(Originally appeared in Mutant Renegade Zine #14, Spring 2000)
Growing up in the late '70s and early '80s, television heroes were abundant. We had Fonzie, the Hulk, Shazam, Mork… the list goes on. However, if you were growing up in Dayton, Ohio there was only one real local television hero, and that was Dr. Creep.
Dr. Creep could be found on two locally produced programs, Clubhouse 22 and Shock Theater. While Club House 22", an afternoon children's show, developed a cult following among high school and college students it is Shock Theater, which had a format of monster movies and science fiction films interrupted spooky antics and insane weirdness. On Shock Theater Dr. Creep reigned supreme. After years as the top rated local program and increased censorship from 'the man', Shock Theater went off the air in 1985 (then called Saturday Night Dead). Soon after Dr. Creep seemed to have vanished into thin air. You can just imagine my surprise when I found out that Dr. Creep has returned from the grave and is back on the air on public access. So for this installment of Strange & Exotic Dayton I talk to my childhood hero, Dr. Creep.
MR - When did the original Shock Theater first come about?
DC - The original Shock Theater was January 1st, 1972 at 11:00, when most of my audience was hung over from the night before.
MR - How did the idea of Shock Theater come about?
DC - Well, the comedy aspect came about during the first show. Sound effects stayed on a little bit longer that should be and it got a bit comical after a while.
My uncle, Doug Hobart, had the largest traveling monster show in the nation in the late '40s early '50s. It was called Dr. Traboh's House of Horrors. It was Hobart spelled backwards. And over the years he helped build the Florida movie industries. He did about 50 motion pictures, a lot of them horror movies. I basically caught the bug from him.
MR - What kind of monsters did your uncle have in his traveling show?
DC - He had a full Frankenstein's laboratory on stage. The Wolf man, Frankenstein and Igor with a break away arm with a blood capsule built inside the costume were a few of the monsters. Igor bled quite well when Frankenstein ripped off his arm. My uncle also had a nurse in the show, which was a giant. She was almost six foot nine.
The show was actually three acts. One of the acts his kids got involved. It was kind of like a comedy, a small fry monster segment. The third act was a sacrifice to a god, where they proceeded to cut this girls heart out. Funsville, right.?
MR - Were you involved in any of this?
DC - Actually my dad was.
MR - Tell me about the beginnings of Dr. Creep?
DC - Well I suggest something to the station in 1971. They weren't getting the ratings they wanted on Saturday night. So I suggested a hosted Shock Theater. They waited a year and brought up the idea of a hosted shock theater. I said, "That's a great idea." And they asked me if I would like to audition.
At the time I was a master control switcher, running different station breaks and what have you. Iand another engineer built the set. I also had like a monks robe. We were originally going to call the character Dr. Death, not Dr. Creep. So we put together a tape. They liked it. There were a few other people who auditioned, but I got the job.
On the first few shows, I had vampire teeth. I was hoping to do special effects, to do a few things my uncle had done. It was a little more ominous the first few shows. I also had a lady who was doing my makeup. One show she made Dr. Creep, not Dr. Death. We drew the name out of a hat.
It took two and a half hours to do the makeup. I was made up as a skull face. Dr. Creep made up with a skull face only one time. They found it too fearsome, and they wanted to make the show a little lighter. So basically we ended up doing mostly comedy and parody.
It was live, and it was out there. Our sound effects didn't go off. Things would go off when they weren't suppose to, phones were ringing after we picked them up. We had a lot of strange people. I had a puppeteer called Kurt McGlocklin. He was the original Stan the Man. He created this big orange creature called Gorsh I also had a vampire puppet, and a mummy puppet which was originally done by a man called Mike Martin. Mike came on the show from time to time as Uncle Creepy.
MR - It seems that when you started out late a night that your audience was an older crowd. Were you surprised that when you moved to Saturday afternoons how well your show appealed to kids?
DC - We had to tone it down a bit. The people with me used a lot of double entendres. Something had double meaning. We had to tone down a few of the things we did for late night. We did a lot of craziness but don't get me wrong, we didn't take away the comedy. We toned it down just a little bit.
MR - were you surprise that so many kids latched on to Dr. Creep?
DC - When I meet certain people on the street they come up to me and say "I watched you as a kid". A lot of them watched me at night. I wasn't really that surprised. I was surprised when we were the highest rated, in fact we still hold the record for local programming for thirteen years. I was also on Clubhouse 22 for six years. I really enjoyed Clubhouse a lot. That was really fun. I enjoyed it.
MR - Another thing I remember about Dr. Creep is all the charity work that you've done like the MD Telethons and project Christmas Smiles?
