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Son of Ghoul 30th Anniversary Tribute!

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That screenshot above was taken nearly five years ago, during Son of Ghoul’s 25th anniversary special. (Has it really been five years? I refuse to believe five years passed that quickly!) A momentous occasion for sure, and a marvelously entertaining episode to boot. Interviews with past crew members, historic clips and bits, and an honest-to-goodness movie (The Most Dangerous Game), it was a fantastic show that stayed on my DVR for, no joke, around 6 or 7 months. It was like the perfect summation of what made Son of Ghoul, well, Son of Ghoul.

However, something SOG said, not during that episode but during a later show, has stuck in the back of my mind ever since it was uttered: when describing his 20th and 25th anniversaries, he made an off-hand comment about a potential 30th, essentially stating he had no idea if he’d even make it to 30. It was something along the lines of “Can I make it that long?” It was a throwaway line, not even really a joke, but it did bring up an interesting question: in this day and age of waning local television, where horror hosts in particular are an increasingly endangered species, could SOG hold in there for the big 3-0? How long can a good thing last?

I don’t know where today falls in the ultimate larger picture of The Son of Ghoul Show, but I do know that Keven “Son of Ghoul” Scarpino has accomplished the nearly impossible: a horror hosted movie showcase that has continuously run weekly since June 13, 1986 – 30 years ago today!

Make no mistake, this is a monumental achievement. Any television personality doing what they do for an uninterrupted 30 years is something to be celebrated, but a horror host? It’s not unheard of for one to run for a number of years, leave the airwaves (for one reason or another), and then come back some time later. But, to stay on for three decades, simply by doing what they do best? All while facing station changes, shifting television landscapes, and the decline of horror hosts on over-the-air TV stations nationwide? Just how does that happen?!

In fact, he is easily one of the longest continually-running horror hosts in the nation! Indeed, it seems he is THE longest running! That just makes this achievement all the more amazing!

It’s times like this that I count myself especially fortunate to be a Northeast Ohioan, or at least a TV-watchin’ Northeast Ohioan. It seems like if a local television personality has had an impact on us, they never really go away. I mean, Ghoulardi was only on from 1963 to 1966, and yet, Ernie Anderson’s iconic host is still instantly recognizable around here. And Big Chuck & Lil’ John? Even when they ‘retired’ back in 2007, they were still all over the place, and then they came back to TV in 2011. My point is, if you can make it around here, there will always be a place for you, somehow, somewhere.

Throughout all the changes in television in general, never mind locally, over the last 30 years, SOG has been there, doing what he does best: hosting a movie, performing in some skits, interacting with the viewers. It’s perfect “sit back and chill” weekend entertainment, and SOG has it down to a science. I simply can’t imagine a weekend without his show, a fact that made his uncertainty in regards to reaching 30 years a bit unsettling. Northeast Ohioans have long memories, but I suppose nothing and no one is immune to the sands of time.

But for now, SOG is still here, still plugging away, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I go way back with the show. Indeed, quite a few of my weekends have featured The Son of Ghoul Show, starting all the way back to the fall of 1997. In many ways, my love of local broadcasting can be traced back to The Son of Ghoul Show. That’s not a small statement I make, either.

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The man himself, via an exclusive shot taken at his 1997 personal appearance at JC Comics & Cards. Check out the SOG cake to the right!

Anyone taking even a cursory glance at this blog has undoubtedly seen the presence SOG has had; I’m blatantly and unabashedly a longtime fan. We’ve looked at an episode or two, he’s gotten specific shout-outs during all three of my Ghoulardifest write-ups, and heck, I even took the time to post an update when his time slot was shifted back in February 2015. ‘Course, it was the big extensive interview with the man himself nearly two years ago (as of this writing) that was the ultimate example of SOG on this BLOG. (See what I did there?)

So yes, SOG reaching 30 years on the air is a big deal in general, but especially for me. Why? Because I’ve been around for 19 of those 30 years. I had seen Big Chuck & Lil’ John first, and was aware of Superhost in my formative years, but truthfully, it was SOG that introduced me to this whole Northeast Ohio horror host deal. And therein lies some nostalgia…

(I know I’ve related some, or all, of this before, so please, bear with me…)

I first discovered the show in the fall of 1997. At the time, I was looking for a Mystery Science Theater 3000 surrogate. I had become (and remain to this day) a die-hard fan of MST3K, but at the end of summer ’97, it was too expensive to keep the premium cable box needed to access the Sci-Fi Channel, and thus, MST3K (the network later became part of our basic cable package, but that was a few years away). Being only 11 years old, I didn’t have much say in the matter, and so, as summer came to a close, it became increasingly obvious I needed something to satisfy my bad movie-mocking needs.

Also during that same summer, I had become aware of “The Cat,” TV-29 in Akron, TV-35 in Cleveland. While I was primarily a horror and sci-fi fan (albeit a still-burgeoning one), The Cat introduced me to a wider range of older, sometimes wildly obscure, flicks. B-westerns, silents, foreign films and so on, I quickly found a growing interest in all of them.

By the time fall came around, I was jonesing for MST3K, or something similar, and I was jonesing bad. In retrospect, it’s a bit odd that it took me several months to actually discover The Son of Ghoul Show, but the fact is that some idle channel-surfing one Saturday night landed me upon SOG’s annual Halloween show. He was on Friday and Saturday at that point, same episode both nights, so I guess this would have been November 1, 1997 (since an online calendar tells me Friday was October 31st).

The movie was the original Night of the Living Dead, a flick he runs each Halloween. My brother Luke was watching with me, and as I recall it, we turned the channel on just as SOG’s introductory segment was coming to a close. The movie started shortly thereafter, and man, that was all it took. Before long, I was hooked. It took me a minute to realize that SOG was dropping in sound effects and music into the movie, but I loved it. I loved the film too, which was my first time seeing it.

But it was the host segments and skits that really got me. SOG was something entirely new to me. A genuine horror host, a concept I only had a vague notion of prior (I never thought of Chuck & John as horror hosts until later, and besides, it took me a few more years to really appreciate them). He was witty, he was acerbic, he was silly, he read mail. In short, it was everything I had been craving. In that single two-hour block that Saturday night, an entire new world of television, of comedy, was opened to me. Baby, I was done.

And he was ours! This was all local! SOG is the kind of entertainer anyone from anywhere can enjoy, but his program takes on a whole new dimension if you’re from the area. I doubt I was cognizant of all that when I watched for the first time (in fact, I’m sure I wasn’t), but it’s a factor that became increasingly important to me the more I watched and the bigger a fan I became.

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Another exclusive shot taken at JC Comics & Cards. Here SOG autographs a promotional picture, for either my brother or myself. We both still have our signed pictures to this day, either way.

Even though it was only until the following week, it was a long, long wait for the next episode. I was in 5th grade, and while (as I recall it), the other kids were into wrestling and/or MTV and whatnot, I personally could not wait to see more of this new thing I found.

Finally it was there; the movie was The Vampire Bat, and I knew I had made the right decision in jumping on this bandwagon. (I also learned it was the same movie, same episode both Friday and Saturday nights, but this wound up being beyond helpful. If I particularly liked a movie or bit, or one of the letters I later started sending in was on, I could sample Friday night and record Saturday night.)

From there on out, it was a constant sense of discovery. Nearly every single week, I was seeing a movie completely new to me. Okay, sure, they weren’t good movies, but they weren’t supposed to be! I can’t say this is where my love of watching bad movies because they’re so awful began, but the selections SOG ran certainly helped fuel the ongoing desire for a good baddie. The Hoodlum, The Corpse Vanishes, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, Colossus and the Amazon Queen, all of those (and many more!) were introduced to me via SOG. I can’t say I ‘love’ the films, but they hold a nostalgic place in my heart nevertheless, simply because of how and where they fall in my lifetime.

And it was all so funny! I loved the mail segments, where SOG’s acerbic, sarcastic wit was on full-display. He had no problem goofing on the letter writers, and really, that was part of the fun, even if you were the one who had written in! And the skits! Barfaby, Mr. Banjo, Fatman and Rotten, Zero, Eat At Joe’s, and even the one-offs, so much of it had a hip, edgy, oftentimes “warped” tone that made the whole experience irresistible. I mean, “Genie of the John,” in which SOG played the titular character, one who emerges from a toilet? Stuff like that appealed (and appeals) endlessly to me.

‘Course, when I began watching, I didn’t really know about the first home of the show (Canton’s WOAC TV-67, from 1986 to 1995), and thus what bits were new and what bits old. Nor did I have a full understanding of the Ghoulardi lineage, only a vague knowledge of the tradition. (Ah, the days before the internet presented every last drop of information at the touch of a button!) This was almost all totally new to me, but I loved it.

Within just a few weeks of my becoming an instant mega-fan, SOG announced on the air that he was going to be making a personal appearance at JC Comics & Cards on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls. JCs?! I knew right where that was! It was practically just down the street from me! Dare I go and meet my newfound hero? Of course! (By the way, JC Comics & Cards is still at the same location; you’d be well-advised to stop in and buy some stuff – there’s a lot of great things there!)

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That’s my brother Luke on the left. I’m the one on the right. A rare shot of me not being a total badass? I think I’ve aged for the better.

Looking back, his personal appearance at JC Comics & Cards was probably my first real celebrity meeting. Okay, my school had a Cleveland Indian (don’t remember his name) appear and sign autographs once, and I had gotten baseballs autographed outside of (then) Jacob’s Field before, but as far as being a fan and specifically seeking out a meet-and-greet, SOG was the pretty much the first.

There was only one hindrance: I was a fairly shy 11 year old. It’s something I’ve long since grown out of, and nowadays I have no qualms with walking right up to a celebrity and bugging meeting them. But back then? It was totally uncharted territory for me. I didn’t quite know what to expect.

So, the big day arrived. My brother, mom and I waltzed into JCs, and there he was: Son of Ghoul, in person! I was excited and insanely nervous at the same time. I needn’t have worried though; as has been proven time and time again over the years, SOG is absolutely fantastic with his fans. He was personable, he was funny, he answered all questions posed to him, he took pictures, he signed autographs. Even if I did lock-up once after asking him a question (shy and all, remember), it was a great experience.

In fact, here’s something about the visit that I’ll never forget: after we had met him, got our pictures and so on, I was browsing the comics, and I found that 1988 reprint issue of Action Comics #1, for $3. Without prompting, SOG came up and actually looked at it with me, marveling at the price and the 1938 date in the corner. I thought (and think) that was just the coolest. When a personality goes that extra mile to interact with a fan, it shows how genuine they are. In the years since, talking with SOG or watching him talk with other fans, I know my impression of him back in ’97 at JCs was spot-on.

