Mr. Mixtape-ptlk, Track #4: The Monsters Hop by Bert Convy (1958)

Bert Convy was more than just a square guy in the 1970s who hosted one of my then favorite game shows (Tattletales) and several others throughout the decade and into the '80s. Sure, Tattletales is where I learned his name and where I chiefly saw him as a kid, but I didn't know how important that stupid game show and its host would be to me.

Since my childhood, Bert Convy grew into (and continues to be) a big player in my canon, a personal cult figure along the lines of Jack Cassidy and Charles Nelson Reilly, for reasons sometimes tongue in cheek but not always. Any appearance by Convy in even the lowest level production was always a worthwhile stop for me. The Love Boat? Super Password? Charlie's Angels? Fantasy Island? Win, Lose or Draw? I watched them, sometimes because Bert was the host and sometimes because he was in a guest role. He didn't act in movies a whole lot, but he does make brief appearances in The Cannonball Run, Hero at Large, and Semi-Tough. His most notable film appearance for me, however, is a small role in Roger Corman's marvelous A Bucket of Blood (1959), where he acts alongside the great Dick Miller (playing his most famous character, Walter Paisley).

Bert won a Daytime Emmy as Outstanding Host for Tattletales in 1977, which was right around the time my strange obsession with the pearly toothed man wearing a tight, white guy 'fro was solidifying, especially after I watched him on a mid-summer replacement series on CBS called The Late Summer Early Fall Bert Convy Show. (I was a sucker for variety shows in those days.) It was hard for me not to find Bert Convy on the TV in the '70s and '80s, because the guy appeared in everything. Well, close to everything. With acting credits going back to the late '50s, besides the shows previously mentioned, Convy guested on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, McMillan and Wife, The UntouchablesPolice Story, Banacek, Alfred Hitchcock PresentsHawaii Five-O, Bewitched, 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, Perry MasonNight Gallery, Mission: Impossible, Love American Style, Murder She Wrote, Hotel, and The Partridge Family. The guy would be the definition of the word "ubiquitious," if that job wasn't already taken in the dictionary.

I saw Bert in fresh TV episodes and I saw him pop up in older shows in syndication. He even got a directing credit under his belt, helming what is presumably meant to be a wacky Air Force comedy, starring Chris Lemmon, titled Weekend Warriors in 1986. (I must admit that I have not, as of this writing, seen that movie, but it is on my list.) When Bert wasn't acting or hosting, he would even appear on other game shows like Match Game and What's My Line?, the two game shows that rule my world. So tied was he to the world of game shows, that Convy even played himself as a Mystery Guest in a game show sketch hosted by Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live in 1980.

Convy's last television role was as himself (appropriately) in the wedding episode of It's Garry Shandling's Show! in 1990, where Garry's character (also himself) nearly marries his girlfriend Phoebe (played by Jessica Harper) a couple of times, but circumstances keep interfering. After the hotel where they plan to get hitched burns down mysteriously, the network steps in and offers to build an exact replica of the hotel premises on the set of an all-star variety show (supposedly starring, amongst others – but not really – Scott Baio, Dr. Haing S. Ngor, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans). Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Connie Stevens, and Ned Beatty do show up as themselves, Bert Convy is the host, and the director (on screen) is none other than Charles Nelson Reilly. And in the middle of everything, everyone breaks into a ridiculous musical number. After Garry and Phoebe run out on the second ceremony, their friends gather in Garry's home to console them. One friend says, "I had looked forward to this day for all of my life!" and Garry's buddy Leonard Smith (played by Paul Willson, Paul from Cheers) says, "Me, too! I never met Bert Convy!"


Convy died the next year of a brain tumor, but I have never stopped my strange worship of the man. He became my standard set answer when people asked me a question such as "Who did that?" or "Who said [such and such a quote]?" Some of my friends like to purposefully answer wrongly, "Jesus" in the same way, and I found out quick that the problem with answering "Bert Convy" in that manner is that you usually don't then have to spend five minutes reminded everyone in the room who Jesus was. Such is the way of a Bert Convy fan.

