The Crypt of Crematia!!!

![][1] _Once upon a time, I was a disturbed young kid with a crush on the local late night TV host. Her name was Crematia Mortem, and all week long she would tease me with promos for movies like "The TIngler" and "It Came From Outer Space!" The first time I begged my folks to tape an episode of Creature Feature was a defining moment in my life: the movie for the week was "Night of the Living Dead," and from that moment forward my life was changed forever.__Over the Halloween season, I had the chance to talk to Crematia-- aka Roberta Solomon-- about Creature Feature, her cult of adoring fans, and how she's kept herself busy since the golden years of late night television. This is what she had to say..._SP: Creature Feature ran from 1981-1988. Where did the idea for the show come from? Were you inspired by any other horror hosts of the day? What was initial reaction to the show like? What were the circumstances surrounding its cancellation?CM: I started out at KSHB in 1981, hosting the Saturday edition of "All Night Live." That show had become the station's most popular program, and was hosted during the week by Ed Muscare. "Uncle Ed" had a huge following, and every night thousands of viewers would tune in to recite the "All Night Live Creed" with himand stay up late for an evening of silliness. This was a precious era in TV history, really. Before the growth of the big cable companies, individual stations owned the movies they aired. KSHB was not a network affiliate yet, had a lot of time to fill in the evenings, and a basement full of awful movies they ran at night and on weekends. "All Night Live" pulled weekday evenings together in one very silly package. In '81, KSHB decided to expand "All Night Live" to include Saturday nights, and because Ed Muscare didn't want to do the show six days a week, the station held auditions for a weekend host. I had very little TV experience beyond a couple of classes at UMKC, but had been on the stage all my life. My audition was dreadful (I auditioned as a country-western singer who wandered into the studio by mistake) but the pickings must have been pretty slim because they hired me. Two weeks later, I went on the air, live, as "Sally Roberts." I had to change my name because the easy listening radio station I worked for at the time was worried I might get weird on TV, so they thought it best if I turned into someone else. It was a wonderful experience, hosting that show, and the response was very positive. On the weekends, however, KSHB played monster movies. My comic elements were tied to what Uncle Ed was doing during the week, but didn't have much to do with the movies we were showing. The station decided that it was easier to change me than to change the movies, so they approached me about creating a creepy new character to host the show. I came up with the name Crematia. My good friend Walt Bodine, who worked across the hall from me at the radio station, gave Crematia her last name, Mortem. I remember sitting in the studio with him and laughing like crazy over that name. It was perfect. So, on my last night as Sally Roberts on "All Night Live," I told the audience I'd been canned and that the following week they'd have a new host. I wasn't sure who they'd found to replace me or where she came from, I said, but I was sure she was a "character they dug up from somewhere." The following week, Crematia made her debut as the hostess of the "Creature Feature."The response was amazing. Since KSHB was a superstation at the time, reaching several Midwestern states on cable, the audience was huge and we drew viewers from all over. The show was hugely popular, and was a big part of the growing-up-years of a lot of people. Even though we've been off the air now for over 15 years, I still get letters every month from people who want to know if the show's ever coming back. Toward the end of the Creature Feature's run, KSHB became a Fox affiliate. As their committment to programming from the network grew, my show kept getting pushed back later and later and the audience started to change. The beauty of that show was that it was a family thing--moms, dads, kids, grandparents and babysitters would watch it together and groan at Crematia's bad jokes. But starting the show at midnight meant that I'd lose a good portion of my audience--what parent will let their kids stay up to watch a show that doesn't start until midnight? The Creature Feature was cancelled when I decided to leave.SP: For those in the audience who haven't seen the show, could you please describe the basic premise? (Who was Crematia? Who were the side characters? etc...)CM: I never really figured out where Crematia came from. "The other side," I guess. She was vaguely a vampire. (I remember lots of references to making a withdrawal from the blood bank.) She was several hundred years old. Mortem was her married name. (She was a hyphenate, actually. Crematia Post-Mortem.) She slept in a coffin (which was given to my ex-husband by an undertaker in Leavenworth) and lived with a couple of servants, Dweeb and Rasputin, who were never seen. Dweeb was referred to as the "man in the wall," because Crematia had walled him up in her house for some unnamed offense. Both characters were created by Paul Murphy, who was KSHB's "station voice" at the time. Crematia had a very weird and wonderful family who showed up in episodes from time to time. Her sister Cremora was played by Katey McGuckin, who is the reigning queen of Kansas City morning radio, heard each day on Oldies 95. Their mother, Desiree, was brought to life by actor and comedian C. Wayne Owens, and was later played by Katey's husband, John Woolam. Both of those guys looked lovely in a dress. Along with Cremora and Mom, there was Weird Cousin Henry, a loopy but harmless lunatic played by Steve Bell. You hear Steve these days doing news on KCUR-FM.SP: Do you have any favorite moments from the show? Behind the scenes memories?CM: Oh, man. I had nine years of favorite moments so it's really