ELDER MUSIC: Rodgers & Hart
John Oliver on the Latest Political Email Mess

Ageism, RIP Zacherle and Happy Halloween

A few weeks ago, freelance writer Debbie Reslock interviewed me about ageist language, particularly people's penchant for calling old folks “honey,” “sweetie,” "dearie," etc.

Reslock's story was published last week at Next Avenue:

”It is clear we need to speak up,” she wrote. “After her experience with the misinformed doctor, Halpin told the nurse supervisor about what had happened and let her know she’d never go to that hospital again. 'Please talk to me before you assume I have dementia and can’t take care of myself,' she adds.

“'Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t call me honey or sweetie,’ says Ronni Bennett, author of the popular blog Time Goes By. Her response is to pleasantly but firmly reply, 'My name is Ms. Bennett. You may call me that.'

“After a few seconds of silence, she says, they usually apologize. 'I like to think they realize how demeaning it is and change their behavior with other elders,' notes Bennett.”

You can read much more at at Next Avenue.

Does anyone here remember Zach? He had a long career beginning as a campy host of late-night horror movie TV shows in the 1950s and played the part brilliantly for the rest of life on radio, in some movies, in music, books, stage shows and more.

Here's some of what The New York Times wrote last week of John Zacherle, sometimes known as Roland in his earliest professional career in Philadelphia:

”...he added grisly theatrics and absurdist humor to the entertainment on offer, which more often than not was less than Oscar quality. He became a popular cult figure, making star appearances at horror conventions across the Northeast.

”Dressed in a long black frock coat decorated with a large medal from the government of Transylvania, Roland introduced, and interrupted, the evening’s film with comic bits involving characters who existed only as props in his crypt-cum-laboratory.

“There was My Dear, his wife, recumbent in a coffin with a stake in her heart, and his son, Gasport, a series of moans within a potato bag suspended from the ceiling. A large blob of gelatin tied up in cheesecloth was Thelma, a high-strung amoeba who cheated at checkers and responded to the command 'Heel!'”

The reason I'm telling you this is that in 1970 and 1971, when I was producing my then-husband's radio talk show on WPLJ-FM in New York City, Zach and I shared an office. He was smart, funny, kind and caring and it was always a hoot when he showed up at the office in full Dracula makeup and regalia.

Zach in Makeup

According to The Times, in a 2015 interview with The Philadelphia Daily News, Zach told the interviewer:

“I can’t imagine how it all happened. I look back on it and say, ‘My God, I’m 96 years old, what the hell have I been doing all these years?’”

Sounds exactly like the Zach I knew so many years ago. Here is a photo taken four years ago – at age 94, he doesn't look much different from what I recall in our shared office.


In honor of Halloween and especially of Zach, here is a video (with a few archival photographs) of what is probably his most well-known silly song - Dinner with Drac which was a big hit in 1958.

With all this, I think it is, possibly, destiny that he died so near Halloween on 27 October.

There is more about Zacherle at The Times, at Newsday, at Huffington Post and at an extensive fan website. In addition, there is a surprising number of videos at Youtube.

For the holiday tonight, here is what is still my favorite Halloween photo which I've published before.




That photo is hilarious & one of my favs too. However, I must confess, Halloween is my MOST disliked "holiday". I love the season, but the day itself leaves me cold! I'm totally amazed at how much time people spend on this "special" day. But it's popularity beats the days before this election by a long shot! Dee :)

Thank you for this post, Ronni. My husband has always had a soft spot for late night horror shows and their hosts, and was familiar with John Zacherle but did not know that he had just recently died, nor that he was still alive at the age of 98. We've now read your post and links, and watched several Youtube videos and it's been a very entertaining day already. Happy Halloween everyone!

I think there's a great rendition of "Monster Mash" on that album too.

You shared an office with Zacherle(y). Now I'm impressed.

Yes, Zach recorded Monster Mash but it was a cover. It was first recorded by Bobby Picket who had the hit.

As always, I feel obliged to mention that in the South it was (and maybe still is) quite common and accepted for waitresses and other service people to address customers as "honey," "dearie," "hon," or "sweetie" and it had nothing to do with age. It was a friendly form of address, not meant to be disrespectful, and had a lot more to do with regionalism and educational background than with agism. All my doctors and other medical personnel call me by my first name, which is what friends do.

I grew up watching and loving Zacherley, among the best TV memories ever. A couple of my friends were regulars on his teen dance show and stayed in touch with him until the very end. In fact, he lived right here on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He was one a kind....my dear.

At last, a good comeback to the people who call me 'dear', I'll just say, "My name is Ms. Dahli—you can call me that." That will work! Thanks, Ronnie!

