Hello everyone. Today I will be writing about the 50th anniversary of Screaming Yellow Theater. The movie anthology show debuted on September 18, 1970, on WFLD-TV Channel 32 in Chicago. Creature Features debuted the next day on September 19, 1970, on WGN-TV Channel 9. I will write and create a new video for its 50th anniversary sometime next month.
To be honest, I have only seen Screaming Yellow Theater at least two or three times. When my family and I lived in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago in the early 1970s, my parents bought their first television set that had UHF channels. As a result, that was the first time I watched TV programs on Channel 32. I watched Creatures Features on Channel 9 frequently.
Screaming Yellow Theater began showing horror and suspense movies. Most of them were low-budget films and some of them were from overseas. The couldn’t showcase the classic horror movies from Universal Studios, because Creatures Feature had their movie rights. There was no host in the beginning, but a man named Jerry G. Bishop was hired in 1971 and he was called Svengoolie. He dressed like a hippie, told corny jokes, and talked like Bela Lugosi. I watched him a couple of times on the show. He was a riot! He had that magnetic personality and I found him endearing and memorable.
Some of the movies that were shown that I do fondly remember were, Black Sunday, The Manster, The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, Attack of The Mushroom People, and Daughter of Dr. Jekyll. Most of them were double features. I was very young when these films were shown, and I was frightened by them. I looked at them now, and they are somewhat laughable, but fun to watch. Svengoolie was an enormous hit. I loved it when he mentioned Berwyn, a Chicago suburb, and the person who operated sound effects at the studio would repeat it. There were all kinds of voices used during the show. They were hilarious. The theme song for the show was the 1958 hit song, Rumble by Link Ray. Two characters that were memorable on the show were Zelda, a smart-mouthed, disembodied skull, and Durwood The Dummy, a wooden ventriloquist’s dummy.
The show ended on September 7, 1973, and Jerry G. Bishop was dropped from the show. He worked in radio for a few years, and then he moved to San Diego in 1978. He co-hosted a morning show, and it lasted until 1990. The first time I visited San Diego was in 2004 and I was attending Comic-Con International. I went there for two days. The first day I stayed there, I was on my feet all day and was exhausted. I was booked at The Holiday Inn Express Hotel and was looking for a place to eat for dinner. I stumbled upon a place called The Greek Island Cafe which was conveniently located at The Seaport Village. Since I am Greek, I genuinely enjoyed Greek cuisine all my life from my mother’s outstanding cooking.
I arrived at the restaurant and waited in line at the cash register. The man that took my order looked very familiar to me. While I was waiting, I noticed some photographs on the wall and one of them was Svengoolie! I looked at the man at the cash register and the photo twice and I arrived at that conclusion that I was looking at Jerry G. Bishop! I properly introduced myself and shook his hand. I told him I was from Chicago, and he asked me if I was from the North Side or South Side. I told him South Side and then he said Sox fan. I told him I wasn’t a baseball fan and he laughed at me. We talked for a bit, and I asked him whose idea was for the talking skull. He said it was mine. He was soft-spoken and extremely friendly. I was abundantly blessed of talking to him. I visited the restaurant every year for about five years in San Diego, but he wasn’t there. The first year in San Diego was the only time I have ever seen him.
Jerry G. Bishop died on September 15, 2013. He owned two restaurants and they both closed in 2018. On June 16, 1979, Son of Svengoolie premiered on WFLD-TV Channel 32. It aired until 1986. Son of Svengoolie returned to the airwaves on December 31, 1994, on WCIU-TV Channel 26. Rich Koz returned to host the show and now he is called Svengoolie. His show is still popular, and he uses the same set and sound effects that the original Svengoolie used on his show. Svengoolie is now part of Chicago TV history. Most people still fondly remember Screaming Yellow Theater today. Creature Features was by far in my opinion the best movie anthology in Chicago television history. I can’t wait to write my story and create my video for its 50th anniversary coming up in September. WGN-TV Channel 9 should at least do a retrospective television special for this extraordinary occasion. Fingers crossed! Thank you. Pete Kastanes-Admin for Vanished Chicagoland Facebook Page.
One thought on “The 50th Anniversary of Screaming Yellow Theater and meeting Jerry G. Bishop for the first time in person.”
Actually SYT started with Jerry as the booth announcer. He just started doing Sven voice only. Cliff Braun, the program director, decided to go with on-camera wraparounds. Historical side note: The guy sitting in Sven’s chair in the picture is Bobby Walker, long time WFLD stagehand. Bobby’s wife at the time was a hair dresser who created Sven’s wig