Monday, October 10, 2011

GhoulardiFest 2011 (October 14, 15 and 16 in...Parma, of all places)

Article by Charles Cassady, Jr.

Here is proof Cleveland has lost a lot of its class (not to mention jobs) since the 1960s. Lebron James recently left the region for better career opportunities, and he became reviled, his Cavaliers jersey burned by hostile natives. But about 50 years ago Ernie Anderson left town, ‘taking his talent elsewhere’ for better career opportunities. No sour grapes at all, and now there's an annual festival in his honor.

Show your love when GhoulardiFest 2011 takes place at perhaps the most Parma of venues possible outside of a pierogi restaurant, the UAW Local Hall at 5615 Chevrolet Blvd. The festival is a weekend of special guests, local TV and media nostalgia, and the Ghoulardi-grade brand of science-fiction, comedy, fantasy and horror cinema (so if Lebron bankrolls a "Friday the 13th" movie in which Jason invades Miami, maybe he'll earn redemption points).



It's virtually impossible to imagine North Coast culture without Anderson, who, as host of WJW-TV's "Shock Theatre," put on a garish costume and spiced up B-grade horror and downmarket sci-fi flicks for insomniac viewers in beatnik-comic fashion for a few brilliant years there in the mid-1960s. The silver-tongued announcer, unrecognizable in his fright wig, would do blackout comedy bits (some including a young sidekick named Tim Conway), sound effects, songs and the catchphrases. "Turn Blue!" "Ovaday!" "Dorrrothy..." This last a dig at a co-worker, legendary local newswoman and author Dorothy Fuldheim, whom, I am given to understand, didn't "get" the hipster humor and didn't know what to make of the attention Anderson/Ghoulardi threw her way. That's why there's no FuldheimFest, take it as a cautionary tale.

There's long been a claim that the juvenile crime rate dropped across the viewing area whenever Ghoulardi was on local TV, because all the young troublemakers were transfixed in front of the tube by their hero. Well...you hear that one repeated in every market that has a neighborhood horror host. I've traced it to the late '50s for a New Orleans character called Dr. Morgus. But there's no question of Ghoulardi's popularity, though Anderson himself (and Tim Conway) subsequently departed for Los Angeles and a successful career doing comedy LPs and voiceovers, most famously for ABC television. Anderson (who died in 1997) left his schtick in the respectful (?) hands of successors Charles "Big Chuck" Schodowski and Ron "The Ghoul" Swede, among others.

Big Chuck, sidekick John "Li'l John" Rinaldi, and other special guests from inside and outside of town will be present, as well as movie and comic-book memorabilia dealers, authors, pizza-eating contests, screenings of Ghoulardi-style material (at least two documentaries exist on the guy) and more. Saturday night traditionally brings a costume party and contest. I remember one year there was a woman with her head stuck in a trick mad-lab surgical table in tribute to THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE, who was an audience favorite, though I dug the two guys who had the Green Hornet and Kato down pat, complete with judo-stance poses.

Now come on, does anything showing now in Cleveland movie theaters sound that fun? Yeah, you better shift uneasily and stare at your feet, Cinematheque!

Hours of GhoulardiFest are Friday, Oct. 14, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 16, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is $13 at the door for adults, free for children under 12, with a $25 weekend pass. (cost of admission has actually gone down over the years!). For more information go to www.theghoulardifest.com.

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