Horror Host Icon: Rocky Rococo

Welcome back to Rotten Ink! One thing that goes hand and hand with late night watching of Horror Hosts is a good old pizza pie! That’s right, sitting back with the lights turned down watching your favorite host deliver some laughs alongside the horrors on the small screen all the while munching down on a slice was a way of life for many monster kids over the ages. But what if the world of Horror Hosting and the world of pizza combined and made a show that was like no other? For the folks of Wisconsin this was reality as the restaurant Rocky Rococo brought viewers Masterpizza Theatre, hosted by Rocky Rococo himself, and delivered good times to those who tuned in. So for this update, it’s with great honor that I bring to you Horror Host Icon: Rocky Rococo. Make sure to get some pizza by the slice and enjoy this quick and fun update. Also this is my second Horror Host Icon update of this year to celebrate the 10th Year Of The Horror Host Hall Of Fame!

Rocky Rococo was born in New Jersey in 1948 and got his love of pizza from his mother and even spent time pushing a food cart in the streets selling pizza by the slice to hungry Jersey residents, all the while wearing down his shoes and making money for his family. Rocky did this for 20 years and decided to leave real pizza behind for a while and spent sometime selling pizza peels for ovens, selling coupons & encyclopedia books as well as running the ring the bell game for a traveling carnival! While selling the pizza peels he ended up in lots of pizza restaurants trying many different styles and while he enjoyed them, he knew he could do better…and in 1974, he proved it when he opened his own restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin and like that, Rocky Rococo became a pizza juggernaut. Rocky is a white suit wearing, wise guy talking, sunglass wearing, pizza loving nice guy who really does enjoy selling pizza by the slice. Rocky is also married to Bess Quality, and together they have one child named Dinah Mite Rococo. Besides selling pizza by the slice, Rocky also really enjoyed rapping, meeting with fans and of course hosting cheesy films for viewers. His hosting style was very fun and upbeat, and he would do skits and such in-between. While Rocky Rococo might not be a household name when it comes to Horror Hosting, he did make his mark and made a major splash in Wisconsin not only with his show MasterPizza Theatre but also with his amazing restaurants.

Rocky Rococo and his MasterPizza Theatre started in the 1990’s and was a way for the pizza chain to showcase their food as well as have their mascot host all types of cheesy family friendly films. The show was viewed late night on Fox 47 in the fine state of Wisconsin and was a fun treat to viewers. The show would feature fun and goofy breaks featuring Rocky and was filmed in the chains restaurants and would have fellow “workers” as people around him all the while promoting the pizza and salad bars they had. They would also feature comedians as well as musical and dancing bits and all the while Rocky would have a smile on his face. MasterPizza Theatre had a fantastic and super fun vibe and was a smart why to not only entertain but also showcase the food they could get for lunch and dinner, I for one would have had friends over and ordered a couple of pizzas from Rocky Rococos and had a movie night when the show was on air…that is if I lived in Wisconsin during this shows run on TV. While MasterPizza Theatre might not be a massive household name when it comes to Horror Host shows and while Rocky Rococo is more known as a mascot for a fast food pizza place then a Horror Host…they both made an impact in the world of Horror Hosting and meant something to the viewers.

James Martin Pedersen was the actor who played Rocky Rococo and was in fact the whole face of the pizza brand as he starred not only in MasterPizza Theatre but also was in their commercials as well as in their logo. James Martin Pedersen was very well loved in Wisconsin and was by all accounts an icon of the state’s culture. But sadly James passed away on February 6, 2016, and this was indeed a sad day for fans. With his passing the people of Rocky Rococo Pizza, his fans, pizza lovers and of course his family suffered a big loss. While he is gone, the icon that is Rocky Rococo will live on forever.

I first found out about MasterPizza Theater in 2019 when the man Rocky Rococo was suggested to be considered for a future Horror Host Hall Of Fame ballot, and after getting an episode I myself became a fan of Rocky as a Horror Host as I found his style silly and very fun and I can see why the state of Wisconsin loved him so much. What was so surprising is that Rocky Rococo, who was a fast food pizza joint mascot, worked really well as a movie host, and of course it was a great way to make viewers and myself crave some pizza as they clearly used the show as one giant commercial. The thing that really made this show work was Rocky Rococo himself as he is just such a fun character who had such a fun loving attitude as well as seemed like a cartoon character come to life. I am sure some viewers at the time would get annoyed at all the plugs for the types of pizza they had on the menu, but to me that just added to the over all good natured charm. I feel that many local TV stations are missing the boat nowadays by not featuring a local or even syndicated Horror Host on their networks. I mean sure some are lucky to have a Host from their neck of the woods on broadcast TV and all those who get ME-TV get Svengoolie…but to me this is sadly not enough and as you fans of Horror Hosts know streaming services are delivering the hosting goods as Joe Bob Briggs is on Shudder and for awhile Mystery Science Theater 3000 returned on Netflix…while stations like USA Network, TNT, TBS and our local stations like Channel 22 are just playing terrible reruns of crime shows and could bring back the likes of Up All Night, Monstervision, Super Scary Saturday and Shock Theater. In other words the world needs more fun Horror Host shows like MasterPizza Theatre and hosts like Rocky Rococo.

