Monthly Archives: August 2013

Vintage Sears Stereo Eight Track AM/FM Clock Radio

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Ah, eight track players. I do loves ’em. This is a Sears AM/FM stereo eight track clock radio, model # 317.23450 050. I don’t have a year, but the the sticker says the manufacturing date was “A 0371G”. I don’t know what that means, but just by the looks of this thing, how can it not be from the 1970’s?

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In addition to state-of-the-art eight track tape playing capabilites, this cutting-edge piece of technology is also a clock radio. Not only can you easily tell what time it is at any given moment, but you can also listen to your favorite AM or FM radio stations! In stereo, no less!

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Perhaps against all odds, this thing not only still works, but it sounds pretty good. It may not be the most dynamic form of stereo you’ve ever heard, but really, not bad all things considered. You can balance between the right and left channels, as well as the bass and treble. Revolutionary!

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Part of this particular machine’s appeal, at least to me, is the fact that it vaguely resembles an Atari 2600. I have no idea if it predates the 2600 or not, but at any rate, the design of this beast is beautifully retro. Then again, maybe my love of fake woodgrain is clouding my judgement.

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‘Course, it all comes down to whether the eight track player works or not. This is actually the second one I’ve owned. The first, while ostensibly high-endier (?), had something wrong with it that played every tape at a too-fast speed (you haven’t heard Jim Croce until you’ve heard him as a chipmunk). Believe it or not, though, this player runs really nicely. That Jerry Lee Lewis tape, despite being an ancient Pickwick budget compilation, sounded pretty decent. The only fault I saw (er, heard) was that while the eight track’s channels 1, 2, and 4 sounded fine, when playing channel 3, I could hear some of channel 2 ‘bleeding’ into the background. Since I’m by no means an expert on eight tracks, I have no idea if this is a fault on the part of the player or the tape.

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On the left, you can see you were able to hook this up to whatever the hell it was supposed to be hooked up to. On the right, a list of all the crap this thing can do. Revolutionary!

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Yeah, it’s obsolete as all get out, but I dig this ancient piece of technology. I’m seriously tempted to plug this thing in by my bed, set the clock & alarm, and fall asleep to the sweet, sweet sounds of…something 1970’s, I guess.

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Or, perhaps, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, as suggested by Batman and The Noid, apparently.

The History Of The Ghoul Show On WBNX TV-55, As Told Through Old Promos.

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I’ve mentioned before what a faithful viewer of The Ghoul I was during his run on Northeast Ohio’s WBNX TV-55. For the first two years he was on the network (1998-2000), he was on Friday nights at 11:30 PM, and many, many of my weekends were kicked off by staying up late and catching an awful movie with The Ghoul. In the fall of 2000, his show was moved to Sunday nights at 12 midnight, and then later to 1 AM. With the timeslot switch also came changes in the movies and what The Ghoul could-and-couldn’t do.

I taped and still have many of those Friday night shows, though perhaps ironically, I wound up with even more of the Sunday airings; because I usually had school the next day, staying up and watching was pretty much out of the question. So, I’d set the VCR timer and tape each episode, but I always had a hard time catching up, and thus unmarked tapes would just keep piling up. The result was that up until 2011, I had boxes full of tapes with no knowledge of what was on them other than the vague description of “The Ghoul” (if even that). Starting in ’11, I made a concerted effort to dig out and mark each tape accordingly, and while there may be one or two stray tapes (just when I think I’ve found them all, I come across another), the vast majority are now labeled as they should be. I was constantly discovering “new” episodes, the contents of which were occasionally quite surprising.

Anyone that’s read even a little bit of this blog knows what an old commercial/promo junkie I am. Needless to say, any old spots featuring our local horror movie hosts are waaay up at the top of my “want list” whenever I go searching through new old tapes. In the case of The Ghoul, all of my promos come from my personal tapes. WBNX often (but not always) aired one last promo for the show during the final commercial break of whatever was preceding The Ghoul. Since I always I set the VCR timer to begin recording a few minutes before the show’s start-time, I wound up with a good number of Ghoul promos.

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Not counting spots that mentioned The Ghoul was appearing somewhere locally or commercials for local businesses (the Norton Furniture ads, for example), I have 65 episode promos total, 64 of which I have the actual episodes for (we’ll get to why there’s one missing in a bit). Add to that the extremely large number of episodes I have recorded that didn’t have a corresponding promo on the tape, and well, I’ve got a lot of Ghoul saved. Obviously, unless I wanted to have a 3-day long post, I can only spotlight a very, very small portion of all that. So, let’s check out some old Ghoul promos, ranging from the years 1998 to 2002 (he was on WBNX until 2003, but I don’t have any promos from that year). Not only will they give a glimpe of WBNX’s Ghoul advertising, but they also serve to trace the history of the show on the network.

(I should note that describing the promos in detail or transcribing them would quickly become redundant; typically The Ghoul would act “wacky” while mentioning that week’s movie, and then the title and time would be shown. They’re all pretty much the same in that respect. I’ll mention interesting points if need be, but my comments will ere more on the personal and historical side of things rather than a strict review of the promo itself. Indeed, the larger purpose of this article is to trace The Ghoul’s run on WBNX, which actually works pretty well going by promos, believe it or not.)

Frankenstein Unbound Promo (1998)

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Of all of the promos I have, this is the only one I don’t have the corresponding episode for. I almost never taped anything off of WBNX during The Ghoul years except, you know, The Ghoul (though around 2003, when The Ghoul was winding down and/or completely off-the-air, I did find the need to record many Just Shoot Me reruns off the station. Don’t ask me why). In the summer of 1998, for some reason I decided to tape Gold Of The Samurai off of WBNX. It’s a movie I have zero interest in watching nowadays, but recording it did net me this very early promo for The Ghoul on the channel, so hey, no complaints. Aside from the July 10, 1998 premiere promo (which I covered on, well, this past July 10), this is the earliest promo for the show I have. The Ghoul had only been on WBNX for about a month and a half at that point.

Since I don’t have this episode, it’s hard for me to say much about it, but when The Ghoul first came back, most of his segments were made up of his introducing older bits from his 1970’s & 1980’s runs. Shortly into his WBNX run, he began focusing more on new material, with the older bits being relegated to a “Ghoul’s Vault Of Golden Garbage” segment in each show. Don’t quote me on this, but I *believe* it was around the time of this promo or soon thereafter that The Ghoul began focusing on newly filmed bits and whatnot.

Santa Claus Promo (1999)

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Ah, Christmas time with The Ghoul. The holiday season was always a lot of fun on the show, and The Ghoul always went all-out, especially for his second holiday season on WBNX. Not only did he run Santa Claus for the second year in a row, but in the weeks leading up to this Christmas Eve airing, he also ran Santa Claus In Mother Goose Land, which was actually the Santa Claus-less The Magic Land Of Mother Goose (out of all of my personally recorded tapes, my copy of that episode is the only one to have oxidized, for reasons I don’t understand because the other tapes in the box, including The Ghoul’s airing of the ’89 Phantom of The Opera, were fine. As it stands, I still have the tape, but you get sound without picture, and I learned the hard way it clogs VCR heads right quick. So, what the hell?). The 1935 version of Scrooge was also shown during that ’99 holiday season. So yeah, like I said, The Ghoul went all-out.

Anyway, Santa Claus was a Ghoul favorite. I’ve got a total of four separate Ghoul airings of the movie (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001), perhaps the most of any movie during his WBNX run. The 2000 broadcast was chopped up beyond belief, but I’m fine with that, because while it’s become a cult-classic, frankly I can’t stand this 1959 Mexican film. I should be all for it, seeing as it’s incredibly bizarre and twisted. But, meh, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians was always more my speed, anyway.

Godmonster Of Indian Flats Promo (2000)

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Now we’re talkin’! The Ghoul was responsible for introducing me to some very bizarre, very obscure films I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. When this film showed up on his online schedule and I read up on it, I was seriously stoked. However, the reasons for my excitement were only partially due to the “out there” movie. Let me explain: During Thanksgiving 1999, The Ghoul ran Blood Freak, in which drugs turn a guy into a mutated killer turkey. It was a wild film, and I had set the VCR to tape it. Problem was, I had pretty well ran that particular VCR into the ground; sometimes it would record uninterrupted, other times stop recording after a period of time and turn off. Unfortunately, Blood Freak was one of those times when the VCR decided to stop, and needless to say, I was salty. By the time Godmonster Of Indian Flats rolled around, I had gotten a new (albeit somewhat used) VCR from a relative, and while I eventually ran that one into the ground too (some things never change! Just ask the stack of screwed-up VCRs sitting in the same room as I am!), for the time being I was good to go.

