"Newsmaker of the Week" is presented by the SCV Press Club and Comcast, and hosted by Signal Multimedia Editor Leon Worden. The program premieres every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, repeating Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
This week's newsmaker is Ronald Singer, a local children's dentist and the proprietor of the Molar Manor haunted house. Questions are paraphrased and some answers may be abbreviated for length.
Signal: Just how long have you been operating your Molar Manor haunted house?
Singer: Molar Manor will have its 15th anniversary this year.
Signal: Where is it?
Singer: It's on Fremont Court and Avenue Stanford in the Valencia Industrial Center. It is located in a 5,000-square-foot warehouse, and it's been sitting there for four years.
Signal: It's there all year Śround as a haunted house?
Signal: But it's only open this weekend?
Singer: It's only open this weekend. Molar Manor is an accumulation of my "haunted collection." I have been collecting for 20 years. It's a accumulation of large monster memorabilia, animatronics, graveyard pieces, everything that you would imagine from an early Frankenstein movie up to the present day. It is permanently set up in this warehouse as entertainment...
I used to just let my patients see it, as a private party for my patients, for years. And then finally, actually it was Michele Buttelman, a good friend of mine from The Signal, (who) suggested that I open it up for local charities in the community. From that point on, I contacted some small charities, and we have been supporting three local children's charities for the last three years.
Molar Manor opens it gates for only two days a year for the charities, and we try to invite all the public in the Santa Clarita Valley to come and attend.
Signal: This year it's Saturday, Oct. 22, and Sunday, Oct. 23.
Signal: You're a dentist; whose teeth would you rather work on the Phantom of the Opera's or Dracula's?
Singer: I think the Phantom of the Opera. I think he opens wider.
Signal: How did you get into this? How do dentistry and a haunted house go together?
Singer: It actually comes from my childhood I used to enjoy watching early black-and-white haunted movies with my mother in the evenings, from the early Boris Karloff, from "Frankenstein" to Bela Lugosi in "Dracula," and it was a ritual. Every Halloween when I was a little kid, before I would go trick-or-treating, I would sit down with my family and we would watch "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" that was just a classic movie, and through the years I have grown to love them so much.
I was always a big fan of monster memorabilia. In fact, when I was 9 or 10 years old, I was on the TV show one night it used to be "Jeepers Creepers" one of the late night shows when he would show a "B" or "C" movie, and I would be one of the kids in the audience.
Signal: Sort of the Elvira of the day.
Singer: Exactly. Before Elvira was born, probably.
Signal: Maybe the better question is, how do you go from haunted houses to dentistry? Was it because of all the rotten teeth from Halloween candy?
Singer: Dentistry is my passion. I enjoy dentistry. It's also my profession, and I love working with the kids. Believe it or not, probably about 15-years plus, another good friend of mine in the community, Jim Davy, who is well-known with his wife (Susan) who used to (own) the Newhall Pharmacy out here for years he used to do a lot of haunted stuff in their pharmacy and sell it to the general public. That's how I met him years ago. He introduced me to some of the great memorabilia and the early Frankenstein mechanical monsters. I started decorating my office with these little monsters, especially for the month of October, and the feedback was so incredible, the parents loved it so much, it just kind of motivated me to buy more and more.
Signal: And the Davys are still big dealers in Halloween merchandise at their store in Newhall, F.U.N. Inc.
Signal: Who participates in Molar Manor? Who are the volunteers? Who provides the costumes and that sort of thing?
Singer: Actually it started in my office for years, I would just use my office staff, and we would totally redecorate the office and invite the patients in one night, in the evening, for a haunted house. Then it kept getting larger and larger, and what happened was, it got so large I couldn't do it in my office anymore. Then I took it to my house, and I did that for many years in my front yard, in my neighborhood. Then it got too large there, because I started having too many moving vans take it back and forth from the storage units.
So then it (came to) its final home and resting place on Fremont Court, and all of a sudden, as it evolved into that and it started to be decorated and blueprinted and became a big project, more people wanted to become more involved and participate. So then we started getting makeup people who wanted to participate and volunteer, and I had set people come and help me decorate, and it just kept on building and building. What has evolved today is an unbelievable event.
Signal: How many people will you have over the two-day weekend?
Singer: Probably we have at least 100 volunteers, which include actors, crew people for security, line management people for control, sheriffs, CHP people. It's a tremendous event now.
Signal: Do you have animatronic displays?
Signal: Tell us about some of the props.
Singer: We have great props in there, life-size props. A wonderful hangman that actually hangs and swings back and forth. That's a great piece. I have an electric shock man; he violently moves back and forth. And of course we have a violent werewolf that has Little Red Riding Hood basket, corpses that pop out, air cannons that kind of tickle your thighs as you walk by, the sounds of thunder and lightening.
