Thursday, July 7, 2016

If I were a TV horror host

A couple of weeks ago, Jen told me about a silly little 50s sci-fi flick she saw on MeTV (The Leech Woman, if it interests you). She said one of those old-fashioned TV horror hosts introduced the film and provided commentary before and after commercials, which I thought was pretty cool. I didn't think they were still around. A quick online search revealed the host was Chicago's Svengoolie, a host I had heard of before, though the one on MeTV is actually the second to bear that name.

I don't remember any horror hosts from my childhood. I know I watched monster movies on TV, but if they came with hosts, be they vampires, mad scientists, or mutants of some kind, they don't stick out in my memory, and you'd think they would at a young age. Maybe that was more of a late night thing, but then, I only stayed up late to watch Friday Night Videos. Now that I'm reminded of horror hosts, I feel like I was deprived of an essential childhood television experience! It's great that I can see Svengoolie on MeTV if I want to, but I can't do it from a child's perspective.

Zacherley was one of the first TV horror
hosts and was big in NYC and beyond.
Here in New York we had Zacherley for many years, originally from Philadelphia. He was a genuine star both locally and nationally, cutting records, appearing on American Bandstand, making all sorts of live appearances throughout the metropolitan area, in addition to doing his shtick hosting late night horror movies on TV. Ten-year-old me probably would've dug him.

Now, of course, the only late night personalities are the ones who host talk shows, and local television is clogged with infomercials in the wee hours. Plus, the thrill of seeing a horror or SF movie on TV you've not seen in years, or at all, is mitigated by the fact that you can rent them anytime you want on Netflix or buy them on Amazon!

Let's pretend, however, just for a moment, that local networks still showed old genre films late at night and horror hosts were still there to present them. And as long as we're playing make believe, let's further pretend I had the skills to actually be a horror host... which I don't. But what if I did?

Vampira operated out of LA and built up a following
long before her appearance in Plan 9 From Outer Space.
- I'd do everything cheap. Yes, it would probably be quite possible to have a decent looking set from which to shoot, with respectable production values. I'd operate on a shoestring budget anyway! Besides, the impression I get is that one doesn't need that much in terms of set design - and it's an absolute given that there would be no computer-generated special effects. That said...

- I'd still maintain an online presence. In this day and age, it's probably a necessity if you wanna achieve any kind of notoriety.

- I'd partner up with a local theater for special events. We're running out of local theaters here in Queens, but I imagine a place like Cinemart in Forest Hills would be ideal. I could always move to the UA Midway or even the UA Kaufman when I get bigger. The point is that I could host midnight screenings, say, three or four times a year. Halloween would be the biggest one, of course.

Cleveland's Ghoulardi had a brief but successful run in the 60s
before moving to LA to do voice work.
- I'd include 70s and 80s movies in my repertoire. Not just because these were the decades of my youth, but because there's probably a wider variety of schlock available. The only downside might be restrictions in terms of nudity and profanity, but there could be ways around that. For example, Zacherley was known for occasionally inserting himself into the movies when one least expected it - though it probably wasn't to cover up a nude scene.

- Most importantly, my character would be a comic book-style supervillain. A low-rent one, naturally, who operates out of the ruins of an old, abandoned video store. He watches these old movies (the only ones still intact) to figure out a plan to conquer the world, but they all disappoint him in the end because they're never good enough. I'd be a combination of General Zod and Leslie Nielsen from the Naked Gun movies. I'd need a henchman too - a puppet of some kind, perhaps. I could see that working, couldn't you?


  1. I love Svengoolie! I watched him for about 3 years before I went to streaming only. He is basically the only thing I miss about network television. There was a one-off character on Glee based on him, believe it or not.

    Growing up in Indiana, we had Sammy Terry who was out of Indianapolis, and Elvira was shown on the same channel, but pumped in from LA, I think. You might know that she was sued by Vampira.

    Speaking of, there's a super weird documentary called Vampira: The Movie that covers her life, and has a segment about horror hosts in general. And yes, you'd be a great one!

  2. Why, thank you. :-D

    I never gave horror hosts much thought until putting together this post. Maybe someday we'll get the best of both worlds and one of these types will get a late night talk show instead of the Hot Comedian of the Moment. We could do a lot worse!

  3. You too COULD BE a horror movie host. In this day of YouTube, etc. it is a definitely go. I can see it all now - "Count Rich and Monster, Horror, Chiller Theater". Get cracking on that puppet.

  4. See, now you got me thinking about it...! I suppose I could use public domain movies, rent a camera from somewhere, put together a silly outfit. Maybe after I finish writing my novel.


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