Two weeks from tonight is Halloween. It’s a night for tricks and treats, as they said on the old “Peanuts” special, and it’s Sammy Terry’s night.
With just two weeks to go, I was afraid time would get away from me and I wouldn’t write about the Indianapolis TV horror movie host before it was too late. So here are my Sammy memories, a little early.
I’ve talked to Sammy in phone interviews a few times and met him once. It was the mid-1980s and I did a story about Sammy for the newspaper. I spoke with Bob Carter, Sammy’s mild-mannered, music-store-owning alter ego, over the phone in advance of an appearance at Muncie Mall and then met him when he was putting on his makeup at the mall before going on stage.
An earlier interview with Sammy remains one of my most nightmarish newspaper experiences. I wasn’t working full-time at the paper yet so I went to the office to make the long-distance call — remember those? — and took along a tape recorder and suction-cup-type recording device to attach to the phone.
I had used it before but this time something — the way I connected it to the phone, the florescent lights — fouled up the recording. I didn’t know until after I ended the conversation, of course, and was panicked when I couldn’t hear anything but a low hum on the tape when I tried to listen to it.
I wondered for a moment about calling Sammy back, but I decided not to. Instead, I sat down and furiously scribbled notes of everything I could remember from the interview. The resulting article was pretty lackluster and had virtually no quotes.
The later interview, before his Muncie appearance, went much more smoothly. Nothing notable, really, but Carter — who spoke in normal tones but whose voice was instantly recognizable as the TV ghoul who had presented classic monster movies and scared a couple of generations of Central Indiana kids to death — was friendly and modest.
By the 1980s, Carter had a lot of great stories. He claimed to have invented the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan “finger lickin’ good” during a live commercial, and who’s to say he did not? He talked about how the company that donated the casket from which he rose at the start of each show IN NO WAY wanted to be identified or credited because of potential complaints from the families of customers.
Carter was a pro long before this point, having done the show on WTTV Channel 4 since the early 1960s. He was gracious to a young journalist who was also a fan.
When my friends Jim and Derek and I went to meet him at Muncie Mall, he let us come into a back room while he applied his makeup and even posed for a picture right before going on stage at center court, where he delighted a lot of parents and kids — and probably scared a few too.
These days, Carter’s son is appearing as Sammy Terry. The younger version was in Muncie back in September and is probably making a few bucks — and making a lot of people smile.
More power to him. And more power to the original.
Pleasant nightmares, Sammy.