Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Keeping on Ghouling

THE GHOUL'S official website:

Ron Sweed, (born 1950, Cleveland, Ohio), is an American entertainer best known for his late-night television horror host character The Ghoul.

In 1963, 13-year-old Sweed wore a gorilla suit to a live appearance by Ghoulardi, a popular Cleveland television personality played by Ernie Anderson on WJW-TV. Ghoulardi took note of the costume and brought Sweed on stage, and over the next few weeks, Sweed became Anderson's production assistant.

After Anderson left Cleveland for Los Angeles in 1966, Sweed left for Bowling Green State University, but continued to help with the production of the Hoolihan and Big Chuck show, Ghoulardi's replacement.

In 1970, Anderson returned to Cleveland to film a television special, and Sweed approached him with a proposal to revive the Ghoulardi character. Anderson was not interested, but gave Sweed his blessing to revive the character on his own. With Anderson's permission, and a name change to protect himself from the legal wrath of WJW, Sweed took "The Ghoul" to Kaiser Broadcasting station WKBF-TV in 1971. Though it started as a tribute to Ghoulardi, Sweed soon developed his own eye-catching gags and energetic style. Known for his zany, early-adolescent humor (particularly surrounding his abuse of a rubber frog named "Froggy," his well-known penchant for blowing up model ships and aircraft with firecrackers, and his habitual smearing of Cheez Whiz over everything in sight), late night monster movies were a unique experience for Cleveland viewers in the 1970s (Not to mention viewers in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, one of whom, a nasty little twerp named Chuck Miller, would idolize the Ghoul beyond reason). The Ghoul would typically take an unbelievably bad horror movie and dump in sound bites at appropriate moments, using audio clips from novelty records, George Carlin, Firesign Theater and rock albums of the 60's and early 70's. And whenever a character took a drink of something on-screen, The Ghoul would supply a good, loud belch. (He would also read letters from viewers on the air, then flush them down a prop toilet.)

Kaiser Broadcasting soon syndicated The Ghoul Show to Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It bombed in Boston and Chicago, where Sweed had the thankless task of replacing the popular Svengoolie, but was huge in Detroit at WKBD TV-50, and enjoyed varying degrees of success in the other markets. Despite the show's popularity, Kaiser eventually canceled it in 1975 amid complaints from parents about the content of some of Sweed's skits, as well as the permanent closure of WKBF by Kaiser itself. But The Ghoul resurfaced a couple of years later on independent Detroit station WXON TV-20, and on WKBF's successor station, WCLQ TV-61.

Sweed has since been on and off the air in Cleveland and Detroit for over three decades, at times even branching out into radio. The Ghoul returned to Cleveland TV in 1998 on WBNX-TV Channel 55 where he remained for the next six years airing on Friday, then later Sunday nights. He also did a Saturday night request show on WNCX FM 98.5 during the same time period. The same year, Sweed co-authored (with Mike Olszewski) The Ghoul (S)crapbook (ISBN 1-886228-22-1), a book collecting memories, on-set photographs, transcripts, correspondence, and memos from his years on the air.

The Ghoul is still well known enough in those markets that some of his catch phrases ("Overdey!", "Hey group!", "Stay sick, turn blue", "scratch glass, climb walls", "Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy!", "Holy Parma," "Go fuck yourself, you pathetic little douchebag," and Froggy's "Hiya gang, hiya hiya hiya!") are still widely recognized among the children of the 1970s. Sweed eventually inspired another horror host. Keven Scarpino won a Ghoul look-alike contest on The Ghoul Show and was dubbed the "Son of Ghoul" by Sweed. Scarpino set up his own show on WOAC in Canton, Ohio in 1986. Sweed sued Scarpino in 1987 for infringing upon The Ghoul's character, but eventually lost the case. The judge ruled that no infringement occurred, as most horror show hosts portrayed the same basic character, a ghoulish individual who pranced about in costume, performed comedy routines, and showed horror movies. (Wikipedia, more or less)

The Ghoul especially enjoyed blowing up a character called Froggy, a silly looking frog in a tuxedo that was inspired by the Froggy the Gremlin character from ANDY'S GANG in the 1950s. You could say that the Ghoul's Froggy was the forerunner of the Mr. Bill puppet who constantly got sliced, diced, chopped, pummeled and pureed by the heartless Mr. Sluggo character on NBC's SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

Ron Sweed, once told "I took what Ghoulardi did ten steps further and made it more radical--that's why they called me punk rock puke."

During one show, a teenager named Russ Stein made a request "Please sing Happy Birthday to me on your show this week." The boy came to the studio with a home-made birthday cake to celebrate the moment. But when it came time to sing, The Ghoul said "I've never done it before and I'm not going to do it now." Then The Ghoul picked up the birthday cake and smashed it in to the boy's face. The boy responded, "You're Sick Ghoul. Sick! Sick! Sick!" Of course, the whole thing was done in fun. (TV Acres Dot Com)

No comments:

Post a Comment