WATCH Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson) Shows Off Baby (Paul Thomas Anderson) PLUS Mad Daddy - Cleveland WHK
"The punk-a-billy band The Cramps, named their 1990 album Stay Sick!
David Thomas, of art rock band Pere Ubu, said that the Cramps were "so thoroughly co-optive of the Ghoulardi persona that when they first appeared, Clevelanders of the generation were fairly dismissive."
Thomas credits Ghoulardi for influencing the "otherness" of the Cleveland/Akron bands of the mid-1970s and early-1980s, including the Electric Eels, and The Mirrors, the Cramps, and Thomas's own groups, Pere Ubu and Rocket From The Tombs, declaring:
"We were the Ghoulardi kids." (Akron's Devo aren't included on Thomas' list, but they were formed in the same era as the other groups and shared a similar esthetic.)
In 2002, Cleveland-area indie band Uptown Sinclair featured a Ghoulardi-derived basketball referee in the slapstick music video for their song "Girlfriend."
The most obvious Ghoulardi kid, Anderson's son, film director Paul Thomas Anderson, named his production entity "The Ghoulardi Film Company."
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Ernie Anderson was born Nov. 12, 1923 in Lynn, Massachusetts & was destined to become one of the most famous & highest paid voice talents of the 20th century. He broke into radio at Burlington, Vermont's WSKI-AM in 1946. Later, he became the number one DJ in the Providence, Rhode Island market. After a stint in Albany, New York, he went to WHK-AM in Cleveland & met Tim Conway. Before Conway became famous, he wrote comedy for radio & TV host Malcom "Big" Wilson. Ernie (with Conway in tow & passing him off as a director) was hired by Cleveland's WJW-TV in 1961.They created "Ernie's Place", a daytime show of movies interlaced with comedy skits. Anderson, at the same time was a booth announcer & spokesman for Ohio Bell. So as not portray a conflict of interest, he started giving his dialog in "Beatnik" tones. He then donned a lab coat, fright wig, fake goatee & moustache. It was with this twist of fate Ernie created one of the legendary local TV show hosts, "Ghoulardi".
His Ghoulardi character became a staple for WJW-TV's Friday night horror movie show "Shock Threater.". "He was the original hippie." , said "Big" Chuck Schodowski, who later played Ghoulardi & would later create the "Big Chuck & Houlihan Show" for WJW-TV. "Ghoulardi" did not simply mock the grade-Z horror flicks, but would also superimpose himself on the screen, shouting to characters & joining the action. He riffed his way through host segments in a dimly lit studio, reading fan & hate mail, blowing up model cars with firecrackers, smoking cigarettes profusely, tossing rubber chickens & talking on an old-fashioned telephone.
At the peak of his popularity, "Ghoulardi" commanded an astounding 56 percent share of the local TV audience, compared to Johnny Carson at 38 shares & Steve Allen at 6. With the highest local ratings beating national shows & making local appearances across Cleveland, Ernie, as "Ghoulardi" owned that market. Shortly after that, Rose Marie, best known as "Sally" on The Dick Van Dyke Show, promoted Conway to Steve Allen, who summoned Conway to Hollywood for his show. Back in Cleveland, Ernie's battles with management & corporate types became legendary. His on-air antics continued mercilessly until his departure for California in 1966, where he later appeared as an actor on the first two episodes of Conway's short-lived series "Rango" in 1967. Ernie & Conway then became a comedy act. They appeared together on "Hollywood Palace" & recorded two comedy albums together.
Later, Ernie would move on with Tim Conway & become the announcer for the Carol Burnett Show. In 1970, Ernie returned to Cleveland to tape a TV special & met up with Ron Sweed. Ron had worked with Ernie on Shock Theater & had produced WJW-TV's "Big Chuck & Houlihan" show. Sweed felt that the market needed Ghoulardi & asked Ernie if he could continue the character. After some hesitation, Ernie christened Sweed & "The Ghoul" was born. The Ghoul is still on today in Cleveland on WBMX-TV (WB 55).
At the end of the 1970's, ABC's then chief Program Director, Fred Silverman, decided to hire "the golden throat" as ABC's voice. Ernie Anderson's style & delivery set the precedent for network announcing. His voice was instantly recognizable when introducing spots for America�s Funniest Home Videos, The Winds of War, Roots, & of course, The Love Boat.
Ernie Anderson passed away on February 6, 1997.
Paul Thomas Anderson named in his production company after his father's famous persona & continues to pay homage with sequences like "The Rahad Jackson Firecracker Scene" & character names such as Phil Parma. Others do the same as local Cleveland resident, Drew Carey wears a Ghoulardi shirt on his show from time to time.
