Well my friends, it’s that time of year when we celebrate family traditions, gathering with friends, gift giving…and Svengoolie! Yes, leave it to our national TV horror host to throw conventional holiday wisdom down the chimney and make the yuletide season friendly for us horror fans (who, contrary to Andy Williams, consider October to be the “most wonderful time of year”) as well! A few years back, Sven adopted the persona of “Sventa Claus” which, in Chicago, has become something of a holiday tradition in and of itself.
It is in this fanboy’s opinion, that Sventa Claus is one of the best ideas Svengoolie’s ever had. In fact, I wish he’d further enhance his holiday appearances by dressing up in his “Airin of the Green Hornet” from St Patrick’s Day 2012 and, while we’re at it, a visit from the Easter-Goolie could sure make that holiday a lot more fun, too! But let’s not ponder what could be and focus on what “is.” “Sventa Claus is Coming to Town” and, thank God since last year was “A Year Without a Sventa Claus” due to his recovering from a heart attack. As if to make up for this lapse, 2013 would see TWO Sventa appearances as opposed to the customary one; both taking place at comic book shops…
On Friday, December 6th, I left work and headed straight over to the Comic Collector in Riverside, Illinois. It’s located on Harlem Avenue which, for those unfamiliar with Chicagoland, is probably one of the WORST streets on Earth to navigate! Even without the usual rush hour traffic it’s a plethora of endless traffic lights and the occasional train. I’d left work early and felt confident I’d arrive at least a half hour early but scarcely made it on time. My friends, Don & Bunny Urban, weren’t far behind and found ourselves near the front door of the shop with a line stretching the length of the store to the back register where Sven would signing at. Actually we counted ourselves pretty lucky since, moments later, the line made its way outside and into the freezing cold!
I caught up with my friends while scanning all the comic book titles. It’s been over twenty years since I’ve collected and I wasn’t aware that the hobby was still going so strong. It couldn’t be doing that bad in lieu of endless choices.
Sventa’s sleigh was running a bit behind as it not only got stuck in the usual traffic mire but also had a few emergency vehicles to contend with as well. No worries, it gave the Urbans and I a chance to catch up a bit. Normally I’d forego my place in line and just cover things nearby. But bot when that option puts me at the mercy of the elements! “Gosh,” said Bunny. “Those poor fans outside!”
“Yeah.” I agreed somberly. “Now what were you saying about The Walking Dead?”
Soon the host arrived through the front door along with a holiday surprise…his assistant Jim Roche! Jim is usually on hand at Svengoolie appearances but “Sventa” had always been solo. Roche’s presence meant we were guaranteed hysterical banter between the two along with great photos since he’s one of the few who knows how to work my camera (even if he is one of those Nikkon people)! Not to mention how generous he’s been in sharing his own great pictures with us which was a damn good thing tonight. The turn out was large and the shop small so there was clearly no way I’d be able to hover nearby as of I’d of liked to. Now, with Jim there snapping any interesting pictures of fans, I didn’t have too. Plus, by waiting in line, it meant I could get the picture I planned on taking with the host too. Why, I could even get something signed! (Note to reader: Clearly, in my world, one can never have enough pictures and autographs from Svengoolie)
I decided to bring along the two alien figures I’d used in a photo op with The X-Files‘ Gillian Anderson last July at The Fright Night Film Fest. Although my plastic props looked nothing like the ones in the film, I had it in my head that I wanted a “Sventa Claus Conquers the Martians” photo. I’d gotten the inspiration the night before while watching the Mystery Science Theater 3000 alumni present it via their hilarious Rifftrax on the big screen. Back in the old days (when he was a mere Chicago horror host) Sven would present this movie every Christmas while peppering it with his wonderful “Svensurround” and songs.
Svengoolie is naturally hilarious and has always been a great sport whenever I’ve come up with these goofy photo ops. He had no trouble playing the part…
After our first meeting, the Urbans and I went outside and sat in my van to keep warm while monitoring the line situation. As soon as we were guaranteed an inside spot we returned for a second visit (that’s why we call ourselves Goolies, folks).
Just as we were leaving we spied Bill Yingst who brought another one of his son’s, Bryan Sobin, to this appearance. I’d just seen him at The Nightmare on Chicago Street and now I can see that he will be taking Joan’s spot as a regular Goolie.
There wasn’t enough room for us to chat but Jim was nice enough to send us the above shot. The Urbans and I waved “Goodbye” to Sventa and each other before heading out into the cold, But it wasn’t the last we’d see of Sventa Claus this year…
Coming up…Sventa Claus visits the old Svengoolie set (sort of) at the appropriately named Alternative Reality Comics!