Sunday, February 8, 2004

TV era passes with Von Hoene


Local broadcaster versatile,
generous during long career

By Jim Knippenberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dick Von Hoene
Dick Von Hoene was perhaps best known as the Cool Ghoul from Channel 19's weekly Scream In horror film show.
(Enquirer file)
To his stunned friends, Dick Von Hoene's death Wednesday night represents the passing of an era.

Von Hoene, 63, died of an apparent heart attack after a 40-year career in local radio and television, most notably as the campy Cool Ghoul, host of Channel 19's weekly Scream In horror film. Famous for his stringy orange hair and the Ghoul's screeching "Bluhhhh-bluhhhh" tag line, he was host of Northern Kentucky Magazine at the time of his death.

"He was definitely one of the last of the old-time TV hosts," said retired broadcaster Len Goorian. "People don't realize it, but outside of the news, there is no live local TV anymore. The city is a lot poorer for not having it, and we're a lot poorer for not having him anymore."

CAREER SPANNED MORE THAN 40 YEARS

Mention Dick Von Hoene's name among broadcast professionals and one word always comes up: Versatility. Consider the depth and breadth of his career:

• Pre-1962: Student, actor and advertising copy writer.

• 1962: Radio writer and sometimes announcer at the now defunct WCPO-AM.

• 1967: Announcer, WUBE/WCXL-FM

• Early '70s: Used acting experience to create Cool Ghoul, and hosted Channel 19's Scream In weekly horror film.

• 1973: Reporter, WUBE-FM

• 1979: Disc jockey, WUBE-FM

• 1983: News announcer, WFKB, Florence

• Early '80s: Spot work on TV as the Cool Ghoul for Channel 19

• 1986: News anchor, Storer Cable

• Mid-'90s to present: Talk show host on Northern Kentucky Magazine for Insight Cable.

FRIGHT WIG SHARES GHOULISH ORIGINS

"Did you ever hear the story about why Dick's (Von Hoene) fright wig was only the back half of a wig?" artist and friend Judy Harrell asks.

"He went up to Dana Bruce, a costumer around town, and told him he wanted a wig in this sort of odd color that he could make kind of stringy and scraggly. Dana had just the thing. A woman had died in a car crash awhile before and needed a wig in that color. Dana made it for her, but also realized that only the front half would show, what with her head on one of those big fluffy satin pillows and all.

"Not being one to waste, he cut the wig in half. Dick took the back half and wore it his entire career."

SERVICES, MEMORIALS

Services for Dick Von Hoene are Monday. Visitation noon-1:45 p.m., services 2 p.m. at Allison & Rose Funeral Home, Madison Avenue and Robbins Street, Covington. Burial is at Spring Grove Cemetery. Memorials should be directed to Senior Citizens of Northern Kentucky. Appreciation  

Dave Ashbrock, Channel 19 executive producer and a friend for 25 years, agrees: "He was one of those professionals you just don't see anymore - a trained actor who brought all that background and all those skills to TV."

Quick on his feet

Von Hoene's advantage, Ashbrock said, was that "Dick was so quick on his feet, a true master of the one-line punch line. Sometimes (the producers) would throw him a curve. ... and he'd roll right with it. He always had a comeback."

But what most people admired about him was his versatility, Ashbrock said. "So many people will find something they do well - and he did the Ghoul very well - and put all their stock in it. Then, when it ends, they have nothing left.

"But not Dick. He slid easily into news, DJ, talk-show host, and, in his 50s, he even learned how to shoot news."

He even moved easily into the role of royalty. For the past three years, he has been Goetta King at Northern Kentucky's goetta fest.

That civic spirit is what friend and former WNOP broadcaster Walt Harrell (known as Bunky Tadwell during his 'NOP days) admired so much. "Over the years, we called on him to help with many events here in Cleves and I don't think he ever said no. And he always did it for free, even at Halloween, his busiest time of year.

Tricia Macke, co-anchor of Channel 19's 10 p.m. news, also remembers the humor. "He hired me at Storer Cable while I was still in college. Can you believe that? We all thought we were great, but I look back at it now and realize we were awful, even for cable. We'd fall over words, use the wrong intonation.

"As bad as we were, Dick always treated it like it was network news and never blew up. He'd take us aside and tell us exactly what we did wrong and how to avoid it in the future."

Motivated kids

Michael Flannery, former Club 19 kid show host and now a Channel 9 news reporter, was inspired by Von Hoene to go into the kid show business. "I grew up with the guy. It was such a big deal (when) we were allowed to stay up late to watch him. I even went to some of his live appearances and had my own Cool Ghoul dartboard.

"Later, I was on his show. What a thrill. It was like meeting an idol."

A lot of Cincinnati feels that way.

E-mail jknippenberg@enquirer.com




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