Monday, May 21, 2012

The Count Gore De Vol Interview

Conducted By: Justin Bozung
Host Of The Mondo Film Podcast

Dick Dyszel aka Influential horror television host Count Gore De Vol is a living legend.  Beloved by millions of horror kids that grew up on the east coast in the 70's and 80's, Dick created one of the greatest horror hosts that ever graced the television airways.

 Over the years, Dyszel has also ran a slew of other characters down your local television antenna.   He created the classic, children's show host Captain 20. Dyszel also carried on the namesake M.T. Graves prior to creating Count Gore De Vol.  Dick also followed in the steps of NBC Today Show mainstay Willard Scott, and took on the role of the red haired, Bozo The Clown.  Over the last 15 years, Dick's been running strong, he was the first horror host to take his show onto the internet for everyone to watch many years ago during the dial-up age. Setting a trend that is so common today -- people need not grab their remote control any longer to check out any horror host imaginable.

In 2010, Dyszel and Count Gore De Vol were the subject of a wonderful documentary film directed by C.W. Prather, EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN. Dyszel also took part in the 2010 Horror Hound convention, horror host reunion, which featured the largest assembly of horror hosts in one spot on planet earth.   After years of hard work, Dick Dyszel is finally getting the acknowledgement he deserves.

JUSTIN: You grew up in Chicago, what made you wanna get involved with television and radio?

DICK DYSZEL:  I loved television.  At an very early age, I had a television in my room.  I had an uncle that was a television repair man.  As a kid, I was also taping myself doing radio plays. I've always been interested in media

JUSTIN: Were you around Chicago during the '68 Democratic convention riots?

DICK DYSZEL:  Actually, I was working.  I had to make a delivery to the hotel the day after.  I was a college kid with long hair, and I was working at a printing firm, and I was supposed to deliver the voting ballots. I was a little nervous. I went down there, and there was smoke all over, and blood on the sidewalk.

JUSTIN: How did you make the move from Chicago, into Kentucky where you created the M.T. Graves  character?

DICK DYSZEL:   It's just like anything else.  I went to college at Southern Illinois.  So you have to go where the jobs are.  I went to school down there, and we had first crack at the markets there when jobs opened up. I worked for a while in southern Missouri as a D.J at a country and western station. About six weeks in, I started to hate the music.  A friend of mine in Kentucky told me about a job opening, so I called and hassled the guy, and I got hired.  The radio station had a construction permit for a T.V station, and I wanted to work in television.

JUSTIN:  So how did you develop the M.T. Graves?

DICK DYSZEL:  Well you have to understand something.  There was no internet.   I was from Chicago, and I didn't even now that Jerry Bishop was doing Svengoolie back in Chicago, and I was at school just six hours away! So when I saw the movie intro's at the T.V station for a film called NIGHT OF TERROR with M.T. Graves, I just decided, why re-invent the wheel, they're already familiar with M.T. Graves. We only did the character for a year.

I was anchoring the news at 10 p.m. on Saturday night.  So I had only twenty minutes to get into the Graves make-up and jump into the coffin.  And that started to wear thin on me.

One night, I was doing the news, and I had a really bad headache. I just wanted to take a nap, so I went into the prop room, and there was this coffin, so I just got in and tried to take a nap.  So I laid in it, and the station manager's wife was visiting, and she walked into the prop room, and she opened the coffin lid, and there I was laying there, and she just screamed.

JUSTIN:  Was it difficult for you to transition from M.T. Graves into Bozo and Captain 20 over the course of those character's runs?

DICK DYSZEL: Not really. Bozo came first. It was my first acting gig. I had to go to Bozo training for a week down in Dallas, Texas.  It was cool.  To switch between Bozo and Captain 20 was easy.  Bozo was copyrighted, so you had to act a certain way.  The others where mine.  My wife just told me that Count Gore  is an extension of my own personality. 

Sooner than later, we got rid of Bozo, and I started focusing on Captain 20.  That character was responsible for the length of my career.  When  you change owners at a television station, the new owners want to play games.   And they fire everyone. But Captain 20 was so popular, that they couldn't just let me go.  Captain 20 saved my bacon!

JUSTIN: One thing I was disappointed with in the EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN (2010) documentary was that you never had a "low" point.  Like Count Gore involved in Thai hooker scandal or something like that.

DICK DYSZEL:  There wasn't any.  Back in the early Captain 20 days, some reporter tried to do me in, but couldn't, it was nothing.  One thing I've always tried to do was keep my professional and personal life separate. I mean, people  I went to church with had no clue what I did for a living.   That was fine with me.  I just wanted to have fun, do my job, make a little money, and live my life.  Did you know that Willard Scott was our first Bozo?  He got fired, cause he broke the Bozo rule. Which is something you never let people know, Bozo's identity.  Cause there is only supposed to be one Bozo.

