HORROR HOST SPOTLIGHT: Mr. Lobo and Cinema Insomnia
Though I have been a fan of horror hosts for a very long time, I really didn’t become exposed to them until around 1983 when the Son of Svengoolie was syndicated on a local UHF station. It was the Son of Svengoolie that caused me to become fascinated with horror hosts nation-wide. I never would’ve guessed that there were so many and that they were alive and kicking still, despite the almost complete demise of local television.
I was fortunate enough to be able to meet many of the top horror hosts in the country thanks to the Horror Hound Weekends, sponsored by Horror Hound Magazine. To meet these people in person was quite the thrill and to be able to hang out with them was so much fun. They are all a cast of characters that truly do need to be in the forefront of entertainment. Most people are strictly fans of the horror host that they grew up with but for me, meeting and interacting with so many, I became a fan of all of them.
In 2011 I was fortunate to meet and hang out a bit with a horror host that I certainly became a fan of, Mr. Lobo. His show, CINEMA INSOMNIA, is one of the best out there. One of my favorite aspects of his show is the opening, where he teases showing a big budget film, only to be handed a note saying that there was some kind of problem and instead would be showing something of the B or C quality. Though he doesn’t interrupt the movies like some hosts do, he does have skits during commercial breaks and at times even features fake commercials. He will also show old time commercials as well as classic movie trailers. The whole package of the show is a lot of fun and I truly recommend checking him out.
Just recently I got back in touch with Mr. Lobo and he agreed to do an interview for me. For this I am truly grateful and I hope you enjoy reading what he had to say.
David: Growing up, did you have a horror host you watched each week? If so, who was it and why did you like him/her?
Mr. Lobo: Growing up in the 70s in Northern CA, I had an unusual horror host. I say unusual because the local king of Creature Features, Bob Wilkins, was not in a costume. He was unusually usual. He wasn’t a vampire, ghoul or mad scientist. He was just a nerdy guy in a suit. His only prop was a yellow rocking chair and a big cigar. Bob had dry wit with an absurdist streak and often quipped that the movies were delivered to the studio in a ‘brown paper bag.’ He would read the TV guide and tell you about the better movies that were on the other channels or just say “Go to bed early. It’s not worth it.”. Brilliant reverse psychology! But he also seemed very kind and had celebrity interviews as well as young fans as guests on his shows. Like a Monster Kid sub-culture Johnny Carson with the tempo of Bob Newhart. He was a calming presence and a fun companion to watch a movie with, especially when they got too scary. I was nervous as a young kid and scared easily. I disliked clowns and was freaked out by mascots. Dad would be asleep in the recliner if he was there at all but Bob was always talking to me and making me feel safe and relaxed enough to really enjoy these films. He would later be a huge influence on my style as an adult.
David: What made you decide to become a horror host?
Mr. Lobo: Don’t we all look in the mirror and want to be Rod Serling or Elvira? I loved the spectral narrators and did radio theater a UC Davis radio station. I was an artsy kid always drawing and making u characters. I made videos and short films. I also was a writer and graphic artist. I worked on a pop culture zine called Planet-X magazine in the early 90’s. To launch the book, we produced a live tribute to ‘Creature Features’ at a local dinner theater hosted by Bob. I was asked if I would produce the show since we had done some other live film shows with vintage 16mm films – I wrote jokes and wore stupid costumes. I met with Bob and wrote material and made props. On the night of his performance, he said, ‘You should get out there in a chair and host movies.'” I wasn’t ready for that and poo-pooed it. Secretly, I really wanted to. Years later, a friend helped me get a job at KXTV, a Sacramento ABC TV station, in the production department. They had a movie that ran 25 minutes short late Saturday Nights/Early Sunday…We pitched wrapping around it and luckily they didn’t care at all and just let us do it. I love the format because I get to wear a lot of different hats. I get to be performer, visual artist, reviewer, curator, collaborator, showman, archivist, instructor, satirist, writer, prop builder, cartoonist, marketer, interviewer, collaborator, improv comedian, director and producer. I can experiment, be weird, and have fun.
David: It seems like most horror hosts wear spooky makeup and costumes and yet you play it straight. What made you decide to go this route for CINEMA INSOMNIA?
