As the Monster Bash convention is approaching (June 23rd-25th), I am looking forward to all the people I will see there. Though not a real "horror" star, there is one actor I am looking forward to seeing above all the other stars this year: Larry Storch.
I know what you are thinking - “Did Larry Storch do horror movies?” Well, the answer is no, but he did do a few TV shows that had a supernatural theme. I have been excitedly waiting to see him for months, and this is the only person I can think about long enough to write about this month.
Larry Storch’s most famous role was probably Corporal Randolph Agarn on F Troop, as well as all of Agarn’s wonderful wacky cousins throughout the show’s short two-season run. F Troop takes place right after the Civil War at Fort Courage, an outpost in the Wild West, which most of the time was not too wild. The show is definitely not 'PC', but I loved this show as a kid (and still do to this day), and one of favorite characters was Cpl. Agarn. He was always involved in Sgt. O'Rourke’s (Forrest Tucker) wild plans. They were partners in crime...quite literally sometimes. The acting and the comedy were great, and the relationships between the characters were charming. The guest starts on the show ranged from Milton Berle and Don Rickles (both playing "Indians") to Vincent Price, playing a man suspected of being a vampire in one of my favorite episodes. The show only ran for 2 seasons: one in black and white, and one in color. If you can take the very large historical inaccuracies and the comically bad racial stereotypes in stride, this is a wonderful show. Even with this against it, this is still one of my favorite shows. I was so glad when I got the collection on DVD a few years ago and was able to relive my childhood in these shows.
Larry Storch also appeared as Eddie Spenser in a series called The Ghost Busters. The show also starred Forrest Tucker as Jake Kong and Bob Burns as Tracy the gorilla. Tucker and Storch play another great team in this show, with Tucker playing the strong brave character again. I assume this show was made because Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker played off each other so well, the studios knew they had to have them work together again. The show involves Tracy, Spenser, and Kong traveling the globe searching for ghosts to capture. This is a great example of how odd 1970s children’s television shows were, and if you’ve ever seen any of these shows, you understand how wonderful and odd these shows really were.
Storch also appeared in a few episodes of Car 54, Where Are You?, which was one of my dad’s favorite shows. The show follows partners Officer Toody (Joe E. Ross) and Officer Muldoon (Fred Gwynne) and their friendship on and off of the force. I recently rewatched the episode “Here Comes Charlie”, where Storch plays a drunk whom the officers are trying to help get sober and stay out of the lockup night after night. They keep getting him new jobs; each time he swears how good of an employee he will be and, of course, he finds something to drink on the job and ends back up at the station. The gag was very repetitive, with the same three bits done for each job, but it was still really funny, especially Storch’s series of declarations of how good of a job he will do. By the last time he starts it, I start laughing five words in. This was a hilarious role! Amazingly, he outshined the leads in the episode. He made three other appearances in the show’s run, mostly as Charlie.
Larry Storch also appeared in one of my favorite television shows, Kolchak: The Night Stalker. In the episode “The Vampire,” he played Swede, another reporter for the paper. There is a lot of bitterness between Kolchak and Swede, and it is fun to watch. Swede isn’t in much of the episode, but as this is the closest thing he did to real horror, I thought I would include it.
I later learned that Larry Storch was a very prolific voice actor. Starting in the late '60s, Storch played one of Batman’s greatest foes, the Joker. He started performing the role in The Batman/Superman Hour (which I did not know about as a child), and he also played the Joker in two episodes of The New Scooby-Doo Movies in the 1970s. Originally seeing The New Scooby-Doo Movies, I did not realize this was the same man who played F Troop's Agarn. This Joker is based heavily on the campiness of the 1960s Batman. In both episodes, he is working with the Penguin, while Batman and Robin have to team up with the Mystery, Inc. teens to stop the two supervillains.
He also played several characters in Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, most notably Phineas J. Whoopee. I don’t know how many people still remember this show; it is a faint memory from my childhood. Most of the story revolved around Don Adams’s Tennessee Tuxedo trying to either escape or get a better life at the zoo where he was kept. Tennessee Tuxedo would often get advice from Phineas J. Whoopee, who was an expert on almost everything. This show was somehow considered an educational show, which I do not remember it being. Either it found a way to be very subtle for a kids show, or the term 'educational' was in quotation marks. One day I will find a few episodes and find out which it was.
Another animated series Storch performed in was Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies (often sold just as The Groovie Goolies), which was a spinoff of the original Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. In it, Storch played Ghoulihand (a hand), Ratso (a trouble making bat) and Drac (the lead vampire, of course). My dad often talked about this show when I was a kid, but I did not get to see it until I was a teenager, as it apparently wasn't popular enough to be on reruns or available on VHS. I found the show enjoyable and rather campy at the time. Seeing as it was based off of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, it was not surprising. It fell into that small category of horror shows for kids, so if you were a monster kid like my dad or me, you would have likely watched it back then.
The most amazing thing I saw Larry Storch in was back in 2001. I went to New York with my middle school class and we saw Annie Get Your Gun, with Reba McEntire as Annie and Storch as Chief Sitting Bull. We were in the balcony and showed up just before the show started, so I did not get to read the Playbill until I was home. To my shock, I found Larry Storch’s name under featured players. I had loved Chief Sitting Bull during the performance and thought his comedic timing was perfect, but I had no idea why he was so good until that moment. I wished I could have gone back and seen the show again but, sadly, that has been my only trip to New York, and it is still a treasured memory.
This weekend, I will be at the Monster Bash in Mars, PA, and I hope you will be too.