Ronald D. Sweed (January 23, 1949 – April 1, 2019) was an American entertainer and author, known for his late-night television horror host character "The Ghoul".
|Born||January 23, 1949|
Euclid, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||April 1, 2019 (aged 70)|
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
|Alma mater||Bowling Green State University|
Early life and careerEdit
Sweed was born on January 23, 1949 in Euclid, Ohio. His mother is Irene Barnard. His father was Robert Sweed. He grew up in Cleveland. In an interview with his mother, Metro Times reporter Anita Schmaltz asked, "Did you ever expect to give birth to a Ghoul?" She responded, "Ron was very different right from the time he came out of the chute." Sweed was 3 or 4 when he went to downtown Cleveland with his grandfather to see Santa Claus and buy him a Christmas present. He picked out a puppet. When Sweed was 8 or 9, he was given marionettes. Sweed would put on shows for the neighborhood kids with the marionettes. His fourth grade teacher at one time could not keep his attention. Every Wednesday Sweed would put on a show for the class with his Jerry Mahoney dummy.
In 1963, 13-year-old Sweed and his friends went to an afternoon matinee of “Dr. Silkini and his live stage show of horrors, on stage in person, the Frankenstein monster, Dracula, King Kong and 45 horror movies”. On the way home, he found a gorilla suit in an open trunk of Silkini's. He wore the gorilla suit to a live appearance by Ghoulardi, a popular Cleveland television personality played by Ernie Anderson on WJW. Ghoulardi took note of the costume and brought Sweed on stage, and over the next few weeks, Sweed became Anderson's production assistant.
After Anderson left Cleveland for Los Angeles in 1966, Sweed left for Bowling Green State University, but continued to help with the production of the Hoolihan and Big Chuck show, which was Ghoulardi's replacement on WJW.
The Ghoul ShowEdit
In 1970, Sweed approached Ernie Anderson with a proposal to revive Anderson's "Ghoulardi" character. Anderson was not interested, but gave Sweed his blessing to revive the character on his own. With that blessing, Sweed took "The Ghoul" to Cleveland's Kaiser Broadcasting station WKBF-TV in 1971. Though it started as a tribute to Ghoulardi, Sweed soon developed his own eye-catching gags and energetic style. Known for his zany, early-adolescent humor (particularly surrounding his abuse of a rubber frog named "Froggy," his well-known penchant for blowing up model ships and aircraft with firecrackers, and his habitual smearing of Cheez Whiz over everything in sight), late night monster movies were a unique experience for Cleveland viewers in the 1970s. Catch phrases included "zingy-zingy," "Overdey!" and "stay sick, turn blue".
The Ghoul would typically take an unbelievably bad horror movie and dump in sound bites at appropriate moments, using audio clips from novelty records, George Carlin, Firesign Theater and rock albums of the '60s and early '70s. And whenever a character took a drink of something on-screen, The Ghoul would supply a good, loud belch.
"Shooting from no-budget studio sets, the Ghoul inserted his own dialogue and sound effects over insufferably bad B movies, blew up food, model cars and figurines with firecrackers, and produced strangely compelling, culturally relevant skits and parodies. The show was destructive and childish enough for little kids, subversive and timely enough for young adults."
Later in the 1970s, Kaiser Broadcasting syndicated The Ghoul Show to Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It bombed in Chicago (where Sweed had the thankless task of replacing the popular Svengoolie) and in Boston, but was huge in Detroit at WKBD TV-50, and enjoyed varying degrees of success in the other markets. Despite the show's popularity, Kaiser eventually canceled it in 1975 amid complaints from parents about the content of some of Sweed's skits, as well as the permanent closure of WKBF by Kaiser itself. But The Ghoul resurfaced in 1976 on independent Detroit station WXON TV-20, and on WKBF's successor station, WCLQ TV-61. Meanwhile, Kaiser Broadcasting 's successor, Field Communications bought back Horror Film Features by airing Son of Svengoolie on Chicago's WFLD on June 16, 1979. As a result, Sweed never appeared on air in Chicago again.
Sweed was on and off the air in Cleveland and Detroit for over three decades, at times even branching out into radio and the internet. The Ghoul returned to Cleveland TV in 1998 on WBNX-TV Channel 55 where he remained for the next six years airing on Friday, then later Sunday nights. He also did a Saturday night request show on classic rock station WNCX FM 98.5 during the same time period.
The same year, Sweed co-authored (with Mike Olszewski) The Ghoul (S)crapbook (ISBN 978-1886228221), a book collecting memories, on-set photographs, transcripts, correspondence, and memos from his years on the air. Said Robert St Mary, a Detroit journalist and author of The Orbit Magazine Anthology: Re-Entry: “Ron understood that times had changed from the beatnik version of Ernie. It was spectacle. It was blowing stuff up. He was using the crazy hip lingo that Ernie had, and tweaking it a bit more.”
