The Nickelodeon block in the early 90s’ was something really special folks and nestled right in-between Hey Dude and Are You Afraid of the Dark on a typical Saturday afternoon, was Salute Your Shorts; the light-hearted show about a group of kids spending their Summer at Camp Anawanna. We held it in our hearts, and when I think about it, it definitely doesn’t make me want to fart. That is reserved for the Zeke the Plumber episode where we not only farted but shit our pants entirely.
The episode entitled “The Ghost Story”, came out swinging as the second interlude in season one, and goddamn that shit should have had a warning label put on it! The campers channel their inner Midnight Society and try to scare each other with PG tales of terror until good ol’ Budnick (Danny Cooksey), the camp douchebag, breaks off this Freddy Krueger like-story about Camp Anawanna’s former toilet cleaner that lost his sense of smell because of an angry parrot in the Philippines, (I have since looked at said beautiful birds with a watchful eye now). The story goes, according to Budnick, Zeke was digging a hole and hit a gas line. With no sense of smell, the poor custodian couldn’t detect the gas leak and for some reason lit a match, causing an explosion. Or by Budnick’s own colorful description, becomes a “human party popper”. His body was never found, but his plunger remained among the ruins and the only remnant of a sad toilet cleaner’s life. The legend states, anyone who finds and touches the plunger is cursed with nightmares of Zeke.
If this isn’t a pre-curser gateway to some of the greatest slasher films of our generation, then I don’t know what is. Camper Z.Z. (Megan Berwick) even states, “What is this guy, the Freddy Krueger of custodians?” Yes dear, Z.Z. You are correct.
Michael (Erik MacArthur) and Telly (Venus DeMilo Thomas) both have an unpleasant night full of Zeke nightmares where they are threatened with murder. MURDER FOLKS. In a daytime kids program, that’s pretty traumatizing to the right age crowd. For the younger generation of the 90s’, Zeke the Plumber was the stuff of nightmares and quite literally, a true gateway to the world of the horror genre. Played by Kirk Baily (Ug), who sadly passed away at 59 due to lung cancer recently, I felt there was no better way to honor a Gateway Horror Icon of our childhoods than to give the guy credit where it’s due.
Zeke the Plumber is a combination of the holy trinity of horror icons Freddy, Michael, and Jason. Zeke died in a fire and is badly burned; also haunts your dreams, (Freddy). He then hides his face with a stiff as hell human mask that is probably more terrifying than what’s hidden underneath, (Myers). And of course, he terrorizes campers, (Jason). To be quite frank, Zeke was way scarier than he rightfully should have been. That mask was nightmare fuel for many years and traumatized the shit out of an entire generation. Much more so than the network’s actual “somewhat scary” program, Are You Afraid Of The Dark? In all honestly, Zeebo the Clown didn’t have shit on Zeke.
There truly is no better introduction to the slasher genre than Zeke the Plumber to a group of young, curious kids. And if you’re in the mood, the entire episode is available here via Halloweengoodies and Dailymotion!
RIP Kirk, aka Zeke. Thanks for all the nightmares including a fear of parrots and plungers.