Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Horror Hosts Version 2019

Everyone it is only a few days before my favorite holiday,  Halloween.

I first want to do my Halloween blog post about the Horror, or Monster Hosts.  These are the people who present your favorite, or non-favorite, horror movies to us.  Sometimes they are humorous, sometimes serious, but no matter what they do, we always enjoy watching them.

Let’s go back to the history of the horror host.  First, we must understand the conditions that made the arise from obscurity (or grave) and become a mainstay on local TV. In 1957 a group of movies were released for syndication on local TV. Some of the local tv stations simply played the movies, however, others had an idea of having a host introduce them.  These were the first horror hosts, many of these “horror hosts” were already employed at the stations as weatherman, sportscasters or others.

Vampira- Is often recognized as the first horror host. Actually, she began before the release of the syndication of horror/si fi movie package.  The actress Maila Nurmi, went to a costume ball dressed as Morticia from the Addams Family Comic strip. Being noticed at this ball, the character of Vampira and her show began.

Zarcherley- (portrayed by John Zacherle) Was a horror host that began in 1957.  He continued throughout the decades.  His show was humorous with Zacherley perfuming some funny skit.  He had records, books and appeared in other mediums.  I personally bought a DVD copy of “The Aurora Monsters: The Model Craze That Gripped the World”, which is a documentary about the aurora monster kits (which I had as a child).  It also featured a puppet named Gorgo of Bill Diampond Productions. John Zacherle died in October 27, 2016 at the age of 96.

We will jump from the 1950’s to the 1960’s, because I wanted to mention the one Horror Host that had a big impact on me.

Monster Movie Matinee- For me this will always be my favorite, as I grew up on it. While other horror hosts were funny, they took their show in the opposite direction. Alan Milair who played the host Dr. E. Nick Whitty, this character was so horrible looking that seeing his face would make you so insane.  Instead of viewing his face, all the tv audience could see were his hands. His assistant Epal, played by Bill Lape was himself disfigured with scars and an eyepatch.  Each week, they would introduce a movie, while they would go through adventures inside their haunted house, such as when Epal was infected with lycanthropy.  See more about this show and its impact on me later in the article.

Another famous horror host of Central NY was Baron Daemon, played by Mike Price.  He also was very popular in the area, and beyond. It was my pleasure to serve with Mike Price in the Coast Guard Reserves back in the 1980’s.

Other famous horror hosts were Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille, Dr. Creep, The Cool Ghoul, Gore de Vol and others.  Almost every tv market had at least one horror host available.

The next major star, and perhaps the most famous was Elvira.  In 1981 there was going to be a revamp of the show Fright Night, the host Larry Vincent had recently passed away. They had approached Vampira, seeing if she would revive her famous horror host. Maila Nurmi decided not to do the show.  Cassandra Peterson replaced her, with a buxom appearance and a valley girl attitude, she soon became a hit.

Joe Bob Briggs (John Irving Bloom) portrays a rural, country man watching horror, monster movies; but specializing in movies created to be shown in drive-ins. His show went through several formats not to mention stations. MonsterVision was one of these formats which was shown on the TNT network.  Monster Vision was an excellent show but was destroyed by the network that aired it.  Instead of monster or horror movies, they began showing more mainstream films.  Instead of expanding an audience, it lost the audience it once had.

Svengoolie- Aired on MeTV and currently portrayed by Rich Koz (The original host was Jerry G. Bishop). This show has been resurrected several times over the years.  The show is a popular member of the MeTV lineup throughout the country, not just the Chicago area where it is filmed.  Svengoolie has become one of the most popular current horror hosts.

Lamia, Queen of the Dark, Host of Horror Hotel- Lamia is joined by Lilith her pet snake and ‘lil’ Zombie, and other characters. To say I am impressed with this show and its host is an understatement.  

Lamia is lovely and intelligent, and it shows in this series. The show’s skits are humorous, but for me the main attraction is her knowledge of the movies themselves. For every movie she gives detailed information about the actors, directors, producers and others associated with it, the research into these movies is intensive. If you have not given this show a try, YOU MUST.  It is featured for me on Roku, but you can see it on Action TV and Retro networks and other channels across the country.

There is also a Horror Hotel Film Festival and Convention held in Cleveland OH, in June.  Soon my horror/fantasy novel will be released, and if it is popular enough, I am going to this convention, as you should.

Now let’s go back to Monster Movie Matinee, and what I am about to write about me, very few people in this world know.  Many see me as a 6 ft 250 lb. professional wrestler, martial arts hall of fame inductee, and do not realize as a child and teen, I was harassed and bullied.  I grew up with a speech impediment (which I corrected with no professional help at 17) which helped make me a target.  Although I participated in sports, I had no athletic skill and was always picked last. With all these factors, I found myself alone and an outcast in the normal school social circle. If you want to know how I changed from an unathletic kid with a speech impediment to a 6ft, 250 lb. man, I was the one who got sand kicked in his face in the old Charles Atlas advertisements in the back of comic books.

During the years in school, I found some sanctuary and refuge with Monster Movie Matinee.  It was a place that broadened my horizons and expanded my curiosity. In some sense, it may have been a building block for me to see the world a little different, and help lay the foundation for me to become an author. 

The horror host are a part of a TV tradition.  Perhaps the current horror hosts will increase someone’s horizons, expand somebody’s curiosity, such as Monster Movie Matinee did with me all those many years ago.  This is the greatest gift of these hosts, they may not know it, but they influence the people who will make the future.  It may seem like I am placing a lot of responsibility upon these horror hosts’; I am.  It has a history associated with television itself, and what these horror hosts do, will affect those that see them.  I am happy to see that the mantle of the horror host being passed on to capable individuals like Svengoolie and Lamia of Horror Hotel, and so many others. I am glad to see that the future of the horror host is in their capable hands.

W.A. Rusho is a professional wrestler, author and historian. You can contact him via his email, or website.

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  1. keenanpatrick424@Yahoo.comOctober 29, 2019 at 9:17 PM

    Good article! Spot on in praise of Lamia.To my knowledge her show only one to show silent films.

  2. Great article! So many awesome hosts. Happy Halloween.

  3. Awesome! I love hearing about horror hosts. I'll always be a little partial to my SF Bay Area Favorites from Creature Features: Bob Wilkins, John Stanley, and now Vincent Van Dahl. I started watching Wilkins at 5 years old on KTVU and it was never a dull moment.