Growing up, I always had cool things that comprised my “happy place”: Drive-In Theaters, Famous Monsters Magazine, library books about monsters and monster movies, and of course, Creature Double Feature, just to name a few. Many of my friends weren’t into these things, but they were always special to me. What I didn’t realize was that there were so many other people out there that had the same experiences as me. There was no Internet at the time to connect us, so were in these pockets all around the country. We didn’t have a Horror Host in Boston, but I had read about them. Eventually, Elvira was syndicated and when cable came along we were able to see such hosts as Joe Bob Briggs and even Grampa Munster! In the mid-1990’s, I decided that I wanted to be a Horror Host, too. I created the character of Uncle Death and have played him off and on over the years on an irregular basis. In 1999, I came up with the idea of The Fright Channel in order to share my “happy place” with the rest of the world. Although the investors backed out at the last second in 2003, and after a long time of picking myself up and dusting myself off, I was finally able to make a comeback with TFC and Uncle Death in 2010.
Fast forward to this past weekend: the magazine ‘Horror Hound’ held their second Horror Hound Weekend from March 25th-27th, 2011 in Indianapolis. After much hard work, some of my TFC crew and I were able to go there, and what I encountered surpassed my expectations! Not only did I learn that Horror Fans, the most loyal fans of any genre, were the nicest, most polite people in the world, I also found that we had all grown up with near parallel experiences! I got to meet Joe Bob Briggs and many others that I had read about and even communicated with over the years. Uncle Death had finally arrived, and I learned that I had become part of a family…a family of Horror Hosts and fans that helped promote each other and wanted to spread that same enjoyment that I had growing up.
Four of us: Shayne Doherty, Sharon Wong, Eric Gendron and myself had a 14-hour drive out there. It was long, and I was very surprised that there was not a lot of complaining. Everyone was dedicated to the cause of making the Fright Channel’s mark on the world. While the others are not particularly horror fans, they could see the value in my project and it was evident in their dedication to not only making this venture, but making it a success! We left on Thursday night and got to the hotel by 1pm the next day. After recouping our energies and freshening up, we went over to the hotel where the convention was at and set up our booth. While we tried to prepare ourselves for everything, it was still unknown territory. We had trouble with the banner, and I was sweating (yes, the gang were laughing at me). Then I saw Joe Bob Briggs, Drive-in Movie Critic extraordinaire, saunter in with his cowboy swagger to a table near us! I started to fall into fanboy mode and Shayne had to wrangle me so I didn’t make a fool of myself.
Shayne and I went over to Joe Bob and introduced ourselves. I stuttered and stammered in my starstruck mode, but Shayne managed to pull me from the brink. Joe Bob was every bit the cool gentleman I imagined him to be in real life, and the weekend was starting off on a good note. When we had first walked in, we were close to opening time, and there was a line of people who had paid to come in an hour before the convention officially opened. I was stunned by the amount of people that were eager to participate in this event. After we were set up, Shayne and I went back to our hotel so I could don the Uncle Death garb and come back in character. Again, I was nervous because I was trying out new make-up (not that crappy greasepaint I’ve been using all these years), and I still didn’t know how Uncle Death would be received.
Back at the con there were all kinds of people interacting and kibitzing: people dressed in costumes; parents who were nice enough to indulge their children’s fascination with monster movies; and some who were just plain old fans and wanted to meet stars or their idols or just connect with other fans. We were in the Horror Host room which was made up of two smaller meeting rooms opened up to become one. There was another large ballroom where the Mask Fest was held. Vendors selling all kinds of props, makeups and monster masks filled the place. Most prominent was David Lady, and old acquaintance of mine who had been there in the early days of The Fright Channel to lend assistance, but whom I had never met in person. He, too, is a Horror Host and plays Dr. Lady on “The Late Dr. Lady Show”. Funniest punster I ever met! Dr. Lady had a microphone and was not only in charge of running his booth and the Mask Fest, but also making announcements over the sound system. There were also some stars who had booths in the room as well including Tom Atkins (most famously known for Night of the Creeps), and Kane Hodder who played Jason in several Friday the 13th films.
