Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Soupy Sales Late Night Detroit Variety Show

After serving twenty-six months in the United States Navy in World War II--twelve in the Pacific theater--Milton Supman took his G.I. Bill benefits and earned a master's degree in journalism in 1949. While attending Marshall College in Huntington, West Virgina, Supman
was bit by the show business bug and began working part-time doing standup comedy in local nightclubs and dee-jaying a morning radio show on WHTN-AM.

Supman moved to Cincinnati when he landed a television spot on WKRC-TV hosting a teen dance show called Soupy's Soda Shop--the first in the country. Supman worked under the stage name Soupy Hines. When his show was cancelled, a friend at the station told Soupy about Detroit station WXYZ-TV that was looking for live entertainers to round out its local programming schedule.

The unemployed, twenty-seven-year-old performer legally changed his stage name to Soupy Sales; took his young wife and baby to stay with relatives in Huntington, West Virgina; and drove to Detroit with $10 in his pocket. He auditioned for Channel 7 general manager John Pival to host a daily, children's lunchtime show. Pival was impressed and hired him. Soupy used his fast-talking, improvisational skills to good effect and soon made his program a success. Soupy wanted to show he had the talent to attract more than a kiddie audience.

When an 11:00 PM slot opened up unexpectedly two months later, program director Pete Strand reserved the time slot for Soupy to do an adult-focused, variety show of comedy and music entertainment. Soupy's On debuted on November 10th, 1953.


Unlike his lunchtime show which was roughly outlined and ad libbed giving it a spontaneous flair, the evening show was scripted and well-rehearsed. Soupy and his stage director Pete Strand wrote the nightly opening monologue and comedy sketches each afternoon for the evening broadcast. The show opened with Soupy doing a standup routine followed by a cutting-edge comic sketch and live guest performances by some of the best jazz muscians of the era.

Soupy was a jazz lover living in a jazz town. Detroit at that time was the home to twenty-four jazz clubs before urban renewal in 1959 wiped out the Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods where most of the jazz clubs were located. Soupy's nighttime show soon became a scheduled stop for jazz performers like Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Billie Holiday, George Shearing, Della Reese, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis, who was living in the Detroit area at the time.

Soupy's house band "Two Joes and a Hank" led by Hal Gordon had some chops too. Guitarist Joe Messina and drummer Jack Brokensha later became members of Motown's Funk Brothers. Rounding out the group was Joe Oddo, who played bass, and Hank Trevision, who played piano. Soupy's theme song was Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite."

Soupy portrayed an array of comic characters like belching Sheriff Wyatt Burp, European crooner Charles Vichysoisse, Colonel Claude Bottom, and Western cowboy hero The Lone Stranger. Other performers were Clyde Adler who played Indian mystic Kuda Dux and Mississippi gambler Wes Jefferson; character actress Bertha Forman, with fifty years of show business experience, played Soupy's mother-in-law; attractive blonde Jane Hamilton played ditzy literary critic Harriet Von Loon and hip-swinging floozy Bubbles, Soupy's on-screen wife.


Detroit's most recognized voice actor Rube Weiss--announcer for Detroit Dragway commercials and the official Hudson's department store Santa for many years--played Charlie Pan and the Lone Stranger's sidekick Pronto.

Rube Weiss

Soupy and his troupe pioneered late-night comedy shows and paved the way for programs like Saturday Night Live. His show was before the age of videotape and only one Kinescope segment (a fixed 16mm camera filming a TV program directly from the screen) survives from the show which is linked below. Soupy interviews trumpeter Clifford Brown at the end of Brown's performance.

The final episode of Soupy's On aired November 27, 1959. Soupy had done 3,300 morning and evening shows for WXYZ in six years when his variety show was cancelled. At the time, Soupy was the highest paid celebrity in Detroit television. When the station declined to renegotiate Soupy's contract, he was free to shop his talents in Hollywood.

In a statement to Detroit local media, Soupy took a moment to make it real. "I've been working in a state of exhaustion for years. My workday begins at 9:00 am and ends at 2:30 am. I get three hours of sleep at night and another two hours in the afternoon. You wear a little ragged after awhile. I see my fans more than I see my own family," Soupy said. "But let's face it. Here in Detroit, local live television is dying because the networks are producing more of their own programming and crowding out local talent."      

Soupy Sales relocated to Los Angeles and appeared in some television episodes and several movies but never became a television or movie star in Hollywood. He wasn't leading man material, and his face was too well-known for him to be a convincing character actor. But he recreated himself as a "TV personality" and made a steady living as a panelist on the game show circuit doing programs like Hollywood Squares, $20,000 Pyramid, To Tell the Truth, and What's My Line.

Here is the only surviving clip of Soupy's On from 1956 featuring jazz great Clifford Brown.

Lunch With Soupy 

Friday, December 15, 2023

The Coca-Cola Santa Story

Santa's origin can be traced back to ancient Germanic folklore and the Norse god Odin. The modern character of Santa was embraced by America with the December 23, 1823 publication of Clement Clarke Moore's 56 line poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," better known as "Twas the Night Before Christmas." Here is Moore's description of the jolly fatman:
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself
Bavarian immigrant Thomas Nast became America's first political cartoonist. He is responsible for creating the American image of Santa Claus on January 3, 1863, for the illustrated magazine Harper's Weekly. In an wooden engraving named "Santa Claus in Camp," the mythic figure is presenting gifts to Union soldiers during the Civil War while wearing a costume patterned with patriotic stars and stripes. Santa manipulates a Jefferson Davis toy [effigy] dancing on the end of a string.

In 1881, Nast created the first of many Santa images based on the description in Clement's narrative poem. These illustrations were without the political and military context of his earlier work. With thirty-three Santa illustrations to his credit, Nast immortalized the figure of Santa Claus we are familiar with today.

