High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Boo Who? Remembering My Favorite Local TV Horror Hosts


When I 
was a boy
the king 
of all TV 
John Zacherley.

Zacherley aka Roland aka
The Cool Ghoul hosted Shock Theater on WCAU-TV Channel 10 in Philadelphia from 1957 to 1958.

Zacherley (aka Zacherle) also recorded dozens of spooky songs.

His stomach turning "Dinner with Drac" penetrated the top 20 in the early spring of 1958 and became one of the biggest horror hits of the 1950s.

"Dinner With Drac (pt. 1)" 
- John Zacherle (March 1958)

Zacherle's rusty relic "Igor" was the first of three different songs to be released on Cameo 130 as the fab flip side of
"Dinner With Drac," the other killer bees being "The Cool Ghoul" and "Dinner With Drac (pt.2)." "Igor" can also be
found lurking on Zacherle's Scary Tales album.

"Igor" John Zacherle (March 1958, uncharted)

During the late 50s,
we also pointed our
TV antenna southward
to catch Dr. Lucifer
(Richard Dix) hosting
Shock! on WBAL-TV
Channel 11 in Baltimore.

Richard Dix as Dr. Lucifer

Dr. Shock and Bubbles (Joe Zawislak and his daughter Doreen) hosted "Scream In", "Mad Theater" and "Horror Theater" on WPHL-TV Channel 17
in Philly throughout the 1970s. With Zacherley's blessing, Zawislak borrowed the look of Roland for his Dr. Shock character, but made his own distinct mark on the genre with brilliant comic timing, expert showmanship and goofy magic tricks.

But it was the inclusion of a child, "Bubbles" or "Bubzie" as she was sometimes called, that really set the show apart from others. Joe brought his tiny daughter on the show to reassure parents that it was safe to let their children watch his Saturday horror fest.

Bubbles, named after the program's soda pop sponsor, eventually opened every show by knocking on the closed coffin, at which time "Shocky Doc" would rise from the dead.

It was heartwarming to watch little Bubbles (Doreen) grow up on the air during the program's ten year run from 1969 to 1979 and to observe the interaction between father and daughter. Joe was gentle, playful and respectful in his handling of Doreen, making it obvious that theirs was a loving relationship.

In 1979 thousands
of horror fans
were stunned
and grief stricken
when Dr. Shock
suddenly died.

Heart failure
claimed the life
of Joe Zawislak
at the age of 42.

Joe's death came four years before that of another Philly broadcast great, Jim O'Brien of Channel 6 Action News.

The two men shared key similarities: 

* Both were extremely likeable and naturally funny 
Philadelphia based TV personalities whose popularity 
extended beyond the Delaware Valley to Central 

* Both men were in their early 40s when they died 
suddenly late in the month of September. 

* Both deaths are examples of what I call 
MacArthur Park momentsThe Action News 
dream team was never the same without Jim, and 
the special chemistry between Shocky and Bubbles 
cannot be duplicated. In each case it can be said 
they'll never have that recipe again. 

Zach, Lucifer, Shocky - thanks for all 
of those great memories, guys. 
You too, Bubbles!

Have a Shady Halloween...whatever you are!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shady Side of the Street: Pay Dirt!

Dig this!

According to a family spokesperson, 

Shady Dell owner John Ettline

did not  particularly like banks.

Acting on his inherent mistrust of financial institutions, John reportedly filled empty paint cans with quarters and buried them somewhere on the Dell property! Safer than playing
the stock market, right John?

This startling revelation raises the obvious questions.

How many cans
were there?

How many coins?

Where did John bury the loot?

Was it all hidden in one spot?

Or was it planted at various locations around the Dell grounds?

Did John or anybody else ever get around to digging up
the coin filled cans?

Anybody think to check the mattresses?

Has anyone

located the




or is it still

up for grabs?

Just out of curiosity, was there ever any mention of gold doubloons and pieces of eight, a king's ransom, a fortune
in diamonds or anything of that sort?

No? Just thought I'd ask. (Dang!)

