (of Screaming Horror Theatre), Ormon Grimsby, Karloss Borloff and The Monster Madhouse Crew, Dr. Lady, the Dark Vault crew… I could go on like this and still leave somebody out, so I’d best stop. But I’ll bet they’ve been seen in my timeslot, regardless!
TBJ: Is there a movie that you still haven’t hosted after all this time that you’ve been wanting to host forever?
Remo D: No two ways about it: SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. Of course, it’s part of a set with the two excellent James Whale films that preceded it, and I wouldn’t suggest that it was somehow “better” than either of them… BUT only THIS film gives you Boris Karloff. AND Bela Lugosi. AND Basil Rathbone. AND Lionel Atwill. AND the sulfur pit. AND those wonderful sets. Ask me to name my favorite horror film and we’ll be here all day… but SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, to me, is the film that has it ALL.
TBJ: With the advent of the “online only” Horror Host, there seems to be a new Horror Host every 5 minutes. Do you think we’ll see the same longevity from these Hosts as we’ve seen with their television counterparts?
Remo D: Well, certainly not ALL of them. I offer no disrespect whatsoever when I point out that since it has become much easier to produce and present a show on-line (for example), there will be quite a few people who simply “wanted to try it” and who will be satisfied after playing their role for a handful of installments. But by the same token, non-broadcast shows such as these don’t have to depend on Nielsen ratings or paid sponsors to stay alive–which leaves the longevity issue up to the hosts themselves. Those who are driven to do it will continue to do it–so I can’t offer any predictions… we’ll simply have to see what happens!
TBJ: The best thing about being a Horror Host is what?
Remo D: Sharing the joy. There’s no better answer. Maybe nobody’s watching, but what a treat when someone tells you they are. What a treat when people want to be a part of it despite the utter lack of monetary compensation (I frequently promise my guest players double what I’m making and I always keep that promise). What a treat to know the history to which you belong AND to put your unique stamp on it. Just to DO what I’ve always wanted to do. What a treat.
…………………. The calendar year 2011 marks the tenth year on the air, the fifteenth season AND the 200th episode of REMO D.’S MANOR OF MAYHEM. I can’t let this occasion go by without once again acknowledging my compadres Gregg Galdo and Dave Deacon, who have literally been there from the beginning. Kudos as well to Collette Cotelo, aka ‘C.C. the Vaultmistress,’ who’s been with us for more than half of the journey. And a huge MANOR welcome to our newest friends Allyson “Puddles” Bojorques (Carlotta Nightshade), Jeannie Bryant Parker (Dr. Zorders) and Penelope Morgan (the new Remo D.) … wait–WHAT was that? You’ll see…