Tell us a lil' about the history of A. Ghastlee Ghoul and The Ghastlee Movie Show for those not familiar?
AGG: Well, we all know that "history" is very subjective, right? It is usually written and perpetuated by those seeking to validate or cover up their barbaric past, and is therefore 99% monkey-dung (for you laymen, that means "bullshit"). That said, let me throw a handful of personal perspective at ya...
I wanted to be a horror host since age eight (before that I wanted to be a cartoon-show host) when I saw Dayton's legendary Dr. Creep's very first episode of Shock Theatre. It was 11pm New Year's Day and the parents had gone to bed to sleep off the hangover still lingering from the night before, leaving me alone with my old friend the portable black & white. Creeper ran Mario Bavas's "Black Sabbath" on that maiden show, and between his hosting-- which leaned toward being genuinely scary in the beginning-- and the film, I ended up running back to my room and burying myself beneath the covers. Another child is scarred for life, and another horror host is born!
Before long my parents were joining me in watching the good Doc (aka Barry Hobart), and we discovered The Cool Ghoul from Cincinnati (Dick Von Hoene) too. While Creep was still playing it scary, The Cool Ghoul was a manic freakazoid. He was a disciple of the Ghoulardi school of hosting, I found out years later when I saw clips of The Great One, Ernie Anderson. It wasn't until the last 3 or 4 years that I discovered the Ohio Ghoul bloodline that courses beneath my greasepaint, running from Ghoulardi to The Ghoul (Ron Sweede), Son of Ghoul(Keven Scarpino), The Cool Ghoul from Northern Ohio (George Cavender), and countless other hosts they have influenced.
Then in 1978 I was introduced to the wonders of psychedelics and-- Oops! Uh, sorry. Wrong story!
Anyway, also blowing my mind back in 1978, was the miracle of cable television, which introduced me to Baron Von Wolfstein Presents: Saturday Night With The Monsters. The Baron was broadcast on the Bloomington/Indianapolis, Indiana area station Channel 4, and our cable outlet carried the station in Dayton. I consider myself so lucky to have seen this show in it's original run. Here was a variety of hosts that I'd never been exposed to. The Baron's cast included his hirsute self; the cockney lad Robin Graves; Carlyle The Invisible Wizard; and of course The Evil Vampire Cousin-- all brought to "life" by master showman Timothy Herron. I call The Baron, Dr. Creep and The Cool Ghoul from Cinci my "Illegitimate Stepdaddys", because they have been the major influences on the threats to civilization known as A. Ghastlee Ghoul and The Ghastlee Movie Show.
See? History can always be conveniently spun to blame someone else!
How long have you been hosting the show and how long do you think it will last?
AGG: The show started out as a sketch on a comedy series that a bunch of extraordinarily talented Dayton comics -- and myself-- did on cable access back in 1986, called The Underground Sideshow. Everyone else eventually got too busy to work on it anymore, but I still had WAY too much time on my hands and transmogrified it into my own image. The sketch consumed that which had spawned it! The cemetery opening with the hand rising from the grave of Vaudeville that we still use and re-abuse was the opening of the old show, and our production company is still called The Underground Sideshow.
I actually did Ghastlee on the standup stage a couple of times too in the beginning. In October the folks seemed to get it -- but in July a grown man in makeup telling dick-jokes was somehow not as well received...
How long will it last? I don't know... 'Til the Video-Viagra wears off I guess! So far the thing just keeps growing and growing!
Who are some of the hosts and people that have influenced and helped you along over the years?
AGG: Are you sleeping over there? I couldn't sworn we just covered that...? May just be the flashbacks again though...
Tell us about some of Ghastlee's favorite horror films. Any that stands out or scared ya as a kid?
AGG: Black Sabbath, as I said (I swear you aren't paying a bit of attention here!) freaked me out at a young age. That scene with the woman's corpse floating around looking for her ring is still burned vividly into my psyche. Vampire flicks of all kinds really creeped me out-- I always wanted to be a WEREWOLF! (Alas, I had to settle for a Ghoul!) Seeing the trailers alone for Count Yorga at the drive-in gave me nightmares. I watched The Shuttered Room by myself once at 2am when I was about 12 and found myself turning on all the lights in the house (That might have been a side-effect of the Thai-stick though...).
