Michael Monahan Talks Horror Hosts and More

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Horror fans today are spoiled. With the vast array of films available on DVD and Blu-ray via storefronts like Best Buy and FYE, online outlets like Amazon and Deep Discount, and rental/streaming services such as Netflix, there are few films that are unattainable. Virtually anything one might hear of is available some way, somewhere. But it wasn’t always so…

Back at a time before disc (or VHS for that matter), the only way – and I mean the ONLY way – to see classic and not so classic genre pictures was on broadcast television. As a kid, I remember getting the local TV GUIDE and a yellow highlighter and systematically going through the listings, marking each and every show time of movies I’d heard about either from friends or ones that were obliquely mentioned in Forry Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland . I would meticulously go over each entry line by line and mark anything that looked even slightly interesting. Then, usually without my parent’s knowledge, I’d create my own schedule so that I might wake myself up and sneak downstairs to watch what were at the time glorious pieces of cinema on Movies ‘Till Dawn or similar red-eyed broadcasting.

It was the kind of thing that defined many fans as “horror geeks.”

Then, local television stations got wise and they started programming genre pictures at specific times (usually late Friday and Saturday nights). Needing a framework for the film, hosts were cast to introduce the films and segue into and out of commercial breaks. For me, growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, my guy was a mild-mannered man wearing big, black-rimmed glasses named Bob Wilkins on KTVU Channel 2 (“There’s only one 2!”). Every Friday & Saturday night, Bob was there for me and it was he who showed me the wonders of Ray Harryhausen, the cheesiness of Horror At Party Beach , and the glory of what became known as The Universal Monsters.

See, Bob was a Horror Host, one in a long line of a special breed of people whose influence can still be felt to this day. There were many such hosts throughout the country and names such as Zacherley, The Ghoul, Vampira, Ghoulardi, Sir Graves Ghastly, Crematia Mortem, Count Gore de Vol, and Dr. Paul Bearer are legendary. Some were as “normal” looking as Wilkins, but most adopted zany costumes and makeup, playing up the “horror” aspect rather than the “host.” And throughout the 1960s, 70s, and into the early 80s, these individuals reigned supreme on local television broadcasting. . In many ways, they defined who we were… and who we are to this day.

To most modern genre fans, this time period remains an era they know little about. But now, author Michael Monahan (producer of the excellent documentary on horror hosts, American Scary) has changed all of that with the release of his new book, UHF Nocturne Shock It To Me: Golden Ghouls of the Golden Gate. Monahan’s excellent and informative book tracks the rise of the horror host using the landscape of the San Francisco Bay Area as a stage. This well research and comprehensive tome is essential reading not only for nostalgic fans of the Bay Area, but also for anyone who wants to know how things used to be back before cinematic availability was at a high point.

Dread Central sat down with Michael Monahan and found out more about the book, his influences, and got a glimpse of how things “used to be…”

The book centers on horror hosts from the San Francisco Bay Area. Did you grow up there?

Yep. I was born and raised in the area. I grew up in Burlingame, which is just south of San Francisco and moved to Berkeley in the early 80s. So I’ve been a life-long resident.

Was your interest in horror one that was spawn at an early age?

Some of my earliest and most vivid memories are of movies I watched on TV when I was around four years old. And, yes, I sort of naturally gravitated toward horror. The first movie to give me nightmares as a kid – followed by the traditional parental “That’s it! No more of that crap for you!” speech – was Ed Wood’s BRIDE OF THE MONSTER. Years later, I was able to pinpoint the moment that triggered the dream. It’s the scene where a guy is thrown to Bela Lugosi’s pet octopus. The shot is stark and weird. You’ve got a man screaming and a wet rubber octopus lit in the blackness by a single pin light. It may be crude, but it’s a perfect snapshot of post-infant terror. PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE also affected me. Even as a kid, I had seen enough movies to know there was something wrong about cutting from the inside of a space ship to a shot of a graveyard. The two images didn’t belong together. The strange electronic pulse playing over the shots of Vampira also struck me odd. I think it was my first experience with surrealism. I’m glad I got a chance to have a pure experience of these films as a child in the early 1960s, well before the whole smug-hipster Ed Wood revival. Sure, these are hugely imperfect films. But for a youngster, they’re monster movies. Good enough. That was actually one of the great things about growing up with TV in that period. It was the Monster Kid era and horror and science fiction were “in.” Pretty much the entire scope of fantastic film was part of regular programming, from classic to crap-tastic. And TV, particularly black and white TV, was a great equalizer. You could spend a day watching THE WOLF MAN, THE BLOB and THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS – and dig them all because they were all monster movies. You could approach them less critically if you were a kid who was just in it for the monsters. We had a great theater in Burlingame, The Fox, a grand old movie palace. They had a regular kiddie matinee during the summer, and I got to see everything from MIGHTY JOE YOUNG and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS to THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN and HERCULES AGAINS THE MOON MEN on the big screen. These kiddie shows also introduced me to the great Republic serials. I remember cleaning out a big ice cream bucket so I could turn it into a helmet, just like Commando Cody’s. And they had Warner Brothers cartoons and Three Stooges besides. Like TV, they mixed and matched various decades of Hollywood history at these matinees. As a kid who was already interested in the idea of studying film, it was an amazing education.

