Meet Frederick Peerenboom, Columbus' original golden voice. He needs no introduction to those who grew up in Central Ohio in the '70s and '80s. To them, his hypnotizing baritone is as much a part of their childhood as Atari video games.
Peerenboom is Fritz the Nite Owl. From 1974 to 1991, donning his oversized sunglasses (he still wears the same pair), Fritz hosted 10TV's daily late-night movie program "Nite Owl Theatre."
At age 76, Fritz has a long and storied broadcast career, and his bespectacled star is on the rise again. This weekend Fritz will host CAPA's Summer Movie Series' Fright Night Friday, and since October he's starred in Nite Owl Theatre at Grandview Theatre, a free horror movie showing complete with vintage commercials and re-creations of his old show's bumpers.
Telling trivia about movies is easy. Fritz is a cinematic compendium, a walking IMDB. His education began when he was a kid in Wisconsin. Movies like "Frankenstein" schooled Fritz in the ways of bone-chilling, film-induced fear, especially since he walked home through the woods afterward.
In high school he ushered at a theater "during the heyday of television," so he just watched and learned. He loves "Young Frankenstein" and George Sanders in "All About Eve."
Fritz is a natural storyteller. He describes a university master's program balking at his 2.8 undergrad GPA this way: "They looked at me like I was a leper going for a food handler's permit."
Stories of his interactions with celebrities abound. Jamie Farr, who played Klinger on "M*A*S*H," served with him in the Army and delivered news of his first born ("Hey, corporal," Farr said. "You're a father. It's a boy. Where's my cigar?"). Fritz gave Bruce Vilanch his first movie role, a project Fritz filmed to get into that master's program.
As star-struck as Fritz gets by celebrities, he's one in his own right.
"My brother and I had a playhouse in the backyard and we'd sit out there with sleeping bags on weekends and run an extension cord from the house to a black and white television and watch Nite Owl Theatre. That was our childhood," said Mike McGraner, director of the Grandview Theatre series. "So many people have stories like that."
Now McGraner stays up late with Fritz talking to fans - some who have driven hours for the show - after Nite Owl Theatre.
Fritz loves entertaining too much to retire. Besides, the fact that his career let him change the way late-night movies were hosted, meet his jazz music heroes and voice Green Lantern in a Warner video series leaves him with one conclusion.
"I haven't worked a day in my life."