Saturday, October 17, 2015

Artist Interview: TEDDY WHITTENBARGER by Dave Wolff


Shock Theatre is a local Chattanooga, Tennessee TV program airing horror movies from the classic era. Describe your involvement this program and how you are contributing? 
I play the parts of Dirge and Dingbat on the show. Dingbat is a vampire bat puppet. Dingbat was created by the late Dan East. Shock Theatre originally aired on WTVC Channel 9 in Chattanooga in the late 60's and early 70's. Tommy Reynolds was the original Doc Shock and Dan East was Dingbat. Tommy was also the program director for WTVC and he came up with the idea of Shock Theatre. It ran old horror movies on Saturday nights at 11:30. Tommy wore a vampire cape with a tuxedo with a skull on a stick which he called Skully. He used Skully to hit Dingbat with whenever Dingbat said a stupid remark. In the late 70's Tommy moved to WDEF Channel 12. The show became known as Dr. Shock Theatre. Dan stayed on WTVC with a new host on Shock Theatre by the name of Mr. Fear. The show did not last long with the so-called new host; only for a few weeks or maybe a few months. Dr. Shock Theatre lasted for a while on WDEF. It wasn't the same without Dan. Tommy then moved to Huntsville, Tennessee. Dan passed away from diabetes and Tommy passed away a few years later.

How long has Shock Theatre been airing on WDEF at the time of this writing?
The show is currently on WDEF; I'd say it’s been about two years now. We were just coming on holidays at first. Now we are on the first Saturday of every month. We have a special showing on the 25th of October 2014 with an independent movie from the musical group Midnight Syndicate! We will be showing their first independent feature Dead Matter, a vampire vs zombie movie.

In what year was Dead Matter made and released to theaters? Who appears in the movie and who was the director?
Dead Matter I believe was filmed in 2010. I am not sure if it was ever released to the theaters or not. It may have been released in July of 2013. But I do know it got to DVD. I got my copy of the film from Edward Douglas at Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia. He signed it with actor Jason Carter and Tom Savini. Edward Douglas directed it. Its running time is about 90 minutes. Its budget was about 1500 dollars. It starred Andrew Divoff, Jason Carter and Tom Savini.

Describe the storyline of Dead Matter for the readers who haven’t seen it? Also describe what the vampires and zombies are like in the movie? Do they have any special attributes?
Dead Matter is about a scarab that seems to have powers to raise the dead. The lead vampire who is after the scarab has long white hair. He wants the scarab to control the undead. He is an old school vampire who treasures the old ways; in other words sucking the blood out of people. Whereas the modern day vampires seem to have found a drug or substitute for blood that they get hooked on.

How did you first hear of Dragon Con and who have you met there? How often have you attended Dragon Con either in Atlanta or elsewhere? Are you a longtime fan of horror conventions and have you met many personalities you admire?
I heard about Dragon Con several years ago. I've been going to Dragon Con every Labor Day weekend. That's my vacation so to speak. I have met a lot of actors from my favorite TV shows and movies over the years. You name them, I may have met them. There is one here in Chattanooga, Tennessee that is growing called Con Nooga held at the world famous Chattanooga Choo Choo in February of each year. It has now leaked over to the Trade & Convention Center for part of it here in Chattanooga. I have met Robert Englund, Lance Hendrickson and Kane Hodder just to name a few. I think I started going the second year of Con Nooga here in Chattanooga and have indeed seen it grow. They have shuttle buses that take you back and forth.

How did you become familiar with Shock Theatre and begin working as a regular cast member on the show? Who approached you to fill the role of Dirge on the program? How much of an impression did you make with your audition?
I grew up watching the original Shock theatre on WTVC. I did some drawings based on the cast and was invited to the studio. I was asked if I could do the voice of Dingbat and I tried out for it. But first I was asked to fill in for the character of Dirge. I stood on some crates in that first episode then I ordered my stack boots to wear as Dirge. I wear about four masks on my face. One of them is the goggles. They fogged up on me at first. I then took the lens out so I could see out of them. It is still very hard to see out of them from time to time. But they do give the character that spooky type of look! I must have made a good impression because am I not doing the character on the show?

In what ways do you contribute to the theme and atmosphere of Shock Theatre? Are your lines as Dirge scripted, or are you allowed to come up with your own lines?
I am the so called spook on the show. Dirge is a dream reaper. As Dingbat I get to be a pain in the ass sometimes! Dingbat is always getting into some sort of trouble. And he says something stupid and funny from time to time. I guess you could call him a comedic sidekick to Doc Shock. Some of the lines are scripted. Mostly the only thing Dirge says is his name. This was how the character was done from the beginning. This was done way before the “Guardians Of The Galaxy" movie ever came out. We are not copying the character Groot!

