OTHER HOOSIER MOVIE HOSTS, ETC.
The following is a list of hosts I personally remember, those others have mentioned to me, and some current hosts both local and national--JDM. If you have info on these or other hosts and personalities of interest, behind-the-scenes info, etc. please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org--JDM.
Before Sammy Terry WISH-TV Channel 8 had a horror host named Selwin, who reigned as Indy's master of fright from 1958-63. Find out more about Selwin, and his recently arisen namesake The Son of Selwyn in this site's new section The Selwin Family Crypt.
Ft. Wayne, IN. also had an early horror host, Dr. Meridian, who hosted a show called Shock! on WPTA-TV, Channel 21, Fridays at 9:45 P.M. during the 1950's (precise beginning and ending date uncertain). According to Elena Watson in her book T.V. Horror Movie Hosts (McFarland & Co., 1991) Meridian ". . .liked to work in his laboratory conducting experiments (including) . . .brain transplantation and the preservation of a human head." Any other info anyone out there might have on Dr. Meridian would be welcome!
The following is about a later horror host in Ft. Wayne, IN:
"I happened across your webpage regarding Hoosier Horror Hosts and wanted to pass along some information of my own, even if it is rather vague.
I spent a few years of my youth in Ft. Wayne, IN and while Dr. Meridian (the original 1950's horror host for the city) was a bit before my time, I do remember the second incarnation of the old "Shock!" package of films on tv there.
I was just a kid, so I'm guessing it was around 1969/1970/1971 (?) and the host of WPTA's (channel 21) "Shock Theatre" was a chap who called himself either "Asmodius" or "Asmodeus". He was a young guy, probably early 20's, suitably slim for a vampire but with sandy blond hair and a psuedo-English accent. He wore a simple outfit, white shirt, black pants and black cloak. He did the intros and segues to the films fairly straight, without the campy humor popular with many of the hosts. At least for the first year.
I also recall that the show began each week with an organ playing Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" as the title "Shock Theatre" was superimposed on the screen in blood-dripped script. You'd usually see a shot of a tarantula and a skull with candles burning around it before "Asmodius" would rise from his coffin to introduce the night's film.
Years later, I bumped into the "actor" who played "Asmodius" at a local bookstore. His name was Jeff Gibson and he revealed that had been a college student at the local IPFW campus, making ends meet by hosting horror movies! He seemed pretty embarassed by being recognized, so I left the poor guy alone.
I'm sorry that all of this is so vague. As I mentioned, I was in grade school when "Shock Theatre" aired so the memories are fond but dim, I'm afraid. I don't even recall exactly when the show aired (or even if it aired on friday nights or saturdays!) but I enjoyed reading your webpage and thought I'd pass on some info from northern Hoosierland. "
Simon Adams (lifelong monster fan)
(Note: "Asmodeus" is a biblical demon, I imagine that's the spelling they used--JDM.) 10-29-02
Okay, now I got this letter in August 2002 concerning a Ft. Wayne host named "The Shroud". Is this the same guy as the "Asmodeus" mentioned above by Simon? Maybe one of you Ft. Wayne fans can iron all this out:
Hello. Just stumbled upon your site in my search for information on WFFT-TV Channel 55's "Nightmare Theatre." Since I noticed you didn't have a listing for this nifty li'l show from the late 1970s early 80s Fort Wayne market, I thought I'd share what info I have with you.
The show was hosted by The Shroud, a black cloaked figure who took his hosting gig pretty seriously. No jokes. No camp. No gags. As I recall each show would open with spooky music (it may have been the theme music from "Dark Shadows", if not something awfully similar), and the camera would move in on a small model castle. The little draw bridge would lower, then the Shroud would appear ala blue screen effect. He would introduce the movie and give a few tid bits of information... the year it was made, stars, etc. In the middle of the movie he'd come in and give a mini-biography of horror actors, or inside information on certain movies. He would end every show with his catch phrase "Until next time - Pleasant Dreams!" The first year or so the show aired, they ran mostly classic Universal stuff... Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, etc. Later they ran some 50s stuff like "Them!", "The Day the Earth Stood Still," and so on. And they even ran a few Godzilla movies later on. Nightmare Theatre ran Friday nights, as I recall. I believe in the mid 80s they changed the name to "Shock Theatre," sadly without the Shroud or any host for that matter. Eventually, they did bring in a new host to capitalize on the Elvira craze. This one was played strictly for laughs (although not very good ones), and featured a caretaker for the "Plasma Motel." Didn't last long. Eventually, I believe, Channel 55 went with the syndicated version of Elvira's show.
