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 The Ghastlee One

An interview with A. Ghastlee Ghoul

By Bob Ignizio

Utter Trash readers should be no strangers to the idea of horror hosts.  After all, northeast Ohio has had more than its share of the breed including Goulardi, Superhost, Big Chuck (both with Hoolihan and Little John), and The Ghoul just to name the best known of them.   But we’ve never had a host quite like Dayton, Ohio’s A. Ghastlee Ghoul, host of The Ghastlee Movie Show.  While most Cleveland based horror hosts more or less follow the blueprint laid out by the late Ernie “Goulardi” Anderson (show an old horror or sci-fi movie, make fun of it, and run a few skits here and there), A. Ghastlee Ghoul takes it a few steps further.  He says, “The unspoken joke on the show is that 99% of the time we don’t run a movie at all. We take clips from films and run them through the video-vaudeville abattoir, blend them with music or alternate soundtracks, and spew them out the other end as a mind-bending hybrid of comedy and pseudo-psychoillogical mish-mash.  The show gets compared to the USA Network’s old Night Flight show quite a bit, which I take as a high compliment. What is funny to one mind can be very disturbing to another, and therein lie the buttons we like to push.” 

The character of A. Ghastlee Ghoul originated in the eighties on a cable access comedy show called ‘The Underground Sideshow’ which featured a number of stand up comics in addition to the Ghastlee one.  Ghastlee says, “When everyone else got too busy, I apparently had no life to speak of and kept my little dog and pony show going. As I always say all the time, the GMS consumed that which had spawned it.  In the past five years or so I’ve somehow picked up some of the greatest sidekicks/co-producers that a grown man who wears make-up could ask for. Jeff McClellan: American, Louu the XXXmas Devil, Grimsburger (our doorman, who works for raw meat), and of course my lovely Suspiria are the perfect foils on camera, and do more behind the scenes to make things happen than I can say.  We’ll be entering our 15th splendiferous season of moldering the minds of the masses on October 31st, 2003, and it wouldn’t be happening without the support of these tremendously talented and tolerant people.”  Thanks to an organization called the Horror Host Underground Network, the efforts of Ghastlee and his crew are seen not just in Dayton, but New Jersey, Northern Virginia, Illinois, North Carolina, California, Florida, Minnesota, and other areas of Ohio.

Since Ghastlee and his troupe air on cable access as opposed to a more traditional TV station, they have a little more leeway as far as what they can get away with.  Ghastlee says, “We have pushed the envelope in every conceivable direction, showing nudity and cussing like sailors at times, and the only thing we ever got in trouble for was showing a little film called ‘Free Puppies’. It was basically 15 minutes of footage from a biker “rodeo”, with naked girls dancing to Rob Zombie’s “Living Dead Girl”. In one scene a girl is riding a guy’s face like a dime-store pony, and there were something like 12 complaints from people threatening to go to the City Council about it. The station said that it was “too close to penetration”, and relegated us to the middle of the night for six weeks as our slap on the wrist. We finally found the elusive edge of the envelope!” 

While Ghastlee admits his show leans more towards the campy humor side of things, he says that on occasion he will try for, “the highest of goals, a scary show. One of my old bands, Ratt Sass, did a live soundtrack to the silent film ‘Witchcraft Through the Ages’ (aka, ‘Haxan’) at a local theater, and that went on the air. I’ve also started showing one-time-only Halloween episodes which feature some of my favorite films uncut, as a little treat to trick the audience.”  But the scariest thing ever to air on The Ghastlee Movie Show didn’t even involve a movie.  “The scariest thing to most people was apparently when I just stared into the camera for a half-hour without saying a word. That episode really seemed to creep people out, judging by the complaint calls from folks saying, “I think he’s the devil”, “I think he’s Charles Manson”, and, “I think he’s trying to hypnotize me”! To me, THAT is funny, and since we don’t get paid to be on cable access what amuses me and my cast is really all that matters,” says Ghastlee.

Even though his program doesn’t air on northeast Ohio’s airwaves, many northeast Ohioans are familiar with A. Ghastlee Ghoul from his appearances at area horror conventions.  He’ll be in our neck of the woods again for this year’s Cinema Wasteland convention October 3rd through 5th, but this time it’s for more than just a simple personal appearance.  Ghastlee will be getting married to his sidekick Suspiria at the show.  “We decided to tie the knot at Cinema Wasteland for a couple of reasons. First, Ken and Pam Kish are great friends and throw the friendliest little show around. It is the high-point of our year. They have for some unexplained reason adopted me as their horror host, allowed me to throw open the doors to any of our host friends who want to share our tables in the dealer room, and they give us a place to act a-fool on Saturday night each year at our Ghastlee Night At The Movies event. We thought, “Hey, why not REALLY take advantage of their friendship and generosity and use the free hotel space to hold the wedding!!!”  They fell for it-- UH, that is, HAPPILY AGREED-- and Ken’s natural P.T. Barnum instinct kicked in.  The wedding will take place before we present the John Carradine film BIGFOOT as the feature for our spookshow/reception.”

While Ghastlee’s romantic future certainly looks bright, what of the future of horror hosts in an era in which infomercials and syndicated programming have taken the place of the locally produced programming that used to be common on the airwaves?  Ghastlee says, “The horror host is more than surviving in the new millennium, we are positively THRIVING! New hosts are popping up all the time, as evidenced on the Horror Host Underground website at www.horrorhosts.com .  Local affiliates of the smaller networks (the stations that used to be the local independents) are starting to see, more and more, the value to their bottom-lines of having a local host. The most Earth-shaking revolutionary revelations have come in the form of internet broadcasts like Count Gore De Vol’s Creature Feature, The Weekly Webshow at www.countgore.com and Dug Graves’ horror-radio show at www.halloweentheater.com . Webcasting is the future of not only horror hosts, but independent programming in general. It won’t be long before internet webcasts are just as “legitimate” as any other signal pouring into the common monitor that you’ll use for both your internet and your television. When that day comes, WATCH OUT!”

Visit the A. Ghastlee Ghoul website.