You contributed to some of the James Bond sets as well as the Blu-ray edition of THE ULIMATE FLINT COLLECTION. Which begs the question … in your opinion, who’s cooler – Bond or Flint?

It’s always going to be Bond. My mom took my brothers and me to see Thunderball in 1965. I was seven years old. The theater lobby was an Aladdin’s cave of movie promotion. There were banners, photos and gigantic posters all over the place. Mannequins in scuba suits hung from the ceiling in fishnets and guarded the auditorium doors. Before a single frame hit the screen, we knew this was the greatest movie ever made. And of course, the movie was spectacular. I’d never seen anything so colorful and epic. So it’s always going to be Bond – and it’s always going to be Connery. But I’m a fan of that whole secret agent genre. In the 60s, at least, the Bond films were adult entertainments – pop cultural reflections of recognizable geo-political concerns. As the global Bond-mania took hold with the release of GOLDFINGER the budgets for James Bond movies that followed became astronomical. There was no way the super spies who came in the wake of Bond could compete on that level. The copycats were more artificial and stylized. Because they were more studio bound, they had more of a pop art gloss to them, which was also distinctive and neat. They were cocktail lounge-flavored comic strips. When you look at the Matt Helms, the Flints – and even the minor league stuff like A MAN CALLED DAGGER, you’ll see they actually have more in common with each other than any of them have with Bond. They copped a few elements from the 007 formula, but they were forced to create a broader, yet more casual, style. The Flint films probably pulled it off the best. OUR MAN FLINT was popular enough to spawn its own parody, an Italian film called IL VOSTRO SUPER AGENTE, FLIT! There are a number of scene-for-scene spoofs throughout the film. But the star looks more like Alec Guinness than James Coburn. Interestingly, the script appeared to have lifted material from an early draft of the Flint screenplay, called CARTEL OF EVIL, which featured space aliens as the villains. And aliens are the bad guys in the Italian version.

Michael Monahan Talks Horror Hosts and More

You did horror hosting yourself as Doktor Goulfinger on BTV 35 in the Bay Area.

The Goulfinger thing was a lark. But for a time, I was able to use the character as a horror host ambassador at conventions and such. For some reason, people love to see some goof in a costume talk about their local hosts – especially in Cleveland. They’re very passionate about their hosts out there.

How did your documentary AMERICAN SCARY come about.

