On Wednesday, January 7, ROBERT GENE WILKINS passed away from complications of Alzheimers Disease at the age of 76 in a care facilty in Reno, Nevada, surrounded by his loving family.
I will truly miss Bob Wilkins. He literally made my childhood special and I thank him for that. I was born in 1962 and my first interest was in Dinosaurs. I don't know the exact year but I just loved Dinosaurs whether they were plastic figures or picture books. Then around 1968, when I was 6 years old, I was with my Dad at the HARDING WAY NEWSSTAND, and I noticed a magazine with a very interesting cover of the Alien from the movie, INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN. That magazine was FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and it was Issue #54 and this was the turning point of my life. Dad bought me that magazine and it hooked me on the important Movie Monster.I can't recall when or what was my first monster movie I ever saw but it had to be around that same year of 1968. If I remember right, KCRA Channel 3 showed the old classics on Saturday Afternoons. On October 26, 1968, KTXL TV 40 signed on the air and I was there on Day One. Though at that time, the only thing monster related shown was THE OUTER LIMITS. It wasn't until the following year, that I discover BLACK MUSEUM on Saturday Nights at 8:PM on KTXL. It was a Hostless show with the classics. Also I remember watching VALLEY PLAYHOUSE on KCRA. This show was hosted by HARRY MARTIN and was on weekday afternoons on Channel 3 and occasionally he would show Horror Movies.
I recall watching TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE on one particular Valley Playhouse and Harry mentioned that if you enjoyed these type of movies, that BOB WILKINS showed them every Saturday Night on KCRA. This had me intrigued. This was the first time I had heard of Bob Wilkins. Later on I had also seen ads for the show. At this time, I was always in bed around 9:PM, but I begged my parents to let me stay up to watch Bob. Dad finally said yes, but unfortunately I fell asleep and never made it up to watch Bob. I had to settle for Black Museum. While I never did have a chance to see Bob on KCRA, I did discover him when he made the move to KTXL.
While I can't pinpoint the exact date when Bob made that move from KCRA to KTXL. I know it was sometime in 1970 but not the exact date as KCRA continued to show Horror Movies on their Late Saturday Night Show when Bob took over hosting the Black Museum timeslot at KTXL. I only found this out when I was reading JOHN STANLEY's excellent book, I WAS A TV HORROR HOST, on page 49, which was a copy of an article John Stanley did on CREATURE FEATURES in the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: "In addition to the new KTVU Creature Features, Wilkins is hosting a Saturday Night Series for Channel 40 in the Sacramento Valley...".Well the article was dated JANUARY 24, 1971 and the only Saturday Night Horror Show on KTXL TV 40 was the one at 8:PM, so I finally figured that Bob must have made the jump sometime in 1970 but KCRA continued showing Horror Movies on Saturday Nights well until October of 1971, when GEOFF WONG debuted with CHARLIE CHAN THEATRE.
I do know the very first movie I saw on Bob Wilkins was a Japanese Monster Movie called THE X FROM OUTER SPACE. I still need to figure out that exact date. But from then on, it was a weekly ritual for me. Eventually KTXL moved Bob to a later time slot but still a do-able time slot for me to stay up, at 10:PM. It was a double feature but I was only able to see one movie before falling asleep. In 1973, A new phenonomen hit Stockton. CABLE TV! Unlike Cable of today with hundreds of specialty 24 hour Satellite Channels like HBO, ESPN, TBS or even THE SCI FI CHANNEL, Cable Tv was essentially a TV Antenna Service utilizing wires. We were able to pick up TV Stations from the Bay Area for the first time, Crystal Clear! My neighborhood didn't get hooked up for Cable TV until Early 1974, but I remember that day when the Cable Man installed Cable TV at our house. For years, I was tantalized by reading TV Listings for TV Stations in the Bay Area in the TV Guide. There were LOTS of Horror Movies shown on Channels such as KTVU-2 and KBHK-44. At that time, Local TV was only 6 TV Stations, KCRA-3(NBC), KVIE-6(PBS), KXTV-10(CBS), KOVR-13(ABC), KLOC-19(Religious/Spanish) and KTXL-40(Independent).