Mr. Lobo: Of course, as you know, I was influenced by Bob, who was what they would call in the horror host documentary AMERICAN SCARY (2006)–“one of the normal guys”. Like Chilly Billy Cardille from WIIC/WPXI Pittsburgh, or Gilbert Gottfried on USA UP ALL NIGHT, some hosts don’t have a costume. I also loved Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock presents. But even though they are not obviously made up, they are personas. Even Vampira was somewhat a persona. She lived the role, sort of like how pro-wrestlers do. And with the persona of MR. LOBO I wanted to be somewhat believable and something I could live with if it caught on. I sort of think of the job as sacred. I thought an exaggerated version of myself would be harder to screw up. When people met me in real life, they say—“Wow, I met MR. LOBO!” or “I took my picture with Mr. Lobo.” instead of, “Wow, I met a guy in cargo shorts that kind of sounds like Mr. Lobo.”. Also, LOBO is my given last name. I will always turn my head if someone yells out to me. And for my own comfort level, if I’m getting into my car at 2 AM, they aren’t yelling “Hey, Uncle Spookypants! I saw the show last night!” I like wearing costumes, but I’m intimidated by clowns and people at the perfume counter spraying you in the face at the Department store, selling it way too hard. I try to make the show I was looking for at 2 AM
flipping through the channels and a late night show should have an easier vibe. Some of my humor is subtle. I also have somewhere to build up to if I need to and it will be a surprise. I think if I had a funny nose or cape, I would have lost it by now. I’d leave it in the car at a big show and have to go running back. I didn’t want to rely on having to find a certain fright wig and pray they never stop making it. We have costumed characters on the show but MR. LOBO is the connection to the audience. The down side is that I’m often the last horror host people check out because I look too boring. “This guy is not a vampire! What gives?”
David: Who are some of your all-time favorite horror hosts, past and present, and why?
Mr. Lobo: As for the past: We covered Wilkins, Serling, Hitchcock and “Chilly Billy”. John Zacherle as ZACHERLEY on SHOCK THEATER was amazing. He was I call “a lifer”. Not only was he an extremely talented improv performer but he would appear in character at conventions like Chiller. Cassandra Peterson as ELVIRA on MOVIE MACABRE was an influence; funny, smart and amazing at marketing herself. Rhonda Shear on USA UP ALL NIGHT was captivating and fun and so was Laraine Newman on THE CANNED FILM FESTIVAL in syndication. Rich Koz as SVENGOOLIE and Dick Dyszel COUNT GORE DEVOL are heroes from the silver age that are still going strong and both helped me out on CINEMA INSOMNIA, specifically the HAUNTED HOUSE SPECIAL that is now available on Alpha Video DVD. I enjoyed reading John Stanley and Joe Bob Briggs articles in the 80s and early 90s, so much film knowledge. Working with Bill Bowman as THE BOWMAN BODY on several projects was an honor. I have a lot of respect for the MST3K gang, They kept the lights on for hosted movies for the 90s kids. I don’t watch a lot of newer or current horror hosts because I am still making my show and I don’t want to be too influenced. PENNY DREADFUL XIII is an amazing performer, creative and is a good writer. BUNNY GALORE is amazing and playful. GWAR member Don Drakulich as SLEAZY P. MARTINI is hilarious on his show SLEAZY PICTURES AFTER DARK. VINCENT VAN DAHL, TANGELLA, and LIVINGSTON on the current version of Bob’s old show CREATURE FEATURES are doing a first class job and get some great celeb interviews. I admire anyone who has the ability to make quality episodes on a regular basis year in and year out.
David: What is your favorite part about doing your show?
Mr. Lobo: It’s a great thing when it all comes together, finding the right movie that inspires our wrap around material. On set when the camera is rolling, the black void goes 360 around me and we are 100 percent in the world of make believe. Creating characters and working with up-and-comers and old friends. Talking to the camera and connecting with the audience. Laughing and making others laugh is the magic of creativity. Somehow helping people forget their worries for a little while, mine and theirs.
David: If you were given the chance to show any movie without paying royalties, what would it be and why?
Mr. Lobo: All of them! That’s a hard question. Our treatment of the films wouldn’t work with some of the classics; I think we’d have to adjust our approach. On CINEMA INSOMNIA, it would be great to show THE BLOB because of my years of hosting BLOBFEST at the Colonial Theater, where the famous run out was filmed. There is so much we could bring to it and involve the locations from the film. GODZILLA movies would be so amazing and fun since I am a Sci-Fi kid at heart. ROBOT MONSTER in 3D or CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON in 3D would be pure fun…everyone could get their 3D glasses from the 7-11 or fast food chain and watch along with MR. LOBO.
