Some remember him as the voice of the bird from Aladdin. Others that weird comedian that seemed to pop up everywhere in the 90s. As for me I remember Gilbert Gottfried as the host of USA Up All Night. It was a schlocky TV series where he and a co-host would watch B horror movies as part of a mock Saturday evening horror party. It was pure entertainment.
I discovered my love and appreciation of b movies watching that show. Don’t get me wrong, saw Aladdin in theaters too, I remember all those annoying TV appearances and commercials he would pop up in. The man was an icon of my youth. It’s just the way my brain works, how I remember people sometimes.
I guess this isn’t really an expose on the life of an iconic entertainer. I’d rather save that sort of tributary writing to those more well versed in his body of work. I was affected by the news nonetheless thus here I am writing what can about it in the only way I know how.
By unpacking my personal memories of an pop culture icon following their passing away I can reflect on the impact they had on my own life. Did I mention my love of B movies comes from this man? It goes beyond just that though. I used to rush home from school to catch the weekday afternoon airings of Aladdin the animated series. Oh and you can bet your booty I was right there along the rest of us for his appearance in Saved by the Bell Wedding in Vegas. Still, it goes back to USA Up All Night for me. Why?
We grew up mostly in small, rural towns or often out in the country far from a video store, far from the reach of cable tv. It was a rarity for us to live in a populated enough town to have a cable company when we did get that rare luxury I would latch onto all its offerings like a bee on honey. USA Network was like WGN in that we often lived in small towns that barely offered the most basic of cable packages. USA was among those channels we had access to growing up. Disney, HBO, Discovery, even Sc-Fi as it was known then were channels you had to either pay extra for, or live in bigger cities with better cable companies.
The unbeaten path is where I venture most of my life. I was a huge fan of horror as a kid. Any opportunity to watch a horror movie, be it a VHS rental or a late night cable broadcast, I took it. USA Up All Night was one of those shows that spoon fed me additional horror content at a time when my options for access to the genre were fairly limited. Thus the memories that stand out to me are watching flicks like Sorority Babes in the Slime Ball Bowl o Rama, a flick Gottfried aired one of those late nights.
That’s what is was to me. That shrill voice introducing me to schlocky horror flicks I would not have otherwise experienced. Hell it was even one of those late nights I got to watch my, then, favorite Elm Street film The Dream Child when it aired on the program. Now truth be told he wasn’t the only host, but he was the one who stood out in my memories the most.
Say what you will about the man I’ll say this, he’s going to be remembered in different ways by different people. You might remember him as an obnoxious parrot. I remember him as this weirdo that showed me horror movies when I was supposed to be in bed.