Friday, July 26, 2013

Desegregtion of the Military Ordered 65 Years Ago Today

President Harry Truman
Executive Order 9981
Sixty-five years ago today, on July 26, 1948, President Harry Truman signed into law, Executive Order 9981, with the intent of ending racial segregation in the armed forces.

The order read, "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin."

The President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services obligated the government to begin integrating the military immediately. Finally, it was time.

Segregated Military Police
Whites & Blacks Only Entrances
Jim Crow laws were in effect throughout the military, and the country, from 1876 to 1965. During WW II over 2.5 million African American males registered for the draft, over 75% were placed in the Army, and 125,000 served overseas.

Whites Only Mess Hall
Black soldiers knew when they enlisted during WWII, they would be serving in segregated units, most working non-combat jobs driving trucks, working in mess halls, or working as dock laborers. Only the Army Air Corp and the Marines accepted African Americans for combat roles as fighter pilots.

Red Ball Express
Red Ball Highway
But despite segregation, many African American units stood out for their spirit and courage. The Red Ball Express, operated mainly by black soldiers, was a convoy of about 6,000 trucks that delivered over 12,000 tons of supplies, each day, to the European Allied forces. The Red Ball Express ran from August to November 1944 and gave the Allies the traction needed on the ground to defeat the Germans.

761st Tank Battalion
Black Panthers
The 761st Tank Battalion of the US Army was known as the Black Panthers. They served under General George Patton’s US Third Army, at his request, seeing action throughout central Europe, the Battle of the Bulge, and ending the war fighting on German soil.

Tuskegee Airmen
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first U.S. African American military pilots. Known as the Red-Tailed Angels, they flew P-40’s Warhawks and P-51 Mustangs, escorting the heavy bombers lumbering to and from Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia with their bomb loads.

Children at a Nazi Camp
Remains at a Nazi Concentration Camp
At the war’s end, the world was stunned by the atrocities committed against the Jews, by Nazi Germany. It was a revelation that made many Americans take a deeper look at racism in this country. “With liberty and justice for all” now had a new meaning to many, including our European Allies who could not understand why the U.S. was still segregated.

African American veterans came back home after the war determined to stand up against the racial injustices occurring against them in the country they had fought for. Now they were fighting a war for equal treatment and opportunity.

Committee on Civil Rights
In 1946, President Truman appointed a Committee on Civil Rights to document racial violence and civil rights violations throughout the country for one year.

In 1947, the committee released its report “To Secure These Rights” reporting that the “disease of racism” was still thriving in the U.S. and especially in the nation’s military. The report recommended legislation be enacted "to end immediately all discrimination and segregation based on race, color, creed or national origin in...all branches of the Armed Services."

President Truman Addressing Congress
Congress 1948
In February 1948, President Truman called for Congress to enact the recommendations issued by the committee. When southern members threatened a filibuster to stop the bill, Truman overrode them by using his executive powers and making Executive Order 9981 the law.  

United States Colored Troops
Arlington Cemetery
Arlington Cemetery, along with all other national cemeteries, adopted the President's policy and stopped all segregated burial practices that year. By 1954, the Army announced its last black unit had been desegregated. By the end of the Korean Conflict, most of the military was integrated.

Although racism continued in the military and throughout the country for years after Executive Order 9981 was signed into law, it was the first major blow struck against segregation. That ruling gave African Americans hope to believe that in time, justice would be served and liberty and justice would, indeed, be for all.

~ Joy

Friday, July 19, 2013

Horror Show Hosts – The End of an Era

Horror Hosts
Last week we took a look at horror show hosts from the 1950’s and 60’s. Today, we wrap up our scary look back at horror host from the 1970’s, 80’s and beyond…

Ads for Horror Shows
Those Creature Feature packages that television stations bought for late night viewing contained the best and worst of the B movies from the 1930’s – 50’s. But most viewers tuned in to be entertained by the show’s host – usually a station employee moonlighting as a vampire, ghoul, mad scientist, or an array of other undead beings. By the early 70’s they had learned how to deliver a high-energy show on a low, low budget simply by providing a dry wit and cool patter. By the end of the 70’s over 200 horror hosts roamed the late night television airwaves.


