Mystery Playhouse 90.1

1985 - 1991

"The Count" was the vampire host of Mystery Playhouse 90.1

Mystery Playhouse was an independent production taped at KZSU in Palo Alto, Ca. It first aired in the San Francisco Bay area in September 1985, but has since been syndicated throughout North America via the Yesterday USA Satellite Superstation. The series usually featured classic horror and science fiction dramas from radio's golden era, though original plays were also recorded and aired specifically for the series. The first 59 episodes were called Mystery Playhouse 90.1, because the series was 90 minutes long and it aired on 90.1 FM. The host was called "The Count," played by writer and producer Kurt Kuersteiner. The Count was an homage to the SCTV character "Count Floyd." He acted and sounded like Floyd, but he also had a machine-gun delivery of constant one liners. Each was followed by a Halloween sound effect that worked a lot like a drum beat and cymbal crash.

Kurt Kuersteiner voiced "The Count" in 1985. A new host and shorter format began with episode 60.

The Count occasionally teamed up with "Vampirilla", featuring the sultry, sexy voice of Lynn Worthington. She usually appeared on special programs like Halloween. But even the guest star appearances did little to reduce the time consuming task of writing so many jokes. The heavy emphasis on humor became too much for the producer to manage. "After about a year, it became nerve racking trying to come up with new material every week," recalls Kuersteiner. "There were no vacations, and it started to become a grind. The series was meant to be a weekly venue to build up an audience for original radio plays, but I spent so much time writing one liners, there just wasn't any time or energy left over for anything else. I felt euphoric after completing every show... for about one hour until I had to start on the next."

Lynn Worthington was the sultry, sexy voice of "Vampirilla", the occasional co-host.

Fortunately for Kuersteiner, an unexpected solution came calling-- on the phone. "Then a listener named Rick called one evening to say how much he enjoyed the show," Kuersteiner remembers, "I thought, 'wow, this guy sounds better than Boris Karloff! If the host had a voice like him, he wouldn't need to be funny, he would sound great being dead serious!' I asked him if he would audition for the show, and he said, 'uh, well there's one problem. I'm blind.'"

It might have ended there, but it didn't. Kuersteiner continues. "I thought, 'well that's that. Insert foot into mouth.' And I quickly changed the subject to smooth over the awkward moment. But as we kept talking, I kept thinking, 'This guy really does sound amazing. Maybe he can just memorize the lines or I can feed them to him through his headphones. There's gotta be a way.' I invited him for a tour of the station, but practically threw him into the recording studio the moment he arrived. We worked out a system for delivering his lines and the rest is history."

The caller's name was Rick Kabrich, and he would become the signature voice of Mystery Playhouse for another 175 episodes. For his story, check out the history of Mystery Playhouse & Dr. Morgan.

For more articles and information on both hosts of Mystery Playhouse 90.1, go here.

The Count and helper prepare a show in the underground KZSU Studios at Stanford.

You can hear Kurt Kuesteiner discuss the golden age of radio drama in via MP3 / (from July 26, Old-Time Radio Night, part 1) from the WBSM SpookySouthCoast radio program from July 26, 2008.

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