The Daves would like to welcome our latest guest blogger, Jamie Lee Cortese. We met Jamie recently at HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis and were immediately impressed with her, especially with her horror host knowledge! We think she has a huge future ahead of her and we are honored to have her writing on our site!
Let me start off by admitting that I have not been a real “Monster Kid” for very long. In fact, the first full-blown horror movie I ever saw all the way through was Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street when it was in theaters. However, as I began my “monster” journey, I quickly realized that from the very beginning, all signs pointed to my eventual transformation into one. For one thing, I’ve always been drawn to offbeat, “weird” things: I am a huge fan of Tim Burton (hence my seeing Sweeney Todd), and a consistent highlight of any October is my family’s annual visit to Fright Fest at Six Flags.
If someone had told me even two years ago that I would soon be watching a new horror movie every week, hosted by “the guy who comes on after Stooge-A-Palooza” (Stooge-A-Palooza is a local show where Three Stooges shorts are presented uncut and uninterrupted by the host, Rich Koz), I would’ve stared at you and responded with the title of this article: “Who, me?”
And yet, not only have I done just that, but I have also been relentlessly researching since September for a school project I’ve chosen to do on horror hosts. Shockingly, in the mere year and a half since I began faithfully watching Svengoolie every week, I have met the man in person so many times that he now recognizes my name in e-mails I send to him, and even recognizes me and my family when we’re in line at appearances. Pictures of us have appeared on his show multiple times, and he always makes it a point to say at each and every appearance I see him at that he’s received my latest e-mail. Not only this, but I have followed a blog, and now find myself writing for that very blog! My reaction to all of these events, including my writing being published at all, is always a stunned, “Who, me?”
In hindsight, strangely enough, my being a fan of horror, and especially horror hosts, can actually all be traced back to Fright Fest. For as long as I can remember, the Six Flags park my family goes to has had a motion simulator ride. At Fright Fest, it was a tradition to show “Superstition”, hosted by none other than Elvira, Mistress of the Dark! In the introduction video shown before you enter the ride, Elvira greets you and tells you about her soon-to-open “scream park” (cue a bloodcurdling off-screen screech), which she calls “Elvira’s Tragic Kingdom”! Of course, it took me many years to finally understand all of her double entendres, but the humor I did pick up on had me splitting my sides with laughter! At the end of the introduction, she reveals that she is going to take you on a virtual tour of the park, and for a ride on her “personal favorite” of the thirteen attractions, “The House of Superstition”. A bolt of lightning sucks you and Elvira into the computer system, whereupon the theater doors open, and you are taken on a wild ride! Unfortunately, the entire attraction was shut down just a few years ago.
“Superstition” was always my family’s first stop at Fright Fest, and we’d stop back frequently throughout the day, usually ending up being on one of the last rides of the night when the park closed.
A few years ago, my mother and brother went out to run some errands, and came home with an unexpected treat! Apparently, while they had been out, my brother had recognized Elvira on one of the DVD covers on the shelf and pointed it out. That movie was Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. My family set a night aside to watch it for the first time and, in short, we LOVED it! Ecstatic at the realization that there was more to Elvira than a motion simulator ride, I decided to do some research and find out more. Here is what I found out that fateful night:
1. Elvira was a horror host. (A horror host? What the heck is that?)
2. Horror hosts… host horror movies.
3. This is not a new concept.
4. Most horror hosts are on local television stations. (Local television? What the heck is that?)
5. Local television… is television that is only broadcast in a certain area. Locally.
6. This is not a new concept, either. (Huh. That sounds pretty cool. Does Chicago have a local horror host?)
7. Uh… yeah. Svengoolie. (Oh yeah! He’s the guy who comes on after Stooge-A-Palooza, right?)
8. Uh… yeah, sure. Oh, and by the way…
9. Svengoolie is the host of Stooge-A-Palooza. (WHAT?! No way! … Really?)
So that’s how this all got started. Right after I started watching, I also found out that Svengoolie himself would be appearing to meet fans, sign autographs, and take pictures at… Fright Fest! We had ordered our official Svengoolie T-shirts, but they had not arrived yet by the time the appearance rolled around. So, the night before, using some pictures I found on the Internet and some drippy fonts (which proudly proclaimed, “I HAVE A FEELING WE’RE NOT IN BERWYN ANYMORE!!!”) I created my own T-shirt design, printed it out on iron-on paper, and (with the help of my mother) made T-shirts for my brother and myself to wear when we met Svengoolie the next day.