Dr Shock & Bubbles
Dr Shock was a well-known horror host in Philadelphia during the 1970’s. Portrayed by magician Joseph Zawislak (1937 – 1979, he was known as the “Mad Magician of Fright.” Dr Shock was a zombie with slicked back hair and a black frock coat – a bit sinister and over the top. The station decided to soften his shocking image by adding his daughter, Doreen, to the show. Her character was named Bubbles after the show’s sponsor Bubbles-Booth soda. The Doctor’s signoff, “Let there be fright!” was a catch phrase in Philly for years. When Zawislak died of a heart attack in 1979, the show died with him.

Watch a music video from Dr Shock’s only single record,
“Eat Your Heart Out, Baby

Sivad & His Coffin
Sivad, the Vampire with the southern accent, was the “Monster of Ceremonies” for the Fantastic Features horror movie program on WHBQ. Portrayed by Watson Davis (1913 - 2005 (Sivad was Davis spelled backwards), Sivad ruled the prime-time airwaves on Saturday nights in Memphis, Tennessee. His campy humor appealed to adults and youth alike, as was apparent when 30,000 people showed up for one of his personal appearances at the State Fair. Sivad was an expert at playing the "ghoulaphone" and the "coffinola," both instruments Davis created for Sivad.

Enjoy witty one-liners delivered by Sivad
to show sponsors

Svengoolie & a Chicken
He began as a horror host on a film program in the Chicago area in the late 70’s, but has moved on to become a national host for Saturday night movies on Me-TV. Such is the life of (Son of) Svengoolie whose name is a play on the word Svengali, meaning someone with evil intent.  Portrayed by Rich Koz since 1979, Svengoolie clues viewers in on the cheap movie effects, sings catchy little dirges, and tells corny jokes, all which usually ends up with him being pelted with rubber chickens by the undead audience.

Svengoolie and a parody of Mambo No. 5:


With the Me Decade came the influx of She ghouls! Women were taking to the airwaves as vamps, vixens, and man-eaters.

Stella the Man-eater
In Philadelphia, following Saturday Night Live, you could curl up with some popcorn and watch Saturday Night Dead, starring Stella the Man-eater from Manayunk (a working class suburb of Philly.) Stella was not a vampire or a ghoul; she was a self-described vamp, a ghoul next-door type who was the “Daughter of Desire.” Portrayed by Karen Scioli, Stella was a cult favorite with her vibrating bed, known as Beda Logois, and there were always a few half-dressed men hanging around her haunted home; it's said, she definitely knew how to keep a guy on his toes.

Hide-n-Go Seek with Stella

Elvira & Friend
Horror hostess Elvira greeted viewers in Los Angles each week in a low-cut, high slit gown as she introduced the current Movie Macabre feature. More quirky than creepy, Elvira quickly began appearing on other television shows during the 80’s before taking on NFL football in the 90’s and movies at the turn of the century. Portrayed by Cassandra Peterson (1951 -), a former go-go dancer and Vegas show girl, Elvira is a combination of sexy vamp and punk rocker who talks like a Valley Girl, but has a wit that’s razor sharp.

Elvira at Comic Con
After 30 years, Elvira is still making the rounds, touring the country as the Mistress of the Dark. With her own webpage that sells DVDs, music, costumes, apparel, and autographed photos, it appears Elvira will not going gently into that good night…

Campy Elvira presents -

1990’s and Beyond

With the 1990’s came the public’s acceptance of the home computer and a new kind of horror host was born. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 aired for 11 years, beginning in Minneapolis, Minnesota on KTMA and moving to the Comedy Channel (Comedy Central) and later the Sci-Fi Channel. 

Robots Say the Funniest Things
The premise? Horror host Joel Robinson, is stranded on a space station, forced to watch awful movies as part of an evil science experiment. He builds four robots from parts lying around, and hilarity ensues as they critique and bash each week's film from front row seats. The show’s original host Joel Robinson was portrayed by show creator, Joel Hodgson (1960 -) for the first four years, before Michael Nelson took the reigns. But it was the robots Crow T. Robot, Tom Servo, Gypsy and Cambot, and their wisecracking comments during the film, that stole the show and made MST3K the most successful TV program to satirize those B movies from the past.

