Book pays tribute to Dr. Paul Bearer
Roger Boyes Jr. only met Dr. Paul Bearer once, but he has been a fan of the late horror movie host for most of his life. Boyes, now 40, was in elementary school when Dr. Paul Bearer, played by Dick Bennick, handed him an autographed photo at a personal appearance. "It was a thrill to see him in person," recalls Boyes, who has written a book about his childhood hero. Like many youngsters who grew up in the Tampa area in the 1970s and '80s, Boyes spent many Saturday afternoons watching Dr. Paul Bearer's "Creature Feature" on WTOG, Channel 44. It's been nearly 20 years since "Creature Feature" disappeared from local TV, but Boyes is one of several devoted fans who keep the flame burning for Dr. Paul.Many of them are gathering at the Zephyrhills Home Theatre on Saturday for a 5 p.m. showing of vintage Dr. Paulpresenting the 1956 sci-fi film "Forbidden Plant." A $3 donation is suggested. Boyes will be there signing copies of his new self-published book, "Dr. Paul Bearer's Creature Feature." "I wrote it as a tribute and to help keep the memories going for all those people who loved the show," Boyes says. Bennick, who also was a radio sales executive, was a local celebrity for more than two decades. His comical, ghoulish undertaker character was a mix of Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx, the Stooges, and Emmett Kelly Jr. with a dose of Mad Magazine humor. Bennick loved puns. He called himself "The Master of Scaremonies" and joked about local newspapers: "The Tampa Tri-bone" and "St. Creaturesburg Times." He used dozens of gag props such as "Kellogg's Mourn Flakes," "Grave Nut Flakes' and "Ghost Toasties" or a can of "Lice Pudding." He lost an eye as the result of an automobile accident and would set his glass eye at an angle to give him a creepy look. Bennick died of heart failure in 1995 at age 66 after more than 1,200 stints hosting "horrible old movies" on WTOG over 22 years. Boyes' paperback book recounts Bennick's career from his days as a radio disc jockey in North Carolina to his long run as a TV horror host. Though it is an unabashed fan book, it contains some behind-the-scenes details about the character and production. Also included are dozens of photographs from the collection of Russell McClellan, of Plant City, a longtime fan who calls himself the "scare taker" of Bennick's props. "Many of the photos have never been seen by the public, so I wanted to get them out there," Boyes says. Also in the book are interviews with fans and friends of Dr. Paul, including Richard Koon, who continues to make public appearances (usually on Halloween) as Dr. Paul Bearer II, and actress and witch Erma Broombeck, who appeared on several Dr. Paul episodes. And, in full disclosure here, this reporter is included in the tome. The book has my memories of interviewing Bennick as well as a 1980s column about being the judge of Dr. Paul's annual Miss Invisible Woman Contest ("the best-looking woman you never saw"). There also is a photograph from the 1990s of Dr. Paul interviewing me.