Missing Saturday Afternoons with Dr. E. Nick Witty

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ALAN MILAIR 1931 – 2012

By Jerome A. Dolan
Art By Mr. Lobo

“Mr. Milair does his tademark laugh for the crew of Monster Mansion Memories…”

Baby Boomers and Monster Kids of Syracuse are mourning the passing of veteran TV personality Alan Milair who died peacefully on April 22, 2012. He was 81. Born in Charleston, WV, He moved to Syracuse to further his career. Mr. Milair had a 30 year career with WSYR in their Radio and television departments. He was a newsman, weatherman, and host of talk shows. On the radio he hosted MUSIC JUST FOR YOU. He also presented many classical music programs. He retired as AM/FM Program Manager for WSYR Radio. He will be remembered fondly as a local broadcasting legend.

It was in the early 60’s that the TV station had all kinds of old horror movies, B-movies, and PD (Public Domain) Science-fiction movies and they needed a way to market and present them. They say a low budget brings out creativity. When MONSTER MOVIE MATINEE started in 1964 they had almost no budget. That didn’t stop Alan Milair, Bill Lape, and set designer Joe Turrsi. With a scavenger Hunt for all kinds of odds and ends, they put together their “jigsaw puzzle” and created their elaborate set of horror. Out of inspiration, imagination, and a lot of swap meet finds, they built the perfect creepy mood of the Monster Mansion.

Alan Milair hosted the program MONSTER MOVIE MATINEE from 1964 to 1980. The show aired on NBC Channel 3 on Saturday’s at 1 PM.  Mr. Milair played DR. E. NICK WITTY, the master of the Monster Mansion. His name, a clever pun that referenced the biblical phrase “den of iniquity” – or a place of wickedness.

“Alan Milair and Bill Lape on set.”

His assistant was Epal, played by Willard “Bill” E. Lape Jr. – Epals’ name, of course was just his real last name backwards. More classic horror host word-play! Mr. Lape died September 19,2004.

Viewers don’t watch the Horror shows every week for the movies, they watch them for the host. Alan Milair was an early practitioner of the fine art of hosting horror on TV: he had fun with the audience, he had fun with the movies, and he never treated his audience with disrespect. The audience reciprocated and gave MONSTER MOVIE MATINEE high ratings that kept the show going through the turbulent 60’s and 70’s.

Mr. Milair was a performer that trusted the imagination of the audience. He created a unique persona as a mysterious disembodied hand. The hand had long black fingernails and wore a large ruby ring. You never saw his profile on camera. He would interview his “Dear Guest” from his high back chair, facing away from the camera.

In video clips, that are on YouTube, you can see Mr. Milair being generous and giving credit to Bill Lape, Joe Turri, and the crew for the success of the show. He is survived by his son Dana Milair, Daughter Shawn Wayson and 8 grandchildren. Shawn Wayson is a broadcaster at WSYR-TV.

MONSTER MANSION MEMORIES is a documentary in production now by Wind Up Films. It will include interviews with Alan Milair who played Dr. E. Nick Witty, Joe Turrisi, and Chuck Waltz, a local collector that purchased the remaining set pieces including the casket and has them on display. Shooting is on going and should wrap up in May. A tenative deal is in place to air the doc on WSTM sometime in October as well as a DVD release.

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