Godmonster Of Indian Flats may not have completely taken the sting out of losing Blood Freak, but it certainly satisfied the lingering need for a “what the hell is this?” movie. How so? Well, the film details a mutated sheep fetus going on a rampage. Yes, it’s a film about a monster sheep. The scariest thing? It’s not nearly as awful as it could have been. Well, apparently so, at least; The Ghoul airing was so chopped up that the film was rendered completely incomprehensible. However, there are actually a number of positive/semi-positive reviews on it out there. I’m very, very happy to have this episode saved for posterity, but you know what? I think I still rather have Blood Freak. Like John Mellencamp once sang, I ain’t ever satisfied.

Indestructible Man Promo (2000)

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First off, someone goofed: It’s IndestructIble Man, not IndestructAble Man. Hope no one got canned over this monumental, station-rocking error that’s on par with Janet Jackson flashing everybody at the Superbowl. Anyway, this 1956 Lon Chaney Jr. film is a staple of horror movie shows and public domain VHS and DVD sci-fi sets. Even Mystery Science Theater 3000 tackled it once. But you know, I’ve never really liked the movie at all. It should be a lot of fun, but I’ve always found it deadly dull.

So why give this promo a spotlight? Because, I was actually IN this episode. Dad and I took a trip to the now-gone B-Ware Video in Lakewood for a Ghoul appearance, and we ended up in some crowd shots when this episode aired a few weeks later. So, not anything special, it’s not like I was in a skit or anything, but still pretty cool for a 14 year old Ghoul fan. And no, I’m not posting a screencap of me in the crowd; I don’t think any of us looks good at that age, but I will say I’ve aged for the better.

Trading Places Promo (2000)

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Uh oh, we’re getting into the “Sunday era.” Look at that timeslot, and look at that movie. Not very “Ghoul Power,” is it? Not that there’s anything wrong with Trading Places, it’s a very popular comedy, but geez, it’s about the last thing I think of when I think “Ghoul Movie.” Y’see, when WBNX moved The Ghoul to Sunday nights, they also imposed some very un-Ghoul-like rules. Not only was the timeslot just awful, but the movies changed from the horror & sci-fi flicks to an all-around selection. Those types of films still played now and then, but comedies, dramas, action and adventure movies were also now part of the show. Furthermore, The Ghoul couldn’t add sound effects and whatnot to them. And, to make matters worse, The Ghoul’s segments were cut back. This was probably done to avoid the sometimes incoherent editing of the movies during the Friday shows. Sure, ostensibly people were tuning in for the movie, but Ghoul fans know it was more about the overall experience. Yeah, sometimes it was impossible to follow a film’s plot, but that was really part of the fun. The Ghoul would pack so much iinto each show that a lot of the time it seemed the movie was actually an afterhtought. The Sunday move changed all that. Once in awhile The Ghoul would be allowed to show an old-style film with all of the effects and everything, but those instances were few-and-far-between.

I remember the first Sunday show. The change had been announced almost casually (just the week before, if I recall correctly), and needless to say, I was instantly irritated that my Friday night institution was being disrupted. But, that’s what VCRs were for, right? Unfortunately, after seeing that first Sunday show, any hopes of mine that The Ghoul would be the same other than the night he aired were dashed. The movie was the 1993 kid’s flick Remote, and to rub salt in my wounds, not only were The Ghoul’s bits limited, but the movie had no audio dubs, and to further distract people from the fact that this was The Ghoul, the movie actually had it’s own bumpers like it was just any old weekend airing, something that was not done prior (The Ghoul had bumpers for the overall show, but not the movie specifically). I was completely crushed. The whole vibe that the show had established since starting ’98 was largely wiped away in one fell swoop. The Ghoul was very vocal both on-air and during personal appearances about how displeased he was with the move (at one point during the end credits, a line read “Help! Get us off Sunday nights!”). What made it even harder to take was that when The Ghoul did show up on-screen, he was still very entertaining, but that just made the changes all the more glaring.

In The Army Now Promo (2000)

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Yep, even Pauly Shore made it onto the show in that Sunday era. This promo is pretty funny, because The Ghoul very clearly states how much he hates Pauly Shore movies. Can’t say I blame him, because hey, if you gotta show comedy films, they might as well be good ones, right?

In retrospect, I think (and this is just my guess) that WBNX may have been trying to give The Ghoul a more all-around appeal akin to Big Chuck & Lil’ John. At one point they showed strictly horror & sci-fi films, and then that changed to a general film-selection in the early 90’s. Problem with that was that Chuck & John may have been horror hosts, but they didn’t really dress or act like them. The look of The Ghoul instantly placed him as a bonafide horror host, though, and thus the switch-up didn’t work nearly as smoothly.

Alice In Wonderland Promo (2000)

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Yep, even Disney movies were fair-game for the Sunday era. I mean, geez, Alice In Wonderland?! I wouldn’t watch that on my own, and I sure don’t wanna see it on The Ghoul! And to make matters worse, would you believe this was the Halloween show?! Man, let the guy show something appropriate for the season! The Sword In The Stone was also shown during the Sunday era, for the record.

This promo is pretty funny. The Ghoul starts off stating he’d like to say that week’s episode in 3-D…he’d like to say that, but he can’t. It’s the same old “cheap show!”

Blood For Blood Promo (2001)

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The Ghoul told viewers to call the station and ask to get him off Sunday nights. His displeasure wasn’t exactly secret. I know I did my part (well, Mom called for me, same difference). It didn’t help. Instead, he was pushed back an hour to 1 AM. I couldn’t really stay up and watch him either way, of course. Shortly after being moved to 1 AM, he began calling it the “Breakfast Club.” It wasn’t really an “official” renaming of the show, maybe more of a “making the best out of a bad situation” type deal, but The Ghoul did specifically call it the Breakfast Club during promos and the show.

Furthermore, certain segments were produced with a different set than usual. Brick-walled and with a table and usually a couple other guys from the show (Frank-On-Line, etc.) hanging out. You know, a breakfast club. You’ll see more of it in the next promo, but the screencap on the left above gives you an idea of the set. It was definitely, well, different. Also, while The Ghoul started at 1 AM prior to this episode, this promo makes it sound like this is the first “Breakfast Club” show. it’s hard to tell because of the static during this broadcast’s reception (gotta love rabbit ears). So, Blood For Blood (a Lorenzo Lamas film I have no desire to see) *may* have been the first Breakfast Club-branded Ghoul show.

Mark Of The Vampire Promo (2002)

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This is one of those few-and-far-between shows I was talking about earlier. 1957’s Mark Of The Vampire was given the full Ghoul treatment, and this is mentioned prominently in the promo. In that left screencap you can see the regular Breakfast Club set, and notice that the show is now listed as “Monday at 1 AM,” as opposed to the previous promo’s “Sunday At 1 AM.” Make no mistake, it’s the same late Sunday/early Monday timeslot for both. I certainly don’t recall The Ghoul ever airing late Monday/Early Tuesday, at least.

200th Episode Promo (2002)

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Let’s end this with a promo for one of the coolest shows of The Ghoul’s entire WBNX run, Sunday night or otherwise: The 200th Episode. No, the movie in the episode isn’t called Bicentennial, it simply means it’s The Ghoul’s bicentennial. The reason a movie isn’t listed during the promo is because there is no one specific movie. Rather, the show starts off with How To Make A Monster, and after returning from each commercial break, a different movie is in progress, finally ending with the conclusion of Blood Freak (alright, now I’m *kinda* satisfied). As The Ghoul counts off in this spot, there are a total of eight movies. No, it doesn’t make much sense as a coherent movie, but it’s a cool idea and pretty fun, and overall much more memorable than the 100th episode, The Head.

A some point in later-2002, The Ghoul would actually be moved back to Friday nights, but it was at some verrrry late hour. Even with my being a night owl, I still couldn’t really stay up and watch, not unless I wanted to sleep-in until 3 PM Saturday. Even with the slightly better timeslot, the movie selections/restrictions/etc. remained the same. I know for certain that I have the first back-to-Friday show (Yesterday’s Target), and perhaps I may have a few more episodes I’m just not recalling. But nevertheless, it became so hard to keep up with taping (and never getting around to watching), and all the changes were so disappointing, that at that point I fell away from taping The Ghoul. He wouldn’t be on WBNX all that much longer, leaving the network at some point in 2003. In retrospect, I wish I would have kept up, but oh well.

