A Ghoulorious Tribute by Ghost Hostorian G.G. the Cartoonist
G. G. Remembers M. T.
M. T. Graves & The Dungeon at WCKT
The Early Years
M.T. Graves, monsterfully played by Charlie Baxter, first appeared on WCKT, Channel 7 in Miami, Florida. The Dungeon was on from the late 50's to the late or middle 60's, and came on at 4 pm or 4:30 pm on Saturday afternoons. If it was on at any other time or day I don't remember.
M.T. Graves' Appearance
In the first year or so of the show, M.T. had a chain on his hook and maybe another on one of his monster feet. He combed his hair forward and had a dimple in his chin and dark areas under his eyes. I'm not sure about what kind of monster or ghoul he was -- a vampire? Instead of being Frankenstein's Monster he was Baxter's Monster!
Opening The Dungeon
The program began with the cell door rising up with the sounds of screeching and squeaking and a loud clank. In the background, eerie music played and human screaming and shrieking could be heard. M.T. climbed out of the coffin to greet his fiendish viewers at the beginning of each program, and climbed back into it at the end, saying his greetings and farewells to his fans. Here's a typical spiel:
Hi there fiends! It's old M.T. Graves here! Ha! Ha! Ha! So! Hello to all you fiends, inmates incarcerated in hospitals, prisons and in your own little homes! We're all in dungeons of sorts! Ha! Ha! Ha! That's what they say! Hey! How about those commercials! Almost as good as the Warden's home movie! Ha! Ha! Ha!
The Dungeon Set and Supporting Characters
M.T. was stuck in a dungeon cell located somewhere underneath the TV station. The walls were made of stone with lots of straw strewn about the dungeon floor surrounding the ever-present coffin. His cell was dark and dank and there was one small window above. The (unseen but occasionally heard) "Warden" was the ruler of M.T.'s domain. When the Warden howled like a werewolf or coyote, it was time for a commercial or back to the movie!
"Count Down the Vampire" and "Reginald" were M.T.'s sidekicks in those days. Charlie Baxter's longtime associate Charlie Folds played Count Down. He was also Charlie Baxter's co-star on other shows -- Duffo the Clown, Toby the Robot, Garby the Robot and more. Reginald was a monster head mask who lived in a box-like drawer inside the dungeon cell's wall. M.T. would pull out his drawer every once in awhile to chat with him.
Show Business as Usual
M.T. spent his time in The Dungeon (between naps in his coffin) planning and carrying out his schemes to try to outsmart the Warden. M.T. longed for his Great Escape out of The Dungeon, but he was never bored there, nor were his fans! He made the best of his time dreaming up skits to perform in the Dungeon Theater, conducting make-believe symphony orchestras, cooking up poisoned mushroom soup for the Warden, or trying to hypnotize the Warden but ending up hypnotizing himself! Once in awhile the Warden let him out with a few guards to go on a field trip. M.T. actually conducted a real live symphony orchestra on one of those trips!
On another occasion, after his plans had been foiled, he looked directly into the TV camera and said "Well, fiends! This just hasn't been my day! Hmmmmmm... What do you suppose that plug is up there in that ceiling?" (He was lying back on his coffin looking up at the ceiling.) Then he got up and said "I'll grab it and pull it! Hey! Wait a minute! It's flooding the place! I can't go along with this sort of thing! Hey! Warden! Warden! The place is being flooded! I pulled the wrong plug! Help! Help me! Buddy!" This show ended with M.T. walking around underwater in The Dungeon.
A Personal Appearance
One time M.T. Graves rode up to a special personal appearance at Holiday Park on the back of a police motorcyle and I was there! I'm lucky I didn't get knocked down and walked all over by the crowd as they rushed over to him. He ended up escaping as the motorcycle took off with him jumping onto the back of it. It was the first time I ever saw M.T. live-in-person in his make-up and costume, and I'll always remember the energy of the crowd with me caught up in it.
M.T.'s Fan Club
M.T.'s fan club was called "The Graves Diggers Fan Club" because if you joined it that meant you really dug M.T. Graves!
M.T. Grave's Last Show at WCKT
In the late 60's, M.T. Graves finally made his Great Escape. Carrying a stick with a bundle of his belongings tied to the end of it, M.T. walked off the set of The Dungeon in front of all his devoted and fiendish Graves Diggers. It was a bittersweet moment. As he left his cell, coffin and cell in-mates (Count Down the Vampire and Reginald), he waved goodbye to his fans and said his final farewells to the good ol' ghoulish Warden. He walked through the TV studio slowly, stopping and turning to look at the camera, sadly shaking his head and waving goodbye. Several spotlights followed him as he walked through them on the studio floor. M.T. Graves was finally free from the bondage of The Dungeon!