Favorites? That is a hard one. As Stephen King said, sometimes you want steak, and other times you want baloney. The old Universals are great. The silents like Witchcraft Through the Ages (Haxan), Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari are great for pure atmosphere. The 1963 version of The Haunting sustains unseen terror like no other film (The Blair Witch can blow me...). 80's films like Creepshow, An American Werewolf in London, John Carpenter's The Thing, Return of the Living Dead, and the Evil Dead 1 & 2 will always hold a special place in my dark little heart.
B: What about porno? Favorite stars?
AGG: Huh? What, are you having wet daydreams now? Ok, professionalism. Onward through the fog...
You know, I'm probably the only guy in the world who watches porn for the CLEAN parts! I look for the hilarious face shots (different than "facials") to drop into videos every now and then. The "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" video is the classic example of that. Speaking as a "normal", red-blooded American male though instead of an editing weenie, I'd say Madison, Keisha, and Christy Canyon. Madison has a freaky voice, Keisha is bouncy, and Christy Canyon is just plain TALENTED!
Over the years, what have been some of the more memorable moments on your show? Any forgettable ones?
AGG: I don't remember... ..
Your show is on cable access, right? So you can get away with some pretty racy stuff eh?
AGG: Up to a point. A year or so ago we got in some trouble for showing a video called "Free Puppies". It was footage from big "biker rodeo" set to music, and I thought it was very funny. Apparently though, several viewers didn't get the joke and not only complained but threatened to go to the City Council. The nudity didn't get us in trouble-- we've already licked that envelope-- but a scene of "near penetration" involving a young lady's bottom and a guy's nose apparently tweaked a few folks' sensibilities. That has been the only thing we've really gotten called on the carpet for, and in the station's defense, it was pretty indefensible! But, on the other hand (the sticky one), how far you can go on access is based on "public standard", which is an impossible standard to define without testing it.
We actually got the most complaints about the show where I just stared into the camera for a half-hour. It really seemed to freak people out! They were calling in saying, "I think he's the devil" and "I think he's trying to hypnotize me", but the station saw the humor in that and could back me up. I didn't leave 'em much ground to stand on with the Free Puppies short-- it was clearly WRONG, and I knew it when I aired it. Sometimes you just have to stick your face in a fan to see what will happen. Hell, I had no defenses for showing the thing other than "It was there" and I thought it was funny.
The blue stuff seems to be what we will be remembered for, though if you look back over the past going-on 15 years only a small percentage of the show is genuinely on the racy side. I like to push ALL the buttons of the collective unconscious though, and sex is definitely one that makes folks squirm in their seats. Politics, religion, and spiders do to, but make a few dick jokes or show a nude body and suddenly you are infamous. It's just a curious Puritanical throwback/hangup (Or throwup/hangback) we have as a culture; sex disturbs and disquiets us as a people. I just can't resist taunting with a pointed stick those things that dwell under the rocks of our psyche until their corpulant, inbred, fishbelly-white figures wriggle out in to the light. I'm just a born button pusher.
What's up with Ohio and horror hosts? Is there something in the water? Seems like the state is the capital of horror hosts, got more there than any place I can think of. Do you feel you're sorta upholding a proud tradition for the great hosts that have come before you?
AGG: "Aw, geez-- I'm lucky to be upholding my head in a somewhat vertical position! The thought of me carrying a mantle or anything else isn't a pretty one. I'm kinda clutzy and tend to drop things! Like I said though (Could you at least not SNORE while I'm answering ?), I only found out about the infamous "Ohio Horror Host Cluster" in the past few years. Now suddenly we've got four, soon to be five, in Dayton alone! Dr. Freak, the World's Youngest Horror Host lives here, and was raised on Shock Theatre and The Ghastlee Movie Show.
So another generation is spawned and unleashed upon an unsuspecting public...
I don't know about there being "something in the water" in Ohio. Probably more like something in the Kool-Aid...
Elvira has really big tits. Why doesn't A. Ghastlee Ghoul? Ever considered some implants to help boost the ratings?
AGG: I actually tried that once, but we never got any of it on tape. I couldn't quit playing with them long enough to make it to the studio.
And maybe a wig and shaving too. (hehehehe!)
