Shock with "(?)" WFRV-TV
(When I was at Wisconsin Public Television in October of 2004 to tape a segment on Wisconsin’s horror hosts for "In Wisconsin", one of the folks I met told me about the first Green Bay host. Unfortunately, I couldn't find much on him. I found a couple of ads, and compiled a list of films shown, but little else was written about him. In January of 2006, Vince Nardi, who taped Chiler Theater with "Ned the Dead" for Time Warner cable’s N.E.W. TV (See Below.), contacted me. Nardi had moved on to WFRD-TV, and I asked him for any information he might find. He passed the following along. If you have any information, please contact me!)
In early 1958, WFRV-TV purchased the Shock! package and began offering those films Saturday nights at 9:00 p.m. Joe Munn from the station’s production department played the host named "(?)". He would do the show from a black coffin and introduce the films. The first show, called simply "Shock" was on 26 April 1958. The station later purchased the "Son of Shock" package. The last show aired on 28 March 1959.
Eerie Street with "Alexander" WBAY-TV
In 1971, WBAY-TV in Green Bay decided to run a horror movie show Friday nights. The idea was the late John Hrubesky’s. Hrubesky was the station’s production director, but also did programming and scheduling.
He turned to Al Gutowski to host the show. Gutowski had joined WBAY-TV while still a student at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. He and a number of other folks at the station got together to brainstorm, and came up with the name "Eerie Street".
In the same manner, the group came up with elements of Gutowski’s character. The mother of one of his station colleagues made a black, tafetta, Dracula-like cape. To keep things simple, Gutowski used his first name for the character, and "Alexander" was born! For the first couple of shows, Gutowski wore black and white greasepaint makeup, and parted his hair down the middle. Later, he discarded it. The beard was his own.
The set consisted of a black backdrop, an oversized coffin (built by Jim Nowicki and Bill Jauquet), and a street sign which said "Eerie Street". The crew added front, back and key fill lighting.
The first show was on 17 September 1971, and the last on 30 November 1973. It ran after WBAY-TV’s late movie, which started at 10:30 p.m. Occasionally it was run as a double feature starting at the same time as the late movie.
TJ and the ANT WLUK-TV
In 1977, Doug Heim was working master control at WLUK-TV. He noticed that after he signed the station off at 1:00 a.m. there were no other stations on the air.
The station had purchased the entire package of RKO films from C&C Television in 1956, and as such had the rights to show them anytime they wanted, in perpetuity. Using those and the other films in its library, Heim suggested to station mangement that they keep the station on the air all night, and show those films. To keep the costs down, he suggested that one person run the station - in the same way that a disc jockey runs a radio station. Heim christened the person who would run the station a "TJ" or "Television Jockey".
WLUK-TV management agreed to try the concept on an experimental basis for four weeks in May of 1977 (a rating period). There was one catch: Heim had to do it! Despite having no on-camera experience he was tapped.
Heim wanted to call the show "TJ and the All Night Theatre", but the station’s general manager wanted to call it "TV-11 All Night". As Heim was working on an animation for the show, the station’s sports director walked in and asked him how the "ANT" was going. Heim asked him what he meant, and was told, "You know; the All Night Theatre!" Heim used the acronym in the animation and, despite the objection of station’s general manager, the name stuck.
A camera was set-up in the control room door, and pointed at Heim who sat at the master control console. From there he introduced the films and did his schtik at the breaks. because no commercials had been sold, the last two films were often run uninterupted. Around 2:00 a.m. he might open up the phone lines, and let viewers talk about whatever they wanted to. He had all manner of guests on the air, and also showed films made by amateur film makers and students.
"TJ and the ANT" debuted on 6 May 1977. The first horror film was shown on 24 June of that year. The show started at various times over its run, but generally ran until early Saturday mornings. As many as five films might be shown. The last show was on 5 March 1982. Management was looking to cut costs, and felt that the show didn’t generate sufficient revenue.
Creature Feature with "Misty Brew" WLRE
In 1982, a new, independent, UHF station, WLRE, decided to run a horror movie show late Friday nights. The station’s manager had seen "Elvira’s Movie Macabre" on KHJ in Los Angeles, and elected to use a hostess.
