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MONSTER FAN ORIGINS

Above: Doug Nelson and Ron Adams in 1969, Grove City Park in western Pennsylvania.

 

Becoming A Monster Movie Nut!

My love of monsters, comic books and The Beatles all seemed to crash together in one place when I was about five years old. It was a little barber shop, next to the Guthrie Theater in Grove City, PA in 1964. The year is stamped, thanks to a conversation I remember taking place between the barber and a customer that was "in the chair" before me. They were discussing this new English group called The Beatles as "I Want To Hold Your Hand" had just come on the radio that played in the shop.

I was looking through the comic book selection that was scattered through typical magazines and the last few days of newspapers...and had latched onto a Jerry Lewis comic that featured monsters. It was my first exposure to Jerry Lewis as I had never seen any of his movies at that point...and one of my earliest introductions to the monsters.

I'm not sure if it was that Jerry Lewis comic or one of the others that rested I found there, but the back cover advertised the Aurora Monster Models. It was right around that time hat my mom and dad got me the original long box Aurora Frankenstein model. Wow, those monsters looked cool! Scary and cool.

So the threads for this stuff that I love really were coming together in 1964, in a barber shop, in Grove City, Pennsylvania. I think the barber hop is still there....I'll have to look the next time I'm there. The Guthrie Theater definitely is. The Guthrie is where I saw all those crazy foreign fairy tale movies that were imported by K. Gordon Murray...but that's another twisted tale.

-Ron Adams, Ligonier, PA

Can you trace the origins for your love of monster movies?

Ron,

You asked the question today on your website about if one remembered where the origin
was for one's love of monsters and monster movies. Mine was simple. It all started in
1958 in May of that year with the debut of SHOCK THEATER here in OKC.  That as
well as me discovering the third issue of WFC and the fourth issue of FMOF on the
newsstand. Did I know who or what Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, etc. were
before then? Can't say if I did or didn't. But from that point on, I most certainly did.

Larry Boyington, OK

The first monster movie I ever saw was King Kong vs. Godzilla...now I'm not sure if I was either 4 or 5 years old at the time, because I don't know if my local movie theater (Sewickley, Pa) was a first or second run theater. Either way, whatever I was going to be when I grew up changed that day! So thats where it all began...

- Malcolm Gittins, Pgh., PA

I often play music with kids in school and often I'm asked when or how I
became a musician. I always say that I can tell you the exact date I
became a musician, February 9, 1964. That's the night I saw The Beatles
on Ed Sullivan along with several million others. It's fair to say that I
was blown away, it was like an earthquake and I've never been the same
since then.

Even today, watching the film of the show the excitement is
just as powerful. As a young child I loved the comics in the newspaper,
particularly Peanuts. I remember getting a Peanuts paperback book from a
neighbor around that time, the first of what would eventually be hundreds
I would collect. My taste in comic books was pretty eclectic and probably
had more to do with what I could get a hold of.

I remember when we'd be
getting ready for one of our extended car trips in the summer my parents
would usually buy a few new comic books for me, and more often than not
pick up a few more while on the road (I was probably becoming obnoxious in
the back seat "Are we there yet???") I remember Batman, Sgt. Rock,
Fantastic Four, some dinosaur and caveman epics plus the usual Richie Rich
or Archie funny books. Horror films came via TV. I recall one of the
stations (we got three!) ran films in the afternoon that I could usually
see after school.

I remember Ghost of Frankenstein and other Universals
on this program. To this day, the middle of the afternoon seems like the
right time to watch an old Universal film. Years later when I'd stay up
to watch late movies, those were often Hammer films, so Hammer always
seems right at midnight, Universal at noon. Growing up in a college town
gave me the chance to see some old classics on campus. I remember going
with my Dad to see Dracula on campus. I don't think he was a fan of
classic horror per se, but was always respected the idea of classics, "We
should see this, it's a classic!"

