Five Easy Questions: “CINEMA INSOMNIA” LEGEND MR. LOBO

lobo_mrMR. LOBO is the world’s leading TV horror host, at least of the New Generation. His nationally syndicated TV show Cinema Insomnia has a rabid fan base and has been seen by dozens of people coast to coast. Just kidding. Mr. Lobo is a humble icon. His fame and following are both well-deserved and well-earned. He is multi-talented – not only does he write, produce and direct his own shows, but he contributes articles to many blogs and publications, appears in B movies, and is an aspiring filmmaker himself. He is above all a good guy and a great friend, both to me personally and the B Movie Nation in general. Here is the amusing and amazing Mr. Lobo in his own words…

Will the Thrill: Tell us how Cinema Insomnia came to be.
Lobo: Well, Will, the steps of my career have been so gradual and in so many varied parallel fields that it is difficult to define a starting point of what has become more than just a TV show that presents “Misunderstood Movies”. It’s a lifestyle. I was born a film and pop culture fanatic, a shy indoor kid and who’s put thousands of hours into Movie and TV watching. We went to the Drive-in once a week and my first job was an usher in a gorgeous rival theater in Sacramento called The Crest. They showed serials, cartoons, newsreels, trailers and then manager Matius Bombal would come out and present the feature in a tux! I showed creative talent at an early age and was always doing projects, comic books, trading cards, radio plays, live comedy shows, short comedic films and videos—mostly parodies, and other cries for help. My friends and I experimented on weekends and tried to develop some kind of show or vehicle for comedic bits…we meandered for years—nothing ever really stuck. In the 90’s I was head writer for a local comedy stage show called The Moe Betterman Show at a local night club called Old Ironsides. One of the comics from the show was supposed to host a bunch of kitchy retro films in that same nightclub on an off night. He got sick and I stepped in and hosted it as “Commander X”. The projectionist and collector of the films was Scott Moon–a person whom I wanted to meet since we both were publishers of magazines.

planetxScott published a pop culture magazine called Planet X. They had interviewed my favorite TV horror movie host form my childhood Bob Wilkins! I began writing and doing art design for the mag. Planet-X held a Live Creature Features revival film show at Harlow’s, a posh, retro, dinner theater, in 1998 as a launch for the new issue of the magazine and Bob hosted it. The publisher asked me to write some material with Bob and help direct the show. I was terrified. I learned Bob was much more motivated by presenting the films and doing material than the films themselves. Bob loved my material and encouraged me to be a movie host. I first was flabbergasted and overwhelmed. But I never forgot Bob’s confidence in me—Bob wouldn’t let me forget, either. He mailed postcards and audio tapes telling me to keep going and gave me advice. The real opportunity to do a show didn’t come until 2001, when I was working at KXTV NEWS 10 in TV production they had a 3AM movie that ran 20 minutes short every week. My friend Mike Strange, who also worked at the TV station, and I, walked into the General Managers office and asked if we could fill that 15 minutes. I had done some amateur video tests for something called Insomniac Theater as early as 1995 and we thought it might be time to flesh that hosted show project out. fan_club_ad2
The show Insomniac with Dave Atell was premiering on Comedy Central and we had heard rumblings that some overnight stations in other markets called their un-hosted late movie Insomniac Theater…a name change seemed prudent. On a piece of binder paper I wrote every alternate title I could think of. Both Mike and I liked “Cinema Insomnia” because it had a rhyming quality like Creature Features. I was too nervous and self conscious to just be a regular guy like Bob did—not that I knew what normal was anyway. By creating an amplified version of myself, “Mr. Lobo”, it allowed me to be free and actually be more honest…I didn’t care if I looked stupid and I felt I could say things as “Mr. Lobo” that “Erik” never could. We did 22 shows for them and the management never “got it” and it was eventually put on permanent hiatus while the “decided” what they wanted to do with this show that was now bringing ratings, letters and phone calls—but not from the demographic they’re after. Bob even wrote the station and told them to keep me on the air.  After a few months while the show was in limbo, Mike had left the station for a better job. I asked the station if I could keep producing new shows on my own and distributing them to other stations. They were allowed me to branch out as long as I didn’t us News 10 films or resources. We had no contract. Scott Moon who was an avid 16mm film collector had an awesome archive and awesome friends (like Bob Ekman and Paul Etcheverry) with awesome archives and I began to build shows around this material and creating the current format of the show with lots of random film clips. I started doing more conventions and live revivals and got to talk with fans who helped me fine tune the show. Bob offered much guidance until he was too ill to do so.