David: How has the pandemic in 2020 affected you and your show?
Mr. Lobo: It’s been rough, honestly. Personally, my sleep schedule has been wrecked more than usual. All the film festivals and conventions that we did were canceled for the most part. Recording video is very difficult. However, we have a nice little community in our household right now which has helped a lot. A house full of weirdo artists with my wife Dixie Lobo, my son Dylan, Editor/Producer Aaron Lane and myself. My SLEEPLESS KNIGHTS pODDcast producer Paul Sanders can’t be in the same place but we have committed to weekly audio shows to keep fans invested. We are recording with Paul “who is in outer space” and sometimes his “life model decoy” is under our porch. Our codename for the pandemic is “chronic diarrhea” in an attempt to keep things light.
We did 14 double feature watch-parties with old episodes that we hosted and wrapped around live on FB and also on YouTube and OSI 74. We could only produce 2 NEW proper CINEMA INSOMNIA episodes. MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN was shot at CREATURE FEATURE WEEKEND which was a convention that decided to try and do a pandemic safe show at the Cumberland Drive-In here in PA. Everyone wore masks and practiced social distancing. This episode is a time capsule…which is extra weird because I usually try and make the shows evergreen and not stuck in any particular time or place.
The other new episode of 2020 is what we call SEA-GAH! SHE CREATURE OF DESTRUCTION. I wanted to get away from current events so I wrote a throwback show. A recreation of a “lost episode” based on what I remember about the lost forever episode THE SHE-CREATURE wrapped around the Larry Buchanan remake. I only used my wife Dixie Lobo and my OSI producer Aaron M. Lane since we all live together and we filmed in a very cold garage. We have a phone in “Reel 7 girl”. I played
CRISWELL and versions of Mr. Lobo from other eras to fill it out.
Both new shows are specials and extra long and immersive for people who need an escape.
Blobfest was a virtual event this year. I didn’t MC for the first time in 9 years. We did make a video spook show with DAUGHTER OF HORROR, the film they are watching in the THE BLOB when the monster gets loose. So that the general public can see it, MR. LOBO’S NOT QUITE MIDNIGHT SPOOKSHOW will be built into a future episode of CINEMA INSOMNIA and a DVD will be included as a bonus with our limited edition Spook Show Mr. Lobo bobble head or as we like to call them NODDY NOGGINS. It comes with a mini-figure of Miss Mittens, my houseplant sidekick and both glow-in-the-dark.
Which brings me to a focus on merchandise; selling stuff in the OSI 74 Square Shop has become a priority to keep things going. We put out a MR. LOBO MONSTER MATCH Card Game and a MR LOBO AND THE MONSTERS coloring book. New Shirts, DVDs, Mugs, Pandemic Masks, Sleeping Masks, Date Knight kits, Lobo-O-Vision glasses, stickers and much more.
We miss seeing fans in person so I have been doing watch parties with LIVE chat every Saturday Night on TWITCH and we do VR gatherings at our SKY CINEMA VIRTUAL DRIVE IN via hubs and altspace VR, both rooms designed by Mediaverse. Keeping busy has been keeping me sane…I get a lot of feedback in emails and the Cinema Insomnia Facebook fan group, that it has been keeping many other insomniacs out there in the dark sane too.
David: Tell us about your 18 Alpha Video DVDs. Where can people get them?
Mr. Lobo: Thanks for letting Mr. Lobo plug these! I have always loved ALPHA VIDEO DVD and it’s a dream come true as a collector to have their label put out some of my classic shows! Producer Aaron M. Lane restored the 18 episodes released so far with all of our host segments, vintage ads, trailers and interviews, in retro-styled DVD packaging from East Coast based physical media nostalgia juggernaut, available at ALPHA VIDEO/OLDIES.COM.
For the cost of an online “rental”, you can OWN these new fun and colorful collectible DVDs. The wraparound, disk art was done by Alpha’s famous art department, that have pumped up many low-budget horror films back in the day with candy colors. These DVDs look like they may have been a point of purchase Halloween buy at your mom’s favorite discount store. I can autograph them if you get them from the OSI 74 site shop. They are in some retail outlets like FORBIDDEN PLANET NYC and CACKLEBERRY ANTIQUE MALL, Paradise PA.