Another, even larger ballroom held the main vendors. Here you could find any movie, t-shirt, toy, button, magnet and memorabilia with a horror or sci-fi theme. The place was swarming with people eager to part with their money for a piece of the horror genre. More famous people lined the walls including Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Ken Forree, Jeffrey Combs and several others!! Again, I started to feel starstruck and I had Shayne to keep me balanced! People waited in long lines to get autographs from their idols and have their picture taken with them.
The movie room was next to the Horror Host room; here was where other events would also take place the next day. Way off on the other side of the hotel was another large ballroom where the panels were held – the mask fest ran a large panel in that one that discussed the fine art of mask making and collecting. Next to that was a room where even more famous people were signing autographs. Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus from the ‘Boondock Saints’ were there, and on Saturday, Corey Feldman showed up signing autographs at the end of the room as if he owned it.
What was most special to me was that I got to meet many Horror Hosts that I had either only communicated with, or only followed online. Count Gore DeVol, Mr. Lobo, Ron Fitzgerald, Karlos Borloff…the list went on and on. Over the course of the weekend, I got to know many of these guys and we became fast friends. Mr. Lobo was roasted on Saturday because his 10 year anniversary of being on the air was this year and the Horror Hound Weekend was the perfect venue for the roast. If you ask the roasters, they did a great job and Mr. Lobo was lame, but if you ask Mr. Lobo, he thought the roasters were lame and he was fabulous! Ah, I love a good roast!!
The highlight for me was the Horror Host Hall of Fame inductions, which is moderated by the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum. Many of the hosts that were inducted had their shows on in the 60s and 70s, and were long since passed on from this world. Needless to say, many of the heartfelt speeches given by the current hosts who were inducting these icons were choked up and sometimes in tears. I admit, I was in the audience and had to fight the tears back myself. It was at the end of the inductions when I truly realized I was now part of something bigger…a family of like-minded people who wanted to carry on the tradition of hosting that we had been raised on, and pass it on to the next generation. One of the last gentlemen to speak explained how their was violence in his household, and that the only time there wasn’t was when his family sat down to watch their favorite Horror Host on TV. It was really quite an experience and I will never forget it.
We were also treated by a visit from Zacherly, the godfather of all Horror Hosts, via a video that was made. He is truly the last of his generation, and it was an honor to be there, even if he was only speaking to us from a television.
Later on that night, we got to see the amazing magic show of Ron Fitzgerald, another guy who helped me out greatly in years past. Ron had made some great videos for The Fright Channel many years ago, the highlight of which was his puppet character called Voodoo Baby who, to this day, brings down the house with his jokes. It was so awesome to meet the great Ron in person, and I hope we get to work together soon.
Mr. Lobo and I had some great conversations, and he pointed out a little known fact: many of the film packages that went out to TV stations in the 60s were called the “Shock Package” and that’s why across the country there were Horror Host shows on TV, and many were called “Shock Theater” or some variation of that. In the 70s, another package came out called “Creature Features”, which also explains why there were so many shows across the nation called “Creature Feature”, or in Boston’s case, “Creature Double Feature” (I think Philly also had a CDF, too). Mr. Lobo explained that we were all pretty much watching the same show, just spread out across the nation and we didn’t even know it!!
Another great highlight was watching Jerry Moore, aka Karlos Borloff in action. Not only is he a great showman, but he’s also got the spirit of a 10-year old kid. I watched as a mother and her two young daughters came to his booth to purchase his DVDs. The girls were clearly fans of his show, ‘Monster Madhouse’, and were themselves definitely starstruck (I was totally identifying with them). I watched as Jerry tenderly talked to them about the characters on his show and signed not only pictures for them, but the DVDs as well! The girls were beyond happy and I think he made their day!
I want to thank my dedicated crew for joining me on this fantastic journey! We were wiped out after the long ride, but it was well worth it. I also wanted to thank Saugus Community Television for helping us get out there, because without their support and funding it would not have happened!
There were so many other things that went on, that I’ll have to save it for another time. I met so many great, genuine, truly nice people there, and even though we all joked about being freaks in costumes, we were all coming from the same place at the core: to carry on the traditions of monster movies and Horror TV Hosts, and help spread the word to the next generation. Thank you Horror Hound, for providing me with this great experience which I will carry with me forever! You really turned “Then” truly into “Now”!!!