Remembering Marty Sullivan, WUAB TV's 'Superhost'

Ralph DiMatteo Culture History

Superhost Theatre Cleveland

Many of us longtime Clevelanders remember it like it was just this past Saturday afternoon. “Hello der” (dare) was how Marty Sullivan, aka “Superhost,” greeted his fans when coming on air or back from commercials during his successful run on local Cleveland television station WUAB. The show, in a variety of formats, enjoyed a nice long run of 20 years from 1969 to 1989.

Sullivan performed a variety of jobs at the station prior to and during his run as Superhost. He was a floor director and an on- and off-air show host while also wearing a very baggy, cartoonish version of a Superman costume complete with a red nose.

Fans eagerly awaited the start of the show with Supes On! at noon each Saturday. The hour-long show was the warm-up act for usually a horror movie of some kind and included Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy shorts. Commercial breaks saw Sullivan come out to talk to and joke with the audience and present skits. The skits included other “take-off” characters such as “Fat Whitman” (Slim Whitman) and the “Moronic Woman” (The Bionic Woman).

After his warm-up hour came “The Mad Theater” where the various horror movies were shown, with more skits, jokes, and audience interactions at commercial breaks.

As more varied programming started to become available, such as studio wrestling, the show seemed to be in a constant state of evolvement, eventually being shaved down to just a single hour under the Supes On banner in 1987, with Superhost appearing at the commercial breaks from 11 a.m. to noon during Munsters and Batman reruns.

From 1988 through its finale in December 1989, the show saw one final format change to Three Stooges shorts and a cartoon.

As mentioned earlier, Sullivan performed a variety of roles around the station, even filling in for another Cleveland icon, John Lanigan, as host of the Prize Movie when Lanigan wasn’t available.

But what most people didn’t realize about Sullivan was that he came from a news background at radio station 1220 WGAR. Most notable of his coverage assignments at WGAR was his on-air coverage of the Hough riots, which was critical at the time because social media and immediate distribution of news updates wasn’t as readily available.

Here's something we are certain that only the most faithful of Superhost viewers will remember: Even though they did their show on rival WJW, Hoolihan and Big Chuck, which of course evolved into Big Chuck and Little John, the boys periodically had Superhost appear in skits. We recently had the opportunity to ask Little John himself about this bit of Cleveland television history and he simply said, "We never thought of ourselves as rivals; we were there to support each other and entertain the viewers.”

Sullivan retired in 1993 and enjoyed a nice long retirement until his passing in February 2020 in West Virginia. Our favorite of Sullivan’s personal career reflections would have to be that occasionally he was pressed into service on Friday nights while taping his Superhost show. The funny part was that he hurriedly would put on a jacket and tie, while under the desk still be in his Superhost costume.

What else is there to say but to thank Marty Sullivan for another batch of great childhood memories as Superhost.

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