LETTERS  PCR #438      (August 11--17, 2008)

  • Reader remembers Clearwater's Gateway Mall (and Andy Lalino responds)
  • Reader remembers Dr. Paul Bearer and Creature Feature (and ED Tucker responds)

    Letters to the EditorWe welcome your feedback.


    I wanted to compliment you on your column. I grew up in Meadowlawn and have many memories of the mall. Haircuts at the barber shop, eating at Eckerds, McCrorys and especially the Morrisons Cafeteria. I even worked at Zayres in the late 80s before they closed. I have been web searching for any old photos or maps of the mall, but no luck so far. Please let me know if you find any. Thanks.

    Wes Carr

    Hi, Wes,
    Thanks for sharing those great memories of St. Petersburg's original incarnation of Gateway Mall, before the corporations came in and turned it into a dull, lifeless, generic shopping strip center devoid of any personality whatsoever. I guess that's not only "progress", but a norm in life during the cracker-bland 2000's.

    Note: In my response to you below you will see references to some "weird stuff". That is because many of us here on the site are "fanboys" - fans of horror, science-fiction, and fantasy.

    When you compare/contrast the Gateway Mall of now (it's not actually an indoor mall, it's a strip center) it's easy to contrast the different eras. In the '70s/'80s we had a game room (called the Dream Machine), Gateway Mall Books & Gifts (where I purchased by very first Dungeons & Dragons tomes, Conan paperbacks, Dr. Who novels, Heavy Metal magazine, Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, etc.), Paperback Booksmith & Musicsmith (where I would marvel at the artwork of ELO, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin album covers and for the first time saw The Sex Pistols in print), Gateway Mall II Theaters, Specs Music, and of course the venerable Pot O' Gold video, which changed my life. I mean, renting all those exploitation/cult films in the early '80s warped me forever!

    I even recall enduring JByrons while my mom shopped for clothing. I'd sneak over to the book section and read Mad magazine paperbacks! Occasionally, they'd have Wizard of Id ones too.

    It's tough to even find a picture of the old Gateway Mall. I've 'Googled' the name, and all it comes up with are lame stores that sell a bunch of junk taking up space. I suggest attempting to "Google" some of the past proprietors to see if they have any sites devoted to the past businesses that previously existed at Gateway. Your best bet may be the aforementioned Gateway Books & Gifts (who may have migrated to Seminole Mall). I recall it was a family business who were well-respected among fanboys of the time. Good Star Trek fans, that bunch.

    Just a few more stores that may jog some good memories: Orange Julius; that strange, very dark pet store (near the JByrons entrance) that sold mostly fish and sick birds in the back (sad); the ceramic store which I remember was run by a man in a wheelchair, Lemon Tree spa (with the Greek/Roman sculptures of women that kids rubbed the nipples off of), Golddome bank, the legendary Country Dinner Playhouse (one time we saw Anne B. Davis eating at Morrisons after a play); and there was a good Italian pizza place which I believe was called D'Italia.

    Lastly, I'll remind you of the times when our esteemed horror host Dr. Paul Bearer made appearances there at several haunted houses and the infamous stunt shows in the parking lot featuring Captain Ego. In one stunt, he dodges blowdarts, in another, he drove a motorcycle through a wall of flames! I also remember when Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers/Tarzan star Buster Crabbe made a special appearance there.

    Count me in as a member of the Gateway Mall Preservation Society -- we have to keep those memories alive!!

    Andy Lalino
    Clearwater, FL


    Thanks for your terrific information pages on Dr. Paul Bearer. I always wondered how early that broadcast of DEADLY MANTIS was that I saw back in '73 and it's great to know that it was the first (non-premiere) show. I'm amazed that the list still exists.

    My compliments to Ed on the article and interview. I'm jealous that he has the original costume, but glad it's in good hands.

    My family bought our first home video recorder around this time (the kind that popped the tape straight out of the top), but as I would record my favorite films, I would be very careful to edit out the commercials AND DR. PAUL BEARER to obtain the most cohesive storyline -- now I wish I had done anything but that.

    I wrote Dick in the early '90s, expressing my gratitude and was happy to receive an autographed photo from him. After all, I feel he's in large part responsible for my career in entertainment design and my collection of sci-fi memorabilia. Was sorry to see him go.

    I've been fortunate to find his 20th Anniversary Show on Ebay as well as the Lost Reels, which I thoroughly enjoy. Hopefully more of his shows will turn up because of this site.

    Beast Witches,
    Michael Dean

    Michael, thanks so much for writing! I'm always happy to hear from a fellow fan of Dr. Paul Bearer and Creature Feature. I'm also happy to hear our Creature Feature Database was of some help to you in recalling episodes of this wonderful series.

    Don't forget to take a look at our Creature Feature store! There might be something there to your linking from the few extant episodes we've been able to secure of good quality.

    And now, please find below a few words from the author of the Dr. Paul Bearer Interview... ---Nolan B. Canova

    I am glad you enjoyed the Creature Feature areas on the website and thank you for the compliments. I hate to say it but I made the exact same mistake you did with cutting the commercial and Dr. Paul Bearer segments out of many of the Creature Feature movies when I taped them. My family bought their first VCR in 1982. Back then you could not buy an off brand VHS tape on sale for less than $10 and most name brands were $25! Being a high school student on a very limited budget, I had to make every tape count but I still regret not taping more full episodes. Your story regarding writing Dr. Paul Bearer is a typical one and just demonstrates what a great guy he was and how he truly appreciated his fans. I am certain that has a lot to do with why so many people remember him fondly and still enjoy watching old episodes of Creature Feature so many years after its last broadcast. I also write the Retrorama column and recently sent out a request for people to share their collections with the readers of this website. I would love to talk to you about yours and if you could take some pictures I would be happy to showcase it in a future column. We are working on some plans to revamp the Creature Feature store in October in celebration of Dr. Paul Bearer's favorite holiday - Halloween. You might want to take this opportunity to check out the current version. I can't say much at this point, but some of the current titles will be retired shortly so this is your last opportunity to pick them up!

    ED Tucker
    Jacksonville, FL

    To send an email to Letters to the Editor write to: Crazedfanboy1@aol.com.  Any emails sent to this address will be assumed intended for publication unless you specifically instruct me not to. I can and do respond privately, if that is your preference. Frequently, it's both ways.---Nolan

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