Svengoolie was given new headquarters at this year’s Nightmare on Chicago Street, and a classier one at that. Side Street Studio Arts is yet another reason to love the city of Elgin, Illinois; providing residents an opportunity to express their creative side and a venue to display their work. Consequently, the national TV horror host would find himself sitting amid sinister, yet beautiful, works of art; all part of their Something Wicked: A Dark Arts Exhibit. The line outside to see him started forming almost as soon as the event began and for good reason as he’d only be signing for an hour before hosting the annual costume contest
As his 8:30 arrival drew near, we used the power of our press passes to get inside and wait for him. Once indoors I saw my friend, Elliott Serrano, going over this year’s costume contestants with the two other judges; Mike Scott and Valerie Kessler.
Though Nightmare on Chicago Street can’t be viewed as anything less than successful, its annual costume contest remained a source of contention. Year after year, despite great people and the best laid plans, there’d always be some sort of mishap or it would drag too long
As someone who’s often referred to as a “Svengoolie stalker,” let me risk incriminating myself ever further by admitting that I DO keep a ledger of all the Rich Koz/Svengoolie public appearances I’ve attended and this past Nightmare on Chicago Street marked my sixty-fifth one. Now I’m not looking for a prize (or a restraining order) but mention this only because in all those times, last year’s costume contest marked the ONLY occasion I ever noticed Svengoolie get flustered. I can’t remember exactly but I think it had something to do with the contestant information cards being screwed up, though he volleyed the situation so well it’s doubtful anyone other than an obsessive fan like me had noticed. In fact, it was really then that I realized just how talented an entertainer he truly was since anyone less skilled would likely have tossed those cards up in the air and called it a night.
Of course just because he can handle that type of situation doesn’t mean he should be.
The addition of Elliott alone was the perfect antidote. Having seen his skills at AAZK (American Association of Zoo Keepers) events, including an elephant fundraiser I helped chair last May. I knew that Elliott was skilled at working a crowd while keeping things moving along. He also worked well with Sven (as Rich Koz) at past events and his presence would help eliminate the misconception that Svengoolie was “judging” the contest rather than hosting it. A couple of years ago I thought a lady wearing a muscle costume was gonna toss him off the stage when she turned sour grapes over not winning the top prize.
Svengoolie and his Producer/assistant, Jim Roche, walked in the door and everyone quickly took their places. Jim dropped a duffle bag of Svengoolie T-shirts on the floor before getting the man himself settled in. Another observation from my multitude of Sven-sightings – Jim works his ass off at these things; making sure the line’s moving, always joking and interacting with the fans, taking pictures, and selling shirts/buttons. I offered to help assist him with their sales as I did at Flashback Weekend and was happy to do so as they’ve always gone way above and beyond for us Daves. Jim is also great about sharing his pictures (as see in THIS post) so it didn’t make much sense for us tripping all over each other for the same shots.
The signing ended promptly at 9:30pm and I had to get my tired daughters home. I waved goodbye to Svengoolie before he was whisked off to the contest. I packed up the shirts and had a wad of cash ready for Jim as he zoomed behind. I later heard from several sources that this year went without a hitch and Elliott fulfilled his promise of keeping things moving along and organized. Great job!
Here are photos of the costume contest, all courtesy of Jim Roche…
Special thanks to Jim Roche for sharing his pictures!