“I made my first G. I. Joe space capsule from a discarded Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket.” —Tom Razooly
During the 1970s-’80s, a multi-talented, self-reliant and creative young actor named Tom Razooly was making an unusual (yet eminently enjoyable) living in northern California portraying a mysterious, top-hatted host of a schlocky late-night television program called, “Horror Theatre.” Tom’s character, dubbed “The Great Razooly,” was a sort of macabre master-of-ceremonies who would ominously introduce each B-movie, provide sarcastic segue patter leading into and out of commercial breaks, and act in a variety of short comedic sketches produced on the cheapest of budgets.
Horror Theatre was a ratings success, and Razooly’s natural flair for dramatic and creative performing helped revive TV’s on-air hosting tradition. Ostensibly, the genre of hosted late-night horror programming originated on radio programs back in the 1940s, then naturally evolved along with television into the 1950s, ultimately producing such famous TV personalities as the impossibly thin-waisted “Vampira” (portrayed by actress Maila Nurmi) and the busty, suggestive sexpot, “Elvira” (aka actress Cassandra Peterson).
Over the years, there have been many TV horror-hosts, and many performers influenced by them. For example, it’s not inconceivable to believe that Razooly’s Horror Theatre, broadcast in the Pacific Northwest, was seen at some time by comic-actor Joe Flaherty, providing him with the inspiration for his own hilarious “Count Floyd” character on Canada’s SCTV. Similarly, the “Great Svengoolie” (as currently portrayed by Chicago actor, Rich Koz on the MeTV channel) shares many similarities with Tom’s character AND Count Floyd, both in terms of appearance and “schtick.” (If it ain’t broke…)
After his tenure on television, Razooly reinvented himself as the founder and operator of an adult-oriented business on the outskirts of Eureka, CA known as the Tip Top Club. As the years went by, Tom became a well-known (although somewhat controversial) figure among the local citizenry of Eureka, which encouraged him to run for Mayor (at least two times, both unsuccessfully).
Eventually, Tom sold the Tip Top and retired from business altogether. Now, years later, he is reinventing himself once again, focusing on the more laid-back pursuits of art, travel, costumed “cosplay,” and the rekindling of a long-lost childhood love— GIjOEs. Predictably, the creative symbiosis between art and GijOEs quickly inspired Tom to scratch-build a growing collection of 1:6 scale structures and vehicles, which he thoroughly enjoys setting up in elaborate and imaginative outdoor “adventures.” (Imagine that. Playing with GIjOEs—OUTDOORS!) Here are some examples:
Tom clearly enjoys taking photographs of his hard work and sharing it with other customizers of 1:6 scale. According to Razooly:
“It feels good to have others see my photos. Feel free to share them with any G.I.Joe fans you may know!”
Impressed by his 1:6 creations, we asked Tom to elaborate on his latest reincarnation as a GIjOE fan and customizer. He replied:
“Well, when I retired from business several years ago, the thought came to me; ‘What could I do with all my old GIjOE friends and my artistic skills on a budget?’ EBay’s prices for 1:6 scale vehicles and props were outrageous, so I set out to make ’em all myself!”
“As my 1:6 scale modeling skills increased, I challenged myself to do more and more complex modeling. Beginning with simple things like fuel barrels and coffee pots, then on up to dump trucks, trains and bombed-out chalets.”
Razooly’s life has been an ever-changing tapestry of creative experiences. Originally from San Francisco, he now resides in Blocksburg, CA, and has recently become engaged to be married. In addition to living his real life, like many GIjOE fans, Tom also enjoys pursuing the fantasy world of costumed role-play, or “cosplay.” After reviewing photos of his many outfits, we returned to his original horror get-up and asked him if his famous “Great Razooly” top hat was real or simply a cheap knock-off from the TV station’s prop room. He replied:
“My top hat? Ahh… very astute of you. It is indeed ‘real.’ I’m so old now, everything has a story these days. When I was 15 years old, my father gave me a 70-year old ‘beaver felt top hat.’ I loved that hat and wore it all through my teen years, and into my adult life as a local late-night TV horror host. Eventually, my old antique hat wore out. By that time, my daughter had grown and was working in the movie industry as a set designer. She let me know of a Hollywood costume company that made movie quality costuming. I gave my antique top hat to them and asked for a brand new replica. They made this one for me 15 years ago, and it is PERFECT!”
Some of Razooly’s gifts and talents were recognized and utilized at a very early age. In fact, according to Tom:
“Back in my youth, I worked as a child model for ‘Revell Models.’ I did a photo-shoot once for their ‘Apollo Saturn V Moon Rocket’ kit. I don’t think that’s me on the ‘Collector’s Set’—but it MIGHT be.”
Interesting! It’s been well established that many young boys of the 1950s and ’60s were deeply influenced by the building and collecting of model kits (and GIjOEs) when they were young. (Sadly, today’s less “hands-on” generation suffers greatly in this regard.) And now, as an adult, Razooly continues to enjoy building and creating, using whatever materials he can easily and affordably “scrounge” from nearby sources. According to Tom:
“My GIjOEs gave me days and days of wonderful, imaginative entertainment. And I honed my adolescent art skills by making my own 1:6 scale props from old oatmeal containers, pieces of cardboard and good ol’ masking tape. In fact, I made my first GIjOE space capsule from a discarded Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket!”
“Recently (for some reason), I got it into my head to create a big, GIjOE camp. I couldn’t really find or afford many of the pieces I wanted, so I slowly began to make them as well as I could. Of course I went on the web, looking at those new super-cool, all-metal Willy’s Jeeps. But the price tag was just too rich for my blood. So instead, I cobbled together, and detailed-out 5 plastic jeeps I’d bought that were damaged and had missing parts for only about $19 each. I still dream of finding a damaged Jeep with enough parts that I can make a custom canvas-covered troop carrier out of it.”
“I’m never too exact with my 1:6 Joe stuff. I just like to create things that the kids and I can PLAY with. Occasionally, no budget and a little experience can pull you through!”
Bottom Line: Tom’s work reflects a lifetime of talent, backed up by solid creativity and an obvious appreciation for “hands-on,” scratch-built craftsmanship. With an entire forest at his disposal and his own private “Joe Land, ” we can’t wait to see what he makes next. And we can’t help but wonder: Will we ever see “The Great Razooly” on TV again? Or maybe “LIVE and in person” at a GIjOE show—with some of his cool 1:6 scale custom creations? Stay tuned!
THIS JUST IN… We were able to track down a photo of Revell’s 1969 “Collector’s Set” that Tom mentioned, but the boy’s face on the box is turned to the side somewhat and in shadow, making it difficult to say if it’s him or not. The chances are pretty good that it IS, because the boy’s hair is more brunette and parted on the same side as Tom’s hair is today. Razooly said he wasn’t sure if it was him, but that it MIGHT be. What do you think?