We made sure we got in line very early the next day (believe it or not, we actually ended up being around third in line). From our incredible vantage point, I was hoping to catch at least a quick glimpse of Svengoolie before we actually climbed the steps to approach his table. Just before he was supposed to arrive, as if they knew we were all trying to get a sneak peak at Mr. Goolie, some people came in to arrange the table, and propped a big, framed picture of Sven on the corner of it that was facing us, and at just the right angle so that we couldn’t possibly see him until we were literally right in front of him. Honestly, it was like something out of a movie.
When the moment finally came and I suddenly found myself face-to-face with the man himself, my mind instantly became a total blank. All I could say was, “Hi, Svengoolie!” and “We love your show!” My mom pointed out my shirt to him, and he turned around to look at it. Upon reading it, he even laughed! Words cannot describe the immense joy and excitement that was simply overflowing from me at that moment. I wondered in awe to myself, “He thought something I wrote was funny? Who, me?”
Exactly one week later, we were lucky enough to meet him once again at Party City. While we were waiting in line, my brother wondered aloud if Svengoolie remembered us. I reminded him that Svengoolie meets a lot of people at every appearance, especially at Six Flags, so he might not. During the wait, Party City employees began walking around the line selling rubber chickens to the fans! We ended up buying two: One for me and one for my brother. Svengoolie was even kind enough to sign them for us! Suddenly, the line began moving. We were on our way!
When we got up there, my brother immediately asked, “Do you remember us?” I hurriedly tried to jump in and remind him again of the legions of fans Svengoolie meets all the time, but before I could, Sven responded:
“Yes, I do!”
My jaw dropped wide open.
Not knowing what else to say, I enthusiastically added, “We were the ones who made the shirts!”
“Yes, I remember you guys!”
He remembered us? He remembered me? Who, me?
The, uh, very second time I ever met the great Svengoolie! The rubber chicken seen here is the one he signed for me! And yes, for those of you who noticed (both of you), I am indeed wearing the same shirt as before… but, in my defense, so is Sven!
The next month, footage from the Fright Fest appearance was shown on his show, and my brother and I began bouncing off the walls when we suddenly saw ourselves on the screen! Who, me?
As fate would have it, the very next year found us meeting him once more at Fright Fest, at the exact same location in the park as the year before. I got in line an hour and a half early, and, to put it bluntly, had an extreme case of nerves. But I had already met the man three times in the last year: Why was I so nervous? Because this time, I had an agenda: I had been assigned a school project for which I could research any topic I wanted, so long as it had something to do with my planned major or career. I hope to be both a screenwriter and a performer; unfortunately, there aren’t too many people currently who consistently work on both sides of the camera. Then, one night, while I was watching Svengoolie, it hit me (no, not a rubber chicken): Rich Koz always writes his own material! Upon further research, I found out that it was the same with many horror hosts. And, boom! I had my topic: Horror hosts. My parents had encouraged me to ask him for an interview. Now, I already knew that he was a really nice guy, but I also knew that he was a very busy man as well. As my heart bounced about heavily in my chest, I tightly clutched a small gift I had for him in my hand. Over the summer, while on vacation, I had seen an amusing little red magnet in a small store that said in yellow letters, “MY MOOD IS:” with a green Godzilla pictured next to them. I laughed and immediately bought two: One for myself, and one to give to Svengoolie at his next appearance. A wave of self-consciousness suddenly washed over me as I anxiously sat on a bench awaiting Sven’s arrival. Who was I kidding? He doesn’t have time for a school project! And, really? A tiny magnet with Godzilla on it? It’s not like I was six years old and this could be considered “cute”. But still I waited, holding onto my gift to Sven, and even checking every minute or so to make sure it was still there.