Bob Wilkins, the host of Creature Features in the Bay Area back in the 70s, was the spark. When he released some of his old Creature Features material in the late 90s, it got me thinking about some of the other hosts we had on the air back then, like Asmodeus and The Ghoul. Back in the 70s, I’d had no idea The Ghoul was syndicated from Cleveland. As luck would have it, when I first started looking in it, The Ghoul had just returned to Cleveland TV. I was trading tapes with other collectors around the country at the time and was able to snag a few of those new shows, as well as clips from the 70s and 80s. On the first new show I watched, The Ghoul mentioned some character called “Ghoulardi.” So I immediately tracked down some Ghoulardi. The first example I found was a Cleveland TV special on Ghoulardi hosted by Big Chuck and Lil’ John. This pushed my interest further and I started asking people from around the country for any old hosted horror shows. So I started to see hosts like Sammy Terry, Dr. Paul Bearer and Crematia Mortem, and it all just snowballed from there. I was struck by how familiar all these shows were to the ones I grew up with. But they were also distinctly regional. They were expressing something about their local community. At that point, horror hosts turned from a fun little side hobby to a topic of serious study. A few years after I had begun researching the genre, I was approached by Sandy Clark. Sandy had recently moved to the Bay Area. He had been promoting a comic book project at a local event and had witnessed a throng of people surrounding this one table on the convention floor. He went over to check it out, and discovered the crowds were there to see Bob Wilkins, who had hosted Creature Features here in the 1970s. He talked to Bob for a bit and asked him what he had done to attract these fans. Bob told him, “Some people call us horror hosts.” Sandy had never heard of a horror host. But he’d been kicking around some ideas for a short film and thought this might be a good topic. Someone suggested he contact me to get some background. When we got together, I laid out the photos, posters and props I’d collected – and explained the national history of horror hosts and their place in local TV broadcasting. At that point, he decided the topic warranted a feature-length film and we immediately began plotting out the hosts we would need to talk to for the project. Sandy had been working on a series of short films with his friend, John Hudgens, and this was really their project. I contributed all of my research and helped shape some aspects of it, but they were the film makers. After we’d conducted the first few interviews, I started griping about the fact that we were getting these amazing interviews with some of the great pioneers of television, and that we would wind up using three or four minutes from each – tops. We talked about the possibility of creating a series of one-hour documentaries on the individual hosts, but even in casual conversation that sounded utterly bonkers. I eventually suggested a book. My feeling was that nobody told the stories better than the people who lived it. So I decided to go with the complete interviews, rather than working them into a narrative history. And I do think the book captures that historical arc of local television production to syndicated corporate dominance. The horror host genre really covered a period of about thirty years, from 1957 – with the release to television of the SHOCK! movie package – to the late 1980s, when pretty much all local programming was obliterated by corporate ownership and consolidation. As the first horror host in 1954, Vampira was an outlier to the phenomenon. And these days you see some independent and semi-independent stations making a go of things. There seems to be a minor swing back to local TV and horror hosts are a part of that. You’re never going to see a full-blooded revival of local programming, but it’s nice to see people are still fond enough of their locals to support them. KOFY-TV 20 out here in San Francisco has branded themselves as “Local, Just Like You.”

With the documentary and now the book, you cover a lot of ground as far as hosts go. Do you have a “favorite”?

Hoo-boy, that’s asking for trouble. My first horror host was Asmodeus, and he’ll always remain the most important. Stumbling across SHOCK IT TO ME THEATER was seriously a life-changing experience. As I later learned, Asmodeus represented the classic model of horror hosting, with the castle, creepy music and supernatural atmosphere. I find he’s the one I always came back as a point of reference as I discovered other hosts. Sammy Terry had a lot in common with Asmodeus, as did Dr. Paul Bearer – two other hosts I love. Of course, Bob Wilkins was hugely influential. Wilkins’s approach was the antithesis of Asmodeus. He had a dry but wicked wit and a deceptively square Bob Newhart-style; very straight and mild-mannered. He had a whimsical, postmodern attitude toward his movies that somehow clicked beautifully. In larger cultural terms, a few names jump out: Vampira, Zacherley, Ghoulardi, Crematia Mortem, The Host and Rodney, Stella, Sammy Terry, Commander USA…The breadth of talent out there was really amazing. Christopher Coffin and Simon really floored me as well. The only reason I don’t mention the other two hundred or so names on the tip of my brain is because neither of really has that kind of time. This is a topic I can literally talk about for days. Ask any of the poor bastards who made the mistake of asking me.
The bottom line, though, in all of this research, is that I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for the people who made local television and the lasting influence they’ve had on the lives of people who grew up with it.

You’ve undoubtedly seen a lot of horror films. Do you have a favorite one either serious or cheese ball?

Easy answers. My favorite classic horror film is THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. As a piece of fantastic cinema, I think it’s unsurpassed. It’s luminous, theatrical and strange in ways that are totally unique. On the snack food movie level, I’ve got to go with FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER. I love that goofy thing. There’s a weird innocence to it. It’s like one of those home movies you made with your buddies in the backyard. It was, in fact, the first movie I bought on commercial 8mm. The day I bought my first 8mm projector, I picked up some of those 50 and 200 foot 8mm digests of old movies. I grabbed FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED and GHIDRAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER, but FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER was the definitely the first one I pulled off the rack.

