Monday, October 24, 2011

Schlock and Roll: Keeping It Campy With The Count

This Article is a repost from OKC.NET.   I am  reposting it here because The Count is a child hood hero and John Ferguson is a long time friend I've known since I was 14 years old.  An inspiration to my long career in Television can be traced back to my early conversation with John on the phone about Television production.  So it is with a great sense of pride and anticipation I wanted to introduce my friends to Count Gregore.

Schlock and Roll: Keeping It Campy With The Count

October 23, 2011

“How often does a grown man get to pretend to be Bela Lugosi? Not often enough.” -Neil Gaiman. John Ferguson prepares to take the set as Count Gregor. Photo by: Gene Glasser

I can’t explain it. I am apprehensive to be an apologist for a counter-cultural movement born out of the fears and the zeitgeist of the black and white generation, but here I am some sixty years later a dyed-in-the-wool “monster kid”, member of the flock who find our shepherds in the horror hosts and a devotee of the B-movies they brought to us. I am among the thousands of fans with stacks of “Famous Monsters of Filmland” and “Fangoria” piled next to an open E.C. horror comic with its own host, the Cryptkeeper pointing his gnarled finger towards the two-headed baby on the next page.  It is a cult following that can’t be easily explained. If you get it, you get it. If you don’t then you likely never will.

"It was a time on television when horror hosts mingled with kiddie-show clowns, afternoon heroes of sci-fi adventures, sock-hop DJs, and live wrestling announcers." Photo by: Gene Glasser

It comes from another era. It was a time on television when horror hosts mingled with kiddie-show clowns, afternoon heroes of sci-fi adventures, sock-hop DJs, and live wrestling announcers. Like rockabilly revivalists and modern pin-up and burlesque babes, there is a whole new generation taking on the mantle and trying not to let the chills and thrills die, but what we cannot do is recreate the world of a generation born in the shadow of the atom cloud. Sure we have our own terrors and nightmares (terrorism being only one) but it is with some touch of nostalgia now that we can look back on the early 1950’s and the great grandfathers of the modern horrorheads with sincere appreciation of being the first to bring to us through the eerie glow from the one-eyed monster known as television pulsating brains, battling giant monsters, and creeping horrors of all sorts.

The horror show has come a long way since 1953. Photo by Gene Glasser

I am talking here about the horror show hosts. It is generally accepted the first horror host came in the form of Vampira, who hosted  low-budget suspense films in 1953.  In October 1957 old Universal horror movies were syndicated to television in a collection known as “Shock!”, which encouraged local outlets to host these movies and from then on all across the nation new legions of creepy “Uncles”, “Earls” and, of course, “Counts” arose as weathermen and booth announcers rushed from their day jobs to another part of the studio so that they too might bring their alter egos to life. “Shock!” was followed by others like “Creature Features,” which added to the growing plethora of traditional monsters, the Hammer films, the Toho Studios, the Japanese giant monsters and other schlock B-movies well into the 1960’s and 1970’s.  These monster show hosts continued into the 1980’s and where they became a part of my own childhood. Although it comes from another era, it feeds into something larger that lurks in the dark shadows of our minds.

"I vant to drink your vlood!" Photo by: Lacey Dillard

In Oklahoma City, we have our own horror host, John Ferguson. He had been a small town kid from Indiana, the proverbial 90lb weakling by his own account. He worked as a naval typist to “giving the whole Hollywood thing a go for a few years” and eventually settling into Oklahoma as an announcer in radio and the early days of live television with NBC affiliate, WKY Channel 4. John Ferguson was able to secure a role on the weekday afternoon “3-D DANNY” show, which was hosted by local television legend Danny Williams (Williams had served as a mentor for Mary Hart of who co-hosted Entertainment Tonight). Ferguson got the role after experimenting with make-up. Originally inspired by Ming the Merciless, Ferguson created Duke of Mukedom who was the archrival for Danny D. Dynamo, the show’s star. In an era of live television and non-existent production budgets, John found himself playing multiple roles on the show as he mastered voices and villainous poses. John was asked by station management to experiment with his make-up kit again, much like he did to get on Danny’s show, and invent a character who would host late night horror movies for the “Shock!” package of films. John’s career as “Count Gregor” (an –e was added at the end somewhere along the line) began on a Saturday night, May 10th 1958 at 11:30 p.m., which on-air immediately after live-wrestling hosted by Danny Williams.

