elionwyr: (spooky)
[personal profile] elionwyr
Dr Meridian hosted Shock! on WPTA around 1958 in Fort Wayne Indiana. All we as fans really know about Dr Meridian comes from Elena Watson's thorough book, T.V. Horror Movie Hosts where she writes:

"[Dr Meridian]...liked to work in his laboratory conducting experiments (including)
...brain transplantation and the preservation of a human head."
elionwyr: (spooky)
[personal profile] elionwyr
Add Mr Byram to the list of Mystery Hosts.

We know there was a show on in Denver, CO, because station KBTV was one of the purchasers of the Shock! movie packages in 1958. It's possible that Shock! was the name of the horror host show. It seems pretty certain that George Byram was both the actor's name as well as the character's name. There's no record (thus far) of costuming or audience reaction, or even of exactly how long the show was on the air.

No links, because truly, sadly, there just isn't much more information available.

:(
elionwyr: (spooky)
[personal profile] elionwyr
As will become obvious with far too many of these entries, the search for information about America's horror host programs often leaves one with precious few facts.

Such is the case with Baltimore's television program Shock!.

Shock! was broadcast on WBAL-TV from November 9, 1957 to some time in 1959. This time, the program was presented as a family affair, with Richard and Nancy Lee Dix playing the husband and wife team Dr Lucifer and Mrs (Grace) Lucifer. Promotional photos show they were accompanied by daughter Lucretia little Baby Borgia, and a Great Dane with a tendency to present varied arms and legs to Dr Lucifer, but not much is apparently known about who filled these roles. The family photos have a definite "Addams Family" type of look to them.

We do know that Dix was a seasoned and versatile actor, and that Dr Lucifer was a bit of a bungling scientist...full of ambition, he was more often than not the victim of his schemes and experiments.

For more information and a photo about the Lucifer family:
http://myweb.wvnet.edu/e-gor/tvhorrorhosts/grafix/drlucifer2.jpg
elionwyr: (spooky)
[personal profile] elionwyr
Western PA native Don Kennedy (born in 1931) hosted The Shock Show for WSB-TV in Atlanta.

Not much is known about the show other than that it ran from the fall of 1957 until late 1958/early 1959, when Kennedy moved on to host the much-better-known children's show The Popeye Club.

Don's major love is big band music. Though he's known for providing cartoon voices for The Cartoon Network, including Space Ghost and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, he is most known for his radio program Big Band Jump.


For more general career information about Don Kennedy:
http://bigbandjump.com/article1.html


* Note: I will try to track down more information about Mr Kennedy and this program.
elionwyr: (spooky)
[personal profile] elionwyr
Though Milwaukee entered the horror show biz in 1954 with WTMJ's program, Movies at Midnight, there was no horror host to be seen. WITI introduced its own show, Haunted in 1958...which was also hostless.

This sad state of affairs was to change later in 1958, after WITI purchased the Shock! and Son of Shock! film packages.

Local actor Robert Hersh (January 15, 1933 - April 30, 2006) was invited to play host to the still-in-development programs, Shock and Double Shock. He took some convincing, as he didn't think the role was 'worthy' of him. After much discussion, he agreed to take on the part of "The Advisor". Dressed as an every-man, The Advisor's role was to talk to the audience about the movie of the night and about current events in general...in effect, to advise the audience. His only real nod to the genre was in the show's introduction, during which he'd be seen standing in a coffin.



For both television shows, which aired Friday and Saturday nights, The Advisor's only castmate was a monkey named Sancho. Worth noting here is that WTMJ introduced a competing late night horror movie program, The Witching Hour, to compete with WITI's success. The hostless Witching Hour ran from October 1958 to mid-February 1962.

Shock aired from August 22, 1958 to March 27, 1959. Double Shock, not surprisingly, aired from August 23, 1958 to March 28, 1959. The shows quickly gained a fan club following, generating hundreds of letters a week to the station. Still, when program director Larry Turet moved on to WXIX in 1959, Hersh followed along. The Advisor's Mystery Theater hit the airwaves on July 24 and continued for just 5 months, when Hersh left the station and chose instead to pursue a legal career.


For more information about The Advisor:
http://www.milwaukee-horror-hosts.com/

Selwin

Apr. 14th, 2009 05:04 pm
elionwyr: (spooky)
[personal profile] elionwyr
Though we know there were many horror host programs across the country, for many there is very little history left behind. Selwin is one such host.

