Greatest (Creepy) Iconography: Vintage Studio Logos

Written By: Greg Howell - Feb• 24•18

It has been often documented by children of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. The total fear of seeing the closing studio logos on television after their favorite shows would deliver a queasy dread.  Many have retold of their screams at the sight of the nightmarish Screen Gems logo, even tales of running from the room or hiding behind large chairs. There is no question, most of those vintage graphics are unforgettable, if not suspiciously ominous and threatening!

One can only surmise the rationale behind the creation of these animated identifications. Viewers that did not run from the room as though they were being chased by demons likely sat transfixed, nearly hypnotized, by the booming, echoing musical cues as snakelike symbols were drawn on screen.

Did these all start with MGM’s Leo the Lion? Did each studio feel it necessary to out-evil each previous studio bumper in a frightening desire to capture an audiences’ attention? Was it a subliminal threat against copyright violation? WHY? WHY? WHY? Well, likely only the devil himself knows the answer. There is no question about it, however, those vintage studio logos all share responsibility for the therapy of many adults today!

 

GREAT GRAPHICS: ICONIC OPENING, ABC’s Wide World of Sports

Written By: Greg Howell - Feb• 19•18

The iconic opening to ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Ironically, the famous skier from March of 1970, Vinko Bogataj, was completely unaware that he had become an American icon and labeled the “agony of defeat” man. When ABC tracked him down to attend the 20th Anniversary of “Wide World of Sports,” ten years later, he was stunned when he received the loudest ovation of all the athletes at the event. When Muhammad Ali asked him for HIS autograph, he couldn’t believe it! He was one of the most well-known athletes in the world!

ICON RESTORATION: Gorgeous George, TV’s First Superstar!

Written By: Greg Howell - Feb• 17•18

By his first TV appearance on a local, live broadcast out of Los Angeles in 1947, Gorgeous George (Wagner) was already a national superstar. Filling arenas across the country, often to SRO crowds of over 15,000 people, the “Gorgeous One” commanded 50% of the box office at every venue. Papers across the country announced his arrival and every move. Entire essays were printed on “Gee Gee,” both in positive and negative light. The “UP” out of New York declared, “He should have been accompanied … by a chef instead of a valet: his ‘smellodrama’ reeked of ham.” The NEA New York bellowed, “Gorgeous George Sets Wrestling Back 12 Years.”

Hollywood news correspondent Erskine Johnson decided, “Georgie already is one of the country’s leading actors!”
His gigantic personality and magnetism created a national lighting rod, sparking sales of TV sets across the nation. It would take a couple years for the mania on TV to truly take hold, as the earliest TV wrestling broadcasts were poorly produced kinescopes of older bouts hastily filling blanks in local TV stations’ schedules. With the completion of the Mid-west co-axial cable in 1948, however, live bouts broadcast over half of continental United States began to favor professional wrestling as TV’s greatest sport. And most of that excitement was due to the allure of Gorgeous George.

As reported by The Albuquerque Journal (or nearly any paper in America), Gorgeous George would arrive by limousine in the morning, with his valet, and delivered to the most luxurious hotel in town. Throngs of people would arrive to peer into the windows of a local beauty salon to see George have his bleach blonde curls tidied up for the evening event. Later in the afternoon, he would briefly stop by a local TV station for an elegant talk with the station and viewers about the finer things in life.

By showtime the local crowds were wound tight into a Gorgeous George frenzy as the last remaining tickets were being sold, and the last unclaimed reservations being snapped up.

Wrestling tours had become a popular traveling attraction for over a decade, and several popular but lesser bouts would kick off the evening’s event. Finally, it was time for the arrival of Gorgeous George. Wearing gowns befitting Elizabethan royalty, George would enter while “Pomp and Circumstance” played over the loud speakers. The crowds erupted into boos and jeers that were nearly deafening. Gorgeous George’s valet would first take the stage, spraying perfume, identified as Chanel No. 5, over the entire stage with an elegant version of the vintage DDT aerosol pump sprayers. George, deciding the stage was fit for him to stand on, would cross over the ropes, and slowly disrobe from his frilly satin and lace robe, carefully folding it over and over and over before handing it off carefully to his valet. The crowds would again erupt into a scornful melee!

Gorgeous George, pridefully effeminate and arrogant, was ready made as a TV star! His ringside theatrics followed him into the ring, where George would pull out all the stops, even cheating, to win the match. By late 1948, bars and saloons were purchasing televisions and filling up with wrestling fan patrons that loved to hate Gorgeous George. Wrestling mania for television exploded when ABC and DuMont put the first, national broadcast of the sport on their weekly schedules in 1949.

Gorgeous George is credited as one of the most important early TV stars to push TV sales into American homes. Some dealers believed Gorgeous George was selling as many TV’s as Milton Berle, Howdy Doody, and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, and is often cited as the “First American TV Superstar.”

THE NIGHT STALKER, Dan Curtis Breaks TV Ratings Record, January 11, 1972

Written By: Greg Howell - Feb• 14•18

This influential television film followed washed-up reporter Carl Kolchak, played by Darren McGavin, as he investigates a Las Vegas serial killer. Based on an unpublished novel by Jeff Rice and a screenplay by Richard Matheson, “The Night Stalker” added just the right amount of sarcastic humor with a vampire horror tale for a fresh, winning combination.

The telefilm was the #1 show of the week, and its 33.2 rating and 54 share made it the highest rated movie on television up to that time. 3rd place ABC wasted no time requesting a sequel, “The Night Strangler.”

These highly rated movies, of course, led to the “Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” the one season cult classic that had mediocre ratings during its original run, 1974-1975, but performed as well as other ABC shows such as “Barney Miller,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” and “Baretta.” However, a lawsuit by creator Jeff Rice, coupled with Darren McGavin’s disappointment with the series’ “monster of the week” approach, led to certain cancellation in late spring of 1975.

The Dan Curtis productions of “Dark Shadows” and “The Night Stalker” influenced television and popular culture for the next 50 years. Both Stephen King and Ann Rice name these shows as major influences, and TV series such as “Salem’s Lot,” “Supernatural,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “True Blood,” “American Horror Story” and the “X-Files” all borrowed heavily from these Curtis classics.
The Night Stalker

Great TV Iconography, Dennis The Menace, 1966

Written By: Greg Howell - Feb• 07•18

Dennis the Menace, syndicationIn the 1950’s and 1960’s, much ado was made about the correlation between the ratings a politician attained on TV and there chances of winning the election, which is the background for this Dennis the Menace advertisement placed in trade papers about the arrival and success of this show in the national syndication market.

However, the irony, considering today’s political climate, is undeniable. “Dennis the Menace” ran from 1959 – 1963 and 146 episodes. This was a replacement series on CBS for “Leave It To Beaver,” which had jumped ship to ABC from CBS after the 1957-1958 season.