Now with Cable TV, our choices would expand. Initially, they offered KTVU-2, KQED-9, KEMO-20, and KBHK-44. Later on, they would add KRON-4, KPIX-5, KGO-7, KTSF-26, KGSC-36, KQEC-32 and others. It was cool, I was able to watch MONSTROUS MOVIE on KBHK as well as BOWERY BOYS, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO plus THE GHOUL on Friday Nights. Then there was a surprise that I never knew. On KTVU-2, I watched CREATURE FEATURES for the first time and Lo And Behold, it was hosted by none other than Bob Wilkins! How can that be, I said! He was on KTXL at the same time he was at KTVU. Was he twins? I was a little young, and I always thought Bob's show on KTXL was live but for the first time I finally realized that shows like this was taped! Now I felt like a kid in a Candy Shop. I had twice the amount of Bob Wilkins. It all depended on the movie, which was the determining factor whether I watch CREATURE FEATURES on KTVU or THE BOB WILKINS DOUBLE HORROR MOVIE on KTXL. Creature Features showed lots of the Universal Classics like FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA but KTXL had the Newer Hammer Films as well as those interesting German Krimis or Italian Giallos. It seemed (to me anyways) that KTXL showed more of the Foreign Horror and Sci-Fi Films while KTVU showed more of the Classic Monster Movies of the 30's, 40's and 50's. Another difference between the two shows was that Bob had intermission segments during the movies he showed on KTVU while Bob's segments at KTXL were at the beginning, after the first movie and before the second and at the end. There were fewer Bob Wilkins Segments on KTXL.
Another interesting factor was that Bob had competition for Creature Features while there was none in Sacramento. Not until KMUV-31 signed on the air in 1974. KMUV had a ALL MOVIE FORMAT, showing three movies a day and repeating it three times a day. And amongst those movies were Horror Movies. It was hosted by Radio DJ, JOHNNY HYDE but it was not your typical Horror Host type show that I recall, but he did show the classics as well as non-classics three times a day, 6 times a week. I didn't have to wait every Saturday to get my Monster Movie Fix, but I always watched Bob on Saturday Nights. Had to, Bob was addicting.
One thing about Bob Wilkins, I related to him. I was a Nerd while growing up and here was this nerdish looking host showing Horror Movies! I thought we were the best combination, Little did I know that there were Hundreds, if not Thousands who were like me and related to Bob too. One aspect of the show that I will always remember, is Bob sitting on the Rocker, smoking a Cigar. It wasn't until years later (1995 to be precise in PLANET X MAGAZINE), that I found out that he did this because of his On Camera Nervousness not that it would create his own trademark. There are a lot of people that I talk to that remember the shows, but can't seem to figure out his name but will always remember the Cigar and Rocker.
Over the years, Bob's KTVU Double Feature would be split in half between two days (Friday and Saturday Nights) and his KTXL show would be reduced to one. Then I remember the shock when he announced that he was leaving Creature Features in 1979. But strangely enough, he continued on over at KTXL. For many years, I couldn't figure it out. I thought maybe Bob had a falling out with KTVU management. All of a sudden, Bob was hosting Specials over at KTVU's Independent Competitor, KBHK-44 as well as KTXL. I now figure out that this was probably to prevent friction with John Stanley who was now hosting Creature Features, plus it was only a few specials, not a regular weekly show. But it was strange seeing Bob at KBHK. Then finally, Bob left KTXL in 1981, on Valentine's Day. His last movie there was DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS. Bob would come back for one more Special, The 3D showing of REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, but Bob would never return to TV 40.
