|Rich Scrivani takes a peek at John Zacherle|
John Zacherle's debut as a television horror host in the guise of
Philadelphia's "Roland" in the '50s may be just a fable to fans of the one and
only "Cool Ghoul. ("Yeah, we heard about that..")
Most die-hard Zachophiles know him as "Zacherley", the host of
the 1950's "Shock Theatre" and "Zacherley at
Large". As for myself, it was his hosting of
"Hercules", part of WPIX's kid show lineup in the 1960's, live
from New York, that had me in stitches. Later that decade, in
fuzzy new bandwidth called UHF, he pranced with New Jersey teenage guys
and dolls in the dance show "Disc-O-Teen". It was a
natural lead to his career as a DJ in top FM Rock Stations in the Big
But Zacherley invading your television in glorious black and white; that was the magic. He held his own with the other brave comedians of the 1950's. Like Winters, he gave into his imagination. Like Newhart, he was a master of timing, and like Bruce, he was hip.
So it's no wonder, when John Zacherle appears as "Zach" at the
Chiller Theatre Expos in New Jersey, that it's an effort to get close to
him. It's packed.
In a co-production between John Zacherle and Rich Scrivani (possibly the ultimate Zach archivist) it was agreed that this was to be a class "A" production; No fluky home-made type video here. Right off the bat, we knew that the video's cover box had to get first-class treatment. Jeff Marshall, artist supreme for some videos by author Lee Pfeiffer, happily went to work for one main reason - He's a major Zacherley fan.
Four Kinescopes had survived, including one with Zach as "Roland". The "Cool Ghoul" had them transferred to video some years ago and I began transferring them to the highest video format and was able to slightly improve the quality, which was surprisingly not bad to begin with. As for the "Archives" format, it was simple; The Zacherley of today would introduce each clip. This gave makeup gurus Michael R. Thomas and Christine Domanieki a chance for a wish come true, and for the first time in years, John Z.'s makeup is exactly as it appeared in the "Shock Theatre" era.
A three camera set up manned by myself on professional Betacam, John Kourkoutis and Mike Brunas on Hi8 (so we wouldn't miss a Zach trick) was assembled in our New Jersey studios. Rich Scrivani provided a suitably odd prop to accompany Zach - a full size wax sculpture of Henry Hull ("Werewolf of London"). My talented wife and lighting director George Ann was away at the time, but gave me emergency instructions; Do the standard "3 point lighting" setup. Even I couldn't screw that up. Guess what happened?