In 2015, Sweed appeared at the Redford Theatre. It would be his final appearance there as he was scheduled to perform there in October 2018, but due to health problems, it was canceled. In an October 2017 interview with Metro Times Jarrett Koral, he stated how he gets ready for a show: "smoke a good kielbasa," further remarking that "smoking a kielbasa will take you to places Steppenwolf never imagined on his magic carpet ride." For a boost of instant insanity? "Snort a couple blobs of Cheez Whiz."
The Ghoul was well known enough in the Cleveland and Detroit markets that some of his catch phrases ("Overdey!", "Hey group!", "Scratch glass, turn blue", "Stay sick, climb walls", "Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy!", "Holy Parma", "Amrap" and Froggy's "Hiya gang, hiya hiya hiya!") are still widely recognized among the children of the 1970s.
An interesting side element is that the aforementioned rubber toy referred to simply as "Froggy" (and much abused by the Ghoul) was a toy dating from 1948 by a company named Rempel and featured often in comedic skits on the 1955 television show Andy's Gang where he was named Froggy the Gremlin. The Ghoul's oft-uttered catch phrases "Hiya, gang. Hiya, hiya, hiya" and "Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy" originate from that earlier show.
Awards and honorsEdit
On March 5, 2016, Sweed was presented with a Certificate of Recognition by Cleveland mayor Frank G. Jackson to commemorate the 45th anniversary of his debut on Cleveland TV, and to honor his continuing popularity in the city.
Sweed sued Keven Scarpino, a.k.a. the Son of Ghoul, in 1987 for infringing upon The Ghoul's character, but eventually lost the case. The judge ruled that no infringement occurred, as most horror show hosts portrayed the same basic character, a ghoulish individual who pranced about in costume, performed comedy routines, and showed horror movies.
Personal life and deathEdit
Sweed met his first wife, Barbara J. King, when she was 17, and she was 18 when they married. They were married for 14 years. King and Sweed remained friends. He met Mary Therese Matousek in 1988. Sweed later married Matousek around 1993 as they were married for 26 years.
- "Obituary of Ron Sweed". Cleveland.com. Cleveland: Advance Publications. April 4, 2019. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
- "birth reference results for Ronald Sweed". FamilySearch. United States: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
- Schmaltz, Anita (August 22, 2001). "What's a Ghoul to do?". Metro Times. Detroit: Euclid Media Group. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
- Kiska, Tim (April 3, 2019). "Legendary '70s TV horror host the Ghoul, a.k.a. Ron Sweed, has died". Detroit Free Press. Detroit: Gannett Company. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
- WJW Staff (April 2, 2019). "Ron 'The Ghoul' Sweed, legendary TV personality, has passed away". WJW. Cleveland: WJW License, LLC (Tribune Broadcasting). Retrieved April 3, 2019.
- Sweed interview - Utter Trash.net
- Introduction at www.ghoulfinger.com, first paragraph
- DeNatale, Dave "Dino" (April 2, 2019). "Legendary Cleveland television personality Ron 'The Ghoul' Sweed passes away". WKYC. Cleveland: WKYC-TV, LLC (Tegna Inc.). Retrieved April 3, 2019.
- Ghoul profile - Non-Productive.com
- NE Ohio movie hosts - Retro Junk.com
- "Tribute to The Ghoul". geocities.com. Yahoo! GeoCities.
- Hlavaty, Kaylyn (April 3, 2019). "TV personality and legend Ron 'The Ghoul' Sweed dies". WXYZ-TV. Detroit: Scripps Broadcasting Holdings LLC (E. W. Scripps Company). Retrieved April 3, 2019.
- Introduction at www.ghoulfinger.com, second paragraph
- Sweed, Ron; Olszewski, Mike (1998). Ghoul Scrapbook (Ohio) (1st ed.). Cleveland: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1886228221.
- St Mary, Robert (2015). The Orbit Magazine Anthology: Re-Entry. Detroit: Painted Turtle. ISBN 978-0814337318.
- Culham, Devin (April 3, 2019). "Late-night TV horror host Ron 'The Ghoul' Sweed dead at age 70". Metro Times. Detroit: Euclid Media Group. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
- Koral, Jarrett (October 20, 2017). "For horror host 'the Ghoul,' every day is Halloween". Metro Times. Detroit: Euclid Media Group. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
- "The Ghoul honored by Cleveland mayor". Cleveland.com. Cleveland: Advance Publications. March 7, 2016. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
- Son of Ghoul - Utter Trash.com
- Cole, Amber (April 3, 2019). "Cleveland icon 'The Ghoul' dies 5 months after suffering heart attack". WOIO. Cleveland: Gray Television Licensee, LLC (Gray Television). Retrieved April 3, 2019.
- Petkovic, John (April 3, 2019). "Legendary Cleveland horror host Ron 'The Ghoul' Sweed has died". Cleveland.com. Cleveland: Advance Publications. Retrieved April 3, 2019.