Monster Chiller Horror Theater graphic Chilly Billy's Vamp -- 45 rpm record

Interview by Roberto Cotter and Dr. Riggie Jr.

This is where it all started, niños y niñas, the wrestling, the monsters, the whole 9 yards.   CHILLER THEATER.   STUDIO WRESTLING.   The host for both life-shaping experiences was the Dean of Pittsburgh TV personalities, BILL CARDILLE.    Dr. Riggie Jr. and I caught up with him at MONSTER BASH 2001, and we're pleased to report that not only is he one of our heroes, but a helluva nice guy.   Join us now for a very special trip down memory lane, a return to the roots with CHILLY BILLY!

Bill Cardille in the Good Old Days at WIIC

"CHILLY BILLY" CARDILLE
in the glory days of Chiller Theater
and Studio Wrestling
at WIIC-TV, Channel 11 in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

TV Guide ad for early Pittsburgh Chiller Theater show

TV Guide ad for
Chiller Theater movie
shown Nov. 17, 1963

Bill Cardille interviews Bruno Sammartino on Studio Wrestling

Stars of STUDIO WRESTLING
Bill Cardille interviews
Bruno Sammartino

TV Guide ad for 1978 Chiller Theater double feature

TV Guide ad for
Chiller double feature
shown Nov. 11/12, 1978
Click for larger view.

Pro wrestler Tony Marino as BATTMAN

NAH Na Na Na NAH Na Na Na
BATTMAN!

(pro wrestler Tony Marino)

The Grand Wizard of Wrestling

The Grand Wizard of Wrestling
(manager Ernie Roth)

Pittsburgh Chiller Theater cast photo

CHILLER THEATER CAST (l-r):
Terminal Stare, Chilly Billy Cardille,
Norman the Castle Keeper,
Sister Susie,
Stephen the Castle Prankster.
Click for larger view.

Flyer for Gateway Clipper Fleet Chiller Theater Reunion Tour 2002

Gateway Clipper Return
of Chiller Theater Dance
Cruise flyer, Oct. 2002.
Click for larger view.

Bill Cardille plays himself in Night of the Living Dead

BILL CARDILLE plays himself
in George Romero's 1968 classic
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.
Click to see his IMDb credits.

Lori Cardille, star of Day of the Dead

Bill's daughter LORI CARDILLE
starred in George Romero's
1985 sequel, DAY OF THE DEAD.
Click to see her IMDb credits.

Joe Flaherty as Count Floyd, Second City TV

SCTV's COUNT FLOYD!
Joe Flaherty's hilarious
spoof of TV horror hosts,
based on memories of
Pittsburgh television.
Click name for more info.

 Fan photo of Tarantula and Hugo, Pittsburgh horror hosts

TARANTULA and HUGO
hosted horrors on Pittsburgh
Channel 53, WPGH-TV.
Click picture for larger view,
name for more information.

TV Guide ad for 1966 Chiller Theater double feature

TV Guide ad for
a Chiller double feature
of Mexican horror films
on Sept. 17/18, 1966.
Click for larger view.

Recent photo of Bill Cardille at WJAS-AM 1320.

Recent photo of Bill
Cardille at his current
job, hosting a weekday
oldies show on WJAS

AM 1320, Pittsburgh.

Santo Scene No. 11, fanzine source for interview

Originally published in
Santo Scene # 11
(Vol. 2, # 3, October 2001)

CB = "Chilly Billy" Cardille;   RC = Bobb "Roberto" Cotter;  DRJR = "Dr. Riggie Jr." (Paul Riggie)


DRJR:  OK, Mr. Cardille, first of all...

CB:  Call me "Chilly Billy"...

DRJR:  Chilly Billy...

CB:  Call me Bill...

DRJR:  OK...

CB:  But please don't call me "mister"!

DRJR:  Alright... could you refresh our memories as to when CHILLER THEATER began and ended?

