Stella Desire is a horror host from the Philaelphia area. Stella is a frequent and popular celebrity guest at horror conventions all over the country. She is best known for hosting the late night horror movie television show "Saturday Night Dead."The program was hosted by Stella , dubbed "the man-eater from Manayunk" (a section near the Schuylkill River, a working-class neighborhood) or the "Daughter of Desire," Stella delighted in half-clad gorgeous young men and often had one or two hanging in her dungeon awaiting her pleasure. According to her biography, Stella was "born in North Libido, New Jersey, a small village outside of Atlantic City. She is the only child of traveling hecklers. Her parents dropped her in a plastic basket at Fifth and Shunk in front of Guido's Hair Weaving and Plumbing Supplies, but for all intents and purposes she was raised by a flock of pigeons".
Reincarnated 37 times, Stella was just your typical "ghoul" next door.
In real life, she is Karen Scioli, a South Philadelphia born actress and homemaker who weekly donned a push-up bra, slinky black dress, feather boa, false eyelashes and a mole on her right cheek. Contrary to misinformation formerly stated here, Stella was not a vampiress, or monster, she was a vamp of the traditional sense as opposed to the more commonly portrayed supernatural variety, Scioli clarified this in the documentary film American Scary.
It was a pleasure to hear Karen reminisce about her days (better make that nights) on "Saturay Night Dead." She also discussed her latest projects such as the online soap opera "Goth Mothers of Transylvania."
Tell us about Goth Mothers of Transylvania.
Goth Mothers is a new comedy/horror Gothic Soap opera web series on youtube. It premiered on Friday the 13th in Jan. of 2012. The first episode is now up (in 5 acts). Written by myself and Glenn Davish, directed by Marshall Evans and starring some of the most insane and talented actors around. It’s the story of 5 horrible and filthy rich women who are the elite of Transylvania. I play The Baroness Vanessa Von Schtupen, an 840 year old Vampire and I get to wear a fabulous wig. It also stars Robert Billbrough who played Hives, Stella‘s butler on Saturday Night Dead.
Trachea the Shapeshifter – Lisa Talerico
Bummy the Mummy – Lorraine Brita
Blair the Witch – Germaine Phelps
Lobotomy the Psychic hairdresser – Victoria Papale
And Helga Schtupendouch – Pat D’Aguanno
And introducing Chiya Stonehill as Nurse Honey Bunny.
How did you get your start?
That’s a tough quesiton, depending on how far back you want to go! I’ve always been in show bisuiness. My sister Cathy and I played our accordions on Steel Pier in Atlantic City (Tony Grant Star of Tomorrow) back when they still had The Diving Horse. I’m sure you can find footage of the Diving Horse on youtube. Disturbing. Hmmm. Maybe I should bring back the Diving Horse in episode two of Goth Mothers. A vampire horse?
Anyway, if you’re talking about Stella, I auditioned for the role in the summer of 1984. I was living in NYC and doing stand up. Alfina, my bff from Philly (I’m a Philly girl, born and raised) sent me a newspaper article about KYW-TV’s (now CBS3) search for a horror movie hostess. It was like the search for Scarlet in Gone with the Wind. At least that’s how I like to see it. Anyway, 150 people showed up for the audition and I was one of ten call-backs. I auditioned for the role at 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning. It was weird auditioning for a horror hostess at that time of day on a Sunday. Something scariligious and titilating about it. After the call backs, I got a call 3 days later telling me I got the part. I quit my office job in NYC (even though Stella’s starting salary was grim. No pun intended) and the rest is history!
Why do they call you the Maneater from Manayunk?
Well, when I got the part and I worked with the producer, Steve Bronstein, to put the show together (I was hired in August, the first show taped in September) we wanted to give Stella a catchy title. Elvira was on the air in L.A. at this time and a huge rising star. Her “title” was “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark”. So the station wanted something for Stella.
Manayunk is a neighborhood in Philadelphia. All hilly, built on a stone cliff and dotted with old Victorian homes. It was also a real blue collar working neighborhood with row homes so it had that typical Philly “Rocky” vibe. And The Maneater From Manayunk just sounded so right. Couldn’t believe I was going to be called a Maneater! But there you have it. Stella! The Maneater From Manayunk. By the way, I’m extremely proud of my moniker and I was the Grand Marshall of the Canal Day Parade for two years (Manayunk has a famous canal running through it).
Tell us about Saturday Night Dead.
See above for the birth of the show, but it first aired September 29th, 1984 and was on until Oct. of 1990. We came on the air at 1:00 a.m. on Saturday night (Sunday morning) right after Saturday Night Live. Thus, Staurday Night Dead. Perfect. Because of this, we had an amazing lead-in so my ratings were always high. As was my audience. Since I came on at such a horrific hour, I was popular with college kids, bar hoppers and prison inmates. Occassionally I meet people who tell me as a kid they snuck down and watched SND secretly. I’d like to appoligize to all of them here and now.
This was the year VCRs were just hitting the market in a big way. October 1984 was when I purchased my very first VCR. We all bought one because of the show – my mom Florence, my mother and father-in-law, the whole family. Really expensive, too. We paid about $450 for our first, top loader VCR.
SND was a cult hit almost immediately. In the beginning, we showed amazing old horror movies. Remember, this was a time when you couldn’t order a movie on-line. There was no on-line. So here was everyone’s chance to watch good ol’ scary movies late at night.