Muskegon born Michigan artist Haddon Sundblom painted the iconic image we now recognize as the modern Santa Claus, for the Coca-Cola company from 1931 until 1964. His friend was the original model for his Santa paintings. It is believed Sundblom made $1,000 for his first commission, good money during the Depression era.
Haddon Sundblom at work.
Sundblom's Santa images have appeared in Coke's print advertising, store displays, billboards, posters, calendars, and on television commercials. He helped make Santa the most recognizable and successful pitchman in advertising history.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

West Dearborn's Muirhead's Department Store

Mrs. Alberta Muirhead

If you grew up in Downriver Detroit in the 1950s or 1960s, after the Hudson's Thanksgiving Day parade on Woodward Avenue, you had your heart set on a visit to Santa's igloo at Muirhead's on Michigan Avenue in West Dearborn. Baby Boomers have precious memories of riding the rails in Santa's sleigh with their parents and siblings to get their photo taken with Santa Claus. Over the years, several men have donned the red suit and white beard. Early on, Mr. Muirhead played the role, but succeeding Santas were Bob Oxley and Tim Pryce. There may have been others.

In 1946, John Muirhead married Alberta Jamieson, and they opened a neighborhood department store featuring women's clothing and a toy department. Dearborn resident Jon Jahr explained that his father drew up the blueprints for the original Muirhead's building which was on three levels.

"The basement was the storeroom, shopping was on the street level, and the Muirheads lived on the second level. As their business grew, they expanded the footprint of the building, and in the early sixties, they built a new building around the old building, replacing the street facade for a modern, upscale look." By then, John and Alberta lived in their own home, creating more sales space on the second level.

Mrs. Muirhead - 1971

Lynn Richards Tobin worked at Muirhead's in 1961 and 1962. She remembers, "Mr. Muirhead was in his early sixties. Mrs. Muirhead was younger, maybe in her forties.... She always wore the cash register key around her neck. She took care of their customers and oversaw sales on the main floor. Mr. Muirhead spent most of his time on the second floor in the stockroom and oversaw employees to make sure everyone was working and not goofing off.

"The main floor was girls and teen clothing in front and children's clothing in the back. A customer service center was in the middle of the sales floor where shoppers would take returns and ask questions. There was a cash register station near the front door and one near the parking lot exit in back. An elevator and a stairwell led to the second floor where the stockroom and business offices were. Dolls were sold upstairs including the exclusive Madame Alexander dolls. Another stairwell on the ground floor led to the toy department in the basement which featured bicycles."

My family in 1957. I'm sitting next to my mother.

During the Christmas season, Santa's igloo sleigh ride in the basement was the big attraction. As far as I have been able to determine, the sleigh was manually pushed back and forth on a rail track. Jon Jahr remembers seeing the sleigh in the Muirhead's warehouse in the early 1970s. Jahr asked Mr. Muirhead if he might bring the sleigh out just for Christmas photos, but he was done with it by then. I wonder if the sleigh is somewhere in Dearborn waiting to be rediscovered.

John died in 1983 at the age of eighty-three. Alberta operated the store by herself with the help of a dedicated band of loyal employees for seven more years. Then, she closed the popular store after forty-three years in business. Competition from shopping malls and Crowley's on Michigan Avenue off Outer Drive in particular cut into her business.

Alberta's story did not end with the closing of her boutique department store. Mrs. Muirhead--as most people called her--became a model for philanthrophy. She believed in giving back to the Dearborn community who had supported her and her husband John, making their business a success. Alberta devoted her later life to Dearborn and its people.

Alberta Muirhead parlayed her charismatic personality and charitable spirit to become Dearborn's biggest benefactor and philantropist since the Ford family. For starters, she donated her three-level building to the Oakwood Health Care Foundation for their data-processing center.

An avid believer in public education, Alberta became the namesake for Dearborn's Teacher of the Year award established in 1997. She supported both Henry Ford Community College and Rochester College giving generously to their scholarship funds to help needy and struggling students. Dearborn Public Schools awards an annual scholarship in her name.

In 2007, Alberta Muirhead established the Oakwood Healthcare Foundation with a $500,000 gift to support nursing education and advanced nursing degrees for Oakwood Healthcare employees. Many a nurse owes a debt of gratitude to the generosity of Mrs. Muirhead. Her support was not limited to people. Alberta was a supporter of the Dearborn Animal Shelter and received their Big Heart Award in 2006.

After the death of her husband, Alberta and Russ Gibb--of Grande Ballroom fame and Dearborn High School teacher--became friends. How and when they met is unclear, but Gibb was a deejay at WKNR-FM which was next door to the department store. They became lifelong friends and companions for nearly thirty years until Alberta's death on January 14, 2011 at the age of ninety-one. "Alberta put so many people through college," Gibb said. "She was a great, generous lady and I loved her dearly."

Ford Rotunda Christmas Memories

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Diana Lewis--WXYZ-TV's Grande Dame of Detroit Nightly News

Diana Lewis

Thirty-four-year-old Diana Lewis burst onto the local Detroit television news scene when she was chosen to co-anchor the 5:30 pm, Channel 7 Action News with bombastic Bill Bonds. Detroit Free Press television critic Bettelou Peterson wrote that "Diana Lewis comes across with strength to balance Bill Bonds' strong personality. She might have overwhelmed the more easy-going Jac Le Goff or John Kelly, Action News' other nightly news anchors." Finally Bonds met his match.

"It was amusing to watch Bonds and Lewis the first week they teamed for Channel 7's new 5:30 pm newscast. Bill knew he had tough competition and wasn't about to give Diana too much room. I don't think he actually looked at her once. He tossed her cues by saying "Diana" while looking resolutely straight at the camera," Peterson wrote.

To promote the 5:30 pm newscast, WXYZ-TV Channel 7 ran daily 3/4 page ads in the Detroit newspapers launching the team of Bonds and Lewis. Over a short time, they became more comfortable on-air together, and within a year, they were the news team to beat in the local Nielsen ratings race competing head-to-head against Channel 4's Mort Crim and Carmen Harlan, and WJBK-TV Channel 2's Joe Glover and Beverly Payne.


Diana Lewis did not follow a lifelong ambition to be a television newsanchor. She grew up Diana Robinson in Coatesvill, Pennsylvania. After her schooling, she worked as a psychiatric social worker at Emreeville State Hospital working with troubled youth and as a public special education teacher at Scott Intermediate High School. Both experiences prepared her for the job she was destined to have co-anchoring with Bill Bonds.

In 1968, Diana Robinson's stepfather showed her an article in the Phildelphia newspaper. Phildelphia's WPVI-TV Channel 6 needed a part-time, assistant producer for a program named Black Book about issues that were important to the Black community. The next day, Ms. Robinson asked her students if they thought she should apply for the job. The next thing she knew, Diana was filling out an application.

