JOE TOWEY--SEATTLE WASHINGTON'S TELEVISION VAMPIRE by Keith Barnes
It is 11:30 and our TV sets go on. In Seattle Washington, on Friday evenings, we turn our channel selectors to
Channel 7, KIRO. The picture fades in and we see a coffin in the floor that looks as if it could use a little repair.
The walls that surround the coffin look as if they belong to an old Transylvanian castle. There are chains hanging
from the stone walls and the window in back of the coffin is frequently illuminated by lightning flashes.
The camera directs its attention on the coffin now. The lid opens with a creak and we see the coffin's contents, a
skeleton! Then to our surprise the bare bones start to change. Flesh materializes from out of nowhere and it takes
the shape of a man. His face is deathly white. His eyes are red-rimmed and bloodshot. A pair of pearly white fangs
protrude from his thin lips. This "man" is one of the most dreaded creatures on Earth. He is a vampire!
The monstrous spectre laughs with a sinister tone. He speaks with a strong Transylvanian accent. "It's Friday night
again. Velcome to Nightmare Theatre. I knew that you couldn't stay away. I knew that you would come to visit with me."
He goes on to introduce vintage horror flicks. Some are good movies, sometimes starred Karloff and Lugosi, Lorre and
Chaney. Other times when grade "B" movies come on, Towey is the best part of the show.
Behind the Scenes of Nightmare Theatre...
Towey explains the stages of make-up that you see on the left side of this article. "At first I made my face up with
white chalk. Now I use more of a flesh tone that looks better on TV. I paint red under my eyes and then on my lips to
give them the necessary thin lipped appearance. After all, who ever heard of a thick lipped vampire?"
"Another change has been the fangs. Originally I used trick store teeth and I had a horrible time talking. Then I'd
bump my head on the coffin and bite my lip. I finally had my dentist make me a partial plate with fangs."
"I have always had the laugh," Towey claims, which is a haunting shriek. The voice was another thing. Sometimes on the
air I would slip into an Italian accent. Then a friend suggested that I try reading a newspaper with my vampire accent.
Now my voice is fine."
"People have told me that one of the most curious sights they have ever seen is a vampire stealing down the halls of a
Do you have a horror host where you live? If so write to the station and ask if they might have any pictures of him
that you might have. Send them to us and we will write a story about them. Thank you.
Reprinted from The Crypt Reader's Review (circa 1970/1971)
KIRO'S 'COUNT,' JOE TOWEY, DIES: [FINAL EDITION] by Uncredited
Joe Towey, who hosted KIRO-TV's Saturday-night "Nightmare Theater" (sic) as "The Count" from 1965 to 1977, died Sunday
at his Seattle home following an illness of more than a year. He was 55.
Towey, who was employed at Channel 7 for 30 years, directed "J.P. Patches," a popular children's program, for 22 years
until the show was retired in 1981. He also designed the set for "Nightmare Theater." (sic) After the program was
replaced on KIRO-TV's schedule, Towey continued to bring "The Count" back to life on special occasions, such as
Halloween. He also donned a Santa Claus suit every Christmas for special events at the station.
Towey's son, Chris, is employed at Channel 7.
Reprinted from The Seattle Times (04.13.89)
DEATHS by Uncredited
Joe Towey, 55, an Emmy award-winning television director who spooked and delighted thousands of Northwest viewers as
The Count of KIRO-TV's "Nightmare Theater," (sic) dies Sunday after a lengthy illness. Towey was a producer and director
at KIRO for 30 years. He directed the popular children's show "J.P. Patches" for 22 years, until the show left the air in
1981. Towey received two Emmys for directing the show and one for set design for "Nightmare Theater," (sic) a late-night
show featuring horror movies.