The show was picked up on more and more stations coast to coast including KTEH in the SF Bay Area for 3 years…Creature Features’ old market!

Every director and collaborator (Ken Waller, Todd Thomas, Scott Waters, Aaron Kinney, Robert Neep, Chris Grill, Stan Fong, Larry Scholl, Jay Patrick, Jonathan Morken, Ernie Fosselius, John Stanley, Sara Dunn, Mike Nieder and so many more) we had over the past 9 years left and impression on the show shaped it into what it is today…and it’s still evolving. What was the question again?

roboloboLobo giving the “Cinema Insomnia” oath live on stage in Thrillville
lobothrillbobLobo (who needs to take his own “stay awake” oath), Thrill, Bob Wilkins, Parkway Theater, Oakland CA

Thrill: Your main influence is the late Bob Wilkins. Why did Bob have such an impact on you?
Lobo: Rod Serling, William Castle, Alfred Hitchcock, The Phantom Stranger, Orson Welles,  were all influences—but Bob is my main influence because I had a deeper connection with him.

Some of my earliest memories were of me watching Bob on TV. I was so terrified by those movies! I was the kind of kid who ran in the other room when The Skipper would yell at Gilligan—so Hammer Horror was pure torture! I wanted to be close to my dad who was asleep in the recliner. But it was Bob who was calming me down and talking to me between fits of fright-Not Dad. He was a calming presence and as an emerging odd-ball who didn’t fit in–he was a person who seemed very comfortable being square. He didn’t care how he came off, so he came off as cool. He was the geek he wanted to be.
As a fan I know the kind of impact a host can have…and it’s an impact I strive for.

Meeting him as an adult changed my life. He was so unassuming and enormously supportive of everyone he came in contact with. He would encourage you to pursue your dreams and if he thought you were particularly gifted—he’d open a door and kick you in the pants.  When he was on my October 2002 Halloween special and we improvised the whole episode together. Ernie Fosselius had a similar experience-we got a lesson from the master. I learned that your connection to your audience is the most important part of the show—even more important than the cleverness your material. As I said before, he actively advised me until he was to ill to do so…I continue to take inspiration from Bob’s life–he helped people. He made the world a better place not because he showed “cheesy” movies but because he was a funny caring and brilliant that man you wanted to hang out with on a Saturday night. I said this at his memorial but I will say it here…I used to think Bob Wilkins was the kind of Horror Host I wanted to be. I’ve since learned that Bob Wilkins is the kind of Man I want to be…

bobhopewebIllustration by Mr. Lobo in honor of his idol, Bob Wilkins

lobowilljimLobo, Thrill and B movie maven Jim Wynorski, B Movie Celebration, Artcraft Theater, Franklin IN 9/08

Thrill: Tell us about your pioneering work for the B Movie Nation and B Movie Celebration.

Lobo: Well, I’d like to think of my self a more of a frontiersman than pioneer. Bill Dever is a B-Movie Nation pioneer. I didn’t build any log cabins but I’m dedicated these films and always trying to find new ways to advance B-Movie genres. I believe B-movies are “movies of the people”. They are leaner and meaner and have no pretensions of winning awards or breaking box office records. They deliver entertainment and are cheaper and more available that bloated A-movies, they are programmed in small revival houses, the precious few remaining Drive-Ins, and on late night TV shows like mine. That’s why we say on Cinema Insomnia,  “They’re not bad movies just misunderstood.” That’s a turn around from the post Golden Turkey/Mystery Science Theater approach of “let’s bring the ugliest girl to the dance—and make fun of her.” The reality is you validate these films by presenting them.