On April 30, 1987, Bob Wilkins and Creature Features would return to KTVU. No, he wasn't coming back on a regular basis, Bob still had a successful advertising agency in the Bay Area. It was a One Time Special. He showed THE FOG, which unfortunately wasn't Creature Features material, but it was nice to see Bob again on the Boob Tube. The following year, Bob appeared on the KTVU 30TH Anniversary Show being interviewed by Comedian RONNIE SCHELL with a brief appearance by John Stanley. Then it wasn't until 1995 that Bob would make another appearance on TV, this time his old stomping grounds of KCRA Channel 3, but before I get to that, I want to back track a bit. After a successful career of being an ad man for his Advertising Agency (with accounts like MACY*S and Chuck-E-Cheese) in the 1980's, Then he got an offer he couldn't refuse at John Ascuaga's NUGGET Casino In Reno in 1991. Bob and Sally packed up their bags and relocated from California to Nevada to work as the Media Director. There he worked until a Heart Attack forced Bob into retirement in 1995. 1995, was also year that Scott Moon published the first issue of PLANET X MAGAZINE which was the Bob Wilkins Issue, with interview and pictures with Bob. Then later that year, Bob did a special Reunion Show on KCRA. After a 25 year absence from KCRA, he returned for a recreation of his SEVEN ATRS THEATRE including showing the first movie that Bob showed back in 1966, ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE. This time, KCRA added KELLYVISION to the showing of the movie, in which it would speed up the movie during the slow parts. Bob also had as guests were GEOFF WONG, who succeeded him at KCRA and GARY TOMSIC, who worked behind the cameras at KCRA as well as filming short films on 8mm. It was really nice to see Bob again, but it wouldn't be the last.
Two years later, Bob was interviewed by his friend, BOB SHAW, on a two part interview on KTVU-2. Unfortunately by this time, my Cable System no longer carried KTVU, but I was able to call Bob Shaw at KTVU and not only did he send me a VHS video of that interview but also unedited segments from the old Creature Features show. I was in heaven. Seeing these old shows for the first time in almost 20 years. I began a letter correspondence with Bob Shaw, which inspired me to consider writing a book called BOB WILKINS:THE MAN BEHIND THE CIGAR. Unfortunately it never happened. I did lots of research but never had the time to actually do it. I also had a chance to write Bob a personal letter and in returned he sent me an autographed photo which I cherish, even today (and is on the top of this post). In 1998, I bought a Video Collection from Bob Wilkins which had segments from KTXL also.A year later, I bought THE BOB WILKINS SCRAPBOOK which was done by TOM WRYSCH who is in control of The Bob Wilkins Archives and has done many great DVD's as well as the documentary WATCH HORROR FILMS, KEEP AMERICA STRONG.
After my Dad passed away from Cancer on May 15, 2004, I was a bit depressed but I discovered Scott Moon's Excellent Bob Wilkins Website at http://www.bobwilkins.net/ and it inspired me to create this Blog. And it was Scott Moon who encouraged me to continue with this Blog. With this blog, I wanted to research a little on not only Bob Wilkins and the movies he showed. Right now, I am posting weekly program schedules of Bob's KCRA show. I'd like to do the same with both KTVU and KTXL's schedules. In addition to this, I am doing write ups of other Late Night Television programs of yesteryears as well as current happenings. Just soon after I started my Blog in 2006, I found out that Bob was suffering from Alzheimers Disease. This bit of news bummed me out. My longtime dream of meeting my childhood idol was going to disappear. I thought I would never meet him. But in 2007, Scott Moon invited me to Bob's tribute show, CREATURE FEATURES FOREVER at The Crest Theatre on MARCH 25, and I finally met my childhood idol in the flesh, so to speak. Even though the Alzheimers Disease had slowed him and he didn't really speak, he still had that twinkle in his eyes and a very special smile and John Stanley took my picture with Bob Wilkins that I still treasure today.
I had heard that Sally and Bob moved back to Sacramento from Reno in 2006, but after 2 years, Sally moved Bob to a Care Facility in Reno, where she moved also. Now Bob is gone. Initially, I was distraught but I know that He is in a better place and is no longer in pain. Sally is planning a memorial for Bob in the coming weeks. Bob Wilkins is survived by his loving wife, Sally and their beautiful children, Rob and Nancy and Son In Law Tom Fitzpatrick, Two Grandchildren and sisters. Bob, You will be missed and I am forever grateful for the impact you made in my life. No, I am not a Film Maker, Actor or working in Television but I have a successful career as a Pastry Chef at a local Retirement Community and I never got in trouble. And I have this Blog. Thanks Bob!