Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Guest Post: Creatures of the Night That We Loved So Well

Most people that watched TV horror hosts think that they were just actors playing a part… they were so much more than that.

Two of Southern California’s horror hosts were hit with major lawsuits because of their shows, three started out their careers as live adult stage performers, two started Southern California yearly Halloween traditions that are still celebrated today, and one co-host who was totally unknown (not allowed to speak or show his face in 1976 always wearing a mask or disguise) is now a very famous singer/ musician/ comedian. One has even appeared  with Sylvester every ‘Rocky’ movie. These TV horror hosts created their characters and some even wrote their own scripts, entertaining and influencing an entire generation of baby-boomers.

So who are these people?

Twelve years of research and interviews led to the creation of Creatures of the Night That We Loved So Well. A true labor of love, this book fills in all of the informational gaps left hidden for so many decades. The book discloses new information about Vampira (1954-56), Dr. Diablo (1957), The Old Woman (1957-59), Jeepers (1962-63), Ghoulita (1963), Cosmosina (1963), Moona Lisa (1963-76), Jeepers’ Keeper (1963-65), The Creeper (1965-66), Sinister Seymour (1970-74), Arach and His Friend Nid (1974), Famous Morris (1975-77), Grimsley (1975-79) and of course, Elvira (1981-84). All of these great horror hosts were on local SoCal TV stations with local sponsors.

What makes them so great? Vampira, the very first horror host in television history, set the basic form that all TV horror hosts across the nation would follow. She developed the dark, twisted and humorous side of hosting a movie on television that had never been seen anywhere before. At times shocking, her television audience watched a very risqué show for 1954 television.

Ghoulita, in real life a beautiful actress and model, showed up at the Hollywood movie premiere of Cleopatra looking very beautiful from the neck down, but with Ghoulita makeup from the neck up. She was refused entrance to the premiere because she was not escorted by a male guest.

Jeepers was immortalized in a 45rpm record in 1963 with a then-unknown musician: Frank Zappa. The songs were Dear Jeepers and Letter From Jeepers.

Arach and His Friend Nid was cancelled after only four shows. Arach had made several jokes about the station managers.

Jeepers, Ghoulita and Jeepers’ Keeper influenced several people that grew up and entered the entertainment industry. Douglas McEwan grew up to be a writer, actor and comedian; and even was privileged to become close friends with and write scripts for Seymour. Mark Shepard grew up and made his own movies, including Dark Romances. Don Glut grew up and became a movie maker and writer, penning the novelization of Star Wars.

I’ve been very fortunate in the past twelve years to track down and interview a lot of these great people and get the inside story on how they became horror hosts, what they did before entering the horror genre and even get their real names. Some of these identities are revealed for the first time in Creatures of the Night That We Loved So Well.

You'll not only get to know the facts about the shows, but also the darker side of the Southern California television industry in interviews with some of the hosts and script writers. There are photos, scripts, ads and promos, lawsuit documents and head-to-head competition between hosts on rival stations. And don’t forget that without two of these hosts, the Knott’s Berry Farm Halloween Haunt and Magic Mountain’s Halloween Festival just might not exist today.

Creatures of the Night That We Loved So Well has been a labor of love for me, to honor the horror hosts of Southern California and to help keep their memory alive and well for those of us that were lucky enough to watch them...and for future generations that just don’t know how wonderful television used to be when local programming dominated the airwaves.

Jim Fetters can be reached on Facebook. He also has a Web site with more information. Buy his book here. --ed.

About the author: Jim Fetters grew up watching and recording TV horror host shows on a reel to reel tape recorder starting in 1962. Finding the tapes years later inspired him to start a Web site, which led to contact from directors, script writers, actors, and the creators of the programs he so enjoyed. He's written articles for and is webmonster for Scary Monsters Magazine. Jim now has two more books being published soon. Currently he lives in Boise, Idaho and spends his time writing and dreaming when he's not acquiring history of TV horror hosts and all things Horror / Sci-Fi.