B-Movies are thought of by critics as trash or exploitation and somehow less valid than star driven multi-million dollar epics from a major studio.  People think “B” stands for bad.  To me B stands for  Alternative. B-Movies are the underdog and don’t have the option of throwing millions at a movie to bamboozle audiences. B-Movies are like an off broadway play. I think it’s funny that people would accept two people sitting on chairs in front of a curtain as being on an airplane in a stage play but mock it in a B-Movie. In Japan they understand visual cues standing in for real objects that the viewer completes and brings to life. They know that a guy in a rubber suit with a toy boat is standing in for a real monster and a real boat and they accept it as such. But on another level I like seeing the strings and wires and the rubber monster suits…there’s some real ingenuity and craftsman ship there. Also, because the financial stakes are lower, more risks are taken and you see things you’d never see in an A-Movie. It’s an acquired taste to appreciate misunderstood movies…but there are a lot of fun and great ideas there in both the treasures and the train-wrecks.

I try to insert what I feel is the B-Movie Nation philosophy into the TV show, live shows, published articles, and many, many projects I’ve been involved with. I’ve done many live Creature Features tributes and memorials and raised money for Bob’s care and to fight Alzheimer’s. I helped re-activate some semi-retired indie film heroes like Ernie ”Hardware Wars” Fosselius. The Queen and I did a B-Movie art show at a gallery and had auction to raise money for flood aid in Franklin, Indiana, the birthplace of the B-Movie Nation and The B-Movie Celebration. We’ve re-created William Castle style film shows and presented Psychotronix shows. I’ve sat on Horror Host panel discussions with Bob Wilkins, John Stanley, and Elvira, I’ve helped distribute of find screenings for obscure or low budget films on DVD–and on the big and small screen. We showed our Wasp Woman episode in an online virtual worlds screening room called the Cinema Insomnia “Screaming Room” with live Q and A with fans all over the world. I’ve written obits for our heroes. I researched and was interviewed for the documentary American Scary and was involved with Watch Horror Films—Keep America Strong, restored lobby cards and posters, I lent my talents to projects at low or no cost, if I felt it helped promote the cause. I’ve worked on thousands of things–It’s up to history to decide whether these things are pioneering or not.

I am invited to host and attend dozens of film shows each year. There are many film fests and conventions that show B-movies but usually just the 50’s and 60’s horror and sci-fi genres. Chicago and New York have pretty big ones with a B-Movie theme. In Northern California where I live, we have several ongoing shows that usually feature a B-Movie or two. B-Movie Celebration was very attractive to me because it wasn’t a “one day” event or a vanity project for hack filmmakers or fans like some of these tend to be. There seemed to be a focus on the entirety of low budget genre film making including Westerns, Action, Comedy and more, honoring past and current masters as well as looking toward the future. I’ve been involved with the B-Movie celebration since the first year. Last year I hosted many of the films, moderated a panel of top B-directors, and designed the now famous, and often imitated 50ft Woman poster for the Celebration. I am proud to host it this year, along side The Queen of Trash and you and Monica, of course.

b-movie-celebration-2008-posterLobo’s poster for last year’s B Movie Celebration

loboqueengorillaLobo, Queen of Trash, Gorilla X at the now defunct Cerrito Speakeasy, El Cerrito CA

Thrill: What are some of your favorite movies, and why?

The short but unsatisfying answer is all of them and none of them. I go through periods of loving and hating films–sometimes at the same time. My focus has changed since I’ve become a horror host. I’m not really a critic…I’m a host—it’s like trying to pick a favorite guest to your party—it’s counter productive. I just like the party. As Mr. Lobo moves forward it seems all the movies blur together—like there really is really only one movie and we all take turns working on it or viewing parts of it.

That said here are some “faves”:

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die – I’m fascinated by it’s quiet Lovecraft-like quality that is genuinely creepy and it has a wonderful straight-exploitive sleazy side as well.

Brazil is pure brilliance I love Terry Gilliam’s visuals and social satire. I’ve seen it 40 times. It’s how I imagine George Orwell’s 1984.

destroymonsters

Destroy All Monsters -It’s a Godzilla Battle Royal…every damned monster on the planet Vs. Ghidora The Space Monster. The astronauts make platex gloves look cool! I love all Godzilla movies as a rule…especially if it’s a guy in a suit!

Return Of The Living Dead
-Satire, Humor, horror, sci-fi, sexy—it has it all! I love Dan O’Bannon’s writing. Also, the original Romero’s home grown classic “Night of The Living Dead”. It’s just perfect.
son_of_frankenstein_awakens
Universal Classics: The Invisible Man – Claude Reins voice could do anything—love the story. I’m a big HG Wells fan! Son Of Frankenstein is my favorite of the Karloff Frankenstein films-classic and of course The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

hardwareHardware WarsIt’s Mad Magazine come to life and fueled me creatively as a kid. Every flat iron or toaster was a space ship! Of course I loved Star Wars, too.

