Thursday, February 5, 2004

'Cool Ghoul' was icon of Queen City

TV's Dick Von Hoene dies while shopping

By Chris Mayhew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Dick Von Hoene appeared as "The Cool Ghoul" in a Newport Halloween parade in 1997
(Enquirer file photo)
PRICE HILL - "Bluhhhh! ... Bluh! ... Bluh!" Cincinnati broadcasting legend Dick Von Hoene - known for that bizarre utterance while garbed in a goofy hat, red fright wig and morbid makeup as he made tongue-twisting introductions to TV movies in the persona of the "Cool Ghoul" - died Wednesday afternoon at Mercy Franciscan Hospital Western Hills in Westwood.

The Price Hill resident was 63.

Mr. Von Hoene was out shopping when he suddenly slumped over for unknown reasons, said his younger brother, Thomas Von Hoene, 59, of Delhi Township.

His Cool Ghoul character became famous on WXIX-TV (Channel 19), but it was born on WCPO-AM for Bob Smith's Monster Mash show on Halloween 1961.

"He was one of the big celebrities here in town," his brother said.

The Cool Ghoul turned up on WXIX-TV with the "Scream-In" movies show in 1970.

"I think he was a tremendous entertainer. As the character he played as the Ghoul, it was tremendously popular," said his brother. "He came across as funny, but also caring - and he had a mutual admiration with the audience."

In a 2001 Enquirer story, Von Hoene said of his creation: "The Cool Ghoul is a composite of a whole bunch of people, but some of it is Jackie Gleason's 'The Poor Soul.' "

In the article, Von Hoene said the Ghoul was a monster "who's been kicked out of Transylvania because he has dull fangs. He comes to the United States, and here he is with all of these humans. But he also realizes that he's not human."

Von Hoene began his broadcasting career with WCPO in 1962 as a staff announcer. From 1967-69, he worked as a news announcer for WUBE/WCXL FM in Cincinnati until his career with Channel 19.

After working in the 1970s and early 1980s with Channel 19, Von Hoene took off the ghoul make-up to host Channel 64's movie matinee show.

In recent years, he hosted "Northern Kentucky Magazine," a local entertainment and news show for Insight Communications ICN Channel 6, said his brother.

"He was very professional about it," Thomas Von Hoene said. "He was basically an actor. I think he kind of looked at in a professional way as a character he played. What he played as the ghoul was sincere, but it wasn't who he was."

He said his brother was a warm and caring person.

"He was not only my brother, but was a brother to everyone," he said.

In the 1960s and 70s, practically every kid in Greater Cincinnati was tuning into Channel 19, then an independent TV station, to see their favorites - including the ghoul, said Larry Smith, who worked with Von Hoene for many years.

"I'm really saddened," said Smith, creator of "Hattie the Witch" and a cast of other puppets for his children's show on Channel 19.

Smith said he remembers taking his puppets to the mall at Coney Island with Von Hoene in his Cool Ghoul get-up. The crowds were enormous.

"Oh those were crazy times," Smith said.


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