One of our most prolific members in our club is Mitch Markowitz. As enthusiastic a fellow as you’ll ever find, his friendly demeanor and love for memorabilia have evolved from a long and varied career that started in the arts/entertainment industry back in the early 60’s when he played Silly Willy the clown on his older brother’s Randy Dandy children’s TV show.
The mid 1960’s, saw Mitch spreading his entrepreneurial wings in Toronto’s Yorkville Village, where he created a counter-culture publication called Funk Magazine which focused on the burgeoning music scene, entertainment and political satire. The magazine and other entrepreneurial ventures in this hotbed of musical influences led to Mitch ‘s involvement in the music industry with him renting office space on Yonge St., in the heart of Toronto’s downtown, from fellow music industry ‘mover & shaker’ Ronnie ‘The Hawk’ Hawkins.
Mitch managed a number of local bands including Roy Kenner & The Associates, Bobby Kris & The Imperials and The Rogues whose key members evolved the “Toronto sound”. The Rogues evolved into the Mandala and later Bush. Rock groups still fondly remembered internationally for the soul and R&B-influenced music of that era.
Next came his creative involvement in a series of television programs ranging from game, public affairs and children’s shows. But it was The Hilarious House of Frightenstein on Hamilton’s CHCH TV that the Toronto-born Mitch made his indelible mark as a co-producer . Mitch was the show’s Associate Producer teaming up with his older brother Rafael, the show’s creator and Executive Producer. Still unique to this day, this children’s pseudo horror/comedy TV series has garnered a worldwide cult following. In addition to his role as the show’s Associate Producer, Mitch also appeared two or three times in all 130 hour long episodes as the Super Hippy character. Frightenstein was syndicated across Canada, the US and abroad reaching audiences as far afield as Madrid, Spain and Norway.
After 45 + years The Hilarious House of Frightenstein is the longest running kids’ TV show in Canadian history having inspired the likes of Mike Myers, Eugene Levy, John Candy and Rock icon Alice Cooper to name a few.
While shooting the TV series in 1971 Mitch acted on his fascination for Citroëns ordering his first D Series sedan. He ordered a black exterior with a red interior but the dealer neglected to mention black was reserved for French officials and not available to the general public. The D Special arrived from France a couple months later and sure enough it was dark green. “A lovely colour” Markowitz told the dealer “but not what I ordered”. Following some protracted conversations he was told to come back in a week. He did, the car had been painted black and a lifelong love for this incredible automobile was on the road. A road that was well traveled and definitely not smooth but, as we Citroën devotees can appreciate, that’s not an issue for us. We live in a word of hydraulic bliss made possible by Citroën’s introduction of that magical green fluid to the automobile industry.
The original black D Special was replaced a few years later with a gray DS sedan and the ease of yet another engineering novelty; – the semi automatic gearshift eliminating the need for a clutch. “I marveled at the ingenuity the Citroën design team used when they located the gear shift behind what was the most unique steering wheel I had ever seen featuring a single spoke instead of the traditional two or three spokes seen all other automobiles.” Markowitz said with that, I love my Citroën look in his eyes.
The mid 70’s saw Mitch co-producing, road managing and MC’ing a magic/mime show for the Canadian government’s Footwear Bureau of Canada. This show was created to promote the purchase and wearing of shoes manufactured in Canada. The brothers Markowitz contracted Doug Henning, then in the early stages of his mystical career, to design the major illusions utilized in the show. They hired Adrian Pecknold an internationally renown expert in mime to train Doug and then took the show on the road. Deemed The Shoe String Revue starring Doug Henning as Chou Chou the magical shoe maker, the show toured across Canada playing in every major shopping centre across the country for three years. This traveling magic show was a huge success leaving hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in a state of awe and wonder and now aware that there were wonderfully designed shoes available that had been manufactured in Canada. Doug Henning went on to become the most important magician of his time with a series of national US television specials and a long running magic show on New York City’s Broadway.
In the late 70’s Mitch got involved in the new home industry and for 35+ years has directed the Marketing and Sales of thousands of new homes in large master planned new home communities on both sides of the border.
The entertainment industry beckoned again and more recently Mitch co-stared with Academy Award winner Vanessa Redgrave in Rue Morgue Cinema’s The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh. The 2012 psychological horror film written and directed by Rue Morgue’s president Rodrigo Gudiño premiered to critical acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival and was featured at 30+ other film festivals world wide garnering numerous awards.
Mitch manages to keep in touch with fans personally answering every email received at his personal address firstname.lastname@example.org. These days he’s dealing with three generations of Frightenstein fans; the people who watched the original run in the early 70’s, their kids who watched re-runs in the 80’s and their grandchildren who they are introducing to the show grandpa and grandma used to watch on You Tube, Netflix and DVD’s.
And yes, he’s still out there making special appearances at fan expos, festivals and comic conventions like Comicon and the Canadian International Motorama Custom Car & Motorsports Expo., in Toronto. At Motorama 2015 Mitch shared the spotlight with his current (3rd) Citroën, a white D Special with a red leather interior. The show drew 23,000+ people and they got quite a reception exposing large numbers of these custom, classic and foreign car buffs of all ages to this marvelous vehicle that most looked at like it had just landed from another planet.
“Weather permitting, Robin my wife of almost 30 years and I take the Citroën out as often as we can. I love the looks and reactions the car get’s as soon as we come out of the garage. Wherever we go it’s thumbs up, smiles and waves from people who know the car and to a large extent people who have never seen anything on the road that looks like this. Especially when it’s going up or down!!!!”
Mitch’s car collection also includes a peacock blue 1996 Bentley Brooklands LWB, a 1998 turquoise Volvo C70 convertible and a 2007 yellow Toyota FJ Cruiser with a custom yellow/black leather interior.
You can read more about Mitch’s TV career and his love of collecting memorabilia, at the the following link: https://www.thestar.com/autos/2015/03/13/car-guy-hilarious-house-of-frightenstein-co-creator.html