Tell me a bit about writing your book, SHOCK IT TO ME: GOLDEN GHOULS OF THE GOLDEN GATE.

Ten, maybe fifteen years ago, I was doing a web search for SHOCK IT TO ME THEATER and stumbled across a site called UHF Nocturne, run by Lon Huber. I shot Lon an email with some of my memories of Asmodeus and the show and we stayed in touch after that. A few years back, Lon made contact with a guy who used to work at KEMO-TV 20, where SHOCK IT TO ME was produced, and set up a time to talk. Though we learned a lot about the latter days of the station, there was significantly less Asmodeus in the conversation than we’d hoped. A few years later, I tracked down Rene White, who had directed SHOCK IT TO ME for a time. Rene offered to talk with us and pulled in another KEMO director, Don Humphrey, for the interview. Humphrey had handled a number of programs on KEMO, including BOZO’S BIG TOP and the early days of SHOCK IT TO ME. They told us a lot about the show. More importantly, they spoke about Frank Sheridan, the man who’d played Asmodeus. Frank had led a colorful life. He was briefly a child actor, appearing in HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY and SON OF FURY. He studied theater with Elia Kazan, drove cars for Porsche in Germany and had an established career in radio before becoming a sound engineer at KEMO. That interview was really the point where we got serious about the book. For me, at least, SHOCK IT TO ME THEATER was the hook. There was plenty of material available on Bob Wilkins and The Ghoul floating around, but Asmodeus had been a lost childhood mystery. The stories Rene and Don shared really launched the project. Rene – and another KEMO alum, Jefferson Linck – also provided some amazing photographs. If you ever curious to see the complete transformation of a worldly middle-aged horror host expert into a gibbering twelve-year old fan boy, you should have been there when Rene started pulling out full-color shots of Asmodeus on the set of SHOCK IT TO ME THEATER. Forty years were swept away in the space of a heartbeat.

Michael Monahan Talks Horror Hosts and More

You include some comprehensive listings in which you list every film played on each of the shows. Were those difficult to come by? Have you ever been tempted to pick a show and watch the films listed in order?

Your Geek-O-Meter must have been ringing off the hook. Yeah, I came very close to locking myself into a crazy horror movie viewing project. As it happened, the days and dates of 2009 matched up perfectly with those in 1970. For instance, June 26th fell on a Saturday in 2009, just as it had in 1970, when I first saw SHOCK IT TO ME THEATER. That night, I watched the same double bill I saw back then: CARNIVAL OF SOULS and the Santo monster-wrestling movie, INVASION OF THE ZOMBIES. The sense of nostalgia was so intoxicating, I swore at that moment I was going to watch every single SHOCK IT TO ME double bill on the date it first aired, every Saturday night going forward. Of course, I quickly realized my wife would divorce me long before we made it to DRACULA’S DAUGHTER and THE TERRORNAUTS and I wisely abandoned the project. It was definitely tempting, though. Collecting the broadcast listings was insanely time-consuming. But once we got started, it was both compulsive and productive. We were lucky to live close to a world-class library in San Francisco and their microfilm newspaper records were invaluable. Eye-straining and brain-numbing, but invaluable. Without the actual dates, we had tended to talk about things in the abstract. “I think I was still living on this street when I saw this movie on that show…” or “I think The Ghoul showed I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF, but that might have been on THE FRIDAY NIGHT DRIVE-IN MOVIE.” Getting the concrete information realigns your memories and forces you to reevaluate assumptions you’ve carried around for decades. But once everything was locked into place, the whole picture made a lot more sense. If nothing else, I now feel fully equipped to win a few bar bets. The other benefit of scanning the newspaper archives was seeing the historical context in which we’d originally watched these movies. Nixon and the Zodiac Killer were cheek to jowl with vampires and crab monsters. Don Humphrey had told us a story of Frank Sheridan pulling a story from the Associated Press ticker at the station and muttering, “Goddamn it, I knew this would happen.” It was the day the National Guard shot the students at Kent State. That week, one of Frank’s films was I BURY THE LIVING. I’d never have found that weird connection if we didn’t have the broadcast dates laid out. The newspapers also provided some incredible print ads for NIGHTMARE, the first hosted horror show in the Bay Area. Tom Carrey, an old high school friend, works in the special collections department at the San Francisco Library. Going through their photo archives, he dug up extremely rare pictures of Russ Coughlin and John Barclay, the Bay Area’s first two horror hosts. Coughlin hosted Nightmare as Terrence in 1957 and Barclay took over as Terrence, Sr. when Coughlin left to work at another station. We never would have gotten hold of these photos without Tom’s perseverance. The library also hosted us for an author event when the book was released. They were just incredibly supportive.

