I was born and raised in the southwestern part of New Jersey, so all of our local network affiliates (and their fine local programming) were based out of Philly. From totally-not-objective sports reporters slobbering praise over the Phillies while dodging “ba-ba-booey” calls; to Sunday morning political talk, where at least once a month you’re guaranteed to hear at least one person advocate for Philly seceding from the rest of Pennsylvania, local programming always gives you a uniquely real look at everyday life.
But no one — and I mean no one — was as good as Stella.
Out of respect, let me refer to her properly: Stella, “The Man-Eater from Manayunk,” local late-night horror film host of Saturday Night Dead.
Broadcast from 1984 to 1990 on NBC affiliate KYW-TV/Channel 3, Saturday Night Dead derived its name from the fact that it aired at 1 a.m. — right after the national broadcast of Saturday Night Live (pretty clever, right?). It also served as the “host” for a wide selection of horror movies ranging from camp classic to “kill me now”. There were a ton of things that the show had going for it, including:
● Host: Stella (Karen Scioli) was everything that her bio said she was and so much more:
“Born in North Libido, New Jersey, a small village outside of Atlantic City. She is the only child of traveling hecklers. Her parents dropped her in a plastic basket at Fifth and Shunk in front of Guido’s Hair Weaving and Plumbing Supplies, but for all intents and purposes she was raised by a flock of pigeons”. Reincarnated 37 times, Stella was just your typical ‘ghoul’ next door.”
“The Daughter of Desire” Stella was the perfect combo of sexy and self-deprecating; scary and sarcastic. Looking back over the pics and videos for this post, I was reminded of how many horrible movies were saved by her sense of humor and commercial break skits. Scioli made you feel like you were part of this cool little late-night club that no one else knew about, and that made it a lot more fun.
Sure, these might be shitty movies, but they were our shitty movies, dammit. And for someone who was still early in his teens, the mix of fear, humor and Stella’s… charms made it all even that much more inviting.
● Movies: How can you go wrong with just a small sample lineup like this: Gamera: Super Monster; Night Fright; Shivers (AKA They Came From Within); The Tomb of Ligeia; Zombies of Sugar Hill; Zombie Lake; Bluebeard; Dracula vs. Frankenstein; and The Legend of Boggy Creek.
But to be honest? The only films I ever seem to remember being shown were British, set in the late ’60s/early ’70s, and contained a lot of guys with bob haircuts and sweet turtlenecks. Yet almost every single one of them found a way to creep the living crap out of me — though it’s a little tougher with Boggy Creek when the commercial announcers keep reminding you that it’s “starring no one” going into and coming back from breaks.
● Supporting Cast: In what can best be described as a “horrific Peewee’s Playhouse,” Saturday Night Dead offered our Stella an eclectic troupe of supporting players: her talking, vibrating canopied-bed Beda Lugosi; Skeeves the Butler (Bill Brown), who left the show and was replaced by Hives the Butler (Bob Billbrough); Cousin Mel (Glenn Davish); evil scientist Dr. Schuylkill (Davish); dungeon monster Iggy (Davish); Portrait (Davish), who constantly gave sarcastic responses to Stella; and whacked-out psychic Madame Tofutti (Donna Ryan).
Let me stop trying to do it justice — check it out for yourself!
A BC October: Tales From Terror-Vision! is Bleeding Cool’s month-long look back at some lost or forgotten scary moments from the history of television.