It really is hard to put in words the influence SOG had on me growing up. His show helped shape how I look at movies, at comedy, at broadcasting, everything. And I’m not the only one; There were other kids my age that were just as enthralled with it as I was.

In fact, this blog has introduced me to one: Brett Van Wagner. He discovered this site due to the SOG content, he messaged me, and we’ve been chatting ever since. Even though he lives out-of-state and we’ve never met in person, I’m proud to call him friend. We’ve even had shockingly similar experiences with The Son of Ghoul Show, and we’ve both been fans for nearly the same amount of time. I’m going to turn things over to him for a moment here; I’ve known for awhile now how important his recollections of “SOG history” are, and when I came up with the idea for this post, he was the first one I asked to contribute. Here he is now in his own words…

Brett:

Where to start? First off, a huge thank you to the Northeast Ohio Video Hunter for letting me be a part of an article about such a historic moment in Northeast Ohio television! Although we have never met, I have enjoyed emailing the author of this blog and sharing memories and stories of Son of Ghoul for probably close to a year now. Our SOG stories are actually quite similar, and it makes me wonder how many other kids our age were watching the show at that time. While I live in Florida now, I make it home to NE Ohio from time to time and perhaps one day we will meet up at a convention or SOG appearance. But, thank you for allowing me to be a part of this!

I was first introduced to the Son of Ghoul Show sometime in 1997. My dad would occasionally have the show on, although it seems like my mom would always make him turn it off. My dad grew up watching both Ghoulardi and The Ghoul, and would talk about watching those shows when he was young. After months of catching a few minutes here or there, I remember the first episode I ever watched from start to finish. It was Friday, August 29, 1997 and it was the first week of 6th grade for me. After a week of realizing that middle school was now my life, I realized I needed something to take the edge off. The movie that night was Godzilla vs. Megalon and I only recently realized it was actually a rerun of the very first show to ever air on the CAT. Going back and watching that episode again, it makes quite a bit of sense, as SOG refers to the fact that we are now seeing him in prime time and actually in Cleveland quite a bit. A great episode to officially start watching. The episode also featured what would quickly become, and still is, my favorite SOG sketch, Mr. Banjo. I’m not quite sure what it was about that green-screened dog, but no matter how many times I hear the opening rifts of that song and hear SOG start to talk in that ridiculous accent, I truly laugh out loud every time.

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This is the Mr. Banjo character Brett is referring to. Coincidentally (as you’re about to read), this is from a promo for The Brain That Wouldn’t Die!

In all of the years, my favorite SOG movie is The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Fittingly, my very first fan letter was read during a show that featured this movie on October 10, 1997. Honorable mentions for other movies that I have a soft spot for go to favorites such as The Giant Gila Monster, Alice Sweet Alice (the only SOG movie that actually scared me as a kid – love it now though) Phantom from Space, Plan Nine from Outer Space, Killers from Space, (I’m noticing a space theme here) White Zombie, and the lost but still survives on VHS collections somewhere, Lethal Justice.

Despite the dungeon and skulls the faux scary vibe of the show, what I took away from the show more than anything was a love of comedy. From all of the drops in the movies (yeah, I know Bill Cosby has kind of fallen out of grace in society in the last year, and rightfully so.. but those old comedy albums of his are pure gold and the way SOG would incorporate drop pieces from those albums into the movies and show were fantastic) to the incredibly dry and witty sense of humor SOG would posses during mail breaks and show segments, the show for me was comedy first and foremost. SOG never fails to make me laugh with one of his one liners or observations during a skit or mail break. In addition to helping me with my love and appreciation for comedy, SOG always reinforced my love of The Beatles. While most kids grew up listening to their sing-a-long tapes, I remember listening to our old Beatles LP’s as young as 3 or 4, and my love for the band is still just as strong all these years later. Knowing SOG shared that love and appreciation for the band and incorporated them so heavily on his show was the icing on the cake.

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Another exclusive shot of SOG at that fateful JC Comics & Cards appearance!

Just like the Northeast Ohio Video Hunter, the first time I ventured out to meet SOG at a personal appearance was in December 1997 at JC Comics and Cards in Cuyahoga Falls. Heck, maybe I have met him after all. What I do remember is how friendly and kind SOG has always been to his fans. He remembered me from letters I had written, talked to my dad and I, and was just such a nice guy. I would again go to many personal appearances, including the 1999 FrightVision where I would spent lots of time talking to my horror host idol and also had the chance to meet, according to the headshot, the one…the only…Fidge! Fidge was also the nicest guy in the world, and the years he and SOG spent together are the best years of the show for me. The last time I saw SOG (and Fidge) in person was in October 2002 when they had the stage show during Fright Fest at what was then Six Flags Worlds of Adventure amusement park. (Sidenote, I am also a HUGE amusement park and roller coaster buff. Geauga Lake Amusement Park, which was a Northeast Ohio institution that spent a few years as a Six Flags park before becoming Geauga Lake again under the same owners of Cedar Point, Cedar Fair, is a place that I miss more than anything and am super sad about losing) Back on track, even though I haven’t seen SOG in person since 2002, I have stayed in touch with him via e-mail and he is nothing but kind and helpful to his fans. Questions I have had regarding episodes, etc, always are answered and he is just the nicest guy in the world, despite what he may want us to think from his on air persona.

It was so sad to hear of the passing of Fidge, especially because of the circumstances, in 2003, and SOG handled it with such class and respect in the tribute episode. Between that at the recent Colonel Klink tribute episodes, SOG has proven that even in the worst situations, he is the ultimate professional and is able to bring the audience together to celebrate the lives of two great men who were so influential on the show.

As the years went on, I went off to college and then moved to Florida eight years ago. I’ve experienced several jobs, a few serious girlfriends, and the usual ups and downs of life. Still, I always caught SOG any time I was home in Ohio on a Saturday night. In the more recent years, I have purchased over 20 episodes of the show from the SOG website and as time continues to go on, I’m sure I will purchase 20 more. Any time I am feeling a bit homesick, or just at the end of a long week, the excitement and comfort of popping in a Son of Ghoul DVD is just as strong as when I first discovered the show nearly 19 years ago. There have been countless horror hosts that have come and gone, but for one host to be on for 30 consecutive years is truly an amazing feat, especially in today’s constantly changing broadcast world. Hats off to the Son of Ghoul. I can only hope he appreciates not only the accomplishment of 30 years on the air, but how influential he was for kids like me who didn’t really have a place to fit in. Thanks for everything, SOG. Here’s to a happy 30th anniversary, and hope for many, many more.

Brett Van Wagner

It really is wild how close our experiences with the show are. I think we would have become fast friends back in the day, and I’m certainly happy to know him now. His contribution is invaluable to this article and I can’t thank him enough for providing it. You is good people, Brett!

Brett also touched on a great point: it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the show. The fact that it has continued to survive though every seemingly-insurmountable obstacle shows not only how durable the show is, but how good SOG is at what he does.

The Son of Ghoul Show has survived a nasty lawsuit in the late-1980s, time changes, station changes, the switch to digital TV in ’09, the eroding of local TV in general and the presence of horror hosts in particular, even actual deaths…

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The passing of Ron “Fidge” Huffman in 2003 was an absolute shocker. Fidge was SOG’s sidekick, and in the late-90s/early-2000s, he was ever present. He took a lot of abuse on the show, but I think he knew it was all in fun; his presence gave the program something of a “warped” Big Chuck & Lil’ John quality.

I had the fortune to meet Fidge at FrightVision ’99, where that autographed picture above comes from. He couldn’t have been any nicer; it truly seemed like he got a kick out of the whole thing, and it showed when meeting his fans. I’m truly sorry that he passed; I’m glad I got to meet him when I did.

Something else Brett mentioned was the more-recent death of Jim “The Colonel” Klink. Klink went way back with our local horror hosts, sending tons of his artwork to Superhost and later SOG. Not only that, but at least as far as SOG went, he’d send in packages of random items, always decorated with a variety of stickers on the outside (as SOG said once, he couldn’t believe the post office accepted them!). Needless to say, SOG ragged on Klink quite a bit too, but again, it was all in fun.

I never met Klink, though I did see him walking around at Ghoulardifest once or twice. I wish I would have went up and spoken to him now. Still, he did leave this nice comment on my interview with SOG page, and it’s worth sharing here:

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The outpouring of grief online for Klink was quite large, and reading that comment, it’s easy to see why. He was a genuinely nice, enthusiastic fan, as his note above makes abundantly clear.

As Brett mentioned, SOG’s tribute shows to both Fidge and Klink are fantastic. Genuine, honest, funny, they were perfect in honoring both guys.

Their passing was tragic, and the unfortunate fact of the matter is when a show reaches such longevity, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll run into something like that. It comes with the territory of being on for so many years, I suppose.

Indeed, when something like that happens, it only serves to remind you of how far back this all goes, and how quickly it can all go away. By this point, SOG has become a veritable staple of Northeast Ohio television. It’s simply impossible to imagine a time when he’s not on the air in some fashion. But obviously, all good things come to an end, which makes treasuring them while they’re here all the more important. I’ve made that mistake with some other shows, but luckily, I won’t make it here. I’m grateful for each week SOG is on the air.

So, that’s my history with SOG, but it’s not a finished history by any means; it continues to this very day. His current shows, of course I’m there, and just like when I was 11, I still get a sense of anticipation in hearing what movie will be shown on a given night, or seeing if some letter or package I sent in is going to be presented. Stuff like that I don’t think will ever change.


So, my thoughts, and Brett’s up above obviously, on this big 30th anniversary are now known. But, I also reached out online for some other contributions to this big ol’ tribute, to help show what an impact SOG has had on other viewers and collaborators. Some wonderful additions were gathered, which I’d like to share now.

From famous fellow horror host “Wolfman Mac” Kelly (who for years shared Saturday nights with SOG on our local RTV affiliate; SOG 7 PM-9PM, Mac 10 PM-12 AM):

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Son of Ghoul with Wolfman Mac, as they appeared together during an episode of Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive-In.

Hey Son Of Ghoul, happy 30th anniversary to you my fellow horror host! You have such an awesome talent and your fans are truly fortunate to have YOU keeping the genre alive. Er…undead…

I had the honor of meeting you a few years ago at Wasteland. You’re not only a great horror host, you’re also a really good guy. All the best to you. Stay Creepy!! – Wolfman Mac

Mac, like SOG, is one of the coolest, nicest guys you could ever hope to talk to, which is not something that can be said for every television personality.