It wasn't until I was a teenager that
I discovered FM when Ron Adams (who had a subscription!) gave me a copy of
FM #97, somehow he had gotten two copies. It was like the road map to the
homeland, to the place you always dreamed of. After that I sought out
back issues and haunted the newsstands in search of the next issue.

It's
interesting how these passions from youth fade away for some and remain
and grow in others. My childhood love of music inspired by The Beatles
grew into a career as a musician (for many years that was my sole job,
being a rock and roll guitarist). That first Peanuts book grew into a
collection of hundreds and later pilgrimages to 1 Snoopy Lane in Santa
Rosa. From that first issue of FM to meeting Forry and interviewing him
for Monster Bash magazine, what a long, strange and perfect trip it's
been!

-Kevin Slick, CO

Hi Ron,
Nice little story about your "discovery"...Monsters. Rock and Roll.
Comics. The fundamentals of a happy childhood, especially with
friends and candy thrown in!

For me, it started with DARK SHADOWS. Was in Kindergarten and
watched off and on and during the 1795 flasback sequence, Barnabas
died and a couple of weeks later, he re-appeared. I watched in
amazement and horror as he opened his mouth, revealing FANGS for God's
sake to put the bite on some poor doxie by the Blue Whale! I was
hooked and never missed an episode if I could help, even if some of
them scared me out of my wits (especially "The Dream Curse"...that
skull with the eyeballs was just too much! Started buying comics a
year later...first three were from DC. A BATMAN where he fights the
Catwoman, a SUPERMAN where he enlists to fight in Vietnam and THE
CREEPER, a short lived Steve Ditko effort. Moved on to ARCHIE and
various GOLD KEY titles before buying my first SPIDER-MAN in the
summer of 1969 (?) in Knoebel Arkansas which had an ad for all the
Aurora Monster Models...which is the main reason I bought it! Liked
Marvels way better than DC, even if it meant you had to keep up or you
would get behind on the story.

A few months later, found my first
FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and never looked back.
A year later after moving to Novato CA, watched CREATURE FROM THE
BLACK LAGOON on Channel 3 and got my Mom to relax a little bit on
letting me check out as many as I could...especially when Bob Wilkins
showed double features of the Universals!

As far as music, enjoyed AM radio because it played
EVERYTHING.(.today it is so locked into various formats,) especially
KFRC out of Oakland Ca. Got into album rock when I heard "School's
Out" by Alice Cooper in the summer of 1972. A classic song and it
must be remembered that ALICE COOPER was a BAND, not just a singer
with hired guns. My Mom HATED him and on a Thanksgiving trip to Wayne, NJ from Norfolk VA
(where I got to go up The Empire State Building and see the KING KONG
poster in the snack bar) found they were on Don Kirshner's ROCK
CONCERT and was promptly forbidden to watch it. Was tempted, as I had
read about the show and had also heard "Elected", but knew if caught,
serious hell would be paid! So, watched VOODOO MAN instead. I guess
Bela, John, George ans "Ramboona" were safer.

A couple of years
later, bought ALICE COOPER'S GREATEST HITS on cassette for a big $2.50
and after "Only Women Bleed", Mom relented and started to halfway
enjoy the whole scene, even if KILLER gave her conniptions!
Late childhood through late teens were full of music, comics and
classic horror. We moved a lot and these three were always a comfort
when I was "The new Kid in Town" and I still have many of these oldies
but goodies stashed away which I still enjoy...no reason to grow out
of something that brings so much joy!

Steve Schimming
Sanbornton, NH

Definitely remember my older sister watching The Cool Ghoul on Channel 56 in Boston on Saturday nights-- I think he was on at 11, and although I was supposed to be in bed by that point, sometimes she'd let me watch it with her and her friends. I remember vaguely MARK OF THE VAMPIRE being one of the films shown, and I was really drawn to the creepy atmosphere of that one. Most of the time they showed Godzilla movies it seemed, which I never found frightening, but when it came to the BW monsters I was scared by all of them. This was around the mid 70s so before the advent of being able to watch these movies anytime you wanted.

