Gilbert Gottfried died this month. I’ve never been the type of person to dwell on celebrity deaths–sure, it’s sad, but it’s still the death of someone I don’t know, and people I don’t know die every day. I’m not sure the best way to articulate that without revealing that I’m a monster, so there we go.
Even so, I found Gottfried’s death to be a little more sad than most, since he and his unusual voice hold a special place in my childhood memories.
Nope, guess again.
Aladdin was great and all, and I dig a good redemption arc (see Return of Jafar…although be warned that Gilbert Gottfried does his own singing, and he’s in more than one musical number)…but that’s not what I mean.
No, I associate Gottfried with a slightly different children’s show.
USA Up All Night
There we go.
During the 90’s, the USA network filled out their Saturday nights with low budget movies hosted by Gilbert Gottfried. Well, technically, they also had a Friday night edition hosted by Rhonda Shear…or, as I referred to her, The Impostor.
(I’m sure she was fine. But she wasn’t Gilbert Gottfried.)
Featured movies included such classics as Beach Babes from Beyond, The Bikini Carwash Company, and Beverly Hills Vamp. Presumably also some movies that don’t start with B, but the list I used as a reference was alphabetical, and I couldn’t be bothered to carry on any further.
In fairness, they weren’t all sexploitation films. Though there were quite a few. And I’ll remind you that the USA network is on cable, and therefore censored. So sexploitation without the sex, because why not? Or, more perhaps a better question would be, why?
As a kid, I can’t say I really had an interest in the lurid aspects of the movies, but as an adult looking back, I…I can’t actually point to anything about them that really did appeal, either. 
Admittedly, there were also more reputable movies, like Every Which Way But Loose and Kindergarten Cop.  But those weren’t the movies that defined this period in my life. Instead, Up All Night always brings to mind movies like…
Dream a Little Evil
Just so you can really, truly get an insight into what made me the way I am, let’s go into a little detail about this one, since I feel like it’s a decent representative for the batch as a whole.
In order to refresh my hazy, childish recollections, I turned to my preferred streaming services, Netflix and Hulu, which immediately failed me because no one wants to pay for licensing the garbage movies that aired on Up All Night.
Fortunately, bootleg YouTube videos saved the day yet again. Or, at least, facilitated watching a pretty bad movie.
Remember that time I watched 90 minutes of Grinch specials for a blog post? That was great, wasn’t it?
As far as substance goes, Dream a Little Evil answers the question: What would happen if Weird Science were a shitty horror movie?
Our “hero” is a young man who invents a machine that allows the wearer to create stuff with just his mind, simply by reaching conveniently out of frame and grabbing it, because it was apparently too much hassle to do a substitution splice.
Naturally–as happens with most scientific discoveries–the inventor’s dipshit friend immediately uses it to summon a demon from hell. To have sex with.
As an aside, the unedited version of this movie features far more nipples than I remembered.
Okay, with that out of the way…Inventor Guy (whose name I obviously didn’t catch) didn’t realize Dipshit Friend decided to play with the Magic Demon-Summoning Helmet, and so he just assumes he’s hallucinating when the monster (who happens to be a beautiful woman who can barely string together a coherent sentence) starts randomly showing up to try to seduce him and eat all his cereal.
It was, I suppose, innovative in its way, in that I’ve never seen a horror movie before that featured a lengthy scene of the protagonist masturbating to a fantasy about the villain while in the background there’s music that…sounds suspiciously like an old cell phone alarm going off.
And it’s during this time that the villain frequently recites her signature catch phrase, “Hi! I’m Angie!”
I mentioned she could barely string together a sentence for most the movie, right?
If this all sounds less than ominous, I’ll add that the movie is an hour and twenty five minutes long, and the first legit horror scene is almost exactly an hour into the movie.
(I say “legit” because there is technically a scene where Inventor McGee has a dream where he’s visited by “Death”–an unremarkable man in a trench coat–“visits” him and chides him for wishing someone would die if he didn’t mean it.)
And, in that legit scene, Angie abruptly turns into a hideous witch that attacks everyone, often by barfing on them…along with some sort of invisible monster, and like a…mutant potato thing…that are also here for some reason.
Anyway, soon everyone is dead, except the asshole brother I so far haven’t bothered to mention, who murders Inventor Guy in a blind rage because he understandably thinks Inventor murdered his girlfriend. And then it was all a dream. Except Death comes back, and no, it wasn’t a dream.
If my description of the horror in this horror movie seems a bit rushed, I’ll point out that, yeah, if the third act had turned out a little differently, this could’ve been an equally shitty rom com.
Back to the Point
So this was the context that I’ve always associated Gilbert Gottfried with. Yes, a snarky comedian who clearly hadn’t actually seen the garbage movies he periodically interrupted to segue into seedy commercials, but also something a little bit more.
I fell solidly outside the target demographic. But as the glory of SNICK faded away with Saturday evening, and the dreary gloom of Sunday loomed all too close, Gilbert was a comforting presence, because…hell, who knows why kids feel the way they do? He was probably just familiar, and I was sad.
I doubt that Gottfried–as he did his bits amid the slasher flicks and smut sprinkled with sketchy ads for phone sex and psychic hotlines–was thinking about the impact he’d have on someone like me. But when you put something out into the world, you don’t really choose how it will be received, and, for better or worse, I have an odd nostalgia for the show, for Gilbert, and for a feeling…ambivalent as it was… that I can never really have again.
Even if, as a grown-up, I’d probably prefer the parrot.
The Internet comments I’ve seen so far while pointlessly doing research for this post suggest that I, in fact, was the weirdo for preferring Gottfried. ↩︎
I could have sworn–up until looking into this again–that Up All Night had aired the movie Beastmaster, a mashup of Conan the Barbarian and Doctor Dolittle that has always stood out as a favorite low budget film from my youth. It’s a shame that they never did, because then at the least I could’ve pointed to this movie, where the appeal was clearly that it was about a dude who had ferrets. I have always loved ferrets because of this movie. But no. They never showed the movie. My childhood is a lie. ↩︎
Okay, okay, they also had Footloose and Field of Dreams. ↩︎
These aren’t related ideas. But they both happen. ↩︎
Why irony quotes? Because clearly it was too expensive to get the two actors in the same room, and so they papered over the awkward staging with Inventor Guy saying “Stay away from me,” and Death replying with “Don’t worry, I don’t intend to come any closer.” It was so awkward, in fact, that in my hazy childhood memory, I had mistaken it for a scene where Inventor is talking to a television. ↩︎
They were clearly aiming to rip off The Exorcist, as further evidenced by the fact that Angie spins her head around 360 degrees. Except they cut away for the part where she would’ve extended her neck around past a comfortable range. Again, special effects are a hassle. ↩︎
Understandably, yes, but not necessarily believably, in light of the acting involved. ↩︎