I have a lot of videotapes, and of the many I personally recorded myself, some of my most treasured are the ones featuring our local movie hosts. Obviously, a large part of that collection is made up of episodes of The Ghoul. It’s easy to complain about some of the changes/restrictions imposed on him later in his WBNX run, but even then, when it comes right down to it, it was an entertaining show. I wish some network would see fit to get The Ghoul back on TV; now that Big Chuck & Lil’ John are back and Son Of Ghoul never left, it would be kinda sorta close to the days of the late-90’s/early-2000’s, when this was the TV that absolutely made up my weekends.

Two of my all-time favorite TV finds immortalized in old pictures I found saved on the PC.

How’s that for a short and concise article title?! I’m such a pro!

Looong before running this blog, I’ve been taking pictures of crap I own/owned. Goofing off on my PC for even a few minutes will undoubtedly unearth several such pics taken for various reasons. As far as this post goes, I actually had one of these pics in mind for an entry, but when I finally came across it, I found the other two, and they also seemed like good candidates for national recognition on my stupid blog. These aren’t new pics; they were taken waaay back in May 2010 for a planned article for another site. I eventually never went ahead with that one, although one of the pictures seen here did find its way into a later article for that same site. Should you ever come across that article, make no mistake, these pics and the TVs contained within them are all mine mine mine.

Philips Magnavox Projection Screen TV, model # 7P5433 W101 (1998)

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Ah, my 1998 Philips Magnavox big ol’ projection screen TV, model #7P5433 W101. I can’t remember if it’s a 50 inch or 55 inch screen, but either way, lotta TV here. I picked this up at a second-hand store in early-2010 for a really good price, the only caveat being that the screen had a very reddish tint. A little bit of online research revealed this was the coolant in the projection lamps going bad. Luckily, new coolant was cheap, and replacing it was relatively easy (as long as you were careful).

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As you can see, it eventually worked like a champ and quickly became the go-to TV for Nintendo (there’s also a Sega Genesis with the Power Base Converter for Master System games sitting on top of the set). That’s the NES classic Gun.Smoke being played in the pic above. I can waste quite a bit of time playing the game anyway, but when I had the NES hooked up to this big-screen, I would put the sound on mute, and just spend hours playing the game while listening to Jerry Lee Lewis vinyls I picked up at Time Traveler Records in Cuyahoga Falls. While it may not be the most dignified container ever, that Pampers box the NES is sitting on in the pic was filled with even more carts for the system. Trust me gang, you haven’t lived until you’ve played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Double Dragon and Double Dragon II on a big-ass TV like this.

Fast-forward to today: There’s something wrong with this TV’s picture. It displays very small and in the center of the screen. Unlike the coolant issue, I think I’m absolutely going to have to take the old beast to a repair shop at some point in the future, hopefully soon. I love this TV too much to ever get rid of it, so if worse comes to worse, it will remain a cool piece of decor in my increasingly-cluttered home. But, it pains me to not have it be useable at the present time. I must rectify this.

Zenith System 3 TV (1984)

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Sorry I don’t have a specific model # for this one, but this is a Zenith System 3 color TV from 1984. Despite the fact it’s missing the door that went over the channel-buttons and picture-adjusters, I instantly fell in love with this TV when I found it at Goodwill for like $8-$10 in either late-2009 or early-2010. Continuing my apparent need to have an NES in as many rooms in the house as possible, there’s, erm, another Nintendo hooked up, and on top of the set is my beloved Colecovision, complete with River Raid plugged in and ready-to-go.

This TV has always worked like a champ, I still have it, and I have no intention of ever getting rid of it. And yet, I don’t have it hooked up right now. In it’s place is a Sony Trinitron from, if I recall correctly, 1985, with a big huge, beautiful screen, speakers built into both sides of the set AND it’s built on top of a stand that’s also another speaker. Plus, multiple A/V inputs. So, probably a pretty high-end TV back in the day. I plan on spotlighting that Sony TV and the video game consoles I have hooked up to it at some point in the future, but for now, let us revel in the pic above.

I may not currently be using either TV seen here today, but man, of all the TVs I’ve bought over the years, they’re two of my absolute favorites, and I’m glad to have them.

An Interview With Keven “Son Of Ghoul” Scarpino

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Having nearly 30 continuous years on the air under his belt, Keven “Son of Ghoul” Scarpino is quite possibly the nation’s longest-running-without-a-break horror movie host, and for good reason: the man puts on a very funny, very entertaining show every week, bringing Northeast Ohioan’s (and now others!) the terrible sci-fi & horror movies and edgy attitude they’ve craved ever since Ghoulardi burst on the scene way back in 1963. From 1986 to 1995, Son Of Ghoul ran on WOAC TV-67, and when the station was sold, without missing a beat he jumped to WAOH TV-29 in Akron / WAX TV-35 in Cleveland, where he remains to this day. At one point, he even hosted a live local call-in game show, titled Son Of Ghoul’s House Of Fun And Games!

Mystery Science Theater 3000 may have introduced me to the movie-mocking world first, and I was casually familiar with Big Chuck & Lil’ John at the time, but the guy more responsible than anyone else for introducing me not only to the legacy of our Northeast Ohio horror movie hosts but to horror movie hosts in general is without a doubt Son Of Ghoul. I discovered his show during a Halloween, 1997 broadcast of Night Of The Living Dead, and I became a huge fan instantly. That image above is all too familiar to me: Son Of Ghoul in the dungeon, introducing us to that week’s terrible movie, it’s something that kicked off countless weekends for me. And you know what? 16 years later, I’m still a huge fan. I still get a charge finding out what each episode’s terrible movie is going to be. A lot of local TV has come and gone over the years, but Son Of Ghoul is still on and plugging away, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

So, when I had the opportunity to interview the man himself, it was incredible to realize that I was conversing with the guy largely responsible for not only shaping my hobby, but even my sense of humor. I’ve met SOG many times over the years, and he’s never been anything but generous to his fans. It’s one thing I really admire about our local celebrities, the fact that I’ve never seen an air of superiority or “I’m doing you a favor by talking to you” attitude when you speak with them. I remember the first time I met SOG: It was shortly after discovering the show in ’97, and he was making an appearance at a local comic book store. I was clearly nervous talking to him (hey, I was 11 years old), but he was completely personable and friendly. Heck, he even checked out a comic book I was buying with me! There aren’t many celebrities, local or otherwise, that would go that extra mile for their fans.

For those unfamiliar with Son of Ghoul (or, as we in the hepcat profession call him, “SOG”), he has an official website with a ton of really terrific episodes of his show on DVD for sale (One of my personal favorites? The Brain That Wouldn’t Die). You can check all that out here: http://www.sonofghoul.net/ . The quality of SOG’s DVDs are always mighty fine and well worth a purchase.

So, all that said, without further ado here is my interview with Keven “Son of Ghoul” Scarpino, horror movie host and badass extraordinaire.

*****

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Me: Thanks again for doing this!

Son Of Ghoul: Oh, no problem!

Me: I really appreciate it! It’s blowing my mind right now!

SOG: Don’t blow your mind out! You still gotta ask questions!

Me: Okay! Well, first off, 27 years as a horror host, continuous, is pretty impressive. I don’t think there’s too many that managed to hang in there that long without taking a break or anything.

SOG: Well, there were a lot of guys, plenty of ‘em, that started before me, such as Svengoolie from Chicago, I believe he started a few years before I did. But, I think he had a 10 year absence, he was gone from the air. Now, I believe I might be, now I’m not sure about this, but I might be the longest continuous-running costumed horror host in the country at this point.

Me: Yep, I think you’re right!

SOG: Now, [Big] Chuck’s been on definitely longer than me, but he doesn’t wear a costume. Or maybe that face of his is a costume, I don’t know! [Laughs]

Me: Yeah, I guess technically they were horror hosts [Hoolihan & Big Chuck & Lil’ John], but they didn’t really do the scary thing. It’s a little bit different.

SOG: Yeah, they kinda moved into just regular movies hosts, and now, their show’s cut down to just skits, which is cool, I’m glad they’re still on. Very cool.

Me: But how’s that feel to basically be the longest one?

SOG: Well, you know, it’s cool. I’m pretty proud of it. You know, it’s no big deal, nobody really cares. [Laughs] It’s one of those non-celebrated factors. And here in Ohio, I think they have a Broadcaster’s Hall Of Fame, and I think one of the thing’s is you have to be on 20 years, 25 years something like that. They will NEVER recognize my existence in the Broadcasters Hall of Fame! Which, I think’s kinda funny, but that’s okay.

