MICHIGAN HORROR SHOW HOSTS #2: Sir Graves Ghastly, 1967-1982
Back in the 1950’s, when movie studios like Universal, Paramount, Columbia, and MGM began selling their movie catalogs to television, the most popular package was Universal’s “Classic Horror” films. You know the ones; Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Invisible Man, and all the other spin-offs, sequels, and one-shots. TV audiences – especially the kids – couldn’t get enough of these classic old horror films, so the need for a wrap-around was inevitable.
Thus was born the “Horror Show Host”, a male or female, usually dressed in some kind of scary garb, hosting the evening’s fright flicks and doing shtick between film segments. Puns abounded, making the audience groan, but they loved every second of it.
Sir Graves Ghastly was the creation of Lawson J. Deming and his wife Mary Rita. The need for a Horror Host came about for WJBK-TV2 came about when the station dumped an earlier Horror Host, Morgus. TV execs approached Lawson, who had been working on a children’s show, “Woodrow The Woodsman,” and asked if he was interested in hosting a horror movie program. Oh, you betcha he was!
Lawson became Sir Graves Ghastly, a parody of Count Dracula. He would open each show, sitting up in his coffin, and speaking to the audience. He would end his opening monologue with “turn out the lights…pull down your shades…draw the curtains…cuddle up in your favorite place by the telly…and enjoy today’s tale…of terror! NYAAAH-H-H-H-HHH!”
Not only did the show attract kids, but adults were drawn to the show as well. Lawson played just about all the other characters on the show: The Glob, Tillie Trollhouse, Reel McCoy, Baron Boogalof, and others. Some characters, like his hooded-figured assistants Baruba and Abura, were portrayed by several people.
Sir Graves ruled weekend TV for fifteen years: 1967-1982. His show was yanked when WJBK big shots decided to turn their attentions to sports shows and games. That didn’t stop him, though. For many years up until his death, he continued to appear as Sir Graves at events and fundraisers to the delight of his thousands of fans throughout Michigan.
Lawson J. Deming passed away at age 94 in 2007 and is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Brook Park, Ohio.