OtherWorlds at WCKT — M. T. Space!
Captain M.T. Space Conquers the Airwaves
Charlie Baxter's character Captain M.T. Space was also on Channel 7 in the 60's, hosting a showcase for science fiction movies called Otherworlds. I think the show was on Sunday afternoon, but it might have been on again in the wee hours of the morning.
The Captain's Appearance
M.T. Space was a funny astronaut (sometimes he called himself an astronut) who wore a space helmet and space suit but he also had monster feet, funny teeth and a dark shaggy wig like the M.T. Graves character.
Details on the Show
M.T. Space lived on the 7th Moon of Jupiter and had a telephone that kept him in touch with Mother Earth Master Control. He flew around the planet with a backpack with an anti-gravity machine attached to it. Captain M.T. Space's program used to start off with the popular song "The Alleycat" (a jazzy, wordless piano tune by Bent Fabric (a Danish musician, not a group with a goofy name!) -- E-gor).
M. T. Graves Returns on WKID!
New Show, New Characters...
In 1972, M.T. Graves returned to the airwaves on WKID, Channel 51 in Hollywood, Florida. The new show was called M.T. Graves Presents. This time he lived in a mausoleum, and "Harry Skull" was the guy who ran the place. Harry ran the horror home movies in his mausoleum library while M.T. hosted the show. "Gore The Guard" (played by Charlie's son Tim Baxter!) was M.T.'s side-kick.
But Some Things Never Change...
M.T. wore a bushy wig and all of his usual get-up -- hook hand, scars, monster feet, tattered and patched jacket and trousers with a rope as a belt, and a light blue long-sleeved pullover. And his M.T. make-up -- but no bushy side-burns, those were worn only in the early years. He still slept in the coffin too.
Charlie Baxter -- Live at Buehler Planetarium!
Captain M.T. Space Conquers the Universe
After Channel 51, Charlie Baxter became the host of planetarium shows at Buehler Planetarium on the Davie Campus of Broward Community College from the 70's to the 80's. He wrote and produced and narrated shows for visiting Broward County school teachers and their young students. Charlie Baxter brought M.T. Space back when he did live shows at the planetarium (with minor changes such as boots instead of monster feet). Charlie used the character to help him teach astronomy to the kids. Captain M.T. Space became an expert at pointing out star constellations and telling the kids all about the universe. Unfortunately, the kids paid more attention to M.T. Space than they did to the program, so he stopped dressing up as Captain Space for these shows. Charlie tried out another of his TV characters, Professor Jupiter (renamed from his kid show character Professor Klinker) and the same thing happened.
G.G. the Cartoonist Lends a Hand
So next he tried out my drawings! Charlie Baxter got me a job as the planetarium's part-time artist from 1978 to 1984. I drew my cartoons and Charlie put my drawings on color slide film to project on the planetarium's dome ceiling. It was a wonderful job to have!
M.T. Graves, Movie Star!
During this same period, M.T. Graves starred in a Broward County School Traffic Safety Film.
Charlie Baxter, Childhood Hero
Privileged Peeks Behind the Scenes
Charlie Baxter was a very gracious and kind television personality. Any time his fans asked to visit the television studio to watch him pre-record one of his TV programs he invited them! My cousin Tommy would go with me to the TV station to watch The Dungeon pre-recording sessions on Thursday nights. Charlie let some of his fans watch him transform himself in the TV station's dressing room -- either dressing his face up as M.T. Graves, or turning M.T. back into Charlie Baxter -- either way it was fun and fiendish! Later on in the 70's & 80's he would do his transformation at libraries and he always drew a crowd as he explained the makeup process to his happy fans!
One of Charlie's fans became a science fiction novelist, (another, Fred Olen Ray, is a cult film director -- E-gor), and my cousin Tommy who went with me to the live recording sessions of The Dungeon shows later in life became a mortician! Many of Charlie's other fans went on to become doctors, lawyers, writers, artists, dentists, radio announcers, etc. Lots of Charlie's fans were inspired by his friendly and kind nature. They sent him pictures of their pets and artwork and told him their goals in life!
I want to give George "E-gor" Chastain, the Webmonster of this site, a Big, Big, Big Thankyou for allowing me to express myself and my memories about Charlie Baxter and Good Ol' M.T. Graves! E-gor's horror hosts Website is a happy and positive thing in this sometimes very serious world, and I'm very happy to contribute! For so long I have been alone with my M.T. memories and knew of nowhere to go to share them!