From longtime SOG-friend and genuine good guy Jungle Bob Tuma (check out his official website!) comes this hilarious recollection:

Jungle Bob, longtime buddy of Son of Ghoul and all-around good egg. Photo used with permission.

Jungle Bob, longtime buddy of Son of Ghoul and all-around good egg. Photo used with permission.

I remember the time that the Son of Ghoul & I went out to eat after Cinema Wasteland at an all you can eat Chinese Restaurant (his favorite place to eat). He had been there the week before & ” spoke up” when somebody tried to leave without paying their bill. This made him a hero to the girls who worked there…while we were there, we noticed them smiling, they even brought over a plate of crab legs for him.

He went to go wash his hands & I took my pen & drew a heart & wrote “I love you” on his napkin & when he returned I told him that the Chinese waitress wrote it…I had no idea that SOG would call the waitress over & ask her name & flirt with her…I even tried to stop him but when she came over she let him know that it was not her who wrote that …she also told him that she actually saw me write it while he was away from the table…

He looked at me & said..”OMG Jung, what is wrong with you…I am so embarrassed!” I thought about it & said to myself…”See, we even have fun when we are not on TV…Whether we are on & off the air, Keven (SOG) & I always seem to have a good time & that’s why we have been friends for so long… Happy 30th buddy & looking forward to our next Chinese dinner, LOL.

Anyone that has seen Jung on SOG’s show or watched them interact together in-person knows they have an incredible rapport that is absolutely hilarious, as his story demonstrates!

JB is not only ridiculously friendly, but he knows pretty much everything about every animal ever. You’d be well-advised to book him for any event.

From my buddy Matt Brassfield over at Rotten Ink:

Son of Ghoul with Dayton's Baron Von Porkchop. Photo used with permission.

Son of Ghoul with Dayton’s Baron Von Porkchop. Photo used with permission.

Hometown Horror Hosts mean a lot to viewers, and Cleveland has had their share of iconic hosts from Ghoulardi to Superhost in the golden age of broadcast TV hosting to modern late night ghoulies…but for over 30 years The Son Of Ghoul has entertained viewers with his silly antics and zany sidekicks like the Fidge (R.I.P.) and has truly became a staple for the Cleveland area.

I have had the honor to have met and chatted with Son Of Ghoul many times during his convention appearances and he has always taken the time to shoot the breeze and even was the first to introduce me to footage of Superhost as well as Woodrow The Woodsman! Son Of Ghoul is a Horror Host Hall Of Famer, a Musician, a Comedian and from Rotten Ink as well as from the cast of Baron Von Porkchop’s Terrifying Tales Of The Macabre, we want to wish Son Of Ghoul a Happy 30th Anniversary and wish him many more years of TV goodness.

Matt’s also the producer of Baron Von Porkchop’s Terrifying Tales of the Macabre; check it out!

My Facebook pal John Walch had this photo of SOG with his son Lil’ Kong to share, along with the following comment:

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Photo courtesy John Walch.

The highlight of April’s Cinema Wasteland show was when my son met Kevin. Such a great guy.

Yes he is!

From another Facebook pal, Danny Harasyn:

I live in Lake County and Time Warner won’t give me the station SOG is on …..so I had a friend I worked with who lived in the area Time Warner carried the show record it for me each week…

I know what he means; there was a time in the earlier-2000s in which we were using rabbit ears, and you could NOT pick up SOG’s show to save your life.

From Facebook’s Gary Smith:

Photo courtesy Gary Smith.

Photo courtesy Gary Smith.

Several years ago. it seemed like every week, I would see him at Jamie’s Flea Market in Amherst. On top of that, getting a chance to see and chat with him at Ghoulardifest and Monster Bash conventions the past few years. Looking forward to seeing him again at this year’s fests and congratulations on his 30 year milestone.

Thanks Gary!


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One final personal story before I close this tribute out. This one means as much to me as the nostalgia of discovering and watching SOG back in the late-90s does.

Back in November of 2011, I had a serious hand injury at where I then-worked. This was my first (and thus far only) real injury. Sure, I had sprained my ankle before, pinched a nerve in my neck, relatively little things like that, but this was a biggie. I eventually clocked three separate surgeries, a five-day hospital stay, several weeks of a home IV, and a whole lotta physical therapy. It was a mess.

I was blessed with some legitimately great doctors and nurses that helped me through the ordeal. I am thankful every day for that. Today, while there is some remaining evidence that a severe accident occurred, you probably wouldn’t notice unless I pointed it out to you. It could have been much, much worse, so yes, I’m most definitely grateful to those that made sure it wasn’t.

But anyway, back in December 2011, much of what I eventually had to go through was still ahead of me. All I knew was that I was injured, I was off work until after the new year, and I was severely bummed.

Meanwhile, prior to all that, after being a regular writer-in’r to the show in the late-90s, I had begun sending packages to SOG again in 2010 or so. Shortly before my injury, I had mocked up a SOG-album cover in a parody of Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run cover, titled Born To Be Awesome. (See above.)

So, Saturday, December 24, 2011, it was SOG’s annual Christmas showing, appropriately airing on Christmas Eve. At a time when I was in critical need of a morale boost, SOG presented the album cover on the air. Not only that, but he really seemed to get a kick out of it! And that was in addition to all the older holiday-themed bits and cartoons, which all made for a wonderfully entertaining episode.

Obviously, SOG didn’t know what I had been going through at the time, this was all business-as-usual for him, but this was absolutely the pick-me-up I needed at that moment. I’ll always be grateful for that.

I think that points to an often-unrecognized aspect of not only The Son of Ghoul Show but any program people may turn to during those times when they just need to escape: they become more than just a television series to us, something deeper, though perhaps indefinable. And when they reach a historic milestone, like SOG has today, you feel, in some small way, a part of it, even if it was just by tuning in for so many years. And by now, I think it’s safe to say I’ll hang in there with him till the very end.

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Your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter hangin’ with the man himself! Ghoulardifest 2013.

There’s no better way to finish this article than with some words from the man himself, Keven Scarpino, aka Son of Ghoul. I reached out to him for a closing comment, and in true SOG-fashion, he first gave me Yeah, I would give a comment if I thought anybody actually reads your posts. LOL” Of course he was kidding (?), and immediately followed that up with this statement, directed towards all his fans:

Thanks for hanging with me all these 30 years. The viewers are the reason I’m still here – plus nobody else is willing to work as cheap as I do. Stay Sick! SOG.

Kinda says it all, doesn’t it?

Happy 30th anniversary Son of Ghoul! Here’s to the next 30!

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Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Retro TV Debut This Past Weekend (Also: The Musings Of A Lifelong MSTie On His Early Fandom.)

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*Standby for shameless gushing.*

This past weekend, Mystery Science Theater 3000 made its Retro TV debut. I don’t want to say that all is now right with the world, but there’s little doubt that it’s just a little bit better place to live nevertheless.

I talked about this right after the announcement that MST3K reruns would be returning to TV via the Retro TV network, which in Northeast Ohio, is WAOH TV-29 in Akron, WAX TV-35 in Cleveland (the station formerly known as “The Cat.”) I’ve been counting the days (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively) to July 5, and now that the “big event” (as I have deemed it) has occurred, well, I’m ecstatic. Lemme ‘splain a bit…

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Mystery Science Theater 3000. The show with the robots and the theater seats and the so much ripping on the bad movies. I could go into more specific details, but for the sake of whatever, let’s condense the summation to this: A guy and his two robots are stuck in outer space and forced to watch terrible movies as part of a mind-monitoring experiment, ostensibly in the hopes of ultimately ruling the world with “the worst movie ever made.”  Their only defense? Mocking (or “riffing”) the movies mercilessly.

Of all the shows I love or have loved, of all the shows I am or was an admitted fanatic of, in my own bizarre little world of personal mythologies, MST3K is and always be the “big one.” So much of what makes me, well, me started with MST3K. If I’m being honest with myself, perhaps not so much my initial fascination with movies or my need to continuously collect more of them; that had begun about a year before I discovered MST3K. But, there is little doubt that MST3K launched that fascination into the stratosphere (figuratively speaking, I mean; using the term in a literal sense would probably mean death or at least serious maiming on my part). After MST3K had the hooks in me, I was never the same.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 first started at a local TV station in Minneapolis in 1988, went national in 1989 on what would eventually become Comedy Central, and moved to the Sci-Fi Channel in 1997, which is where I, at 10/11 years old, came in. Since I had a growing interest in old horror and sci-fi films already, it stands to reason that I was far more familiar with the Sci-Fi Channel than I was Comedy Central. When the initial promos proclaiming the series was moving to the channel began airing, I was already tuned into Sci-Fi. Indeed, prior to those advertisements, I was wholly unfamiliar with MST3K. I may have passed it while channel surfing, but that would have been the extent of my familiarity with the show.

An added bonus following my discovery of MST3K was that I began actively searching out the oddball titles, the weird, forgotten flicks, even films that evoked a certain time period I wasn’t around for (I’m looking at you, downbeat 1970’s movies! Relay my well-wishes to Keenan Wynn!) BUT, that was just a side-effect of MST3K fandom. The real benefit of becoming a fan was that it absolutely introduced me to a world of sharper, funnier comedy. It became (and remains) my first, biggest, and longest-lasting TV obsession.

Readers of this sad blog will no doubt have seen my numerous long, blabbering soliloquies of love posts regarding our Northeast Ohio movie hosts: Ghoulardi, Hoolihan & Big Chuck & Lil’ John, The Ghoul, Son Of Ghoul, Superhost, and so on and so on. The fact of the matter is that my love of them initially began with MST3K, which as previously mentioned isn’t even a local product. I remember Superhost from his waning days on WUAB TV-43, I had caught Big Chuck & Lil’ John a few times before & during 1997 (and I certainly knew them as local personalities from all their local endorsements and whatnot) and I was probably vaguely aware of Ghoulardi, But MST3K was really the genesis of my whole movie-hosting fascination (even if I don’t necessarily consider MST3K quite the same thing, though I’d be hard-pressed to explain why exactly I don’t.) After MST3K, there was a new appreciation for this sort of thing, which in turn lead to fandom for, respectively, Son Of Ghoul and The Ghoul, which continues to this day (and at points has reached the same fevered heights.)