John Ferguson as "Count Gregore" still going strong. Photo by Gene Glasser
“Shock!” morphed into “Thriller” in 1962 and aired at midnight. In 1964, John switched networks to KOCO channel 5 and his program became, “Nightmare Theatre”, which aired through 1972.  In 1973, John returned to WKY and the Count was seen on “Sleepwalker’s Matinee” until 1979. The national package known as “Creature Features” followed.  The Count moved again to “Count Gregore’s Horror Theater” on independent channel KOKH 25 and then to KAUT Channel 43 and “Saturday Horror Theater” which ran until 1988. Count Gregore’s thirty year run with local television leaves him well-remembered and he continues to be recognized by fans today.
Which brings us to present day.
Like rockabilly revivalists and modern pin-up and burlesque babes, there is a whole new generation that is not ready to let go of this classic part of American culture. The Count has made appearances on KAUT’s “2 Movie Guys” hosted by Lucas Ross and Ryan Beldgardt. He has also mentored a whole new generation of hosts such as Brian Young aka Dr. Fear of “The Mysterious Lab” and also Gordon Grimly of the groovy internet radio program, “The Grimly Show”.
John Ferguson has become my close friend, but it is without bias that I declare in the world of late night horror hosts our Count Gregore to be among the top of the heap.  John jokes with me, “Count Gregore is the creation that wouldn’t die!” He gives a thoughtful pause before concluding, “Nor would we ever want him to…” Local channel, KSBI 52 will be airing a Halloween special and has already sold out every single advertising block. It is NOT an easily accomplished feat for a small channel built on a “live and local” philosophy to sell all it’s blocks of advertising from 11 p.m. to 1a.m. Rather it is able to achieve these sales with the help of an internet following that refuses to let the legend of Count Gregore die. It has been said that these sorts of horror hosts are irrelevant in the new century and are seen by most as a part of television history. Why is it that so many are clamoring to see the Count reborn yet again? Now on KSBI, John brings back the camp and hosts a public domain piece of schlock, “The Brain that Wouldn’t Die” (shot in 1959, but released in 1963) with bits produced on a budget that cost practically nothing. KSBI was willing to air but not produce what is being billed as “Count Gregore’s Nightmare Theatre”. John is recycling the same title sequence from his 1960’s “Nightmare” series. The program was produced by John Ferguson using a production studio volunteered by Boiling Point Media’s Hugh Hale and a cast and crew of friends (such as Ryan Beldgardt behind the camera and even myself operating the fog machine and helping to decorate the low-rent set with Halloween store finds and random junk). John writes (and mostly adlibs) the bits that borrow vaudeville style oneliners and wacky horror silliness.

Yet, it still works.
The secret as to why it works might come from remarkable X factor, much like in the movie where the mad scientist refuses to let his love die and hunts the night for replacement bodies for her brain. Quite simply: the fans refuse to accept mortality of John’s creation. The Count is our love and we will not let him die or else that inner-child bundled with and blankets on the basement couch munching popcorn and jumping at shadows will die too. That is something that we will not let happen, born in the shadow of the atom cloud, creeping through the smoke of the sixties, discoing through the seventies and nearly fading into obscurity in the eighties and nineties…our Count is a part of our regional culture that must not be forgotten. So here we are in the last days of 2011, ready to bring our own trick-or-treating spawn before our big-screen plasmas with their fresh haul of Halloween candy to watch John Ferguson reanimate our horror host Count Gregore at least one more time.
If you are an undying fan of all things horror and a fan of Count Gregore, then let KSBI know that you want to see him return to being the ghoulish grandpa of Saturday night local television. Let them know that you will be watching this Saturday, October 29th at 11 p.m. on KSBI and any other time they bring Count Gregore back to our sets. This legend, like the vampires it draws inspiration from, is meant to be immortal. It will take more than stakes, silver bullets or an ever-changing media culture to kill the Count.

