Four Guys from Oakland Part 1
Posted October 6, 2011on:
“Watch Horror Films – Keep America Strong” – Bob Wilkins
KTVU, Channel 2 in Oakland, California, was one of the nation’s powerhouse independent television stations. I started watching in the late 1950s/early 1960s when they aired cool (to a kid) live shows such as Captain Satellite, Roller Derby, and National All-Star Wrestling. But movies were consistently their ratings grabbers. In 1986 KTVU became part of the Fox Network and, of course, its programming forever changed.
KTVU fixtures I was happy to have met…
“Don’t stay up late, it’s not worth it”
From 1971 to 1979, Bob Wilkins, the cigar-chomping, dead-pan humored, host of Channel 2’s “Creature Features,” whose deprecating comments about his program’s library of grade B and Z horror and science fiction films were irresistible. (He did show some good movies, too). One of his hallmarks was to recommend that his viewers not watch his movie, but change to another channel. He even read the TV Guide listings of opposing programs! Sponsors were ticked off until they found out that his gimmick jacked up ratings. I, for one, found his approach irresistible, although one viewing of “Creature from the Haunted Sea” was enough.
“This movie has two things going for it…it’s in color and they speak the English language.”
Bob interviewed big-time horror and sci-fi icons like William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ray Harryhausen and Christopher Lee. I first time I met Bob in 1972 when he invited me to be a guest on his show. Thank god he put me at ease with his low-key bedside manner as I’d never been on television before, much less a show with so many viewers. He must have liked me because he had me as a guest several times, and I was always grateful for the plugs. 1979 Bob called it quits at KTVU, although he continued with his Sacramento “Creature Features” show on KCRA a few more years. Bob was a very funny guy, with a wonderful, wry sense of humor, and that voice…I can still hear him say…
“Well, that’s it. I told you it’s bad!”
Bob Shaw was one of the nicest, most knowledgeable, and unpretentious film critics I’ve ever met. Before he was hired by KTVU, he was already working gratis behind the scenes at “Creature Features,” providing Bob Wilkins with trivia for the show. In 1977 Bob W. talked Channel 2’s film director, Jim Skinner, into hiring Bob Shaw as a film editor. Later Bob Shaw became the station’s film critic, and he was one of the best. The stars he interviewed invariably liked (some adored) him, and that interviewer-interviewee connection made his movie critiques that much better.
Bob and I met in the early 1970s while I was a guest on “Creature Features.” We both were 16mm film buffs, so spoke the same language, but we didn’t have much time to talk because he was nervously running around the set making sure props were in order. We spoke on the phone a few times through the later 1970s, but I didn’t see him again until the early 1980s when he had been working as a film editor. KTVU ran lots of movies, so he was in movie buff heaven. When the station first let him review a new movie on-camera, he was not too sure of himself, as anyone in the same situation would be, but it was clear from the very beginning he was going to be one of the best. And he was.
We lost both Bob Wilkins and Bob Shaw in 2009.
Part two to follow.