Monday, October 28, 2013

Mark Ghoulardi's 50th anniversary at the GhoulardiFest in (of course) Parma, Nov. 1, 2 and 3


Event preview by Charles Cassady, Jr.

Hey group ovah dey! This year marks the 50th anniversary of an icon of Cleveland-area television. A hip, goofy guy whose tousel-haired face and pop-eyed stare are renown to all late-nite Cleveland viewers. A cool character whose catchphrases are part of the lexicon. An alternative  hero of the creature-features, who started in the days when TV was black and white, but who is still remembered and honored everywhere today. Of course, you all know EXACTLY who I'm referring to, right?

Of course you do. Doctor Who. It was in 1963 that actor William Hartnell first appeared on the BBC as the time-traveling alien and dedicated Dalek fighter...

Oh, you thought I was going to mention somebody else?


Well, the fact is that as much as Doctor Who celebrations and festivals are all the rage in England right now, there are a couple of things that make it problematical for Cleveland Movie Blog approval. For one thing, in all the accounting of the many fine actors who played Doctor Who over the years - Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy etc. the UK folk always seem to leave out the esteemed Peter Cushing, who played Doctor Who in the 1960s in the only two big-screen Doctor Who movies to date.

What, did Cushing make the mistake of voting Tory once or something and wind up on showbiz blacklist? In protest of Cushing's dastardly exclusion, the Cleveland Movie Blog hereby votes to snub all the Doctor Who 50th anniversary festivities.

Besides, let's face it, being laid off/broke/in foreclosure, Clevelanders have no money to travel to the British Isles for any of the fun, unless they stow away on a TARDIS or something. So we've got to find an alternative here. And find it fast.

Oh, how about Ghoulardi, then? For it was also in 1963 that WJW-TV Channel 8's Ernie Anderson made his debut in the hipster getup as host of WJW-TV's "Shock Theatre." Anderson put on a garishly phony goatee and Fu Manchu mustache and spiced up B-grade horror and sci-fi flicks for insomniac viewers in beatnik-comic fashion for a few brilliant years in the mid-1960s. The silver-tongued announcer, unrecognizable in his fright-wig disguise, would do blackout comedy bits (some including young sidekicks Tim Conway and Charles Shodowski), sound effects, songs and the quotable slogans "Turn blue!" "Stay sick!" "Dorrrothy..." And, offscreen, his family grew to include filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson (MAGNOLIA, THE MASTER and others).

Ernie Anderson left Cleveland to find national renown in Los Angeles as an ABC-TV announcer, and he also put out a series of classic audio comedy LPs with Tim Conway. But Cleveland never forgot, especially with TV host-successors such as Bob `Houlihan' Wells, Charles `Big Chuck' Shodowski and Ron `The Ghoul' Sweed carrying on the tradition. About a dozen years ago the GhoulardiFests began, as a local-TV and pop-culture nostalgia expo and tribute.

For Ghoulardi's 50th anniversary the 2013 festival takes place at at an all-new venue in Parma, the LaVilla Party Center at 11500 Brookpark Road, with a galaxy of VIP guests.

Chief among them: Tim Conway himself, currently on a book circuit, who will made a quick appearance on Saturday afternoon and be interviewed live by a big-time Hollywood TV producer (and former Clevelander).

Besides the Chagrin Falls native Conway, the festival is a weekend of special guests, small-screen, big-screen and media nostalgia, with an emphasis on the Ghoulardi-grade brand of science-fiction, comedy, fantasy and horror cinema. Big Chuck, sidekick John "Li'l John" Rinaldi, Houlihan, Art Lofredo, Son of Ghoul and other special guests from inside and outside of town will be present, as well as movie and comic-book memorabilia dealers and live recreations of famous TV sketch material and more.

Musical guests include the lovely “Harp Twins,” Kennerly and Camille Kitt, who have seemingly taken up where Harpo Marx left off as TV and movie harp players extraordinaire. They perform Friday and Saturday. TURN BLUE, the official Ghoulardi documentary, will screen continuously.

Hours of GhoulardiFest are Friday, Nov. 1, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 3, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is $15 at the door for adults, with a $30 weekend pass. For more information go to www.ghoulardifest.com.

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