Reprinted from The Everett Herald (04.13.89)
SEATTLE'S NIGHTMARE THEATRE... AND A PAIR OF BINOCULARS by Bryan Senn
Growing up in the early 1970s in the middle-class Seattle suburb of Kent, Washington, offered a fairly
whitebread-bland existence to a kid looking for something a bit more exciting than riding his bike around the
neighborhood and playing penny-ante poker in his friends' basements. Smoking cigarettes, sneaking out in the middle
of the night, and dabbling in drugs (fortunately, the low-grade, THC-challenged marijuana we were able to procure
then was much less potent than that available today) were all typical wing-spreading activities of a burgeoning
junior-high adolescent—and, thankfully, ones that didn't stick. Another escape from the mundane real world—and one
that did indeed last (to this very day; hence this little reminiscence)—was a plunge into the reel world, the
cinematic landscape of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror in particular. With the VCR revolution over a decade
away, this young monster-lover had to rely on local programming for his escapist fare. Enter Nightmare Theater on
the local CBS affiliate KIRO (Channel 7), which ran from 1968 to 1975 on Friday nights, and was hosted by "The Count"
(one Joe Towey, whose day job was directing the daily kids' show J.P. Patches ). Dressed in the de rigeur black cape
and pancake makeup, sporting the expected (bad) Bela Lugosi accent, and armed with all manner of quips and puns, The
Count introduced a (not so) new cinematic chiller every week.
While most of these late-night movie sessions with The Count have drifted off into the fog of a hazy memory, one in
particular stands out as a defining moment in the shaping of my cinematic consciousness. It came during one of an
endless stream of Friday night slumber parties. The usual group of us were engaging in the standard activities (cards,
board games, listening to records) in my friend's basement when on the tube came The Count to introduce that night's
feature: "Horrors of the Black Museum." Now, we were prepared for the rather archaic terrors of a Universal
Frankenstein movie or perhaps a Poverty Row mad scientist, or even a marauding Big Bug—all things our 12-year-old
minds had seen and absorbed before. What we were NOT prepared for, however, was a pair of binoculars that shot
needles into the eyes and brain of an unwary victim! We were stunned. The usual hooting and hollering ceased, and we
sat there gaping while the blood gushed from between the woman's fingers as she screamed and covered her ruined eyes
(actually, the blood just trickled, but to our shocked sensibilities at the time it seemed like a veritable geyser of
hemoglobin!). Of course, we were riveted to the screen for the rest of the admittedly mediocre movie. And though our
now rather nervous teenage bravado soon returned, it had been A Moment.
And now I have Nightmare Theater and The Count to thank every time I pick up a pair of binoculars and subconsciously
twirl the focus knob before putting them to my eyes--just in case.
Reprinted from Midnight Marquee (date unknown)
MY WEST SEATTLE--A NIGHT IN THE CREEPIEST PLACE by Marc Calhoun
It is a Friday evening in the early 1970s. The school week is over, but there is still some preparation required
before my friend Larry and I can relax. The first thing we need to do is make a snack run to the Little Store (which
became the Cat's Eye Cafe, and is now the Four Aims Center). At the store we each buy a can of Shasta black cherry
cola, two 10-cent bags of potato chips, and a stick of jerky. Snacks in hand we're now ready for something we've been
looking forward to all week: a night of horror.
We are going to spend the night in the creepiest place imaginable; a dark place of cobwebs, spiders, and a host of
other creepy-crawlies. That place is my attic, a small triangular space at the apex of our house, 3 feet high and 5
wide at its base. A small hatch in the ceiling is the only way in, and the only way out. After clearing away some of
the spiders, we lay out our sleeping bags. There is only one other thing we need now, one key thing, a television.
A small TV is hoisted up and we spend several minutes adjusting the rabbit ears to fine tune channel 7. We're ready for
some ghoulish terror and, ensconced in our house-top dungeon, we wait for nightfall. The late news weather report marks
the end of our wait. We watch as Harry Wappler tells us it's going to rain tomorrow - so what's new! Then, at 11:30
p.m. sharp, we crack open the pop, rip open a bag of chips, and watch as our favorite vampire, The Count, rises from
his creaky coffin. It is time for "Nightmare Theater."
We love The Count. He brings us gory, scary, and campy movies that we look forward to all week. The classics,
"Frankenstein," "Creature From the Black Lagoon," and "Dracula," keep us glued to the screen. Some of the lesser
classics, like "Attack of the Giant Leeches," make us laugh. We even look forward to the commercial breaks, as they
will occasionally be brightened by a few words from The Count. Usually something to the effect that he is getting
thirsty, so we'd better watch out, he might come calling. We also enjoy some of the commercials. Especially the
10-second Dick Balch ads where he smashes cars with a sledge hammer.