A taste of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (MST3K)

The Remaining Undead –

Dr Gangrene
Dr Gangrene provides southern fried horror for the residents of Nashville, Tennessee. What began as a public access program called Chiller Theatre on a Hendersonville cable access channel spun out of control into a full-fledged horror show. Dr Gangrene, portrayed by Larry Underwood (1966 -) is one of the first horror hosts to self syndicate his program. The show moved to WNAB in Nashville in 2005 and became the Creature Feature. In 2008, Go Green with Dr Gangrene, a series of Public Service Announcements began airing in Nashville and won a Rondo Award.

Dr Gangrene goes Green with PSAs

Penny Dreadful
Penny Dreadful XIII is a witch intent on casting a spell on viewers and bringing back the “daze” of the late night horror host to the Boston-area airwaves. Portrayed by Danielle Gelehrter, Penny Dreadful is a hex-citing host, one minute delighting with a dry wit and the next casting a sinister gaze upon the proceedings. Penny Dreadful’s Shilling
Shockers now air in 10 states around the country, and online. Penny is a regular witchy attraction at horror conventions around the country.

Penny Dreadful Shilling Shockers Open

And there are so many more –

Vincent Price

So, to all of the horror hosts who have guided us down those dark and dank alleys, late at night, providing a bit of wit and humor along those dark passages, we remember you with the words of Vincent Price – Master Horror Host:    

The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grisly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller


~ Joy

Friday, July 12, 2013

Frightfully Spook-tcular Horror Hosts

They would usually join us on a Friday or Saturday night after the late night news, keeping us company through the witching hour, and sometimes scaring the bejesus out of us.

Horror Hosts of the Past
Ah, what fond memories many of us have of the local TV horror movie show and the host. If he or she were a gifted host, you would wade through the B movie, just to see what they were going to say or do at the next break.
Horror show hosts are an American icon – dressing in costumes and presenting B-grade horror movies to TV audiences late at night was a mainstay in the late 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Every television station seemed to have a “Horror Host” at some point during these years. And it was easy to achieve...

On set
TV Control Room
Horror hosts were usually someone who worked at the TV station; the weatherman was a favorite, a booth announcer, film editor, or cast/crew from the late night news cast. This was low-budget television at its best.  
All you needed was some grease paint, a costume, low lighting, and spooky music to set the mood.  The fact that the host wasn’t afraid of vamping it up was a definite plus.

The Shocking Idea:

It all began in 1957 when Screen Gems released some old Universal horror movies syndicated to television.  The name given to the show was “Shock” and local television stations were encouraged to use hosts dressed in a horror theme. It was a death-defying hit!

... And Spiders
Those Giant Bugs
Then in the 1960s and 70s, Creature Feature packages were released and included, not only horror films but science-fiction from the 50’s, British horror films of the 1960s, and those great
; ) Japanese monster movies. The tradition continued into the 1980s before dying a slow death with the onslaught of the cable and satellite channels.

The First Horror Host:

Vampira on Her Skull Couch
She was the original glamour ghoul - The first acknowledged horror host, - Vampira - and she set the stage for what a horror host should be.  Vampira’s show aired in Los Angles on KABC from 1954 to 1955 for a total of 50 episodes.  Vampira, portrayed by Maila Nurmi (1922 –1985) had a pet spider, Rollo. Her spooky costumes were the basis for Morticia of the Addams Family TV show in the 1960’s, and her name was a feminized version of the word vampire.

Watch the open of Vampira’s Show from 1954

The 1950’s

Roland, The Cool Ghoul
In the late 50’s, Roland, “The Cool Ghoul” was the host of WCAU’s Shock Theatre in Philadelphia. (Local broadcaster Dick Clark reportedly named the horror host “The Cool Ghoul.”) Actor John Zacherle (1918 -) was hired for the part of Roland and hosted all 92 broadcasts, along with his wife, Joy, who portrayed Roland’s wife, “My Dear,” (whose face you never saw…)  Zacherle left Philly for New York City to host several shows including WPIX’s Chiller Theatre, where Roland became Zacherley and “My Dear” received a name - Isobel.