Unlike some, I didn’t quite get hooked on MST3K right away; rather, it was kind of slow burn, a gradually building fandom. Initially, I was more interested in the movies, and the running commentary courtesy of the silhouettes at the bottom of the screen was an amusing bonus. But, the more I watched the show, the more I found myself digging it for more than just the featured movie of a given episode, though in all honesty the movie still did, and does, have a lot to do with how a particular episode “strikes” me (again, figuratively speaking. I’d hate to think of an episode physically punching me in the face!) The first half of the initial Sci-Fi season (in actuality the show’s 8th season on national TV, though finer points such as that were unbeknownst to me at the time) featured black & white films from the Universal library. That was the “slow burn” period of my fandom. Some of the movies I liked (The Deadly Mantis), others left me kinda cold (The Undead).

It wasn’t until the spring/summer of 1997 that things hit the fan for me (figuratively I mean, because…aw forget it, I’m tired of that gag.) It began with the May 31st airing of The Giant Spider Invasion, which I tuned into due to my burgeoning but not-quite-solidified fanaticism. After the initial shock of discovering that they were even allowed to run color movies wore off (remember, I was 11 years old, I had no real prior knowledge of the series, and in general never really knew what the hell I was talking about anyway,) things clicked into place, the stars aligned, and I finally, completely “got it.”

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The next week, MST3K was absolutely appointment television for me. The movie was Parts; The Clonus Horror, and the fire from the previous week turned into a full-out inferno. There was no turning back now. I was hooked, absolutely, and I’ve remained hooked ever since. Was it The Giant Spider Invasion episode or the Parts: The Clonus Horror episode that’s really responsible for turning me into a full-blown MSTie? It could go either way, and I tend to go back and forth. Spider was first, but Clonus had the bigger effect and is the episode that I hold more memories for and really feels more like the first. Plus, I think Parts: The Clonus Horror is a genuinely interesting, though not without faults, film. I guess in the end it doesn’t really matter.

All throughout the rest of summer 1997, I watched Mystery Science Theater 3000 every chance I got, but alas, my ability to actually view the show was temporarily halted. At the time, the Sci-Fi Channel was a premium cable channel. I guess “premium” is the right term for it. You needed the cable box to pick the channel up, anyway. At the end of summer ’97, Dad decided he no longer wanted to pay for said cable box, and considering I was only 11 years old, had little say in the matter. So, out went the cable box, and with it, access to my favorite show. I had a few episodes recorded, I was able to get a far-away Aunt with Sci-Fi-access to tape a few more for me, and several episodes had been released on VHS by Rhino by that point, so I wasn’t completely Bot-deprived, but nevertheless, I had no *ordinary* access to my show, and this, needless to say, troubled me greatly.

Over the next several years, more and more episodes were made available on VHS and later DVD, I discovered the numerous tape-trading sites out in internet land, and even Sci-Fi joined the basic cable line-up, which allowed me to walk over to a much-nearer Aunt’s house to record episodes on Saturday mornings, something I took advantage of until January 31st 2004, when the final MST3K (The Screaming Skull) aired on Sci-Fi and thus TV in general…until now.

So, maybe now you’ve got some understanding as to why I treated the show’s Retro TV debut to something akin to the Super Bowl. I’m sure many people, fellow MSTies included, probably saw it as something neat but not necessary. Not me, though. It wasn’t for lack of MST3K, either; I’ve got a lot of episodes, and I think the majority of the series has been officially released on DVD by this point. Unlike 1997 me, I really have no shortage of the show.

No, my excitement stems from the fact that, frankly, I think a show as great as Mystery Science Theater 3000 needs to be on ‘real’ TV. Pristine DVD copies are terrific, of course, but there’s just something about knowing it’s out there, being broadcast over the airwaves. Furthermore, as mentioned waaaay at the top of this post, our Retro TV affiliate is WAOH/WAX. This is the same station that Son Of Ghoul airs on! After my ability to watch MST3K ended with the summer of ’97, I desperately searched for something like it to fill the void, which eventually lead to my discovering Son Of Ghoul. It wasn’t a “well, I guess it’s good enough” replacement either; SOG provided a somewhat different but nevertheless intensely fanatical, erm, fandom in me that continues to this day. Both shows airing on the same station is something I could have only dreamt of so many years ago, and the fact that it is now happening is, I don’t know, poetic justice? That doesn’t apply here at all, does it? It’s fitting to me, is what I’m tryin’ to say.

Plus, I haven’t been able to watch MST3K over the air in “real time” since 1-31-2004, and not in my own home since that summer of 1997. So, that’s nice.

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Following the initial announcement, my fervor was further stoked with a “coming soon” promo on Retro TV, which began airing soon after. It kept me more excited than any 10-second promo that consisted of a more-or-less static image and some sound bytes has a right to. More importantly, the fact it was airing several months in advance showed (to me, at least) that Retro TV was going to go the extra mile for the show. The commercial for Rifftrax’s live Sharknado only bolstered that feeling; if it weren’t for MST3K’s impending Retro TV arrival, I just couldn’t see that promo airing on the station otherwise.

Further proof that Retro TV was going to treat MST3K as something special was the later announcement that it would be airing twice on the weekends: Saturday at 8 PM EST, with an encore on Sundays at 5 PM EST.

This, however, presented a problem for your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter: Son Of Ghoul airs every Saturday from 7 PM to 9 PM. Usually, whatever was on Retro TV at 9 PM wouldn’t be preempted by local programming, so I figured we’d get at the very least one hour of MST3K before Off Beat Cinema at 10 PM. Prior to the 8 PM announcement, I had been presuming that MST3K wouldn’t be replacing the Saturday Off Beat Cinema, which in turn had replaced Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive-In (the normal Sunday Off Beat Cinema has continued before and since.)

Oddly enough, for as fanatic as I can be about this sort of thing, if the last hour of MST3K following SOG was all we Northeast Ohioans were going to get, I actually could have lived with that. I wouldn’t have preferred that situation, but some is better than none. And as it turned out, the un-preempted last hour after SOG is exactly what happened. Something about it just seemed so right for me: The show that MST3K lead me to, followed by the show that lead me to it…or something like that. It’s an entertaining three hours, is what I’m getting at.

Luckily, the Sunday 5 PM encore saved things for me, as that aired complete and uninterrupted. I was seriously concerned that infomercials would take MST3K’s place, but come Sunday, all was well.

The fact that MST3K was coming back to TV, even if only through reruns (running the gamut of the entire national run of the series, seasons 1-10,) was such a source of excitement for me that the actual episode that was premiering became sort of an afterthought…

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Retro TV kicked things off with the third episode of the first season, the 1942 PRC cheapie The Mad Monster. It’s a mega-low budget werewolf film, and needless to say, it ain’t very good (a bad movie on this show?! Go figure!) Here’s the deal with the first season: like any good show, there was a period of groove-finding. That is, it’s a hit-or-miss episode at best. I’m not a big fan of the first season anyway; I mean, sure, I generally like it, but after seeing the heights the show reached in the following seasons, it can be tough to go backwards. Add to that an installment of the Radar Men From The Moon serial they covered, which I’ve traditionally been pretty lukewarm at best on, and well, it’s a case where you’ve really got to look at the bigger picture.

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Keep in mind, I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth; I understand Retro TV logically has to start at the beginning, and it’s probably better to get these weaker episodes out of the way first rather than throwing them in the middle of a run of strong episodes, and rest assured, the vast majority of the Retro TV line-up is downright killer (the list has been modified a bit since the initial announcement. You can read the current retro TV package courtesy of Satellite News here.)

It’s also easy to forget in this day and age of rampant DVD releases and/or otherwise easy access, that for years the season one episodes were scarce. At a certain point, as per request of The Brains (the affectionate MSTie name for the showrunners) the early episodes just weren’t shown on Comedy Central. Eventually some were ran again, but bottom line is that they were greatly downplayed in comparison to episodes from the rest of the series. SO, the fact that some of them (only two at the moment – The Corpse Vanishes is the next episode coming up before they head, briefly, into season two) are running at all, well, they still have that “hey these are kinda rare!” aura, even if they’re really not anymore. I wasn’t even watching the show during the Comedy Central days, and they still sort of feel that way to me.

My main concern here is that someone that has heard of MST3K and may be familiar with the Rifftrax/Cinematic Titanic projects will tune in, not be impressed, and come away thinking the show is wildly overrated. Give it a few weeks guys! Things get good with season two and great with season three on up! Don’t judge until you’ve seen Pod People!

To the episode’s credit, despite my general feelings toward the season (particularly the earlier half of the season,) I did find myself laughing or at least chuckling more than I expected to. I wouldn’t say any part of the episodes amounts to “home run” status, but if nothing else, it’s enjoyable.

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And there are a few nice bits, host segment-wise. The bit where Tom Servo hits on a food processor is particularly memorable, at least as far as the first season is concerned (it’s also a remake of a skit originally done at KTMA.) The show got much better in following seasons, but there are always moments, always the flashes of brilliance, that made MST3K so, erm, brilliant.

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From previous experience, I knew that our feed of Retro TV isn’t always the clearest. Not compared to the local broadcasting that airs on the channel, and certainly not compared to things broadcast on most other stations, and that holds true for MST3K in Northeast Ohio. It’s really my biggest and only actual complaint about being able to watch my favorite show on ‘real’ TV again. Even then, it’s a fairly minor quibble. That said, when I tuned in following SOG on Saturday night, initially I couldn’t tell if they were even playing MST3K. The quality was so dark (which wasn’t helped by the terrible print of the movie in the first place) that I wasn’t sure until I heard the riffs being thrown at the film. When things are light onscreen, it’s not so bad, but for large stretches of the episode, it was difficult, even impossible, to see the theater seats (see above.)

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Those were my observations at least, and mileage may vary in other markets or even elsewhere in Northeast Ohio. But, at the end of the day, none of that really changes the fact that it feels damn good to see images like the one above playing on my TV screen. Mystery Science Theater 3000 is back on the air, where it should be. And for me, I can watch it on the same station as Son Of Ghoul. You have no idea how beyond cool I find that. Most of the episodes being broadcast feature movies in the public domain, so I hold no illusions of some of my all-time favorites such as Agent For H.A.R.M. or the aforementioned Parts: The Clonus Horror eventually showing up.

But that’s okay. I’ll watch this stuff endlessly no matter what they air, because I love the show just that much. I guess when it comes right down to it, I’m not that far removed from my 11 year old self, watching the show all throughout that summer 17 years ago.

