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Shock Theatre debuted in September of 1957 with Zach appearing as Roland, a crazy character who lived in a crypt. Charlie Vanda, the president of WCAU came up with the name and as Zach is quick to point out, the accent was on the second syllable -- Ro-LAND. Roland had an assistant named Igor, and his wife lived in a coffin. The wife was referred to as "my dear" and occasionally Roland would make her day with a well-placed thrust of a wooden stake. (The stake was actually driven into a bucket of dirt). Other times he would join her in the coffin while watching the evening's film with the audience. Another character was Gasport, Roland's son who hung formlessly from the wall in a burlap bag and moaned.
On one hilarious occasion, Roland sent an unwilling Gasport into outer space in a guided missile, and that was the beauty of the WCAU studio; it was large enough to drive a truck into or shoot a rocket from. Photographs from the WCAU days show the set as being eerily elaborate with craggy walls, a spiral staircase and all of the trappings of a mad scientist's laboratory.
Oh, The Memories . .
Originally, the program was aired in the 11:15 late night movie slot on Monday and Tuesday. However, the show was popular not only among adults but among children as well. Therefore, the program was moved to Friday and Saturday and Roland's popularity increased in leaps and bounds. At one point, there were in excess of 800 Roland Fan clubs in Philadelphia and kids could be spotted all over the city wearing large black buttons that said "Roland" or "l like Igor." Zach was even the subject of a feature article in the August 16, 1958, issue of Saturday Evening Post called "T.V.'s Midnight Madness."
Zach Jumps In
Mob at WCAU