Me: Well, you never know.

SOG: No, I don’t believe that’ll ever happen! [Laughs] I think I’m well beyond qualifications! Maybe I just don’t look the part!

Me: Well, sort of going back, there’s a lot of guys that would be on and then sort of, you know, drop out for a few years, come back, drop out, that sort of thing, and you’ve just been going steadily the entire time. Was there ever a point, either at [WOAC] channel 67 or now on WAOH where you thought the show might end or they might cancel you, or…?

SOG: Well, I think that every day!

Me: [Laughs]

SOG: That’s true, I do think that every day. I do, at least. You never know. I’ve learned one thing: Nobody is, NOBODY is sacred to the screen. I feel very privileged to have been on this long. I know one day it’ll be over, I don’t know when that’ll be. One of the things everybody keeps on telling me when I go out doing appearances, they all say “Please don’t stop.” So, as long as I get a good timeslot, I guess I’ll stick around for awhile! I’m not really in a hurry to go anywhere any time soon.

Me: Well Saturday at 7’s not bad.

SOG: For the first 9 years I was on at a typical 11:30, 11 o’clock timeslot, and I didn’t know if it would work primetime. But, I found that I prefer to be on early. A lot of people my age can’t stay up that late anymore! [Laughs]

Son Of Ghoul during his 25th Anniversary show in the summer of 2011.

Son Of Ghoul during his 25th Anniversary show in the summer of 2011.

Me: I wish that WAOH, I still call it “The Cat”, I know it’s not technically The Cat anymore but I still call it that, I wish that they would still air you two nights in a row like they used to.

SOG: Well, everybody used to say “I watched it the first night and if I didn’t like it I’d think why catch the movie the next night?!” Well, it was fun being on two nights, and for awhile there I was on three days in a row.

Me: Oh yeah?

SOG: When I was doing the game show.

Me: Right, right.

SOG: We did a live game show Wednesday night, and Thursday they would show the movie show, and repeat it again of Friday. Now since they’ve hooked-up with RTV, now it’s Saturdays at 7, so you know that’s not too bad, that’s okay.

The quality is terrible, but this is and promo for Son Of Ghoul's run at WOAC TV-67. With him is "Zippy."

The quality is terrible, but this is a 1987 promo from Son Of Ghoul’s run at WOAC TV-67. With him is “Zippy.”

Me: Going back to the channel 67 stuff, I know a lot of guys even as late as the 1980’s, other horror hosts, the stations they were on would wipe their shows, record over them, things like that. Do you still have everything you did from both channels?

SOG: Yeah, I have all my shows.

Me: So there’s no worry about something ever becoming “lost”?

SOG: Well, yeah there is: Deterioration from poor storage. All of my shows were produced, back in those days, on U-Matic ¾” videotape, which was a giant cartridge with wider tape. That was 67’s major broadcast output, ¾” tape. All of my shows were produced on that. The trouble with those tapes is they don’t store very well over the years, and we’re talking now 27 years later of poor storage, and they’d really have to be in an air-controlled climate all year round. And, just like any videotape, if it sits on the shelf, it doesn’t move, it deteriorates. Tapes are meant to play. Everybody should fast forward their tapes  and rewind them every once in awhile if they want to keep them longer. The trouble is, some of the oxide has fallen off some of my early shows, like my 1st Christmas show, the New Years show, those are trashed, they won’t even play. You put the tapes in the player, it clogs the heads in about 30 seconds. So, I lost a number of shows through deterioration. I’m in the very, very slow process of transferring the old shows. The old shows, all I have is my segments, I don’t have the movies that go along with them because in those days we actually paid for movie packages and we only had so many runs on each title. That’s the way it worked back then. Unlike now, where I can dip into the public domain library, which is free gratis, and which is “What you see is what you get!” [Laughs]

Me: Were you allowed to do sound effects and things during the channel 67 shows?

SOG: Yeah, we did. And I actually did them live, as the movie was running over the air, for awhile. Then we had about 5 or 6 people that complained to the general manager of the station, who was kind of a panty-waist…

Me: [Laughs]

SOG: …So he stopped me from having sound effects because he didn’t want to have anybody complain. Then, it ended up to be that I’d be able to do it once in awhile, which, I didn’t care, because it was a lot less work for me. Back in those days of 67, I also worked a 40-hour week at the station doing other jobs.

Me: I’m surprised people would complain about it, because anyone watching you would know you were doing the Ghoulardi thing, Ernie Anderson used to do that.

SOG: Well, everybody had something to say about it. “Too much sound effects!” “Not enough sound effects!” “You ruin the movies!”. So, what I do is put sound effects in the movies we’ve seen a thousand times, most of the horror classics. If I run a comedy classic like the East Side Kids or even a thriller classic or suspense like Sherlock Holmes, Basil Rathbone, I’ll leave those movies alone as-is, because I figure they’re pretty good.

Me: I think that’s great you do the East Side Kids, the Bowery Boys, because there’s really nowhere else to see them. I don’t think anyone plays them.

SOG: It’s funny, because people complain about that, “You’re running East Side Kids? I don’t even watch those!” and then other people tell me, just like you, they tell me they like the East Side Kids. So, I learned over 27 years that it’s impossible to please everybody, so what I ended up doing was doing what *I* wanted to do!

Me: [Laughs] That’s the way to do it!

SOG: It saves a lot of headache!

Son Of Ghoul in Stow's 1991 4th of July parade.

Son Of Ghoul in Stow’s 1991 4th of July parade.

Me: How about when you were working with The Cool Ghoul, George Cavender? What was that like?

SOG: When I came in, I was an outsider, George had his production crew in place, and he had his little clique of people that kinda hung around and he did his skits with them. I was an  outsider and kinda came in the side-door. And, slowly, kinda weaseled my way in. I can’t even say that I was part of the crew, I was in a way, and I wasn’t. I wasn’t an official crew member, but I would do different jobs. If one week the camera guy didn’t show, then I might be a camera guy. And another week I might be the hand coming out of the box, or just standing off to the side, or doing a bit part in a skit or something like that. And, then I landed a job at the station as a board-operator, and when Cavender quit, I just slid into place. The thing about having a horror movie package was that they obviously had an audience watching the show. And I went in the office, said “What are you gonna do?” And, a couple other people were up for the job, they inquired about it. This one comedy troupe, they wanted to do skits, and this one person who made a lot of costumes wanted to do some skits. Fortunately for me, I was already an employee at the station, so I kind of had the little bit of the edge on the rest of them as far as that goes. And, my general manager was a native Northeastern Ohioan who grew up and remembered the days of Ghoulardi and The Ghoul and Superhost. Chuck & John and Hoolihan and all that. He was way hip to it. So, that helped, too.

Me: That’s very cool. I mean, 27 years later, he made the right choice.

SOG: It’s a labor of love. And now, the show’s basically into reruns. I’ll shoot something new occasionally and put something new together. I’m not saying we’re as regular as we used to, but, we still do. I’m just keeping the show on the air, and now, I’m on in Lake Tahoe, and also on at The University Of Tennessee.

Me: Well, I think even if a lot of it’s old stuff, it’s still better than not being on at all.

SOG: For new eyes, you never know who’s watching it. People come up to me all the time and say “I’d seen this skit you did!” and I’ll say “Oh yeah, that’s an old skit” and they’ll say “Well I never seen that one before” so you never know who’s watching on what night. I mean, look, Chuck & John have been running these old skits for 50 years.

Me: Yep. And you’ve got such a wealth of material that you could probably do that for quite awhile and still not get to everything you have.

SOG: Oh yeah, there’s stuff I’ve probably never shown. Like I said, I’m slowly transferring the old 67 shows, and a lot of them didn’t have run sheets to them, or it was lost over the years, so I’m always finding new little things.

Me: Are you the only one that has any copies? Like those ones you said deteriorated, unless someone finds a VHS tape somewhere, that’s it, or…?

SOG: The early stuff, who knows who has that. I’ve had tapes sent to me over the years, people say to me “Hey, I bought one of your tapes at a convention!” and the quality looks like 120th generation, just really looked bad. I don’t know, as far as I know, I’m the only one that has the old stuff. Unless, like you people out there with a collection of old VHS, if you have any old stuff, come through! Let me know! I’ll take it!