Uh, pardon me, kind sir.
Did I hear you say something about............. treasure?

It's under duh big W!

Dat's where you'll find it!

Dere's dis great big W, ya see?

and duh dough's buried right

underneat it!

It's under duh big W I tell ya!

Have a Shady day!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Shady Del Knight Presents: On the Record! A Prayer Within a Song - "Human" by Tommy Hunt

As I announced in an earlier post, On the Record is a new feature that will shine the spotlight on some of the finest recordings of the boomer era, particularly those that scored big in the Central PA region. Naturally, those fabulous Dell songs will take center stage.

Fellow Dell rat Jerre wrote in and named "Human" by Tommy Hunt as his number one Dell record. Jerre, I hear ya, pal! If you've been following my countdown of the 200 Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell, you've noticed that "Human" has not yet appeared. That's because it's waaay up there on my list, too. Be patient a while longer and you'll see where it falls on my personal survey!

"Human" by Tommy Hunt (September 1961)

Much like "Close Your Eyes" by the Five Keys, "Human" was a record of impressive longevity on the Dell’s dance hall jukebox. The song had already enjoyed a run of more than four years and was still going strong by the time I began frequenting the venue. Tommy Hunt’s sincere, passionate vocal styling joined forces with the song’s powerful religious overtones to stir emotions at the Dell time and time again!

Stateside, Tommy Hunt never got the recognition he deserved, but he got his props and developed an avid cult following among northern soul enthusiasts in the UK.

Tommy’s hit recording of "Human" was an irresistible slow dance opportunity at the Dell. Misty-eyed couples swayed in silent reverence whenever solid sender Tommy Hunt filled the night air with his spine-tingling vocals!

Tommy Hunt's immortal classic "Human"...truly one of the all time greatest hits of the Shady Dell!

Have a Shady day!

Monday, October 20, 2008

200 Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell Part 8 (#130 to #121)

"It was the best of was the freakin' GREATEST of times!" The countdown of the 200 Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell now continues.

Let's start by acknowledging some of the fabulous Dell songs that landed outside of the top 200.

Bubbling Under
The 200 Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell

244. "(Come 'Round Here) I'm The One You Need" - Miracles (November '66)
236. "Heroes And Villains" - Beach Boys (August '67)
222. "Lady Godiva" - Peter & Gordon (October '66)
217. "8" Teen" - ? (Question Mark) & The Mysterians (November '66)
206. "Yellow Submarine" - Beatles (August '66)

Time again to play Name that Tune with lyrics to this week's Dell songs. Here are your clues:

I'm gonna show you to a brand new game

From deep inside the pain that I chose to hide

I wonder, I wonder why
You had to leave me this way

Soften my dreams with your sighs

I knew he was wrong when he took your love from me
after all he was once my best friend

She's so fine
She'd give eyesight to the blind

There's a whole generation with a new explanation

Wiggle your legs now, baby
Shake your head

I'm gonna do everything in my power
To keep her in my life

I keep coming back for more of her love
There’s something about her I can’t get enough of

(end of clues)

Remember the grading scale:

All 10 right – Congratulations! You’ve been appointed dean of the College of Musical Knowledge

7-9 right – Licensed lyric lover

4-6 right - Lyrically challenged

1-3 right – Sign up for remedial classes at the School of Rock

0 right – You just dance and hum along!

Now, here are this week's 10 Shady Dell countdown songs:

130. "Good Thing" - Paul Revere & The Raiders (December '66)

129. "Walk Away Renee" - Left Banke (September '66)

128. "Searching For My Love" - Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces (July '66)

127. "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" - Casinos (January '67)

126. "Let's Go Steady" - Arthur Conley (March '67)

125. "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" - Buckinghams (June '67)

124. "San Francisco" - Scott McKenzie (June '67)

123. "Funky Broadway" - Wilson Pickett (August '67)

122. "Midnight Hour" - (?) Question Mark & The Mysterians (September '66)

121. "She Drives Me Out Of My Mind" - Swingin' Medallions (August '66)

Do you have a Shady Dell Top Tunes list of your own that you would like to share? I'd love to see it, especially if it covers a different period of Dell history. It doesn't have to contain 200 songs; even a Top 10 would be interesting and instructive. Submit your Dell's Greatest Hits list in the form of a comment and I'll get it posted.