Played by station director Ray Sparenburg (1939? - November 1, 2001), Selwin hosted Friday Fright Night from the fall of 1958 to 1961 on WISH-TV in Indianapolis. Worth noting is that Vampira reportedly co-hosted an episode of Fright Night and that, like his predecessors, Selwin had a well-supported fan club. One of the things that made Selwin unique, however, was that he had a pedigree to boast: he was the son of Catwoman and Wolfman.



The show's format changed over time from a horror-theme to a jungle-theme, and Selwin underwent costume changes as needed..though he kept his ghoulish make-up on under his pith helmet for his new character, "Jungle Jim." Selwin on Saturdays was on the air from late 1961 to April 1962. Sparenburg was then brought back to his late night slot, this time dressed as an astronaut and introducing science fiction films. The only thing clear about this show was that, even in a spacesuit, the was still unmistakably Selvin.

Sparenburg moved to Atlanta, where he reportedly tried to unsuccessfully revive his character, and the horror host mantle was passed on to Sammy Terry.


For more information about Selwin:
http://www.historiccolumbusindiana.org/whatwewatched/whatwewatched.asp
elionwyr: (spooky)
[personal profile] elionwyr
As Zacherle took to the airwaves in Philadelphia, horror hosts were starting to spring up around the country. It's a little surprising to note how quickly show names were repeated, as is the case with Chicago's own Shock Theater.

WKBK tapped local actor Terry Bennett (April 25, 1930 - October 12, 1977) to host this new program. Bennett was a logical choice, as he'd been working at WKBK as a producer, writer, actor, logo designer, program development coordinator, and director. Yet Bennett found this new character, Marvin, a challenge to assume.



Marvin had a very different look from Zacherle and Vampira, whose characters used fairly elaborate costuming and make-up. Marvin's costuming consisted of myoptic glasses and a heavy black turtleneck sweater. Marvin, like Zacherle, had a wife on set with him, but in this case the audience had..well..at least a body to put to the name. Terry's wife, Joy, played the often-tortured "Dear," though her face was never revealed until the last episode of the show.

Shock Theater hit the airwaves on December 7, 1957, and quickly gained enough popularity to warrant a secondary half-hour show to be scheduled afterwards. Called The Shocktale Party, the show had a rather more expanded cast which included "Shorty," a Frankenstein-esque monster, an assistant named "Orville," and a full studio band, "The Deadbeats."



Like his predecessors, Martin had an enthusiastic following and a fan club. When the show was cancelled in August 1959, thousands of fans signed a petition begging for a return/renewal. The audience was treated to a personal farewell by "Dear" and the last episode of The Shocktale Party featured Joy and Terry, out of costume, sitting and discussing the past year and a half of shows...a classy end to a sometimes-creepy, sometimes-silly show.

For more information about Martin, please visit:
http://www.chicagotelevision.com/sven.htm
http://www.chicagotelevision.com/bennett.htm
elionwyr: (spooky)
[personal profile] elionwyr
When we look at the fame of horror hosts, it's easy to believe their fame translated to national broadcastings of their shows. Nothing could be further from the truth. Local markets had local TV program hosts, and so while Vampira's career exploded in California, the gentlemen were slowly picking up the reins on the eastern side of the US.

John Zacherle, a native of the Philadelphia environs born September 26, 1918, took up the haunted mantle after working as an actor on a western themed program at WCAU-TV. His work as varied characters - including an undertaker - were memorable enough so that when WCAU signed on as one of the stations slated to broadcast Universal Pictures' "SHOCK" movie package, Zacherle was called in to introduce the films.

Shock Theater hit the airwaves on October 7, 1957. Zacherle played a character called "Roland" and, like Vampira, was the only actor on the show...though mystery was introduced via his conversations with a woman referred only to as "my dear" and who apparently lived in a coffin. Other unseen characters included Igor, his assistant, and Gasport, his son.

Zacherle introduced the idea of breaking into whatever film was being shown, reacting to the scene for a long moment or two. This became known as a 'break-in' and became something fans looked forward to every week. It was also during his stint at WCAU that Zacherle started recording humourous horror-themed rock songs; his first number, "Dinner with Drac," made it up to #6 on the Billboard charts in 1958.






In 1958, WCAU was purchased by CBS and Zacherle took his show to New York's WABC-TV. The show retained its format and style, though the lead character changed to Zacherley, the show's name was changed to Zacherley at Large, and "my dear" was finally given an actual name..Isobel. It's also worth noting that Shock Theater was a bit more gory than Zacherley at Large, and the crypt set was smaller, though more detailed.

