The 2016 presidential election candidates are terrifying, and while I know Halloween is less than two weeks away, I try to imagine growing up in such scary world without scary movies. And, not just slash ‘em, gash ‘em bloodfests, but good, old-fashioned, cheesy grade B, monster-type movies on TV, hosted by a trusted monsterologist to bring you along.
I don’t know how kids do it these days.
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There are many lads and lasses in these parts old enough in years (yet young enough at heart) to remember this laugh, “Nee-aahahaahaaa!”
Growing up in the Detroit television market during the 1970s, I was one of the legion of kids who saved Saturday afternoons for one show, and one show only — Sir Graves Ghastly.
When we kids of the 70s heard Sir Graves intone these words, “Turn out the lights, pull down the shades and cuddle up in your favorite spot by the telly . . .” we knew fun would ensue. From the inside, Sir Graves would open his prop-coffin, sit up and talk to us about that morning’s upcoming film.
A few years back, when I heard Sir Graves would not open up his coffin anymore (he really died), I was distressed. See, I was that kid. A geek and a nerd. Don Rush was the kid who watched every Saturday to see if his drawings made it to the Art Ghoullery, the kid who often wrote Sir Graves with questions about monsters, the kid who sent Christmas cards to Sir Graves. (And, I grew up to talk about myself in the third person, pretty cool, yeah?)
Ah, the years passed as they do. When my sons were old enough, we used to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Comedy Central. That was back in the early 2000s. I — we — really enjoyed the schmuckery and childish humor. Alas, it too, passed. But Sir Graves, ohmygawd I used to love that show. And, it wasn’t like we had great television reception up here in the hinterlands of north Oakland County, all the other stations had clearer reception than Sir Graves’. Which is to say, Channel 7 (ABC) and Channel 4 (NBC) and Channel 9 (Windsor TV) came in better than the CBS affiliate, Channel 2 (Sir Graves’ station). Despite the crystal clear programming on the “other” stations, I stayed with the fuzziness and the occasional wavy picture on Channel 2. I was loyal to Sir Graves.
To those too old or too young to know of Sir Graves, his show was wrapped around monster movies. Old classics, like The Mummy, The Wolfman, Frankenstein and Dracula to “B” films of the 1950s and 60s, like The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Robinson Crusoe on Mars and Godzilla were shown. He hosted the movies I still love today. He also did “comedy” skits and acted out a number of other characters (including The Glob — a character painted on his chin, filmed close up and upside down).
Just by happenstance, after I heard the news of Sir Graves’ death, I found a yellowed postcard with Sir Graves’ face on it. I remembered how excited I was to get that in the mail — I got it cuz I had sent him a Christmas card. On the back, stamped in red, were the words he ended his show with, “Happy Hauntings.” That was in about 1973.
I was going to write, “I was surprised I saved that postcard.”
But, probing a little deeper into my psyche, I am not surprised at all. Like I said, I was a geek of a kid.
One cold, winter’s Saturday afternoon, Sir Graves was showing the original Wolfman, with Lon Chaney, Jr. Dad was on the couch, Mom was in the kitchen, the girls and I were on the floor in front of the “telly.” I noticed when the woeful Lawrence Talbot turned into the Wolfman, and ran away, it was on his tippy-toes.
“Dad,” asked I, “Why does the Wolfman run on his toes?”
Dad didn’t know. “Mom,” asked I, “Why does the Wolfman run his toes?”
“I don’t know, why don’t you write Sir Graves?”
And, as soon as the show was over, write I did. For the record, I never got the answer. Also, for the record, I did see my art in the Ghoullery on three occasions.
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Today, on social media, I have “liked” a Sir Graves page. It is
kinda cool. Later in my years, I watched, a goatee’d Ghoul host his movie show. The Ghoul was silly and a little more “late nightish” in his humor and the movies were not classic, B grade. I’d put them in the cinematographic C or D grade.
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To research for this column, I Googled “Sir Graves” and found very a cool site hosted by Keith Milford, www.sirgravesghastly.com. Lots of pictures, facts (Like, the show ran from 1967 to 1982 and at one time, 70 percent of the tuned in audience for the Detroit Metro market watched him. Amazing.) and history about Lawson Deming — aka Sir Graves. I recommend the site.
Happy Hauntings and next week I will introduce you to The Power of Zoltan! (And, no, that is not a cheesy movie, rather a candidate for the presidency of these here United States of America!)
Remember Sir Graves? E-mail: Don@ShermanPublications.org