Man behind the mask

Frank Leto

Photo By David Robert

Frank Leto created the late-night horror movie host Zomboo, who, on KOLO’s House of Horror Movies, presents cinematic landmarks such as Screaming Scull and Eegah each Saturday night at 11:30. Leto’s schtick is to tape additional scenes that are inserted into the films. In civilian life, he is KOLO’s creative services manager.

Where you grew up [Long Island], did you have some kind of creature features program?

Yes, it was Chiller Theatre, and John Zacherle was the host, and that was back in 1963. They had horror movies, just little skits that were interspersed in the show. More skits than cut-ins because at that time, you know, television was in its infancy, and there wasn’t a lot of tape like there is now to do the fancy stuff.

Do you acknowledge a debt to predecessors like Mystery Science Theatre 2000?

Nope. Never watched it. I patterned my show after Soupy Sales, whom I really liked watching—very funny man, very nice man. Met him a couple of times and, you know, have an autographed picture of him hanging in my office here. We took the idea of his show and combined it with the horror movie type thing.

Why is Zamboo pronounced Zambo but spelled Zamboo?

I don’t know. Why is it tomato and tomawto, potato and potawto? I have no idea.

You were at the local Emmys, and I found this suggestion online for future ceremonies: “Make sure a late night horror movie host is involved. All the presenters were local anchors except one—Zamboo, [who] gave out the awards in character. … After a parade of talking news heads trying desperately to be off the cuff, Zamboo, with his absurdly sing-song cadence when reading lengthy list of names, stole the show.”

That’s true. … You need comic relief, and you need entertainment, and the problem is at a lot of these award shows—especially the local ones, where you have a lot of the news people competing against each other—they tend to be very pious and self righteous and legends in their own mind. And people still want to be entertained. And they kept referring back to Zamboo through the entire thing…They just kept feeding off the thing for the rest of the night.

When you have a date with a woman, at what point do you tell her you’re Zamboo?

I don’t really. It depends, if we go out more than once or twice—actually, if it comes up in the conversation—"What do you do?” Well, I’m the creative services manager at Channel 8. … I write, and I produce funny commercials. … Eventually, I guess, it comes out, or they figure it out, or they watch the show and go, “Oh, that was you.”

You’re selling your version of some of the movies you show. What did it cost to get the right to reproduce fine films like I Eat Your Skin?

Nothing because they’re in the public domain. Everything we show is in the public domain.

Let me read you this. This is someone’s Web page: “Every time I take a weekend trip to Reno, Saturday night I’m always back at my room watching Zamboo. His show is reason enough for me to go to Reno. … Zamboo, if you read this, send me an email.” Did you send him an e-mail?

Yes, I did. It’s an art thing. He has a lot of art that he put on there, as I remember it. … I sent him one, and I said, “I wish I could draw as well as you do.” But I can’t, so that’s why I’m Zamboo.