Years before Night Flight, long before info-mercials had conquered the wee hours and more than a decade before Penn and Teller pretended to be late-night security guards hosting bad movies on Monster Vision, there was The All-Night Show.
In September of 1980 Toronto’s CFMT Channel 47 (Cable 4) launched The All-Night Show, which ran Monday through Friday from 2am to 6am, 1am to 6am on Saturdays. Chas Lawther earned a spot in Cult Valhalla by portraying CFMT’s Chuck the Security Guard, backed up by his never-seen sidekicks Errol Bruce and Michael Lennick playing Channel 47 cameramen Ryerson DuPont and P.B. Leonard. A young Jim Carrey did some voice work for the program during its lone year on the air. Jeff Silverman created and produced the show.
The show’s schtick was that Chuck, DuPont and Leonard would run their own pirate broadcast from CFMT’s facilities after the “real” station had gone off the air. Chuck and company would present bad and campy movies, music videos, cult t.v. shows and video oddities like old commercials, bizarre educational shorts and fragments of Canadian kitsch culture. Not only that but pitchmen could get air time on the show to hawk their new products, the more off-beat the better. Oddball comedy sketches and live phone calls were also part of The All-Night Show‘s regular segments.
Despite its comparatively short lifespan The All-Night Show has reached legendary status in Canada. The generation that caught the program when it was airing live are part of a very select club with an enviable claim to a certain “hipness beyond hip” status for getting to be there as it happened. One of those fans from the show’s actual run is the iconoclastic Canadian columnist Kathy Shaidle who blogs at http://www.fivefeetoffury.com/ and is the author of Confessions of a Failed Slut, available at Amazon.
Kathy was kind enough to share some of her memories of The All-Night Show:
“When I was in high school The All-Night Show was a very big deal. Yeah, I was a weird kid, but fortunately I had a couple of almost-as- weird friends and sometimes they’d stay overnight to watch it with me.
“Even though we knew it was ‘fake’ the idea of a security guard taking over the TV station at night appealed to the rebel in us and all the other teenagers I knew were hooked on the show.
“Add other factors – staying up late, sitting in the dark, watching esoteric Fish Heads type stuff our boring classmates knew nothing about – and The All-Night Show hit on a great formula. It was one pioneered by Vampira and carried on in local stations across the U.S. but The All-Night Show veered from the Horror Host template and created its own ‘thing’.
“I bought a white on black T-shirt with The All-Night Show logo at Hamilton’s now-defunct Star Records. I’d never fit into it now and it is now almost see-through, but the last time I wore it in public I was offered $100. No sale!”
All good things and cult shows come to an end, however, and after a year of late-night madness mixed in with live guest-appearances by the likes of Richie Havens and others, the end of the road arrived for Chuck the Security Guard. Exact details are still sometimes disputed on various sites around the web but it all boiled down to a disagreement between The All-Night Show‘s creator and producer Jeff Silverman and CFMT management about the budget for the program’s upcoming second season.
When an agreement could not be reached by August of 1981 the show was slated for cancellation, prompting Silverman to bulk-erase most of the existing footage of the show to prevent CFMT from being able to simply rebroadcast the first season. Many fans taped the show and some of those tapes occassionally show up for sale. Some of the program’s finest moments were preserved by Silverman and company and showed up in the tape Chuck’s Choice Cuts: The Best of The All-Night Show with Psychotronic magazine’s late Michael Weldon rumored to have been one of the owners of that collector’s item.
Chuck the Security Guard was gone but Chas Lawther continues to this day working in the entertainment industry, most recently on the sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie. In the early 1980’s he had teamed with Suzette Couture, who played Fran the Night Nurse on The All-Night Show, to form the comedy duo Joined at the Hip.
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