HeldenFiles: Tim Conway to appear at Ghoulardifest in Cleveland

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Actress Halle Berry testifies before the Assembly Committee on Public Safety for a bill that would limit the ability of paparazzi to photograph children of celebrities and public figures, on June 25, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Chagrin Falls native and six-time Emmy winner Tim Conway will take part in the latest GhoulardiFest on Saturday, Nov. 2.

The festival, which will run Nov. 1-3 in the La Villa banquet and conference center, celebrates local television, science fiction, horror and comedy.

It takes its name from Ernie “Ghoulardi” Anderson, who ruled the Northeast Ohio airwaves from 1963 to 1966 while hosting horror movies on WJW (Channel 8) — and who remains a beloved character for viewers more than 15 years after his death. I was at a party in Richmond, Va., not long ago and wound up having a long chat with a former Clevelander who knew the Ghoulardi book I co-wrote with Tom Feran.

Conway, still known for wild improvisation on programs like Carol Burnett’s variety show, had a friendship with Anderson that included TV collaborations predating Ghoulardi. Both worked at Channel 3 (then KYW) and later at WJW. When Anderson was hosting a daytime show on Channel 8, Conway was Anderson’s choice for director although he had no experience at the job. (The real director was another Anderson sidekick, “Big Chuck” Schodowski).

Since the show could not get any real guests, Conway appeared on-air frequently as people with different occupations but the same name: Dag Herferd. Those Conway-Anderson bits later led to two comedy albums; it was also through his work with Anderson that Conway came to the attention of Rose Marie, co-star of The Dick Van Dyke Show; she recommended Conway to Steve Allen, which launched Conway’s national TV fame.

Conway’s Cleveland visit overlaps with promotion of his new book, What’s So Funny, which the publisher says “captures Tim’s journey from life as an only child raised by loving but outra­geous parents in small-town Ohio during the Great Depression, to his tour of duty in the Army — which would become training for his later role in McHale’s Navy — to his ascent as a national star and household name.”

“Because of Tim’s travel schedule,” the GhoulardiFest site says his appearance will be a morning one, starting at 10 a.m. And, with seating on a first-come, first-served basis, the festival will open at 9 a.m. that day.

La Villa is at 11500 Brookpark Road in Cleveland. You can find out more about the fest, including ticket prices and arrangements, at www.theghoulardifest.com.

Berry Business. You may have seen that Cleveland’s own Halle Berry has a couple of new projects: a new son with hubby Olivier Martinez and, coming in summer 2014, Extant, a TV series for CBS.

The TV show raised some eyebrows and the Hitfix.com site even used it as the springboard for a list of other movie actors who should go into TV (among them Nicolas Cage, Winona Ryder, Ryan Reynolds and Renee Zellweger). While the site did not say Berry had never done TV — and another name on its list was TV-star-first John Travolta — it did argue that Berry’s TV deal was “a long time coming.”

As I said on the HeldenFiles Online blog, that’s not a fair description of Berry’s career arc, which included early-career series efforts like Knots Landing and Living Dolls, and breakthroughs like Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Berry’s portrayal of another Cleveland icon in that TV-movie gained her new respect and an Emmy, and set the stage for her Oscar win for Monster’s Ball.

Sure, she hasn’t acted on TV since 2005, but anyone paying attention knows she had a few other things going on in those years. She has often gone to TV when the role was good and the situation right — and the latest deal looks like more of the same.

Munch Ado. John Munch, the police detective played by Richard Belzer on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, put in his retirement papers in a recent episode; the Huffington Post notes that the Oct. 16 episode will have Munch’s retirement party and end Belzer’s run as a regular on the series. He may return as a guest star.

It also, for the moment, brings to a halt a remarkable run by Munch and Belzer across TV. Belzer first played Munch on the TV series Homicide: Life on the Street, which premiered in January 1993. When that series ended in 1999, the actor and character moved to SVU, which premiered that year.

But that’s not the end of Munch’s adventures. Belzer has laid claim to the record for playing the same character on different series. Belzer’s official website lists the two I have mentioned plus the original Law & Order, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, The Beat, M.O.N.Y., The X-Files, The Wire, Arrested Development, 30 Rock and Sesame Street.

In Case You Missed It … The TV season has now had two cancellations, ABC’s Lucky 7 and most recently CBS’ We Are Men, the comedy with Tony Shalhoub, Jerry O’Connell, Kal Penn and that guy I can never remember.

Effective Monday, CBS will move 2 Broke Girls into Men’s 8:30 p.m. Monday slot, while 2 Broke’s 9 p.m. space goes to reruns of The Big Bang Theory — until Mike & Molly moves into 9 p.m. Mondays on Nov. 4. M&M’s return was previously planned for midseason — but midseason comes quickly when shows start to fail.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.

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