Plan 9 From Outer Space -It’s always feels like 3 in the morning when I watch this movie—and that’s my favorite feeling. Ed Wood also symbolizes the struggle of the B-Filmmaker.

Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies
and Rat Pfink a Boo BooRay Dennis Steckler could make a fun movie out of a 16mm camera and a couple a half full garbage cans and he did.

Escape From New York –  John Carpenter is the man! You can also include Halloween, The Thing, The Fog, and Big Trouble In Little China among my faves. They just deliver…and have no pretentions.

Creepshow – I’m a sucker for anthologies and Romero’s comic book style directing is wonderful! Great performances by Adrienne Barbau, Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielsen, etc.

Phantom of The Paradise, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment and Forbidden Zone –  These films represent what Midnight Movies are all about. Great songs and great satire.

Night Of The Creeps—It’s a guilty pleasure. Teenagers, Zombies and Aliens!

The Room – It’s a modern camp classic. It’s just mind bogglingly bad and sucks you in.

lobomagc

Thrill: Tell us about your new deal for the syndication of “Cinema Insomnia.”

Cinema Insomnia with Mr. Lobo is now seen in cities across the country on AMGTV digital broadcast network. We hope it will reactivate a lot of fans that have been missing the show.

Our current distributor, Apprehensive Films’ deal with AMGTV immediately covers all full-time affiliates. Episodes are available weekly to roughly 75 stations as well as hundreds of cable systems and networks served by the network, with a potential Clearance of 35 Million Households and six out of the Top 10 Markets.

Basically, AMGTV delivers digital programming via satellite to small local commercial broadcast stations across the country kind of like the old America One network.

We share the advertising spot time. My distributor Apprehensive Films is keeping most of our advertising time in the show to promote Cinema Insomnia’s popular DVD line and other products for the cult/B-Movie DVD market. There will be New shows in the Fall 2009 and an all new Halloween Special featuring licensed “indie” film and we will also being doing some cable specials independent of this deal.

Cinema Insomnia is expected by AMGTV to be a success in primetime 2009-2010 rankings. Bob’s show Creature Features in the San Francisco area proved that this kind of programming can thrive in prime time. Like it’s famous predecessor Creature Features, Cinema Insomnia has dual female and male appeal and is big in households with viewers 14-54. The series has grown in popularity each of its nine seasons.

Jonathan Morken of Apprehensive Films expects that  it to be a hit in primetime and overnights and will be enjoying substantial momentum from the show’s upcoming 10 year anniversary. We think its value to stations across the country should be exceptional.

So, pop some popcorn, get in your jammies, and prepare to fully enjoy this slumber party celebration of fun late night TV with your host Mr. Lobo, in it’s regular slot, Saturday Nights 9PM PST, Midnight EST on the AMGTV network.

We Start With…
7/03/09 Late Friday, Early Sat 1AM EST “Frankenstein Vs. The Creature”
7/13/09 Saturday, Midnight EST, “Last Man On Earth”

A partial list of AMGTV stations airing Cinema Insomnia

Dallas, Texas KHPK DMA 5

Seattle, Washington KHCV DMA 14

Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FLorida WCJ / WCQ DMA 16

Denver, Colorado KQCK DMA 18

Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, Florida WSCF-LP 19

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania WBGN DMA 22

Salt Lake City, Utah KCBU DMA 35

Las Vegas, Nevada KEGS DMA 43

Louisville, Kentucky WVHF-CA/WBKI-DT/WNDA/WCYS DMA 48

Fresno, California KEGF/ KSBI DMA 55

Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Arkansas  KKYK DMA 56

Gainesville, Florida WGFL

Victoria, Texas KXTS

Raleigh, North Carolina WAUG/WARZ

Wichita, Kansas KCTU DMA 69

Spokane, Washington KQUP, KIDQ DMA 75

Syracuse, New York WNDR DMA 81

Cedar Rapids, Wyoming KWWF DMA 88

Monroe, Louisiana KEJB

Portland, Oregon KTVC
More at http://www.AMGTV.TV

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