Last week we discussed some of TV's coolest horror hosts, from Vampira to Count Gore De Vol. With all the great hosts out there, the topic demanded a sequel.
“This movie is so bad, you should just go to bed,” Ghoulardi (announcer Ernie Anderson) used to warn late night followers of Cleveland’s Shock Theater. But during his short run from 1963-66, the lab-coated host was responsible for keeping more kids up past their bedtime than candy bars or Coca-Cola. A hipster with a Van Dyke beard, Ghoulardi improvised his shows, peppering phrases like “Cool it” and “Stay sick, knif (fink backwards)” in his patter, while spinning jazz and R & B records. After he left the show, he had a successful career in L.A. as a voiceover guy for ABC-TV in the ‘70s. Anderson died in 1997.
“Calling all stations. Clear the airlanes. Clear all the airlanes for the big broadcast!” For over forty years, Svengoolie has been haunting Saturday nights in Chicago with corny jokes and campy creature features. Unusual among horror hosts, he may be the only one who has been played by two different actors, with different looks. The original Svengoolie (Jerry G. Bishop) was a hippie with a Transylvanian accent. A writer on his show, Rich Koz, eventually succeeded him in 1979 as Son of Svengoolie (in time he dropped the first part). With song parodies, rubber chickens and favorite skits like Mr. Robber’s Neighborhood, Svengoolie is still going strong every Saturday.
3. Chilly Billy
From 1963-83, Bill Cardille, better known as “Chilly Billy,” was Pittsburgh’s smiling, cigarette-puffing emcee of Chiller Theater. Unlike other horror hosts, Chilly didn’t wear spooky make-up or garb, but just relied on an easy, wise-cracking manner. In the mid-‘70s, the show expanded to include characters such as Norman The Castle Keeper, Terminal Stare and Stefan The Castle Prankster. Today, Cardille has a daily radio show on WJAS. SCTV’s Joe Flaherty, a Pittsburgh native, acknowledged that Cardille was an inspiration for his Count Floyd character.
4. The Cool Ghoul
“Bl-bl-bl-bl-bl-bl-bl . . .” was the Ghoul’s (Dick Von Hoene) signature tongue-fluttering call to viewers around the Cincinnati area for over three decades. With an orange pageboy wig and goblin make-up, he introduced movies, did a mean Boris Karloff impersonation and sang parody songs like “Ten Foot Two, Eyes Of Glue (Has Anybody Seen My Ghoul).” Von Hoene passed away in 2004.
5. Joe Bob Briggs Monstervision
By the early ‘90s, horror hosts were an endangered species. Enter Joe Bob Briggs (real name John Irving Bloom) and his Monstervision program. Coming on like a slightly cynical Andy Griffith, Briggs’s charm lay in both his knowledge of cult horror movies and his straightforward take on the crappy ones. His “Drive-In Totals” would tally up the key stats of a film (“17 dead bodies, two breasts, tribal dancing . . .”). The show went off the air in 2000, but Briggs has stayed active. According to his Facebook page, his production company is “accepting spec scripts for horror and other genre films.”
6. Sammy Terry
I wonder how many kids in Indiana had nightmares about this guy. A Hoosier favorite since the early 1960s, Nightmare Theater host Sammy (Robert Carter) is more creepy than campy. With his pale round face, red skull cap and ominous laugh, he’s like a freakish character out of a Poe story. Or maybe he’s just a good actor. Supporting characters George the Spider, Ghoulsbie and Ghost Girl added some levity to the proceedings. Today, Carter’s son Mark continues to play the character.
I couldn’t pass up the chance to mention my own close encounter with a legendary horror host. Last year, while visiting Los Angeles, I was walking around and spotted Joe Flaherty. I’m an SCTV fanatic, so to meet Count Floyd (not to mention Sammy Maudlin and
DonGuy Caballero) was a huge thrill. Joe couldn’t have been nicer. He answered all my nerdy questions, then let me grab a picture with him.