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Old 23rd December 2012, 13:52   #1560
webthing
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John Zacherle



Sometimes credited as John Zacherley; born September 26, 1918 is an American television host, radio personality and voice actor known for his long career as a television horror host broadcasting horror movies in Philadelphia and New York City in the 1950s and 1960s.

Best known for his character "Roland/Zacherley," he also did voice work for movies, and recorded the top ten song novelty rock and roll song "Dinner With Drac" in 1958. He also edited two collections of horror stories, Zacherley's Vulture Stew and Zacherley's Midnight Snacks.

Zacherle was born in Philadelphia, the youngest of four children of a bank clerk and his wife. He grew up in Philadelphia's Germantown neighborhood, where he went to high school. He received a bachelors degree in English literature from the University of Pennsylvania. In World War II he enlisted in the United States Army and served in North Africa and Europe. After the war, he returned to Philadelphia and joined a local repertory theatre company.


John Zacherle as "Zacherley"





In 1954 he gained his first television role at WCAU-TV in Philadelphia, where he was hired as an actor playing several roles (one was an undertaker) in Action in the Afternoon, a Western produced by the station and aired in the New York City market.

Three years later, he was hired as the host of WCAU's Shock Theater, which debuted on October 7, 1957. As the host, Zacherle appeared wearing a long black undertaker's coat as the character "Roland," pronounced "Ro-land", who lived in a crypt with his wife "My Dear" and his lab assistant, Gasport.

The hosting of the black-and-white show involved numerous stylized horror-comedy gags that have become standard on television. In the opening sequence, Zacherle as Roland would descend a long round staircase to the crypt. The producers erred on the side of goriness, showing fake severed heads with blood simulated with Hershey's chocolate syrup.


The show sometimes featured live "cut-ins" during the movie in which the soundtrack continued to play on the air, while the visual feed switched briefly to a shot of Zacherle as Roland in the middle of a humorous stunt, such as riding a tombstone. The show ran for 92 broadcasts through 1958.

He was a close colleague of Philadelphia broadcaster Dick Clark, and sometimes filled in for Clark on road touring shows of Clark's American Bandstand in the 1960s. Clark reportedly gave Zacherle his nickname of "The Cool Ghoul."

In 1958, partly with the assistance and backing of Clark, Zacherle cut "Dinner with Drac" for Cameo Records, backed by Dave Appell. At first, Clark thought the recording was too gory to play on Bandstand and made Zacherle return to the studio to cut a second tamer version. Eventually both versions were released simultaneously as backsides on the same 45, and the record broke the top ten nationally. Zacherle later related several LPs mixing horror sound effects with novelty songs.

The Video

This video was released in 1998. It is out of print and a search will only yield bootleg dvd for sale. Zacherley hosts a program of his personal kinescope archives of his earliest work in Philadelphia and later NYC.

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