welcome to GHOULARDI-VILLE!!!

Our first (and so far only) homage to this . . . this . . . this
is Michael's Fangoria article!

Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film author, Michael J. Weldon reminisces about Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson) in this Fangoria Magazine article.


ecco un ottimo articolo su di lui, inizialmente avevo pensato di tradurlo, e forse un giorno lo farò... ma è meglio non trattenere il respiro nel frattempo. un grazie a

da sempre l'alfiere del cinema stravagante, che a sua volta lo ripubblica da un vecchio numero di

ma vafFangoria!

l'horror magazine per eccellenza.


I interviewed Ernie (Ghoulardi) Anderson and Ron (The Ghoul) Swede for this, my first (of many) articles on GHOULARDI. It appeared (as The Hosts That Ate Cleveland!) in Fangoria #24 in 1982, which led to Anderson, then the voice of ABC network, being a guest on Late Night With David Letterman. The editor was "Uncle" Bob Martin.


The Hosts That Ate Cleveland!

Staying Sick With Ghoulardi and The Ghoul-
The Saga of Horror Hosting in Cleveland.
By Michael Weldon

   Cleveland, Ohio, the city known variously as "the best location in the nation" and "the mistake on the lake" would do well to erect a statue of Ghoulardi in the public square. This city should be proud to have given America the longest-running (and, some say, the best) horror movie host character ever-Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson), who first showed his phoney-bearded face in February of 1963, and whose traditions are carried on to this very day by his personally endorsed successor, The Ghoul (Ron Swede).

        Cleveland's very first horror host was equal in legend-Pete "Mad Daddy" Myers, whose influence was felt by both Anderson (who worked with Myers in radio) and by Swede, who recalls trick-or-treating in a Mad Daddy guise as a youth. Myers was a very popular radio d.j. who talked constantly in rhyme; donning a cape with bat-wings and hood, he became WJW TV's "Shock Theater" host, presenting the Universal greats from the 30's and 40's, surrounded by a mad-lab set and a constant flow, of dry ice fog. Once, for a publicity stunt, Mad Daddy jumped out of an airplane over Lake Erie, an event immortalized by the Ohio-derived psychedelic rockabilly group The Cramps, in their song Mad Daddy: "Gotta pair of shades and purple shoes, gotta parachute to land on you." But in the early 60's, he returned to the d.j. profession, on New York's WNEW. Only they wouldn't let him be Mad Daddy anymore. No more rhymes, no more mania. Says Ernie Anderson, "I knew him well. He came on every day after me on the radio. He was terrific, brilliant cat. He was so brilliant that he killed himself. Lunacy, man." Say The Cramps, "Jumps so high, never come down-left the record goin' round and round." When Mad Daddy died in 1968, some people suggested it was the stale radio format he was forced into that drove him to it. He probably had to play Miriam Hopkins' "Those Were The Days" just one time too many.

        Ernie Anderson was born in Lawrence, Mass., served in the Navy and attended college before becoming a personality d.j. in such cities as Providence and Albany. In 1958, he moved to Cleveland, starting at WHK, which played non-rock hits, like "Arrividerci, Baby." "I got hell for playing 'The Purple People Eater.' It was a bit too off the beaten path for them even though Time magazine had written it up." In 1961, Anderson became a booth announcer at KYWT V, where he met Tim Conway, who wrote most of the announcer's copy. They became good friends, and were fired together when station management learned they were planning to do their own show for a rival station. Shortly thereafter, Ernie's Place, a morning movie show, appeared on WJW-TV, hosted by Ernie and directed by Conway; during breaks Conway would appear as various odd characters who would be interviewed by Anderson in the "improvised comedy" style of Bob and Ray. Years later, after both had gained a measure of fame and fortune in L.A., they recorded two albums of this material for Liberty Records, Are We On? and Bull. In 1962, Steve Allen came to Cleveland, "discovered" Conway and signed him up for his national TV show, where he was featured in Allen's notorious "Man in the Street" interview bit. Anderson continued with Ernie's Place, but hated it without Conway: "I had to do dull-ass straight interview shit," he recalls; he soon returned to booth work and straight commercial announcing, as Conway went onto a series success in the Ensign Parker role in McHale's navy.

        Anderson was soon lured back on screen, however, when the station manager of WJW asked if he'd care to host a new package of horror movies the station had just acquired. One Friday night, Ghoulardi was born, full-grown-a spooky gent in moustache, goatee beard and fright wig, lit only by a spotlight shining up from the floor. The darkness around his face pulsated with the rhythms of strange music, as he introduced his first film- which Anderson recalls today as "something about a claw," possibly Corman's Attack of the Crab Monsters, a perfect choice.

