The Ghoulardi All-Stars, a Charitable Endeavor Featuring Cleveland Legends

Ralph DiMatteo

Ghoulardi All Stars

Most native Clevelanders are at least aware of Cleveland television pioneer legend Ghoulardi, or one Ernie Anderson, who went on to Hollywood fame as the voice of ABC television promos. Most memorable was his deep booming voice calling out the phrase “The Loooove Boat” in promotion of one of the network's most popular shows of the time.

What most Clevelanders might not remember was Anderson’s use of his local fame here in Cleveland to organize other local celebrities as the Ghoulardi All- Stars to play football, basketball, and softball games to raise funds for local charities.

These efforts on their part were not one-and-done things every year, either. At the peak of their popularity, these volunteers were doing perhaps over a hundred events per year, so they literally put their own personal time into making the community a better place to live, giving families great entertainment and accessibility for great causes.

Tim Conway, another proud Clevelander who went to a great career of his own, most notably on McHale’s Navy and The Carol Burnett Show, was one of the All-Stars and recalled the team being able to attract almost sold-out crowds to Cleveland Stadium. I actually had the honor of meeting Mr. Conway at a Ghoulardifest appearance in 2013 at the La Villa Conference and Banquet Center, where he actually discussed during the Q&A his time as one of the team’s All-Stars. 

Bob “Houlihan” Wells, yet another Cleveland icon, said that the hard-working, dedicated group was able to raise over $250,000 for local charitable causes. Of note, Houlihan and Big Chuck picked up the mantle of the charitable efforts when their show gained popularity and also did a considerable amount of events themselves. I was able to see them in person when they came to my high school Maple Heights in 1976 to play our teachers in a charitable basketball game.

Getting back to the Ghoulardi All-Stars, it should be noted that the team’s rosters were not always totally made up of local celebrities. There were many a time that Anderson and others had to grab crew members and their family members, and even used the opportunity to pay back show sponsors by offering them a chance to be part of the fun.

At one point, despite the outreach into the community being wildly successful, the station's program director informed Anderson that the station couldn’t afford the overtime for the cameramen to be at the events. Anderson maintained that without that coverage, attendance was suffering, and as a consequence so was the raising of funds.

So, ever the boat rocker, Anderson televised a card with the home phone number of the director on it, encouraging fans to voice their concerns. Needless to say, the policy was changed and, as you might expect, the home number was changed as well.

You just didn’t challenge or say no to Ernie Anderson without paying a bit of a price.

(Photo credit: Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University)

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