During a recent Svengoolie appearance I covered at Pinball Life, I mentioned that one of the benefits of stalking the national commercial TV horror host was being introduced to new venues and activities I’d of never experienced otherwise. Attending the Roe Conn Halloween special on Thursday October 29th was a prime example! For those lucky enough to gain access, you’d be treated to a live taping of WGN’s Roe Conn Show at a beautiful suburban venue. But first one had to apply for a ticket.
About a month before the big day I logged on to the WGN Radio site to apply for a pass. Although they were free, they were granted on a random and limited basis making it the luck of the draw. After a few weeks of silence I assumed it wasn’t meant to be until just days before the event when I finally received word I’d been chosen. Along with acceptance came instructions on where and when it would take place and what to do once I got there.
In this case, the “where” was a beautiful venue in Frankfurt, Illinois called CD & Me. I’m familiar with this quaint village as they have an amazing fall festival and I have a few lucky friends who live there. I did not, however, know anything about this particular spot and assumed by its moniker that it might be some sort of music store. Nothing could be farther from the truth! I drove down La Grange Ave into the older part of town which, despite Forbes listing it as one of the fastest growing suburbs in the United States, was a fairly rural drive (along with $2.08 gasoline…woohooo!). Ito wasn’t hard spotting the sign for CD & Me on my right as I pulled into a beautiful estate building with cobblestone driveway leading visitors to its lot.
I walked past a fire pit and chairs before entering the main hall. It was a pretty neat set-up with a cozy bar on the left of audience seating and Halloween decor. On the stage was a long table set up with microphones for the radio personalities with a band playing country music on a loft above. The talented Andrew Salgado, performed covers of songs such as “My Girl” as well as selections from his upcoming CD, Absolutely Everything.
As soon as I checked in I was greeted by my fellow Sven-fan, Larry Lang. Usually I see him every year at Nightmare on Chicago Street but he wasn’t able to attend this past one. Thanks to this occasion I was still able to see him and his latest (and always amazing) “Svengoolie Pumpkin Patch” design. These full size posters feature the host along with a bunch of “carved” pumpkins illustrating things associated with him. This year it appropriately had a STAR WARS theme and featured Sven standing next to one his most famous fans, Mark Hamill! It’s still surreal for me to see my two childhood idols as fans of each other and they’re both genuinely gracious and phenomenal people behind the scenes as well.
Larry pointed out one of pumpkins located on the lower right that featured my face on it. While there’s no part of me that feels worthy of this honor, it does prove that I’m not only effective at stalking Svengoolie in person but in poster form as well.
Before taking my seat, I wandered around and complimented a few guests for their clever costumes. My favorites were a woman dressed as the Purple People Eater and another as a literal rendition of the “Million Dollar Baby.”
There was also a guest wearing a “V for Vendetta” mask while carrying a full-sized scarecrow puppet/prop that gave the illusion of being its own entity. Conn would later comment “So man great costumes today…we’ve even got a guy back there humping himself!”
Not long after settling in, the radio hosts walked in; almost all in costume. Roe Conn was dressed as Donald Trump while co-host, Judy Pielach, represented the other side of the political spectrum as Hillary Clinton. As an embellishment, she carried a replica of Bill Clinton which prompted Conn to quip, “Boy, that doll and Barbie would have quite a night.”
The cleverest costume by far belonged to Anna Davlantes as Kim Kardashian. Wearing a “nude” body suit (with lots of extra padding in the caboose) she further solidified the illusion of being the self-absorbed reality star by pulling out her cell phone and pretending to take a selfie. Yes, there was no question who she was dressed as for Halloween!
The show started promptly at 3pm and the time and everyone was so entertaining that the time flew by! In between commercial breaks, CD & Me staff served Halloween themed drinks and their tasty signature pizzas while the hosts greeted fans.
I was later surprised when Richard Roeper entered the scene. I used to watch him all the time on At the Movies after he took over for the late Gene Siskel and during the shows’ other famous co-host, Roger Ebert’s, battle with cancer. This was also a reunion of sorts since he and Conn had their own show on WLS Radio AM 890 before its cancellation last October.
Conn joked with Roeper about how he hoped they wouldn’t offend anybody as they had during their previous work prompting Roeper to sarcastically remark how he’s never offended anyone before in his life. He then mentioned how he’d received death threats after a review he once did on Lord of the Rings.
At about 5pm Larry and his dad turned and asked me where the heck Svengoolie was; as if I carry around a special rubber chicken beeper that clucks every time he’s near. Fortunately the answer to his question revealed itself when Sven’s assistant/Producer, Jim Roche, peeked out from behind the stage during a break to snap some pictures. Clearly Svengoolie had entered the building!
When Svengoolie walked on stage he received big applause from both the audience as well as his fellow hosts. All the moderators made a point to acknowledge Svengoolie’s prolific broadcasting career; reminding everyone that despite the funny make-up and self-depreciating humor, he’s a respected Chicago legend.
After sharing some banter, random audience members were chosen to join him, Roeper, and Davlantes for a round of “News or Reuse.” The rules for the game are pretty simple; outrageous headlines are read out loud and it’s up to the participants to decide if they’re made up or real news.
While my favorite horror host didn’t fare so well with points, he was pretty darn funny nonetheless! Especially when asked the validity of one sensationalistic title about a man cutting off his own testicles. Svengoolie’s female teammate believed the headline was news prompting the host to comment, “Oh sure, SHE thinks this could happen!” In the end she proved to be correct…and I’m crossing my legs even as I type this.
The event ended and visitors were allowed to go on stage and get photos with everyone. Unfortunately I needed to get up to the zoo for an elephant lecture and didn’t have the luxury of doing so. While Svengoolie was posing with fans, I said goodbye to Jim who assured me he’d share all his pictures for this site (and obviously he meant it).
The following shots are all courtesy of Jim Roche…
Two days later it was Halloween and I saw Svengoolie again in a neighboring town. It would mark the end of another rigorous and successful tour of appearances and the last time I’d see him this year…at least until Sventa Claus Comes to Town.