To this day, I delight in running into a Convy appearance. And he seems to be an unending source of odd trivia as well, thanks to his wide array of talents. Even in researching this piece, I read a couple of bits about the man that I did not know, such as that he was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies as a teenager and played two years of minor league ball. (You can see his stats by clicking here.) He also originated the Broadway roles of Perchik, the revolutionary scholar who marries Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof, and Cliff Bradshaw in Cabaret.

But about a dozen years ago or so, and most joyously surprising to me, I found out this about the man when I was going through a random collection of older songs that I had obtained: Bert Convy was also a square guy from the 1950s that sang this ode to a crew of scary monsters holding one of those parties that monsters seemed to really enjoy holding back in those days:




THE MONSTERS HOP
(Bert Convy-Robert E. Emenegger) Contender 1314 CT-510, 1958

I heard strange noises comin’ from a house on the hill,
So I crept up to the window and looked over the sill.
My heart almost stopped, I nearly died of fright ---
By the dim candlelight, I saw the strangest sight!

[Chorus]

There was Frankenstein and Dracula and Wolfman too,
Dancin' with some zombies, what a ghastly crew!
The ol' ugly vampire was doin’ the bop,
And everything was rockin’ at the monsters hop!

The bats were flyin’ and the room was full!

The crazy witch doctor was dancin’ with a ghoul!
The organ was playin’, but no-one was there,
And the headless horseman was combin’ his hair!

[Chorus]
There was Frankenstein and Dracula and Wolfman too,
Dancin' with some zombies, what a ghastly crew!
The ol' ugly vampire was doin’ the bop,

And everything was rockin’ at the monsters hop!

I can't forget that empty house upon the hill

The night I saw the monsters dancin’… ooooh, what a thrill!
The wind did howl, the night was black;
I nearly lost my mind... I'm never ever going back!

[Chorus]
There was Frankenstein and Dracula and Wolfman too,
Dancin' with some zombies, what a ghastly crew!
The ol' ugly vampire was doin’ the bop,

And everything was rockin’ at the monsters hop!

The song was co-written by Convy, and he and songwriting partner Robert Emenegger also did the song on the flip-side, The Gorilla, which itself has a neat tie-in to the sci-fi genre, by having the Purple People Eater, who was popular from Sheb Wooley's #1 hit song of the same name from earlier in 1958, make a cameo appearance at the end of the Convy song:



The Gorilla is a much, much weirder song than the relatively more straightforward The Monsters Hop. That is, if you don't think that monsters holding parties in song after song is all that weird. The Monsters Hop predates Bobby "Boris" Pickett's phenomenal Monster Mash by about four years, but don't think that good ol' Bert was at the start of a trend. There were already several songs about monster parties floating around by 1958-1959, including Screamin' Ball (at Dracula Hall) by the Duponts, Mad House Jump by the Daylighters (which also name-checks the Purple People Eater), and At the House of Frankenstein by Big Bee Kornegay, just to name three. Monster Mash was certainly at the zenith of the subgenre (or the nadir, depending on your taste, but Mash is in my Top Song list of all time).

Of the Convy songs, I definitely prefer The Monsters Hop over The Gorilla (a little harried, that one). His character does sound a bit like he has been through the wringer after seeing what he has encountered. Though you might think, "That party sounds like a great time!" and that Convy is a real pussy for being afraid of it, do keep in mind the song is from a different time, almost sixty years ago. The notion is that while the monsters are having a dance party, which might seem cute and even quaint today, monsters are still freakin' monsters! They are supposed to be scary, and this song (and its narrator) doesn't forget that. While Frankie might not do you in right away, Dracula, Wolfman, and those zombies would probably feast on you right away.

Oh, just one more thing, which I never knew until today... Bert Convy had a Top Ten hit earlier in the decade, in 1955, with his vocal group, The Cheers, that was one of the very first songs to mention motorcycle gangs, Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots. One of the earliest hits by the ultra-famous songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, it was also one of the earliest in the "teen death tragedy" song genre. I knew the song and even own a copy of it on a couple of different collections. I just never realized that one of the voices I was hearing was Bert Convy, but I sure could make him out when I listened to it again.

Man, just like monster dance parties that pop up out of nowhere, Bert Convy, 25 years after his death, just keeps on surprising me.

RTJ

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