Me: Between WOAC and WAOH, which one do you think has “run the smoothest”? Do you have any preferences? I’m sure there’s good and bad with both. Obvously with WAOH you’ve been on so long that something’s working.

SOG: WOAC was a whole different gig. We were an active TV station with a news department, a sports department. There were salesmen and secretaries and engineers on the ground. It was an everyday thing. All cable systems had saturation at the time. I don’t know, it just seemed like it was a little bit more busy, a bit more exciting. To me, at least. By the time I got to 29/35, I didn’t produce the show any longer, at 67 I produced the show on the property, in their studios, with their equipment. So, that was kinda cool too. Once I moved to 29, then I started producing the show away from the station in different production facilities. That alone was a major, major headache. I went from a manageable catastrophe to broken down equipment, to broken down cables, to moving a number of times. From having to buy all of the equipment myself to completely taking over the production myself. Which probably actually saved the show the last almost 15 years. I bought all the equipment and did everything myself. I still have a small crew, like I said, we’re not getting together like we used to. So basically, these movies, I do all of the sound effects, all the edits. Put the show together. It keeps me kinda busy!

Me: So it was much more expensive for you when you moved to WAOH? You had to take care of a lot of stuff that channel 67 provided?

SOG: Exactly. Everything that I thought was a hassle at channel 67, I wish I had that again, I didn’t know how good I had it till it was gone. There, if a camera broke down or someone snapped a microphone cord or something broke, you just wrote up a repair slip and the engineer fixed it the next day. And now, if I broke a mic cord, then I’d fix it myself, or go buy a new mic. If a tape machine goes down, you have to take it into a repair shop, which is $150 before the repairman turns the first screw. So, it was quite costly.

Me: Was it a shock when channel 67 closed down? What were they, sold to some infomercial thing in ‘95?

SOG: They were sold, they had always been for sale, they were sold to a commercial company and ended up, I think, selling out to a religion company.

Me: Was it surprising when it happened, or were you always kind of expecting it, or…?

SOG: The station was always for sale the whole time I worked there. We were told that the new owners were gonna dump a bunch of money into it and everybody’s jobs were gonna be secure. And it was absolutely the opposite of that. They came in one day and fired the entire station, except for the board operators and a few people in the offices! I had a contract that stated that I had three weeks in writing, and they said “Okay, you got three weeks.” So, in those three weeks, I made the deal with 29, and so I made the transition without missing a week.

Me: So you were never actually off-the-air.

SOG: No, I did that last show on channel 67 on a Saturday, and then the following Friday night, I was on at 29.

Son Of Ghoul with sidekick Fidge during a promo

Son Of Ghoul with sidekick Ron “Fidge” Huffman during a promo.

Me: Of your 27 years, what would say was the roughest time period?

SOG: A couple different things. That was definitely rough, that was real rough. When that transition took place, I felt that the production quality of the show was just horrible. The cameras were not even a step above home equipment. Yeah, that was tough, that was real tough. And of course when Fidge passed away.

Me: That was ridiculously surprising.

SOG: The people he was with didn’t look after him real well that night I suspect, so, what can I tell you.

Me: I met him at a Frightvision once, and he was just the nicest guy, he was such a cool guy. I got his autograph and everything And then, just a couple years later, he passed, and I just could not believe it. It just came out of nowhere.

SOG: Yeah, it was a tough transition. But, personally, I went 9 ½ years without him, and I had to become the buffoon again. Now the joke’s on me! [Laughs]

Me: How about Zippy? What happened to Zippy?

SOG: Zippy was a guy that worked at channel 67 and had that mask. He was really tall and when he put that mask on he looked crazy. His name was Terry Zimmerman, and now he lives in Oregon, I think Portland. He was a board operator for awhile and an old friend of mine actually. For a couple years there, he’d put on that Zippy mask once in awhile and did a number of stunts on the show, which was always kinda cool, it’s always fun to see those old bits.

Me: The first time I saw Zippy, it kinda weirded me out. I mean, that’s a crazy mask.

SOG: I don’t know where he got it, and I don’t know if he even has it anymore. I don’t know if it got lost, or actually, it was just real thin rubber, so it might have just kinda disintegrated. Not sure.

Son Of Ghoul and Fidge during a promo for the game show.

Son Of Ghoul and Fidge during a promo for the game show.

Me: What did you think about doing that game show? Was it your idea? Did the station manager’s bring it up?

SOG: The game show came about because at the time Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? was the hot new game show and the whole country was crazy about game shows. And [station managers] the Klauses’ thought “Hey, let’s get on the bandwagon” so that was their idea to do the game show. We tried three trial nights of it, and on the 3rd night, I just took Fidge with me just for the heck of it, and everybody liked me beating him up! So, he became the score keeper.

Me: Would you do the live call-in game show again?

SOG: Yeah, it was fun. But, it was fun until they put a time delay on the game. All of a sudden, Janet Jackson exposed herself on national television, and the whole country was now freaked out and afraid to do anything that crossed the line. They even gave me a bunch of rules, “Don’t do this anymore, don’t say that anymore.” And, I just sort of ignored all of them…

Me: [Laughs] Did anything ever happen before the delay came in, where someone said something on the air?

SOG: Oh absolutely! People would curse and stuff all the time, and all I could do was just, I’d just look at the camera and cut everybody off. I’d have to hang up on everybody! Sometimes it would be right down to the last minute of the game and people who actually played the game, did it correctly, they’d get cut off and lost being a winner because somebody would say something foul. We’d go to commercial and just die laughing! Once the delay happened it just took away the spontaneity of the game, because the people that were on, it was no longer fun for them at all. If you’ve ever called a radio show and you have to turn down your radio and all that, it just wasn’t fun for the people at home, I think.

Me: What was the reason for the game show ending? Budgetary reasons?

SOG: The reason was the station took a big hit and lost some money, and they just couldn’t afford to produce it anymore, to pay camera people to come in. They lost a few of their big informercial buyers who bought from them on a yearly basis. And they also lost some overnight home shopping that went on off a satellite, and those big buyers didn’t re-up. That was a big revenue loss for them, and at that point, they just pulled the plug. And in reality, the game show wasn’t pulling in money, we weren’t sold-out, we didn’t have sponsors for it. So that’s really the reason they cancelled that.

Me: It’s probably pretty hard to do pretty much anything without sponsors. That’s pretty much what drives the whole thing.

SOG: Yeah, and I always had to go out and be the salesman, be the sales guy, on-air talent, get all that stuff together at the same, and it was tough, really tough.

Me: When the channel switched over to an RTV affiliate in the summer of 2009, what were your thoughts on that? Were you ever worried about that? A lot of the local shows The Cat had on didn’t make the switch. I think it was basically you, Handy Randy and Steve French. Were you ever worried about not making the switch?

SOG: I didn’t even know they were gonna do it until they already did it. Like I say, every week I expect to hear a phone call, “Well thanks a lot, it’s been a nice long time.” But, I don’t know what’s next around the corner. Nobody’s sacred to the screen. Nobody.

Son Of Ghoul "dropping in" during a movie.

Son Of Ghoul “dropping in” during a movie.

Me: You were mentioning how you like to switch back-and-forth between old horror & sci-fi films and East Side Kids & Sherlock Holmes, which I think is great. I know a lot of horror hosts, they really only have access to the public domain stuff, and they sort of stick to the same couple of horror & sci-fi films. You’ve kinda realized that you don’t have to do just that.

SOG: Well, it’s my show. For me being a horror host, I’m pretty non-scary. I mean, I’ve got skulls laying around and stuff, but I really don’t go for the Dracula-type. My whole thing was always comedy. I was a big fan of The Stooges, Laurel & Hardy and The Marx Brothers and all that. So, I just throw on what I like. Like I said, I do what I wanna do! It’s my show!

Me: Isn’t that basically what Ernie Anderson did? I mean, he had ‘the look‘, but he was basically just going out there and doing whatever he wanted.

SOG: He wasn’t a very scary guy. He didn’t come off like a, a lot of these horror hosts try to be a Dracula-character or whatever, and I just didn’t find that to be believable.

Me: I know you’ve got a lot of movies from different genres, what is your favorite to show?

SOG: I don’t know, something like, there’s so many of them, like House On Haunted Hill, that’s pretty classic. I like doing Plan 9, that’s always funny. Some of those classics are really good. I really don’t have a favorite. My favorite’s the Universal classics that Svengoolie shows. I wish I could show Bride Of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and stuff like that. I’d love to be able to show that. If I had that package, I wouldn’t put sound effects in those classics.

