Gather around one and all,
Plant yourself in front of the boob-tube for some of your favorite horror treasures. I used to love watching scary movies as a kid. Even better, I used to love it when someone hosted those movies and talked a bit about them and took you through each commercial breaks. Those were the times. Now, most people “gather round” the computer screen instead… and I guess that’s ok as long as they’re viewing Horrornews.net! Today, we are going to re-visit the days of the classic horror movie host as well as talk to a current horror host, Dr. Gangrene about his work.
MIKE JOY :When did you first think up the Dr. Gangrene character?
DR. GANGRENE: I first came up with the character in 1999. I was working at a hospital at the time (and still do), and was getting stopped by folks there on an almost daily basis and told, “You look just like that guy from E.R.” This was back in the heyday of E.R., and the guy they were referring to was Dr. Green, played by actor Anthony Edwards, who I do bear somewhat of a resemblance to. So the name Dr. Gangrene is a kind of play on words, a twisted version of Dr. Green, just as Dr. Gangrene is a twisted medical practitioner for the undead.
MIKE JOY :I’ve grown up on the horror hosted shows from the 70’s and 80’s here in the Philadelphia market. Every area of the country had there own local favorites. Dr. Shock / Horror Theater from WPHL-TV, Channel 17 is who I remember the most. Which horror hosts did you grow up watching?
DR. GANGRENE: Our best known host here in Nashville, TN was Sir Cecil Creape, played by actor Russ McCown. He had a show called “Creature Feature” in the 1970s and later went on to host a show on TNN called “The Phantom of the Opry.” There was also another, earlier host in Nashville in the 1950s called Dr. Lucifur. He was played by local radio announcer Ken Bramming. We’ve done tributes, specials, and dedications to both hosts over the run of the show, and in fact we’re showing a vintage clip of Sir Cecil Creape in our Christmas Special this year. I also wrote an article about Sir Cecil Creape that ran in Outre Magazine several years back. I know his family is appreciative as they sent a package of goodies and memorabilia to me a few years back with a thank you note, which was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.
MIKE JOY :I love when I get to take a stroll down monster memory lane. I remember watching creature double feature on Saturday afternoon’s as a kid and it was always either a double shot of Godzilla or a two great Hammer films. Did you have a favorite double feature from your terrorific childhood?
DR. GANGRENE: Yes, as a matter of fact I do. We had a show on weekday afternoons in Nashville called “The Big Show.” The showed monster movies quite often, and I clearly remember seeing “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and “Revenge of the Creature” there, as well as “The Creature Walks Among Us”. Don’t remember if it was an actual double-feature or just a Creature themed week – I kind of think they showed one a day all week long. But they were way cool, regardless, and I remember really, really digging them!
MIKE JOY :When you first started hosting horror yourself, what was the first horror movie that you introduced?
DR. GANGRENE: When my show was on cable access the first movie I hosted was Bela Lugosi’s “White Zombie”. When I moved the show to the CW58 in Nashville the first movie we showed was “Dreamscape.”
MIKE JOY :How long does it usually take you to produce one of your skits?
DR. GANGRENE: It kind of varies depending on how complicated it is, effects and prop wise, and how many actors there are in a scene. But I usually write the script and then come back a day or two later and rewrite it, then we’ll film all the bits in a day for one or two episodes. Editing time can vary greatly depending, again, on how complicated the effects and transitions are, but we’ve spent as much as 40 hours on a single episode before, as crazy as that sounds.
MIKE JOY :What’s the key to being a great horror host?
DR. GANGRENE: The key to successfully hosting a show is to enjoy what you’re doing. If you genuinely like what you’re doing it’ll show through in the end product. Always strive to make the best show possible and a show that’s better than the last one you did. I always treat fans and viewers with respect and definitely try not to take myself too seriously.
MIKE JOY :What can you tell us about the “Go Green With Dr. Gangrene” campaign?
DR. GANGRENE: That is a PSA Campaign that runs on our local CW station in Middle TN. It airs during the kids block in the mornings, especially on Saturdays. We use classic monsters and horror backdrops to pass along environmental and safety messages. Our director, Cameron McCasland, just picked up his second Emmy nomination for writing for this year’s PSAs. We’re very excited and honored to have been nominated. We also won a Rondo Award for the PSA Campaign last year as well, so it’s been very well received.
MIKE JOY :Where can our Horrornews.net fans go to see Dr. Gangrene and Chiller Cinema?
DR. GANGRENE: They can go to http://www.drgangrene.com or visit the youtube channel at http://drgangrene.youtube.com
I also try to post daily on my blog at http://drgangrene.blogspot.com with updates, video clips, and pictures. I’m planning an official dvd release of older episodes sometime next year.