Friday, April 1, 2011


Lon Chaney (1883-1930)
"The Man Of A Thousand Faces"
Famous silent film actor Lon Chaney was born Alonzo (Leonidas Frank) Chaney, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on April 1st, 1883. He was called "The Man of a Thousand Faces", due to his uncanny ability to transform himself into many types of characters through makeup and pantomime. Few actors suffered as much physically for their craft as did Chaney. In one film he had his arms strapped tightly to his body to play the part of an armless knife thrower. In another, to look like a vampire, he wore a set of false teeth so enormous that he was in constant pain during filming. In yet another film he placed metal rings inside his eyelids to give himself a staring look.
Chaney was born the son of deaf-mute parents. His effort to communicate with them was probably the chief reason that he became so expert a pantomimist, and so perfect an actor for the silent movie era. His brother owned a theater, so Chaney found stage work early. He toured as a comic song and dance man before attempting a screen career, starting in 1912. Chaney played scores of minor parts, usually cast as a villain. His first big break came in 1919's "The Miracle Man", in which he played a bogus cripple called "the Frog". His makeup artistry was so inventive that he could play two parts in one film, and the audience wouldn't recognize him. Lon Chaney's greatest success came in two dramatic roles, "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame" (1924) with Patsy Ruth Miller, and "The Phantom Of The Opera" (1925), opposite lovely Mary Philbin. Other memorable films of Chaney's include M-G-M's first feature, "HE Who Gets Slapped" (1924), opposite John Gilbert and Norma Shearer, "Laugh, Clown, Laugh" (1928), opposite teenager Loretta Young and Nils Asther and "The Unknown" (1927), opposite a young Joan Crawford.

