’Count Scary and Me’: Former WDIV director reflects on taping ‘Scary’ specials

Tom Ryan (Count Scary) and WDIV Director Sara Hassinger.
Tom Ryan (Count Scary) and WDIV Director Sara Hassinger. (WDIV)

Editor’s note: If you grew up in the Detroit area in the 1980s, you probably remember “Count Scary,” a character played by Detroit radio personality Tom Ryan, who appeared on WDIV from 1982 to the early 1990s as a vampire who loved B horror films. His famous catch phrase was “Ooooh, that’s scaary!” Count Scary would rank the scary level of each movie with a scale of pants, referring to scaring your pants off.

Growing up in the Detroit area, The Ghoul and Sir Graves Ghastly were weekend TV staples for me.

It was just silly fun to watch when you were a kid. Little did I know, that 20 years later, I would be a Director at WDIV working on the Count Scary shows.

As TV directing goes, this was a plum assignment. I got to work with 2 Toms, Tom DeLisle, the creator, producer and writer of all the silliness, and Tom Ryan, the Detroit radio personality, who brought the Count to life. These 2 Toms were a force of (hilarious) nature. This gig was literally many yuks a minute. Who gets paid to have so much fun? I did, and I cherished every minute.

Sara Hassinger and the Two Toms. (WDIV)

Working on the Scary show was like a day at the beach; well actually a pool, in one case. It was a warm summer day, and we shot the Count, floating in the pool, summer beverage in hand, ladies dancing poolside to “Twisting by the Pool”. I was one of them, by the way.

Suddenly he receives a phone call from one of his “fine boys” (Tom DeLisle) that he was needed at the studio. This was the opening of Count Scary’s Beach Party, featuring one of those Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon movies. Like I said, I couldn’t wait to get to work on Scary shoot dates. Another great show open was a take on the opening of a “A Hard Day’s Night”.

Many staff members, me included, chased the Count down Lafayette Boulevard, screaming and yelling. The atmosphere was infectious at the station. A lot of the staff were included wherever and whenever. Tom DeLisle was such a great humorist and cheerleader; heck, we all got our own official Scary Jackets. Scary Productions logo on the back, name on the front. Mine was “Sara Scary”.

Scary Productions jacket. (Sara Hassinger)

Sheesh, it was like being a kid all over again. I treasure my time working with the 2 Toms so much, that I had The Count narrate my Silver Circle Award video about my career, almost all of it spent at “WDI and V”, as the Count would say. One Tom is gone; we lost Tom DeLisle 2 years ago. The Count is still with us.

It’s time to pull my official Scary Jacket out of the closet, and wear it proudly.