It was with sadness i saw in a recent issue of Traverse magazine, that television actor and movie host Don Melvoin had died in 2002. A fixture of Northern Michigan television, Melvoin, who was "Deputy Don" on his childrens TV show in the 50's, also acted in TV westerns, The Night Gallery, and Somewhere In Time. But he's probably best remembered for portraying Count Zappula at 11:30 Saturday night for many years. For the many Detroiters who read this blog, think Sir Graves Ghastly or Count Scary, but lamer and more low tech. His faithful terrier, Lover, played "Igor" on the show.
Like a lot of horror hosts of the pre-cable days, Melvoin performed other duties at the station. i'm pretty sure for a time in the late 70's, he hosted a more mundane daytime movie show, like Rita Bell or Bill Kennedy, and still played The Count on Saturday night. Less anarchic than The Ghoul, he was still a jolt of fun in the 2-3 channel tedium of 70's and 80's TV. E-Gor's Chamber of TV Horror Hosts interviewed Eric Pearson, one of Count Zappula's directors.
When we finished the show at one in the morning or so, the Count was usually pretty tired and would drive home before changing out of his costume and makeup. Don drove a large Jeep Cherokee-type vehicle with dark, tinted windows, and one night he was pulled over by a police officer. He waited until the officer was next to the driver's window before he hit the button to roll the window down. When he became visible he flicked his tongue like a cobra and said "Good Evening" in his best vampire voice, and the officer "nearly crapped his pants," according to Don.
i certainly hope "Igor" was wearing his tiny cape! The old school horror hosts were corny and often boring, and the movies usually sucked and were chopped to ribbons, but we waited all week for them. Now cable offers many channels, and local stations fill their dead slots with infomercials. Count Scary's "That's scary!" notwithstanding, Count Zappula is the guy who most resembled Joe Flaherty's "Count Floyd" on SCTV.