Quotes from PTA
"As I got older," Paul Thomas Anderson said, "I kept thinking, 'What is this Ghoulardi thing? What is it? What? What?' We went back to Cleveland once when I was 14 and we were mobbed at the airport by people chanting 'Ghoulardi! Ghoulardi!' And when I do interviews anywhere in the country, constantly, constantly, people who are enamored of my father or who grew up with him bring him up or even thank me for Ghoulardi!" Toledo Blade - 1/24/00
My dad was one of the first guys on the block to have a VCR. So along with all the videotapes that I would rummage through, I would find porno movies. Not that it twisted me into some maniac or anything. I was watching porno from age 10 to 17. I had an interest in it. - Rough Cut Q & A - 10/97
He also thinks that his father would be proud of the films he's made after Hard Eight, the only one the elder Anderson saw because there is some thing personal about them.
"I think all three movies that I've made in roundabout ways reflected his (Ernie's) life in small, intimate, personal ways that I wouldn't want to reveal, but you can be sure that there's a lot of my Dad in these movies." - Akron Beacon Journal
12 November 1923, Lynn, Massachusetts
Date of Death: 6 February 1997
Los Angeles, California, USA.(cancer)
THE GHOULARDI LEGEND A new era in Cleveland television began on a cold Ohio night in January, 1963 back when everything on TV was in black and white. Ernie Anderson came on the air as the host of a late night horror movie presented as Shock Theater. The movie was … The show lasted until 1966 when Ernie Anderson left for fame and fortune in Hollywood. He became the voice of the ABC network. Although his voice could be heard doing promos for the “Love Boat” and miniseries like “Winds of War,” he was seldom seen. He showed up on a few PM Magazine segments and on the Carol Burnett show with his old friend Tim Conway. Ernie Anderson and Tim Conway recorded two comedy albums for Liberty Records titled “Are We On?” and “Bull!” Ernie was the straight man interviewing Tim as various characters.
After Ghoulardi left the Cleveland airwaves, he was replaced by Big Chuck Schodowski, formerly known as handsome, debonair, downstairs neighbor, Jerry Kreegle on Parma Place. Big Chuck was joined by Bob Wells, formerly known as Houlihan the Weather Man. The Houlihan and Big Chuck Show began. After Houlihan left the show to pursue religious programming and a role in “Summer Rental” with John Candy, he was replaced by Lil’ John Rinaldi a local jeweler who had appeared in skits with Big Chuck and Houlihan. Their show continued until June of this year when Big Chuck decided to retire. It was the end of an era in Cleveland.
In the 70s, Ron Sweed created a character based on Ghoulardi and called himself the Ghoul. Ron Sweed was discovered by Ghoulardi when he showed up at one of Ghoulardi’s personal appearances in a gorilla suit. He has been on and off the airwaves in Cleveland and Detroit and is currently doing his show as a web cast. Super Host, the Cool Ghoul, and the Son of Ghoul have also been on in the Cleveland area. The Son of Ghoul is the only remaining local horror host on TV.
After Ernie Anderson died in February, 1997, the first GhoulardiFest was held in October of that year in his honor. The second GhoulardiFest was held in 1998. The third GhoulardiFest was held this past weekend. If you missed it, don’t worry, you can still get Ghoulardi T-Shirts like this black and orange number for Halloween! Help keep the legend alive!
This Ghoulardi website was created almost ten years ago in November of 1997. If you would like to know more, you can read the book “Inside Cleveland Television’s Wildest Ride” by Tom Ferran and R. D. Heldenfels.
was a fictional character invented and portrayed by disc jockey, voice announcer, and actor Ernie Anderson (November 22, 1923 - February 6, 1997), as the horror host of late night Shock Theater at WJW-TV, Channel 8, in Cleveland, Ohio from 1963 through 1966.
Shock Theater featured grade-“B” science fiction films and horror films. Shock Theater was aired in a Friday late-night time slot, but at the peak of Ghoulardi's popularity, Anderson also hosted the Saturday afternoon Masterpiece Theater, and the weekday children's program Laurel, Ghoulardi and Hardy.
Ernie Anderson was a big band and jazz enthusiast, and WWII U.S. Navy veteran born in Lynn, Massachusetts on November 22, 1923.
This irreverent and influential movie host was a hipster, unlike the horror character prototype. Ghoulardi’s costume was a long lab coat covered with “slogan” buttons, horn-rimmed sunglasses with a missing lens, fake Van Dyke beard and moustache, and various messy, awkwardly-perched wigs. Ghoulardi's stage name was devised by Cleveland restaurateur Ralph Gulko, who was making a pun of the word "ghoul," and his own similar last name, tagged with a generic "ethnic" ending.
