Morgus the Magnificent
Morgus the Magnificent, also known as Momus Alexander Morgus, is a fictional character created and portrayed by actor Sidney Noel Rideau (aka Sid Noel). From the late 1950s into the 1980s Morgus was a "horror host" of late-night science fiction and horror movies and television shows that originated in the New Orleans, Louisiana market. Morgus is a quintessential mad scientist, assisted by executioner-styled sidekick, Chopsley (Tommy George). Morgus' well-intentioned experiments often served as book-end pieces to the late-night films being shown, and typically went awry at the last minute.
Sidney Noel Rideau
A native of New Orleans, Sidney Noel Rideau (aka Sid Noel) attended broadcasting school and worked for radio station WWEZ-AM before joining WSMB-AM in 1956. While at WSMB, Rideau led a vocal group that recorded a novelty song called “Humpty Dump” with Atlantic Records. While Rideau was working as a disc jockey at WWL (AM) radio in 1958, he auditioned for a job hosting the new WWL-TV show, House of Shock. Rideau was awarded the job, and agreed to do it "only if he could make the show funny". He created and performed as the host character "Doctor Morgus", however Rideau did not want to reveal his real-life identity. According to Rideau, "being Morgus brought with it some challenges to say the least". For approximately 50 years, Rideau tried to keep his identity private, and reportedly didn't even tell his children he was Morgus.
Morgus first appeared on late night television on January 3, 1959, in the House of Shock, hosting science fiction and horror movies "in between experiments". The set was styled to look like an upstairs garret supposedly located over the old city ice house, with a fire escape exit into Pirate's Alley in the old French Quarter.
In 1964, Rideau moved to Detroit, Michigan and produced and starred in Morgus Presents on WJBK-TV. In 1965, Rideau and Morgus Presents (aka ‘’Morgus The Magnificent’’) returned to New Orleans on WWL-TV and remained on the air for two years. Morgus Presents reappeared as an afternoon show in 1970 on WDSU-TV, but was discontinued in 1971. After another long hiatus, Morgus Presents returned in January 1987, on WGNO-TV. Long-time New Orleans television director and Morgus collaborator, Paul Yacich, directed all fifty-two episodes. By 2005, Morgus Presents had gone into syndication and aired on various stations, such as Cox Cable channel 10, and WVUE Fox 8 in New Orleans.
Cast of characters
Morgus was said to have descended from a long line of scientists dating back to Morgus the First, who was the architect of the first pyramid in Egypt. He mastered calculus at 5 years of age, and his mother and father (both scientists) sent him to the Vasco da Gama Medical school (the finest in the Caribbean) where he graduated with honors. He is reported to have an I.Q. "in the 300s". Morgus claims to have published several scientific books, including his blockbuster "New Hope for the Dead", and the earth-shaking "Molecules I Have Known". He has discovered the speed of dark, and truly invented the Internet. He rails against "those idiots at the station" and "the idiots of the scientific community". Morgus says he is Earth's main member of the "Higher Order", a super-scientific secret society dedicated to helping the development of intelligence throughout the universe. His Momus Alexander Morgus Institute (M.A.M.I., pronounced "mammy") is (unintentionally) a non-profit organization of science.
Morgus' assistant Chopsley, played by actor Tommy George (after his death, played by James Guillot from 1987 on), was a former medical school classmate, and the subject of an early experiment in "face transplant" surgery. Unfortunately this left him without a face when he laughed before the procedure could heal. As a result, he wears a full head mask at all times (with a zippered mouth through which to eat).
Morgus assistant Eric was a talking human skull in early episodes of the show. When the show returned in the 1980s, Eric had become part of the computer known as E.R.I.C. (The Eon Research Infinity Computer). Eric's skull connected to a molecular integrated circuit which holds all the knowledge of the universe in his memory banks (thanks to the oversight of the Higher Order), and whose sepulchral voice introduced the segments and frequently agreed with Morgus with a deep, resonant "Yes, Master". E.R.I.C. is also known for his sharp wit, and sometimes cutting remarks at Morgus. On the set, E.R.I.C. was portrayed by an Apple II with a skull as the speaker.
Mrs. Alma Fetish
Mrs. Alma Fetish is Morgus' long-time (and long-suffering) landlady, who often forgets that scientific endeavors do not provide rent money on a regular basis. Veteran New Orleans stage actress, Janet Shea, portrayed Mrs. Fetish in the 1986-1989 "Morgus Presents" version of the show.
Morgus' manager Wiley Faye tried to bring the good doctor increased exposure and better business opportunities, but they never seemed to work out in the end. Wiley was portrayed in the 1986-1989 version of the program by actor Matt Borel, a familiar face from New Orleans area theater and television commercials. Although he gave up acting in the late 90s, Borel went on to become a highly successful stage producer in New Orleans.
In 1959, Mississippi-based Vin Records released a 7-inch single entitled "Morgus The Magnificent" by Frankie Ford and Mac Rebennack performing as "Morgus and The Ghouls" (aka "Morgus & The 3 Ghouls"). The record made the local New Orleans radio top ten record chart.
Morgus' first and only appearance in film was in The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus (1962), which introduced his "Instant People Machine" that could transform people into sand and back to their original form. In the film, Morgus was investigated by a stereotypical reporter known as "Pencils" and foreign agents from Microvania who sought to enter the United States by using the device. Instead of an invasion, its contents ended up as concrete, which was poured at a dedication ceremony for a new highway called "Peoples' Highway."
Morgus and Chopsley appeared at Pontchartrain Beach amusement park and local events in the early 1960s, and hosted a weather report in later years. Dr. Morgus, Chopsley and E.R.I.C. attempted to branch out across the country in syndicated appearances in Detroit in 1964, New York in the 1980s, and several other cities.
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- Stroup, Sheila. "The man behind Morgus steps out to help New Orleans Public Library build kids of character". New Orleans Metro Education News. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
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