Svengoolie’s Volo Auto Museum appearance took place exactly a week after I’d seen him at The Squared Circle Restaurant (covered HERE). I’d spent the days in between on a zoo related trip in North Carolina but what better way to round off a vacation than in the company of my favorite celebrity? Volo is one of Illinois’ best kept secrets and home to famous cars seen both on the small and large screens (and a place I’ve covered before, right HERE).
Unfortunately, I was still in the process of unpacking and lost track of time. It was bad enough getting a late start but even worse when road construction brought traffic to a crawl mere miles from the museum. By the time I finally arrived it was 45 minutes after Sven’s appearance began and I’m one of those folks who experiences a visceral reaction to being late. It’s one of the things I don’t miss about being married as my wife seemed to have the opposite problem. Flustered, I parked my van (an eyesore next to Volo’s beautiful vintage automobiles) and went to purchase my ticket.
To gain admission, one must first enter a ’50s inspired diner with so much eye candy you don’t know where to look first. This proved a nice distraction in lieu of the long line even if not necessarily improving my mood. Getting to Svengoolie today seemed as easy as walking through mud!
I’d met the Cortese family outside who, unlike me, had the brains to get their tickets in advance. They took off and agreed to meet me where Sven was signing, but this presented yet another next challenge…
Volo has a maze of buildings and Svengoolie was signing in a different location than he was the year before. I’d been given directions via the nice lady who sold me my ticket but my sense of direction is…how can I put this?…HORRIBLE. By the time I’d made it out the door she may as well have given me the instructions in French. I decided it was best to just follow my fellow Svengoolie fans who, thankfully, wore their “Official Chicken Thrower” T-shirts (which you can order yourself by visiting svengoolie.com) for easy identification.
Entering the correct showroom to see Svengoolie
Being late to a Svengoolie appearance was always a recipe for disaster but even more so lately with his popularity skyrocketing. After finally arriving at the correct location, I took one look at the line and was ready to turn around and go back home with the immense turn-out of fans weaving around the show room. The Cortese’s were somewhere near the end and, since I wasn’t planning on getting an autograph, I decided to take my chances by walking up to the side where Sven was. The last thing I wanted to do was take up any line space anyway.
The line…after he’d already been signing for an hour!
Last year Volo had chairs we Sven gawkers could use to comfortably observe things (you can relive that day by clicking HERE) but this time around there were no such amenities. It was now over an hour into the signing and I knew that line would soon have to be cut which, moments later, it was. This didn’t sit well with a few fans who paid to be there specifically to see Sven and walked in late like I did. One was an older lady who nearly knocked me over while furiously marching back and forth in an effort to get a closer look at the host. She was panting and looked so desperate you’d have thought Sven was a faith healer and she had an incurable disease. Not satisfied with the view at my end,. she then frantically stormed to the other side as if the equally spaced view on the left was any better.
I saw my friends, Don and Bunny, towards the head of the line and waved. Those experienced Goolies know that it’s important to show up early…something this experienced Goolie had managed to screw up royally! I waved to them and this caught the attention of Sven’s assistant, Jim Roche, who came over and said hello. As for Svengoolie, the extent of our interaction on this day was a friendly wave while mouthing the words “Hello.” Just like his last appearance, the turn out was such that this was the about the most one could hope for. The fans didn’t seem to mind the wait and snapped photos of their favorite host in the interim.
One advantage of having everyone sort of clumped together as opposed to standing in a straight line (which, in this case, would have likely exceeded a city block) was that any interesting fans would eventually wind their way to where I was standing…and be stuck there for a bit.
My definition of interesting fans
The best find was courtesy of the Sullivan family from Villa Park, Illinois who brought their son dressed up like Kerwyn! Of all the sidekicks Svengoolie’s had assisting him during viewer mail segments over the years, this one – a prehistoric chicken, has lasted the longest. this is no surprise since he’s proven popular with fans who’ve now begun paying homage to him in their own creative ways.
Bunny and I talked with Jim for a bit who reiterated Sven’s 2013 Halloween schedule of appearances (NOTE: this event was in September and, yes, I’m WAY behind with my Sven coverage). The way this usually works is that Bunny and I will discuss where he’s going and start planning on which ones we’d like to do. Last year I pretty much looked at his whole itinerary and said, “Sure!” but this year I needed to scale things back. Believe me, this is one Terror Dave who wishes he had a whole team of Sven reporters to cover everything. Then again, who am I kidding? I was a regular at Svengoolie appearances years before becoming a Terror Dave and suspect I still will be long after.
I was anxious to see Sven’s reaction to little Kerwyn and, as expected, he loved the costume. Not surprisingly, it would eventually make it on his show…
He looked around for Jim to get a picture but his poor assistant was busy checking up on Ms Frantic (the one who almost ran me over earlier) who was now sitting underneath a Jurassic Park dinosaur vehicle and acting as if she were dying. At this point I hopped the rope and started taking pictures for him though my act of valor was far from necessary as Jim, the ultimate multi-tasker, quickly made it back and took some himself.
Svengoolie with the Sullivan family
Meanwhile the woman remained under the T-Rex truck fanning herself while dramatically huffing and puffing. Do I sound rather insensitive? Well let me add that I saw her refuse to allow anyone to call an ambulance nor assist her outside for some cool, fresh air. No Siree, she wasn’t getting any sympathy from Bunny and I who were convinced it was a ploy to get Sven’s attention in lieu of the line being cut and her unable to meet him the conventional way.
We started hatching a plan where Bunny would distract Jim and then I’d drag the old biddy the necessary ten feet to reach the back door. “Here!!!” I’d yell, while giving her a swift kick in the butt, “Enjoy the breeze!” Of course that scenario would have, no doubt, ended with me getting arrested and Svengoolie pretending he didn’t know who I was.
So I decided it was probably better to focus on other fans instead. Sven always brings a stack of his own promo cards to sign and give fans for free but a few also brought their own items, most commonly the 2013 Scary Monsters Magazine Svengoolie Tribute issue…
Mark shows off his Scary Monsters
Another fan brought along a replica of Svengoolie’s old chicken shield which I thought was pretty cool!
Eric Anderson & his Svengoolie Family Crest
It’s also nice seeing how some fans find Svengoolie art work online and then choose that for Sven to sign (provided they aren’t trying to sell it on eBay which is a story I’ll be getting into in an upcoming blog). On this day I saw a whole family of fans bring their favorite creations from artist, Jeff Carlson, whose Sven works were featured in a previous post you can look at HERE.
Soon it was officially time for the signing to end with at least 30 minutes more of fans waiting their turn. Svengoolie stayed and accomodated them but I had to leave since I was meeting a friend near Volo. I really wanted to stay to see if that woman (still sitting under the dinosaur which I’d of loved to see come to life and devour her) would succeed in getting Sven to walk over and see her. Actually, it was probably best that I was taking off. If I had seen him make his way towards her I’d have likely yelled, “Sven, HELP!!!” and then hurled myself on the ground hoping he’d re-route himself towards me. Again probably not the best of ideas…
Things have definitely changed since I first started going to Svengoolie appearances. Since going national my childhood host has gone from a local celebrity to a horror legend. Now I can sit around the campfire with my kids and say, “Yep…I remember when those lines to see Svengoolie only ran half a block as opposed to half a mile!”
One thing is for sure….Volo may be Illinois best kept secret but Svengoolie’s popularity has become quite obvious.