The moment that changed her life occurred while writing a script and preparing for an appearance of author Maya Angelou. Just before the broadcast, Angelou cancelled because she wasn't feeling well. Diana went to the producer and asked what they were going to do.

"Kid," he said, "you're on!" That was the first time she had appeared on camera, and Diana realized she was good at it. "That day, I claimed my voice, so help me, to be a voice for the people."

Diana was long married to Glen Lewis, a sound editor for Paramont Pictures and Universal Pictures. They had two daughters, Donna and Glenda. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1974, so Diana could take a job with KABC-TV as a consumer investigative reporter. She began using her married name professionally--Diana Lewis.

After two years beating the pavement in Los Angeles for KABC-TV, Lewis received a phone call from a young, unknown actor/screenplay writer named Sylvester Stallone. He told Lewis he liked her investigative reporting. "I like your no-nonsense, hard edge. That's what I'm looking for."

"Looking for what?"

"Someone to play a TV reporter in a film I'm making."

The film Rocky premiered in 1976 in time for the United States Bi-Centennial Celebration. Playing herself in the film, the director placed an Afro wig on Lewis' head and pointed her toward the cameras. She interviewed Rocky Balboa, a washed-up pug, as he tenderized a side of beef hanging in a packing house. The scene has since become one of the most memorable sequences in film history.

WXYZ-TV program director Phil Nye had hired Lewis when he worked in Los Angeles. Now he was the top programing person at Channel 7 looking for someone who was confident and could handle co-anchor Bill Bonds, who had his difficult on-air moments. Lewis had a levelheaded, calming influence that counterbalanced Bonds. The pair developed mutual respect for one another and dominated Detroit local news for many years.

One year into their run, the early 5:30 pm broadcast came in strong in the Nielsen ratings attracting the biggest audience of women 18 to 49 years old, the demographic advertisers love most. Men were watching too. Bonds and Lewis drew about 37 percent of the viewing audience the first time ratings data was available for the 5:30 pm Action News. The following year, the ratings were 44 percent, almost twice as much as Channels 2 and 4 together. Newspaper TV critic Chris Stoehr dubbed Bonds and Lewis the "King and Queen of Local Newscasts."

Bonds and Lewis

By August 1977, Lewis hosted her own daytime show called AM Detroit where she tackled controversial issues of the day. Market research found that viewers felt she was too abrasive and aggressive for a morning audience of housewives. The station wanted her to be more likeable and less threatening, so they softened Lewis' hair, makeup, and wardrobe.

One good thing about working for Channel 7, each of the anchors had a yearly clothing allowance. In a behind the scenes interview with Channel 7's News Director Phil Nye, he explained the station's dress code. "The station pays for the news team's clothing, mostly purchased from Gwynn's in Birmingham. Bob Gwynn makes clothes to order for each reporter and anchorperson. Diana is an absolute pleasure to work with because she is dynamic. As for Bonds, he's a paradox; he swings from wild to conservative.... We don't want the clothes to upstage the content of the program. Their clothes should be subdued but stylish and fairly conservtive."

Detroit Free Press celebrity watchdog Bob Talbert, often publicly at odds with Bill Bonds, could not resist using Diana Lewis to bludgeon Bonds in his March 10, 1980 column. "You don't realize how good Diana Lewis is until you watch her take the lead anchor spot while Bonds is on vacation. You don't even notice Bonds is gone."

In 1982, The Detroit television market had no shortage of competent women co-anchors including Beverly Payne, Doris Biscoe, Kai Maxwell, Carmen Harlen, and Robbie Timmons. Diana Lewis' popularity and ratings led the field earning her a $500,000 three-year contract with a baby-blue Chrysler Imperial thrown in to sweeten the deal.

But when her contract was up in 1985, Lewis became the casualty of the contact wars when her contract was not renewed. Channel 7 once again raided Channel 2's talent pool and hired Robbie Timmons for the 5 pm newscast and Dayna Eubanks for the 11 pm newscast. Diana moved her family to Los Angeles, California, where her husband Glen was a film editor and sound effects man for Paramount and Universal Pictures.

Glen and Diana Lewis

One thing Lewis learned from her tenure with Bill Bonds was to land on your feet after a crisis. Lewis went national and took a position in October 1986 with CNN in Atlanta, Georgia, which lasted all of one week. "I didn't realize what a jolt it was going to be being a long-distance mother."

She didn't want to uproot her twelve-year-old daughter Glenda out of school in the middle of a term, and her twenty-year-old daughter Donna needed to finish college. Diana dusted off her SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card and took some television bit parts including reprising her role in Rocky 5.

After Lewis' three year absence, Channel 7 announced they would not renew Dayna Eubanks' contract. Eubanks and Bill Bonds had no on-screen chemistry and did not get along, so the station rehired Lewis in 1988 for an estimated $150,000 to co-anchor the 11 pm newscast and stop the ratings hemmoraging. Lewis admitted to the press that she missed the money and her celebrity status. She was happy to be back. Channel 7's public relations team did a hard sell advertising the on-air reunion of Bonds and Lewis.

Lewis (69) stayed with Channel 7 until her last broadcast on October 3, 2012. After forty-four years in television news, including thirty-five years at WXYZ-TV, Diana Lewis signed-off by addressing her audience for the last time, "To everyone at home, God bless you. Thanks so much for loving me. I love you back. Good night."

Diana Lewis hoped to retire and travel around the country with her husband, but soon after, Glenn Lewis developed memory loss and PTSD from two tours of duty as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam. Diana back-shelved her retirement plans to become his caregiver.

In the meantime, her brother, who was suffering from kidney disease, took care of their 101-year-old mother Doris Spann in Pennsylvania. When he died suddenly from heart failure, Lewis made the funeral arrangements and moved her mother to Michigan into the family home in Farmingham Hills. 

The Lewis women with family matriarch Doris Spann

Lewis and her daughters did the best they could, but when Diana's back went out while lifting her mother, Diana asked for help from ProMedica Hospice in Southfield. Something she vowed she would never do. Diana was able to keep her mother at home until she passed away in 2022 at the age of 103.