Lon Chaney in Laugh, Clown, Laugh -

Lon was married twice, to Frances Chaney, from 1905 till 1915, and then to Hazel Hastings, from 1915 until his death in 1930. He had a son with Frances, named Lon Chaney Jr., who also became a famous actor, mostly working in the horror genre. Lon Chaney died of throat cancer on August 26th, 1930, after completing his first talkie, a remake of his previous silent classic, "The Unholy Three" (1930).
~ Copyright © 2004
Vintage Bio from "Who's Who On The Screen" (1920): "This splendid character actor was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado April 1, 1883. Following his graduation from the public schools of Colorado Springs, he made his debut on the stage as a comedian in a play produced by his brother and himself. The year 1912 first saw Lon Chaney upon the screen. His debut was made as a slapstick comedian in a Universal production. He has been seen to advantage in "Hell Morgan's Girl," "The Riddle Game," "Treasure Island," "The Penalty," and "The Miracle Man." His portrayal of the psuedo cripple in "The Miracle Man" was as fine a bit of character work as has ever graced the screen. He is fond of all sports, and is an expert cook. It is Mr. Chaney's ambition to be a peer in the art of make-up."
Lon Chaney's Silent Films
Thunder (1929) .... Grumpy Anderson
Where East Is East (1929) .... Tiger Haynes
West of Zanzibar (1928) .... Phroso 'Dead-Legs'
Lon Chaney and Anita Page in While The City Sleeps,
Lon Chaney and Anita Page in "While The City Sleeps" (1928)
While the City Sleeps (1928) .... Dan Callahan
  Loretta Young with Lon Chaney in Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928)
Lon in "Laugh, Clown, Laugh" and Lon and Loretta Young in the same film (1928)
Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928) .... Tito Beppi
Big City, The (1928) .... Chuck Collins
London After Midnight (1927) .... Burke
Mockery (1927) .... Sergei
Unknown, The (1927) .... Alonzo the Armless
Mr. Wu (1927) .... Mr. Mandarin Wu/Mr. Wu's Grandfather
Lon Chaney in Tell It To The Marines (1926), his favorite film role
Lon Chaney, sans makeup, in "Tell It To The Marines" (1926), his favorite film role
Tell It to the Marines (1926) .... Sgt. O'Hara
Road to Mandalay, The (1926) .... Singapore Joe
Blackbird, The (1926) .... The Blackbird/The Bishop
Tower of Lies, The (1925) .... Jan
Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin in Phantom Of The Opera (1925 version)
Lon Chaney as Erik with Mary Philbin in "Phantom of the Opera" (1925)
Phantom of the Opera, The (1925) .... Erik, The Phantom
Unholy Three, The (1925) .... Professor Echo, the Ventriloquist, aka Mrs. 'Granny' O'Grady
Monster, The (1925) .... Dr. Ziska
Lon Chaney as the doomed scientist, Paul Beaumont, in "HE Who Gets Slapped" (1924)
HE Who Gets Slapped (1924) .... Paul Beaumont, aka HE
Next Corner, The (1924) .... Juan Serafin
Lon Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
Lon Chaney with Patsy Ruth Miller in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923)
Hunchback of Notre Dame, The (1923) .... Quasimodo
Shock, The (1923) .... Wilse Dilling
While Paris Sleeps (1923) .... Henri Santodos
... aka Glory of Love, The (1923)
All the Brothers Were Valiant (1923) .... Mark Shore
Blind Bargain, A (1922) .... Dr. Arthur Lamb/The Ape Man
Quincy Adams Sawyer (1922) .... Obadiah Strout
Shadows (1922) .... Yen Sin,'The Heathen'
Oliver Twist (1922) .... Fagin
Light in the Dark, The (1922) .... Tony Pantelli
... aka Light of Faith, The (1922)
Flesh and Blood (1922) .... David Webster
Trap, The (1922) .... Gaspard
... aka Heart of a Wolf (1922) (UK)
Voices of the City (1921) .... O'Rourke
... aka Night Rose, The (1921)
Bits of Life (1921) .... Chin Chow
Ace of Hearts, The (1921) .... Mr. Farallone
For Those We Love (1921) .... Trix Ulner
Outside the Law (1920) .... Black Mike Sylva/Ah Wing
Nomads of the North (1920) .... Raoul Challoner
Lon Chaney in The Penalty (1920)
Lon Chaney in "The Penalty" (1920)
Penalty, The (1920/I) .... Blizzard
Gift Supreme, The (1920) .... Merney Stagg
Treasure Island (1920) .... Pew/Merry
Daredevil Jack (1920)
Victory (1919) .... Ricardo
When Bearcat Went Dry (1919) .... Kindard Powers
Lon Chaney with makeup kit -
Lon Chaney with his own make-up kit
Paid in Advance (1919) .... Bateese Le Blanc
Miracle Man, The (1919) .... The Frog
Man's Country, A (1919) .... 'Three Card' Duncan
Wicked Darling, The (1919) .... Stoop Connors
False Faces, The (1919) .... Karl Eckstrom
Danger, Go Slow (1918) .... Bud
Talk of the Town, The (1918) .... Jack Lanchome
That Devil, Bateese (1918) .... Louis Courteau
Riddle Gawne (1918) .... Hame Bozzam
Broadway Scandal, A (1918) .... 'Kink' Colby
Fast Company (1918) .... Dan McCarty
Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin, The (1918) .... Bethmann-Hollweg
... aka Beast of Berlin (1918)
... aka Kaiser, Beast of Berlin, The (1918)
... aka Kaiser, The (1918)
Broadway Love (1918) .... Elmer Watkins
Grand Passion, The (1918) .... Paul Argos
Empty Gun, The (1917)
Scarlet Car, The (1917) .... Paul Revere Forbes
Anything Once (1917) .... Waught Moore
Triumph (1917) .... Paul Neihoff
Pay Me! (1917) .... Joe Lawson
... aka Pay Day (1917)
... aka Vengeance of the West, The (1917)
Rescue, The (1917) .... Thomas Holland
Fires of Rebellion (1917) .... Russell Hanlon
Doll's House, A (1917) .... Nils Krogstad
Flashlight, The (1917) .... Henry Norton and Porter Brixton
Girl in the Checkered Coat, The (1917) .... Hector Maitland
Mask of Love, The (1917) .... Marino
Hell Morgan's Girl (1917) .... Sleter Noble
Piper's Price, The (1917) .... Billy Kilmartin
Price of Silence, The (1916) .... Edmond Stafford
Accusing Evidence (1916)
Place Beyond the Winds, The (1916) .... Jerry Jo
Felix on the Job (1916) .... Tod
If My Country Should Call (1916) .... Dr. George Ardrath
Mark of Cain, The (1916) .... Dick Temple
... aka By Fate's Degree (1916)
Grasp of Greed, The (1916) .... Jimmie
... aka Mr. Meeson's Will (1916) (UK)
Bobbie of the Ballet (1916) .... Hook Hoover
Gilded Spider, The (1916) .... Giovanni
... aka Full Cup, The (1916) (USA)
Tangled Hearts (1916) .... John Hammond
Grip of Jealousy, The (1916) .... Silas Lacey
Dolly's Scoop (1916) .... Dan Fisher
Father and the Boys (1915) .... Tuck Bartholomew
Stronger Than Death (1915)
Under a Shadow (1915) .... Jealous Husband
Millionaire Paupers, The (1915)
Lon of Lone Mountain (1915) .... Lon Moore
Mother's Atonement, A (1915) .... The Husband
Alas and Alack (1915) .... Her Husband
Fascination of the Fleur de Lis, The (1915) .... Duke of Safoulrug
Pine's Revenge, The (1915) .... Black Scotty
Chimney's Secret, The (1915) .... Charles Harding
Quits (1915) .... Frenchy
Mountain Justice (1915) .... Mountaineer
Bound on the Wheel (1915)
Trust, The (1915) .... The Burglar
Violin Maker, The (1915) .... The Violin Maker
Steady Company (1915) .... Factory Worker
Stronger Mind, The (1915) .... The Crook's Pal
Idyll of the Hills, An (1915) .... Mountaineer
Girl of the Night, The (1915) .... Jerry
... aka Her Chance (1915) (USA: reissue title)
Grind, The (1915) .... The Old Man
... aka On the Verge of Sin (1915)
Maid of the Mist (1915) .... Postmaster
Desert Breed, The (1915) .... Fred
All for Peggy (1915) .... The Stable Groom
Outside the Gates (1915) .... Perez
Where the Forest Ends (1915) .... Paul Rouchelle
Such Is Life (1915) .... Tod Wilkes
When the Gods Played a Badger Game (1915) .... The Property Man
... aka Girl Who Couldn't Go Wrong, The (1915)
Threads of Fate, The (1915) .... The Count
Measure of a Man, The (1915) .... Lt. Jim Stuart
Smalltown Girl, The (1915) .... The Procurer
Star of the Sea, The (1915) .... Tomasco
Sin of Olga Brandt, The (1915) .... Stephen Leslie
Her Escape (1914) .... Pete
Night of Thrills, A (1914) .... Visitor
Lion, the Lamb, the Man, The (1914) .... Fred
Lights and Shadows (1914) .... Bentley
Her Life's Story (1914) .... Don Valesquez
Virtue Is Its Own Reward (1914) .... Duncan Bronson
Pipes o' Pan, The (1914) .... Arthur Farrell
Richelieu (1914/I) .... Baradas
Higher Law, The (1914/I) .... Sir Stephen
Her Bounty (1914) .... Fred Howard
Miner's Romance, A (1914) .... John Burns
Oubliette, The (1914) .... Chevalier Bertrand de la Payne
By the Sun's Rays (1914) .... Frank Lawler
Her Grave Mistake (1914) .... Nunez
Ranch Romance, A (1914) .... Raphael Praz
Hopes of a Blind Alley (1914) .... Vendor
Old Cobbler, The (1914) .... Wild Bill
Forbidden Room, The (1914) .... John Morris
Heart Strings (1914) (unconfirmed)
Unlawful Trade, The (1914) .... The Cross Blood
Tragedy of Whispering Creek, The (1914) .... The Greaser
End of the Feud, The (1914) .... Wood Dawson
Lamb, the Woman, the Wolf, The (1914) .... The Wolf
Embezzler, The (1914) .... J. Roger Dixon
Menace to Carlotta, The (1914) .... Giovanni Bartholdi
... aka Carlotta, the Bead Stringer (1914) (USA)
Discord and Harmony (1914) .... The Sculptor
Remember Mary Magdalen (1914) .... The Half-Wit
Honor of the Mounted, The (1914) .... Jacques Laquox
Lie, The (1914) .... Young MacGregor
Bloodhounds of the North (1913) .... Mountie
Red Margaret, Moonshiner (1913) .... Lon
... aka Moonshine Blood (1916) (reissue title)
Back to Life (1913) .... The Rival
Elephant on His Hands, An (1913) .... Eddie
Almost an Actress (1913) .... Cameraman
Trap, The (1913/I)
Shon the Piper (1913) .... Clansman
Sea Urchin, The (1913) .... Barnacle Bill
Poor Jake's Demise (1913) .... The Dude
Blood Red Tape of Charity, The (1912) .... Marx, a Gentleman Thief

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New Films

Life Under Communism 1962
Daniel Schorr
good sound
For sale on Ebay: From Omartoon

Photos are taken from  actual screening

 Daniel Schorr - one of the cornerstones 
of CBS News in the 1950's and 60's

In January 1962,Daniel Schorr aired the first examination of everyday life under communism in Romania and other Eastern Block countries. For  Life Under Communism,  Schorr was granted the rights to conduct the interviews. By airing everyday life, Schorr painted a picture of the necessity for a Communist state to seal itself off from the West in order to survive. called a "journalistic coup".