Friday, September 9, 2011

Dollar Bin Horror Spotlight:Bill "Chilly Billy" Cardille

By Eric Polk-
Ok, Reaplings. It's time for me to be a Pittsburgh honk once again, but it's in a good cause because today, I'm discussing a city icon. To two generations of Pittsburghers, he was a right of passage for those who yearned to experience the joys of staying up late to watch grade-z horror fare. Like Cleveland's own Ghoulardi(See Rhonda, I respect Cleveland in some aspects, lol.), Bill "Chilly Billy" Cardille hosted a wildly popular late-night t.v. show, his was titled (What else?) Chiller Theatre.

Before then, Mr. Cardille was kind of a jack of all announcing trades for WIIC(NBC's Pittsburgh station until 1981 when the call letters were changed to the current WPXI). He hosted game shows, teen dance shows, and, of course, the wildly popular Studio Wrestling.
Chiller Theatre debuted on Sept. 14th. 1963 and initially, Mr. Cardille only did the basic voiceover(what the movie was, who was in it, etc.) until he got bored and had his studio engineer mess with some reverb, giving his voice the perfect eeriness to the show.

Chiller Theatre was so popular in  that it kept SNL off  WIIC in Pittsburgh for four years. Finally giving in to pressure from NBC, Chiller Theater was forced to follow SNL at 1:00 a.m. where it was reduced to a single feature movie program. Before then, they showed a double feature.

The show was remembered for several unique features, one being its theme song, "Experiment In Terror" performed by Al Caiola, written by Henry Mancini. The original set was meant to be a laboratory. It was changed to a castle motif when a cast of supporting characters was added in later years. That cast included Terminal Stare (Donna Rae), Georgette the Fudgemaker (Bonnie Barney), Norman (Norman Elder), and Stefan the Castle Prankster (Steve Luncinski). During breaks in the movie, Cardille would perform several sketches, like reciting horoscopes, trivia, and telling a series of corny jokes to a giggling skull.

Of course, we horror fans also know him from his cameo appearance in both the original and 1990 version of Night of the Living Dead. Sadly, Chiller Theatre showed its last movie New Years Day 1984 and an icon of horror t.v. was gone. Though nowadays, Mr. Cardille is on radio and hosts the local Pittsburgh segment of the MDA Labor Day Telethon, having done so for nearly 40 years.

For on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theatre,head on over to