If you wasted at least part of your youth in Kansas City during the ’80s, there’s a good chance you might have spent a few late nights watching Kansas City’s very own Maven of the Macabre, Crematia Mortem.  Haunting our televisions from 1981 until 1988, Crematia was the ghoulish hostess of KSHB-TV 41’s Creature Feature.  During most of this period, KSHB was not yet a network affiliate, so they had much more control over their programming; they owned the movies they presented, and could schedule blocks of time devoted to original local programs. (Kansas City even had its own morning show with AM Live–a disappointing discovery for kids who stayed home sick, yet within the range of a television.  After the morning cartoons were over, you were forced to watch AM Live, soap operas, or trucking commercials.  Oddly enough, I think I miss the trucking commercials.)

KSHB handed the reins of its late-night Saturday horror program to Roberta Solomon, a successful voice personality across the nation.  Roberta, after visiting a lingerie shop to pick out the corset for her Vampira-like character, introduced the world to Crematia Mortem, deadly hostess of Creature Feature.  Crematia’s mastery of the darkness was helped along by her loyal companions, Rasputin and Dweeb.  (You never saw them, but you could hear them off-camera.  Dweeb, a stand-in for Fortunato from The Cask of Amontillado, was forever walled up in Crematia’s house due to some often-alluded-to, but never-expounded-upon, vague offense buried in the past.)

During those years I spent a number of weekends at my grandparents’ house in Shawnee, Kansas.  Each weekend night, my grandma pulled out her convertible couch and made it ready for our late-night theater.  (It happened Friday evenings, too, with a competing channel’s Friday Fright Night show.  But, except for an evil laugh and reoccurring image of a malevolent skull flashing on-screen between commercials, it wasn’t as memorable as Crematia’s world.)  I was ecstatic to stay up late into the wee hours of the morning, and I was thrilled to be watching movies about werewolves, vampires, mummies and other bump-in-the-night nasties.  More often than not I cowered when the scary came on screen; other times I slipped into dreamland before the movie was finished.  But, thanks to my grandmother’s willingness to spend time with her grandson, I learned the joy of watching Lon Chaney, Jr., Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and a huge list of other assorted characters from the heyday of Universal Pictures’ horror films.  Special mention goes to Christoper Lee in his menacing role as Dracula in the Hammer films.  To this day Lee is still frightening no matter the part he plays.

So, really, I thank my grandma and Crematia for making Saturday evenings entirely too much fun.  My grandma passed away a few years back, but the memories of coming in from her backyard with a jar filled with either crawdads or fireflies (you caught what you could), letting them loose in her living room (fireflies, only), and then crawling into bed to wait for Crematia to grace the screen with her unforgettable appearance and forgettable cheesy jokes, they’re all still fresh.

These days such a show probably isn’t possible.  Stations, being network affiliates, whore themselves out to infomericals and re-runs of painfully unfunny shows like Everybody Loves Raymond and The King of Queens.  They are, indeed, their own brand of horror, but they don’t quite create the lasting memories the way Crematia did.

Boo

Posted Monday, July 14th, 2008 at 11:08 pm
Filed Under Category: Live A Little, ya' know?
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3

Responses to “The Ghostess With The Mostess”

Kevin

Man, did you bring back some memories.

I must admit, though, that I was a bigger fan of KCTV’s “Friday Fright Night”
than I was of Crematia’s show. I loved the narrator’s random comments and crappy puns going into the commercial breaks.

“Weeeellllllllll … looks like Boris Karloff is serious about portraying the Mummy in tonight’s movie. You could say he’s pretty wrapped up in the role! MmmMMMM … mmm … mmm … mmm … mmm … mmmmmm!”

Classic stuff.

SkipFitz

Bwahaha! I remember the “Mmmm”ing of that voice! It looks like I was a bit off about the effectiveness of that voice: Now that you bring it up, the disembodied atmosphere it provided was pretty memorable. (Apparently, I just needed a kick to the head to get my memories working again.)