Me: So those would probably be your “most wanted” ones to show, if you could?

SOG: Oh sure! I think every horror host dreams of showing those classics. You get these new guys, they show these new movies with a bunch of gore, blood & guts, and it’s just a little bit over the edge, they don’t leave anything to the imagination.

Son Of Ghoul with a custom album cover, sent in by yours truly!

Son Of Ghoul with a custom album cover, sent in by yours truly!

Me: After 27 years, what is your biggest thrill as a host? Is there a particular moment that stands out?

SOG: Wow. Different things at different times. It was a great honor to be a co-host of the Jerry Lewis telethon back in the say, for 9 years I was a local co-host, that was an honor. It was an honor to do interviews and get backstage to meet people like Paul McCartney and Stevie Ray Vaughan. That was a big honor over the years. I was really knocked out to be able to do that. And it was an honor to be featured in a Hollywood movie, it was honor to be flown out to the West Coast to do appearances. Yeah, I’ve had a lot of ups-and-downs, it’s been one big roller coaster ride. “Big tall ups, big bad downs!” A lot of big ups, a lot of big downs.

Me: Now, after all that, all the things you’ve done, I know there’s the Ghoulardi book, Big Chuck has done a book, would you ever do a book?

SOG: I don’t think anybody would be interested!

Me: [Laughs] I would read a Son Of Ghoul book!

SOG: I’d sell one! I’d sell about one, you’d be the only one to get it!

Me: [Laughs] You think?

SOG: I don’t know, I’ve toyed with idea, I thought about it, and I don’t know. The stories I’d like to put in the book, I couldn’t tell, because I’d get too many people in trouble!

Me: [Laughs]

SOG: Those are all the good stories!

Me: So you’d have to sanitize it a bit?

SOG: Oh, that would be no fun! I’m not candy-assing the book if I do one! I mean, if I put this out, people’d be getting divorced, all kinds of trouble!

Me: [Laughs] But you know what, I think there’d be a market for it! I’ve seen the people at Ghoulardifest! You sell some stuff at Ghoulardifest!

SOG: You know what? I’ve never seen a larger gathering of homeless people in all my life!

A promo featuring Son Of Ghoul's channel & current timeslot in Northeast Ohio.

A promo featuring Son Of Ghoul’s channel & current timeslot in Northeast Ohio.

Me: [Laughs] Alright, where to see your show. Some of the people reading this, I know they’re not from around here.

SOG: Channel 29/35 in Northeastern Ohio, and then you can see it on TNTV, Lake Tahoe, California, and they stream on the internet if you’ve got Firefox. I don’t know what they’re doing out there, you can get it over the internet.

Me: But it’s an actual channel out there besides the internet thing?

SOG: Yeah, it’s an actual channel and they also stream over the internet. That’s one of the reasons I did it, kind of like a webcast. If you’ve got Firefox, you can get that over the internet every week for free. And they show, also, my cartoon show. I produced 14 hours of me hosting classic old cartoons. Also, if you’re down along the University Of Tennessee, you can us on a volunteer channel down there, it’s an on-campus, closed-circuit TV channel, Plus, I believe, it’s on the cable system that surrounds the University. So, Tennessee, Lake Tahoe, and here in Northeastern Ohio! And of course, www.sonofghoul.net , my big website! Click on that for everything you didn’t want to know about me! You can order the DVDs, get information about where I’m gonna be, and much, much more. And, don’t forget my band, The Peacework Band. August 24th, we’ll be at Nelson Ledges.

Me: I wanted to ask you about the band. You do originals? Is it cover tunes?

SOG: We’re kinda cover tunes. We’re kinda like in a Jimi Hendrix-vein.

Me: So some bluesy rock?

SOG: Bluesy, acid rock kinda stuff. Jimi Hendrix, we do Old Cactus, some classic rock from the ‘60’s. Three-piece power trio. Come check us out, we’re The Peacework Band. I also play in another band called The Bluesrockers, from Canton. Coming up we’re gonna be at a club in Akron called “Benders”.

Son Of Ghoul with a "custom bar sign," sent in by yours truly!

Son Of Ghoul with a “custom bar sign,” sent in by yours truly!

Me: Alright, one more: After 27 years, is there anyone you would like to work with again? Whether it was a celebrity or a special crew member? Is there anyone you got along so well with you’d like to get in touch with them again?

SOG: I’m pretty much in touch with practically everybody I’ve worked with. There was a director in the early days, his name was John Case. If I had to work with somebody, I’d work with John Case, because he was probably the single most talented person that ever worked on the show.

Me: That is very cool! That is great! I can’t thank you enough for talking with me. My mind is blown!

SOG: [Singing] My mind is blown!

Me: [Laughs] This is just terrific, I can’t thank you enough for talking to me!

SOG: Anytime!

*****

How do you describe a conversation with a guy you’re a huge, huge fan of? I think “awesome” works pretty well. During the entire (roughly 49 minute) interview, SOG was never anything but completely friendly and generous with his answers. And what an absolute wealth of information! I don’t know gang, I don’t think it gets much cooler than this!

Once again, many fine products are available at www.sonofghoul.net , including terrific DVDs and swanky t-shirts, one of which I’m wearing right now as I type this (gotta dress the part, right?). And fellas, remember, a genuine SOG t-shirt can only help you with the ladies! Seriously, there’s a lot of good stuff there, including some very cool old promo pics in the scrapbook section.

Once again I’d like to extend my thanks to Keven “Son of Ghoul” Scarpino for his generosity in granting me this interview and his time. The man is a legit badass.

Your NEO Video Hunter with the man himself at Ghoulardifest 2011. Sorry the picture's a little blurry, blame my brother's camera.

Your NEO Video Hunter with the man himself at Ghoulardifest 2011. Sorry the picture’s a little blurry, blame my brother’s camera.

A Trip To Time Traveler Records.

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(NOTE: As of February 2015, Time Traveler has moved to a new location: 118 West Market Street in Akron, Ohio)

There are very few shops near me that I visit regularly that can legitimately be called “institutions.” The one undeniable one, though, is absolutely Time Traveler Records, on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. By now, you all know that one of my hobbies is collecting whatever old TV broadcast-related material I can dig up, electronics, and so on. But, I’m also a huge music fan. I’ve got stacks of CDs, absolute piles of vinyl records, more than enough cassette tapes, and I even have a working 8-track player with a few selected tapes. I’ve got music across all genres, though I tend to focus on Rock & Roll of the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s, with selected bits of the 1980’s thrown in. Artists I especially enjoy I generally follow throughout their entire career, even more modern releases. I’ll buy anything Springsteen puts out to this day, I love 1970’s Elvis as much as 1950’s Elvis, and even the later stuff by Jerry Lee Lewis that a lot of people have never heard of has found a place of honor in my music collection.

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When I started collecting music in a serious capacity years ago, I focused on compilations and a more limited selection of artists (you gotta start somewhere, right?). When I began visiting Time Traveler on a regular basis, a whole new world of music was opened up to me. I gained an appreciation for vinyl, I saw the artistry of a perfectly crafted and sequenced album, and I was able to discover artists I may not have heard of otherwise, as well as obtain albums that would be fairly difficult to locate elsewhere. It’s no understatement to say that I wouldn’t be the music fan I am today or have the collection that I have now without Time Traveler.

A big inspiration for this article was my State Road Shopping Center post from a few days ago. In that one, I reminisced about the now-gone strip. Time Traveler is located right before what used to be that very shopping center. But, unlike that strip of stores, Time Traveler is still there. Too often we take for granted those places that mean a lot to us, only to realize what we had when they’re gone. With Time Traveler, I know what I’ve got, and I’m grateful they’re still there. Over the years, the store has truly meant a lot to me, so if it seems like I’m sometimes doing a bit of “rah rah!” cheerleading in this post, well, it’s because I am.

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The selection is unbelievable, and there’s always new stuff coming in. It’s gotten to the point where it’s virtually impossible for me to stop in without really, really wanting something. And just when I think I’ve searched through every nook and cranny of the place, I find something new. There are a ton of DVDs, a healthy selection of cassette tapes, and even cool promotional posters for sale. But, the heart of Time Traveler is the massive assortment of CDs and vinyl records. We’re talking thousands upon thousands here, no exaggeration. If you’re used to the usually pitiful selection of music at some of our “major retailers,” then the sheer number of albums available at Time Traveler is nothing short of mind blowing. I’m not joking, there’s a lot of music.

