Ghoulardi – Shock Theater Host

 

In 1963, someone who calls himself Ghoulardi has caged nearly every teen-age mind in Cleveland.

He is both host and intruder on a daily series of old one-reel comedies on WJW-TV. He wears a pointed, Satanic goatee, trick glasses and a horned hairdo—in the understandable hope that the adult community will not recognize him as Ernie Anderson, erstwhile announcer of commercials for power companies and banks.

Ghoulardi plays bongo drums on human skulls, and he hits fungos with shrunken heads; but mainly he just plays the nut clown. He shows ads that say, “Drink Ghoulaid,” and he says he likes to read The Tragedy of Ghoulius Caesar. From college he graduated magna ghoul laude. Perhaps because he sees himself as another Ghoul Brynner, he has a ghoult complex. His favorite ballplayer is Ghoul Hodges. This goes on until adults can justifiably despair of teendom as a world they never made.

But Cleveland teen-agers imitate Ghoulardi as if he were the exemplar deity of an unimaginably perfect race. When he invented the word Knif—fink spelled backward—and began offering Knif buttons, he got requests for thousands. High school teachers hold spelling bees between Knifs and Ghoulardis, and football coaches similarly divide their teams for intrasquad scrimmages. One day Anderson said: “All the world’s a purple Knif.” Now every kid in Cleveland is saying that. He thinks the name Oxnard, as in Oxnard, Calif., is hilarious. He named a crow Oxnard. Kids all over the Cleveland area are calling one another Oxnard.

Ghoulardi intrudes himself into the old movies he hosts. In One Million Years B.C., an animal-like man was tearing away at a hunk of meat. Suddenly Ghoulardi’s head popped into the picture, saying, “Cool it. Don’t eat that stuff. I’ll take you around the corner and get you a good pizza.” Zow. In another film, a mad scientist had turned a group of people into micromidgets. “What do you want?” said the scientist to the grumbling group. Ghoulardi, superimposed in miniature, raised his hand and said, “The men’s room.”

There is a widespread canard that 1963’s teen-agers are brighter, quicker, and of higher intellectual potential attainment than any previous generation. Ghoulardi has knocked that theory into a cocked hat. Or rather into a football helmet with faucets sticking out of it. He wears one. Zow.

Source: Time Magazine Internet Article

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