In a heartfelt interview on April 23, 2023, with Cambrey Thomas from Hour Detroit magazine, Diana Lewis (80) spoke about the toll of being a caregiver. "Taking care of an ailing person can tax one's spirit more than I ever thought possible. We need to normalize the conversation... to recognize that asking for help and support should not be seen as a sign of failure or weakness but rather as one of courage."

Without realizing it, Diana Lewis embodied what her longtime co-anchor Bill Bonds would say when he signed-off at the end of every broadcast, "Stay classy Detroit!"

Bill Bonds and Channel 7 Action News

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Bill Bonds and WXYZ Channel 7 Action News

Bill Bonds WXYZ-TV Ratings Leader   

"It's hard being Bill Bonds. You can't even imagine."--Bill Bonds

No other Detroit television news celebrity had more written about his every move and misstep than Detroit-born William Duane Bonds, better known as Bill Bonds. He was usually the number one news anchor in the Detroit media market for most of the 1970s, 1980s, and into the mid-1990s. Every point in the Arbitron and Neilsen rating television system translates into how many viewers a show attracts measured against its competition. Millions of dollars of advertising revenue is at stake. Over the years, Bonds was a cash cow for WXYZ-TV.

Bonds had a serious demeanor and expressive face on camera. A lowered eyebrow or a furrowed forehead spoke volumes about how Bill personally felt about the story he was reporting. What made Bonds literally stand out more on the screen than his cross town competition was he wanted to appear as big as possible for the home audience. His face and shoulders, including his fabled toupees, filled most of the screen. When he looked into the camera, viewers felt like he was looking back at them. 

After a Detroit Free Press reader poll in 1973 voted Bonds Detroit's Number One celebrity, Free Press staff writer Gary Blonston damned him with faint praise, "Bonds might not be the best newsman in town or even the best voice, but he certainly is the best theater in town. That explains much of why so many people are buying Bonds. He seems to be frequently overplaying the part of a television anchorman, except he really is one."

Over the years, Bonds had a love/hate relationship with the local press. Afterall, the free publicity is what kept his name in the news. Bonds has been described as flamboyant, pompous, arrogant, opinionated, insufferable, tart-tongued, and hot-tempered. Bonds has also earned himself many names like the Babe Ruth of Bombast, the Mad Prophet of the Airwaves, Emperor Bonds, Mr. News Christ, Billzilla, Infotainer, helmet head, scalp-weasel, rogue journalist, and the Sun King of Detroit News.


Billy Bonds was born in Detroit in the middle of a Michigan winter on February 23, 1932 during the depths of the Great Depression. He was the second of six children of Richard Bonds and Katherine Collins. What we know of Bill's childhood comes mostly from Bonds himself in a newspaper interview he did with Free Press feature writer Patty LaNoune Stearns in December of 1992 when he was sixty years old.

"I had a marvelous, loving childhood, thanks to my mother, Katherine, a bright caring Catholic homemaker. But I came from a very, very alcoholic family. My Scotts-Irish father was aggressive and domineering. My older brother Dick had a privileged relationship with him."

Bonds went on to describe an incident when he was in the first grade. "My dog got out and was hit by a car. My dad didn't want it in the house, so he put it on the porch in the dead of winter, and it froze to death. In the morning, he told me to throw the dog in the garbage. I was angry at my dad and with shovel in hand, I told him 'It's my dog. I'm going to bury it!' Standing up to my father empowered me and I liked it." This episode may be responsible for Bill's lifelong defiance of authority which marked much of his career.

Bonds grew up to be a rebellious student who was bored with his parochial education. He was encouraged to leave Catholic Central High school, then Royal Oak Shrine, followed by Berkley High School, and finally he dropped out of Royal Oak High School to join the United States Air Force and serve in Korea. While serving his country, Bonds passed his high school equalivancy test. When his enlistment was up, he used his G.I. Bill benefit to enroll at the University of Detroit, majored in political science, and graduated in 1960.


Bill Bonds' first broadcasting job was in Albion, Michigan at WALM-AM. He was paid one dollar an hour as a field reporter. From that modest beginning, Bonds followed opportunity and the road back home to Detroit to work at several local AM radio stations before landing a job in 1964 as on-air talent at the WXYZ-TV Channel 7 news department.


Within a year, Bonds was given an anchor position on a program that bore his name--Bill Bonds News. The fifteen minute color broadcast covered news, sports, and weather at 6:30 PM and 11:00PM. During the Detroit Riots of July 1967, the Channel 7 coverage was far superior to Channel 4 or Channel 2's coverage. 

Detroit Free Press media reporter Bettelou Peterson lauded the WXYZ-TV news team for their in-the-field coverage, "(They) outdistanced the other stations as the best TV news reporting in Detroit. Bonds' face was particularly expressive as he came back on camera after watching film clips that were broadcast as fast as the film could be developed and sent to the newsroom in real time, each time delivering a small editorial reflecting his feelings." During that terrible week, Metropolitan Detroiters were riveted to their televisions. Bill Bonds became a certified news celebrity.

In 1970, an anchor position opened up at KABC-TV in Los Angeles. Sensing this was a good career move, Bonds interviewed for the position and was hired. He worked there for two years before returning to Detroit. For some reason, the Bonds magic did not work in California's largest media market.

While in tinsel town, Bonds landed bit parts in two Hollywood productions. First in the TV show It Takes a Thief with Robert Wagner in 1970 and the following year in Escape from Planet of the Apes. In both instances, he played a TV news reporter which was not much of a stretch for him. Bonds was released from his KABC-TV contact in February 1971. He did not do well in the Los Angeles ratings and the station decided to go in a different direction.

Two months later, Bonds returned to WXYZ-TV Channel 7. In an interview with Detroit Free Press gossip columnist Bob Talbert, Bonds revealed what his problem in Los Angeles was, "They wanted happy news with the anchors laughing it up. I believe news should be serious and informative. Yakety-yak happy talk on camera did not come easy for me."

In the two years since Bonds had jumped ship, Channel 7 news ratings faltered. WXYZ station manager Donald F. Keck lauded Bonds for his "performance and personal involvement in the Detoit community. Bill's presence will greatly enhance our overall news image and competitive position in our market." Keck noted that WXYZ-TV's news approach will shift from a "light" news style used by their competitors in favor of a more "hard-hitting" approach.