G.G. the Cartoonist (Garnette Glenda Faircloth)
Charlie Baxter Comments:
On The Dungeon at WCKT
The Dungeon was a Sunday feature (4:00-5:00 pm). After several years it was switched to Saturday afternoon (4:00 to 5 pm). Stayed there until it went off the air. Then along came Otherworlds, same time slots.
On M.T. Graves
He came upon his name by accident -- when Bob Perry, a former Boston deejay of years ago, suggested adding "M.T." The station had suggested "Mr. Graves," as unimaginative as the rest of the ghouls around the country.
Niles Trammel was president of Channel 7 when M.T. first went on the air. He instigated a lot of things that I did. Trammel was tossed out even with his background in radio -- he put Amos & Andy on Chicago radio and around the country. (Trammel had been president of NBC, and was the "T" in "WCKT" -- E-gor.)
On the Channel 7 Dungeon Opening
Used music from Stravinsky's Firebird Suite as the theme for M.T. Graves on Channel 7.
On the Channel 7 Supporting Characters
Count Down never spoke. I used Charlie Folds because he would do anything to act. Plus he came cheap. (This was great where the station was concerned. The cheapest outfit in existence.)
Reginald wasn't used often. He looked terrible and was no actor. Bad! Bad! Bad! I did all the extra voices -- the Warden, various guards etc. This was necessary because Channel 7 was cheap and I had to buy all my own makeup, props, etc.
On Bits and Pieces
A good-looking gal wanted me to put her in an "M.T." bit -- she said she would do anything to get on my program. I finally relented. She wore skimpy bathing suit and M.T. painted her bare stomach while camera kept tight close-up. Then it pulled back to reveal gal who eventually became Victoria Principal.. Ha! She pleaded enough to other producers to get on Dallas. Remember?
On Personal Appearances and Extra Curricular Activities
Three times I conducted Miami Beach Symphony.
M.T. Graves sponsored an all girl bowling team. I bought their sweatshirts that were black with crossed spades on the back.>
On M.T. Space and Otherworlds at WCKT
M.T. Space was a Captain and considered an "Astronut." He flew around by small rocket ship. Captain Space was on duty on the 7th Moon of Jupiter. You get the "7" reason. He wasn't marooned or stuck there, he was on "duty." Contact was Mother Earth Master Control. Continually fixing his rocket ship (running bit).
M.T. ran sci-fi movies between breaks.
On The Captain's Appearance
Dressed as Dungeon inmate except for no scars, helmet, pale yellow jump suit, play gun with large muzzle, and radio gear.
On Bits of Business
M.T. Space was a solo (no sidekicks -- E-gor).
One day Capt. Space got the idea of having several bunnies (warm & cuddly) on the 7th Moon for company. Mother Earth Master Control goofed as usual and sent a Playboy bunny instead -- gal came in full costume (Playboy was popular item then). Girl kept kept running from M.T. Space. He chased her a la Marx brothers. She was packed up and shipped back to Mother Earth but false bottom in crate opens and gal falls out and gets to stay with Capt. Space. Space is elated. (End of bit). Playboy bunny falls for Green Wizard. He is a green cloud -- M.T.'s nemesis.
On M.T. Graves Show at WKID
Same routines and bits here. All even better. Smoother production. Gore the Guard was played by my son Tim Baxter -- now running his own computer company in Boone, NC.
On Charlie Baxter's Feature Film
I co-starred in El Gavilan with star Christopher George.
See Internet Movie Database entry about this film (listed as Gavilan, aka The Ballad of Gavilan (1968) -- E-gor).
Looking Backward and Forward!
Started career at a "250-watter" station in Toledo, Ohio, on a show with "Tommy Lloyd the Singing Cowboy."
I'm no guy with the "Internet." Never learned the intricacies of the computer. But at 78 years of age "M.T." is still hanging in there!
Picture of M.T. Graves and dungeon guard published in Famous Monsters of Filmland #6 (from E-gor's Hoard of Sacred Treasures)
M.T. Graves "Graves Diggers" Fan Club card
(courtesy of Charlie Baxter).
M.T. Graves and Count Down the Vampire
Capt. M.T. Space Interplanetary Club card
Uncut M.T. Space Interplanetary Club sheet
Take another stroll down Mummery Lane with G.G. the Cartoonist, Charlie Baxter's OTHER TV Shows
Go back to E-gor's Chamber of TV Horror Hosts
Last updated June 23, 2004 by George "E-gor" Chastain. E-mail E-gor!