I am sad to report that Charles “Chuck” Acri, host of The Acri Creature Feature, passed away on June 9, 2018.
Mr. Acri launched the ACF in 1969 as a unique way to promote his home improvement business, the Acri Siding Company. It ran until 1976 and returned for two brief revivals in 1982 and 2003.
As I mentioned in an earlier tribute I wrote about the ACF and another regional Creature Feature, the 1970s was a time before streaming, DVDs, or VCRs, and few Midwestern cities and towns had revival movie theaters, so about the only chance monster movie fans got to watch classic and not-so-classic horror films was on Creature Features. Because of that, our fondness for these films was often extended to the programs that presented them.
Chuck Acri, though, may have been the most unusual of all Creature Feature hosts. Like Marilyn Munster, he was a normal person in a realm of monsters. Even more unusual, he sold siding and home improvement accessories during commercial breaks. That was the reason he sponsored the program, but his approach was low-key, personable, and never condescending. He appreciated having the opportunity to speak with viewers, and realized that viewers had invited him into their homes through their television, so, like a good guest, he was always respectful during his stay. He also enjoyed hosting the show and often joined the program’s cast at events like charity softball games. As a result, the ACF enjoyed what may have been the widest distribution of any regional Creature Feature in America during its run.
Before buzzwords became synonymous with branding, Chuck Acri was all over it. Popular phrases he coined include his greeting to viewers each week (“Hi! Chuck Acri here!”) as well as his sign off (“Good night and God bless you all.”) Points he wanted to emphasize were concluded with: “Don’t you know!” He never started a film before grabbing a (skull-shaped) cup of “piestingle” from the set’s coffin — Lord only knows how it got there each week — which he shared with his co-host Bernie the Skull (voiced by dee-jay, musician, and magician Sandy Singer), and there was the “Creep of Week Award” presented to two viewers who submitted the best Creature Feature related item, most typically a drawing but sometimes other things like models they had built or (in my case) plays and poems they had written.
Chuck Acri was born March 4, 1939 in Des Moines, Iowa. Married twice, he had seven children, fifteen grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Owner and operator of several businesses during his life, Chuck Acri passed way in Plano, Texas, having moved to the state to open a joint window business with three of his sons. Even after leaving the Midwest, Chuck Acri remained proud of his association with the ACF and the joy it had brought so many viewers. The Acri family made a point of inviting fans of the program to his visitation on June 16 in the Quad Cities area, where the program was produced, during which time the show’s theme song Windmills Of Your My Mind was played over the funeral home’s speakers, and a commemorative Creep of the Week Award was given away along with a photograph of the ACF cast and “Hi! Chuck Acri here!” wristband as mementos. He was laid to rest in Des Moines on June 18.