In his gossip column, Bob Talbert broke down Bonds contract for his readers, "Bill Bonds landed a $50,000 a year contact for anchoring their 6:00 PM and 11:00 PM newscasts. His primary responsibility is to boost WXYZ-TV's ratings."


With Bonds' return to WXYZ-TV, the station aggressively expanded its news department to make it more competitive in their television news market. Their news programs were expanded and renamed Channel 7 Action News and given a new on-screen look. The musical introduction was the same news theme that the ABC network used in its four other mega media markets: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.

The music was an expanded version of a brief melody taken from the movie score of Cool Hand Luke written by Lalo Schifrin for the famous tar-spreading scene. The musical interlude had a teletype-sounding melody that commanded viewers' attention. Following the lead-in, Bonds welcomed his audience and began reading the teleprompter. WXYZ's ratings began to slowly rise.

Channel 7 raided on-air talent from Detroit's other news organizations. From Channel 2, they lured Marilyn Turner to do the weather segment, and to balance Bonds' hard edge, amicable John Kelly was brought in to co-anchor the newsdesk. For sports, Dave Diles continued his segment until he decided to leave the station over a personal issue. That left an opening for Channel 7 to bring in Al Ackerman from Channel 4, who had just been fired for editorializing on the air, something Channel 7 encouraged. The advertising department began running ads proclaiming "We Got Who You Wanted." Their persistence paid off. Within two years, Channel 7 Action News was the top-rated news station in Detroit.


Bill Bonds' triumphant return to his hometown was marred by an incident which foreshadowed what would ultimately end his career. Early Sunday morning on November 18, 1973, Bonds, his brother, and their wives were returning home after dining at a West Bloomfield restaurant. Bonds (41) told police that his car was sideswiped by Kenneth Moody (18) of Milford, Michigan, before Bonds' car lost control and went into a ditch. Bonds yelled at Moody and a fistfight ensued. Neither Bonds nor Moody, a student at Michigan State University, filed assault charges. Moody received a ticket for reckless driving. Bonds called a tow truck.

WXYZ-TV spokesperson told the press that Bonds was "a little shook up, and he aches a little, but other than that, he is fine." Bonds was sidelined from his anchorman position for a week to recover from the beating he took. He was taken to William Beaumont Hospital where he was treated for bruises, a swollen eye, and a possible hairline fracture of his cheekbone.

In January 1974, WNBC-TV in New York was shopping for a new anchorman. WXYZ offered Bonds a $75,000 contract to keep him in Detroit. Afterward, the Action News team scored their highest ratings to date, but to his station's chagrin, Bonds was arrested in West Bloomfield Township for drunk driving, littering, and driving without a license on May 5, 1974.

After a patrolman witnessed Bonds throwing a paper cup from his car into the street, he was stopped. Corporal Dan Pitsos determined that Bonds was drinking in his car and drunk. When asked Bonds to show his driver's license, he could not produce it. Bonds was taken to the Oakland County Jail in Pontiac and was held for six hours until his wife Joanne posted a $100 bond.

Bonds was charged with drunk driving and littering, but the charge of failing to carry his license was dropped. WXYZ-TV spokesperson Phil Nye refused to say whether the station would take disciplinary action against Bonds if convicted. Reaction from viewers about Bonds was mostly supportive and favorable.

Bonds pleaded guilty on October 8, 1974 to a reduced charge of driving with visibility impaired "due to the consumption of intoxicating liquor." He was ordered to enroll in Oakland County's Alcohol-Highway Safety Program. Under the reduced charge, the conviction would remain on Bond's driving record for seven years rather than life, and he received four bad-driving points instead of six. Bonds also had to surrender his license plates for thirty days. Because he refused to take a police breathalyzer test, his driving privilege was suspended for ninety days. 

WXYZ-TV general manager Jim Osborne announced that because this was Bonds' first offense, the station planned no disciplinary action, but in January 1975, Jac LeGoff from Channel 2 News jumped stations and slid into Bonds' primetime co-anchor spot at 6:00 PM, cutting Bonds back to the 7:00 PM and 11:00 PM News. 

By the end of the month, Bonds suffered a mild heart attack while on a business trip to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Only the week before, he had recovered from the flu at Bennett Community Hospital. Bonds took a leave of absence to recover his health and returned to Channel 7 on May 5, 1975 to anchor the 7:00 PM news, again just in time for the May ratings sweep.

On June 12, 1975, Bonds announced that he was moving to WABC-TV in New York City at the end of August, for a salary reported to be somewhere between $120,000 to $150,000. But only eleven months after taking the WABC anchor job, Bonds returned to Detroit and was glad to be back. The New York City media market was so huge that Bonds made little more than a blip in the ratings, so his contract was not renewed. Bonds returned to the WXYZ-TV Action News Team to co-anchor with John Kelly.


Bonds was at the top of his game. His agent negotiated a multiyear contract which began at the $200,000 mark. Bonds was the highest paid newsanchor in town. Despite his tarnished history at Channel 7 for excessive absences from the newsroom and bad publicity for two alcohol-related incidents, Bonds remained the number one anchorperson in the Detroit media market.

In the Detroit Free Press' annual readers' poll taken in September of 1981 for Detroit's most popular local anchorperson, Bonds netted 1,929 votes of over 7,000 ballots cast. Mort Crim of Channel 4 was in second place with 676 fewer votes. No other Detroit anchorperson could come close to Bonds popularity with the general public.

When Bonds withdrew from the local Emmy Awards competition in 1980, he called the awards "ludicrous, insulting, and a sham." Bonds was the only news celebrity to publicly withdraw from the televised event. He told WXYZ-TV vice president and general manager Jeanne Findlater, "I am not going to play the part of an Eight Mile Road whore because of the pimping that's going on for these little statuettes."

Bonds pointed out that unqualified people outside the television news community (actors, sports celebrities, advertisers, and academics) chose the nominees, and a Channel 2 executive was chairman of the nominating committee. Channel 2 received 37 nominations, Channel 7 received 19, and Channel 2 received just 16. There was a clear conflict of interest.

After the televised event, The Detroit Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced that the Detroit Emmy Awards would no longer be broadcast because of public controversy and bad ratings. Such was Bill Bonds' influence over the local media scene.

