The tight-knit community of Southeastern Wisconsin “horror hosts” is in mourning following the death last weekend of one of their own: the mischievous and gregarious Curtis Meyer, known to his fans as Deadgar Winter, 56.
Like his peers, he adopted a ghoulish persona and created his own homemade show, “Deadgar’s Dark Coffin Classics,“ screening old horror movies, introducing the films and creating short skits to break up the movie. Vampira, Elvira, Svengoolie, and “Mystery Science Theater 3000” are all well known examples, though there are many lesser known horror hosts around the country. The shows screen on network affiliates, cable access or the Internet, or usually some combination of platforms.
I first met Curt in 2016 at an event I helped produce called Friday the 13th Fest, a fun show of punk and metal music and burlesque performances that celebrated the superstitious date. Curt showed up in his Deadgar Winter costume – a rock ’n’ roll vampire motif – and I immediately thought, well here’s a guy with some style! I struck up a conversation with him and talked to him about his show.
I kept in contact with Curt, and he and his show’s crew participated in other events I helped organize. In doing so I discovered a larger horror host scene in the Kenosha-Racine area, and it was in the back of my mind that this uniquely high population of horror hosts would be fun to write about, and eventually it got pitched to Milwaukee Magazine. That story, “Terror on the Tube,” was part of the October issue.
Writing the article was so much fun that I approached some local filmmaker friends about working on a documentary short about Deadgar and other horror hosts in the area – “Dr. Destruction’s Crimson Theatre,” hosted by Dale Wamboldt aka Dr. Destruction (Curt had gotten his start as a character on his show); “Hexen Arcane,” hosted by Shanta Pasika and Kate Holm (who play the characters Celeste and Morgan Parker, and are former co-hosts of “Deadgar’s Dark Coffin Classics”); and Jerry Ball aka Uncle Wolfman, host of “Nightmare Cinema.”
The documentary crew and I went to Curt’s house in mid-October to film interviews and get behind-the-scenes footage of the taping of one of his shows on his set, which he had made himself in the basement of his house. It was a true DIY production, and showing great hospitality, he provided us all with homemade pizza and drinks afterwards.
I last saw Curt when I visited Mighty Con, a comic book, art and memorabilia show that took place in Milwaukee on Nov. 13. “Deadgar’s Dark Coffin Classics” had a table at the convention, where Curt and company were selling their wares – Curt, a talented woodworker, made coffin-shaped shelves and keepsake boxes. He was also excited about his new line of handmade hot sauces. His fiancee, Jennifer Lambert (also his show co-host, Storm Winter) was selling her jewelry, and friend and castmate Jill Zgorzelski (“Gorezelski” on the show) had her paintings. Curt, as usual, was happy, energetic and having a great time talking to people.
“He loved everyone. He’d give someone the shirt off his back to help them,” Jennifer told me. In addition to his show, he loved rock music (his favorite band was Mötley Crüe), riding his motorcycle and fishing.
Just a couple weeks later, I got word that Curt was in the ICU in a medically induced coma. He passed away from COVID-19 (exacerbated by lung issues) on Dec. 18. Curt’s friends and family were all completely devastated by his sudden loss. In the article I wrote, I played with the angle that the horror hosts had a rivalry – Deadgar and Dr. Destruction had a falling out at some point, but there was no deep hatred there. After Curt’s death, Dale expressed his condolences and told me he felt “horrible” about his loss and his sympathy for his loved ones.
Shanta (Celeste Parker) was Curt’s co-host for six years before Curt switched the show’s lineup, leading her to start “Hexen Arcane.” There was a brief rough patch, but their friendship was strong. “Deadgar always managed to be the center of attention with his excitement for life and that goofy smile when he was causing mischief,” Shanta told me in a message. “He was also generous to a fault and gave his time freely to causes within the community.” Shanta adds that she “always considered him family” and they shared many good times and bad together.
Curt’s favorite part of creating his show (it ran since 2012, and his fiancee Jennifer says they plan to do a tribute show) was simply entertaining people: making them laugh, sharing facts about the obscure horror films he screened. He was a film historian in a vampire costume, someone who enjoyed being spooky and kooky, a creative person and a good friend.
A fundraiser for Curtis Meyer’s funeral expenses can be found here.