I’m just a tad on the busy side this week. I’m currently prepping for
a movie premiere in Luray, Virginia this Saturday for a “white trash
horror flick” a friend of mine made called The Creightonville Terror.
My job? I’m the horror show host “Dr. Ghoulie”, who not only appears
onscreen to host the film in bumpers, but I also get to host the event
Since I don’t really have any time to do a proper blog entry this week
(but still want to keep the momentum going), I submit to you an article
I wrote awhile back for a geek blog I write for called “Spwug”.
Depending on how old you are (Which Madonna are you more familiar with – Material Girl or Britney Kisser?), your childhood memories may
include vegging out in front of the TV on Saturday afternoons to spend
some quality time with your favorite, local horror show host. Not
every town in America had them, but most local broadcast areas had at
least one spookster who dominated the air waves for as little as two to
as much as six hours.
Sure, Elvira made the “Horror Host” thing popular in the ‘80s and early
‘90s (“Elvira who?” you ask. I weep.), but it was these original, home
town homemades during the ‘60s and ‘70s that got America’s youth hooked on horror. As a child of the ‘80s, I was able to latch on to this wave in the early part of the decade and ride the euphoria until the bottom began to fall out by the time the Grunge Era was in full swing.For those of you unfamiliar with this cherished piece of Americana, let me give you a brief rundown:
Starting sometime in the 1960s, “Creature Features” (the blanket term
for this kind of phenomena) were local broadcast shows that would air
for a block of time on weekends, showcasing old Universal monster
films, as well as other classic and not-so-classic horror and sci-fi
fare. Usually, these shows had a host of some sort who was garishly
dressed as some kind of macabre character who would pop up in between segments of the film and offer bad cheesingly awesome horror puns and sometimes do little skits. Every host was unique in his outfit and personality, and every host was usually greeted with insane glee on the other side of the tube by its viewing audience (which was made up mostly of older kids and teens).
I had the pleasure of discovering one such “Horror Host” at the age of
six when my family lived in Florida for a couple of years. Now, where
I lived our channel line-up had two different channels that each aired
its own horror show. One was called “Shock Theater”. It was okay, but
was one of the few offerings that had no host. The other channel was
channel 44 out of Tampa. This would quickly become my permanent home on Saturday afternoons.
The show – “Creature Feature”, with your host, Dr. Paul Bearer.
Nationally recognized as the longest-running horror show host on
television, Dr. Paul Bearer had it all: ghastly pallor, greasy hair
parted in the middle, evil-looking mustache and goatee, mortician-style
suit, and he drove a hearse! And the best part? Actor Dick Bennick
had a glass eye in real life that made Dr. Bearer look crazy-eyed.
So, for the next two years (until we moved back to Pennsylvania when I
was eight), I never missed a Saturday dose of classic or cheesy horror.
Dr. Paul Bearer guided me on my weekly journey through the macabre,
injecting his signature dark wit and antics throughout. In fact, Creature Feature was one of the main influences on me as a kid that got me into horror in the first place.
Sadly, in today’s society with your gull-dern internets and your 300
bull-pucky Hi-Def channels and your fancy-schmantzy Blu-Ray, the horror
show host is a dying breed. Sure, there are still some out there (Dr. Madblood here in Virginia still does specials from time to time) fighting the good fight to bring decent, wholesome horror to the pre- and post-pubescent masses, but a lot of the greats have disappeared. Attention spans have shortened and started looking elsewhere. Networks aren’t keen on buying syndicated horror flick packages like the ones that fueled the horror show craze anymore, mostly due to how difficult and expensive they are to acquire. Hell, even Elvira is getting long enough in the tooth to warrant cobbling together a reality show (poopy reality shows) to find her successor. All of this is slowly forcing the creeps and ghouls we all knew and love back into their coffins. Only this time, it may be for good.
Any of you readers got any “Spookmasters” you remember from your
childhood? Feel free to share in the comments section below. In the
meantime, here’s a website that features a comprehensive list of all
the horror show hosts that have ever graced the tube, past and present. Check it out. You may find one you remember.
Lastly, I leave you with this – one of the promo openings for “Creature
Feature” with Dr. Paul Bearer: