Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Just Wanna Give You the Creape

So technical difficulties have delayed my planned funnybook post for tonight. It looks like Friday the 13th came on Wednesday this month! But I couldn't possibly skip Night 13 in the Countdown to Halloween! That would just be... wrong. So! Instead, you'll get another look at a classic local TV horror host, this time Nashville's Sir Cecil Creape:

"Did Someone Call?"

Sir Cecil hosted "Creature Feature" on WSMV, Channel 4 in Nashville, TN, from 1970-73. He was played by Russ McCown, a cameraman and film editor employed at the station, which tells you how much prestige there was (and still is!) in this horror hosting business. Still, the show was a big late-night hit, and Sir Cecil was awesome regardless of his background. I've only seen the very few clips I'll be sharing here tonight, but he immediately became one of my favorites. He had a great schtick, a cool set, and (if these clips are any indication) a droll, un-hip sense of humor. Plus, several episodes of Creature Feature were apparently written by Pat Sajak! Sajak worked as an announcer at WSMV at the time, and though I know nothing about the circumstances of how he came to write a horror host show, he gets massive Dork Cred for that!

Creature Feature opened each week with a voice-over from Nashville's first horror host, Dr. Lucifer, introducing the show and Sir Cecil. I couldn't fine any footage of it, but here's the narration: "Each of us carries upon his shoulders this bony sarcophagus, the grinning face of death. Within it resides the human brain, encompassing within its pulsating grey mass the totality of the cosmic consciousness. What a delicate instrument; capable of thoughts of inexpressible beauty, but often enslaved in mindless terrors by monstrous horrors that the mind cannot fathom, and indeed, horrors that may not exist except within the bony confines of the human brain box. This is Creature Feature... exploring the realms of the unknown. And now, from deep within the catacombs beneath our studios, here is your master of terrormonies, Sir Cecil Creape."



So, now that the mood's set... This first clip seems to be an entire Halloween episode...



Note: the guy who walks out at the end was a WSMV reporter who did a "happy news" segment for the station's news broadcast. So for local Nashville viewers, that ending was a lot funnier than it probably is for us today, sort of the horror host equivalent of Dave Chappelle's "Is Wayne Brady gonna have to slap a bitch?" sketch. But that kind of local color (much as it doesn't age or travel well) is one of the most charming things about these local TV shows. When Dr. Madblood makes a joke about Phoebus, or Svengoolie's "Berwyyyn?!" sound effect hits, the folks in their viewing area get an extra kick because they're in on the joke.

This next clip is from Creature Feature's 1971 Christmas episode. Dig the nightshirt on Cecil!



I also really love the second disembodied head here. That guy's hammin' it up somethin' fierce!

The lamp you see Sir Cecil carrying was custom-made for him by a friend who worked at a lamp factory. He took left-over or damaged bits and pieces from other lamps to cobble it together. Looks pretty sweet, though. Sir Cecil also had his enormous teeth made custom for him by his dentist! Yep! That's a real dental plate! Secrets of the horror hosts, ladies and gentlement! Laid bare for your edification and amusement!

Creature Feature ended in 1973, as I said above, but that wasn't the end for Sir Cecil Creape. A decade later, he returned on The Nashville Network to host 13 episodes of The Phantom of the Opry! This show ran for two years, and is probably what Sir Cecil's best-remembered for today, if only because it went out to a national cable audience. It was a bit more low-budget than Creature Feature, in spite of its connections to the actual Grand Ole Opry, and was aimed at a younger audience. Or, at least, had all the gruesome fun sucked out of it by the kinds of people who don't think kids should be exposed to that sort of thing. Bastards, the lot of 'em! Still, here's the show's opening, which was pretty cool...



And finally, I give you a deleted segment from the film American Scary, a documentary on the horror hosts. American Scary is fascinating viewing if you find this horror host stuff interesting. I'd already read two books on the subject by the time I saw it, so I knew a lot of the information in it already. But it's got tons of footage from the various shows it covers, and is still a fun watch even if you're a hosting freak like myself...



My favorite piece of info there is that Sir Cecil had an unofficial boy scout troop! Here's a better picture of that patch Dr. Gangrene's wearing, courtesy his awesome web-lab:

Best. Merit Badge. Ever.

5 comments:

  1. Great post tonight! I'm really beginning to get how similar the horror host gig might be to wrestling in that you come up with the whole schtick and that becomes your trademark. I guess clowns do the same thing.

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  2. Thanks, Gary! And, yeah. You're right on with the rasslin comparison, especially back in the old days of the local rasslin promotions with (once again!) local TV shows.

    Glad you're enjoying the horror host posts. I think I'll be doing more as we get closer to Halloween. I've still got a ton of hosts I love, but haven't talked about yet.

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