The Astonishing but Horrifically True Story of the Infamous Louisville “Creepshow” Premiere in 1982!

Can your heart stand the shocking facts of this true story from The Phantom of the Ville’s Lost Louisville Case Files?

Greetings, my friends and fiends. It’s The Phantom of the Ville coming to you from the 20-acre empty lot at 3408 Bardstown Road. I’ve returned from the grave to haunt this particular spot on numerous occasions over the years, scaring away potential buyers like those annoying Costco location scouts who foolishly stumbled into my paranormal trap around this time last year. You see, this empty lot was once the center of cinematic culture in town, the legendary Showcase Cinemas, where everybody in Louisville saw everything before the days of stadium seating multiplexes on every other corner.

I’ve decided to take the occasion of director George Romero’s birthday this week to tell a tall tale of this beloved movie palace involving a diabolical promotional event held for the advanced premiere of George Romero’sCreepshow” in the early spring of 1982. Brace yourself. This story involves deception, underage drinking, monster masks, Stephen King and a zombie who just wants his birthday cake. It’s all true. I swear on my copy of Denis Gifford’sA Pictorial History of Horror Movies.”

The year of 1982 is considered something of a Golden year for genre movie fans. Those 12 months alone gave us “Bladerunner,” “Star Trek II,” “The Thing,” “Poltergeist,” “E.T.,” “Tron,” “Conan the Barbarian,” “The Dark Crystal,” “Dragonslayer,” “The Cat People,” “Swamp Thing” and more. It also gave us an adaption of Stephen King’s tribute to the EC Comics he grew up reading, “Creepshow,” directed by none other than GeorgeNight of the Living Dead Romero.

I was a 15 year old high school student and monster geek, obsessed with Halloween, horror, gore and makeup effects. On that fateful day, I arrived home from school, plopped down on the couch and picked up the day’s copy of the Courier-Journal. As usual, I flipped directly to the Arts and Leisure section and Comics page when my eyes beheld a full page advertisement promoting an advanced screening of Romero’s “Creepshow” for that very evening at the Showcase Cinemas—and there was a gimmick! The poster said, “All attendees dressed as monsters get in FREE!”

My mind began to race with fiendish plans.

I’m not sure what it’s like for kids today, but the ticket Nazis at Showcase Cinemas back then were serious about the Motion Picture Association of America’s Film Ratings System and “Creepshow” was decidedly Rated R for 17 years of age or older. This aggression against monster kids would not stand.

Within seconds I was on the phone with my high school film geek buddy, “Bruce” (names changed to protect the innocent). Bruce and I concocted an infallible plan: We would disguise ourselves as monsters, thus not only fooling the ticket Nazis, but also scoring FREE tickets to the spook show!

I owned a Be Something Studios white ape latex mask with a horn on its forehead labelled in the Be Something catalog as the Evil Unicorn (see photo above). Bruce owned a green Topstone, fish-face mask called Prickle Puss which, while wearing, blessed him with a talent for sucking in and blowing out air to give the impression of fish gills breathing (see photo above).

Even though it was early spring, we both wore oversized winter coats to make us appear bigger than the 15 year old high school freshman we were. With a bit of luck, we were able to talk my parents into dropping us off at the movies for the show with our monster masks tucked into our inner coat pockets. Once dad’s sky blue station wagon was out of sight, we took out our monster masks and got into character.

Evil Unicorn and Prickle Puss creeped passed the crowd of movie goers and onlookers to the theater hosting the premiere which had a huge “Creepshow” standee out front, decked out with some cheap rubber bats, spiders and fake cobwebs. There was a short line to the ticket booth and while we waited I surveyed the lobby looking for potential trouble: security, managers and cops. Not only did I not see any, I didn’t see any other monsters either. We were hoping to blend in, not to stand out!

Sweat began pouring down my forehead inside the hot latex mask and around my armpits in the thick winter coat. What if this plan doesn’t work? What if they ask to see our ID’s? Then suddenly we were face to face with the bearded ticket Nazi. He looked us up and down with a perplexed expression that seemed to indicate he had never seen an Evil Unicorn or a Prickle Puss before.

You guys can go ahead,” he said.

We had made it. Our evil plan had worked perfectly. Very soon we would be witnessing the kind of carnage only Stephen King and George Romero could conjure on the big screen when suddenly a voice behind us rang out.

Hey, you two guys! You monsters! Come here!

We turned in terror to face THE MANAGER! Not only the biggest of the ticket Nazis at Showcase Cinemas, this particular vile overlord was one that we had some previous history with, having kicked us out before for sneaking into R rated horror movies. He came at us full steam, his warthog faced visage twisted with menace. We had come this far only to fail within five feet of the screening room.

Follow me,” he grunted.

Like prisoners headed to the gallows we reluctantly followed the hang man to our doom.

Stand here and line up,” he ordered.

We were herded into a lineup where a couple of other monsters were already standing, awaiting the firing squad I assumed, when we all were suddenly hit with a blinding bright light. Instead of rifle, the man in front of us was holding a microphone. The local news were here to cover the promotion and conduct interviews with the monsters. Saved by the media!

Evil Unicorn growled and hissed for the cameras and Prickle Puss sucked in and puffed out air for an amazing performance that landed us on the 11 o’clock news that evening. Then the Showcase overlord returned to address the monster assembly.

Okay, monsters, the screening pre-party is upstairs next door at the art gallery,” he announced. “We’ll see you all back here in 30 minutes for the start of the movie.”

Back in the day, Showcase Cinemas had an “art gallery” on the second floor over the lobby of one of the theaters where you could actually buy framed art while you were at the movies. I don’t know if anybody ever actually bought any art there. I remember mostly sketch portraits of Sylvester Stallone, John Wayne and Looney Tunes characters.

Also back in the day, theaters occasionally had something known as Champagne Premieres. I attended a couple of them and even served champagne at the “City Heat” premiere while working for Mid-State Theaters a couple of years later. Attendees were served champagne in plastic cups with snap-together tops and bottoms.

Prickle Puss and Evil Unicorn suddenly found themselves being served champagne in the art gallery above Showcase Cinemas. Neither of us had ever even tasted champagne before, but we imbibed in the bubbly through the mouth slits in our monster masks. Our evil plan had succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. Four or five glasses of sparkling nectar later and Evil Unicorn and Prickle Puss were shambling around the movie theater like proper monsters. Thoroughly buzzed and vision impaired in our monster masks, making our way down the stairs and back to the “Creepshow” screening was an adventure in itself.

Successfully wobbling the way to our seats, the lights went down and one of the greatest horror films of the 1980’s began to unspool before our 15 year old, liquid relaxed eyeballs. Of course, there was still the chance of a wandering usher spotting our unaccompanied, underage, tipsy carcasses, so we wore the monster masks for the entirety of the screening.

Evil Unicorn and Prickle Puss became men that night; men born in the glow of George Romero and Stephen King’s twisted imaginations. Except for the fact that we still had to call my parents to come pick us up, that is.

The Phantom of The Ville

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