Do you think that the home video explosion of the 80s sounded the death knell for the era of the horror host?

Undoubtedly. It contributed to the death of local TV in general. Corporations were buying up the traditional movie packages and moving them to cable; they were buying mom and pop stations and turning them into syndication platforms. Rich and varied local flavor was replaced by a single national franchise broadcasting landscape. So it wasn’t just video. But certainly on that front, people loved the idea of watching movies on their own schedules – and without the commercials. I’ve got a pretty ridiculously huge video collection and I wouldn’t trade in that instant availability for anything. But I do feel something was lost when all of this was gained. I remember seeing SON OF KONG for the first time. I must have been around twelve. I had seen KING KONG, and had read about the sequel in FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and the Carlos Claren’s book, AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE HORROR FILM. It seemed so elusive and rare. One week, I saw it listed in the TV Guide was insanely excited. It was on at 4 a.m. in the morning. After the family went to bed, I snuck our portable TV into my room, set my wind-up alarm clock and tucked it under my pillow. 4 a.m. rolls around, I’m vibrated awake by the alarm and scoot up close to the TV to watch SON OF KONG with the sound down low, keeping half an ear open for anybody moving around the house. That’s how I first saw SON OF KONG. Today, I can pull it off the shelf and watch it anytime. But now it’s only a movie. Back then, watching it had a whole story attached to it.

Michael Monahan Talks Horror Hosts and More

Are there any current hosts you’d recommend?

That’s only difficult to answer because there are so few left. Rich Koz – Svengoolie- is an especially important host today. He’s nationally syndicated on the MeTV network, so he’s definitely the most high-profile. Plus he’s carrying on a legacy that began in the 70s with Jerry G. Bishop, Chicago’s original Svengoolie. The Koz Svengoolie still follows a traditional formula, basically the one he established as the Son of Svengoolie back in the 1980s. He was syndicated in the San Francisco area for about a year and a half in 1982 and ’83. These days he’s showing the classic Universal SHOCK movies, along with wonderfully oddball stuff like THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN, MUNSTERS GO HOME and the Marx Brothers’ DUCK SOUP! He’s a quality host – and you just can’t beat the quality of his films. He’s also shown a bunch of Ray Harryhausen stuff, Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS, the Dr. Phibes films – real high-end horror, fantasy and sci-fi. Keven Scarpino has been on the air in the Cleveland area for over twenty-five consecutive years now as The Son of Ghoul, making him one of the longest running costumed hosts on TV. His show has its roots in Ghoulardi, which got him into trouble early on, as his status as heir to the throne was unofficial. But even some of the old Ghoulardi inner-circle have come around to appreciating his efforts. He’s been a regular at the annual GhoulardiFest for years, along with Big Chuck Schodowski, who directed the Ghoulardi show before taking over hosting duties himself in 1966. You have Zomboo in Reno. He’s played by Frank Leto, funny, energetic and very warm local personality. People might notice some similarities between Zomboo and Svengoolie. Leto and Rich Koz note Soupy Sales as a comic inspiration, reflected in a running doorway gag both hosts use. They also both also display a clear affection for corny jokes and top hats, but otherwise Zomboo and Sven are doing very different shows. I love them both. No Name and Balrok are on KOFY-TV 20 in San Francisco with a show called Creepy KOFY Movie Time. KOFY was KEMO back in the 70s, and Creepy KOFY is produced in the same building as SHOCK IT TO ME THEATER was back in the day. The energy and attitude is totally biker bar, with exotic dancers, loud bands and rude humor. But Creepy KOFY also regularly highlights local artists and fans. So it’s actually more traditional than it appears on the surface. Some older hosts are seeing something of a revival as well. Zacherley hosted a Halloween airing of Tarantula back in 2008, Elvira tried for a comeback and Karen Scioli, who played Stella, is currently working on THE GOTH MOTHERS OF TRANSYLVANIA with some of the people who worked on her old show. The Fox station in New Orleans, WVUE, is running old MORGUS PRESENTS… shows from the 80s on the weekends. And Morgus just released his movie, THE WACKY WORLD OF MR. MORGUS, on DVD. Bob Carter was Sammy Terry for in Indianapolis for decades and remains a beloved figure. His son Mark has recently done a few TV specials as his dad’s character, which may be the only instance of a blood heir continuing in the family horror hosting business. So there are interesting things happening, but it’s still pretty limited when you look at it nationally. There’s a fairly vibrant fan community who do host-type shows on public access. I don’t have any interest in these myself. It’s a tribute to the past, not a part of it. Nothing to do with the history of local television, when tens of thousands of people were watching these shows every week and hosts were having a significant cultural impact. The public access stuff seems to thrive at conventions mostly. It’s nice to see people having fun and I’m told there’s some good work being done. Just don’t take it too seriously. There are some of those public access types who are actually convinced the internet has turned them into superstars. I personally get offended whenever I hear someone talk about Ghoulardi or Vampira in the same breath as some guy in a cape out in East Bumblefuck, Wyoming who has his show up on YouTube. And then you get some costumed twerp making a diaper-load because they’re not being treated with the same degree of fawning respect accorded to Miss Diana Ross. I hear about this kind of crap and think, “This is precisely why I don’t have kids.” That said, there are a couple of very notable exceptions in the public access area. Dr. Gangrene in Nashville made the transition from public access to local broadcast TV and he’s a legitimate torch-carrier. He does a lot in the local community. Penny Dreadful does a great show and she really respects her local history. She produced a wonderful special on the horror hosts of New England. I think her – and a San Francisco-based performer, Ms. Monster – have a real chance to break through. They should be doing weekly television.