My contracter calls me sweetie (I am 76 and he is in his 50s). I really like him and r don't mind it at all .

It's a southern thing, and I still come to a halt when called Sweetie. LOL
What a charmer he must have been. Happy holiday to ya.

My late husband used to say, "I don't care what you call me as long as you call me in time for dinner." I am sure everyone has heard that dozens of times. I know I did. Sigh.

Happy Halloween everybody. Boo to you.

My sympathies, Ronni, on the death of your office mate.

Thank you for your wonderfully direct, simple, and pleasant but firm reply, "'My name is Ms. Bennett. You may call me that.'" I will use it starting tomorrow morning!

I read the Next Avenue article and thought,"Give me a break." People I've encountered who say sweetie or honey are mostly women in service jobs in the lower ranks. I make no judgement of someone dealing with the public and conditioned to putting on a cheerful face even when they don't feel like it. Don't be a snob.

I agree with Pied Type that the use of "Sweetie", "Honey" etc is more regional. I rarely hear it here in California-perhaps I don't appear "sweet" or "dear" enough ? - but I don't object to it. I don't understand why people get so testy about it. It certainly beats being ignored as if I'm transparent. My feelings are more in line with Darlene's late husband...I immediately thought of the same quote! LOL

Reminds me of a guy who called himself M. T. Graves - broadcasting out of Miami in the 50s. It was a hysterical show that always left me laughing so hard I couldn't breathe. Even as a kid I wondered if he was drunk while pulling these gags.

When I was a kid I was taught that one must always address one's elders as Mr. or Mrs/Miss or Grandma/Grandpa Last Name -- no exceptions. In the abscence of a name, Ma'am or Sir would do. When, as a young mother , I moved to No Carolina from California via Nebraska, I noticed that people of color were always addressed by their firrst names. I never could call the lovely older black lady who helped me with my 3 small children by anything but Mrs. Bradley and taught my girls to do the same.

As a society, we have become more casual, using first names much more but I have corrected more than one service person as to the inappropriate use of endearments in addressing me. (Wow, does that ever sound stuffy) . One once told me that women don't like to be called Ma'am. Go figure.

True. Some people are upset the first time they're called ma'am because it makes them feel old! I have some friends who use sweetie, dear etc. when speaking to me, and it feels affectionate. I don't mind it from others, either. I do try to avoid speaking to the caregiver rather the person when addressing someone incapacitated, whether very elderly or not.

Very clever song, and extremely clever witch picture! I might try to recreate that next year. Happy Halloween!

Oh my! Calling someone out for addressing you as "Sweetie" or "Hon" would be considered quite boorish and rude in my part of the world. Although most "offenders" would be too polite to respond with anything other than a smile and a sincere "so sorry!"

To echo others above - I think it's all about location, location, location.

Oops! I use all those names with family and friends of all ages....none have ever said stop. My nieces love being called sweetie, saying it makes them feel special and they are. Ok, in the outside world here, the public, dear is heavily used by service people and as long as I get good service, I'm not at all offended. I have one service provider who calls all his lady customers "babe" and at my age, it's a laugh. No disrespect meant by any, I don't take it as such. When it's called for, in my mind, I say my name....Guess I'm inclined to "pick a dog in the fight" if it annoys or disrespect me...this issue doesn't particularly.

Around here the sign with the witch who ran into the tree reads, "Don't text and fly!" I haven't enjoyed Mischief Night and Halloween since I worked as a police dispatcher.

When my parents moved to Tennessee I noticed that everyone called her "Miss Alice".

It's Tuesday a.m. Didn't get a chance to read this until now.
I also don't mind hon, sweetheart, etc. if it's not done demeaningly.
I confess to using them when I can't think of someone's name off-hand.
And I use them when talking to children when I don't know their names.
Beats saying, "You."

People have been calling me “honey” and “sweetie” my entire life ... usually when I'm sitting down at a diner or coffee shop. The one that gets me, that annoys the hell out of me, is "young man." Like ... what are they trying to say?

I don't call anyone (except my husband) "pet" names and I don't like them to be used to me--never have. I've considered making up a few business-size cards to that effect and discreetly handing them to people who call me "sweetie", "hon" or "dear" repeatedly. I don't necessarily want to stop patronizing my favorite supermarket or pet supply store, but that nomenclature is a way of infantilizing and dismissing older people. Estelle D. makes the point--"when talking to children".

I just spent a few days in the hospital (in New England) and was initially dismayed when called honey and sweetie until I realized they called each other that as well--seemed like it was part of the culture, especially for the CNAs. Nurses tended to call me by my first name, which is what I'd said I wanted to be called by.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)