The first of three releases:
MR. LOBO’s CINEMA INSOMNIA: HAUNTED HOUSE SPECIAL (ALP 1127D), Mr. Lobo enters a haunted house with his own hilarious group of “Paranoid Investigators” comprised entirely of horror hosts! Dick Dyszel (Count Gore DeVol), Jerry Moore II (Karlos Borloff), John Dimes (Dr. Sarcofiguy) and Rich Koz (Svengoolie) play original characters in this spooky tale that weaves through vintage cartoons, movie trailers and other tricks and treats.
MR. LOBO’s CINEMA INSOMNIA: BOB WILKINS HALLOWEEN SPECIAL (ALP 1128D). Mr. Lobo talks with his mentor Creature Feature host Bob Wilkins about their favorite Halloween movies while sitting in a spooky cemetery.
And, the third in the series contains a full feature film presented in traditional movie host style segments.
MR. LOBO’S CINEMA INSOMNIA: EEGAH! (ALP 1129D) Mr. Lobo’s co-star is a cave woman named “Sheegah” and his director for the episode is “Hardware Wars” parody genius Ernie Fosselius!
All of these DVD releases are jam packed with Halloween thrills and slumber party fun! You can continue with classics like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, CARNIVAL OF SOULS, VOYAGE TO A PREHISTORIC PLANET, MONSTER FROM A PREHISTORIC PLANET, TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE, DICK TRACY MEETS GRUESOME, WASP WOMAN, ATOMIC BRAIN, SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS, THE SCREAMING SKULL, HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND and HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL or try some of the newer indie movies never before released like MIDGET ZOMBIE TAKEOVER, XENIA PRIESTESS OF NIGHT, and HARD DAYS NIGHTMARE. Visit OLDIES.com or OSI74.SQUARE.SITE if you want them autographed.
David: Can you describe the OSI 74 channel? What goes on there and where can people watch it?
Mr. Lobo: Not easy to describe but we keep trying. It’s sort of like an old UHF station from an alternate universe. The shows are weird, funny and retro. Content from the worlds of Creature Features, Mr. Lobo’s CINEMA INSOMNIA, Church of the Subgenius, Paranoia Magazine, GWAR, Troma, Saturday Morning Cartoons, Indie Animation, Classic Horror Hosts, Scream Queens, Early Cable Access, Outsider Sports, Cult Movies, Drive-In Movies and VHS tape trading. It’s a channel and the main vehicle of the collective and distribution network that we call Outer Space International.
You can watch free on your ROKU device or ROKU enabled TV—just search for “OSI 74” or look for us in the movies and TV category. Online, we have shows you can watch right now on the website on demand OSI74.com. We are launching a phone app soon.
David: What else is going on in the world of Cinema Insomnia?
Mr. Lobo: July 28th, 2021 marks the 20th year of CINEMA INSOMNIA, We are slowly working on an anniversary special, and new episodes in general that we hope to start filming in a couple weeks. We have a couple exclusive licensed films in the works that we hope to feature. Lots more official merchandise including a new CARDS AGAINST INSOMNIA card game and a CINEMA INSOMNIA comic book. A revamp of the cinemainsomnia.com website and live appearances are also planned. We should be returning to the Mahoning Drive In Theater and possibly Retro Con, Blobfest, Monster Bash and Creature Feature Weekend. I don’t want to say too much but our fingers are crossed. Follow us on TWITCH and join our CinemaInsomnia channel watch parties where I sometimes appear on screen in person live! The very active Facebook group Mr. Lobo’s CINEMA INSOMNIA Fans is a good place to find other fans. Listen to our weekly SLEEPLESS KNIGHTS pODDccast – emphasis on the odd, patreon.com/sleepless knights podcast and join our sticker club. We just created a fantastic sticker book with exclusive sticker sets featuring Cinema Insomnia and OSI 74 characters. You can also support our TV series CINEMA INSOMNIA on patreon at patreon.com/cinemainsomnia and shop our osi74.square.site for official stuffs! We also have a patreon for OSI 74 patreon.com/outer_space_international. I have an assistant now Miss Wendy who is supposed to help keep me on task. If you’d like to get on our mailing list or have inquires for bookings contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you, Cinsomniacs for celebrating 20 years of Mr. Lobo’s CINEMA INSOMNIA with us and let’s have more fun in 2021!
Again, I want to thank Mr. Lobo of CINEMA INSOMNIA for this incredible interview. Don’t forget to read the other entries in my HORROR HOST SPOTLIGHT series.