Continued . . . Page 2
Zacherle was said to have
developed a love for gardening and had even won an award for his flowers at a
Philadelphia show. He was also branching out to other show business related jobs
in Philadelphia's booming entertainment industry, including a stint as radio
Zach Lands His First Role
Gradually, Zacherle made his way to television where his first notable
appearance was in a fateful role in a daily live serial-styled western, Action in the Afternoon. The show was aired live and had a typically low local television budget. The continuing story line featured a regular cast of characters, which included Zach in a number of bit parts. At one point, it was decided to hire an actor to portray the town undertaker, a onetime role that could be used to dispose of the recent victims of gunfights and hangings. Somehow, it was decided to award the part to Zacherle. The budget conscious costume department decided to dress the town's new undertake in a long black frock coat and this item of apparel would become one of Zacherle's most important visual props, one which remains with him to this day.
Zach described the show: "It was a Western and kind of crazy. Everything would go
wrong. Horses would run away. Nobody knew how to ride a horse anyway. Everything
was live in those days, so we'd stand in the set which was a parking lot outside
the studio, hitch our horses up, walk in the door casually . . . then run like
crazy across the lobby and into the studio for the interior shots."
Zach may have continued in this fashion for years taking occasional small roles
and bit parts, but fate intervened. Universal Pictures decided to releases their
library of 1930's and 1940's horror films to television. A full page in Variety
announced the film packages. It was called SHOCK and it encompassed such films as
The Wolfman, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy,
and all of the sequels. A second
package was called SON OF SHOCK and completed the collection with the Inner
Sanctum films and all of the B movies that Universal-International created during
the 1940's. Over 70 films, and stations all around the country lined up to make
deals to play them in the fall of 1957. WCAU - Channel 10 in Philadelphia and WABC -
Channel 7 in New York were two of the stations that signed to play these movies
during the late night hours. Some stations decided to go al out and signed actors
to portray creepy, characters to host the films. There were mad scientists,
vampires, and various eccentrics.
Not long after the undertaker role, Zach received a phone call from Philadelphia
TV station WCAU and was asked to host Shock Theatre. He adds, "Someone
remembered me from the western. I never even tried out. I whipped out the old
black coat I wore as the undertaker on the cowboy show."
Zach parted his hair in
the middle and applied the famous ghoul-like makeup and the rest was history.