So there's one thing that everyone reading this really ought to understand: Halloween is the most important holiday we have out here on the Dork 40. It's like Christmas, Easter, July 4th, Waffle Day, and Jack the Ripper's Birthday all rolled up into one! We dude up the scarecrows in their scary best, harvest our punkins and carve them up in effigy, light bags of poo on fire, and then hunker down in the fields and await the arrival of the Great Pumpkin! I just know he'll come this year! I know it!
It's a busy time. But I'd feel like a poor host indeed if I didn't share the fun with you, my faithful readers. So I've decided to take part in the Countdown to Halloween, a crazy-ass blogging marathon in which I'll make a Halloween-related post each and every day in October, the bestest month of all. I'll review horror movies and horror comics, post Halloweenie videos and music, and on days when I'm feelin' real tuckered out from the blood farming, maybe just post up some scary pictures.
To start, I thought I'd talk a little bit about my hero and personal savior, Zacherley the Cool Ghoul.
Zacherley was not the first TV horror movie host, but he was the best.
(I was going to say, "arguably the best," but frankly... Them's fightin' words here on the Dork 40. We love a great many horror hosts around here, but don't you go singin' the praises of another host over good ol' Zach 'round these parts, or you'll be leavin' with a bloody nose.)
Anyway... Zacherley was a horror hosting genius, ad-libbing macabre gags between commercial breaks, creating catch-phrases for the Monster Kid generation, and making the most of his severely limited budget. He was a cottage industry unto himself in the 50s and 60s, hosting local horror shows in Philadelphia and New York, as well as a teen dance show. And he was a nationally-known recording artist! I highly recommend his Spook Along With Zacherley album (featuring such gems as "Coolest Little Monster," "A Wicked Thought," and "Transylvania PTA"). But he's best-known for this:
And rightfully so. This song was my first encounter with Zarcherley as a boy (though I couldn't have told you his name back then), and its gruesome lyrics left their mark on my tender brain cells. If I wasn't already destined to a life of Dork, repeated listens to "Dinner With Drac" on my K-Tel Looney Tunes album certainly sealed my fate. For this, and a dozen other reasons, Zacherley will always be my King of Halloween.
The Queen of that most awesome of holidays, however, is this sexy lady:
Vampira was the first TV horror movie host, beating Zacherley to the screen by at least a year. Debuting in 1954, she traded on a gothic sexuality and wicked sense of humor on her show, becoming a local sensation in the Los Angeles area and swiftly vaulting to national fame with a photo spread in LIFE magazine.
Vampira's star set much more rapidly than Zach's, though. Vampira owned the rights to her own character, and her refusal to sign those rights over to the station she worked for lead to her show's cancellation. By 1956 she'd gone from LIFE to cincematic death with what would become her most famous work on-screen: Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space. Vampira played Bela Lugosi's alien-resurrected wife, and she's well-creepy in the role. Her pop culture significance makes that greatest of all bad movies that much more amazing. In later years, her schtick was the obvious inspiration for Elvira, a similarity over which Vampira sued. Probably rightfully, she lost. Vampira herself was obviously (and admittedly) inspired by Morticia Addams, after all...
There's not much footage out there from Vampira's show. This was the early days of live television, on a local channel. We're lucky any of it survives. But here's the opening, which gives you a pretty good feel for what she got up to:
And there you have it. Countdown to Halloween, Day One. Strap yourselves in, folks. It's going to be a bloody ride...