"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

BOB WILKINS (1932-2009)
Popular Host of KTVU's "Creature Features"

Bob on the set of "Creature Features" at KTVU TV-2, circa 1971.

Bob Wilkins, the legendary and beloved host of KTVU's "Creature Features" has been suffering from advanced Alzheimer's for several years and saddled with rapidly declining health. Now, I am afraid to report that only four hours after I received word that his wife Sally, and Bob’s doctors, said that we should prepare for his passing, Robert Gene Wilkins, has left us. He's gone.

This is indeed sad, but inevitable news... His state was advanced and there was no hope to save him. Bob means a lot to me, not only as a legendary horror host I grew up with, but as a mentor. Man, Bob Wilkins was our hero — everyone at school talked about "Creature Features"! It was the greatest thing at the time — it's hard to explain the impact the show had on Bay Area viewers in the '70s. Especially the impact the show and its host, had on me — he was a personal friend, and like a father to me.

As a kid, I met Bob in the early '70s, and a few years later, was invited to be on his show to talk about Godzilla... I was only a kid, but Bob treated me like an adult, which was unlike most grown-ups. In fact, as nervous as I was (my leg was shaking the entire time), Bob asked me to come back to the show, to provide information on Japanese monster movies for "Creature Features." What a thrill, it seems so surreal now. In fact, I think it felt surreal back then, too. This too, is similarly, surreal.

When Bob launched the "Captain Cosmic" show in 1977, he invited me to come on the show to talk about THE SPACE GIANTS, and asked — a clueless teenager — for suggestions for other programs to run on "Cosmic." This was the kind of guy that Bob was. After the death of my Mom in early 1979 (my Dad was already deceased), Bob became like a surrogate family member, kept me in his thoughts, called me when he found opportunities for me, and put up the money to launch my short-lived "Godzilla Fan Club."

Bob phoned me one day, and told me to call a woman at Bill Graham Presents, who was looking for recordings of "monster sounds" to play before a Day on the Green concert. "The Monsters of Rock" (featuring AC/DC and Ted Nugent). So, I dubbed some sound effects from a couple of Japanese LPs, and was paid in cash and four backstage passes. Bob also offered an interview at KTVU to intern for a Cameraman position — which I turned down for fear of somehow blowing it and disappointing him.

Looking back on it now, Bob Wilkins was more than a surrogate family member, like an uncle, he was more like a father (well, a cool Step Dad, really). He means the world to me, and always will. Not for the shows he did, or being my favorite Horror Host of all time, but for the kind and generous man that he was, and will continue to be in my heart, for as long as I live.

Bob also meant a lot to so many others, more that you can imagine. So, if you were a fan of Bob Wikins and grew up with "Creature Features" and "Captain Cosmic" or were lucky enough to know him as a friend, please send your respects at his Official MySpace page or at the Official Bob Wilkins website — thank you.

Rest in Peace, Bob!
August Ragone
Your #1 Fan

Here's a classic Bob Wilkins Creature Features clip from the mid-'70s.


Bubbashelby said...

Sorry to hear the sad news. Prayers sent.

Prof. Grewbeard said...

wow, what a charming guy he was! would've liked to have had him for our town's horror host(Houston). i can't even remember the name of the guy we had here, just his sidekick- Melvin, the Dummy Mummy!

rockettubes said...

I've been a deep fan of anime and Japanese culture for nearly 30 years, and it's almost entirely thanks to Captain Cosmic, and particularly this show was what opened my eyes:

Bob's show changed my life and made me who I am today in ways I can't even begin to explain, as did your contribution to understanding the Japanese origins of the programming. I thank you both and will deeply miss Bob. I'll never forget his show.

D.J. said...

Woke up late and checked my rss feed. So sorry to hear about Mr. Wilkins. For 2 years of my youth i lived in San Rafael. Creature Features was my entrance to a wonderful world. Even though my family moved back to N.Y. in 1977, I had never forgotten the name nor the theme song to those late, late wide eyed nights.
I had a memorial tattoo made today for the beloved host who piqued my interest at that young age. my prayers go out to his family and cheers to you Mr. Wilkins. Into the great beyond!

John W. Morehead said...

I just received word and posted my own tribute. Bob was not only a horror phenomenon for monster kids in the Bay Area with a good antenna or cable, but also for us in the Stockton and Sacramento areas of northern California through KTXL Channel 40. He truly made my childhood and helped nurture my love for the horrid and fantastic. With his passing a piece of my childhood goes with him. He will be missed.