AGG: Go back to sleep...
You're a musician also. Tell us about how influential music has been on you and your show. Any favorite performers or musical disasters of your own you'd like to mention?
AGG: Oh yeah, you were at the Cinema Wasteland "Horror Host Jam", weren't you? Hey, at least we passed out cookies and free stuff! That was one of those classic moments that you can never forget, or live down. I think it defines that Biblical phrase, "A Glorious Noise". Baron Von Wolfstein deemed us The Ungraceful Dead! That night was a perfect example of Murphy's Law and Ghastlee's Incompetence coming together, but nonetheless everyone seemed to have a blast. Not every day you get to jam with HG Lewis, and the whole audience essentially did get to do just that on the "Yeeeeee-HAH!" choruses!
That ugliness behind us, I've been playing in "ninety-nine-and-three-quarters percent original" bands off and on since the early 80's. One band that I played guitar and "vocalized" for, No One Cares, got a mention in Billboard Magazine and was on the fast track to a recording deal when, of course, we broke up. The bass player quit, and was essential in the songwriting. I still have the two cds we did that I keep threatening to release with the subtitle, "Ghastlee Sings(?)".
No One Cares used to do gigs with a band called Global Tango; a three piece band with just bass, drums and vocals. These guys were killer, and I kept telling them that they didn't need a guitarist, but maybe a keyboard player, if anything. So No One Cares breaks up, and lo' and behold I run into Tango's drummer Da Louf De Raja, aka: Louu The XXXmas Devil, in the grocery store. He says that they decided they want a guitarist who PLAYS like a keyboard player, and had me in mind. After quieting my heavy-metal noise to a hippy-groove level, the jam gelled and we were getting some good gigs around town. Global Tango was best live and outdoors, so we were playing festivals and opening for "on their way down the ladder" acts like 10,000 Maniacs and Joan Jett --and gaining a respectable fanbase and the attention of the local papers. We played to a crowd of 8,000 and had the place going nuts. Then Joan Jett played. Then, you guessed it, we broke up. The bass player quit and was essential in the songwriting. But the Tango stuff WILL be available at some point here in the near on cd and/or mp3. It just grooves, and it's such a bummer to just let it sit there collecting dust.
After that Louu and I had an acoustic project called the Midnight Morning Show for a little while, and then joined up with an old friend named Jas to form Rat Sass. We played your basic, balls-out freak-jam music. All instrumental, three-quarter's improv, and we would play for a LONG time without stopping. Jas and I would trade off on the guitar and bass in the middle of songs and shit, just PLAYING in the purest sense of the word. We did an hour-and-a-half long, non-stop, live jam along with Witchcraft Through The Ages in a real theater to a real audience and got a standing-O! Then -- oh you are so psychic-- we broke up. The bass player quit and was essential in the songwriting.
The moral of this story? I haven't figured that out yet. But bass-players suck! I'm gonna buy a set of Taurus pedals. Lou and I, and lately Baron Von Wolfstein and my squeezable sidekick Suspira have been making a little music around the house-- and that's where it all starts! Maybe The Ungraceful Dead will rise again, and this time they'll have had time to rehearse! (Re-hearse: That's what you have to do when you let Lou the XXXmas Devil borrow your car.)
What's up with Lou the Christmas Devil? Sidekick, right-hand man, or stoner?
AGG: All three-- and that's PROFESSIONAL stoner!
Talk about the Horror Host Underground. What is it? Who is in it? Is the horror host community in general happy with the underground? Is it growing? Does the underground have a Website or do you and your show, where interested boils and ghouls can go for info about either one?
AGG: The HHU is basiclly an autonamous collective of like-minded freaks who work together toward the common goal of shameless self-promotion. Check us out at www.horrorhosts.com!
What does it do?
AGG: There are two distinct aspects. One is the website www.horrorhosts.com, which is a reference guide to currently active horror hosts. We don't have EVERYONE on there who has a show yet, because hosts we didn't know about are popping up all the time and our Webmonster, Curtis, has his hands full keeping up with them all. (Which is, as that scary hostess Martha Stewart says,"a GOOD thing!") The idea is though, that if you are horror hosting right now then you are already a member of the HHU. "Gabba-gabba, hey! We accept you!" is our mantra. Just let us know you are out there and The Webmonster will put ya on the site-- when he gets caught up!
