"We got a call from a viewer who said, 'Hey, you know who would make a great host for The Very Bad Movie?' And I said, 'OK, who?'" recalled Brian Baltosiewich, who acts as creative services director for Belo-owned KTTU and KMSB Channel 11. "He said Alice Cooper, and I said, 'You're right; he would be great for something like this.' So he asked if we'd like to get in touch with Cooper. He had access to Alice's management team through a nonprofit Alice works with in Phoenix. A couple hours later, my phone rings, and it's one of Alice's agents, and he's asking, 'Who are you?'"
The timing couldn't have been better. Cooper, the rock legend who set the standard for on-stage shock-rock performances nearly 40 years ago, had talked with his management team about his enjoyment of horror-host TV, and how cool it would be to participate in something of that ilk.
"It's structured a lot like (the usual) Very Bad Movie," Baltosiewich said. "There's an open; Alice talks about the movie; then Alice shows up, and we go to break. We've got The Very Bad Movie intentionally low-budget. There's no real set. We roll out a monitor and shoot it in front of a blue screen. For the Alice Cooper project, we've spent more on the set, and it looks incredible."
Cooper made the journey to shoot his segments in late April.
"He showed up early," Baltosiewich said. "... He was extremely cooperative, extremely low maintenance and really easy to work with. It was interesting early on to try to find the voice for the Alice that was going to show up. There are two Alices: There's Alice the guy, and stage Alice. Alice the guy is a very sweet, nice person. In the words of his manager, Alice the stage person will bite your head off. Trying to find a voice true to Alice Cooper the brand that they would be comfortable with (and) that wouldn't frighten viewers was kind of strange."
For longtime Tucsonans, the two Cooper guest-host gigs might act as a throwback to the Dr. Scar days. Dr. Scar was the horror-movie host caricature of KGUN Channel 9's Jack Jacobson. Dr. Scar was a late-night regular on Old Pueblo airwaves in the '60s and '70s.
The horror-host concept is simple and developed a following thanks to a variety of hosts who did roughly the same shtick in different markets in the '50s, '60s and early '70s. There were hundreds of hosts--not just in the United States, but also throughout the world--pretending it was Halloween every Saturday night. It was simple and cheap for TV stations to do: Get someone to dress like a vampire or something fiendishly supernatural; incorporate some cheap vaudevillian skits; make light of a very bad movie--and voila! You have a Saturday-night television staple. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, would probably be the best-known recent incarnation of the concept.
The wildly successful Mystery Science Theater 3000 enhanced the idea by providing running commentary while the movie played: Instead of making viewers endure bad cinema, the hosting characters became the show. The crappy film was little more than a background excuse to insert a running string of one-liners.
Cooper's foray is a return to the classic format, and it's the perfect match for KTTU. The station held up its end of the bargain by giving Cooper two really bad movies: The Killer Shrews (May 10) and Attack of the Giant Leeches (May 17), perfect for quality mocking opportunities.
"He was really excited about the project," Baltosiewich said. "It was something he had in the back of his mind for a really long time and was excited to see it come back to life."
In addition to a music career that has spanned 40 years, Cooper can also be heard in Tucson through a syndicated radio show, the appropriately titled Nights With Alice Cooper, broadcast from 7 p.m. to midnight weeknights on KLPX FM 96.1. It's the best program on terrestrial rock radio. It blends a nice mixture of familiar and obscure rock songs and showcases Cooper's comic timing and stories from his vast experiences on the road. Nights With Alice Cooper is broadcast in more than 100 markets in the United States and Canada.
It's safe to assume some of those Cooper qualities will be incorporated into his horror-hosting debut.
Even though Cooper's performances are scheduled to air only twice, KTTU and sister- station KMSB have plans to provide material from the shoots in the form of DVD-style extras such as bloopers, outtakes and interviews, tentatively slated to be made available on the KMSB Web site at fox11az.com.
Will this be the only horror-hosting shot for Cooper? Only time will tell.
"It's going to depend on how it goes," Baltosiewich said. "There are a lot of different options. There are a lot of different things that can happen. He could hate us, or love it and want to do it on a semi-regular basis."
And if you happen to be home or have the TiVo or DVR set up to record Alice Cooper's horror-host debut, here's something else to keep in mind: It has to be better than the real horror that is Saturday Night Live.