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Gee, that was a swell movie!” Wait, wrong show.

Christmas & New Year’s with The Ghoul, Son of Ghoul and Big Chuck & Lil’ John (1998/1999)

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There it is. Not the most-heralded of my many late-90’s/early-2000’s tapes, but certainly one of the more-heralded ones. Please ignore my sloppy, 12-year old handwriting (I’ve kinda sorta improved in that area), and while we’re at it, please ignore The Avenger (a 1961 Steve Reeves film) and the vague “TV Land Programs” descriptive line; those recordings are not conducive to our ultimate goal today (indeed, the TV Land stuff was recorded later, in the summer of ’99). Nope, we’re focusing on the ‘big three’ of Northeast Ohio horror hosts today, all on one powerhouse of a tape, all recorded during or around the holiday season of 1998/99, and all part of some serious nostalgia for me.

1997-1999 was probably the time period most responsible for making me, well, me. Not completely, of course; I continued to refine my goofy self (whatever that means) in the years following, but there’s little doubt that some of the things I’m a still a huge, huge fan of first took hold of me in the era this tape hails from. I had discovered Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Son Of Ghoul in ’97, The Ghoul came back to Cleveland TV in ’98, and despite first watching them in ’96, I really started to appreciate Big Chuck & Lil’ John around ’99. Except for the absence of MST3K and the now-head scratching inclusion of The Avenger, the tape seen above is really a pretty great description of your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter’s interests in the late-90’s. Even the old TV Land programming is a sight-for-sore-eyes.

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The lead-off recording was The Ghoul’s first Christmas special of his WBNX TV-55 run. It’s also one of the earliest episodes I have from those WBNX years. I recorded the first couple episodes (which I still have), and a few select later ones (which I don’t), but as it stands, this is one of the earliest to survive. In lieu of any other opening credits or theme music, the specialized “Ghoul’s Christmas Special” title makes it clear that this is a ‘big deal’ in the Ghoul Power world. Also a big deal: according to a quick internet calendar search, this aired on Christmas ’98, a Friday, which was obviously December 25th (at the very tail-end of the day, 11:30 PM, but hey, it counts).

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The Ghoul loved the Christmas season and would go all out to celebrate it, including the special Christmas-themed border and groups of kids in attendance, as seen above. It’s clear he loved the holiday season, and the next year, he would even have, roughly, a month-long celebration, running the 1935 Scrooge as well as Santa Claus In Mother Goose Land (which was actually The Magic Land Of Mother Goose and was, if I recall correctly, only vaguely Christmassy) in addition to the film that was also shown that first year…

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It’s the 1959 Mexican film Santa Claus. A the time, I was only familiar with this movie via what was printed in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, and since it wasn’t listed in Leonard Maltin’s guide nor had I discovered IMDb yet, I had no idea what year it was even released in, which is why, if you scroll back up, you’ll see I have only “Mexican” listed in brackets next to the title on the tape sleeve. I wouldn’t have known even that if the opening credits didn’t mention Mexico.

The Ghoul loved running this movie during Christmastime, and I have four separate Christmas airings of it: this first one from 1998, plus 1999, 2000 and 2001. And for all I know, he ran it again and again during the rest of his WBNX run.

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Truth be told though, I’ve never much cared for the movie. If it weren’t for the fact that it was then a (to me) obscure foreign film, and one that had been MST’d at that, I’m not sure it would have survived all these years, let alone the three other airings I have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I have all of them, the more Ghoul the better, but I’m not as enamored of this flick as others are. In fact, for a movie that’s gained a pretty impressive cult following, I really can’t stand it at all. Oh, I should love it for the incredible weirdness it presents (Santa battling the forces of evil, wind-up mechanical reindeer, Merlin, and a bizarre pair of moving red lips that are the very definition of “terrifying”), but I don’t know, it’s a movie that has always left me cold.

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Not so with the second recording on the tape, which would have aired on Saturday, December 26th. It’s Son of Ghoul’s Christmas special! At the time, SOG was on both Friday and Saturdays, 8-10 PM, so an identical episode would have been aired the day before on Christmas Day as well. It’s interesting that both The Ghoul’s and Son of Ghoul’s shows were/are so different, yet they both really went the extra mile for Christmas.

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Oooh, I’m diggin’ that swanky green border! Unlike usual episodes, SOG read the mail on the main dungeon set, as seen in that left screencap. On the right, the screencap comes from the very close of the show. As you can see, they even had a guy in a reindeer costume, and fake reindeer poop on the floor to go with him/it! Tis the season?

SOG’s annual Christmas show has become one of my favorite ‘extra’ parts of the season. Nowadays he’s only on Saturdays, and every weekend before Christmas, there’s a yearly show dedicated to the holiday. More than once (twice, to be exact, including this year), stuff I’ve sent in has been presented on the Christmas show, and it’s always a nice addition to my holiday season. I was regularly writing SOG by 1998, but nothing of mine was presented during his ’98 special. Considering I never really had anything particularly interesting and/or important to say back then, that was probably for the best.

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It hasn’t been shown for a few years, but Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (see, I told you my UAV tape wasn’t the last you’d see of it this holiday season!) was once a yearly tradition, not unlike SOG’s running of Night Of The Living Dead every Halloween. I like this movie waaaay more than Santa Claus. It’s weird, it’s goofy, it’s idiotic, but all in a good way. Some may argue that the other movie was all of that and more, but the fact remains that Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is my preferred bad movie for the Christmas season. Even the MST3K version was, in my opinion, superior to their take on Santa Claus.

Speaking of the MST3K version, when they riffed the film, their print didn’t include the title card as seen above. Apparently, because of that, many people were unaware that the film circulated/circulates with a title card. which was odd to me, because by the time I saw the MST3K episode, every print of Santa Claus Conquers The Martians I had seen up to that point had a title as you’d expect.

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I first saw this movie when SOG ran it during the Christmas season of 1997, and then right after, I got my copy of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide for Christmas 1997, and learned they did the film, too. It’s a pretty weird movie, clearly aimed at the lil’ baby childrens, in which martians kidnap Santa in order liven the martian children up. It includes Pia Zadora (who, contrary to my UAV tape’s description, is not especially precocious – yes, I’m still irritated by that line), and a guy that looks a lot like Jamie Farr but isn’t Jamie Farr (much to my chagrin).

That left screencap above is either the embodiment of the Christmas season, or a truly nightmarish visage, I can’t decide. Maybe it’s both.

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At one point, SOG superimposed himself into the movie, and tried to light Santa’s pipe. I thought that was pretty funny.

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The last (applicable) recording on the tape is the New Years portion referred to in the title. It didn’t air on New Year’s Eve or Day, nearest I can figure is it was broadcast in the first half of January, but nevertheless, this episode of Big Chuck & Lil’ John’s Couch Potato Theater has some pretty strong memories attached to it (not the least of which is the image above, well familiar to me from so many Saturday afternoons).

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Ah, Big Chuck & Lil’ John on their old King Kong set. It was the same set as their usual Friday night Big Chuck & Lil’ John Show, except Couch Potato Theater was always broadcast Saturday afternoon and was called, you know, Couch Potato Theater. Couch Potato Theater was a bit of a wild-card: sometimes a full-length movie would be shown, other times old Three Stooges shorts or episodes of The Abbott And Costello Show, even skits-only if time was an issue (similar to what the revived Big Chuck & Lil’ John Show is now). In this case, though, old silent short comedies were the day’s subject.

My recording of this almost didn’t happen. At the time, I was a big, big fan of silent comedy films (still am, actually, though not quite as fervent), and trying to catch and tape some of them when they were run as unscheduled-between-programming-filler on WAOH/WAX was a common thing with me. Somehow, though, I missed the TV Guide listing for this episode of Couch Potato Theater, in which several old silent comedies were run over the course of the afternoon. To make matters worse, we had to leave soon because my brother had a basketball game. So, I grabbed the only available tape, cued it up after The Avenger, and hit record. Better than nothing, right?

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I began taping in the middle of some Keystone film, the title of which I no longer remember, but was able to capture the entire last subject of the day: Charlie Chaplin’s The Champion, a 1915 Essanay film, which was from the period when Chaplin’s movies started to get really good. From how I understand it, this particular short has been the subject of much editing and whatnot over the years, but the version Big Chuck & LIl’ John ran was the Blackhawk Films print, apparently one of the better ones. Certainly lengthier, if nothing else.

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The Champion, as the name and screenshots kinda sorta show, detail Chaplin’s Little Tramp character becoming a boxer. The subject of boxing is one I’ve always liked (having grown up on the Rocky movies), and the addition of an English Bulldog is always a plus, so yeah, I like this short. I’m sure I have many of them on cheap, public domain DVDs, but I’m not as familiar with Chaplin’s Essanay films as I am with his Mutual work, which I consider my favorite of his.

At the time, I was just then starting to appreciate Big Chuck & Lil’ John, something that would be more fully-realized when I began watching The Abbott And Costello Show on their Saturday afternoon program. Still, I recall having made a habit of at least checking the listing for their Friday night show, so I’m not sure how I missed the listing for these old silents. I can’t remember if I discovered the broadcast while flipping channels or if I came across it that day in TV Guide, but either way, I came in when most of it was over. It was one of those feelings, unfortunately well-familiar to me as a heavy-taper by then, of “Oh man, I’m missing this!” Of course, the follow-up “Well, at least I got some of it” took a bit of the sting away.

(If you go way back to the top and look at the tape’s label, you’ll see that the listing for this is off to the side and not where it should be, right after The Avenger. That’s because, for years, this broadcast was unlisted on the tape. I don’t know if it was due to the haphazard nature of the recording or what, but for whatever reason, I never labeled it properly. Oh sure, I took the time to label “TV Land Programs” later that summer, but Chuck & John got shorted on that front. It wasn’t until 2011 when I was making a concerted effort to label a lot of my tapes that had suffered in obscurity for years that this was duly notarized. It took a bit of searching, I could only remember it was on a tape with a purple Sony tape, but finally I found it, labeled it, and it is now given the proper respect it so deserves.)

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There’s just under an hour of Chuck & John action on the tape, but even so, several skits were captured. My favorite of them (tied with “The Lil’ Flash,” at least) was Cuyahoga Jones, their Indiana Jones parody. This was the first time I had ever seen one of these skits, which were part of a continuing storyline in which Cuyahoga tries to steal the “Kapusta Diamond.” Big Chuck played Cuyahoga, and Lil’ John played Shortstuff. In this one, they tried to earn $20 in order to buy supplies to help them carry the safe containing the diamond out of the castle. Pretty funny stuff!

