Night Owl Theater
Hosted by J. Brown
KGSC-TV (Now KICU-TV) 36, San Jose
1971 or 1972 - 197?
All night, weeknights (weekends, too?)
J. Brown, owner of Spartan Dodge on Stevens Creek Road in San Jose, was a major local advertiser in the early 1970s. His commercials were everywhere on UHF and the cheaper VHF airtimes.
The spots were standard local car dealer fare, with J. Brown caressing fenders and promising the best prices. And, as Cal Worthington had his wild animals, J. Brown had his Price Slasher. At random points during Spartan Dodge spots, this crudely animated cartoon psychotic would run across the screen flailing a machete at a fleeing dollar sign, and J. Brown would say "There goes that lil' ol' guy The Price Slasher, just a' hackin' and a' hewin' at those prices."
The commercials must have paid off well for Brown, because it wasn't long before he turned up hosting all night movies on KGSC-TV.
The bumper music was Classical Gas, which would play over the opening credits as the camera panned over Brown's ever-growing collection of owl motif bric-a-brac. The owls were sent in by viewers, who Brown called - somewhat ominously, I always thought - "my Night People."
The host segments had to have been taped, but I do remember Brown actually reading the names of the movies at the head of the show, and reading letters from the Night People during the breaks was a big part of his act.
It was the Night People and Brown's treatment of them which gave the show its strange tone.
The Night People were the housewives, graveyard workers, insomniacs, and others who were up late and also somehow identified with J. Brown. I recall more than a few letters from transplanted Southerners saying that hearing his accent made them feel homesick.
Brown always talked to the Night People as though they were family. The fact that a viewer could send in an owl, watch Brown open the package and find a place for the owl on the set, and then see it on TV every night afterward, contributed to the homey feeling of the show.
J. Brown projected a salesman's glad-handing bravado filtered through a vaguely creepy down-home demeanor. He spoke in a slow and easy Southern accent, with a smile both too large and too constant to be innocent. You couldn't help liking the guy, but you couldn't quite trust him either. He seemed to be up to something, and it was clear the Night People were part of the plan. We used to joke about the army of zombified Night People who might one day rise up to take over the Bay Area once Brown's ratings hit a certain level.
After a year or two on KGSC-TV, J. Brown took the act to KNTV 11, and The Old Sourdough and Watchikanoka took over KGSC-TV's all night slot, which became the long-running Movies 'til Dawn.