The second part of the HHU is the tape trading network. Those of us who can secure enough time on their local cable-access station run shows from other hosts around the Country in our areas. It's a genuine treat and honor for me. What began with a few of us trading tapes has turned into the opportunity to not only see but introduce to our audience folks like Halloween Jack (NJ), Doctor Sarcofiguy (Northern Virginia), Doctor Gangrene (TN), Baron Mondo Von Doren and El Sapo De Tempesto (FL), The Bonejangler & Nocturna (IL -- VERY ILL!), Professor Griffin's Midnight Shadow Show (TX), Doktor Goulfinger, Nightshadow, Doc Zombie, Remo D. and Mr. Lobo (all from different areas of California), and a bunch of other whackos. Even Count Gore, without whom there would be no HHU, sends bumpers and segments to make his ethereal presence known.
How has the Cinema Wasteland gig been for ya?
AGG: Ken and Pam Kish's Cinema Wasteland has become the high point of my year. It is not only the most laid-back show I've ever been to, but at the same time the most organized. They not only welcome we makeup-wearing freaks with open arms, but put us to work when we get there-- which is to us, the ultimate compliment. Our Ghastlee Night at The Movies show on Saturday night (October 4th) will be back for a third go again in 2003, and as always, with a different spin.
The first year was kind of a "get acquainted" show to let people know what we do here in the vast outback of the Sierra Umphweephwee region of Southwestern Ohio. Last year, as you know, was the Horror Host Jam Night, and this year we're doing the good, old-fashioned "Spook Show"; a format that has been long-neglected since the advent of television. This was Ken's idea; he comes up with these basic concepts-- like last year's Saturday morning Horror Host Roundtable discussion -- and trusts us to run with them. Of course there will be cookies, "music", plenty of bad jokes, and an even worse movie. Ken picked out "Bigfoot" for us to host this time around! We are already in the planning stages, and have begun amassing prizes such as the high-powered "Bigfoot Beer" to ply the audience with. "Here's a cookie, a beer, and a t-shirt, now won't you PLEASE be my friend?". Yep, we are just that pathetic.
Is it true you are starting a mullet appreciation society in honor of Ken Kish? Seriously, Ken's a great guy. He's a big fan of yours too I imagine, huh?
AGG: Yeah, I went for the low-blow with the mullet line during my and Ken's little onstage "Kaufmanesque" skirmish last year. In reality though, far be it from me to attack another man's haircut -- I'm working on the Larry Fine, Gallagher, Ben Franklin look over here!
Is Ken a "fan"? I have to laugh at the idea of Ken being anyone's fanboy. He is a great friend though, and is always very supportive of our antisocial behavior. Our friendship is based as much on mutual heckling as mutual respect, I suppose. We met through a mutual friend--film-maker Kenny Yakkel-- traded some tapes, and found the kindered spirit between us. Basically, I sent Ken some tapes of the show, and he sent me back copies of his "The Wasteland" and "It Crawled From the Garage" videos as if to say, "Oh YEAH?". We are both kinda sick fucks who love to edit together things to confuse, dumbfound and amuse the viewer. Ask him sometime about his "Love, Rain O'er Me" vid!
Will the Horror Host Underground be heading off to any shows anytime soon? Do you enjoy the cons?
AGG: Oh, hell yeah -- to both questions. The conventions have become like family reunions. While it's cool to meet new folks and interview the famous folk, what keeps us going back is the chance to see old friends and get together with other hosts. We all keep in touch obviously, through email, phone calls, and tape trading (Bonejangler even still writes the occassional "snail mail" communique too!), but the cons present an excuse for us all to chuck our "real lives" for a weekend and hang out with each other.
The HHU has only been around officially for about a year now, and we are already making our persistant presence known at a lot of different shows. As I said, Wasteland is like home for me so we'll be there again. Last year Dr. Creep, Dr. Freak, Baron von Wolfstein, Doktor Goulfinger, The Bonejangler & Nocturna, Doctor Mor BS & Co. and I. Zombi were all represented (and representing) at the HHU tables, while Dr. Shock, Son of Ghoul and Brains On Film had their own setups but still took part in the HHU madness. We're hoping for all those fiends and more to make it for 2003. I'd love to get Halloween Jack and Bago Bones from New Jersey to come down, and to get Doctor Sarcofiguy to make the trip from Northern Virginia with his producer (and our HHU webmaster) CW Prather. All my sidekicks (Isn't that a soap opera?), Suspira, Louu the Xxxmas Devil, Grimsburger, and of course my right hand man, Jeff McClellan: American will definitely be there this time around too.