Tell the readers of the Nurse Goodbody character, who if I am correct is a recurring character on the show?
Nurse Goodbody is played by April Sinclair, an awesome actress. Her character is recurring on the current show. The original character of Nurse Goodbody on the original show was only on from time to time; she was at the time a high school girl. The original actress I was told moved to Nashville and has since passed away from illness.

Did you grow up with any of the movies Shock Theatre aired? Which movies were and are your personal favorites?
Oh yes, I grew up watching the classics, mostly Universal Monsters and Hammer Studios. The first movie I ever saw on the original show I think was "Munsters Go Home". My favorites would be the classic Universal monsters with a little bit of Hammer Studios thrown in on the side!

Were you a Munsters fan? Were you also watching programs like The Addams Family? How did they appeal to you? Which of the movies released by Universal Monsters and Hammer Studios do you watch most often?
I was a Munsters fan and I was watching programs like the Addams Family. I liked the fact that they were kind of based on horror and sort of the supernatural. The movies I watched the most from Universal were Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman and The Mummy. From Hammer: the Dracula and Frankenstein movies. The Frankenstein movies were more about the good doctor more than about his famous monster. He was more or less the monster for creating his creatures from dead body parts. The guy just never seemed to give up putting them together. Curse Of The Werewolf was always one of my favorites. It starred Oliver Reed; I believe that might have been his first movie role. I am not sure of that. The Brides Of Dracula was another one. It did not have Christopher Lee as Dracula; it featured another vampire. Christopher Lee was awesome as Dracula. I think he even played the part of Vlad Tepes’ Dracula in a documentary based on the character of Dracula if I am not mistaken. I think he was also great as the Mummy in Hammer’s version.

How early did you become a horror fan? Were you reading comics and magazines besides watching movies and television programs?
Since I was old enough to watch TV. I was reading comic books at an early age. I guess that's what got me interested into the world of entertainment. I once even owned my own comic shop called Comic World located on Dayton Blvd in Red Bank, Tennessee. I have always been interested in the unknown from UFOs to unknown creatures like Bigfoot to ghosts. I watched In Search Of whenever I got the chance. You name it I may have watched it! I owned and operated Comic World for about eight years in the 1990's. When I owned it I had a lot of Stuff comics, cards, T-shirts, hobbies like models and some action figures. I had lots of customers from week to week.

How would you say the movies released by Universal and Hammer laid the groundwork for the horror movies that would be released in the decades that followed? What in particular do you think of Christopher Lee’s contributions?
Universal and Hammer have indeed set the ground work for future horror films. Universal created them with the classics and Hammer took them to the next level and made them bloody with their special effects! Christopher Lee was the first actor to wear the fangs and have the blood shot eyes if I am not mistaken. And he was also the first to play Dracula in several sequels. Bela Lugosi I think only played Dracula twice. Once in the original and then in Abbot And Costello Meet Frankenstein. The other films had John Carradine playing the part of Dracula. I liked John’s performance but I wish Bela could have done them.

What do you think of the vampire-themed movies that have been released in the last fifteen years or so, such as Blade, Van Helsing and Underworld? How far would you say the genre has come since the days of Hammer Horror?
The worst I have to say would be the Twilight movies. Vampires do not twinkle in the sunlight! Dracula the TV Series was just starting to get interesting when NBC cancelled it. It should have been picked up by the Sci-Fi channel. If they had picked up the series for a second season they could have revamped the show and told more about how Vlad became a vampire. The flashbacks of him as Vlad were the best on the show. It was just starting to get bloody like a Hammer film before it was cancelled. Nothing good ever seems to stay long on NBC. The motion picture Dracula Untold I found great! I am looking forward to the sequel which I hope will be based more on the Bram Stoker storyline. Even if the storyline ended in modern times they could still do a flashback type story. For we all know Dracula survived through the ages but we do not know how. Those storylines would be interesting to explore.

Are there any shows you have watched or presently watch on the Sci Fi Channel?
Nothing much on the Sci Fi Channel. Maybe Ghost Hunters when I can get a chance to watch it. I watch mostly the History Channel; shows like Ancient Aliens, Hunting For Aliens, Hunting Bigfoot or Animal Planet. I turn it on shortly after the Walking Dead on AMC.

When it comes to horror movies, do you prefer traditional effects or computer generated effects and why?
I like some of the old school special effects and makeup effects. The show Grimm uses too many computer effects for transformation images. Don't get me wrong; I love the show. It's just I think they use a little too much. Now Sleepy Hollow is awesome for its effects and makeup.