        The Ghoulardi character caught on right away, and with good reason. Anderson's cynical nature and comic timing, mixed with his beatnik jive and great music from 50's radio, added the perfect tone to the station's incredible collection of science fiction and monster trash hits. His show became an important event to kids, to the extent that police reports indicated a 35 % drop in juvenile crime on Friday nights. Would be delinquents were watching Ghoulardi flail his arms around, knocking over his pet raven (named Oxnard; it was stuffed), trying to keep his various phoney hair pieces in place, and telling everybody to "turn blue!" and "stay sick." His popularity led to an additional show on Saturday afternoons, and this one even had a set, which allowed the crazed fiend to run around knocking over walls and lighting firecrackers. He wore a full length coat, every inch of which was eventually covered by buttons sent in by fans. Viewers also frequently sent in their custom-made car and monster models, and home-made, battery-operated "Rube Goldberg"-type inventions, so that Ghoulardi could show them on television, and then blow them up with firecrackers! It was a bit too anarchistic and anti-social for many parents, but the complaints just helped the ratings. He also got a lot of flak for ridiculing other local media stars, mostly newscasters and hosts of other kid shows. Since one of Cleveland's top kiddie hosts (the one that talked to an invisible parrot) was discovered walking around the lakeside in a scandalous state on more than one occasion, one might well wonder which was the healthier influence.

        The films included the standard Roger Corman and Bert I. Gordon classics, but even dogs like Satellite in the Sky and The Daughter of Dr. Jekyll were tolerated just for the sake of experiencing Ghoulardi, who was often blue-screened into the features. He could be seen running down the street, dodging the atomic breath of The Giant Behemoth, or hiding out in the sewer with Lon Chaney in The Indestructible Man. Whenever a plane took off, an old newsreel of an experimental bi-plane crashing was inserted. When a frightened heroine opened a door to face a monster, she saw instead a film of an old toothless man contorting his face into impossible proportions (he was the winner of a "gurning" contest), while "Pap-pa Oom Mow Mow" blared from the TV speakers. Because of the exposure, "Pappa Oom" became a hit (again) in Cleveland; the Rivingtons even appeared on Ghoulardi to lip-synch the single and returned to the studio to record an even more astounding follow-up, "Mama Oom Mow Mow." (NOTE: No doubt thanks to the inclusion of "Pappa Oom Mow Mow" in the movie E.T., the Rivingtons' only album, Doin' The Bird, has been reissued and the group has re-formed. Watch for them in your town.)

        The other music on Ghoulardi's show consisted of impossibly cool instrumentals like Duane Eddie's "Desert Rat," "Green Onions" by Booker T. and the MGs, "Eddie's Blues" by Eddie Cochran, "The Bat" from the Ventures in Space album (a must for any Fangorian's record collection), and local Cleveland oddities like "Stronger Than Dirt" by Tom King and the Starfires (later The Outsiders of "Time Won't Let Me" fame) and "Pygmy" by Baby Styx and the Kingtones. Jimmy McGriff's instrumental version of the Ray Charies standard "I've Got a Woman" sold so well after it was heard on Ghoulardi that McGriff recorded an even better new single in the host's honor-"Turn Blue." Both are on McGriff's greatest hits album.

        Another highlight of Ghoulardi's show were weekly visits to "Parma Place, "which looked like a cheap trial run for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, starring Ernie Anderson as a muckraker named Jerry Kriegle. Every morning Kriegle heads for Lake Erie with his boots, raincoat and rake. In Parma, everybody wears white socks, eats Cheez Wiz sandwiches and keeps up with the neighbors by buying more pink flamingoes for their lawns. "Who Stole the Kishka" and other polka hits provided the background music, until some of the residents of the actual Cleveland suburb of Parma complained about perceived insults to their Polish heritage; public officials were eventually able to scare the station into canceling the segments.

        Ghoulardi made a great many public appearances, including Coca Cola Days at Euclid Beach, a classic turn-of-the-century amusement park which has since been torn down to make way for ugly condos. During one Euclid Beach Coca Cola Day, a young guy named Ron Swede showed up in a gorilla suit led on a dog chain by friends. Says Swede today, "Ernie couldn't believe I was stupid enough to wear a gorilla suit in the 90 degree July heat." Anderson invited Swede to appear as a gorilla on the show; he soon became a 13-year-old-go-fer and fan-mail respondent, spending after-school hours forging Anderson's Ghoulardi signature on postcards sent to all the fans who wrote in or sent models or inventions, while watching every move the star made. By this time, the show was in color (the first color film shown was House of Wax), and in addition to the Friday night and Saturday afternoon shows, there was Ghoulardi, Laurel and Hardy every weekday afternoon at 4:30. Seven doses of Ghoulardi per week was great for the fans, but it got to be a bit taxing for Anderson. One of Swede's early jobs was to see that Anderson got to the set on time for each show. On one Saturday, Anderson was at Cleveland Stadium, watching the Browns. Time for the show to start came and went; he kept watching. After a while he showed up, asking his audience what they thought—"I'm gonna be here for the opening of this stupid show when I could be watching the football game?" The audience loved it; it was the sort of outrageousness that made Ghoulardi