Believe it or not, there’s a lot of memories tied into this tape, more than I could ever hope to accurately describe in print. The video itself, yeah, I fondly recall all of this stuff from that winter season, but it also brings to mind that general period in my life. All of the things/shows/etc. I was and am into, sure, but also other memories, like going to the mall with my Mom for Christmas shopping, come to mind when thinking of the era this tape comes from. As much as I love the actual recordings, I think those memories are even more important to me. Maybe I’m doing a sloppy job of getting across what I’m trying to say, but hopefully you know what I’m getting at. I’m sure you can all relate in one way or another.

And so, with that, this Christmas post nears an end. I sincerely hope all of you have a fantastic Christmas and New Years. Thank you to all that have taken the time to read this blog, and in some cases, even pass the link around. Have a wonderful holiday season and be safe in the new year.

Stay tuned, more goofy stuff to come!

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WAOH TV-29/WAX TV-35′s Annual Christmas Eve Broadcasts of Scrooge & Beyond Tomorrow (1999)

Remember my article detailing WAOH/WAX‘s annual Halloween broadcast of the original Night Of The Living Dead? Well, “The Cat” didn’t just go the extra mile for Halloween. Nope, they loved them some Christmas, too. Relatively speaking, they went all out. For years, every Christmas Eve they would play the 1935 version of Scrooge and 1940’s Beyond Tomorrow. And to make it all feel that much more special, both movies were commercial-free. Considering The Cat just loved to play cheapo mail-order CD ads over and over during the day and dirty, dirty phone chat line commercials ad infinitum during the night, them running not one but TWO movies commercial-free was a pretty big deal. I guess. ‘Course, a highly suggestive phone chat commercial would have really put a damper on the ostensibly family-friendly holiday spirit had it aired during Scrooge; them cats at The Cat were clearly usin’ their noodles when they decided to go the commercial-free route.

Much to my chagrin, I don’t have an actual promo for this Christmas Eve event; if I did, that’s what you’d be reading about right now. I’m pretty sure they ran them, though, and truth be told, I have so many recordings from The Cat that I may actually have one somewhere after all, but for the time being, no promos. I do, however, have the intros to Scrooge and Beyond Tomorrow. I recorded Scrooge in it’s entirety, but only the start of Beyond Tomorrow is on my tape. That being as it is, this post will be pretty Scrooge-centric. I sincerely hope that’s the only time I ever have to write something that stupid again.

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As the screencap above attests, the entire commercial-free evening was sponsored by Whole Shop Inc., who are still around, and I’ve even been to their place of business before. Indeed, most of the intro is taken up by a pitch for Whole Shop, but since they were gracious enough to sponsor the whole thing, you could and should be courteous enough to listen up. Well, in this case, visit their website.

Scrooge and Beyond Tomorrow are both incredibly, unbelievably, undoubtedly public domain, and thus probably quite easy for The Cat to obtain (this event was done by the station itself, rather than being syndicated content from America One, which The Cat relied on much of the time otherwise). Indeed, their PD-status has allowed them to be released over and over and over again on any number of budget VHS or DVD releases. I could go out and buy a ‘legit’ copy of either righnah aswespeak if I so desired, but I’m more than satisfied with my Cat broadcast of Scrooge, and nothing you say can change that.

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Following the Whole Shop Inc. pitch is the most hype we’re gonna get for Scrooge during this intro: “Now, gather up your family and enjoy our special, commercial-free presentation of Scrooge! Here on The Cat, channels 35 and 29!” Somehow, I have a hard time seeing anyone gathering up the kids and sitting down together on the couch to watch a scratchy, black & white British creaker from 1935 on a low-power independent station that probably isn’t even picked up in large parts of the area, but hey, it’s a nice sentiment.

In all fairness though, I do have fond memories tied to this/these Christmas Eve broadcasts. Scrooge itself, sure, but more because of the atmosphere it was part of rather than the actual movie. Back then, Mom would turn off all the lamps, and the living room would be illuminated only by the lights on the Christmas tree, and Scrooge played hazily in the background while any final preparations for the following big day were made. I was long past the “Santa is COMING I’llneverfallasleep!” age, but there was of course still anticipation for Christmas, while conversely the atmosphere was also relaxed. I don’t know, maybe it’s impossible to put into words my feelings of nostalgia for the time period, but nevertheless it’s a time period I do indeed hold fond memories for. And Seymour Hicks was a part of it all.

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It’s quite possibly the most trashed print of Scrooge ever! The whole film doesn’t look at bad as the opening moments do, but no one would have ever mistook this for archival quality material.

This recording was of the “third time’s the charm variety” for me. I first saw this Christmas Eve broadcast during the 1997 season; I wasn’t taping it that particular time, and in the days before DVRs, if you weren’t taping then and there, baby, you was outta luck. The next year, I did record it, or at least tried to. We were using a remote that handled both the TV and VCR, and I think my Dad hit something while trying to turn the channel, because the recording cut-out-and-then-back-in shortly after starting. I wasn’t real pleased about that. Luckily, 1999 went off without a hitch, and this whole stupid post is brought to you courtesy of that recording (fittingly, the tape this is on also features The Ghoul’s 1999 broadcast of, say it with me, Scrooge! The very same 1935 version, albeit a print in slightly better shape).

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This version of Scrooge is also host to the world’s biggest lint-in-the-projector moment. Lookit that fella makin’ his way up the right side of the frame like a champ! I really have no idea why I’m wasting space on this insignificant aspect of the broadcast. I think this is what they in the industry call “filler.”

Beyond Tomorrow immediately followed the conclusion of Scrooge:

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The intro was almost identical to Scrooge‘s, albeit with the obvious footage difference. “Now, gather up your family and enjoy our special, commercial-free presentation of Beyond Tomorrow! Here on The Cat, channels 35 and 29!” I have a feeling even more people ignored the family invitation for Beyond Tomorrow than they did Scrooge. I mean, I guess in theory I could see parents wanting their kids to see an old classic version of A Christmas Carol, but I’m guessing a significantly fewer number would have cared about Beyond Tomorrow. I mean, people know of it, but it’s not exactly up there with It’s A Wonderful life in popularity.

As for me, I’m casually familiar with the film, but I’ve just never had much interest in watching it. Maybe that’s unfair to the movie, I know, but I’m not going to lie to you; I just don’t really care about Beyond Tomorrow, which is why I never bothered to record the whole thing like I did Scrooge (also, I think I have at least the opening credits still on tape, but that would require back-breakin’ tape-diggin’ in order to unearth, and considering only three people are going to care about this post anyway, I’m going to risk the ire of those three and skip the Beyond Tomorrow screencaps. I know, I know, bah humbug).

WAOH/WAX ran these Christmas Eve broadcasts for years, though I don’t know when then began or ended. Maybe they ended with the affiliate-switch to RTV in 2009. Nevertheless, in their own small way, these airings became a kind of part of my yearly Christmas holiday. Not that I ever sat there hardly daring to blink in anticipation for them, but they were indeed a comforting little something ‘extra’ each holiday season. Maybe that’s all they were intended to be, and if they weren’t, maybe that was enough anyway.

Have a great Christmas Eve and a wonderful tomorrow (I’ve got a Christmas Day surprise lined up for y’all, as well.)

WAOH TV-29/WAX TV-35’s Annual Halloween Broadcast Of The Original Night Of The Living Dead (1999)

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It’s Halloween! It’s Halloween!!! Happy Halloween everybody!

I love this time of year, and I love this holiday! There are great movies on the air, there’s a great feeling in the air! Baby, I loves it!

Despite my mounds of horror-related crap, I initally had a tough time deciding what exactly to write about for the first Halloween post of my silly little blog. What I first had planned was a no go, for no other reason than I just couldn’t think of much to say. And that was for a 30-second commercial! So, at the proverbial last minute (well, two days ago), I decided to write about the original 1968 Night Of The Living Dead. Because Heaven knows what the internet needs right now is article # 5,637,242 on the movie.

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Seriously, has there ever been a more written about movie than the original Night Of The Living Dead? It’s legendary (not to mention public domain) status has ensured that just about everyone has had their say on the movie by now. BUT, the Night Of The Living Dead I’m talking about isn’t just any old version of the move. No, this is one of The Cat’s (WAOH TV-29 in Akron and WAX TV-35 in Cleveland) annual Halloween airings of the film! This was a staple of the station in the late-90’s, and probably up through the 2000’s, too. Unlike other movies on the network (which were syndicated via America One, content from which WAOH regularly carried), The Cat had it’s own print of the film, and they ran it each and every Halloween as their 8 PM movie.

Of course, there are no station I.D.’s during the movie, and most of the commercials were either ones I’ve talked about before or not interesting enough to talk about now, so I can’t prove this is absolutely a genuine WAOH/WAX airing, but I’m nothing if not honest, so let me assure you that it indeed is. Not that anyone besides me really cares one way or the other, but just thought I’d throw that out there. Also, while I’m reasonably sure this is a 1999 airing, it could also conceivably be a 2000 airing; the commercials were of no help whatsoever in determining the exact year, but again, no one besides me really cares. But, I gotta be straight with you, my loyal reader(s).

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Night Of The Living Dead has been public domain forever (basically since it was released), so local stations running it is nothing out of the ordinary. But, one thing I always loved about The Cat’s annual broadcast of the film was that while it was a reasonably sharp print (although my screenshots, taken from my DVD conversion of a now 14 year old VHS copy that was recorded in SLP mode from a local independent station, may not always accurately reflect that), it was also very dark, dusty, dirty and scratchy. Now, most people would want their Night Of The Living Dead to be as clear and clean as possible. Not me, and I’ll tell you why: in regards to this movie, the more worn-out a print is, the more nightmarish the film becomes. It’s already black & white and claustrophobic, and the dirt and scratches only add to the ‘scary’ vibe the film naturally has, in my opinion. it’s almost like looking through a dirty window and seeing something that you shouldn’t.