But Bonds was about to be brought low with the death of his oldest daughter. On December 16, 1981, tragedy struck the Bonds' family when Joan Patricia Bonds (18), home for winter break from Michigan State University, was killed in a head-on collision with another car on a winding stretch of Commerce Road in Orchard Lake. Her Volkswagen Rabbit was hit by a Mercury driven by Russell William Brown (34), when it was believed his car crossed the center lane. Brown suffered a concussion and was treated at Osteopathic Hospital and released. Both cars were totalled.

The Orchard Lake Police investigation revealed that both Joan Patricia Bonds and Russell William Brown were legally drunk when the accident occured. Brown's blood alcohol level was 0.19 and Joan Bonds' blood alcohol level was 0.17. In Michigan, a person is legally drunk with a level of 0.10. Drunken driving was a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of 90 days in county jail and/or a $500 fine. Brown was charged with the head-on crash. 

Bill Bonds was off the air for almost three weeks after the death of his daughter before returning to anchor Channel 7's 6:00 PM broadcast. At the end of the hour-long newscast, Bonds, holding back tears, thanked the many viewers who had called or written to express their condolences.

Bonds' health began to deteriorate in 1982. He complained his back and legs began to give him problems and sidelined him from December until February. WXYZ-TV spokesperson told the press that Bonds was on special assignment to downplay his absence.

On October 15, 1983, Bonds (50) collapsed in Metro Airport just before his scheduled flight to Tokyo to cover Mayor Coleman Young's tour of Japan. He complained about acute stomach pains and difficulty standing up and was taken to Wayne County General Hospital and held for tests and observation for several days. He missed his trip. Ruth Whitmore, spokesperson for Channel 7 said, "(Bill) needs rest. We won't push him to travel." Medical tests indicated that doctors found no heart damage. Bonds returned to the news desk the following Wednesday.

On Friday, February 3, 1984, Bonds was hospitalized for exhaustion. His physican said his patient was suffering from persistent problems with his lower legs. Numerous station sources believed Bonds' recent round of health problems were the result of grief over the death of his daughter. Others believed  he was being treated for drug and alcohol dependency. After a month of recuperating, Bonds returned to the anchor desk. 

Ten months later, Bonds' wife Joanne Sipsock (47) filed for divorce. They were married for 24 years and had four children: Joan [deceased in 1981], John, and twin daughters Krissy and Mary. By all accounts, it was a messy divorce. Some unspecified time later, Bonds announced that he had a "significant other" named Karen Field, who was a manufacturer's sales representative. His health and general disposition improved.


Bill Bonds' most notorious moment to date of his broadcasting career happened on Friday, July 14, 1989. At the end of his 11 PM broadcast where he was noticeably slurring his words, Bonds challenged Mayor Coleman Young to a charity boxing match to benefit the Detroit Public Schools athletic program. He proposed a one-round showdown at the Palace of Auburn Hills on August 11th during halftime at the Detroit Pistons' charity all-star exhibition game.

Mayor Coleman Young and Bill Bonds eating coneys downtown.

Bonds suggested that both he and Mayor Young put up $10,000 each to donate, along with the proceeds of the exhibition basketball game, to help restore varsity sports in Detroit.

Local media wags dubbed the fight "The Showdown in Motown" and "Malice at the Palace." One reporter wrote,"This is a way for Bill Bonds and Detroit Mayor Coleman Young to settle the accumulation of small but distracting grievances between them."

Then, Bonds was absent without official leave from his Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday night broadcasts. Station manager Tom Griesdorn arranged an impromptu news conference on Thursday to end speculation. "Bill called me earlier today and asked for some time off, vacation and personal leave, and we granted that request." 

Griesdorn refused to comment on the barage of questions that followed. Usually, he answered "No comment!" or "That's none of your business." The entire incident was a public relations disaster for Channel 7.

Some Channel 7 staffers, pleading for anonymity, leaked the news that Bonds asked the station for help and some time off to enter an unidentified medical facility for an unspecified treatment. Three weeks later, Griesdorn confirmed WXYZ-TV's worst-kept secret, "Bill Bonds revealed that he has a problem with alcoholism, and he has checked himself into a California clinic for treatment."

After drying out, Bonds returned to the newsdesk in August. At the end of his 6 PM newscast, he confessed publicly that he was an alcoholic, but a sober one ready to do the news once more. Maybe this time he would win his battle over the bottle. For now, he would have to be satisfied with winning over the hearts of many Detroiters, who were all too familiar with alcohol addiction in their families.


In 1991, WXYZ-TV signed Bonds to a long term contract (5 to 7 years) for a million dollars a year prompting many people to wonder why he was worth so much considering his checkered history at the station. The answer was simple. Advertising rates were dependent on ratings achieved. Bonds was a ratings generator for the station for most of his long career. He appeared twice daily anchoring the news, he hosted prime time specials, anchored local election coverage, and made countless public appearances for the station. Being number one in his media market for twenty consecutive years earned Bonds the nickname "The Million Dollar Man."

Always impeccably dressed on camera, Bill often wore Levis or shorts at the newsdesk.

Bonds kept his nose clean until an incident in April 1994 when his briefcase did not make it through security screening at Metro Airport. A pair of brass knuckles was detected at the inspection checkpoint. Although possessing a weapon was illegal in Michigan, the Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor said he determined there was "No criminal intent in this case. The brass knuckles were accidently possessed."

Bonds told authorities "I own four briefcases and grabbed the wrong one. Someone gave the brass knuckles to me as a gag-gift at work. I threw them in a briefcase and forgot about them." The knucks and the briefcase were turned over to airport police to be destroyed.

Once again, Bonds' celebrity status saved him considerable legal fallout, and he was able to catch his flight to New York City. Critics familiar with Bonds' background wondered, "How many bites at the apple can one person take?" Detroiters were about to find out.


On Sunday, August 7, 1994, Bonds was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving following a twenty-mile pursuit. A 1991, teal-blue Jaguar XJS was veering erratically on northbound Southfield Freeway. A driver called 911 and reported the incident. The sportscar swerved west onto I-696 before exiting at Orchard Lake Road. At a red light, a red Ferrari pulled up next to the Jag and revved its engine. Both cars peeled their tires when the light turned green, the Ferrari pulled out in front leaving the Jag fishtailing in its dust.

