Northeast Ohio in the late-90’s/early-2000’s saw a kind of resurgence in interest for our local horror movie hosts. Not only were Big Chuck & Lil’ John and Son of Ghoul plugging away (which still continues to this day, albeit with a little break for Chuck & John from 2007 to 2011), but The Ghoul had also returned to local TV in 1998. It seemed like there was a revived interest in all things having to do with or were otherwise spawned by Ghoulardi. Perhaps it was because the death of Ernie “Ghoulardi” Anderson in 1997 re-ignited local love for this sort of thing, even though that love had never really went away (and is still there now, though to a lesser extent, sadly).
Perhaps the zenith and/or culmination of this re-ignited interest in all things Ghoulardi took place in 2000, when “Big Chuck” Schodowski, who worked on the original Ghoulardi show, gathered up some of the remaining footage of Ghoulardi (and frankly, there’s not a whole lot in the first place) and put together a re-created Ghoulardi show to be aired during an episode of The Big Chuck & Lil’ John Show (I don’t know if it was Chuck alone specifically behind this, mind you, but he was always a big Ghoulardi torch-bearer, for obvious reasons, so it stands to reason that he had to be a large part of making this happen). I was a regular viewer of all this stuff then, my fandom was as strong as it ever was, but it would take something really special, something really momentous to get me to sit up and say “Okay, I’ve got too see that!!” The re-created Ghoulardi was such an event. I was seriously, seriously stoked for this show, so much so that while I had a working VCR, it was decidedly lower-quality, and didn’t record in Hi-Fi. So, I made the trip to a nearby Aunt’s house and used her VCR to record get a Hi-Fi, higher quality SP copy (which I still have to this day).
Back then, I wasn’t quite the commercial junkie that I am now, though the seeds were obviously there, because when I first saw the promo for this event, I knew I had to have not only the actual show, but the advertisement for it as well. In the days before DVR, this wasn’t as easy as it is for me nowadays. Luckily, M*A*S*H came to the rescue, as I was a big taper of WJW’s late night reruns of the show (ah, the days before complete season DVD sets). I was able to capture the re-created Ghoulardi show promo near the end of an episode of M*A*S*H, and it’s the screenshots of that promo you’re seeing in this article. We’ll take a bit of a look at the promo itself too, but for now, let’s just talk about the special, using the promo’s screencaps as a guide.
Big Chuck & Lil’ John only appeared at the beginning and end of the show, the rest was made up entirely of Ghoulardi segments wrapped around the movie as well as a few period-correct things to further add to the mood (more on that in a bit). They even used a still of a vintage WJW TV-8 station I.D. card during the broadcast. Only the necessary very-2000 commercials broke the vintage 1963/1964 groove the show managed to establish.
One thing not mentioned during the promo is what movie was going to be shown. Those savvy in the ways of old sci-fi and horror flicks will be able to tell from the screenshot above that it was The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Also apparent from the screencap was that not only did they wrap the movie with Ghoulardi segments, but they also attempted to re-create Ghoulardi’s movie drop-ins. There were some sound effects, sure, and Ghoulardi himself was superimposed during the movie. Since, for obvious reasons, they had to make do with old footage of him to superimpose, that aspect maybe wasn’t as successful, but it was still cool to see. Better they try it than not, right?
As for The Brain That Wouldn’t Die itself, that was actually one of the parts of the special I don’t recall being all that excited about. Y’see, the movie has been a staple of these types of shows for years, and even at that relatively early period in my ‘career’ (ha!), I was kinda sick of it. The VHS release of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffing was enough for me at the time. A funny thing happened when I was transferring my VHS copy of the re-created Ghoulardi show to DVD several months ago, however: I found myself actually getting into it! Yeah, technically it’s a bad film, and yet, there’s something captivating about it. Honestly, I sorta dig it, which at one point is something I never thought I’d say.
Old commercials! This was one of the other “period-correct” things I was talking about earlier. To further the vintage Ghoulardi show-feel, several old ads were shown at certain points in the broadcast. That shot above featuring a pre-prez Ronald Reagan was probably the most interesting of the bunch, but truth be told (and this may sound odd coming from an old commercial-junkie), I didn’t find any of them all that memorable; seemed like standard public domain stuff, the kind of commercials you can find on any number of cheap DVD comps. Still, the fact that they went the extra mile and included them in the broadcast is, to me, more important than however entertaining the individual commercials are. The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts in that aspect, I guess. Does that make any sense?
“Oh wowsers gang! He’s back! The Cleveland legend, Ghoulardi! Join Big Chuck & Lil’ John for the re-created Ghoulardi show, Friday at 11:30 PM! It’s just like it used to be! Even the commercials are old! So set your VCR for what’s sure to be the biggest, most-taped show in Cleveland history! The re-created Ghoulardi show, Friday at 11:30!”
That’s the entire transcipt of the voiceover in the promo, and man, it’s like they tailored it especially to me, particularly that part about setting the VCR. In a succinct 20 seconds, they managed to cover all the major points of the show. I don’t know if it really ended up being the most-taped show in Cleveland history, but it’s probably safe to assume that more than a few people were recording. You can tell that this was a big deal in WJW’s eyes because of the fact it even got a promo; Big Chuck and/or Lil’ John did (and do) plenty of commercials for local businesses, but promos for their own show had long since become scarce, if not non-existant (I sure don’t recall any, at least).
When it was all over, Big Chuck & Lil’ John popped back in to close the show, and they mentioned that they might be up for doing another re-created Ghoulardi show (there’s probably just enough suriving footage to get one more good re-creation), but as far as I know, another one never happened, and I’m not sure if this one was even repeated. Still, what an extremely cool idea, and it played out perfectly. I wasn’t around for Ghoulardi’s original run on Cleveland TV, but boy, seeing the re-creation was and is an absolute blast.
(For those that want to see the re-created Ghoulardi show, it’s available officially from Big Chuck & Lil’ John’s official site: http://www.bigchuckandliljohn.com/merchandise.html )