hard to pick a favorite. One episode stands out, however. We had this kid on the show who'd made a giant paper mache monster costume that had stilts inside for the legs. He fitted himself into this get-up and when it was fully assembled, he was about 9 feet tall. We were playing some "giant monster from outer space" movie that night and the kid's creature was a perfect tie-in. We did these bits all night long where Crematia was looking for her "perfect man" through video dating services and the like, without having much luck. In the last few breaks, we were going to have this giant monster wander onstage and Crematia would announce she'd found her man! It was the monster, however, who actually wound up falling for Crematia. When the kid shuffled onstage in his 9-foot-tall costume, one of his paper mache boots got caught on the edge of the rug and he lost his balance. I looked up and saw him falling, in slow motion, like a tree. He landed with a thud on the floor, trapped inside the costume, and there was this horrible moment of silence. Then I heard him say, weakly..."Somebody get me out of here, please." He was fine, but couldn't be convinced to get back inside the costume again to finish the bit. We made do somehow, but I really felt bad for him. He was embarrassed more than anything.A few months after the Creature Feature was cancelled, KSHB-TV became an NBC affiliate. To inaugurate the station, Tom Brokaw was brought into Kansas City to anchor the Nightly News from the network's newest station. I happened to be driving by the station during the 6:00 news and laughed out loud when I thought, "I wonder if Tom Brokaw knows that there's a coffin leaning against the wall behind him right now?"SP: Did you pick out the movies each week? What were some of your favorites? (My personal favorite: The Brain That Wouldn't DIE!)CM: I was NOT responsible for the movies!! They were chosen by the station, and The Brain that Wouldn't Die is definitely among my favorites. I also LOVED those wonderful Hammer Films with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, the Japanese monster movies (Destroy All Monsters is one of the best), and in particular the Mexican monster movies with wrestlers in the leading roles. SP: There is a large underground devoted to preserving the memory of Late Night Horror Hosts. What do you think the interest is, after all these years? Do you see this as a sign of some type of revivalism? Are Horror Hosts on the comeback? What advice do you have for any up-and-coming Horror Hosts?CM: The kids who grew up with horror hosts are now in their 30's with kids of their own and they're eager to pass along the magic of their growing-up years. There's definitely a sense of nostalgia about the TV horror genre and I do consider it a unique American folk art. I think it's due in part to the fact that you couldn't find those movies anywhere else at the time. The show existed before every home had a VCR, before the advent of cable, and before everyone had access to everything. I get so many inquiries about Crematia, and I know that interest is surging. In the coming months, there's a documentary coming out about TV horror hosts called "American Scary." ( I was just one of at least 50 former hosts featured in the film. There are a number of people out there who'd like to become monster movie hosts, so I know the interest is still there. The major challenge these days is finding an outlet. Stations devote so much time to network and syndicated programming that there's not much local time available. A lot of the hosts who are still on the air are on local cable channels or internet sites.SP: Obviously, there is still interest in Crematia Mortem... I punched her name into GOOGLE and got several pages worth of information. It was nice to see I wasn't the ONLY who was warped by you as a child! Does Crematia ever make public appearances? Are there any plans to resurrect her character?CM: I haven't appeared as Crematia since the show went off the air. When I did make public appearances, it was always for a non-profit event. I never wanted the use Crematia to sell a product, and felt a real obligation to use that character to do good things in the community. I would love to bring her back for a Halloween special or a limited-run thing, but at this point wouldn't be able to do the show again on a weekly basis. Contrary to what you may have guessed, the Creature Feature was a lot of work!!SP: You've kept yourself busy since the demise of Creature Feature performing as a member of the Imagination Workshop (Right Between the Ears). How did you become involved with them? Any upcoming performances that you would like to plug? CM: I've been a cast member of Right Between the Ears since 1990, right after the demise of the Creature Feature. It's an amazingly funny radio comedy show now heard weekly on Sirius Satellite Radio's Raw Dog Comedy Channel. It's sort of like a cross between Saturday Night Live and A Prarie Home Companion--seven cast members onstage with scripts, performing before a live audience, with live sound effects and live music onstage a la vintage radio. But it's all topical comedy and spoofs of current events. Our next show is Saturday, November 27th, at Liberty Hall in Lawrence. Ticket information is available at [][2].SP: Tell me a little about your voiceover work. It seems that your voice is all over the place these days. How did you initially become involved as a voiceover artist? Where can your voice be heard? CM: I was in radio before I got into TV, and I've been doing voice work since I got started in the business. It's full time work now. I'm the voice of about 40 radio and television stations in the U.S. and U.K., including KCPT here in Kansas City, WGHB/Boston, KEZK-FM in St. Louis and WMGC-FM/Detroit. You can hear me now doing promos for Animal Planet's newest show "World Gone Wild," and I'm the voice of HBO/Asia. SP: Finally, how can I get one of those sweet Crematia Mortem promo cards?CM: Get down on your knees and beg! [1]: [2]:


Rob Gillaspie 16 years, 4 months ago

Beats me. No one seems to like the "Sinema" blog much anymore. Which is too bad, cause it ain't going anywhere... If anything, it's only going to get bigger once Kelly and I get our TV show and the movie gets started. I may have to start my OWN website and let this thing blow up on a national scale... I'm sure there are minds outside of Lawrence, Kansas that would appreciate where I'm coming from with this blog.

Christine Hammon 16 years, 3 months ago

Thanks so much bringing back a time that is so close to my heart! My brother and I, along with our mom, used to stay up EVERY friday night. There are so many snippets of movies I remember and so many actors like Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, among many, many others. That show taught me the very important life saving tactics, like the importance of silver, crosses, garlic, fire, sunlight, and of course the cardinal rule, for me, was to make sure the covers on my bed were tucked in-so nothing could get me from under the bed. My attraction to vampires began with the first time I saw Bela Lugosi. The classics were great, but the less than greats were also influencial.

As far as Friday Fright Night goes, I remember that and I don't remember clearly, but I was under the assumption that it aired after Crematia went off the air. Elvira Mistress of the Dark was the host and also the subject of the pinball machine.

I have now, in desperation to fill the void, begun stocking up on these old films. I would strongly support any local attempt to have a show like this on cable, hell, I'd turn my cable back on for that. I missed the viewing of Shaun of the Dead at the Jackpot, but I did get to see it last week and I loved it. I personally loved the line that references Romero's Night of the Living Dead, when they are going to save Shaun's mom-Barbara.

dex 16 years, 4 months ago

talent is a terrible thing to waste entirely in lawrence. who was it that once said something about how the lawrence audience doesn't expect something original? i don't remember, but on a tip i did pick up a copy of 'corridors of evil' the other day at the northernmost walmart in the world.

since nobody reads this blog anymore, be daring and expand sinema to scifi, the uncool bastard alien step son of horror.!

Roscoe 16 years, 3 months ago

Friday Fright Night was on the CBS affiliate channel 5. It was actually hosted by Ray Adams of Ray Adams Toyota/Chevrolet towards the end. It started out as a voice over with a floating mask as the original. KSHB had the creature feature on sunday afternoons and channel 5 did a similar thing but would also show Laurel & Hardy, the Bowery Boys, Charlie Chan, etc..

Rob Gillaspie 16 years, 4 months ago

Don't frewt... I'm planning on devoting an entire installment to sci-fi, soon as I can get my shit together and actually do some writing again...

tresluxe 16 years, 3 months ago

I loved this bit of writing. I remember KSHB and Creature Feature. Its been many years since I've been back to Kansas let alone thought of the early stages of bad cable TV. Thank you for the memories!

There's a resurgence of sorts:o) I don't know exactly what it is you do, but perhaps you would be interested in one of our projects...

elreclusa 16 years, 3 months ago

hey rob- I finally got around to registering on this retarded site. Anyway, how can a person go about updating their old, now-defunct band's shite on this site? Love, Skrrringy

Rob Gillaspie 16 years, 3 months ago

Dude, just wait till me and Kelly get our Late Night public access show this February, by our calculations)... Consider your mind officially BLOWN.

Tim vonHolten 16 years, 3 months ago

i was just picturing you and kelly blowing me. what a crazy coincidence.

dex 16 years, 4 months ago

face it rob, this blog will never be as good as powder room confessions. maybe you should write about movies that people might actually see instead of obscure cinema masterpieces like lost in translation or my greek wedding.

uncleroy 16 years ago

I really enjoyed the interview Rob, I too was a big fan of the show... I remember watching "Devil Doll", "Gamera the Invincable" and many others on Crematias show, I am glad to have one whole episode of her show with the commercials in my is from 85, the film is "Laserblast".