Another witness called 911 reporting that he saw Bill Bonds pull into a gas station to fuel up. On the way out of the station, Bonds smacked his car into a lamppost and then verred onto Indian Trail coming within inches of colliding with another car. As Bonds turned west down Commerce Road, five police cars closed in on him. It was soon discovered that the Jag did not belong to Bonds. It was a Channel 7 company car that he was joyriding in.

The Orchard Lake Police used video and audiotape to record Bonds as he performed a sobriety test while seated in the car. He declined a breathalyzer test and a standing sobriety test, citing neurological problems from an unspecified orthopedic condition--an excuse he had used successfully before.

Police later obtained blood samples after the arrest which showed Bonds' blood alcohol was 0.21%--twice the legal limit. He was jailed for twelve hours until his second wife Karen posted bail. If convicted, he faced six months in jail, a $500 fine, a suspended license for six months, and community service. Two days later, Free Press reporter Susan Ager wrote, "Bonds is captivating because he is an exquisitely flamboyant failure at self-improvement."

This incident threatened to end Bonds' reign at the summit of Detroit television news. Station manager Tom Griesdorn announced to the press that Bonds "asked for and was granted a personal leave of absence, the duration of which will be determined by the outcome of the allegations." Bonds remained in seclusion at his Union Lake home.

On August 11, 1994, Bonds was suspended from WXYZ-TV by Griesdorn pending "successful completion of alcohol treatment in Atlanta at Talbott-Marsh Recovery Center until his health is up to speed. The station wishes Bill Bonds every success as he sets about combating his addiction to alcohol once and for all." This was Bonds' third attempt at alcohol rehabilitation.

On December 2, 1994, Bonds pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of driving with an unlawful blood alcohol level; the driving under the influence charge was dismissed. His sentence included 12 months of supervised suspension with a 270-day license suspension, continued outpatient alcoholism treatment, a $1,115 fine exclusive of court costs, and attendance three times a week at Alcohol Anonymous meetings. If he did not comply with all stipulations of his sentencing, he would be jailed for 90 days.

On January 11, 1995, WXYZ-TV fired Bonds. "We've simply decided to hold our head high and face the future without Bill Bonds," said General Manager Griesdorn. "This is not a personal decision but simply a judgement about what is best for the station's long-term interest." Bill Bonds' long career with WXYZ-TV was over. Despite attempts to regain his footing at other Detroit media outlets, the old magic was gone. He was reduced to being a pitchman for Turf Builders and Gardiner-White Furniture.

A collage of photos from Bill Bonds' funeral.

On December 13, 2014, Bill Bonds died of a heart attack at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Pontiac, Michigan at the age of eighty-two. His visitation was on December 18th at Lynch & Sons Funeral Home in Clawson, with a funeral mass held at Holy Name Catholic Church in Birmingham the next day.

Despite Bonds' human failings, many thousands of working-class Detroiters admired him for his pluck, bluntness, and tenacity. He will be remembered for his on-air swagger, piercing gaze, defense of the underdog, and his authoritative delivery of the news.

John Bonds speaks at his father's memorial service

Diana Lewis--Detroit Icon 

Friday, November 3, 2023

Eastern Michigan University Student Queried - "Is Paul (McCartney) Dead?"

The biggest hoax in the history of Rock & Roll is surely the "Is Paul Dead?" controversy. On Sunday afternoon, October 12, 1969, Thomas Zarski, an Eastern Michigan University student, called [Uncle Russ] Gibb, a concert promoter and popular D.J. for Detroit's underground music radio station - WKNR-FM.

On the air, Zarski asked Gibb what he knew about the death of Paul McCartney. This was the first the D.J. heard of it. "Have you ever played "Revolution 9" from the The White Album backwards?" Zarski asked.

Gibb hadn't. Skeptical, he humored his call-in listener and played the song backwards. For the first time his audience heard, "Turn me on, dead man." Then WKNR's phone started ringing off the hook.

Apparently, the rumor started when Tim Harper wrote an article on September 17, 1969 in the Drake University (Iowa) newspaper. The story circulated by word of mouth through the counter culture underground for a month until Zarski caught wind of it. He called Uncle Russ asking about it. Gibb had solid connections with the local Detroit and British rock scene because he was a concert promoter at the Grande Ballroom--Detroit's rock Mecca.

University of Michigan student Fred LaBour heard the October 12th radio broadcast and published an article two days later in the October 14th edition of The Michigan Daily as a record review parody of the Beatles' latest album Abbey Road. This article was credited for giving the story legs and was the key exposure that propelled the hoax nationally and internationally.

The legend goes that Paul died in November of 1966 in a car crash. The three categories of clues were:
  1. Clues found on the album covers and liner sleeve notes,
  2. Clues found playing the records forward, and
  3. Clues found playing the records backwards.
The clues came from the albums:
  1. Yesterday and Today,
  2. Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,
  3. Magical Mystery Tour,
  4. The Beatles [the White Album], and
  5. Abbey Road.
Some people thought the Beatles masterminded the hoax because of the large number of clues. They thought there were too many for this story to be merely coincidental. 

The story peaked in America on November 7th, 1969, when Life magazine ran an interview with Paul McCartney at his farm in Scotland, debunking the myth.

For more detailed information on the myth and the clues, check out these links: 



Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqBf6iNPVOg

Friday, October 20, 2023

Detroit's Shock Theater

In 1957, Universal Pictures syndicated a television package of fifty-two classic horror movies released by Screen Gems called Shock Theatre. The package included the original Dracula, Frankenstein, Mummy, and Wolfman movies. Shock Theatre premiered with Lugosi's Dracula in Detroit on WXYZ channel seven at 11:30 pm on Friday, February 7, 1958.

Each syndicated television market had their own host. Detroit had one of the first horror movie personalities in the country. The show was hosted by Mr. X--Tom "Doc" Dougall--a classically trained actor who taught English at the Detroit Institute of Technology and moonlighted as a vampire on Friday nights. Unlike later horror movie hosts who would spoof their roles or riff on the movies they showed, Dougall was grimly serious and set a solemn tone for what was to follow. What most people don't know about Professor Dougall is that he co-wrote several Lone Ranger and Green Hornet scripts for WXYZ radio.