CB:  Sure, Paul... well, CHILLER THEATER actually started on a Saturday afternoon. I used to do a movie from the announcer's booth; I monkeyed around with it, made it real light, and I figured nobody would be watching in the summertime... this was back in '61. And I figured with the temp around 80, I'd have some fun; lo and behold, one of the bosses comes to me and says "I heard what you're doing, and I like it." Because I'd made up names, you know, put the boss in as "Igor"... didn't tell jokes, but I'd have some fun with the movie while it was running, and he said maybe we could do something on Saturday NIGHT. So the ratings came out, and he said, let's see what happens, and between the two of us, I put something on tape. My feeling when I was young was that people would get tired of it if I was a costumed character, so I thought I would do it as Bill Cardille. I would start out in a suit, and change into different characters, like "Maurice the Matchmaker" with "Advice for the Lovelorn," Dr. Evil, Captain Bad. If you saw these characters once a month, you wouldn't get tired of them, so I would always start and end as Bill Cardille. And it worked, 'cause at one time on KDKA, they had a show with GEORGE EISENHAUER I never saw it they had a late show with him. And George was a nice fella, but the show only lasted 13 weeks. WTAE had a show with BOB DREWS, but that didn't last either; they dressed as characters. I got lucky I thought it might last for 13 weeks, and it stayed on for 21 years! That's a long run! We had specials, too; we'd have a Halloween Special, and we'd have a lot of fun.

RC:  It was always great for me to go to my grandfather's on Saturday afternoons and watch STUDIO WRESTLING, and you'd do ads for CHILLER...

CB:  That's right!

RC:  ...and then I'd stay up Saturday nights and watch that! How long did you do STUDIO WRESTLING?

CB:  Well, Bobb, I did STUDIO WRESTLING for 15 years; what a lot of people don't realize is the wrestling show they see now with Vince McMahon, I used to fly up to Philly every other week, and the station would permit it 'cause I was doing wrestling here. The promoter was Vince McMahon SENIOR, and I would do 2 shows, and they'd run 'em all over the country, like they do now. I did THAT for 7 years, plus my regular schedule of 25 hours of live TV a week; I did the MONEY MOVIE, I did the weather, I did a lot of live shows, but CHILLER and wrestling were definitely the most popular. I did high school sports on WQED I did the play-by-play for football, baseball, basketball... I had a full plate, but I really enjoyed it. I worked 6 or 7 days a week, but every moment was happiness; I was completely fulfilled. I enjoyed it so much, and I still think of those days, they were great. I'm also happy what I'm doing now.

RC:  Well they were certainly happy days for me and Paul... CHILLER was a big part of our lives.

CB:  Where were you brought up?

RC:  Morgantown, West Virginia!

CB:  Oh, Yeah?

RC:  Oh, Yeah, and every Saturday, man, wrestling and CHILLER, we were there!

CB:  That's great! Y'know wrestling was so popular, a man named Mr. Sheldon Weaver, he was an idea man, and HE was the one who said let's do something Saturday night; he came up with the idea for two movies, and how to present it was my idea. It was great! Paul?

DRJR:  At one point, you were doing three movies.

CB:  Sometimes we would do three... y'know, some of those CHILLER movies only ran an hour; and the show was sold out, it was always a highly-rated show, so we'd have to run a third movie to get the commercials in.

DRJR:  What are your fondest memories of CHILLER and Wrestling?

CB:  Well, I've associated with athletes all my life, and the wrestlers... 98% of 'em men of their word. They were terrific. I never talked to a wrestler before a show, they never told me who's gonna win, anything like that, it was all ad-libbed. I would just get there at six and ad-lib.

RC:  Who was BATTMAN?

CB:  Battman was Tony Marino. He was a former Mr. America. He was a weight-lifter... he was, I think, Mr. America for three years running... out of Rochester, New York... but you can't make any money from that. Arnold Schwarzenegger made money, but for years, he was begging to be a wrestler! But he couldn't be a wrestler. But Tony Marino became one, pretty good, too, and he made money as the Battman, but he didn't make any as Mr. America.

RC:  Did he just do that locally, or...

CB:  Oh, no, he was national, he was all over.

RC:  Was he licensed to do that?

