It’s been over a month and I’m still not sure what to make of horror host, Svengoolie’s, first 2016 appearance. On the surface it sounded like it was tailor made for me; my favorite horror host showing up at a fundraiser revolving around my favorite animals – elephants. The goal was to raise enough cash to help a lucky young lady named Desire’ travel to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand to work with them. I suppose I should’ve guessed that a unique experience such as this would result in an equally extraordinary send off and that was definitely the case as I stepped into the VFW Hall in Summit, Illinois. It was a large room with a crowd of people, someone dressed up as an elephant, Svengoolie and his producer (Jim Roche) at a signing area, the “King of Geeks” Elliott Serrano, and a big wrestling ring in the middle.
The Facebook page said it was sponsored by “Pro Wrestling” and that the night would be filled with local amateurs duking it out until the big finale featuring Svengoolie. I had no idea what exactly his involvement would be until it unfolded, but more on that later.
I quickly found my place in Svengoolie’s autograph line. The last time I saw him was at the TV station just before Chicago Days of the Dead where Elvira: Mistress of the Dark signed two rubber chickens; one for me and the other for Svengoolie. I’d brought them along so he could add his signature to mine and receive his.
The chicken legs were sticking out of the bag I was carrying them in and it caught the attention of an enthusiastic fan standing in front of me. He immediately mentioned how you can’t seem to find any rubber chickens in the Chicagoland area these days and he wasn’t kidding. I’d searched everywhere for these two, including Horrobles in Berwyn and numerous party stores, and would have had an easier time finding an extinct dodo bird. Thanks to Brookfield Zoo (who keeps them in stock for Svengoolie visits) I was able to obtain these but, c’mon Chicago, we’re in Svengoolie country over here!
After admiring my chickens, the gentlemen asked if I’d ever met Svengoolie before. I told him “yes,” leaving out that this was literally my 70th time doing so. He said it was his first and that he was so nervous he was shaking. He told me Svengoolie was his favorite celebrity and proved it by showing off a tattoo he had of the host on his arm.
It’s always great watching the fans meet Sven for the first time. Despite it being over a decade, it brings back the old feelings I had during mine. When the man’s big moment arrived I was genuinely touched by the exchange between them. Of course my turn was decisively less poignant and I half expected him to say, “Oh…it’s you again.” Of course he didn’t and was just as nice during visit #70 as all previous ones. We chatted a bit and exchanged goodies; I handed him the chickens and he gave me some promo cards he graciously signed ahead of time for a friend in Rhode Island (no, not Terror Dave Albaugh).
Later I struck up a conversation with a friend of mine from the zoo (though I should mention this fundraiser had no connection with Brookfield Zoo nor Brookfield & Lincoln Park AAZK). It turned out that my friend’s God daughter was the recipient of the night’s fundraising. We were in the middle of discussing it when I got distracted by the sight of a familiar face. Standing in line to see Sven was none other than Aurora Public Access host, The Bone Jangler.
I hadn’t seen him for years…probably not since Horrorhound did their March event in Indianapolis. The Bone Jangler was one of many hosts who participated in our “Weekly Horror Host Report” which I have no doubt helped garner our Rondo Award for “Best Horror Blog 2011.” Eventually the project became too difficult with our busy schedules but it was a lot of fun while it lasted. Seeing the top hat and signature mutton chops brought back those fond memories and as soon as his meeting with Svengoolie was over I went over to say “Hello.” Apparently he knew someone involved with the wrestling portion of this event and was there to show support. After the first match began, The Bone Jangler seemed to disappear and I though perhaps he’d left for the night. That assumption would later prove incorrect.
The wrestling portion was rather interesting though far from the “Royal Rumble” I’ve seen on Pay Per View. These wrestlers were a bit rusty and often shirtless which would be fine except for the fact that many were built like me. You know…stocky, big-boned, husky, and…oh who am I kidding? FAT!
After the second match I made up my mind that I’d had enough and would gracefully leave during intermission. Despite it being a Saturday, I’d worked earlier that day and had been up since 5am. I was so tired that my eyes were watering and I was pretty sure that half of what I was seeing were hallucinations (until the next day when I went through all my pictures and discovered it was all real). I was just putting my camera away when Jim Roche came up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. “You’re staying until the end, right?” Suddenly I found myself responding like one of Svengoolie’s signature sound effects. “Oh…uh…yeah.” Like it or not, I was now in it for the long haul.
In truth, I’m glad I stayed as the matches did get decisively better as the night progressed. Elliott showed up on stage and I almost choked realizing he was supposed to be a wrestler, himself. The audience heckled him and, thankfully, his opponent never showed and he won the belt by default. The scenario was obviously staged but a lot of fun to watch and I was reminded of Elliott’s impressive skills with the microphone.
Finally the big match was about to start and the contenders entered the arena. I had to do a double take as Svengoolie appeared with some clown. No, seriously, a wrestling clown named Yabo. And if that wasn’t weird enough, The Bone Jangler soon followed!
Had I really considered leaving early? How did I miss this on the the program? I later learned that this was an unplanned horror host team-up…and just when I thought the night was plum out of surprises.
The opposition wasn’t far away as an African American man wearing a red suit (named C Red) showed up with his wrestler; a large guy (Willie Da Bomb) wearing a singlet with the words “Black Wrestler Lives Matter.” This sparked the usual wrestling trash talk with the guy in red pointing to Svengoolie’s rubber chicken and then to Yabo. “You need to take that chicken and that chicken and get outta here!!!” he yelled. The audience was now in a frenzy!
The match began and though Yabo didn’t appear to know much about wrestling he sure had some mad clowning skills. He created a “balloon sword” to use on his opponent which, shockingly, didn’t do a whole lot of good against his burly opponent. At this point I was running around trying to figure out the best vantage point for photos. “Da Bomb,” annoyed by Yabo’s circus tricks, wasted no time getting the upper hand.
Just when all appeared lost, Yabo suddenly got up and started showing “Da Bomb” that his skills were nothing to laugh at.
Suddenly his opponent was down for the count and his manager, C Red, took up the crusade! This gave Svengoolie no choice but to show him who’s boss!
With the matches all over, it was time for me to leave. I headed back to my car trying to process what I’d just experienced. I never heard how much cash it brought in but you gotta give them credit for not taking the easy road with a simple “telethon.” The whole drive home I tried processing the whole event and finally decided that, although pretty strange, it did add a bit of color to my Svengoolie-stalking resume.
By the way, Svengoolie will be appearing this Thursday night at Brookfield Zoo for our AAZK Chapter spaghetti dinner fundraiser. It may not be as exciting as all this but I can promise good food, auctions, and that I won’t take my shirt off.