Where is the book available for purchase?

SHOCK IT TO ME can be ordered here. We’ve got one of those Paypal gizmos set up. Or folks can contact us through the site regarding alternate forms of payment.

What are you working on now? What’s next for Michael Monahan?

Lon Huber and I are doing the groundwork for a new project again focused on San Francisco TV. It’s about the many non-horror hosted movie shows. We understand for a general the hook is not as strong as a horror host book, but we feel it’s an equally colorful piece of history worth preserving. In addition to the usual car dealers and carpet salesmen hosting late-night movies, the Bay Area was home to some extremely creative and popular B-movie programs. The jewel in the crown was KEMO-TV’s THE WORST OF HOLLYWOOD, hosted by Bob Deckleman. This was the first show to really embrace the bottom-of-the-bill movies and put them in an historical context. In addition to screening genuinely tatty Poverty Row titles like SLAVES IN BONDAGE, RADIO RANCH and SWAMP WOMAN, THE WORST OF HOLLYWOOD was well ahead of the curve in rediscovering a number of genuine low-budget gems. They championed WHITE ZOMBIE and Edgar Ulmer’s DETOUR long before they were embraced by mainstream film historians. The show definitely approached their product with humor, but they were also fans and students of these films. THE WORST OF HOLLYWOOD conducted invaluable interviews with important show business figures like John Carradine, Mantan Moreland and Clarence Muse and provided background on what was at that time Hollywood’s hidden history. We had another show called THE OLD SOURDOUGH AND WACHIKANOKA that specialized in creaky old westerns. The hosts were an old prospector type and his uncommonly hip Indian companion. The team was huge with the college kids. In Sacramento, they had Geoff Wong’s ADVENTURE THEATER, affectionately known as G.W.AT. Wong took over the KCRA-TV 3 movie slot vacated by Bob Wilkins when he moved KTXL-TV 40. For a time, Wong hosted the Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto movies. Bob Wilkins would drop in occasionally to act as Wong’s “Caucasian houseboy.” Apparently, not everyone appreciated Wong’s attempt to underscore and mock the racial stereotypes in the films he was presenting. The station got flack for both the films and the humor. But again, this is why the history of local TV remains fascinating to me. People were allowed to try things and production was often seat-of-the-pants. And somehow, this crazy stuff made it onto the airwaves, creating a reckless imperfect energy that TV runs away from these days. These people entertained their friends and neighbors, and often affected them for a lifetime.

Michael Monahan Talks Horror Hosts and More

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