The station posted a notice at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. A senior, Faye Fisher, auditioned for the role after being encouraged by her friends, and was offered the job of hosting the show.
The station’s manager came up with the name "Misty Brew", and the show was called "Creature Feature". The first show was on 29 October 1982. A vintage clothing shop, Glad Rags, provided Misty’s costumes, and her hair and make-up were done by Bananas, both of Green Bay.
After the first few shows, one of the station’s cameramen was pressed into service as "Klystron", who played either the piano or the organ. (A klystron is a vacuum tube used to generate and amplify ultrahigh frequencies. The station had blown one shortly after the show went on the air.) His character never spoke, but only grunted.
Misty started the show seated in a coffin, while Klystron played. She closed the show by lying in the coffin and closing the lid.
Fisher continued to do the show for a few months after her graduation in May of 1983. In the fall of that year she and her boyfriend (now husband) decided to move to Chicago, and the show ended. The last episode was on 09 September 1983.
Ned the Dead’s Chiller Theater WLUK-TV
After Faye Fisher moved to Chicago, Green Bay was left without a horror host. The program manager at WLUK-TV, Dave Comisar, decided to start a horror hosted show. He turned to a young news photographer, Steve Brenzel, to host it.
Brenzel had never been on the air, but was a bit wild, and as such he was a natural for the role. At first, Comisar wanted him to play an old lady in a movie theater ticket booth. After several weeks of trying out different voices, Brenzel had to admit that he wasn't comfortable playing an old woman. Comisar decided to keep the concept of a ticket booth, but let Brenzel play a male character. It was Comisar who came up with the name "Ned the Dead", as well as "Chiller Theater ". Neither Brenzel, nor Comisar thought the show would last very long.
Comisar assigned veteran Don Schunke to the show as the writer. Schunke also provided the voice of Ned the Dead’s wife "Edna", a skull, which had been rigged up so that the lower jaw could move. Edna would call Ned, "Neddy" - something he hated.
The first show was on 4 February 1984, and it proved to be extremely popular. It aired Saturday nights at midnight. Ned was also joined by his dog "Red". A regular feature was "Ned Pics" in which fans would send in requests for autographed pictures. The crew became the "WI masters" because when Ned gave the address they always said "WI" rather than Wisconsin.
The show ran through 25 March 1989, when Brenzel left the station and moved to his hometown, Milwaukee.
That version of the show ran through 24 April 1999. Cable TV had penetrated the market, and WLUK-TV could make more money running infomercials instead.
Ned would return however...
Ned the Dead’s Demented Drive-In WACY
Brenzel and Van Vreede’s moved to WACY. Because WLUK-TV had the name "Chiller Theater", they called the show "Ned the Dead’s Demented Drive-In" instead. It ran Saturday nights at 11:00 p.m., and the first show was on 18 September 1999. A few months later, the show was shifted to 10:00 p.m. The station had a good library of films from which to choose from, and things were going along well when a dispute arose between Van Vreede’s and the station’s chief of operations. The stores pulled their sponsorship, and Brenzel was once again looking for another station. The last show was on 15 September 2001.
Chiller Theater and Ned the Dead N.E.W. TV/Time Warner Cable
Both Brenzel and Van Vreede’s moved to the local Time Warner Cable channels. This was not community access, but rather it was for locally produced programming, which generated revenue. Vince Nardi ("WI-Master Vinnie") was the producer. The first show was on 16 August 2002. Once again, Brenzel used the name "Chiller Theater". It was seen on Time Warner channels 2 & 19 in northeastern Wisconsin, and aired Fridays at 10:00 p.m., with repeats Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and Sundays at noon. The last show was on 30 September 2005.
Chiller Theater with Ned the Dead WACY
Van Vreede’s wanted to get back on an over-the-air channel, so Brenzel moved back to WACY. Unlike its previous incarnation on that station, this time the show was called "Chiller Theater", and ran Saturday nights at 9:00 p.m. The first show was on 1 October 2005.
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