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Takes from the Crypt: Secrets of the Crypt Keeper

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Most celebs rely too much on their handlers. But as host of HBO’s creepy, five-year-old Tales From the Crypt (also airing on Fox, Saturdays, 11 p.m.-midnight), the Crypt Keeper can’t even utter one of his stomach-turning puns—”Hello, kiddies. What’s sinew?”—without help.

Designed by creature-maker Kevin Yagher (Child’s Play 1, 2 and 3), who gave him Chucky’s ice-blue eyes—literally—the Keeper depends on six puppeteers for his drop-dead kooky Tales intros. Van Snowden, who played Pufnstuf on H.R.Pufnstuf (1969-71), maneuvers his head and torso, for which he prepares by pumping up with a bowling ball. Brock Winkless, formerly of Harry and the Hendersons, operates C.K.’s mouth. ”He was given more lip after the first two seasons,” says Winkless. Explains Yagher, ”He couldn’t hit his b’s, p’s, and t’s. It just looked like a jaw going up and down.” Others manipulate C.K.’s hands, arms, and eyes. C.K.’s screechy voice comes from actor John Kassir, who views him as a ”cross between Alfred Hitchcock, Henny Youngman, and (Wicked Witch of the West) Margaret Hamilton.”

Apart from Tales, the Keeper has a life of his own: a starring role in the ABC Saturday cartoon Tales From the Cryptkeeper and ”live” appearances on The Tonight Show and the Horror Hall of Fame awards. Soon his grave features will grace dolls, pinball machines, and maybe even a movie screen. This Crypt Keeper is decidedly not what he himself calls ”a flesh in the pan.”

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