Monday, November 1, 2010

SHOCK! Ballyhoo (#2): Frankenstein's Monster at the World Series

I overheard two women on the bus this afternoon talking about the Major League Baseball's on-going World Series and I took that as a timely reminder to bring up this photo of a SHOCK! publicity stunt:

As you can see, someone dressed as Frankenstein's Monster slouches in a folding chair near a beach umbrella, attached to which is a banner reading "Channel 7 Brings SHOCK! Oct. 3rd 11:15 PM"; a thermos of coffee and a tray of food are set out nearby. Behind the Monster is the Yankee Stadium box office-- supposedly, starting on September 21, the Monster waited on line in the Bronx for three days to buy tickets for bleacher seats for the opening game of the 1957 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Braves (Yankees won 3-1; there's no word if the Monster ever showed up for the game).

The origins of this photograph apparently lie in an article in the SHOCK! promo book called "Audience Promotion to Excite Your Public" under the subsection "Direct Audience Exploitation." Here, the crew at Screen Gems suggests:

"Frankenstein's Monster is first in line at a box office waiting to buy a ticket in a sporting event or an important theatrical opening. The monster has arrived in an ambulance. At regular intervals, an intern wearing a white jacket will come out of the ambulance to feed the monster. (The longer the monster has to wait the better the stunt.)"

Previously when I had seen the photo, I just figured that someone at WABC-Channel 7 had cooked up the stunt. But the SHOCK! promotions booklet indicated that the origins for the idea came from Screen Gems. I thought, then, that I had found an instance where one of the strange publicity strategies that Screen Gems had brainstormed had been picked up by a TV station and put to use.

But then I read this news report in Billboard: The Amusement Industry's Leading Newsweekly, which stated that the Yankee Stadium ballyhoo was orchestrated by Screen Gems itself for the SHOCK! syndication package and not by TV station WABC as I had first thought.

Billboard, September 23, 1957

(And not surprisingly, this teaser advertisement for SHOCK! appeared in Billboard three pages after the above story:)

I've heard people say that they remember seeing that photograph of the Monster sleeping out for tickets in Fall television guides newspaper supplements in cities far from NYC-- have you seen that photograph before? Who is the guy in the costume? Does anyone out there know more about this stunt?


Mirek said...

That exact photo appeared in the first issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS. One full page. The caption read:

"Shocking! Sleeping on the job? Frankly, he may get fired from the Monsters Union for this! (Wonder if monsters have nightmares about people when they dream?)

Excellent work, Creeping Bride, tracking down the fact that this type of promotion actually occurred.

The Creeping Bride said...

I know almost nothing about the horror-magazine craze of the late '50s - '60s, so I'm glad that you brought this up, Mirek. I'm sure that a few other monster-mags repro'ed that photo as well.

I realize that it's critical for me to understand more about the history of monster-mags for my investigation of the Monster Culture revolution, so I'm slowly teaching myself about it by reading blogs like "Monster Magazine World" and Mike Scott's "Monster Magazines." I hope that monster-mag fans will check in and add information as I work through the SHOCK! and Son of SHOCK! titles, since I know there was a great deal of synergy there between the TV broadcasts and the magazines.