From there, I found FAMOUS MONSTERS MAGAZINE and although sometimes I found it disturbing, I remember the issues that featured King Kong and Star Wars like I just read them.

-Andy Fish


Hi Ron,

I have to thank a childhood friend named Dave who got me initiated as a monster kid.

Dave's family moved into a home down my block in 1969. We became friends, as we both loved comic books (his favorite was the Hulk, a mine was the Fantastic Four).

One weekend I brought over my collection to his house, as we were going to trade comics. After awhile, he brought out a magazine to show me he thought I might like. It was called Famous Monsters of Filmland. An actual magazine that was all about horror, monster & sci-fi movies. How cool! And the issue he had was #52, with a Barnabas Collins cover (I never missed Dark Shadows).

Dave also turned me on to a liquor store that actually sold this magazine on Tennyson Road, and others like it. It was too far to ride my bike, but I got my older sister to take me there. When I arrived, it was like a different world. The store had a very long wooden magazine rack, which not only displayed magazines, but comics as well (I had only seen comics on spinner racks). That day I bought my first Famous Monsters issue, and over the years I purchased Monster Times, Creepy, Eerie and more from that very same rack.



I also learned from a schoolmate about a weekly monster show. His grandmother lived in Roseville (I may be mistaken, but it was in the Sacramento area), and when he visited on some weekends he got to see Bob Wilkins show on channel 40. Luckily a year or two later, Bob came to KTVU in Oakland where I never missed Creature Features on channel 2.

I may have discovered this love of monster stuff on my own, but I'm sure glad I had friends who made sure I did.

-John Clemmons

Hello Everyone, my first encounter was one Saturday night in 1958, ( i was 5 years old) all that week they were advertising on tv that Frankenstein was coming on this Saturday night
at 11:00 PM, my parents knew how much i wanted to see this so they both watched it with me, i remember it was very cold that night. It was in 1960 (very cold again) that i first saw Bride of Frankenstein, then the next year i got the Frankenstein Monster Model.

Well take care everybody, and keep watching and enjoying monster and science fiction films!

-Joeseph (monsterjoey) Monistere

Hey Bashers,

For me it started as my brothers would wake me up Friday nights at 11:30 to watch Project Terror on San Antonio TV. My first memories are of Attack of the Mushroom People (After which I refused to eat the things for fear of being one), Dinosaurus, Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, among others. The magic of doing something seemingly forbidden (my parents were there too in agreement, but it was staying up late that was cool), the fear I felt, egged on by my brothers, and them cool monsters hooked me. My first FM was 94 and that sealed the deal.

-Ken B.

Above: Chilly Billy Cardille on the set of Pittsburgh's CHILLER THEATER.

The earliest memory I have of watching monster movies is being up late with my dad watching Chiller Theater on Saturday night. I think it was 1968 because it was a few days after my birthday and that was the year my mother had taken me to the store and let me pick my present. This was unprecedented and went against all birthday gift protocol but then again it WAS the turbulent sixties. We went to a couple of 5&10s and I was able to buy the Aurora Anzio Beach Playset at Kresges. This was one of the greastest presents I have ever received and I still have it. In fact my own son has been having fun with it lately.

I remember playing with it and assembling some of the pieces on the coffee table in our living room as me and my dad watched Chilly Billy that night. Chilly still had the old set up which was just a backdrop of a laboratory, and I don't remember what the movie was but on a little shelf behind him were some of the Aurora monster models. This was right about the time I had devoted my life to getting all of them in a race to the death with my best friend Steve and I remember being fascinated that Chilly had them too. I just assumed he had special Horror Host connections and he got his models straight from the factory.

PS: My mother still has that coffee table and it's still in the exact same spot and you will still get yelled at for putting a drink on it without a coaster.