Signal: Is it too scary for little kids?
Singer: Well yes, it's a little my little 4-year-old loves to walk through it with the lights on; when the lights are off, he gets a little intimidated. So what we're asking people is, under 8 years old, to use their discretion.
Signal: Do you acquire some of your props from the studios?
Singer: No, actually, the props are all purchased from what is called "dark attraction" companies, and they're all over the United States. These companies are very, very unique. They make these incredible props and these are the props you would find in Disneyland or Knotts Scary Farm, and I have acquired them. They all know me now as the "Mad Dentist of Valencia" because when I initially introduced myself to them, to purchase these props, they thought I had a store or I was selling them or something. I said no, I'm just a dentist, and I want to entertain my patients. So they all know me for this.
Signal: You give the entire ticket price to charity?
Signal: One of the three charities is related to dentistry?
Singer: (Foundation for) Children's Dental Health.
Signal: What's your involvement with that?
Singer: I have been involved with it I think from the very beginning. ... It's a organization that helps the underprivileged children of our community to provide dentistry for them. It's where the USC dental mobile clinics come into our valley and they bring the dentist students in. They bring them in these trailers, and the children are screened and their dental needs are taken care of.
Also part of the program is getting involved with dentists in our community, where children have toothaches or rampant decay, and the teachers are observant of this. (Then the) center calls (me) or some other dentist who is on the list and asks them if we can take care of some of their dentistry for them. So it's a wonderful project that has been around for a long time, and it's cultivating and becoming bigger and bigger and I think the community is starting to recognize the Children's Dental Health foundation for its potential.
Signal: Of all the different needs that underprivileged kids could have, dentistry seems rather narrow. Aren't there government programs to help them in this area? Why was there a need for a nonprofit foundation?
Singer: I think dentistry is a part a large part of a child's health. I mean, if they are in pain from decay, it not only affects the way they eat but (also) the way they perform in school, and the way they get through the day. I think dental care is being recognized more and more throughout not only the Santa Clarita Valley (but also) throughout the United States it is becoming a major issue, to want to be able to take care of people's needs. I think dentistry is right up there with medicine.
Signal: What other two organizations do you help?
Singer: The other two organizations, one is C.L.AS.S. (Children's Liver Association for Support Services), an organization that was started out here by Diane Sumner. It's an organization to support children with liver cancer. Her son was affected many, many years ago when he was a little boy, and now he is a young adult and doing quite well. He will be at the event. But she has been very supportive for the last, I think, 18 years, doing this little, tiny charity and helping people in the community.
There's another charity that we're supporting, called CLEAR (Community Law Enforcement Aware Response) that was started by a lady out here, Emily Iland. It helps children with disabilities of autism and other disorders, to help people recognize these children in case of emergency situations, to be able to recognize the behaviors and help them through the certain types of emergencies and just other normal daily activities.
So three little, tiny charities in the community are being recognized, and I think hopefully through Molar Manor they will move on.
Signal: Donating all the proceeds, aren't you upside-down on this thing? You're doing it out-of-pocket.
Singer: Yes. Molar Manor is a big negative in my pocket.
Signal: On the plus side, you've got something exciting happening Saturday.
Singer: Yes. This coming Saturday (Oct. 22) is our big event, starting ... at 5 o'clock in the evening and we go to 10 o'clock in the evening. We have I am so excited because Bobby "Boris" Pickett, who is the entertainer who made famous the song, "The Monster Mash," will be performing live. He will be live and singing Saturday night at 7 o'clock in evening.
Signal: The one-hit wonder will be singing his one hit.
Singer: And then he will take a rest, sign some autographs, and he will return again at 8:30 to sing one more time. Then he will probably exit the property and leave.
But before Bobby Boris and after Bobby Boris, for the whole evening I am going to have a lot of support from the dance schools of the community and different vocalists and entertainers who will be there; mainly children who will be performing on stage, "thriller" numbers and all their different dances.
The kids (have been) coming in this whole week and telling me how excited they are to be there. So it's quite a spectacular evening. Plus we will also be live on remote KHTS (AM-1220) radio station will be there. I am very excited about that. And maybe some other TV broadcast support that night, also.
Signal: Are tickets still available?
Singer: Absolutely. All you have to do is stand in line. We will have a searchlight, believe it or not, a searchlight in the center of Fremont Court. It will be going up one or two miles in the sky.
Signal: So it will be easy to find.
