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December 18, 2021
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The Pioneer Award is given to those who have made a substantial contribution to the horror genre or to cinema as a whole一people whose work has made a profound impact. The recipient of the 2021 Pioneer Award is Richard J. Ricci, known to his friends on the Romero team as “The Rev.”
Richard Ricci’s contributions were formidable. In 1962, he and George A. Romero began shooting material for an experimental film entitled Expostulations. Later, before he shipped out with the Navy, Richard astonished George and his partner, Russ Streiner, by paying the rent for a Pittsburgh storefront, giving Latent Image its first physical headquarters. Expostulations was never completed and was believed lost一purportedly destroyed in a flood of the basement where the elements were stored.
One segment of George A. Romero’s lost film has surfaced with Richard's invaluable assistance. Richard composed a poem to accompany the recently rediscovered footage, which is currently being restored for presentation as Romero’s Elegy.
The world lost Richard Ricci in July 2020. Accepting the award on his behalf is his brother, Edmund, to whom the statuette will be presented. The award itself一a 1:3 scale bronze bust of George A. Romero一was sculpted by the GARF's Artistic Director, Christian Stavrakis.
GEORGE A. ROMERO WAS A PIONEER.
The George A. Romero Pioneer Award was created to honor those who, like George, are innovators and pioneers in independent film and the horror genre, both past and present. The award is also intended to honor the architects of independent film and horror, and those who push the boundaries of filmmaking and storytelling.
2020 AWARD WINNER
During the University of Pittsburgh’s celebration of George’s birthday on February 4, the George A. Romero Foundation was honored to present its 2020 Pioneer Award, which honors the legacy of Duane Jones, the celebrated lead actor of Night of the Living Dead. Duane's sister, Marva Jones-Brooks, accepted the award on his behalf.
A Pitt alumnus, Duane Jones went on to study theatre in Manhattan. While working on Night of the Living Dead, he completed his Master's degree in Communications at New York University. His resumé also includes teaching literature at Long Island University, assisting with the design of Harlem Preparatory School (where he also headed the English department), and creating English-language training programs for the Peace Corps. Duane was the first Black man to be cast as the star of a horror film and may well be the first Black actor hired for any American production regardless of, rather than because of, his skin color.
William R. Cardille was a beloved local personality on both radio and television, best known as the host of Chiller Theater, the late-night horror show that became an enduring staple in the Pittsburgh area and the source of his famous nickname, “Chilly Billy.”
A local icon, Bill used his clout to tirelessly promote a horror feature being filmed in nearby Evans City that would eventually be known as Night of the Living Dead. Appearing in the film as himself, Bill also helped entice investors and wrangled fellow news personalities and the WIIC news helicopter, adding considerable production value to the project. Bill remained an enthusiastic supporter over the years, and his daughter Lori eventually went on to star in Day of the Dead. He also reprised his role in the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead.
After Bill passed in 2016, George Romero said, “He was an incredible supporter, I really give Bill a large part of the credit for me being here at all."
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The GARF is dedicated to honoring the life work and cultural influence of George A. Romero, and supporting a new generation of filmmakers and artists inspired by his legacy.
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