Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Chilly Night in Pittsburgh (and in my Teepee)


I hope I don't regret posting this.  (Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night after an unsettling dream or even an inspired idea, maybe even jotted something down, only to look at it in the cold light of day and feel like a damn fool?  It appears that's what I'm doing now.

Right now it's almost 2:30am Saturday night (okay, technically it's Sunday--but you know what I mean).'s so cold in here!  Anyway, I was sound asleep when I awoke with a start, jumping straight up.  I could've SWORN someone was standing beside my bed, watching me sleep.   I should've tried going back to sleep, but it really unnerved me; so now I'm in the livingroom, sitting on my couch & feeling pretty silly.  (Think I'll just take a quick peek back in there...)

Okay, that bedroom looks awful dark & I can only imagine what’s going on in there--well, as long as I'm up...


"Leader, I attempted to subdue the human for abduction but he awoke.  I will continue to remain in close proximity until the specimen falls asleep again…"


Ulp—see what’s in my brain this time of night?  Okay, this actually reminds me of a different type of chillin' I used to do on Saturday nights--I'm surprised I haven't talked about it here sooner... Chiller Theater!




"Whatever you do--don't fall asleep"

If you were a kid growing up in (or near) Pittsburgh in the 60's or 70's, chances are you stayed up late Saturday nights for Chiller Theater, hosted by "Chilly Billy" Cardille.  It aired from 1963-1983 on the local NBC station (now WPXI--in the day it was WIIC-TV.) 

They always aired two movies, usually a pretty cheesy assortment of B horror & sci-fi films.  AND FOR A KID LIKE ME, IT WAS NIRVANA.  (If you could stay awake long enough to wait up for them, that is…)    My sister Shawn & I used to park ourselves in front of the tv at 11:30, waiting for it to begin and desperately trying to not nod off, while Mom sat on the couch giving us the eagle eye.  (Which always resulted in her telling one of us to go to bed while you screamed “I was just resting my eyes!!”)



Some Chiller Theater Trivia

1)  Unlike most 'Late Show' horror hosts in cities like New York or Chicago, Bill Cardille wore no costumes or makeup.  (But he was always decked out in a wide lapel tux with a ruffled shirt, from the show’s sponsor.)

2)  For a decade, Chilly hosted alone from a 'mad scientists laboratory'.  In the mid-70s, it became a castle dungeon--with a slew of oddball characters like ‘Terminal Stare’ & Georgette the Fudgemaker.  Funny stuff, but I preferred him solo.  617D5C2B848A9C67_3387_4[1]

3)  George Romero tapped Bill Cardille to play himself (as a Pittsburgh reporter, which really was Chilly's day job) for 1968's "Night of the Living Dead"

4)  The show was so popular in Pittsburgh, that the first five seasons of 'Saturday Night Live' didn't air here.  (if you wanted to watch SNL, you had to try & tune into Channel 9--Johnstown!  And without cable, it was hit and miss.)

5)  Each show opened with Al Caiola’s “Experiment in Terror”, found on “retro-lounge” albums today.  




Chiller Theater cast in 1977 (left to right): Terminal Stare, Sister Susie, Norman the Castle Keeper, Chilly Billy & Stephen


If it wasn't for Chiller Theater, how else could I have seen classic fare like 'The Brain Eaters', 'Voodoo Woman' or 'The Man With X-Ray Eyes'?  (I think that last one is the only film that genuinely frightened me—Ray Milland was creepy enough on his own, but rips his own eyeballs out at the end!)



In 1980, SNL finally came to NBC in Pittsburgh, and Chiller Theatre was moved to 1:00 am.  It ended in December 1983 with "It: The Terror From Beyond Space." 



Well, it's 3:30 am--I guess I'd better stop all this reminiscing & try going back to bed.  Wish me luck!


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