Honestly, I feel the same way about the 1922 Nosferatu: clean it up as much as you want, add tints, whatever, but leaving it black & white and worn-out gives the film a nightmarish quality that, I feel, no amount of restoration can replicate. Oh, I understand why these films need to be preserved in the finest quality possible, I’m not arguing that at all. Restore ’em, get ’em out there on DVD and/or Blu-Ray, let the people see the flick the way it was meant to be seen. There was an artistic vision that can and often does become obscured under the grime from years of runs through the projector. So yeah, I’ve got no problem with each new, ostensibly better release of Night Of The Living Dead (or Nosferatu). I’m not even sure what I’m really proposing here. What, the latest Blu-Ray is gonna tout “Old & unrestored! Looks like it was dragged around the parking lot 6 or 7 times!” or some such tagline? Alls I’m sayin’ is that fried old Night Of The Living Dead effects me in a way the cleanest print ever couldn’t. I know that won’t be a popular opinion. In fact, I may be the only one that holds it, but I’m fine with that. Yeah, I’m weird (but isn’t Halloween for weirdos?).

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The Cat’s annual broadcast of Night Of The Living Dead wasn’t what introduced me to the film, though. I think I first saw the annual Halloween airing in 1998, but it was a year earlier that I stumbled upon Son Of Ghoul’s showing of the flick. I had seen neither it nor Son Of Ghoul in any real capacity prior, but I was instantly hooked on both. Not only did I immediately become a SOG fan, but I absolutely loved the movie. Having no experience with the show, it took me a minute to realize they were dropping sound effects and whatnot into the movie, and while I found them funny, they didn’t distract from the film, which I quickly became hooked on.

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Upon that viewing, Night Of The Living Dead struck me in a way few, if any, other horror or sci-fi movies had before. It genuinely scared me. Granted, I was 11 years old, and I wasn’t exactly hiding under the covers; it was a good kind of scared, a chilling “can’t stop watching” movie that left a lasting impression on me. It instantly became a favorite film of mine, and beyond that, introduced me to a whole new world of horror movies. This was something more intense, more genuinely frightening than I had ever experienced before. It was great.

(Just like WAOH/WAX used to do, Son of Ghoul still plays Night Of The Living Dead every year for Halloween, including this past weekend.)

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Let me reiterate that that introduction wasn’t this airing, but it’s close, at least as far as evoking personal memories of that era, when I was constantly discovering new old movies. From Night Of The Living Dead, I checked out the other films in George A. Romero’s “Dead” series (at least as many as had been released at that point), other zombie movies, any new-to-me horror or sci-fi movie I could get, even branching out into Italian and Spanish (and beyond) flicks. For awhile, I would have considered the 1978 sequel Dawn Of The Dead the best and my favorite, but over time, I’ve really reverted back to preferring the original; I’ve grown to appreciate the claustrophobic, increasingly intense atmosphere (it all starts out normal enough, and then all hell proceeds to break loose) and black & white cinematography more and more over the years. Not that Dawn is bad in any way, but Night just appeals to me more nowadays.

I should also note that this original Night Of The Living Dead is really the only ‘brutal’ horror film I still retain love for. Not that it’s really as “extreme” as some modern horror films are, of course (though it’s still a very effective film). After a good part of my teen years, when I had “the more gore, the better!” mentality, I eventually developed an aversion to overtly graphic horror or sci-fi movies; anything that realistically depicts people being murdered and such (especially when it’s just for the hell of it), I really don’t care for. Nowadays, I generally prefer the Universal or poverty row films of the 1930’s & 1940’s, and the cheapies of the 1950’s & 1960’s (and even into the 1970’s). I mean, no one in their right mind would ever take The Creeping Terror seriously. Also, you couldn’t pay me to watch some of the Eurotrash I watched back then, today. Night Of The Living Dead, though, still works for me because, yeah, it’s scary, people die horrible deaths, but there’s an underlying air of, I don’t know, something deeper, I guess? George A. Romero wasn’t just feeding people to zombies for the hell of it, is what I’m saying. Rather than repelling me, Night Of The Living Dead hooks me in the same way it did when I was 11 years old and watching it on Son Of Ghoul.

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For those that haven’t seen it (yeah, all four of you), I suppose now is as good a time as any to give a bit of a synopsis, though it should be clear by now that this isn’t really that kind of film review. Night Of The Living Dead is a 1968 film by George A. Romero, the first of what would eventually become a series of “Living Dead” films (as well as the first of many, many knock-offs). The plot, in a nutshell, involves corpses that suddenly spring back to life with a craving for the flesh of the living. Those bitten by said corpses are then destined to become flesh-eating zombies themselves. The normative way of killing a zombie is by setting it on fire or destroying the brain via shooting, bashing, and so on.

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So, it ends up that seven people become stranded in an isolated farmhouse, a farmhouse becoming increasingly surrounded by more and more zombies. The inital idea is to board up the windows and wait for help, but it eventually comes to be decided that they need to get out and find help themselves. I really don’t want to risk spoiling any of the film, because watching it fresh with no idea what’s coming next is an amazing experience. I will say that the ending, which I don’t dare reveal for those that may not have seen it (again, a number that is quite possibly in the single digits), absolutely knocked me out when I first saw it. I mean, it just blew me away.

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Night Of The Living Dead is just about the easiest film in the world to see. Since it’s public domain, you can find it for free and legal download on the internet, or for those less technologically experienced, it can be found on a huge number of DVDs, VHS tapes, and it’s even on Blu-Ray now. Of course, print quality varies from version to version, and as a rule of thumb, the more you pay, the more namebrand the manufacturer, and the better it’ll look. Not always, but often. At least, that’s how it usually played out back in the VHS days.

Which brings me back to this WAOH/WAX airing from 1999, which this article is ostensibly about. It’s that copy that I recorded way back then that means the most to me. Not because I didn’t have ‘official’ copies (I got a cheapo $4 VHS copy from Best Buy relatively soon after my initial viewing in ’97), but because it really does recall my memories of growing up watching The Cat, when I was almost constantly discovering (and taping!) something new and cool. Nowadays, Night Of The Living Dead may no longer be in my top 10 favorite films ever list, but it’s almost certainly in my top 10 horror films list. All of the countless rip-offs, homages, and whatnot that have been released in the years since, and yet, few (none?) can touch the original; the aforementioned Dawn of The Dead, in my opinion, comes closest.

At any rate, Night Of The Living Dead is one of the definitive Halloween movies, one that should be watched if you haven’t seen it, or watched again if you have. I don’t know if I’ll replicate the ’99 WAOH broadcast that this recording comes from, but I’m happy knowing that I can, even if the channel itself isn’t the same nowadays.

Have a great Halloween, everybody!

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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.

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!

 

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 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.

WAOH TV-29 in Akron / WAX TV-35 in Cleveland (“The Cat”) stuff.

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In the late-90’s and early-2000’s, one of the most important channels for me was WAOH TV-29 in Akron / WAX TV-35 in Cleveland, better known as “The Cat” (Cleveland-Akron Television, dig?). Both 29 and 35 were the exact same channel, so I’ll simply identify it as The Cat or WAOH. There’s surprisingly little info about the station on the internet, and someone I was talking to once exhibited some interest at the fact I had recorded a number of programs off the station (believe me when I say I taped a lot of stuff).

What made the channel so special to me was the sheer number of ancient movies, old TV shows and local content they played. Granted, the majority of the movies and TV shows weren’t actually owned by WAOH, but was rather syndicated content from the America One Network, but the fact remains that The Cat ran things you weren’t going to find on ANY other channel. And all of the local programming (which naturally had nothing to do with America One) gave The Cat a terrific Northeast Ohio flavor.

Furthermore, despite the A1 affiliation, this was really an honest-to-goodness independent station, something that (unknown to me at the time) was becoming increasingly rare around the U.S., and while there were still some old and/or local programming on other channels (for example, WJW had Big Chuck & Lil’ John, and WBNX brought The Ghoul back in 1998), none reveled in it like WAOH.

I discovered the station in the summer of 1997. It was nothing earth-shaking, I was just flipping channels, when I came across an airing of a hugely battered old print of the original 1930 version of The Blue Angel. No one else was running things like that, not on local TV at least, and from then on, I was hooked.

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Of course, probably the most popular show then (and now) , and certainly my favorite on the channel, was The Son Of Ghoul Show. Like Ghoulardi and The Ghoul before him, Son Of Ghoul ran old movies, inserted humorous sound effects/drop-ins, performed comedy skits, and read viewer mail. As I’ve mentioned before, SOG started on WOAC TV-67 in 1986, and in 1995 he moved to The Cat.

Those screencaps above are from my two earliest SOG Cat promos. The one on the left is a silent still-card promo that ran for 10 seconds, so what you see is what it was. The one on the right features the standard SOG-pitch: He mentions the show and  the awful movies they run. It’s an all-around promo, and SOG did more than a few for The Cat over the years. Most of them say basically the same thing, but I mean, they’re supposed to.

I actually didn’t discover SOG right away. I mean, I saw the promos, sure (The Cat tended to run the same promos a LOT), and I had seen bits and pieces of the show here and there, mostly in passing, but it was Halloween 1997 that I actually sat down and watched the show. I stumbled across an airing of the original Night Of The Living Dead, which I had never seen before. Even with all of the sound effects and jokes (it took me a minute to realize what they were doing, but I immediately loved it), I seriously dug the movie, and I became an instant SOG fan. I even wrote him a bunch of letters, and his reading them on the air was always a thing of great excitement. Of course, I was only like 11/12 years old, so I never had much to actually say (and watching my old tapes, I can’t help but cringe a bit).

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Today, Son Of Ghoul is still running, and I’m still watching. That screencap above is from the latest promo for the show that I’ve seen. I captured it in 2011, but I think it’s been running since 2009, and I know it’s ran several times since 2011. The reason I say 2009 is because that’s when The Cat became an RTV affiliate, and SOG’s timeslot switched to Saturday evenings at 7:00 PM. The promo is, like the one above, a standard SOG pitch: talking about the awful movies, humorous sound clips, and comedy skits, with the exception that SOG mentions the new timeslot “starting in June,” which was when The Cat became RTV (though I still continue to call it The Cat, and always will). Despite the June mention, this is the only promo I’ve seen the station run for SOG relatively lately. Probably because most of the vast majority of content is RTV’s, and they have their own promos and whatnot. But, you do catch some locally-produced promos here and there. I don’t think they run quite as much as they used to, but there were some WAOH-produced spots for RTV shows, which I’ll get to in a bit.

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Speaking of local promos for syndicated content, that sort of thing isn’t new to the station. The screencap on the left is from 1997, the one on the right from 1999. Both are for the western movies that the channel ran every weekday afternoon (and on Saturday afternoons for awhile, and if I recall correctly, occasionally on Sundays, too). Both promos are more or less the same: various scenes from old westerns, while appropriate music plays. In the ’97 spot, it’s “Happy Trails.” The other features “Where Have All The Cowboy’s Gone?”