Where else can Dean Martin and Molly Hatchett happily co-exist?

Where else can Dean Martin and Molly Hatchett happily co-exist?

A lot has been made of the current situation with the music industry. Digital downloads and whatnot are increasingly choking the life out of physical media, and that’s something I absolutely hate. When I buy an album, I want to have a physical copy of it. I want to look through the liner notes, and I want to admire the artwork. If there’s one thing I like about the current state of music though, it’s the fact vinyl has made a comeback of sorts. It was never really gone, but the relative resurgence of the past few years has been a pleasant surprise. To be honest though, when I want to listen to a classic album on vinyl, I really rather spin a vintage disc. Sure, it may take a bit longer to find a decent condition copy (in my experience especially where Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are concerned, because people would play those ones over and over and over), but the search is, I think, worth it. A good clean original pressing of a vinyl, to my ears, usually sounds better than today’s remasters, and you have the benefit of listening to the exact albums that were breaking ground in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s.

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Because of the vinyl resurgence, a lot of younger folks are going and picking up all of the vintage albums they can find. When I was first building up my vinyl LP collection (something I continue to do today), Time Traveler was a BIG time-saver. I’m far from the first to point out that vinyl has a warmth and depth that’s often lacking on CD, and I noticed this time and time again when I was picking up Bruce Springsteen, Beatles, even Jim Croce records, that I already had on CD. Even as far as modern vinyl releases go, they often sound better than their CD counterparts. I’ll never forget the rush of excitement when I first found Springsteen’s Magic on vinyl at Time Traveler (granted, the production of that album in general is often debated). Man, I snapped that thing right up, and since then, whenever Bruce puts out a new album, I buy the CD and vinyl release at the same at Time Traveler.

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My two favorite artists of all-time are Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Presley. Oh sure, I like a lot of other artists, but those are the two I always come back to. Time Traveler has plenty of both. As far as Springsteen goes, I’ve owned most of his releases as vinyl LPs for years now, so sometimes it’s hard to find something new-to-me (though last summer I positively flipped out when I found the vinyl release of Human Touch there, in great shape, and for only 99 cents to boot!). With Elvis, it’s a bit different. There are SO many Elvis albums out there, that I’m almost constantly finding something new (and I’ve got MANY Elvis records as it is). Several weeks back, I finally found a nice vinyl copy of The Sun Sessions, and for $3, it became mine.

Speaking of prices, one thing I really admire about Time Traveler is that the prices are always very reasonable. I’ve been to dedicated record stores (and even some antique/thrift shops or even yard and garage sales) where vinyl records will be ludicrously overpriced. The Beatles and Elvis are especially susceptible to this. Because they were (and are) so popular, many people feel their records are worth a premium. Yes, they are worth a bit more due to their popularity, but some people fail to realize that they sold millions of those records, they are not scarce. Some pressings may be worth more, but as a general rule of thumb, many people want more for a given record than it’s worth. Unless it’s a sealed original pressing, I just don’t think Elvis’ G.I. Blues is worth $25! I’ve never had this problem at Time Traveler. Heck, I bought my first vinyl copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (The original Beatles album, not the soundtrack to that terrible musical) there for $6, and that was an early pressing! Of course, condition of the record and cover plays a role in the pricing, but I’ve never seen an album there priced just to suck the most money out of your wallet as possible.

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On the day I stopped in to take these pictures, the store had just taken in a huge collection of Beatles and Beatles-related records, many (maybe all) of them in absolutely fantastic shape. As I previously mentioned, it’s often a bit tough to find a Beatles record that hasn’t been spun 4000 times or had it’s jacket dismembered and taped to the wall of some 60’s pre-teen girl’s bedroom. Trust me, these were in amazing shape. My brother happily purchased several Beatles vinyl LPs and even John Lennon’s first solo album, and man, these things were clean.

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We didn’t buy this George Harrison’s Wonderwall Music vinyl, but aside from minor wear to the jacket, it was a ridiculously nice copy.

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The Beatles Rarities, a 1980 compilation of tracks that didn’t make it onto the U.S. releases of the original albums or even alternate tracks. We didn’t buy this one either, but again, this LP was in crazy good shape. Also, see my brother’s kinda-cameo in these shots. What a team player.

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I’ve been talking a lot about old vinyl, but there are also new CD releases at Time Traveler. As I stated before, I buy all of Springsteen’s new releases from Time Traveler, and in fact, I buy all new releases there! Why spend my money at a chain store when I can support my local indie record store? The atmosphere is nicer, the selection is better (waaay better), and if something’s not in stock, in all likelihood it can be ordered (even more obscure titles).

The majestic light shining through the door in the back wasn't planned for this photo, but man, I dig it.

The majestic light shining through the backdoor wasn’t planned for this photo, but man, I dig it.

The latest CD releases are up front, but all of the other new/sealed CDs are on these racks, and that pic doesn’t even get all of them in! I can, and have, spent hours browsing through these. The Michael Stanley section was invaluable to me when I was first collecting the CD discography of The Michael Stanley Band. Some of those albums are really on the tough side to find, and I remember snapping up the CD editions of Fourth And Ten and Inside Moves as soon as I found them there, years ago.

Ditto goes for The Rolling Stones: you don’t always see their 1960’s albums at major retailers, not many at least (in my experience), but several years ago when I found nearly every album they put out in the 60’s on CD, DSD remastered versions no less, I bought them as quick as I could pull the money out of my pocket. Well, maybe not that fast, but eventually I picked up most of their 1960’s catalogue from Time Traveler.

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Lotsa used CDs, too. The newest ones to the shop are found up front. In my experience, if you see something especially good in those bins, it’s probably best to move on it right away. If you wait a day or two, there’s a good chance it’ll be gone. A few weeks back, the original 2-CD pressing of The Rolling Stones’ Hot Rocks, the London-labeled West German pressing, found it’s way into the “just in” bin, and man, I grabbed that 2-disc set as soon as I saw it. The old Stones CDs with London labels have absolutely terrific sound, and whenever I come across them, which isn’t often unfortunately, they’re always instant-buys. Actually, to be honest, the only London-labels I’ve ever found have been at Time Traveler; that edition of Let It Bleed (quite possibly my favorite Rolling Stones album) has become an honored part of my collection.

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More used CDs, a big ol’ rack of ’em.

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The 99 cent CD rack is the section that keeps on giving. Numerous times I’ve dug through it, only to keep discovering more good stuff. The section has yielded me some very good 60’s rock compilations and obscure Jazz CDs. Also, look at the insert: I traded that CD in myself! Collector’s item!

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There are extensive Country and Folk sections, as well. Even Blues and Classical. A few months back, I found a CD of original Al Jolson recordings that had somehow made it’s way into the Classical section. Naturally, I bought it. I told you my tastes were extensive!

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See the copies of The Beach Boys 20 Golden Greats, and Bob Seger’s Night Moves and The Distance? More trade-ins from the NEO Video Hunter collection!

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I’ve found some neat CDs in the Soundtracks section. Batman soundtracks, sure, but my golden triumphs? Two different pressings, neither one exactly easy to find, of the M*A*S*H soundtrack. Twas great moments, I say.

Also, Laserdiscs! The very first time I went into Time Traveler, it must have been the summer of either 2000 or 2001. I was specifically looking for Giorgio Moroder’s version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis on the format. I didn’t even have a Laserdisc player at that point, but I was (still kinda am) a collector of all things Metropolis, and at that time, both the VHS and Laserdisc releases of Giorgio Moroder’s “rock” restoration of the film were looong out-of-print ad and worth mighty dollars (it’s since been reissued on DVD, something I never thought would happen). It wouldn’t be until 2006 or 2007 that I began visiting Time Traveler regularly (by that point I was seriously collecting music), however. Haven’t looked back since.

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DVDs! I’ve seen some ridiculously rare stuff show up in the new DVDs section. You can’t tell from my photo, but there’s totally some Big Chuck & Lil’ John DVDs in stock.

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Plenty o’ used DVDs, and even some Blu-Rays, too. The used DVD section once yielded Tom Selleck’s Mr. Baseball, a moment that should have been heralded by trumpets and whatnot. Good find, is what I’m sayin’.

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Collectible posters, and lots of ’em. Many (most? All?) of these are promotional posters sent to record stores for, er, promotion (go figure!). I bought several Bruce Springsteen-related posters there, including big ol’ full-size ones for Greatest Hits and The Ghost Of Tom Joad, as well as smaller ones for Tracks (which is on the wall only mere feet from me) and Live In New York. I’m not lying when I say not only do these all make terrific display pieces, but they are incredibly cool (though I guess those two things kinda go hand-in-hand, huh?).

