Monday, January 14, 2008

Vampira Now Really Dead

Off in B-Movie Heaven with Tor Johnson and Paul MarcoAs has been reported on numerous web sites devoted to schlock and B-movies, the world's first TV horror movie host, Maila Nurmi, aka Vampira, has gone to the grave at age 86. She made a splash in the mid-1950s with her Los Angeles-area show, but she's best known to those of us who were born later and live somewhere other than L.A. for her epic role as "Vampire Girl" in Ed Wood's magnum opus, Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Her death brings to mind memories of what TV used to be like decades ago, with local, independent stations that produced their own cheesy shows like Vampira's. In Nyaaaaaahahahahahahhhh!Detroit, we had Sir Graves Ghastly, whose show ran from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. I knew Lawson Deming, Sir Graves's alter-ego, was in his 90s and living in a retirement home in Ohio, but my brother informed me he too died back in April. There was apparently only a brief mention in the Detroit Free Press (for shame) but Fox 2 News at least had a segment on Sir Graves's journey to the Great Beyond.

Then there was Soupy Sales, still alive and kicking, whose Detroit heyday was before I was born. He also had a late-1970s version of his show, though, and I remember that from my youth. This clip with Alice Cooper still makes me lose my shit:

And we also had Bill Kennedy At the Movies on Channel 50 every day at 1 Got any scotch?o'clock. For 30-some years, old Bill sat at his desk with his big glasses and goofy hat and showed chestnuts like Anchors Aweigh and Some Like It Hot, regaling viewers with trivia about the people in and behind the films. He also took calls from the audience and would sometimes be a cranky old bastard when someone asked a question he thought was too stupid or obscure for him to answer. He also went off the air in the early 1980s, not long after Sir Graves hung it up, and died in Florida in 1997. Many who grew up in Metro Detroit watching him credit Kennedy with beginning their lifelong fascination with Hollywood and the movies, and I guess now I'm thinking about it I should count myself in their number.

Back to Vampira. One of her obituaries called her death "the last sad whimper to the lingering death of an old tradition." Well, yes, the era of local cheesy TV shows seems to have passed. But the tradition of horror movie hosts lives on, if nowhere else, on the Internet. Even if you discount Vampira knock-off Elvira, there's still The Ghoul and, heck, Count Floyd is still very much alive, even if Monster Chiller Horror Theatre is only viewable on DVD... or YouTube (speaking of losing my shit):