During the breaks from the movies, Anderson addressed the camera live in a part-Beat, part-ethnic accented commentary, peppered with: “Hey, group!,” “Stay sick, knif” (“fink”), “Cool it,” “Turn blue” and “Ova deh.” Anderson improvised because of his difficulty memorizing lines. He played novelty and offbeat rock and roll tunes, plus jazz and rhythm and blues songs, under his live performance.
Shock Theater drew both a black and white cult audience, who loved Ghoulardi's beatnik costume, the music, and his hip talk, which was a nod to black jazz and R&B artists. More mainstream viewers enjoyed his broad, unpretentious ethnic humor.
Ghoulardi spared no unhip targets: the bedroom communities Parma, Ohio ("Par-ma?!") and Oxnard, California ("Remember...Oxnard!"), bandleader Lawrence Welk and polka music, Cleveland television personalities Mike Douglas and Dorothy Fuldheim, plus other public figures. In particular, Ghoulardi unmercifully jeered Parma, for its ethnic, working-class, “white socks” sensibility, creating a series of taped skits called Parma Place. He adopted a crow and named him “Oxnard.”
He also mocked the poor quality films he was hosting: "If you want to watch a movie, don't watch this one," or "This movie is so bad, you should just go to bed." He had his crew absurdly insert stock film clips or his own image at climactic moments.
Ghoulardi used friends and members of his talented Channel 8 crew as supporting cast: cameraman “Big Chuck” Schodowski, film editor Bob Soinski and writer Tim Conway (later of The Carol Burnett Show and “Dorf” fame). He was further assisted by teenage intern Ron Sweed. Sweed had boarded a cross-town bus to try to meet his idol at a live appearance, clad in a gorilla suit. Anderson invited Sweed onstage; to the crowd’s delight, Sweed stumbled offstage into the audience. This, plus some unnanounced gorilla-suited visits to the Channel 8 studios sealed his place as Anderson’s right-hand man.
Channel 8, then owned by Storer Broadcasting, capitalized on Ghoulardi’s wide audience with a comprehensive merchandising program, giving Anderson a percentage as Storer also owned the "Ghoulardi" name. Anderson also formed “Ghoulardi All-Stars” sports teams, which played as many as 100 charity contests a year, which, reflecting his popularity, frequently attracted thousands of fans.
Anderson openly battled Channel 8 management. Schodowski was quoted as saying: "[S]tation management lived in daily fear as to what he might say or do on the air, because he was live." In spite of his solid ratings and profitablilty, they worried that Ghoulardi was testing too many television boundaries too quickly, and tried to rein in the character. Anderson responded by, among other things, detonating plastic action figures and plastic model cars with firecrackers and small explosives sent in by viewers, on air, once nearly setting the studio on fire. (“Cool it with the boom-booms.”)
Induced by Tim Conway, who had already left town, and greater career promise, Anderson retired Ghoulardi in 1966 and moved to Los Angeles, California. His plan was to act in film and television. Instead, he made a successful career in voice-over work, most prominently as the main voice for the ABC TV network ("the Lu-u-uhv Boat") during the 1970s and 1980s.
More than 40 years after Ghoulardi signed off, his legacy endures: Clevelanders still associate polka music, white socks, and pink plastic flamingo and yard globe lawn ornaments with Parma, Ohio.
In the mid-1960s, Ghoulardi's irreverance overtook the rarefied Severance Hall. Cleveland Orchestra conductor George Szell introduced one of his musicians as being from Parma, Ohio. According to Tim Conway, the concertgoing audience replied: "Par-ma?!"
As a tribute, jazz organist Jimmy McGriff wrote, recorded and released his song "Turn Blue."
In 1971 Sweed appeared on WKBF-TV, borrowing the "Ghoulardi" character traits and costume with Anderson’s blessing, but changed the movie host's name to “The Ghoul,” to not misappropriate the "Ghoulardi" name.
Channel 8’s Bob Wells (“Hoolihan the Weatherman”) and “Big Chuck” Schodowski took over Ghoulardi’s Friday night movie time slot as “Hoolihan and Big Chuck,” becoming Anderson’s tamer but familiar successors. Schodowski's show continued on WJW, with co-host "Li'l John" Rinaldi from 1979 onward, until July 2007.
Cleveland native Drew Carey has paid tribute to Ghoulardi in his television sitcom (Carey can often be seen wearing a Ghoulardi T-shirt). In his endorsement of the biography, Ghoulardi: Inside Cleveland TV’s Wildest Ride, cited below, Carey was quoted as saying "Absolutely, big time, Ghoulardi was an influence on me."