Farewell, Superhost

February 24, 2020


    “Hello dare!” For 20 years, that’s how Superhost greeted his audience on Channel 43 in Cleveland every Saturday afternoon before unleashing old Three Stooges shorts followed by a horror movie. The character was created by broadcaster Marty Sullivan in 1969, shortly after being hired by the station. The program quickly became a staple of Cleveland TV and “Supe,” as he sometimes referred to himself, a beloved personality.

      The show opened with a crowd of people looking skyward, with one exclaiming, “look, in the sky! It’s a bird!” Followed by a woman saying, “it’s a plane,” and finally a gentleman stating, “no, it’s Superhost,” at which point a tennis shoe dropped into his hand. That was followed by footage of Sullivan entering the Channel 43 building, getting made-up by the staff, then disappearing into a phonebooth to transform into Superhost.

      Interspersed throughout the show were skits and banter created by Superhost and his team. The most famous of these bits was probably the video he made for the 1975 C.W. McCall track “Convoy.” The low-budget creation was made before music videos were a thing and featured Sullivan (not in his Supe costume), along with a few of his crew, mixed with shots of toy trucks and a few movie clips.

      Another popular sketch was The Moronic Woman, a parody of the popular TV show The Bionic Woman, in which Superhost wore a blonde wig to bring the character to life. There were also parodies of singers Slim Whitman and Boxcar Willy, whose commercials flooded the Channel 43 airwaves in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. The Superhost versions were Fat Whitman and Caboose Supe, respectively. 

      For most of its run, the show was divided into Supes On! which started at noon and was home to the Three Stooges, while from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., it was Mad Theater, showing a monster movie (sometimes two). Uncommon for horror movie shows of the era, Superhost was on in the afternoon. Even stranger, the city had two other horror movie shows on competing stations for most of Supe’s run.

      Channel 61 had The Ghoul on Saturday nights, while Hoolihan and Big Chuck, later Big Chuck and Little John, aired on Friday nights over on Channel 8. While each had a slightly different sensibility, Cleveland TV audiences embraced them all.

      With the expansion of cable programming and the rise of other popular programs on Channel 43, such as wrestling, Supe’s ratings declined through the ‘80s. His final broadcast was in December of 1989.

      Sullivan also served as a newscaster, as well as a substitute presenter of the Monday through Friday afternoon  Prize Movie, hosted by John Lanigan. For his efforts, Sullivan was inducted into the Ohio Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Horror Host Hall of Fame in 2015.

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