Have a Shady day!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

----- 360 Degrees in the Shady ----- The Grand Tour, Part 3

You unlock this door with the key of imagination.

Beyond it is another dimension:
a dimension of sound,
a dimension of sight,
a dimension of mind.

You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into...

As we prepare to enter the old Shady Dell barn, I want to again thank Toni Deroche and her family for making available these priceless updated images. Okay, turn on your flashlights and let's go inside.

Before seeing these pictures, I didn't know what to expect. I feared that the barn would be in ruins, knee-deep in filth. I was astounded to see the old dance hall looking almost as good as it did forty-plus years ago. That solid oak floor appears as ready as ever to accomodate the masses and get down to business. Remember the awesome line dance that the Shady Dell regulars performed out there on that floor: two up...two back...boss turn? I can't remember what they called that dance, but the formation, box pattern, and figures lead me to the conclusion that it was a regional or local variation of "The Madison," as illustrated in this clip from the original Hairspray movie:

Back there in the far right corner is the spot where my friend and I rolled around on the floor to get our new Baracutas coated with Dell dust. (If you're gonna play the role, you gotta look the part!). Over there on the left is where a guy popped me in the snoot just for looking at him the wrong way. (Why oh why didn't I follow that one simple rule: never look a bull Dell rat directly in the eye?).

Panning to the left, we come to the part of the barn where the fireplace is located. This area was separated from the dance floor by a wall. On winter nights, John always kept a roaring blaze going. Every half hour, he'd come through the door with his iron tongs wielding another giant log. When they weren't dancing, couples sometimes retreated to the privacy of this room, got comfy on the couch, and spent a little quality time discussing the latest nuclear proliferation treaty. The only available light came from the fire and a small b&w television. During the summer, of course, there was no fire, and that made the room even darker. Yet, not a single Dell rat uttered complaint about having to endure the hardship of poor visibility. What a stoic bunch we were...troupers one and all!

The Dell's diary is now open for your inspection, as we examine the remarkably well preserved graffiti on the interior walls of the barn. The multitude of names, slogans, declarations of love, and assorted artwork raises many questions. Who were all of these kids?

Where were they from? What schools did they represent? Where are they now?

Do they still remember? Do they still care?

If Joanie loved Chachi back in the day, so much so that she wrote it on the wall, is there "a chance in Dell" that those two are still together?

Imagine what it would be like to turn back the clock and watch layer upon layer of graffiti disappear from these walls, leaving only the earliest entries.

They probably date back to the dawn of the 60s when John first converted a portion of the barn into a dance hall in response to the growing numbers of young people that were coming to the Dell.

The questions remain. Who created these mini masterpieces? Did John Ettline commission a modern day Michelangelo to decorate his Sistine Chapel? Were all of the images the work of a single artist? A musical theme pervades the artwork, which includes, on the right side of the above frame, a depiction of a ballerina...

...and in this detail, a retro couple dancing.

It is an image that no true Dell rat will ever forget.

And while exuberant teens danced to jukebox rock 'n roll nearby, cherubs provided accompaniment on a variety of musical instruments. Why? Who? How? When? I suppose the answers are destined to remain part of the Shady Dell's unsolved history.

It was "so John & Helen" of the Ettlines to allow the graffiti to pile up on the walls year after year. Think of all the correct-minded adults that would have tried to wash it off or paint it over. John and Helen knew better. In their seemingly infinite wisdom, they let us create the Dell as we saw fit, as long as we were willing to accept responsibility and live with it. The message conveyed and the lesson learned was that the Dell is what you make of it; and the greater implication was that your life is what you make of it.

And the sign said,
"The words of the prophets
are written on the subway walls
and tenement halls"
and whispered in the sounds of silence
at a utopian enclave
nestled in an uncharted region of the soul known as

Have a Shady day!