Mr. Cardille died early this morning at that the young age of 87. Newscaster, actor, horror host, teleathon, radio host, he did it all with a smile. Chilly Billy was the nicest person I could ever meet. As I write this I have tears in my eyes but not of sadness but enjoyment of remembering all the good and entertainment this one man did. I have told this story many times before but it is worth telling one more time.
Bill Cardille will always be Chilly Billy to me. At the age of 3 in 1978 this man with his personality aka horror host of the show “Chiller Theater” made such an impact, impression on me that it has stayed with me and shaped my life since then. He was a host that would talk bad movies and play around with a cast of others that seemed just as crazy as he was. I was 3, what did I know? But his double feature that night was “The Creeping Terror” and “Twisted Brain” aka “Horror High”. Watching both of these bad horror movies made me not only crave bad movies but more Chilly Billy like most of Pittsburgh residents and people in surrounding counties on a late Saturday night. A few months pass and I was hooked especially when I got to watch “Creature from the Black Lagoon” for the first time. It didn’t matter if I stayed awake for both films the point was I stayed awake to hear Mr. Cardille speak and see the first ten minutes and life was complete. It got to the point when I was 5 and this memory would stick in my mind because it was shortly after my mom and dad getting divorced. My mom would work late at a place called, “Mr. Hero’s” on Sussex and McNeilly Rd., then walk up this big hill Cedric ave. to our alley. I would scream, cry, etc., until my brother would walk me down the alley (most likely in pajamas, remember I am 5) to meet my mom and we would go make popcorn and watch Chilly Billy.
Let’s not forget the special Halloween shows or the special Saturday 8pm show he would do once during the summer. It was usually “Creature from the Black Lagoon” or “Night of the Living Dead” in 3-D. You would have to get the glasses from the local Stop-N-Go before they were Cogo’s and a Bingo card for the special night. This was the beginning of my love for horror films. But January 1, 1984, Chilly Billy was off the air. Years would pass and Mr. Cardille would still do radio but I always had those memories. Then a couple years ago at the local horror convention Horror Realm, Chilly Billy made a special appearance. I could not wait. I was almost jumping out of my seat for joy when he came into the convention. What made it even more special was the lines of people that started to show up. These masses of people or large groups were only stuff you would hear of at a convention in L.A. or New York for a Bruce Campbell, Robert Englund, insert a big name horror celebrity. But this was for Bill Cardille as lines of people wrapped all over the convention to the point other celebrities were not only impressed but amazed and wanted autographs too. Of course I got in line early and got a picture signed for me but had a second signed for my mom. I knew Chilly Billy has heard all kinds of stories from Pittsburgh residents about his show but he sat there with a smile and listened to my story as a kid watching Chiller Theater with my mom. And he grabbed the picture and signed it to my mom (no charge of course because he is a nice guy) and wrote something cool to my mom just because and spent more time just talking about all the people that would come together watching his show. The picture now sits in my mom’s china closet next to a finger-painted Pac-Man picture from when I was 5 years old. My mom thought it was unbelievable he did that and was excited too just to have his autograph.
Throughout the years I always heard stories from people of how nice Bill Cardille was and just the fun stuff he did on Chiller Theater. He was an icon of this city and always approached it like he was just another yinzer that lived here. If there was one thing I can do it is, when I grow up I wanna be Bill Cardille. Newscaster, actor, horror host, studio wrestling commentator, radio host, good father, all around nice guy. This is why I celebrate a man that left such a mark not only on me but a city, a county, and a lot of people surrounding the Pittsburgh area and say thank you for your short time here. I wish you safe travels and may Chiller Theater live forever…