The opening of the show was memorable, but I was only nine years old when I started staying up every Friday night to see the classic monsters and mad-scientists--The Invisible Man comes to mind. This is how I remember the opening:

The show's marquee card came up with ominous organ music and a crack of thunder in the background. Replete in vampire garb with cape, Mr. X walked slowly on screen holding a huge open book announcing the night's feature in a scary voice. Next, he would say, "Before we release the forces of evil, insulate yourself against them." With a sense of impending doom, Mr. X continued, "Lock your doors, close your windows, and dim your lights. Prepare for Shock." The camera came in for an extreme close-up of Mr. X's face, more lightening and thunder effects, and finally his gaunt face morphed into a skull. Then the film would roll.

There was something positively unholy about the show which made it an instant success with my generation of ghoulish Detroit Baby Boomers. The show's ominous organ music set the mood for the audience. The piece was listed only as #7 on a recording of Video Moods licensed for commercial television and not available to the public.

No video link to Detroit's Shock Theatre's opening has surfaced, but the above newspaper ad for the show gives an idea of the facial dissolve special effect. If anyone knows where I can find a link, Gmail me so I can add it to this post. Thanks.

Detroit's Baby Boomer Kid Show Hosts:

Monday, October 9, 2023

Sir Graves Ghastly's Rise and Fall

Lawson Deming was a graduate of Western Reserve University who studied speech, drama, and math. "Deming began performing professionally when he worked in vaudeville," said Sonny Eliot, Lawson's longtime friend.

A lifelong Cleveland, Ohio resident, Deming landed a radio job at WHK in 1932 where he met his wife Rita, who was a hostess of a women's talk show. "The greatest fun was radio," Deming said in a 1982 Detroit Free Press interview, "because we were creating something in somebody's mind with voices, dialogue, music, and sound effects. We created a whole world."

In 1949, Deming switched over to Cleveland television station WTAM where he met co-worker Bill Kennedy early in their television careers. They became good friends. Deming hosted a movie show called One O'Clock Playhouse. He also worked as a puppeteer on a program entitled Woodrow the Woodsman. Although his face never appeared on-screen, he supplied the voices for characters named Freddy Gezundheit, the alley crock; Tarkington Whom II, the owl; and Voracious, the elephant. His work on Woodrow the Woodman brought Deming to Detroit in 1966 when the show was moved to WJBK for taping.

Soon after arriving at WJBK, Deming was approached by program producer and director Jay Frommert about playing the character Ghoulardi and showing horror movies. But Ghoulardi was already being done in Cleveland by Ernie Anderson. Deming suggested he be allowed to create his own character. On Saturday, January 22, 1967, Sir Graves Ghastly rose from the grave on the premise that "Sir Graves was hanged 400 years ago by Queen Elizabeth, but like a bad vaccination, it didn't take."

The shadow-eyed, hair plastered down, goateed Sir Graves began his show by opening a creaky casket from within which was located on a graveyeard set. For the next two hours, the red-gloved, black-capped, comic vampire cracked bad jokes while riffing on the B-grade horror movies he showed between commercial breaks. To complete his Dracula parody, Sir Graves had an infectious laugh, "Nyeeea aaaa haa haaaaa" and he was prone to "hippyisms" in his speech.

Sir Graves and his alter-ego Lawson Deming

Weekly segments on Sir Graves program were the scrolling of children's names celebrating their birthdays, and the "Art Ghoulery" where kids sent in their drawings of Sir Graves, vampires, and werewolves, hoping Sir Graves would feature them on his show.

Deming created a cast of characters all portrayed by him and edited onto the master tape so Sir Graves could interact with them on camera. The cast included Reel McCoy, a character who digs up old B-movie horror films; Tilly Trollhouse, wildly off-key, blonde singer; the Glob, an extreme closeup of Deming's mouth videoed upside down, lip-syncing songs; Cool Ghoul, an over-the-hill motorcycle freak; and Walter, Sir Grave's prissy alter ego who keeps telling him, "You're sick, sick, sick!"

Unlike earlier WXYZ horror movie host Mr. X on Shock Theater, Sir Graves wasn't meant to scare anybody. Deming worked from a rough outline and adlibbed his way through the show, often spouting bad jokes sent in by viewers. The show was a mixture of cheesy horror movies and corny humor.

Viewers, half of whom were males over eighteen-years-old, were almost afraid to laugh at some of Sir Graves' groaners but couldn't help themselves like: "What did the Frankenstein monster say after he ate a six-cylinder engine?" What? "I could've had a V8."

Deming continued to live in Cleveland and took charter flights to Detroit twice a month on Wednesdays until January 1970. He missed his flight and the plane crashed through the Lake Erie ice killing all aboard. After that, Deming and his wife agreed that taking the three-hour, midnight bus ride was a safer option.

In true vampire fashion, he arrived at WJBK before the break of dawn and read fan mail before preparing for taping from 9 am until 11 am for the Saturday show. Then, he taped nine additional segments to be fitted into two movies between commercial breaks, before he took the 4:00 pm bus back to Cleveland. Deming worked two twelve hour days a month producing four programs.

The high point of Sir Graves' career may have been when he emceed Detroit's American Cancer Society benefit called "Black Cat Caper," a pre-halloween costume ball at Cobo Hall on Friday, October 13, 1972. Sir Graves made a grand entrance at 9:15 pm in a coffin carried by Detroit media pallbearers Bob Allison, J.P. McCarthy, Dick Purtan, Bob Talbert, Jac Le Goff, and John Kelly. Tickets cost $13.13. The grand prize for best costume was an eight-day trip to London for two, with a three-day stay at a 500-year-old, haunted abode in a village named Pluckley.

In April of 1983 after sixteen years of faithful service, Lawson Deming was handed his walking papers by WJBK's general manager Bill Flynn. "I never could figure out why he dumped me. We had the highest-rated Saturday show in our market, and it was a money-maker for them." But it was too late for Sir Graves. By this time, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, had run off with his male audience.

Deming retired in Cleveland and lived for another twenty-four years before he left this vale of tears on April 27, 2007, at the age of ninety-four. His spirit can rest easy knowing the joy he gave to his television audience. Many a Detroit Baby Boomer will shed a tear in memory of Lawson Deming's Sir Graves Ghastly character. David Deming's eulogy at his father's funeral service attributed the longevity of his father's career to "his warm spirit and genuine love of kids."

Sir Graves show intro 

Sir Graves characters 

Shock Theater WXYZ