Thursday, January 29, 2009


Thanks to the 1977 Star Wars Movie Theater Ballyhoo post, I found a nice email from Mike Curtis in my inbox. Mike informed me that he was a ballyhoo man back in the 1970's and 80's and has the photos to prove it! Before we take a look at the photos, I need to mention that Mike was a local TV personality back in the 70's. If you watched Cable Channel 6 in Jackson, Tennessee during the summer of ‘74 you saw Mike as Shock Theater’s horror host Count Basil. Click here to visit E-Gor’s Chamber of TV Horror Hosts and scroll down a bit to read about Mike’s horror hosting days.

Mike’s inspiration to become a ballyhoo man came from a movie marathon of the Planet of the Apes. Back in ‘73 Mike attended a theater in Jackson, Tennessee to watch all the Apes movies followed by the premier of Battle for the Planet of the Apes. As an added bonus the theater advertised that the “Ape Ambassadors” would show up in person. Who were the Ape Ambassadors? Unfortunately, they were two guys dressed in dark sweat pants with cheap-o monkey masks. Needless to say these “Ape Ambassadors” didn’t do much ballying or hooing and was a big disappointment. Mike thought he could do better and that’s just what he set out to do!

Working for the Malco Theater chain, his first assignment was to promote the comedy adventure movie The Three Musketeers (1974). He made a swashbuckler’s costume and walked the local shopping mall with a sign on his back advertising the movie. Mike was a success and it helped drive movie goers to see the film.

In this first photo we see Mike as the monster from Young Frankenstein (1974) as he terrorizes a house. If you look close, you can see the edge of a felt sign that advertised the showing of this movie.

Since Mike played Frankenstein’s Monster it was only fair that he gave another famous monster equal time.

He played the undead legend Dracula many times and was even hired for promotions by a chain of waterbed stores. Here we see Mike laying around on the job.

One of Mike’s most ambitious and we must say dangerous promotions, was playing Superman during the premier of Superman (1978).

With a professional looking costume, complete with the trademark S on the chest, Mike showed up on local TV as the caped crusader promoting the premier of the movie at the Ridgeway Four in Memphis. The commercials invited people to come see Superman really fly. Just like the movie’s tagline, “You’ll believe a man can fly,” Mike did just that. With the help of a harness, some cables and a spotlight Mike flew 120 feet from a building across the street onto the roof of the movie theater. The crowd went nuts as he waved to them in classic Superman fashion.

The last photo shows Mike portraying the Phantom of the Opera and he’s standing in front of a shopping mall promoting the slasher movie The Silent Scream (1980).

Besides working as a ballyhoo man he was a theater manager for many of Malco’s chain of theaters. Nowadays Mike spends his time writing and publishing comics with his wife Carole.

A big thanks goes out to Mike for sharing his ballyhoo photos and memories with us and he deserves a big round of applause. Thanks Mike!


Devlin Thompson said...

I recall being annoyed when a promised "Personal appearance by DARTH VADER" at an Anderson, S.C theater during the '78 rerelease proved to be a guy dressed in black clothing (sweat shirt and jeans) with a "Zordius" mask ( is the best picture I could find) and one of those cheap fake lightsabers made with a flashlight and a plastic tube originally made to separate clubs in a golf bag. It was NOT cool.

Glen Mullaly said...

Great post NC! Another job title I had never hear of before but would have wanted, as a kid, to be when I grew up.