Zacherle continued appearing as a Monster of Ceremonies throughout the 1980’s and 90’s. But now, at the age of 94, he does limited ghoul appearances.

A show open featuring Zacherley “and fiends.”

Morgus the Magnificent
From 1959 to 1962, Dr. Morgus the Magnificent kept viewers in stitches on Morgus’ “House of Shock” in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr Morgus, portrayed by Sid Noel (1929 -) a local deejay, and his incompetent lab assistant, Chopsley, were always looking for ways to develop intelligence in the universe, with unintentional calamities.

In 1964, Noel went to Detroit to host a horror show there called Morgus Presents. When it went on the air on WJBK, the Doctor had a new sidekick, Armsby. When Noel returned to New Orleans the next year and so did Morgus, where he stayed until he left the show in 1971.

Morgus Presents
Another attempt at Morgus Presents was launched in 1986 and ran until 1989. In 2005, Morgus was again backing on the air in Louisiana. Sid Noel was inducted into the Horror Host Hall of Fame in 2011 as his character Dr. Morgus the Magnificent.

I could find no original Morgus the Magnificent segments.
Here is an opening bit for the 1980’s version of Morgus the Magnificent

The 1960’s

The 1960’s brought a slew of horror hosts to local and regional television. Among those best remembered:

Sir Graves Ghastly
In His Coffin
Sir Graves Ghastly made his home in Detroit beginning in 1967, when he found a local station had just lost their horror host, Morgus the Magnificent  Sir Ghastly took a stab at it and continued to haunt audiences until 1982 – a total of 15 spooky seasons. Portrayed by Lawson Deming (1913 – 2007) a television personality, Sir Graves Ghastly was a vampire who worked the afternoon lineup on Saturdays at WJBK, introducing horror movies with his signature evil laugh while the cemetery undertaker Reel McCoy unearthed yet another movie reel from a fresh grave just for you…

Get ready for a Ghastly Intro -

Ghoulardi Later
Ghoulardi was the host of Shock Theatre on WJW-TV in Cleveland, Ohio. Portrayed by Ernie Anderson, (1923 –1997) local disc jockey and Channel 8’s booth announcer. Ghoulardi was an irreverent host who enjoyed improvising his lines and poking fun at other Ohio towns (Parma and Oxnard,) along with the unhip, local TV personalities. It was said that station brass lived in fear of what he would say or do on the live late night show. With a fake Van Dyke beard and long lab coat, Ghoulardi, whose name was a pun on the word Ghoul, never failed to entertain his audience. (Comedian Tim Conway was a writer at the station at this time and assisted on the show.)

A clip of Ghoulardi from 1964. (A little Johnny Carson and
Johnny Fever ; )

Sammy Terry
Sammy Terry in His Dungeon
Horror Host Ghoul Sammy Terry, his name was a play on the word cemetery, introduced horror films on WTTV in Indianapolis on Shock Theatre in the 1960’s and Nightmare Theatre in the 70’s – 90’s. Portrayed by Bob Carter (1929 – 2013), a local television personality, Terry’s campy antics with the audience and his pet spider, George, endeared him to generations of Hoosier horror fans. Carter’s son, Mark took over the role of Sammy Terry and continues to make frequent guest appearances across Indiana. (Robert Carter, the inspiration for this post, died June 30, 2013.)

A classic Sammy Terry intro…

Deadly Earnest
Ian Bannerman as Deadly Earnest
Australian’s had their own horror host icon in the sixties, Deadly Earnest appeared on TVW-7. Deadly Earnest’s Awful Movies were a weekly event and audiences loved the zombie undertaker’s black humor, especially when taking liberties with local commercials. In all, five men portrayed Deadly Earnest; Ralph Baker, Ian Bannerman, Max Bostock, Hedley Cullen, and Shane Porteous with Ian Bannerman being the most popular.

A Deadly Earnest Montage with Hedley Cullen
Next week we’ll take a look at the famous and infamous horror hosts from the 1970’s and 80’s. Till then “Happy Hauntings and Pleasant Dreams!”

~ Joy