-M. Oleman, Pittsburgh, PA Abandoned Subway Tunnel

Above: Cosmo Theater in Harlem NY.

I became a 'monstakid' in the 50s, every Sunday my dad and I would take me and my litle brother to the Cosmo thtr. no longer in existence of course, in Harlem,NY and we would see 2 flicks for about $1.00 for adults and yes, .25 for kids! I remember seeing every horror/sci flick that was produced in those long ago, summer/fall Sunday nights. Esp. Sir Christopher Lee's Horror of Dracula, which made me a life long Lee/Hammer fan, and of course the classic sci/fi's, my favorites being 'She Creature" and 20 Million Miles to Earth, not to mention the gimmicks put on by the late/great showman,William Castle.

I feel privileged to have been a part of that time in
Cinema history..whether they were b/w or glorious color, these movies are very much a part of my child-
hood and the few good memories I have,my family was poor. Yes, I got to see these great films, first run,
then of course later on in the 60s,70s, when they would show up on Sat. eves, on,Chiller Theater and Fright
Night on New Yorks, Channels 9 and 11.

My Dad left us in l978 and to this day, the fondest memories
I have are of him, my little brother, and a slice of pizza on Sunday night after these great classic films!

Sincerely,
Jay Maggio - J50smonsta(proud) kid(:

Hi Ron,

Yes, I can recall the exact moment it all began. In fact it's the very earliest memory I have of anything. I think it's summer 1962, because it's the only time I remember the old house before we moved in 1963. So I was 2 or 3 at this time. I can see my dad out the back door washing a champagne colored Ford Galaxie. My mom is sitting on the sofa with me and we are watching Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolfman. Dad being home in the daytimes means it's probably Saturday or Sunday.

Growing up in southern Virginia, we got all the old broadcast stations from both Richmond and Norfolk. My belief is that Mom and I were probably watching Ronald the Ghoul's Shock Theater on WVEC Channel 13. I remember one of the Richmond channels used to run a lot of early Corman and similar vintage, so some of the first Horror films I saw were The Wasp Woman, Atom Age Monster and The Tingler. My Mom was the big Horror fan, my Dad liked crime and westerns. Mom took me to almost every Disney and Hammer film that played the old Pitts Theater, the only movie theater in my home town by 1963. We saw The Gorgon, Dracula Prince of Darkness, The Mummy's Shroud and even a reissue double feature of Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula, some non-Hammers like The Deadly Bees and The Vulture, along with reissues of Pinocchio, Snow White, Peter Pan and first run Disney like Lt Robin Crusoe, The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, my favorite, and later Blackbeard's Ghost. I remember when we went to Virginia Beach on summer vacation in 1966, I saw the poster for Munster Go Home at the Franklin Va theater as we passed through and nothing at the beach held any of my interest until we saw that one at an Atlantic Street theater, sadly now gone after having been a spook house the last 10 or so years.

My first comic books were Casper, The Friendly Ghost. The first word I could identify was "Boo!" I got those when I was 2 going on 3 as well and read mostly Harvey and Disney until "Batman" premiered in 1966. My first superhero comics were Batman, Detective, World's Finest and some Superman titles. I later discovered Marvel and really like the Hulk, SubMariner, Captain America, Iron Man and my favorite Marvel was Spider-Man, after his cartoon show premiered. I also bought many Boris Karloff and Twilight Zone comics, and liked other Gold Keys like their movie and TV comics, especially, no surprise, The Munsters.

My first music memories were of the Beatle invasion. My dad used to buy me Beatle gum cards to amuse myself when I rode with him on errands. My first completed gum card set was The Addams Family and I was thrilled when I completed the puzzle on the set back. I loved to watch shows with pop bands like Herman's Hermits, The Rolling Stones, The Mamas and the Papas, and Sonny and Cher. So, Mom and I watched Hullabaloo, Shindig and the whole family watched Ed Sullivan on Sundays. My first lp record was The Royal Guardsmen's "Snoopy and The Red Baron" album. I had a teenage girl who used to babysit and I apparently bugged her into giving me one of her Monkees '45s, which I added to those that came off the backs of cereal boxes.

