They Should Have Interviewed the Bowman Body…

A new DVD is appearing on the shelves today, and it’s a documentary celebration of one of my most-loved things: the late night horror movie shows and their (usually) cheesy hosts.

American Scary
looks like a labor of love, and the list of horror hosts and experts the filmmakers interviewed is certainly impressive:

Forrest J. Ackerman
Douglas Agosti – Dr. Shock
Ernie Anderson – Ghoulardi (archive footage)
Curtis Armstrong
Bob Billbrough – Hives the Butler
Jerry G. Bishop – Svengoolie
John Bloom – Joe Bob Briggs
Bob Burns
Bill Cardille – Chilly Billy
Tim Conway
Shane Dallman – Remo D.
John Dimes – Dr. Sarcofiguy
Richard Dyszel – Count Gore DeVol
George ‘E-Gor’ Chastain
Lowell Cunningham
Frank J. Dello Stritto
Jeanne Dietrick – Joan E. Cleaver
Brian Easterling – Butch R. Cleaver
Reed Farrell – Christopher Coffin
Hart D. Fisher
Joseph Fotinos – Professor Anton Griffin
Neil Gaiman
Donald F. Glut
Chris Gore
Jim Hendricks – Commander USA
Timothy Herron – Baron Von Wolfstein
Bob Hinton – A. Ghastlee Ghoul
Barry Hobart – Dr. Creep
Joel Hodgson – Mystery Science Theater 3000
John Kassir – The Cryptkeeper
Eric Lobo – Mr. Lobo
Leonard Maltin
Hayden Milligan – I. Zombi
Michael Monahan – Doktor Goulfinger
Joe Monks
James Morrow
David Nielsen
Mark Newman – Dr. Mor B.S.
Kevin Novotny – Ghoul-a-Go-Go’s Vlad Tsepis
Maila Nurmi – Vampira
The Patient Creatures:
Bob Beidman – Carpathian
P.D. Cacek – Moira the Banshee
Andrew Ely – Grimm
Virginia Ely – Kuzibah
Mia Rotondo – Miss Scarlett
Kevin Rice – Ghoul-a-Go-Go’s Creighton
John Rinaldi – Big Chuck and Li’l John Show
Tom Savini
Keven Scarpino – Son of Ghoul
Chuck Schodowski – Big Chuck and Li’l John Show
Karen Scioli – Stella
Roberta Solomon – Crematia Mortem
Ron Sweed – The Ghoul
John Stanley – Creature Features
Patricia Tallman
Jeff Thompson
Phil Tippett
Larry Underwood – Dr. Gangrene
Len Wein
Darren Wilhite
Bob Wilkins – Creature Features
John Zacherle – Zacherley

But my two favorites aren’t on here. When I was growing up and living in Hampton, Jerry Harrell created Dr. Madblood for the Hampton Roads NBC affiliate. In 1975, Harrell’s not-so-mad doctor was wonderfully counterculture, a perfect mix with that new show on late on NBC, Saturday Night. Madblood, I think, is still on, too — on another channel — and he has a website that I urge you to visit.

Even more important, in my formative years prior to Madblood, as I started collecting Famous Monsters of Filmland, Vampirella, Creepy and Eerie, and my favorite, The Monster Times, we did not have cable television. Channels from far distant lands would occasionally bleed through the invisible airwaves, and on the weekends, if I angled the rabbit years just right, I’d be rewarded with WXEX Channel 8, and the best and funniest horror host I’ve ever seen: Richmond’s own Bowman Body.

I’ve written about Bill Bowman and his late night impact before, in one of my previous blogs and in the Richmond Times-Dispatch at Halloween 2007, so I won’t repeat myself too much here. My only wishes are that the filmmakers had interviewed Bill about hosting a horror show in the South in the early ’70s . . . and that Bill knows how fondly his viewers remember him thirty-some years after crawling out of a puke-green coffin in cape and hi-tops.

As far as I’m concerned, Liberty still rings the ol’ bell!

Monsters, Mayhem and the Bowman Body

My friend, Cliff, loves the classic movie monsters. So do I. That’s the cover of a book he loaned me. I instantly recognized it, and for a few seconds even thought I owned a copy; then I realized I had never been able to find it, anywhere, but I owned a sequel of sorts, bought in the mid-’70s:
I hit adolescence in the 1970s, reading Forrest J. Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland, reading Swamp Thing and Eerie and Creepy and Vampirella. Although I lived on the Peninsula, on good nights we could get Channel 8, WXEX, Petersburg-Richmond, and we Hamptonians would be graced with the presence of the Bowman Body, his patented green tennis shoes, and his cry of “Liberty rings the old bell!”
Three notes before I go on:

1. Bill Bowman, thanks! A friend of mine and I, in high school, wrote a Bowman Body poem, which you read on air. You named only me as the author, though. My friend, I fear, still hates me. This is the impact which you had upon us.
2. On the day I got my first driver’s license, what did I do? I drove two friends in my father’s Galaxy 500 to the WXEX studio, to watch a taping of the Bowman Body show. The show was great and hilarious. However, on the way home, I totaled Dad’s car. He forgave me.
3. I mentioned the Bowman Body in a book review in the Times-Dispatch earlier this year, and Bill was gracious enough to call and leave a voicemail message, thanking me for the mention. Bill, if you’re reading this, I’d love to talk with you. I need to thank you for your sense of humor and for showing wonderful movies!

The great Universal monster movies have been with us since 1931’s Dracula, made without a film score, just after talkies were introduced. In 1966, Universal first syndicated their classic monster movies, some of which made it to Bowman Body’s show. Some made it to Shock Theater on WVEC in Hampton-Norfolk (I still remember hiding my eyes whenever Lon Chaney, Jr. appeared on my parents’ black and white TV as the Mummy), and some later made it to Dr. Madblood on WAVY out of Portsmouth. Bowman Body showed a bunch of American-International horror movies, if I remember correctly, and Madblood is the place where I first watched the original Dracula and Frankenstein.
The black and whites were always the movies of choice in Famous Monsters; but the ones that hit home with me and my friends were not Universal’s monsters, but the more contemporary horrors of Hammer. (More on Hammer in a later post.) I mean, Lugosi’s Dracula is really a Victorian play of manners and repressive traditions. I could well imagine the dramatic and fearful impact the caped vampire had on the screen in 1931; but such melodramatic stage theatrics were dull and old-fashioned in the ’70s, when all my friends were watching Madblood and wondering what he was smoking in his pipe, and “Dracula” was appearing daily on Sesame Street.

Bowman Body and Madblood were facilitators — our connectors to the movies. No matter how old — or, in many cases, how awfully, truly bad — the movies were, our hosts would make us laugh and wink, and at the same time share with us the joy and wonder of these cinematic horrors. This was a good time, and a good way to grow up — watching the flickering, grainy shadows of television with your friends and family, laughing at all the wondrous weirdness.

I’ve never gotten over it. I never will.

Thanks, Bill. Thanks, Jerry.

I owe you guys a lot.