MICHIGAN HORROR SHOW HOSTS #9: The Black Spider, 1950’s
Back in the 1950’s, when movie studios like Universal, Paramount, Columbia, and MGM began selling their movie catalogs to television, the most popular package was Universal’s “Classic Horror” films. You know the ones; Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Invisible Man, and all the other spin-offs, sequels, and one-shots. TV audiences – especially the kids – couldn’t get enough of these classic old horror films, so the need for a wrap-around was inevitable.
Thus was born the “Horror Show Host”, a male or female, usually dressed in some kind of scary garb, hosting the evening’s fright flicks and doing shtick between film segments. Puns abounded, making the audience groan, but they loved every second of it. Shows popped up in every state with names like “Chiller Theater”, “Creature Features”, and the most popular, “Shock Theater”.
The character that is considered to be Michigan’s first ‘horror show host’ was “The Black Spider”. He was a character that appeared on Detroit’s WXYZ-TV in the mid-1950’s. Even though he’s considered to be a “horror host”, his movies were old mysteries, black & white film noir, and "Saturday afternoon" serials.
According to tapatalk.com, at the beginning of the program, he was introduced as “Honest Eddie Palermo, the Black Spider, at his secret Caribbean hideout.” He had a black mustache, black hair that was greased back, and wore sloppy clothes. His flowery, wrinkled Hawaiian shirt covered his unwashed t-shirt as he chain-smoked throughout the show, with a pistol by his side. He sat in a wooden chair next to a blowing fan, parked next to a round table with an empty whiskey bottle that contained a lit candle.
According to viewers who remember the show and people who worked at the TV station, the Black Spider character wound up being portrayed by three separate guys: Irv Immerman, Leonard Jaslove, and Rube Weiss. When “Shock Theater” debuted on WXYZ’s Channel 7 in 1958 and began showing the old classic Universal horror films, The Black Spider faded away. Viewers remember him as a real slob, drunk by the end of the show, beer gut, slurring his words, and wearing unkempt, dirty clothes.
The show was on Sunday evenings. Keep in mind, this is one of those programs that is difficult to absolutely, correctly describe and identify, since the show was shot live…..meaning, unfortunately, there are no videos or kinescopes of these old programs. So we have to imagine what the Black Spider looked like - and take for granted his description from old viewers - until the day when someone submits a picture or two.
SOMEBODY has to have one or two somewhere.