As I remember about "Friday Fright Night" it was on 10:30 pm after the channel 5 news [KCTV] was semi-hosted by a disembodied skull that sort of rotated on a turntable if you will...the whole scene was enveloped in red light and smoke...the skulls creepy voice was that of local voiceman Hubert A. Bowen, who died in August of 1999...this is the show that scared the shit out of me, but that's not hard when your 8 or 9.

"Science Fiction Theater" KCTV Channel 5, was on Saturday around was the one with the black background opening, that had the title "KCTV5 SCIENCE FICTION THEATER" spiraling into nothing like a had the same voice as "Friday Fright Night", but with a less macabre tone...I remember watching "Day of the Triffids, "The Green Slime", "Where Have All the People Gone" [with Peter Graves] and others...these shows are what blossomed my addiction to shiity films and cult crappola that I still have could be what prompted me to start my own counter-culture film magazine and start my own horror host show, shot here in Independence, called "Stink-O-Rama ...dunno, that may have been caused by acid and weed. Nice the blog... Matthew "UncleRoyHoggins" Heinrichs

Rob Gillaspie 16 years, 3 months ago

Dude, I showed up for work at the Jackpot like five minutes after you left... That makes TWO shifts in a row I have to deal with your cronies and haven't been able to tell you to Fuck Off afterwards!

Tim vonHolten 16 years, 3 months ago

really great interview. who would have dreamed a castmember of "right between the ears" could by funny or interesting? it's amazing what kind of following a local show could have then. fucking cable. but then, where would we be as a country if we couldn't see "the santa clause II" through may? when's your show going to happen anyway?

my illinois version of late-night horror show was hosted by a cat named pywacket. not as stupid as it sounds. somehow i remember it being pretty eerie.

dex 16 years, 4 months ago

you've already posted an interview with yourself so why wait twenty years?

obediantjane 16 years, 4 months ago

i really loved that show as a kid. while all the other kids were at the skating rink, i'd be glued to the tube at my grandparents house. after i saw "the blob" on there, i was banned from watching the show for a few weeks because i got so freaked out, i crawled into their bed in the middle of the night. i remember Uncle Ed too, but hadn't thought about that show in years.
great interview!

Rob Gillaspie 16 years, 4 months ago

Maybe twenty years in the future somebody will interview Kelly and I about our upcoming late night public access show. That'll bring it all full circle, don'tcha think?

Rob Gillaspie 16 years, 4 months ago

Where did all my fun movie friends go? Is this blgo doomed to go the way of the Dodo and (ulp) Powder Room Confessions?

leslie 16 years, 4 months ago

Hey Rob, my brain has misfired. I always thought KSHB aired Friday Fright Night, and Creature Feature was the Sunday afternoon double feature (my cousins and I would always watch after attending our holy roller church). Clearly I'm remembering wrong. Does anyone know where Friday Fright Night was, and what the Sunday show was? Seems like the Sunday Creature Feature aired after Tarzan re-runs.

Anyway, I distinctly remember (and loved) Uncle Ed and his cat and the banana phone. I heard a rumor he's a convicted pederast now.

Rob Gillaspie 16 years, 4 months ago

The sunday show was on channel 5, I don't remmebr the call letters... there was no host, just a weird voice announcing the movie over some scary sci-fi synth music. They showed Tarzan AND Flash Gordon reruns, as well as old sci-fi classics like "One Hundred Million Miles To Earth."

KSHB showed Creature Feature on Friday Nights, and USA had Commander USA's Groovy Movies on Sunday afternoons. I don't remember what channel Fright Night was on.

Rob Gillaspie 16 years, 3 months ago

No, no, SCI FI THEATER was on Sunday. Creature Feature was on Friday nights.

gil_bavel 13 years, 1 month ago

Well, you guys have finally almost gotten it right.

Friday Fright Night, yes, 10:30 Fridays on KCTV 5. Hubert A. Bowen didn't really host, just was the voice for introducing the movies, until one time Halloween fell on a Friday, and he appeared onscreen just that one time made up in a great vampire costume. Ray Adams was really only the sponsor. (He's still around, so I bet he'd sponsor it again!)

Then, at Noon on Saturdays, they played Science Fiction Adventure Theater, also on KCTV 5. I can remember several times falling asleep to a triple-feature of crappy mid-sixties Italian horror films, and waking up just in time to watch Science Fiction Adventure Theater.

The Creature Feature was on Saturday nights, and that was with Crematia Mortem. 11:00, as I recall. There was a Saturday night host before her, I don't remember his name, but he had a mustache...

Anyway, thank goodness we now have The Basement Sublet of Horror to watch, Fridays at 11 and replayed Monday nights at 8. Even some of the movies are the same! I'm looking forward to seeming American Scary... sounds really good.

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