MIKE JOY :What does the future have in store for Dr. Gangrene?
DR. GANGRENE: Definitely more movie hostings and public appearances in the Middle TN area – I will post updates and schedules on all my sites as info comes available. I’m also planning on posting more videos online as I’ve had a ton of requests from viewers outside our area who can’t catch our program. I also am fronting a band now called Spookhand. We sing about monsters and blood and horror, naturally – and tend to do a bit of shock-rock shenanigans a-la Alice Cooper. We’ll be releasing a cd and playing around the Nashville area more, too. You can find out more about Spookhand at http://www.spookhand.com
MIKE JOY :It’s funny, I was just talking with my friend the other day how the days of the creature double feature and horror hosts are no more. Well, you are proof that horror hosts are around and still able to make an impact. Congratulations!
DR. GANGRENE: Thank you so much. That is very nice of you to say. It has definitely been a fun ride.
MIKE JOY :I wonder if yours truly, Joyhorror, would make a good horror host? It’s something I’ve thought about.
DR. GANGRENE: I’m sure you would as you have a love for the genre. It’s a lot of hard work but definitely rewarding when a ten year old kid comes up to you in public and says thanks, this is something he’ll always remember.
Dr. Shock ( Joe Zawislak ) hosted Horror Theater/Mad Theater/Scream In on WPHL-TV channel 17 in the Philadelphia market during the 1970’s. He was well known for performing magic tricks during his broadcasts. He was from the Manyunk area of Philadelphia and often had his daughter Bubbles with him during the shows. Joe came up with the Dr. Shock character after watching and being a fan of Shock Theater on Channel 10. Shock Theater was hosted by ( Roland ) John Zacherle. John Zacherle was actually offered the Channel 17 gig but turned it down, opening the door for Joe and the birth of Dr. Shock. Dr. Shock started out on Saturday nights competing with Creature Features on Channel 48 and Chiller Theatre on Channel 29. Oh, what a glorious time to be a horror fan. Eventually, Dr. Shock was switched over to the Saturday afternoon timeslot. This slot is where I remember watching Dr. Shock the most. Unfortunately, Joe’s life was cut short by a heart attack. He was only in his 40’s… R.I.P. Dr. Shock !
John Zacherle or Zacherley, as he’s now known, can be seen hosting the Chiller Theatre conventions www.chillertheatre.com every year! If you haven’t been, Chiller Theatre’s yearly Halloween convention is one of the biggest around and it brings in tons of horror fans and celebrities alike. John Zacherle is also a Philadelphia native, growing up in the Germantown section. It was in 1954 when John started out under the moniker of “Roland”, who was an undertaker decked out all in black. He garnered the nickname, “ The Cool Ghoal” and entertained audiences with his own blend of horror-comedy. Eventually, Zacherle left for New York and Roland became Zacherley! Zacherley hosted Chiller Theatre on WOR-TV Channel 9.
SATURDAY NIGHT DEAD
In the 1980’s , it was Saturday Night Dead hosted by Stella ! It aired at 1am on KYW-TV channel 3 in the Philadelphia market. Stella was nicknamed, “ The Man-Eater from Manayunk”. Manayunk seems to breed horror hosts. Saturday Night Dead aired directly after Saturday Night Live, which explains the name of the show. I recall Stella making an appearance once at my high school, although I don’t remember why? I assume it was some kind of public service thing. Stella ( Karen Scioli ) was a South Philadelphia actress & homemaker who turned into a Female Vampiress decked out in a black dress and feather boa for Saturday Night Dead. After SND ran it’s course, I really don’t recall another local horror host to the Philadelphia area and that’s been almost 20 years now. That’s a long time!
Well, these are a few of the Philadelphia horror hosts that influenced me and turned me into Joyhorror. I know all of YOU out there are from all walks of life and all different areas, so shoot me an email and let me know WHO infected you with the horror bug early in your life. I can’t believe Thanksgiving is behind us now as we march forward towards Christmas ( and strangely enough my birthday ), so make sure all you ghouls and goblins write out your creepy Christmas list and ask for the latest horror merchandise. I think a HorrorNews.net Tshirt might make a groovie gift ( cheap plug ) .. check it out. While your shopping don’t forget your friendly neighborhood Unexplained Confidential columnist. I’m easy to shop for! Haha! HorrHorror! Well, I’ve lollygagged long enough. I’ll be back before long with another edition, most like probing the question, does alien life really exist?
Joyhorror Store has been launched!
Later F’N’ Later,
– Director of Unexplained Confidential
– Chief HorrorNews Interviewer