There is a classic independent movie to be released called From A Whisper To A Scream. Explain your involvement in this movie and where it can be acquired on the internet?
From A Whisper To A Scream starred the late great Vincent Price! The motion picture was directed by Jeff Burr. I was a scenic artist, production assistant and extra on the film. The Blu-Ray version is currently listed on Amazon and will be released in March of 2015. It will have behind the scenes footage and interviews with most of the cast and crew.

What was Vincent Price’s role in From A Whisper To A Scream? What is the storyline of that movie?
Vincent Price is the Storyteller aka Julian White. He's the connecting device in the movie as he tells the deadly murdering history of the fictional town Oldfield, Tennessee. The storyline of the movie is four tales set in Oldfield.

Describe the work you did for From A Whisper To A Scream as scenic artist and production assistant.
I worked on a lot of the sets and helped try to make them look good. I helped work on some of the props and I learned a few things on the set as well. I did some carpentry work on a few of the sets and painted some signs on the carnival set. I got to do some lighting effects with a torch. I even made several torches for one segment with in the film. I also got to work alongside of Rick and Barney Burman and Chris Biggs. They were the special effects make up team on the film. I guess you could say I did a lot and learned a lot while working on the film.

What other movies did the crew of From A Whisper To A Scream work on before you began working with them?
Some of the crew just got off from filming Chuck Norris’s’ Invasion U.S.A. Others had worked on movies such as the Star Trek franchise, Ghostbusters and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome which me and the crew got to see one weekend while working on the film.

Your graphic artwork is posted on your Facebook profile and some has been published in Cerebral Agony. How long have you been interested in designing your own art?

Ever since I was able to pick up a pencil. I have had my work and photography work as well on CD covers for a few local bands and did a backdrop for a band named after a Motley Crue song called Live Wire. I designed the first two cassette covers for a band called Glass Hammer and several fanzines such as Amazing Heroes and Blast magazine just to name a few. I have done work for a few paperback books and novel covers. The most recent was one of my drawings done of Lita Ford which saw print in Guitar World magazine.

How many local bands have you designed CD covers for this far? Has anyone reviewing those releases commented on your work?
So far I have designed two cassette covers and two CD covers for some local bands. I am currently working on Hazmat's new CD Cover. It will be a painting. I have done also some photography work for the band Glass Hammer. One of my photos appears on the back of one of their CD's. I took a photo of them right after their live performance at Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia. Only the band members have commented on my work, hahaha.

The characters you base some of your work on include Dracula, Elvira, Vincent Price, Brandon Lee and Doc Shock & Dingbat. In addition to those characters, who else have you based your art on?
Everybody or anything I am interested in drawing. If I get an idea based on a certain person or a certain pose I do a possible quick sketch of my idea so I will not forget it. Then I work on it from there until I am finished with it or happy with the way it turns out.

What do you most admire about the work Vincent Price has done in the horror industry?
I admire all of Vincent Price's work in horror. I most admire his character on the Batman TV series, Egghead. To this very day that character has never been in a single issue of a Batman comic book. It was created just for the TV show. I think they should introduce the character into the pages of the comic book as a tribute to Vincent Price. I can see the character being a master criminal mind that could indeed match wits with Batman because of the size of his brain alone. He could be a master genius gone mad. The name Egghead would indeed fit the character nicely.

What are the movies that Vincent Price was involved in that remain personal favorites?
From a Whisper to a Scream of course, the Dr. Phibes movies and last but not least Roger Corman’s Edger Allan Poe horror movies.

You have had work published in an issue of Evil Ernie released by Chaos Comics.
That was Evil Ernie Goes To Oz I think. I was the inker on that drawing. That would have made a great storyline for Evil Ernie and Lady Death. I have also had my photography work published in Evil Ernie and Chaos Comics. Photos of my friend Amanda dressed up as Purgatory. I believe I am also the first person to have their photo printed in Chaos Comics as Evil Ernie. I am standing on the sidewalk right in front of my comic book shop holding a dismembered hand. It was taken late at night and printed in one of the Evil Ernie series.

In what ways do you relate to the character of Evil Ernie and the Lady Death character?
I once looked a little like the Character of Evil Ernie When I put on some Make up and my Leather Jacket. I do not relate at all to the Character of Lady Death because I look nothing like her at all!

Describe the projects you plan to undertake through the early months of 2015 and beyond.
I plan to do some artwork. Practice guitar and bass and try and get back into shape. To work on more episodes of Shock Theatre. And I hate to say this but I also hope to possibly find a new girlfriend. I have mourned over the death of my late girlfriend from cancer for about five years now. It is time that I tried to find someone new to enter into my life.

Photo by Johnny Harrison: April Sinclair, Teddy Whittenbarger and Jack Grey, the cast of Shock Theatre

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