CB:  Oh, no, he was an independent contractor.

RC:  No, I mean to use the image... I though DC might've made him stop.

CB:  Oh, the Batman image... y'know in those days... I guess you wouldn't be able to do that now, but in those days...

RC:  It was kind of loose?

CB:  Yeah, I'd say kind of loose and maybe the laws weren't as strict.

DRJR:  What about THE GRAND WIZARD OF WRESTLING?

CB:  I don't know the Grand Wizard... oh, wait! Yeah! He was a manager (laughs) he was terrific! Oh, my! Yeah, the Grand Wizard, but I'm trying to think of his name, but it won't come to me... aw, jeez, he was a lotta fun!

DRJR:  He had that turban...

CB:  Yeah, the turban! (laughs) He was off the wall! Oh, I can see him!! Oh, I really liked him, he was a really nice person, very clever. You never knew what the heck he was gonna say until he said it. Y'know, they'd say, you gotta interview the Grand Wizard, for 2 or 3 minutes, and he'd come walking out, and I'd say, "Well, Wiz, what's on your mind?" and that's how it would start.... The Grand Wizard! Oh, man, what a memory! That was a good memory. Good guy.

DRJR:  When CHILLER began, did you know how popular it...

CB:  No...

DRJR:  Did you know it would take off and...

CB:  No...

DRJR:  ...and people would still...

CB:  No...

DRJR:  ...be interested in it?

CB:  No, y'know, I've done a lot of shows over the years; I was on TV close to 50 years, and I did everything except sing the National Anthem and I never did that because nobody ever asked! (laughs) But I thought maybe 13 weeks, then it went a year, then two... It became an institution! They let me add a family after 8 or 10 years. I added GEORGETTE THE FUDGE MAKER, TERMINAL STARE, Stevie — STEPHEN the Castle Prankster, NORMAN the Castle Keeper... I used to write the skits, and we never memorized them; we just ad-libbed, and that way it was spontaneous. They were fun to work with. It lasted 21 years, and look now we've been off the air since '85, and here it is 2001, and we're still as popular as ever! And every Halloween, on the MAJESTIC of the Gateway Clipper Fleet... they asked me 5 years ago to do a Halloween Cruise. And I said, aw, nobody's gonna show up — they tied two boats TOGETHER and we have 800-1000 people every Halloween, and it's the biggest show on the river! I tell ya, it's fabulous. They're all people about your age, and they have a good rock band, and everybody's in costume, it's the biggest, funnest party of the year! You guys have to come to it. Gotta come.

RC:  Do you have a favorite monster movie?

CB:  I like a lot of the monster movies. Of course, I like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD! My daugher Lori starred in DAY OF THE DEAD, and people don't realized that she won a Best Actress award in France and Spain, and she beat Glenn Close! She's a grad of CMU Drama and she was on Broadway for 11 years; very serious actress; George put her in DAY... the only female. That was a very good movie. Now the movies that I like I like most of the classics; I like the Hammer films from England, I think they're excellent. I think Boris Karloff y'know, I met his daugher; did you ever meet Sara?

DRJR:  Oh, yes.

CB:  Isn't she nice? The Frankensteins, the Draculas, the classics. Several weeks ago on CBS, they had a show, "The Top 100 Movies of All Time," and you know what number 93 was? Of ALL time, with "Gone with the Wind" and everything else, was NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD! And Spielberg said, "I watched it five times and it scared the bejeebers out of me!" And I thought, wow, he was watching our movie! That was cool. Steven Spielberg.

RC:  Did you ever see COUNT FLOYD?

CB:  No, y'know, I never did. I ran into his sister when I was doing the VIP's and she told me about it, but I never saw it. He did say in a couple of writeups that it was based on CHILLER.

RC:  Yeah, MONSTER CHILLER HORROR THEATER! (Chilly laughs heartily.) He'd come out dressed like Dracula, going "A-A-OOOOO"...

DRJR:  But he'd still be wearing a turtleneck sweater like you...

CB:  Oh, man, that's great! (More laughter.)