Singer: Right. Look for the searchlight. You can buy your tickets either at the event; we will be selling tickets; just show up and we would love to have you come on in or you can buy tickets online. If you go to my Web site, MolarManor.com, if you're anxious and don't want to wait in line, you can pre-buy them there.
Signal: What happens Sunday?
Singer: Sunday is another fabulous day. After a couple hours of rest from Saturday night we will return and we will start the event earlier, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and it will go to 9 o'clock . Basically it will be more entertainment from dance schools, more singers will be performing, and hopefully we will be packed with people coming through the haunted house and screaming and having a great time. Maybe the "chain saw man" will be out there entertaining a little bit, and spiking up everything.
Signal: What is your favorite prop? What scares you?
Singer: What scares me? The IRS man around the corner.
Signal: Do you have one of those? That would be scary.
Singer: Yes, he is sitting there in a suit. No, I am only kidding you. One of my favorite events inside Molar Manor is a beautiful attraction it's two life-size witches with gnarly faces and raggedy hair and they are sitting over a cauldron. One witch is stirring the cauldron, and puffs of smoke are coming up, and it looks like little fireflies are in there. The other witch is looking at a book and reading a incantation. They're cackling, and you can hear the flames of the fire, and it is just a beautiful piece. I mean, you stare at it, and of course it's not real, but you look at it and feel the presence of the witches. It's a very eerie but exciting thing to look at.
Signal: Are the witches robotic?
Singer: These are robotic they're animatronic, and they're controlled by a computer. So it's amazing to have that inside Molar Manor.
Signal: What will you be dressed as?
Singer: You know, I'm probably scary just like this. I will probably be wearing a Molar Manor shirt and I will be guiding people into the house. I don't dress up because I like people to recognize me, and a lot of the kids who come and the parents who come are my patients, and they like to say hi and I want them to be scared just the way I look.
Signal: If it's set up permanently inside the warehouse, do you do private parties at other times of the year?
Singer: Yes. I am glad you mentioned that. We have just started to do that, to try and offset my rent payment. We have just started doing private parties for children on the weekends, and we're offering also Molar Manor for adult parties, and it's also available for corporate events. It's something I never thought about doing before, but I though I might as well try it.
I'm a dentist, not a party person, but give me a chance and it might work out.
Signal: Aren't people already afraid enough to go to the dentist without going out of your way to scare them?
Singer: You know what I have done? I have done something I think is quite unique. I put my personality in my dental office. I have taken all of the things that I have loved as a child memorabilia from Howdy Doody, photographs of Buster Keaton and Abbott and Costello, and I have a whole "Star Wars" collection in my office and life-size figures and I filled the entire office with memorabilia that parents love to look at Captain Kangaroo, board games, Monopoly, all these fun things and these kids can learn from the past. And I have some things up in the present that entertain the children, video games, arcades, and I have TV sets over the dental chairs. So I have created a nice, cozy, warm, fuzzy environment to pretty much camouflage the dentistry.
Signal: Do you deal exclusively with kids?
Singer: Just children. We like to see them around 2 years old.
Signal: What excites you about doing Molar Manor after all these years?
Singer: The excitement for me is to watch people have a blast, to tell me, boy, that's the best thing they have ever experienced. I love giving to the community, and I love helping kids and doing things for other people, and I get a lot of pleasure watching their reactions. They are being scared for one minute and laughing, going, "God, that was great. I've got to do it again." That's my excitement. That is my pleasure and enjoyment.
Signal: What is next?
Singer: The next chapter? Oh, boy, I don't know. This chapter might be closing. You know, it's been a long haul.
Singer: Yeah, it might be. It might be time to move on and do something different.
Signal: Is this the last year for Molar Manor?
Singer: This might be the last year for Molar Manor. The wrinkles are getting heavier.
Signal: Is that the reason?
Singer: It might be something new, something different; it might be the end of era.
I would like to emphasize if people really want to come out and enjoy it, this is the fourth year it's been there, and it's gotten bigger and better every year.
Signal: And if you want to see it, you'd better get there this weekend.
Singer: You'd better come this year.
Signal: It's sounding like Molar Manor is in the past tense and you've crossed that threshold.
Singer: Well, no; I have still have to get through this weekend which is exciting. I am putting in every night working on it, so this is my family doesn't see me for a couple weeks. This is an intense project. And then working with the charities, it is a intense thing and besides doing dentistry and being (with) family and everything else. So I am looking forward to Sunday night.
Signal: Want to give us a hint of what might come after Molar Manor?
Singer: We will have to wait and see.
See this interview in its entirety today at 8:30 a.m., and watch for another "Newsmaker of the Week" on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, available to Comcast and Time Warner Cable subscribers throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.