You may have to do some research of your own to verify this, but I recall hearing a rumor when I worked at Channel 15 that Kent Horman, sports anchor for Channel 55 at the time Nightmare Theatre aired (and currently a sportscaster for Channel 33 and announcer for the Fort Wayne Komets), was actually the Shroud. I have no idea if this rumor is true or not.
I was in Junior High when Nightmare Theatre aired and I was a huge fan. I watched every Friday night. I didn't even really care which movie ran... I was just fascinated with the Shroud. I drew my own little comic book adventures based on him and even had my grandma sew a Shroud costume for Halloween one year. I have uploaded an autographed picture of The Shroud as well as a letter I received from him in response to a fan letter. If you can use either of these or any of the information I've provided, feel free.
Thanks for your time!
Ernie "Wil" Radcliffe
John Bee and Clem. Joe Busam mentioned this as being an act on Channel 4 in an email from awhile back (see the Memories Section) and it struck me this might be the ventriloquist act I remember from probably the late '60's (a very distant memory I must admit). No doubt all will be revealed on the upcoming Channel 4 anniversary show. Does anyone else know more? I have a definite memory of seeing Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein hosted by a ventriloquist and his dummy. I also seem to remember repeated advertisements featuring the Monster crashing through a gate from A&C Mt. Frank. (the famous story is that the Monster in that scene was Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange having broken his ankle or something along those lines if I remember correctly). I don't think hosting horror films was this guy's normal gig--it was kind of a special deal (maybe a Halloween show?).
A recent (11-6-03) email I received from Jaynerand@Comcast.net throws a bit more light on John Bee:
". . .This was John B. Slowey who worked as the director on the Popeye & Janie show and now and then filled in or guested on the show with his "dummy" Clem. I think for a time he may have been the interim host on the Popeye show."
Jaynerand@Comcast.net mentions another WTTV movie host of the 1960's in an email sent me Nov 06 2003: "Noah Miller - who was mentioned in another email - was the general manager of WTTV for a time, and also hosted a late night "Tonight" style show on WTTV for a few months. He also did the station Editorials. Mr Miller lost his life in a car accident during the later 1960's - while still working at WTTV. (Note that the letter Joe Busam got with the Sammy Photo he received in 1965 was from Noah Miller--see the Sammy Terry Image Gallery).
Jaynerand@Comcast.net also mentions that actress Frances Farmer, an Indy television personality for a time, also hosted movies:
". . .Another hostess who would show sci-fi was Frances Farmer herself. At least one of her movies each week had a sci-fi theme. I remember one Saturday when she showed "Caltiki the Immortal Fire Monster" she wore a red dress in his "honor" - she also mentioned during one break: "And now stayed tuned for the conclusion of 'Caltiki, he Immortal Fire Monster' - if you must." She had a great sense of humor about these movies and was very knowledgeable about them - or her writers were."
Frances Farmer Presents appeared on (then) WFBM Channel 6 (at the time Indianapolis's NBC affiliate) for 6 years from the late fifties into the early sixties. Here's a link with more info about Frances Farmer and her period in Indianapolis: http://www.oocities.com/~themistyone/post.htm (Thanks to Ron Sering for steering me to this link--JDM).
Mark Kratzner reminded me that for a number of years Sammy had a companion program which also ran on WTTV, Science Fiction Theatre (not to be confused with the t.v. series of the '50's), which ran on Saturday evenings and had its emphasis on Sci-Fi as opposed to horror (in the eighties Sammy showed his share of Sci-Fi, but in the early days he stuck more to the horror genre--although the first film I ever remember seeing on Sammy was Forbidden Planet, so there was no hard and fast rule). As Mark points out: "For a time is was the only way to see Godzilla, Gamera and other Japanese movies". SFT didn't have a host, it was just a double feature of films every Saturday, but the selections were usually pretty good (film selection on programs like Nightmare Theatre and SFT were generally determined by a "package" of films which the station would purchase from a distributor such as Columbia Pictures' Screen Gems).
Johnny George of WFMS/WGRL/WGLD radio here in Indianapolis reminds me not to forget the late night movie show on TTV-4 with Wilhemina, the clean-up lady after Sammy went off the air. Mr. George, who has has worked with Bob/Sammy, passes these comments along: "I've been an avid Sammy fan and friend. Bob and I have done several radio and business promotions over the past 15 years or so. Nice guy. Had him on the air at Gold 104.5 just last month (August '97) for our WayBack Week."
Of course there's this guy who currently has his own show on some podunk network called CBS. David Letterman is from Indianapolis and got his start on Indianapolis television, including a gig hosting movies for a time. Still researching the particulars. . . (my major memory of Dave on Indy area t.v. is that he was the host for a time of Clover Power, a 4-H show. He had very big hair at the time. The show was on Saturday afternoons a little after the cartoons were over, circa late '60's/early '70's--JDM).