I know Jack, Doc S. & CW (Curtis), Dr. Creep, Dr. Freak and Baron von Wolfstein will be on hand for Horrorfind 3 this year-- and possibly more. Count Gore, Carpathian and The Patient Creatures, and Son of Ghoul were all there independant of the HHU table last year too, and I hope they will all be back. As in 2001, Jeff McClellan: American and I will be the O-phishal video crew for Horrorfind 3, which is a genuine treat for us.
Bonejangler has secured a space for the HHU at The Flashback Weekend in Chicago this coming June, and so far as we know Halloween Jack, Svenghoolie and myself will be joining him there. Beyond that, the HHU will be represented, officially or unofficially, at Monster Bash in Pennsylvania, DragonCon in Georgia and probably Chiller too. I'm sure we are well represented at cons on the West Coast and across the Country as well, but the season is still a couple of months off and info is still flowing in. Keep checking the "Appearances" page at www.horrorhosts.com for breaking news!
What does A. Ghastlee do when he's not a ghoul? Any cool daytime gigs or jobs you care to mention? Or former bosses you wanna make fun of here?
AGG: "Cool" dayjobs? Does such a thing exist? I'm an audio-visual tech by trade, which is a nice way of saying I'm a glorified roadie. We do event presentation and support for corporate shindigs. Some days (or mostly nights) it's ok, but other times a job at a beer drive-thru looks pretty appealing!
Former bosses? I was self-employed for years, but I'd like to say this to the one prick who fired me (from the same company I work for yet again) in 2001: THANK YOU! The eight-month vacation from the daily grind gave me chance to concentrate on getting the Horror Host Underground up and running! As an appropriate aside, that guy has since been demoted to literally counting nuts and bolts for installation jobs. And all was right with the world...
How can people not in your area get a taste of The Ghastlee Movie show?
AGG: Well, you can always pick up tapes at the cons, write me at Ghastlee@horrorfind.com, or very soon check the "Shop" page on the HHU site. OR, if you are more ambitious, you can become an HHU affiliate and sponsor horror hosts on your local access station. There is plenty of info on the HHU site about how to do that, and/or you can write to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How long does it take for you and your elves to get a show together?
AGG: "ELVES"?!? Did they get in here again? I thought we exterminated for elves, gnomes and gremlins last month?
Man, how long it takes is a tough question. Some shows fall together in 5 or 6 hours of editing for a half-hour episode. Other times though, I've been known to spend up to 24 hours editing a single 4 minute video-- and the 2 hour episode where I chromakeyed myself into The Manster took an estimated 150 hours of editing alone to make it flow.
As far as shooting in the studio, that generally only takes a couple of hours. We go in with a very rough outline and just wing it. It's only video, so if we don't like a take we just do it again. Some days we'll shoot for 2 hours and get 2 hours worth of usable footage, other times you can shoot all day and get dick. It all depends on how things gel, but on average it takes about 2 hours or so to shoot enough for an episode. I just leave the camera running most of the time, so sometimes one show will come from actual semi-prepared material, while the another will evolve just from out-takes and the lot of us acting a-fool in between takes. It's nice to just let the camera run and capture the writing/improv process spontaneously.
Ok, last chance; talk about what ever ya want. Bitch, scream, rant and rave. Plug away as if it were you wedding night.
AGG: My god, you are a glutton for punishment! Those little cat-naps seem to really keep you on your toes. On the other hand, I've been talking to myself for a indeterminable amount of time and am exhausted! Check out my website at www.ghastlee.com, of course the HHU site at www.horrorhosts.com, and maybe another time I'll tell ya the story of "The Goat, The Vodka, and The Hole In The Sheet", aka, my wedding night!
Thanks A Ton!
AGG: Well, thank you the equivalent of our cast's collective body-weight on Jupiter! Happy Horroring!