From September 22, 1958 until June 20, 1959, Zacherley graced the airwaves of WABC (for a detailed break-down of dates and show titles visit E-Gor's page); then the show was taken to competing station WOR and set to debut October 9th. Zacherle stayed in the public eye by continuing to record full-length albums, booking personal appearances, and even staging a "Zacherley for President" campaign. WOR offered the show the smallest set to date, but marketed the character harder than anyone else. Also, the show was recorded and rebroadcast on sister station WKHJ in California, making Zacherle the first syndicated horror host. Sadly, most of these tapes were not preserved.

Zacherle's contract with WOR expired in 1960, but he continued to make special television appearances on American Bandstand, telethons, hosted a cartoon program, and even had his own music show, Zacherley's Disco Teen. Though most of his television career was focused in the 1960's, Zacherle has consistently remained in the public eye with his movie cameos, his musical releases, and his regular convention appearances, most notably at NJ's Chiller Theatre.

From his costuming to his professionalism to the length of his continuing career, Zacherle has certainly earned the title "King of the Horror Hosts."

For more information about Zacherle, please visit:
http://www.youtube.com/v/6f7ad5QmGU0 - Shock Theater opening
http://www.zacherley.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Zacherle
http://myweb.wvnet.edu/e-gor/tvhorrorhosts/hostsz.html - many links and a very succinct time line
elionwyr: (spooky)
[personal profile] elionwyr
When Vampira hit the air waves in 1954, she was introducing a rather wide variety of horror, suspense, and mystery films. She poked fun at the often poor quality of these movies, but the very fact that TV stations were airing them indicates how strong a need for programming existed in those early days of television.

Recognizing a marketing opportunity, Universal Pictures worked with Screen Gems to release a package of films made in the '30s and '40s that had previously only been seen in theaters. The package was called Shock and contained roughly 52 films, depending on what the television stations involved were interested in acquiring.

With DVD rentals, a plethora of cable stations, and now internet sites such as Hulu, it's a little hard to imagine how exciting this move must have been. Audiences could now enjoy classics such as Dracula, as well as lesser-known thrillers such as Reported Missing, in the comfort of their homes.

Shock was so successful that a year later, in 1958, Son of Shock was also offered. Over 70 stations across the US bought the film packages, and some stations opted to follow in Vampira's footprints, hiring actors to portray mad scientists, ghouls, and vampires to introduce these horror movie shows.

And thus started the heyday of the horror host movement.




For more information, please visit:
http://myweb.wvnet.edu/e-gor/tvhorrorhosts/shoklist.html
http://flashgordon.homestead.com/files/universalshock.html
http://myweb.wvnet.edu/e-gor/tvhorrorhosts/fmshock.html - includes a list of horror hosts from 1958

Vampira

Apr. 12th, 2009 03:00 pm
elionwyr: (spooky)
[personal profile] elionwyr
Generally credited with being the first horror host, Maila Nurmi (December 21, 1921 - January 10, 2008) slinked her way into her title by winning a Hollywood costume contest in 1953. She dressed as the then-unnamed female that graced the pages of Charles Addams' New Yorker comics; in doing so, she caught the eye of KABC-TV's producer, Hunt Stromberg Jr.

It took five months, but eventually Mr. Stromberg got in touch with Maila. She was offered a position doing live-broadcast introductions to late-night horror film airings. During this era of television, having local talent involved with in-house production of programming was the norm. Maila's look and style, however, was something altogether different from what had come before, and her show set the bar for every horror host that was to follow.







A fan club and a mock-running for "Night Mayor of California" helped fuel Vampira's popularity. Though she remains legendary, most of her work has not survived over time because her show was a live broadcast. Additionally, The Vampira Show was only on the air from April 30, 1954 to April 2, 1955. She retained the rights to the character and took her act to competing station KHY-TV, but that version of the show was apparently never aired.

Ironically, some of the best photage that remains of Vampira is from the much-maligned film Plan 9 from Outer Space.




In later years, Maila would sue Cassandra Peterson over Peterson's creation of the character Elvira, which has a similar look and feel to Nurmi's Vampira. Considering Nurmi's deliberate efforts to make sure Vampira was not merely a Charles Addams' rip-off, one can understand Nurmi's emotions concerning the Vampira character. However, the courts ruled in Peterson's favour, and Elvira gained a legendary existence all her own.

For more information about Vampira, please visit:
http://www.vampirasattic.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maila_Nurmi
http://www.milwaukee-horror-hosts.com/VampiraShow.html - episode list
http://www.vampirathemovie.com
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfvXzrWGt6Y - "American Scary" clip

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