By midnight the first bag of chips is history. Thirty minutes later the movie is only half over, but our snacks are
gone - the last chew of jerky washed down with the final chug of pop. When watching "Nightmare Theater" we usually
manage to stay awake to the end of the first movie; to see the villagers torching Frankenstein, to see Dracula get a
stake dinner, or to see giant leeches suck the blood out of a damsel in distress. Tonight we manage to make it through
the first feature. But soon after the second one starts, we're fast asleep.
Postscript: The Count, played by Joe Towey, passed away in 1989. Like Chris Wedes (J.P. Patches), Bill McLain
(Brakeman Bill), Ruth Prins (Wunda Wunda) and Stan Boreson, Joe Towey left a lasting impression on those of us who
grew up in the '60s and early '70s. Whenever an old monster movie comes on TV these days I always think of The Count,
and that night in the attic.
Reprinted from The WestSeattleHerald.com (06.19.07)
CHRIS WEDES, AKA J.P. PATCHES, BATTLING CANCER by Associated Press
For decades, he delighted fans as the starring clown in "The J.P Patches Show," one of the longest-running local live
TV shows in the country.
Now Chris Wedes, 79, is battling blood cancer.
In February of 2007, a campaign was launched to raise money to build a statue of J.P. and Gertrude.
In the 26 years since his Emmy-winning show went off the air, Wedes has remained a well-loved fixture at parades,
parties, hospitals and community events, greeted by nostalgic legions of baby boomer "Patches Pals," their children and
grandchildren. The clown in the whiteface and red rubber nose, patched yellow coat and rumpled black hat is a Seattle
cultural icon, with a movement afoot to raise a statue in his honor.
But dialysis treatments Wedes needs three times a week have slowed him down. He first canceled an appearance at the
Seattle Aquarium for the annual Trick or Treat on the Waterfront, then showed up after all, saying he hopes his health
will allow him to make future events.
"They say it's controllable," Wedes said as devoted followers lined up to get his autograph Sunday. "I'm feeling a lot
better than I was a few months ago."
"The J.P. Patches Show" aired on KIRO Television from February 1958 until September 1981, for many years before and after
school, five days a week. At its peak, more than 100,000 kids at day would tune in for the antics of Julius Pierpont
Patches, the former star of the Ding-A-Ling Circus who retired to become mayor of Seattle's city dump.
J.P. would invite kiddie viewers into his ramshackle home, show cartoons and weave an elaborate, whacky world of
adventures that included such characters as Ketchikan the Animal Man, Boris S. Wort, the second-meanest man in the world,
and Gertrude, J.P.'s brawny girlfriend with the 5 o'clock shadow.
Pies frequently were thrown. Things exploded. Prat falls were countless. The cast ad-libbed every show rather than using
a script, which appealed to kids and adults alike.
"Why is there the eternal appeal? You never knew what was going to happen on the show, and every day, there were things
that didn't work, and there were jokes that were so good the director would be laughing, and the camera would be shaking
because the cameraman was laughing. Nothing would happen for five minutes because everyone was in stitches," Rin Jones,
65, said as he checked out a J.P. Patches merchandise table at Sunday's event.
Jones said he couldn't wait to get home from school to see the afternoon Patches program. "Even when I was in college,
I'd try to be near a TV in the afternoon. It was the interplay, the interaction and the humor."
Wedes posed Sunday for pictures with countless kids -- plenty of grown men and women, too. He autographed T-shirts and
bobblehead dolls as fans bought J.P. Patches merchandise from the signing table.
Wedes said he has been astounded at the popularity of the Patches character. "It amazes me," he said. He thought one
reason might be the approach he took on the air. "I was never a Goody Two Shoes on TV," Wedes said.
Yvonne Larsen, 49, drove 150 miles from Wenatchee to get her picture taken with the clown she said had been part of her
life nearly every day while she was growing up. "I'd kiss you, but I'd ruin your makeup," Larsen said.
Scott Cokeley Jr., 6, came more than 100 miles from Hoquiam, and wore his own homemade J.P. Patches outfit, complete with
red nose, blue cheeks, one red sneaker and one blue sandal, topped off with his dad's yellow slicker.
He was too young ever to have seen the show on TV, but his dad showed him videos of the programs. "I like the sets," he
said. "They're made of wood."
His father, Scott Cokeley Sr., and other lamented the nothing like the Patches show is in today's lineup of TV for
kids. "It's the clean humor," Cokeley said. "There was a lot of warmth."
Reprinted from King5.com (10.29.07)
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