Ghoulardi. The station manager was just plain outraged. The same guy had axed the Parma Place segment, and once tried to substitute reruns of the old Thriller series for the movies. Says Anderson, "I had nowhere to go but down. I was tired of fighting these people, so I decided to quit the whole thing and move to California. "He taped two months of shows, and by November of 1966, when the last show aired, Anderson was long gone. He became a character actor on Tim Conway's short-lived comedy cowboy series Rango. Then Carol Burnett lent a hand, by introducing Anderson every week, Ed Sullivan-style, in the audience of her popular variety series. "Who is Ernie Anderson?" bumper stickers started cropping up in L.A., and the running gag/publicity gimmick led to freelance announcing jobs. Now, 15 years later, Anderson is the voice of prime-time ABC, a network announcer and one of the most successful in the business. Every time you hear a voice-over promoting The Love Boat, The Fall Guy, Three's Company or That's Incredible—that's Ernie Anderson. He played an announcer in John Badham's Emmy winning TV movie The Law, and has the main on-screen announcing role in the midnight movie hit Tunnelvision. He even did some voices for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. "I've seen it, but I've no idea where my voice was used," he says. "But I just got another thousand dollar check in the mail for my work." He still has tapes of some of his bits from the Ghoulardi show; of these, he says, "I just like to show them to my kids so they can say, 'Look what my old man did-what an asshole!"'

        Meanwhile, back in Cleveland, Ghoulardi's Friday night spot became The Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show. Hoolihan (Bob Wells) had been WJW's Hoolihan the Weather Man; Big Chuck Shadowski was a cameraman and engineer for Ghoulardi, and had co-starred on "Parma Place." Except for pizza-eating contests, where high school jocks stuffed their faces until you were sure they were going to puke on live television, Hoolihan and Big Chuck were no match for the madness of Ghoulardi. They were quiet, didn't offend anybody, and they substituted Tom Jones and Peggy Lee tunes for Baby Styx and the Rivingtons. Bob Wells was so nice, in fact, that he became born again and moved down south to do religious broad casting (if you get WTBS on cable you can now see Wells hawking Bible cassettes in a commercial funnier than anything he did as Hoolihan). His replacement was a midget with a moustache called Littlejohn. As boring as the Big Chuck and Littlejohn Show is, it's now in its 16th year of broadcasting!

        Ron Swede continued working behind the scenes of the Friday late movie; in 1972 at age 21 after attending Bowling Green and having been totally bored by his experience with Hoolihan and Upchuck (as he calls them), Swede got Ernie Anderson's permission to revive Ghoulardi on a UHF station, channel 61. WJW, however, owned the named Ghoulardi, so Swede dropped the -ardi and christened himself The Ghoul. But The Ghoul soon started working up bits of his own; his totally berserk interpretation of the same character roller-skates madly about the ruins of the set, stopping only to answer a knock on the phone, or to abuse Froggie the Gremlin. Froggie, older readers may recall, goes way back to the early 50's Saturday morning Buster Brown kid show, where the green critter harassed host Andy Devine into a sputtering hulk. The Ghoul's version still shows up to pluck his magic twanger, but he's no match for his new partner, who throws him, stomps him and blows him up weekly—a ritual that predates the popular "Mr. Bill" segments of Saturday Night Live. As Chef Curdle, The Ghoul cooks up a Thanksgiving turkey by stuffing it with kielbasa and Cheez Whiz, then blowing it up with M-80s till it festoons every corner of the studio. He uses the great old Ghoulardi music, but adds newer tunes as well — when he started, he played the New York Dolls' "Trash" and "Personality Crisis" every week. And, of course, he has a new generation of garbage films to choose from; he promises 3-D features soon, and more hits like Kiss of the Tarantula and Don't Look in the Basement.

        For a time, Ghoul Power spread throughout the country, when his show was syndicated on seven Kaiser stations in Detroit, L.A., San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and, of course, Cleveland. The fact that he was a big hit in Detroit, but flopped in Boston might tell you something about his appeal. Kaiser broadcasting gave up the ghost in 1975, so the ghoul

relocated to a new station in Detroit, where he ruled the local airwaves until September 1982. Thereafter, when Swede got wind that his old home base, channel 61, was being revived, he picketed the station until they gave in and hired him back-Ghoul Power is back in Cleveland! Like his predecessors, Ron Swede is also a disc jockey. On the local FM soul station, WBMT, The Ghoul himself can be heard yelling, "Hey, Group! Here's Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five with their monster hit 'The Message', and you won't believe the words to this one!"

        Big Chuck and Little John continue their hosting in Cleveland, and there's also Superhost, a comic caped character, who is now working under the station manager that tried to get Ghoulardi to show Thriller repeats. "The mistake on the lake" may have lost 25% of its population in the last 10 years, but it has three horror hosts! Some big cities only have one — New York doesn't have any! By those standards, it looks like Cleveland really is "The best location in the nation!"


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