Respectful Insolence

A Detroit icon has passed away

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This one will probably not mean much to those who don’t have a Detroit connection (such as, like me, having been born there and spent the first 26 years of my life in southeast Michigan), and it will probably mean nothing at all to my cadre of international readers, but it saddens me nonetheless to have discovered this bit of news via my sister.

Lawson Deming, the man who played Sir Graves Ghastly for so many years, died on April 24, just one day after his 94th birthday.

For Detroiters of a certain age, who grew up from the 1960’s to the early 1980’s, Saturday at 1 PM was the time that the cheesy horror music played, the mists swirled around the graveyard, and the coffin opened to reveal your congenial vampire host, Sir Graves Ghastly, who invariably urged the viewer to “turn out the lights…pull down the shades…draw the drapes” and told you that “you will watch the movie and you will enjoy it” before rolling the old horror or monster movie chosen for this week (or, as the show often joked, “dug up“), and who invariably closed the show with his exhortation, “Happy hauntings!” before the credits rolled. In between, there were amusingly low-budget sketches, such as Sir Graves serenading his own hand to a creepy tune, the “Glob” (in reality, Deming’s mouth shot upside down with eyes and a nose painted on his chin) singing various songs, the ever-popular skeleton dance, or visits to the Art Ghoulery, where horror drawings from children were displayed.

Was it low budget? Sure. Was it often silly? Definitely. I even realized that as a kid. But it was addictively watchable and almost always entertaining. Sadly, Sir Graves never appeared in markets other than Detroit and, for a time, Cleveland, and Washington, DC., but then it just wouldn’t have been the same show if it hadn’t remained a local oddity. In any case, they just don’t make TV shows like that any more. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether this is a good thing or not.

Rest in peace, Sir Graves. Those of you who knew and loved Sir Graves can, if you choose, light a virtual candle for him.

Comments

  1. #1 Dawn
    May 5, 2007

    I lit a candle for Sir Graves…he introduced me to a lot of the classic horror films, and was always fun to watch. RIP

  2. #2 Barry
    May 5, 2007

    Oh, yes, Sir Graves Ghastly, the TV turned to UHF, barely getting a signal, down in the basement…

  3. #3 Prup aka Jim Benton
    May 6, 2007

    But the original that he modeled himself on, the great Zacherle still lives (in an alive, not an undead sense).

  4. #4 HP
    May 6, 2007

    Grown-up Monster Kids have an incredible attachment to their local horror hosts. I grew up with Sammy Terry in Indianapolis, and when I first found the internet community of his fans and downloaded an .mp3 of his signature signoff, “Many pleasant nightmares,” I nearly wept from sheer nostalgia.

    Sorry to hear about Sir Graves. I never caught his show, but I know he had many rabid fans who were just dying to see his show.

  5. #5 usagi
    May 6, 2007

    They just don’t make them like that anymore (Ghost Host in Maryland for me). And that’s a great pity.

  6. #6 Mindy
    May 9, 2007

    Could never forget Sir Graves. But it’s not really worth being sad about his death, after all he lived to be 94 and as kids I think we believed he was already some sort of dead anyways. Too bad for today’s generation of children, having to watch age-appropriate computer animated shows 24/7 on cable. They might not grow up with a wacky sense of the ridiculous like we all got from our weekly consumption of really low quality TV.

  7. #7 Michael Hein
    October 24, 2007

    Thanks for the memories, Sir Graves. You are a truly a Detroit classic, we’ll miss you.

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