This from Douglas Case:
"David Letterman took over the Ch. 13 all-night weekend movie show from a fellow named Jack O'Hara. It was originally called Nite (or Night) People Theatre. Most sources now call Letterman's version Freeze-Dried Movies, but I think the name change came later. O'Hara, if I recall, was an English professor at Marian College and leader of an improv group whose name escapes me. He was wildly funny, making fun of the movies and the sponsors and occasionally turning up on-screen during the film. Letterman was somewhat tame by comparison.
dmc (2-28-03) "
"Hmmmmmm....there seems to be a bit of disagreement on the timeline between Letterman and O'Hara, as I received this on 1-7-04:
Enjoyed reminiscing about Sammy Terry and other hosts on your site. Regarding David Letterman, I recall he once hosted Saturday night movies in Indy. Was it before he did the weather at Channel 13? He was very funny at it.
Also, please look into a Saturday night movie host named Jack O'Hara. He came after Letterman, somewhere in early 70's. His show was sponsored by Schoenling Little Cream Ale-we all called him the "Schoenling Beer Man". He was the funniest and possibly most creative of all hosts. After commercials he would pull himself back up to the bar, "appearing" drunk and slurring his words. He would superimpose himself into the action movies and fight pirates with brooms and other props. He'd pop in and out at any time. We would all meet at the TV room of our fraternity house at Purdue at midnight with our dates to be entertained by Jack for awhile - the movies were pretty boring. He later joined the advertising community in Indy and was one of the most creative and humorous there in the 70's. Where did he go?
Michael Short, formerly of Bloomington, remembers a Bloomington host called "The Fearmonger". The name suggests to me that this was a relatively recent host (I could be wrong). Anyone else know anything about him?--JDM.
When Movies Were Movies was a wonderful program which appeared on Sunday evenings for several years on WISH-TV. It was aptly hosted by WISH program director and resident film historian Dave Smith, and had an emphasis on classic Hollywood films. I remember seeing a number of Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart films for the first time on this show. Dave is a retired Telecom Professor at Ball State University and in addition to hosting this show he was the creator of Indianapolis' first horror movie host, Selwin. Dave has been kind enough to share his memories of his work at Channel 8 with the webmaster (see the Selwin Family Crypt for more). Dave not only worked in the very early days at Channel 8, but prior to that worked for a number of years for WTTV Channel 4, when it was still primarily a Bloomington station. Look for Dave's When Movies Were Movies website, coming soon!
The particulars on WMWM are as follows: the show ran for eight years on WISH Channel 8, 1971-78. The creation of the show was prompted by the station's purchase of a package of film classics. The show got great late-night ratings and was soon moved to a more favorable time slot on Sunday evenings. In 1975 Dave retired from Channel 8 and took up his teaching position at Ball State, but continued the hosting chores on WMWM. In the late '70's the station decided it didn't want to continue with the classic films. Dave moved over to WRTV Channel 13, where for a year he hosted a show called Friday Night at the Movies with Dave Smith. While this show was on Channel 8 played out the last of it's contract on its classics package, still using the When Movies Were Movies heading, but without a host. Later when WISH dropped the show entirely Dave trademarked the WMWM name. He resurrected the show in 1987 on WTTV Channel 4, once again for just a year. A later effort to bring the show to a network of low-wattage t.v. stations fell through due to lack of capital.
A July, 1998 visitor to this site remembered WMWM this way:
"The show would open and Dave Smith would come on and talk
about the film, then the film would start. They had a Universal package
at that time, meaning they also had some of the Paramount features from
the 1930's-40's. After the first commercial break (or sometimes the
second) Dave would come on and talk some more about the film. He might
show a clip from another film staring the actors in that night's
selection. For example, when they ran Mississippi with W.C. Fields, they
ran his bit from Alice in Wonderland. When they ran Duck Soup, they ran
clips from Monkey Business and Horsefeathers. After the film, Dave would
return for a closing comment and that would be that. Now the reason why
I remember this so well, is because I had audio taped a few of the
movies (namely the Fields and Marx Bros. films) and listened to them
quite a lot. I even wrote in to get the listing of the films they were
running in the series. Don't ask me what happened to the list, it has
been a long time since I last saw it."
Channel 4's one time General Manager Don Tillman also hosted a movie program similar to When Movies Were Movies for a brief time on WTTV. Under Tillman's guidance WTTV became one of the most successful independent stations in the country--he was eventually lured away to a Los Angeles station.
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