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Even the walls of the place are a feast for the eyes. I mean, there’s a lot of cool of stuff up there to look at. Also, this shot gives a good view of how the racks on the floor are set up: Tons of vinyl records on the left end, tons of CDs the rest of the way down, and they’re like that on both sides, every row. Eagle eyes will notice the power line-up of Pat Benatar, Jackson Browne, and Jaws in the very front row there.

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On this very wall is a picture of your NEO Video Hunter himself, taken on a day when I felt like being annoying and thus I walked in dressed in full Texas oil baron regalia (see insert). That’s me with the owner of this fine establishment. That’s right, me with the man himself, and while on the subject…

The man behind the music, Scoot Shepard.

The man behind the music, Scott Shepard.

Scott Shepard, hometown hero and legitimate good guy. Scott opened Time Traveler in 1991, but he’s been part of music industry for much of his life. The sheer number of legendary artists he’s seen in concert and even met is nothing short of jaw-dropping. See that photo near the upper-right corner of the pic? That’s Scott with freakin’ Ray Manzarek from The Doors!

We’ve seen the impressive selection at Time Traveler, but one of the best things about indie record stores is the people that run them. The proprietors of these fine establishments have a genuine love of music, and just by talking with them for even a few minutes, you can gain a wealth of musical knowledge. And, as they get to know you and your tastes, they can direct to the latest additions to the store. It’s an aspect of these hometown record stores that, simply put, is almost always completely absent from the big, heartless chain stores. With the indie stores, you can actually establish a rapport with the people working there. If you’re lucky, even strike up a friendship. In my case, I’m fortunate to have become very good friends with Scott. You couldn’t ask for a cooler or more knowledgeable person.

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Alright, so we’ve taken a look at Time Traveler, but what about some of the cool things I’ve purchased there over the years? I’ve talked a bit about some of them, but here’s just a very small sampling of some more of my Time Traveler treasures (alliteration!):

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One of my all-time favorite buys was this souvenir Beatles record. The record itself is the same as Vee-Jay’s Introducing… The Beatles, but the jacket is what makes this one special, with info and pictures that just scream “early Beatlemania!” Apparently this one was sold in stores on it’s own, but look at the sticker at the bottom of the front cover: A souvenir of their September 15, 1964 Cleveland show! This one’s not just Beatles history, it’s Northeast Ohio history!

(I actually purchased a “Version One” copy of Introducing… The Beatles at Time Traveler as well. There are a lot of fakes out there, but as far as I can tell, I think mine’s legit. I won’t say how much I paid for my copy, but let me just say, it was a fantastic deal.)

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Some good ol’ 50’s Rock & Roll! Bill Haley doesn’t always get the props he deserves when people speak of 1950’s rock, but he put out some really great music.

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Jerry Lee Lewis is one of my top favorites, and believe it or not, I may have purchased more vinyl records by him than any other artist at Time Traveler. Someone must have turned in their entire Killer collection, because about three years ago, all at once there were a ton of Jerry Lee vinyls, and over a fairly short period of time, I bought them all. This 2-record set isn’t from that lot, rather I picked this one up a few months ago, but like everything Jerry Lee has put out (even though this is really just a common budget collection), this one is good.

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I talked about finding this album on CD at Time Traveler, and years later, I found this original vinyl, too. This was MSB’s final studio album (Michael Stanley has continued as a solo artist and also performing with his new band, The Resonators, but nothing beats The Michael Stanley Band years). This one’s opened, but in terrific shape. I find the sticker on the shrinkwrap interesting: If these were hit singles, they had to have been hits only locally. MSB’s final two albums were originally released only on a regional basis, and original vinyl and cassette copies are pretty tough to find, even around here. They’ve since been reissued on CD, but there’s something about owning the original LP.

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I’m also a big Little Richard fan, but aside from compilations of his 1950’s music, many of his records are a bit tough to find. This one is a Spin-O-Rama compilation of his Gospel music, from 1960.

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Scary stories as told by the man himself, Boris Karloff?! Yeah, I’ll take it!

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I’m a sucker for any vintage record that attempted to get in on Beatlemania, and this one combines two legends: The Beatles and Chet Atkins! I’m incredibly glad to have added this one to my collection.

*****

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There you have it, my little tribute to my favorite music store and the only place I do any serious music shopping. Many record stores have come and gone, but Time Traveler is still there, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

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Oh, and if you stop in, check out the famous Saturday Night With C album. Don’t get it? Well, that’s why you gotta stop by!

Time Traveler is located at 2615 State Road, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio 44223 and they can be reached at 330-923-4408.

UPDATE: Time Traveler is now located at 118 West Market Street in Akron, Ohio, across the street from Dave Towell Cadillac, The Diamond Grill and St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. The store hours are Monday-Saturday 10 AM – 7 PM. Phone # 330-819-8955.

APF M1000 Video Game System Review

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I’m a big sucker for early video game consoles. The Atari 2600, of course, but also more obscure systems such as the Bally Astrocade. Even less well-known than the Bally is this, the APF M1000, released in 1978 and designed to be part of a larger, expandable computer called the APF Imagination Machine. The computer was apparently a pretty advanced beast for the time, but I don’t have one nor have I ever played one. All I’ve got is this core system. This was an Ebay impulse buy from about a year ago, albeit an impulse buy I mulled over for several days prior to the auction’s end. As soon as it was over, I sort of had second thoughts. But, as it stands, I’m glad I bought this thing. It’s kinda neat, it’s obscure, and, and…well, I don’t really have any other reasons, but it’s mine, okay?

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This thing reminds me of a cross between an Atari 2600 and an Intellivision. The black-and-woodgrain finish recalls the 2600, while the fairly awful numeric controllers and hardwired cords are similar to the Intellivision (even though the Intellivision hadn’t been released yet when the APF hit the market). Yes, the controllers and the RF cable cannot be disconnected from the system, which is always a double-edged sword. On one hand, you never have to worry about losing a controller. But on the other hand, if something breaks, you’re in trouble, especially nowadays. And, like any good system with hardwired cords, no matter how careful you are, things become a tangled mess in a matter of seconds. The APF is especially susceptible to this because the RF cable is approximately 1000 feet long, and even if you avoid tangling it with the controller cords, you still have to contend with other unrelated cables that may happen to be in the vicinity. I’m not joking, the cords on this thing are a pain in the ass.

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The controller looks like a cross between the Intellivison and Colecovision controllers, and that’s not really a good thing (keep in mind those systems weren’t released when the APF first came out, so no cries of “Copycat!” can be lobbied). Neither system was known for having especially comfortable control pads, but I’d give the Colecovision the edge, dubious honor that may be. Luckily, the APF has a joystick ‘nub’, somewhat comparable to Coleco’s, which I prefer to the Intellivision’s directional disc. Actually, since it’s fairly small and the fire button is located on the top of the controller, I’d say the APF’s controller may actually be a bit better than either of those other two, though that’s not saying much.

As for games, only a few were released for the console, and guess what? I don’t have any of them. Mine didn’t come with any carts, and while there’s usually one or two on Ebay, they tend to either be too much for the ones I want or games I would never spend good money on in the first place. I do want Bowling and Baseball, and there’s a Sea Monster game that sounds interesting, but as it stands, I don’t have any carts and thus have no idea if the cartridge port on my system even works.

Luckily, there’s a built-in game, so I can tell if my APF M1000 powers up at all or not…

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The game is Rocket Patrol, and frankly, it’s pretty awful. I know early video games weren’t the most sophisticated things in the world, but there were some madly addictive and fun ones. Rocket Patrol isn’t one of them. In two player mode, one player shoots a maddeningly slow missile while the other controls the speed of the rockets. One player mode lets you control only the rockets. There’s really no strategy or twitch gameplay to speak of, but at least you get a look at the graphics. The APF was able to present words that look halfway not-blocky, as opposed to the 2600, and the graphics are simple but not too bad given their age; they probably fall somewhere in between the 2600 and Intellivision (again). I have no idea if the actual cartridges live up to that declaration or not.

The APF M1000 is definitely a curiosity piece for those interested in early console gaming, and while it’s not really fair for me to pass judgement until I’ve got some actual carts, I think the best I can say is that it showed promise. It’s an interesting console, to say the least, but I think I’m safe in stating that It’s doubtful anyone would pass up the 2600 for it. Not today, anyway.