Halloween is mere days away and in that evil spirit I dig up an oddity from my dark and misguided youth. Horror… in particular, those black, velvety horror honeys that paraded around on late night TV. You know, the ones where some scantily clad vixen would roll monster flicks like Them, I Spit On Your Grave, and Hill House while you swigged Miller Lite and ate popcorn. And for years, thousands of New Jersey youth were hypnotized on Saturday nights by a buxom zombified beauty named Stella, The Man-Eater From Manayunk played by Karen Scioli.
Legend states that Stella was “born in North Libido, New Jersey, a small village outside of Atlantic City.” The only child of traveling hecklers, she was dropped in a plastic basket at Fifth and Skunk in front of Guido’s Hair Weaving and Plumbing Supplies. But for all intents and purposes she was raised by a flock of pigeons and reincarnated 37 times. Decked out in oodles of cleavage, too much makeup and thigh slit gowns, you couldn’t take your eyes off of her ample assets, and her entrance was enough to turn the most stoical of heads in her perfumed direction.
Many infamous personalities visited the show including John Zacherle, Jane “Pixanne” Norman, Bill “Wee Willie” Webber, Rip Taylor and Sally Starr. Each week, Stella introduced a “B” horror movie, and performed ultra dodgy skits with her sidekicks Hives the butler, Iggy the dungeon monster, and Beda Lugosi, her talking and vibrating bed that I always liked to see her on.
Scioli’s slapstick “can’t win” delivery is what made her series memorable. Using a combination of decadence, innuendo and shady-natured hijinks; she led the cast and viewers right into the flick of the night as only she could. Most of us relished the combination as did WKYW, the NBC affiliate that kept her on air and following Saturday Night Live for several gore filled years. And while Stella never became a national name like Vampira or Zacherley, she will always be remembered as the “Daughter Of Desire” in this genre of American folk art.
In light of the 25th anniversary of her TV Series and the fact that its Halloween, I thought it would be great to ask this genuine Shoreworld pop icon a few questions about her afterlife.
How did you wind up becoming the hostess for Saturday Night Dead?
I actually auditioned for the role. It was sort of like Gone With The Wind only they were looking for the Man-Eater From Manayunk. I was living in New York and my mom in Philadelphia cut out the newspaper ad and sent it to me. I was doing stand up comedy at the time so I thought, ‘What the heck,’ so I auditioned and I got the part. I think there were 150 people that tried out for the role. They brought out every ghoul and vampire and crazy person that came out for it. I think also that because I was doing comedy they figured I could be helpful with the writing.
Are you planning anything for the 25th anniversary of the show?
I’m in the process of being archived by Broadcast Pioneers. Which I thought was kind of cool, makes me feel like an old movie (laughs). I have a 141 shows done over 6 years, and they have all been transferred to DVD, so I’m very excited. And I thought, ‘You know what? I have all the DVDs now, its Halloween night on a Saturday so I should have a party so a lot of people who were on my show, fans and friends that I have known over the years will be coming.’ I’m throwing a wake for Stella. I’ll stuff my gown and a friend is building me a coffin..
What is your most hilarious memory from working on the series?
Oh my god, that’s a difficult one. I think when we had Rip Taylor on the show. He was playing Atlantic City and he was a big fan of Saturday Night Dead that I remembered from the Merv Griffin Show. So we were like lets have him on, so he came on and he was hilarious, he threw away the script, he improvised—his appearance was one of the most rule breaking shows we did. I had Robert Hazard on my show, which was so cool; he used to love the show. I would find out that kind of stuff from our fans or staff and soon as I did I would say, ‘Let’s get them on the show!’ He was on one of my Halloween specials and was nice enough to turn ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ into ‘Ghouls Just Want To Have Fun,” and it was great. He was a really nice man. He had come out with a CD so it worked out perfectly.
Every week was hilarious. Nobody at KYW really cared what we did. The station used to watch my show before it aired for maybe the first month it was on and then they never looked at the shows again (laughs). We got away with murder, I don’t think we could do what we did then today. Everything’s so PC, I don’t think we could ugh…(laughs) do what we did. We had a blast. The two regulars on my show were Bob Billbrough (Hives The Butler) and Glen Davish whose another great friend who played about a hundred characters, Cousin Mel and others. We just had a blast. We had like a $1.39 to do the show and had to be inventive. It was truly the end of an era that’s been replaced by infomercials.
Did you have any really good Stella stalkers?
(Laughs) Well, you would think that Stella, being the Man-Eater From Manayunk with the “Haunted Cleavage” that I would have a lot of stalkers but I didn’t—it was the news anchor that had all the stalkers! I guess they were already afraid of me (laughs) and figured they would rather stalk Diane Allen or Linda Gianella. I only got one scary letter in six years that went nowhere. I mean, all my fans were scary, but I did get a lot of letters from prison, I was really popular in prison (laughs). This one guy that used to write to me was a wonderful artist, he used to send drawings to me. I still have some of them, they were pretty good and he used to say that on Saturday, all the prison guys would walk around chanting ‘Stella tonight! Stella tonight!’ So, yes…no stalkers but lots of prisoners.