DC - Project Smiles has an interesting beginning. I was doing a block party and there were a couple of families who didn't have money for groceries, so I took it out of my own pocket. There was a mother there who was raising her children's children. And around Christmas time they asked me if I would help with Christmas toys. And I was able to get them some stuff we had for the Clubhouse pick-a-door to help them out. I was also a stage magician and I did shows around Christmas time. I would ask people for excess toys. We started out with two families. Then it grew to 10 families, 30 families, then a housing development. We're going on our 27th year. I think we help out needy children at Christmas time at a tune of 45,000 kids per year.
MR - Didn't the herse you drove around in break down during one of the MD Drives?
DC - It was in Wapakoneta. We were coming out of a fog bank going towards Wapakoneta. We lost all power. I had my film crew with me, and Wolfie.
We tried to get people to stop, but I guess with it being late night, me in my makeup, the fog and everything else... They were probably afraid they would be hijacked. We had quite the experience.
I managed to flag down a pick up truck with a young couple in it. I asked them why they stopped and they said that if anybody robed us they wouldn't get anything. And they took me into the phone center in Wapakoneta and there we were able to get some help. They thought we had a body in the back of the hearse. So the police in that area had us towed in because they were under the opinion that our refrigeration was off and the body was thawing out.
MR - Dr. Creep just disappeared after the canceling of Shock Theater and Clubhouse. What were you doing at that time?
DC - Actually Dr. Creep was my second occupation. I was a master control switcher, I ran camera, I ran a bunch of different things. I just went back to being an operational engineer. I got out of the business about 1990-91. I hooked up with Ron Martin and we started a company called the RMM Agency. WE ended up doing the videos, Shock Theater One and Two, which were a big success. We also put out the first four episodes of Ultra Man.
MR - Were you always a fan of horror movies?
DC - I love horror movies. But there are a few things that turn my stomach. Today the genre is such that they are going just for shock. I'm a WWll baby boomer and I cut my teeth on such things as Frankenstein. My all time favorite is Bela Lagosi in the original Dracula. I like the gothic aspect, the castle, the crypt area. I like Christopher Lee as well. In fact I did a piece that's on one of my Shock Theater tapes, I took a tape and edited it down. And there was a parody song called I want to bite your hand. It's about a two or three minute piece. It was a lot of fun.
One of my favorite Science Fiction movies was the original Invasion of the Body Snatcher with Rex Reed. That scared the daylights out of me when I was young. Because the seed pods started bubbling over forming the human forms.
I don't like a lot of the remakes and colorizations of movies. I liked Night of the Living Dead, but when they colorized it lost a bit of it's flavor. I like a lot of black and white movies. I like to use my imagination. I don't want to see someone getting cut up.
MR - Which movie was the most fun to show on Shock Theater?
DC - The two most requested movies were Attach of the Mushroom People. It was off the wall, and excellent motion picture. The other one was taken out of context. It was actually three vignettes with Karen Black. The first two stories were terrible. One the third one she receives a voodoo doll in the mail…
MR - Trilogy of Terror.
DC - Yes, Trilogy of Terror. It has a chain around its neck and the chain falls off and he proceeds to chase her with a knife around the apartment. She tries to burn it, drown it, etc… and she manages to destroy it somehow. But at the end she's waiting on her mother in law and she has the evil look of the voodoo doll. And she has a knife and she's stabbing it into the floor and she's got sharp teeth like the voodoo doll.
The first movie we had on Shock Theater was Black Sabbath.
MR - I think that Shock Theater appealed to my generation because it was our first look at all the old horror classics and such actors as Vincent Price.
DC - I like a lot of Vincent Price movies. Like the Pit and the Pendulum and the Terror with an early Jack Nicholson. I got an opportunity to speak with Vincent Price. He came to town at Memorial Hall. HE came into town to play Fagen in Oliver Twist and they arranged for me to sit down with him and do an interview. And I got to meet my idle. The interview lasted for about an hour and a half. I thought that he might think who the heck are you, that he would just see me as just a local horror host. But he was one of the nicest people. He rated different monsters. He actually rated Christopher Lee over Bela Lagosi. He was a very interesting man to talk to. He was very generous. That's one of my best memories of the things I did with Shock Theater.
Clubhouse 22 was an interesting show because it was live. I remember one incident when we brought Clark Parker from the Natural History Museum around Thanksgiving and he had a wild turkey. Just before we went on the air after the commercial this turkey decided he would get the runs and he squirted all the way down Clark Parkers pants. So when we went on I was just laughing and people were wondering what I was laughing at.
MR - What's in the Future for Dr. Creep?
DC - Were hoping to get on more cable stations in the future. We need actors both female and male. I want to do a thing called anatomy awards, a take off of the academy awards and we definitely need females for that. I also want to do a takeoff of saving Private Ryan called Saving Dr. Creep. And we have acouple of other things planned. We want to do a Ms. Shock Theater. Takeoff on a beauty pageants. I would like adorning our set beautiful women would be nice.