The afternoon Western flick was actually America One’s “Western Theater,” and I loved it. It’s thanks to these films that I became a fan of  westerns. You didn’t tune into this program to see The Shootist, though; these were all old rickety “B-Westerns”, mostly from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Probably all of them were/are in the public domain. You saw the standards like Roy Rogers, John Wayne’s poverty row films, Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard, Rex Bell, etc. etc.

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Speaking of films, through America One, The Cat ran a lot of them. This promo is from 1999, and spotlights just how many they play a week. Even back then, the claim of “over 40 films a week” seemed just a bit high to me, but they did play a lot. There was a morning movie that began at 10 or 11 AM, and ran for an hour and a half, the western at 12:30 PM, which also ran for an hour and a half, then the noon movie at 2 PM, which ran for 2 hours. At 8 PM, there was another 2-hour movie. The overnight hours generally featured content from the American Independent Network (AIN), and, if I recall correctly, was two 2-hour films in a row. The weekends were a wildcard. I have a recording of three consecutive westerns from a Saturday afternoon in the late-90’s, but that wasn’t always the case. There could be one, maybe two, or maybe none. Sundays generally had less than that or none altogether, and didn’t necessarily have to be a western (I once taped The Tonto Kid, obviously a western, on a Sunday, but my copies of Goliath And The Vampires and Monster From A Prehistoric Planet, clearly not westerns, also came from Sunday airings).

I don’t know, maybe over 40 films a weeks wasn’t so far off after all.

Most of the films were from America One, but there were a few that the station itself seemed to own itself. Every Halloween, they’d run Night Of The Living Dead, the most scratched up and battered print you’ve ever seen. Since none of the A1 branding was present during these annual airings, I’m guessing the station owned it’s own print. For Christmas Eve, they’d run the 1935 Scrooge and then Beyond Tomorrow back-to-back, commercial-free. I still have a recording of Scrooge, but not Beyond Tomorrow.

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A movie that received some actual promotion was their 1999 airing of the infamous Reefer Madness. I taped it, but later taped over it. I don’t recall if it was an A1 presentation or not. A1 films generally weren’t singled out for promos like this, but I don’t know, maybe they thought there was a specific audience for this? They had various clips on-hand for the promo, and the local announcer that did all of The Cat’s promos did the voiceover here, too. or maybe the clips were provided by A1? Either way, I may not have the actual airing, but at least I managed to capture the original promo.

Sprinkled throughout all of these movies were lots of old TV programs. The early mornings typically had old black and white sitcoms before the morning movie, The Cisco Kid once ran before the afternoon western, and Dobie Gillis followed the 2 PM afternoon movie.

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At one point, there was a fairly big push for the Dobie Gillis reruns (big for The Cat at least). They were all humorous, such as the one above. There were a couple “Dear Maynard” spots, always featuring someone writing in to Maynard ala Dear Abby, and then Maynard’s “advice” (a clip from the show taken out of context, which was really pretty funny since it was essentially a non-sequitur moment). There were also promos playing up Bob Denver’s then-recent arrest for marijuana, Dobie’s father’s strictness, and Dobie’s falling for every girl under the sun.

Dobie ran until about 1999, and since I had grown accustomed to watching the 4:00 PM weekday airings after school, I found myself missing it once it was gone. TV Land ran episodes now and then, and nowadays you can catch it on MeTV, but those old Cat airings probably mean the most to me. Even today, I still really like the show.

Other shows that appeared on The Cat over the years courtesy of America One or other networks:

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For the girl-watchers, there was Babewatch, which was apparently just girls parading around bikinis.

Emergency was, I believe, a cheap Rescue 911 knock-off.

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One Step Beyond I watched a few times, but it never really grabbed me. Sort of a lower-rent version of The Twilight Zone.

While I like old sitcoms, The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet was never one of my favorites. WAOH’s promo for it, though, was awesome. This was when V-Chips were first being widely introduced, and the gag was that Ozzie was V-Chip-free TV, but all of the clips had words bleeped out as if there was constant swearing in the show. For example, one was a clip of Harriet saying “I think you’ve got the wrong girl,” but “got” is bleeped out. It was a riot. As you can see from that and the Dobie promos, The Cat often put a lot of humor into their spots.

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Two more I never liked. Bonanza, I know it’s considered a classic, but I’ve always been a Gunsmoke man. Also, The Beverly Hillbillies has always left me cold.

Still, The Cat did a great job of selling these promos, mostly through humor, and if I already didn’t like them, I probably would have tuned in to check them out.

And of course, Enigma Theater With Edward St. Pe’, which I’ve already written about, aired very late Saturday nights/Sunday mornings on WAOH, though it seems very, very few people remember it nowadays.

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I mentioned above the overnight airings being from the American Independent Network. A lot of the same movies as America One were shown, but the print’s weren’t the same. AIN even ran some of genuine “big time” movies once in awhile. Once, they played the original 1939 Stagecoach, which I taped. Despite having never seen the film prior, I could tell huge chunks of the movie were cut out; Stagecoach was just way too disjointed, way more than any film widely considered an American classic would be. I later taped over that airing with a unedited version from AMC, and I kinda wish I hadn’t done that, because in retrospect, film’s of that caliber (i.e. big-time, never-gonna-be-public-domain) weren’t usually shown on The Cat.

This was a fairly minor problem with the daytime programming, but the overnight schedule was notorious (to me, at least) for rarely being correct. It was often a crapshoot whether a scheduled movie would actually be run, or an entirely different film instead. Many times, there was a movie listed that I was seriously stoked for, and I’d set the VCR timer, only to be crushed come the morning when I found out something I had zero interest in was played instead.

Rather, a lot of WAOH’s late night programming was often made up of content from who-knows-where. I mean, nothing ever adult, or actually disturbing, but still, waaaay obscure stuff from the far reaches of the U.S. I haven’t always had the greatest sleep patterns, and I recall sometimes stumbling out of bed and watching The Cat when I couldn’t sleep, and wondering “Where did this come from?” Have you ever heard David Cronenberg’s inspiration for Videodrome? When he was a kid living in Canada, late at night his TV could pick up signals from Buffalo, NY, and he’d worry he’d be able to see something he wasn’t meant to. It was the same sort of thing with late night WAOH.

Of course, at the heart of The Cat was the local programming. Son Of Ghoul, sure, but also a lot of stuff that’s been more or less lost to time. A lot of The Cat’s local programming was simple, live call-in shows, with the host or hosts seated in front of a plain black screen and taking phonecalls. Today, the only show from the old days left besides Son of Ghoul is Steve French Sportstalk and Handy Randy.

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Of boy, two of the dullest shows you could imagine. Back Talk was exactly that, chiropractic talk. And Senior Talk? Well, that was what it sounds like, too. Back Talk I don’t recall running very long, but Senior Talk ran for a number of years, at least until 2006. It may have been a casualty of the 2009 switch to RTV, I don’t know.

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Dining Out With Steve ran for a looong time. I believe it did last until the 2009 switch. Basically, you could call in, talk about local restaurants, and even get gift certificates.

The Hunting And Fishing Show ran for a number of years, and in the summer of 2011 they even tried bringing it back, but it didn’t last very long. There were promos for it, and I think I have a few that aired during SOG, but I haven’t put any on the PC.

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Big Al was very short-lived. It was essentially people performing in a karaoke bar, and hosted by the show’s namesake. I only caught one episode, which featured a bizarre Elvis impersonator that admittedly did sound a lot like The King, but didn’t look much like him at all (despite Al’s constant insisting the guy was “so real it’s scary!” or something to that effect).

I don’t know when Steve French started hosting his WAOH show, but it’s still on, and apparently still pretty popular. I even tried calling in a few weeks back, but I didn’t get through, which is probably a good thing, since I’m by no means a sports expert and the last thing I need is to make an idiot of myself on local TV.

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While on the subject of the local call-in shows, SOG hosted a live game show from about 2001 to 2004 or so. Unfortunately, this promo is all I have as far as original recordings go (I did buy some DVDs from SOG himself at the last Ghoulardifest convention). Son of Ghoul’s House Of Fun & Games ran at a time when I actually couldn’t watch The Cat. Y’see, the station was so low power that we couldn’t pick it up with the rabbit ears dad decided to use to save money. I wouldn’t even have this promo except I went to grandma’s house one afternoon to tape a movie I particularly wanted back in 2001.

So, that’s my “golden age” of WAOH/WAX, roughly 1997-2001. Like I’ve mentioned, they became an RTV (Retro Television) affiliate in the summer of 2009. Since Son Of Ghoul survived the switch, I was generally okay with it, though I missed some of the old movies or other assorted America One content. Still, RTV was pretty cool. A lot like old school TV Land. A line-up shift in the summer of 2011 took away most of my favorite programs, though there are still a few shows I like, and Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive-In on Saturday nights and Off Beat Cinema on Sunday nights is pretty awesome.

To end this post (aka massive article), here’s a few screencaps from locally produced promos for RTV content, which harkens back to the late-90’s era I so findly recall. All of the modern promos are simply scenes/music taken from the opening credits of the respective series, with appropriate logos and voiceover. Unfortunately, no promos for Airwolf or Quincy, M.E. were ever made, and RTV no longer runs them, much to my chagrin.

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Neither of these are run anymore. Knight Rider is legit awesome, and I don’t mind The A-Team in small doses. Knight Rider in particular I really miss.

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You’d better believe Magnum, P.I. gets two screencaps. Of all the shows that left the RTV schedule in the summer of 2011, this is the one I miss most. I’ve mentioned before what I big fan of the show I am, and while I’ve got the DVDs, it’s still nice to see Magnum being actually aired on TV, even if the broadcasts were a loooong way from DVD quality. As of this writing, no one, at least not in my area, is playing the show, and THAT, my friends, is major uncool.

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Highway To Heaven is still being aired on RTV, but Starsky & Hutch is not. I don’t like either show. Starsky & Hutch, in particular, is a show I want to like, I should like, but I really, really don’t like. It’s just never done anything for me.

So, there’s my long, long overview of WAOH TV-29/WAX TV-35. There’s more I could talk about, but man, this post is a beast as it is. It’s not what it used to be, but I’m glad the station is still around, and that they’re still supporting Son of Ghoul. As of this writing, I’m not too big on RTV’s programming line-up (aside from Wolfman Mac & Off Beat Cinema), but if RTV keeps WAOH/WAX alive, I’m all for it.

Better to have some semblance of The Cat than none at all, right?