The Morning Call Newspaper Company
by ROSEMARY JONES, The Morning Call
Friday, October 31, 1997
Scott's comments: See "Other" section for more details about this Halloween tape
Halloween is actor Daniel Roebuck's favorite time of the year, a brief season when he can indulge his year-round passion for spooks and monsters without attracting raised eyebrows.
He remembers marching as Dracula in Bethlehem's Halloween parade when he was 7, enchanted with the weird and eerie even then.
Though he has realized his dream of a successful career in movies ("The Fugitive") and television ("Matlock"), sinking his teeth into a role in a monster movie is one goal that has thus far eluded the 34-year-old actor.
While he's waiting for that role to come along, Roebuck created his own opportunity to play a ghoulish character.
Teaming up with producer Chuck Williams, whose horror movies include "Double Blast" and "Eddie Presley," showing on the cable Sundance Channel (which is not carried locally), and film archivist Bob Burns, a Halloween expert who helped to build the monsters in "Invasion of the Saucermen," "The She Creature," and "It Conquered the World," Roebuck produced "Halloween: The Happy Haunting of America" (Chuck Williams Productions and Whiz Bang Entertainment; 50 minutes; $19.95), a video presentation that explores the many facets of the holiday.
In it, Roebuck portrays Dr. Shock, the star of "Shock Theater," a 1960s-vintage late-night horror presentation on WFIL-TV (now WPVI, Philadelphia) that was "must" weekend viewing for fans of the genre when Roebuck was growing up in Bethlehem.
"I remember begging my parents to stay up late to watch it," Roebuck recalled during a recent telephone interview from his home in Burbank, Calif. "My dad would stay up with me and we'd be munching on a $2 pizza -- obviously that was a long time ago!"
The video, which Roebuck likes to call a "shockumentary," also features Williams as Igor and Burns as the gorilla Kogar, sidekicks of Dr. Shock.
The thrills and chills that are part of the Halloween tradition are there, but it's a production that achieved the actor's aim to "create something that would be a family-oriented experience."
During the 1996 Halloween season, Roebuck, Williams and Burns were filmed as they traveled around the United States touring haunted houses, jumping on spooky hayrides and attending monster movie conventions. They visited Spookyworld in Berlin, Mass., the world's only horror theme park, and they participated in Bethlehem's Halloween parade, which is featured on the video.
Interspersed throughout the production are interviews with the famous and the infamous of horrordom -- Robert Englund, unforgettable as the hockey-masked Freddy Krueger; Alice Cooper; Boris Karloff's daughter Sarah; Ron Chaney, great-grandson of Lon Chaney Sr.; Doug Bradley and Angus Scrimm, aka Pinhead and Phantasm, respectively. There's a behind-the-scenes look at the masks and special effects created at Don Post and Henry Alvarez Studios in Hollywood.
An inveterate collector of toys and monster masks, Roebuck admits he owns more than 250 masks, a collection that he began as a boy with acquisitions at Pulley's 5 & 10 in West Bethlehem, a novelty store that drew children from all over the city for its amazing inventory of Halloween masks, magic tricks, tattoos and penny candy. He credits the late John Pulley, owner of the shop, with nurturing what has become a lifelong hobby.
Roebuck, whose family lived in the northeast section of the city, remembered he had "to ride two buses to get to Pulley's."
"John Pulley was a saint," Roebuck declared. "I would hang out there for hours. He'd let me try on masks, show me how the magic stuff worked, give me a piece of penny candy, point out stuff I might have missed. He never once told me to get lost -- as well he might have."
For Halloween, Roebuck has assumed the persona of many unearthly creatures through the years, but the only portrayal that ever won him a prize was his appearance as a very-human Liberace, accompanied by a former girlfriend as his chauffeur, at a private party.
"Oh yes, I wore the rhinestone-decorated clothes, dyed my hair and added sideburns," he laughed. "Ironically, years later, I was one of two finalists selected for the role of Liberace in a television movie about him. I didn't get it."
Roebuck is absolutely delighted with the fact that Halloween is now recognized as the second biggest holiday of the year -- after Christmas -- in terms of seasonal sales and observances.
"Halloween allows the little kid in all of us to `come out and play,' " he noted gleefully. "Even the postal service has gotten into the spirit with the release of the Universal monster stamps in time for Halloween this year, and Burger King has some of the best monster toys I've ever seen!"
Roebuck recently completed filming "U.S. Marshalls," in which he reprises the role he played as deputy to actor Tommy Lee Jones in "The Fugitive." He's also filming several television episodes of "Nash Bridges."
On the home front, Roebuck and his wife, Kelly, are awaiting the imminent birth of their second child.
Their daughter, Grace, who just turned 2, already is being taught to enjoy the make-believe world of "ghoulies and beasties."
She toddled into the room as her father was being interviewed. Holding out the phone to her, Roebuck bade her to "say Dracula, Gracie."
"Dwacula," she cooed, punctuating her mastery of the vampire's name with a triumphant giggle.
2 PHOTOS by UNKNOWN.
CAPTION: The opening sequence of `Halloween: The Happy Haunting of America' features (from left) Chuck Williams as Igor, Daniel Roebuck as Dr. Shock and Bob Burns as the gorilla Kogar.
CAPTION: The Mummy from an exhibit in Bristol, Conn., is part of the video's look at Halloween across the United States.