Here in Ohio, we have no Rocky Rococo’s anymore due to the fact our state just didn’t support it when they did take a chance. Ohio, believe it or not, is a state that is filled with many pizza restaurants with some of Dayton’s most popular being ones like Marion’s Piazza, Cassano’s Pizza King, The Pizza Bandit, Flying Pizza, Happy’s Pizza, Troni’s, Cousin Vinny’s, Jet’s Pizza and The Pizza Factory. But to do this Horror Host Icon update right, Juliet and I knew we had to drive over 6hrs away to have a meal at the closest Rocky Rococo’s to us…well that was until the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 that put a big damper on our plans and canceled our trip to Racine, WI to have a slice of Rocky Rococo pizza along with our pals Scott Scarborough and Damien Brunk. Now I cannot complain too much as safety during these times should come first, and while I really wanted a piece of pizza from Rocky, it was just not meant to be. Once things get back to normal, Juliet and I will try and make this quest, and I will update this Horror Host Icon update with it!

So as you can see, Rocky Rococo pizza is pretty tasty treat for fans of the pizza chain, and now we are at the point of this update where I will take a look at the episode I have of MasterPizza Theater. I only have one episode, and I want to thank Horror Host Freakshow for hooking me up with it. I want to remind you that I will not be giving this episode a star rating and I will be taking the film’s write up from IMDB and will be writing the host segments breakdown myself. So grab a pizza by the slice, and let’s see what MasterPizza Theatre has to offer.

MasterPizza Theatre: Stoogemania
Starring – Josh Mostel & Victoria Jackson     Rated PG      1986

Host: Rocky Rococo opens the show at one of the restaurants and before we start the first part of the movie, we go to a music video with a song by Rocky who talks about the Pizza Blues. Next is a storybook skit about pizza told by Patsy and then Rocky talks about his birthday bash and a sale they have going on. Rocky next brings in a comedian named Dave to do a quick stand up act for the people in the studio of MasterPizza Theatre. And then Rocky once more promotes his pizza and then Dave returns with more comedy in a Twilight Zone skit. Next are fans trying to do lines for a Rocky Rococo Pizza Commercial, and they are all terrible. Rocky then introduces a new segment he calls “Guys That Can’t Rap” and two terrible guys try to rap and dance…and they are bad. In the end Rocky comes out and thanks the cast and crew plus the viewers and the janitor comes in to clean up. Oh and I should say throughout is commercials for Rocky Rococo Pizza!

Movie: The film centers on Howard F. Howard, an overweight everyman. Engaged to Beverly, the woman of his dreams, Howard has one problem – an overactive fixation with The Three Stooges. Everywhere Howard goes, he sees Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard intruding on his life. Determined to overcome his fixation, Howard and Beverly prepare for their wedding. But on his way to the ceremony, Howard descends into Stoogemania and finds himself walking into the city streets with other Stoogemaniacs. His only hope is commitment to the Stooge Hills sanitarium, under the care of a renowned psychologist, until the inmates take over the asylum on graduation day.

Rocky Rococo and MasterPizza Theatre is a great example of how a business can develop a Horror Host program, deliver family entertainment by choosing mostly comedies and old horror films with gorillas, all the while making them hungry for a slice or your company’s pizza or even a salad from your salad bar. I am really happy that Freakshow introduced me to this show as this was lots of fun and made a fan out of me. And I am going to do my best to track down more episodes of MasterPizza Theatre and when I find them, I will add them to this update…so make sure to check back and see! For our next update, we will be walking away from Rocky Rococo and Horror Hosting for the time being as we will be trading Pizza for a look at Fast Food Seafood as I will be covering the free promo comics from Captain D’s. So until next time, read a comic or three, watch a movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host. See you next update for a greasy fried fish good time!

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