JUSTIN:  Where did the actual name Count Gore De Vol come from?

DICK DYSZEL:  I get asked that often.  People say, that I ripped off the author Gore Vidal.  Maybe I did, maybe I didn't.  I walked into the station manager's office one day, to talk.  I saw on his desk a book about Lincoln written by Gore Vidal.   We talked about changing the M.T Graves name.  So we fussed about it for a few minutes.  Then finally I just said, " I don't care, how about umm...Count Gore De Vol."  And he loved it.  Now if the book influenced my thoughts, I don't know, I had never read any of his books, but I did every day drive past a funeral home named the Devol Funeral Home for two years?  I don't know....

JUSTIN: How did you get involved with Don Dohler and the film NIGHTBEAST (1982)?

DICK DYSZEL: Well, originally that film started out as a film called, THE ALIEN FACTOR (1976)..  I was tied in with the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. I was helping to promote them.  I met Don through them.  So I had Don on the show, and we have fun.  We started talking about the fact that they are making their own film.  So off camera, jokingly, I said, "How come you didn't ask me to be in your movie?"   So we started talking, and Don re-wrote the part of the mayor in the movie, and we did it.  It was fun, and it created a long friendship with Don.   So I did the mayor in THE ALIEN FACTOR and NIGHTBEAST.

JUSTIN: You sell Count Gore shows on your website.  And there are a ton of collectors out there that swap your shows collector to collector, do you know if any of your Captain 20 shows are still out there?

DICK DYSZEL:  There are clips on You Tube.  Some of them are from the later 80's shows.  People used to record their kids on the show.  You have to understand, until 1980 there where no real Captain 20 shows.  He was just a segway character that appeared in promos. All the Captain 20 stuff in the EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN is all there is.  Well,  I may actually have one complete show somewhere.  

In those days, no one cared about archiving this stuff.  It wasn't until 3/4 tape came out in like '76 that people realized you could put something of quality into archive.  And even back then 3/4 tape was like fifty dollars.  This happens at the networks too.

JUSTIN: How has television changed in the last 20 years?

DICK DYSZEL:  The only constant thing in life is change.  Technology changes fast.  The only change that upset me, was like back in the mid 80's.  The management of the station universally dropped almost all types of production people, and hired only employee's that are geared toward marketing and sales.

JUSTIN: How did you have the foresight to predict that internet horror hosting would be popular?

DICK DYSZEL: Well, as you know, my Count Gore show was the first on the web to stream.  I really didn't have a clue that it would take off.  People were finding me online. Sending me things like, "Why don't you start a Count Gore site?"  So I started looking around, and I kept finding horror host tribute sites.   So a friend of mine created a site for me.  And I really liked the site, but it was still a tribute site.  And I wanted it to have some interaction.   So I started thinking "Can I do my show on the internet?"  At that time you really couldn't cause of the bandwith limitations.   So we decided to do audio at   I went to conventions and started interviewing people, and streaming the audio on my site. 

I had to learn web design too.  So I started teaching myself web design, and I was interested in the internet.  So as the internet speeds got better, we started to upload small videos, and then as it got faster and faster, this has enabled us to do full shows on the web.

JUSTIN:  Did you ever think years back that all this time later, you'd have an impact on people's lives?

No. I was just hired to do a job.  When people contact me know, I tell them, thanks, cause I didn't know there was anyone on the other side of the camera!

JUSTIN:  Over the last five to eight years, there's been a real interest in horror hosts again.  Can you share some thoughts on how and why that happened?

DICK DYSZEL:  It all comes down to the internet.  There's always been hosts.  Before the net, even in the host downtime, there was always public access hosts.  But with the internet, all these people started popping up, saying that I'm doing this over here, and other there.  So I started telling people that they should keep going.  At the Horror Hound convention in Indianapolis in April 2010, it was so amazing to see 83 horror hosts all in the same building.  How incredible.  It's access, internet, syndication across the U.S.A.  The websites are great.  It's incredible, the energy, professionalism, these hosts are putting in.

JUSTIN:  What do you think the appeal of the horror host is?

DICK DYSZEL:  Well, people wanna be on television. Some people are actors and entertainers by nature. Most of these folks are also great musicians.  I'm not, and it makes me wanna cry.  I can't play an instrument worth a darn.   So it's the perfect outlet.  The need to perform.  And being a host gives them a secure outlet, with support from others.

JUSTIN: Are you the greatest horror host of all time?

DICK DYSZEL:  Oh God No.  I don't think there is a greatest. There can't be a greatest. How can you define that? You're looking at a very small world.  I'd say Zacherle is the best.  He's the sole survivor of the first generation. He's still active. He was in Famous Monster's magazine, he's recorded horror albums.  I mean, c'mon. I've just been lucky. I was in the right place at the right time.

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