I used to tell people I wanted to work in a drugstore as a kid, but we all know the reason was because that was where you got all the good comics and magazines in those days. The first Famous Monsters I ever saw were #s 35 and 36. Mom said I could have one magazine, and at 5 then, I actually bought a "Monsters Unlimited, # 5, as it was all pictures, all with goofy captions like the "You'll Die Laughing" cards. My first Famous Monsters was then # 45, I got when I was sick in the hospital, my only stay as a kid. My second FM was # 52, the issue with Barnabas Collins on the cover and the great article on Planet of the Apes. From here on it was an ongoing search through every magazine stand to get every new one as the came out. I could go on on how much Dark Shadows became a cornerstone in my life, but that's a lengthy digression.

The last big landmark in my youth was when "Shock Theater" with "The Bowman Body" came on WXEX Petersburg and ran all the Universal films I'd been reading about in FM. So I guess my horror experience was unusual as I had lot's of the Hammer films before I say almost any Universals. I am proud to say as an adult, Bill Bowman, the Shock Host, has become a good friend. Wow, if only we'd had shows like Monster Bash as a kid, my head would have probably exploded, lol.

Above: Michael Joyner (on right) and his friend Kelvin (on left).

I've enclosed a picture which is rather similar to Ron's own. The 1960's live forever.

-Michael Joyner (Below as Batman!)


Ron,

At the risk of boring those who read this before, here goes my story.

We moved next door to a movie theater in 1950. I was two years old. For the remainder of the 50s decade and the first couple years of the 60s, I went to the theatre every Saturday and Sunday to watch double features and a boatload of cartoons.

I saw every monster/sci-fi film during that period, some in 3-D. I was also a fan of cowboy and Audie Murphy films. The next town North of us would show even more horror films such as the ones produced by William Castle with all the gimmicks. My older brother was an usher and helped install the vibrators for The Tingler. He told me where to sit so I would get the full experience.

I bought my first Famous Monsters #2 at the corner drugstore. They also sold Mad and Superman/Batman comics. I collected them till 1969 when I enlisted in the Navy. And yes, my mother tossed them out while I was gone in order to "make room." I still ask her to this day if she really didn't store them in the attic.

Got married and we raised three great kids (one comes with us to work at the Bash). When they were young, I told them about Shock Theater in the 50s and they asked if we could have our own shock theater on Saturday nights. So, my kids were raised on the classics.

Jerry A., Indiana

Hi Ron,

Seeing those pictures of the Sinclair dinosaur statues encouraged me to dig through the old family photos and find these! I think they were taken in Calgary, Alberta some time in the mid sixties. I'm the little guy standing next to my older brother in front of a rather spindley-armed Gorgosaurus, and if you look closely, in front of what must have been called a Brontosaurus (hey paleontologists-don't tell me they never existed, there's one right now!!).



I think my love for dinosaurs is what eventually led me to a love of horror movies I remember owning plastic dinosaurs and collecting dinosaur cards and albums from Blue Ribbon tea. . At very young age I heard about a movie called "King Kong" which was supposed to be loaded with dinosaurs, so of course I searched the TV listings to see if it was being shown that week. Eventually I did see Kong (and I think I ran around the house for an hour afterwards, unable to contain my excitement), but along the way I started watching the classic horror and science fiction films. Then the fkloodgates were open-I discovered Aurora model kits, gum cards, and eventually Famous Monsters. The rest, as they say, is history. (but in my case it really started with pre-history)

-Paul Speidel, Canada

Above: Another great pic of dinosaurs from Paul Speidel from the 1960s in Calgary, Alberta.

 

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