Ronald D. Sweed|
January 23, 1949
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
TV movie host|
Radio disc jockey
Ron Sweed (born January 23, 1949) is an American entertainer and author known for his late-night television horror host character "The Ghoul".
Early life and career
In 1963, 13-year-old Sweed wore a gorilla suit to a live appearance by Ghoulardi, a popular Cleveland television personality played by Ernie Anderson on WJW-TV. Ghoulardi took note of the costume and brought Sweed on stage, and over the next few weeks, Sweed became Anderson's production assistant.
After Anderson left Cleveland for Los Angeles in 1966, Sweed left for Bowling Green State University, but continued to help with the production of the Hoolihan and Big Chuck show, which was Ghoulardi's replacement on WJW.
In 1970, Sweed approached Ernie Anderson with a proposal to revive Anderson's "Ghoulardi" character. Anderson was not interested, but gave Sweed his blessing to revive the character on his own. With that blessing, Sweed took "The Ghoul" to Cleveland's Kaiser Broadcasting station WKBF-TV in 1971. Though it started as a tribute to Ghoulardi, Sweed soon developed his own eye-catching gags and energetic style. Known for his zany, early-adolescent humor (particularly surrounding his abuse of a rubber frog named "Froggy," his well-known penchant for blowing up model ships and aircraft with firecrackers, and his habitual smearing of Cheez Whiz over everything in sight), late night monster movies were a unique experience for Cleveland viewers in the 1970s. Catch phrases included "zingy-zingy," "Overdey!" and "stay sick, turn blue".
The Ghoul would typically take an unbelievably bad horror movie and dump in sound bites at appropriate moments, using audio clips from novelty records, George Carlin, Firesign Theater and rock albums of the '60s and early '70s. And whenever a character took a drink of something on-screen, The Ghoul would supply a good, loud belch.
"Shooting from no-budget studio sets, the Ghoul inserted his own dialogue and sound effects over insufferably bad B movies, blew up food, model cars and figurines with firecrackers, and produced strangely compelling, culturally relevant skits and parodies. The show was destructive and childish enough for little kids, subversive and timely enough for young adults."
Later in the 1970s, Kaiser Broadcasting syndicated The Ghoul Show to Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It bombed in Chicago (where Sweed had the thankless task of replacing the popular Svengoolie) and in Boston, but was huge in Detroit at WKBD TV-50, and enjoyed varying degrees of success in the other markets. Despite the show's popularity, Kaiser eventually canceled it in 1975 amid complaints from parents about the content of some of Sweed's skits, as well as the permanent closure of WKBF by Kaiser itself. But The Ghoul resurfaced in 1976 on independent Detroit station WXON TV-20, and on WKBF's successor station, WCLQ TV-61. Meanwhile, Kaiser Broadcasting 's successor, Field Communications bought back Horror Film Features by airing Son of Svengoolie on Chicago's WFLD on June 16, 1979. As a result, Sweed never appeared on air in Chicago again.
Sweed has since been on and off the air in Cleveland and Detroit for over three decades, at times even branching out into radio and the internet. The Ghoul returned to Cleveland TV in 1998 on WBNX-TV Channel 55 where he remained for the next six years airing on Friday, then later Sunday nights. He also did a Saturday night request show on classic rock station WNCX FM 98.5 during the same time period.
The same year, Sweed co-authored (with Mike Olszewski) The Ghoul (S)crapbook (ISBN 1-886228-22-1), a book collecting memories, on-set photographs, transcripts, correspondence, and memos from his years on the air.
The Ghoul is still well known enough in the Cleveland and Detroit markets that some of his catch phrases ("Overdey!", "Hey group!", "Scratch glass, turn blue", "Stay sick, climb walls", "Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy!", "Holy Parma", "Amrap" and Froggy's "Hiya gang, hiya hiya hiya!") are still widely recognized among the children of the 1970s.
An interesting side element is that the aforementioned rubber toy referred to simply as "Froggy" (and much abused by the Ghoul) was a toy dating from 1948 by a company named Rempel and featured often in comedic skits on the 1955 television show "Andy's Gang" where he was named Froggy the Gremlin. The Ghoul's oft-uttered catch phrases "Hiya, gang. Hiya, hiya, hiya" and "Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy" originate from that earlier show.
Awards and honors
On March 5, 2016, Sweed was presented with a Certificate of Recognition by Cleveland mayor Frank G. Jackson to commemorate the 45th anniversary of his debut on Cleveland TV, and to honor his continuing popularity in the city.
Sweed sued Keven Scarpino, a.k.a. the Son of Ghoul, in 1987 for infringing upon The Ghoul's character, but eventually lost the case. The judge ruled that no infringement occurred, as most horror show hosts portrayed the same basic character, a ghoulish individual who pranced about in costume, performed comedy routines, and showed horror movies.
- "birth reference results for Ronald Sweed". FamilySearch.org. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
- Sweed interview - Utter Trash.net
- Introduction at www.ghoulfinger.com, first paragraph
- Ghoul profile - Non-Productive.com
- NE Ohio movie hosts - Retro Junk.com
- "Tribute to The Ghoul". geocities.com. Yahoo! GeoCities.
- Introduction at www.ghoulfinger.com, second paragraph
- The Ghoul honored by Cleveland mayor - Cleveland.com
- Son of Ghoul - Utter Trash.com