At last, a line began to form, and all of us Sven fans were enthusiastically socializing to pass the time while we shuffled our feet and checked the time every thirty seconds. Those of us in front watched happily as the line grew exponentially.
Suddenly, people behind us started cheering, and my mother announced to me, “Look! There he is!”
“What?!” I spun around, and sure enough, there he was: A smiling Svengoolie walking up behind us, greeting the fans as he made his way up to the table set up for him. He actually startled a few people in the unsuspecting crowd, including myself, since I did not expect for him to be about two feet behind me when I turned around.
Our family was second in line this time, and when I found myself face-to-face with Svengoolie himself for the fourth time in one year, my mind became a total blank. For the fourth time. Thankfully, I had enough of a grip on my senses to sheepishly present him with the little Godzilla magnet, preceding it by telling him that I had saw it while on vacation over the summer and immediately thought of him. He took it, looked at it, and laughed! He sincerely thanked me for the gift and proudly showed it off to the people around him, even going so far as to try to stick it on the frame that bore his picture on the table and, when that didn’t work, hunt around himself for something metal to put it on right then and there! Mr. Jim Roche, who accompanies him to every appearance armed with a camera, joked that he (Mr. Roche) had some metal in his head. Wow! Svengoolie himself was marveling over something I gave him? Who, me?
Svengoolie’s warm response to the gift lifted my spirits quite a bit, and helped me to remember the question I had for him. So, taking a deep breath, and summoning up all of my courage… I asked Mr. Roche. In my defense, Sven had a long line of fans waiting to meet him, and I didn’t want to bother him and hold up the line!
Mr. Roche listened intently, then replied, “Well, I’m not a horror host. You’d have to ask him.” So, still hoping to ride on the same bout of courage, I turned around to face Svengoolie.
My heart skipped about five beats.
Apparently, Sven had been listening the whole time! He answered me before I even began repeating my spiel!
For the rest of the day, that whole scene replayed over and over again in my mind. I began to doubt my memory; did I really gather up the guts to ask him? Did he really say yes? But, no matter how many times those memorable moments reran themselves throughout the day and even into the night, they were always, miraculously, the same.
Wasting no time, the very next day, I sent him an e-mail thanking him a million times over for his kindness the day before.
Exactly one week after the Fright Fest appearance, we found ourselves meeting Sven again, this time in (say it with me) Berrrwyyyn! As we all waited in line inside the jeweler’s store, we saw people constantly walking in and out one of the doors behind the counter. “Aha,” we fans figured. “He must be waiting right behind that door!”
Well, somebody forgot to tell Sven. At the designated time when he was supposed to appear, he appeared, all right, but not from that door in front of us! We suddenly heard cheers from the fans lined up outside the store, and when I turned around, I nearly jumped out of my skin when I found Sven right behind me (Notice a pattern here?)! We all hurriedly scurried out of the way to let him through, and the signing began. When our turn came, his face grew suddenly serious, and he asked me:
“Now, you and me are the ones who are going to be doing that special project, right?”
Numb with shock, I nodded and said yes. Completely at a loss for words, I asked him if he had by any chance gotten my e-mail. He smiled and nodded:
“Yes, I did, and I sent you a reply!” (Note: This reply was mysteriously lost in cyberspace. Neither Will Robinson nor Rod Serling could find it. But, that’s not the point here. The point is…)
Coming up in Part 2: HorrorHound! Find out how I finally met The Daves after reading and following their blog for months, what the various hosts’ reactions were to my project, what I look like in a different shirt, and why a certain horror host even thought my name was fake!
Jamie Lee Cortese~