I LOVED the Hammer House series we started off with all the colorful Vincent Price, gothic Poe movies. Same ones I went to see on Saturday matinees with my sister when we were kids in Philly. Everyone responded to them and we set a silly, fun tone with our show.
At first SND was a bunch of bits surrounding the week’s movie. But soon we developed a horror sit-com of our own with “continuing next week” story lines. It was a blast! Crazy cast of characters, wonderfully bad movies, who could aslk for more??
What was the worst movie you ever showed on your TV show?
Hands down it has to be ‘Frankenstein VS Dracula”. It was made in 1971 in someone’s backyard. Wow. I’m not even sure if I watched the whole movie. But I remember both Frankenstein and Dracula having a very 70’s vibe with side-burns and shiny disco costumes. That’s how I remember it.
Name some of the celebrity guests you featured on your show.
I had a lot of amazing local celebs and station cross-promotion stars on my show. Famous kiddie show stars from MY childhood (Sally Star, Pixanne) but the one guest who blew us all away was John Zacherley!!!! He was beloved in Philly and we knew him as Roland. Roland was Philly’s very first horror host, back in 1958. I believe he was the country’s second horror host on TV, the first being Maila Nurmi aka Vampira. Zacherley was The grandfather of Horror Hosting. We were beside ourselves to have him as a guest. Not just us, the cast members, but the entire station.
I also had Bobby Rydell (LOVED him) and Robert Hazzard, and Rip Taylor. They were all amazing. I slept with each one. (kidding). But I did a lot of TV promos too, like telethons and such, and thru those I met many more. I sat next to Michael J. Fox on a phone bank for a Children’s Hospital telethon. His show Family Ties had just aired for the first time so I’m sure he was on a huge promo tour. Since I was local and he had absolutely no idea who Stella was, I’m sure he thought I was some sort of local hooker. I also met and had photos taken with Mr. T. Rumor has it he loved Stella. And I loved him.
What I loved most was having all the up and coming hot comics and actors on my show. It meant a lot to me to showcase local talent. I would have the cast of Nunsense on or dancers from a show that came into town but mostly I loved having the stand ups and improve actors on. We laughed, all the time.
Do you think your show was too risque for prime time televison?
Absoultey yes. We were even too risque for the wee hours of the morning. But that was part of our charm.
Were you inspred by Elvira or Vampira?
Elvira was the reason I got the job!! She was a huge hot hit at the time. KYW just bought a package of great horror movies and they wanted to follow Philly’s tradition of having a horror host. We had two before, both males (Roland and Dr. Shock). With Elvira, the sexy valley girl horror hostess, KYW decided cleavage was the way to go. Voila. Stella. So thank you Miss Peterson!!!
I didn’t know about Vampira until after I got the role as Stella. Now her name is revered in my household. I’m on my knees as I answer this.
Name some of your favorite horror films.
My favorite of all time is The Exorcist. I still break out in a sweat just thinking about it. I went to see it at the movies with my mom. We both had read the book and yet we still went. We kept trying to stop each other from running out screaming.
My second favorite is Strait Jacket with Joan Crawford. It was my first psychological thriller/slasher movie. Joan Crawford was so bizarre in the movie, especially when she got all dressed up and tried to be sexy. Scared the daylights out of me.
My favorite monster, the one that scared me the most, was the Wolfman. Always terrified me.
Name some of your favorite horror books.
The Exorcist of course. But my favorite scary writer is Robert Dunbar. He wrote The Pines, and Willy and a lot of horrifying short stories. If you haven’t read The Pines, you should. Especially if you’re from Jersey. He took the legend of The Jersey Devil and amped it up into something skin crawling and terrifying.
Why do you think people enjoy staying up so late to watch horror movies?
Almost everyone loves to be scared, especially in a safe haven like your living room or bedroom under the covers. It’s fun to be scared when you know you won’t really be hurt. Why is that fun? I have no idea! I guess you could call it an adreneline rush.
Why do you think people pay good money or invest valuable time to watch bad movies?
It’s such an escape to watch bad movies. It’s the “campy factor”. You can’t worry about real life problems when you’re watching bad actors with a bad script get ripped to shreds.
My sister and I invested all our after school hours glued to the TV watching Dark Shadows. We were scared to death at 4 o’clock in broad daylight watching it on a tiny black and white tv. So….much…..fun.
If they made a movie about your life, which actress would you like to see play you?
Wow. I‘d have to say Meryl Streep. Why wouldn’t I want Meryl Streep to play me? Besides, I know she could handle the Philly acent to perfection.
What are your latest projects?
Right now Goth Mothers of Transylvania is my baby. I’m DYING to do episode two but have to figure out a way to raise money for that. But the project that is taking up all of my time right now is my new puppy Scooch. I adopted him from The Voorhees Animal Orphange. He’s a year old and hilarious.
I have a few other projects I’m working on for the near future, not in the horror world. I have another character named Rere DiNucci, a South Philly hairdresser that has been quite popular in Philly. Rere was on WOGL radio for about 6 or 7 years in Philly and I believe she’s going to be making some kind of annoying come back.
Please in your own words write a paragraph about yourself & your work.
I had a rough childhood. We were poor and my father was an alcoholic. But my mother was a smart, funny, hard working woman who devoted her life to raising me and my sister. In spite of all the hardships, my mom managed to add magic to our lives. She always encouraged me to follow my passion, and that was always acting. I credit my mom, Florence, for giving me the courage to face the tough world of showbusiness. And the rest was all about my cleavage.