Mike Durrett: CONFIDENTIAL

Bestoink Dooley

Here's a promotional herald that brings back happy memories from my youth. The man is actor George Ellis as the comical character Bestoink Dooley.

He was a beloved Atlanta television fixture during the 1960s. Each Friday night after the late news, Bestoink hosted the "Big Movie Shocker," which would often include a classic from the original Universal Frankenstein, Dracula, and Wolfman monster franchises of the '30s and '40s.

The series was a local hit, especially with us brave elementary school kids and the teenagers. Eyewitness recaps of the frightful events became regular conversation topics in classrooms on Mondays. Bleedin', writhin', and a ripper's tic.

A concurrent "Big Movie Shocker" spin-off series followed, Saturday afternoons on the same channel, WAGA-TV5. I want to say the title was "Chiller Theatre," but I'm not positive because I was off chillin' in an actual theatre, the Emory, where I spent every weekend.

For awhile, circa 1966, there was an additional 30-minute weekday program called "Dooley and Co." Bestoink presented a 3 Stooges comedy short and acted a bit sillier than he did on the spooky shows. The festivities contained a pre-taped humorous weather sketch and forecast, syndicated from Detroit with oddball Morgus the Weatherman.

Morgus was also a schlock TV host, who specialized in lunatic shtick. Today, we have Bryant Gumbel.

Bestoink Dooley made an extremely low budget movie in 1965 to capitalize on his regional fame. "The Legend of Blood Mountain" (a k a "Demon Hunter") is a grade Z-zZzZzzz *comedy* horror yarn / yawn, shot primarily at Stone Mountain State Park near Atlanta and, probably, in the Channel 5 studios. That would have been inside their original building on W. Peachtree St., which later housed Ted Turner's Channel 17 (the future Superstation WTBS).

The Bestoink Dooley flyer reveals the movie played at the Starlight Drive-in. I remember the hoopla well. It premiered on a Wednesday and closed on Saturday. That was a good booking in those days. By then, I was working at the Emory Theatre. We were awarded the film second run. It opened on that Sunday and closed Tuesday, very possibly utilizing the Starlight's show print. The single week of engagements in a few neighborhood hardtops and drive-ins was the bulk of the metro area exposure.

George Ellis left TV near the end of the decade. He began a new career, operating several arty movie venues in the city.

A friend of mine was Mr. Ellis' projectionist at the Ansley Mall Cinema during the 1970s. He told me George was embarrassed by his career as Bestoink Dooley. A keepsake 35mm print of "The Legend of Blood Mountain," nevertheless, resided in the booth. I understand it would be screened after hours for the curious, when George was away.

I worked only one shift as the relief projectionist in the Ansley. Although I had been a regular patron of his struggling theatres, this was the occasion when I became formally introduced to George Ellis. He was as polite and gentle a man as I have ever met.

When I returned on payday for my earnings, he was polite and gentle and warm and apologetic as he stiffed me.

Compensation surfaced eventually, but the real rewards were those many TV and too few close encounters I shared in the company of Bestoink Dooley.



Photo: Thanks to Lesley Pike.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

damian says thanx for the nostalgia...
you are correct. he was a very wonderful man... mostly chatted w/him @ the ?film forum? on ?spring? st.
missed ya @ the wras 40th getogether.

Mike Durrett said...

I attended one film at George Ellis' downtown theatre, which I do think was named the Film Forum. I saw W.C. Fields in THE OLD FASHIONED WAY in 1970. I thought what a great place for old movies. The very next attraction was a skin flick and the old movies era was over. The theatre closed soon thereafter, as a result of the adult films policy.

I was sorry to miss the our college radio station reunion, too.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike, I too spent much of my youth at the Emory Theatre, I remember you and your younger brother. Attended Druid Hills the same years as you (you were 70 I was 71)I also worked the concession and reels at the cinema,1969 for a few months. Paul Parr was mgr. Midge Kreigh,Cindy Tiller and I worked for Paul. Fond memories indeed. (Tiller..Tilman? can't remember) Kevin Joyner.

Anonymous said...

"When I returned on payday for my earnings, he was polite and gentle and warm and apologetic as he stiffed me."

What a funny quote!

I remember Bestoink well and enjoyed your bog entry.

Thanks!

Boo

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