RC:  And he would tell everybody how scary the movie was gonna be, and then it would be, like...

DRJR:  "The Life of Emile Zola," or something...

RC:  One night, it was "The Bloodsucking Monkeys from West Mifflin"...

CB:  Oh, man! Y'know, Rocky Bleier went up and was interviewed by Second City in Canada when Joe (Flaherty Count Floyd) and that group were up there, and they wanted me to come, too, but my schedule was just too tight. It's STILL tight; even though I'm retired from TV, I do the radio, WJAS. I haven't done one of these (horror movie conventions) for a few years... but I love it; the people who come are great, they're from all over the country; I think Ron (Adams, the man behind Monster Bash) does a great job.

DRJR:  Do you keep in touch with the other CHILLER cast members?

CB:  Oh, yes. Sorry to say that Norman (Elder) died in the last year, he had a sudden heart attack. He was from Steubenville. It's sad, because he always used to say he was a survivor. Terminal Stare, Donna Rae, lives in Pittsburgh. Stevie (Luncinski) has an auto parts store, V&S, Victor and Steve, Vic's his dad. They've been in business for 50 years. We do the cruises on the Gateway together, Stevie, Terminal and myself. Georgette the Fudgemaker married golf pro, and they live in Florida. I haven't seen her in, oh, 15 years. I'm curious, I'm sure she looks great, but she was terrific; they were just nice people. She was Miss Pennsylvania, y'know... I got her for the younger guys...

RC:  Hey, we didn't stay up just to watch the movies!

CB:  Ahhh, yeah! Terminal Stare could bump ya from here to... West Mifflin! (Mucho laffs.) Or to Morgantown! Better yet, California!

RC:  Oh, yeah! Did you ever see any other hosts, like SCORPIO or TARANTULA? Do you know who any of those guys were?

CB:  No, but I understand that when somebody wanted to start a horror show, a lot of 'em came to Pennsylvania, and they'd watch how we would do it... I don't know how true it is... y'know, one week we would do a pizza-eating contest, and the next week, they'd do it in Cleveland. But that's alright. I'll tell you one thing I know for a fact some of the things I came up with, like "Chiller-Graphs" or gag movies with famous people, would end up on the Merv Griffin Show! Guys would come through Pittsburgh and say, hey, on Merv Griffin they were using your lines! Now in the early days, Johnny Carson used some of my stuff, but he gave me credit, 'cause I worked with him a couple of times, and he would do the gag movies or something, but he gave me credit.

RC:  Well, I know you're really busy...

CB:  Oh, no, my pleasure...

DRJR:  A real thrill...

CB:  My pleasure.

RC:  Before we leave, I'd like to give you a couple copies of the 'zine I do; it's about Mexican Wrestling Monster movies; in the Mexican movies, they had wrestlers fighting monsters...

CB:  Hey, wait a minute! We ran those, in the early days! Didn't one of 'em have a long tongue or something?

RC:  THE BRAINIAC!

CB:  That's right, "The Brainiac"! Oh, yeah!

RC:  So, see, when I was a little kid, I'd watch wrestling and monster movies, so now I publish a 'zine about wrestlers fighting monsters!

CB:  Yeah! But they didn't go over too well...

RC:  Well, I guess they went over good with somebody!

CB:  Right! Well, y'know, what always works are the classics, or "50-Foot Woman," things like that. They can say what they want to about chiller movies, but I think they're terrific.

RC:  Well, again, thanks a million...

DRJR:  Oh, yeah, thank you so much...

CB:  Aw, my pleasure. Sock it to 'em!

FIN

Read Paul Riggie's MonsterMad feature about Chilly Billy!

Read more Monstermad raves!

Visit E-gor's Chamber of TV Horror Hosts or go right to the CHILLY BILLY entry.

Browse the Chiller Theater TV Log, a growing list of movies shown.

Check out Chilly MemoraBillya -- autographs, records and lots of other cool stuff!

Read My Visit to Chilly Billy's Castle, a fan's memories of appearing on the show!


Posted March 10, 2005 by George "E-gor" Chastain.   E-mail E-gor!