Last Saturday I was sitting at my work desk while gazing at the tempest outside. Since it was the weekend, I had the whole office to myself and decided to turn off the main lights in favor of a small one hanging over my computer. With the dark clouds and rain pounding on my window, it seemed to make the otherwise chaotic place cozier; something you could never accomplish during normal business hours. With Halloween only a couple weeks away, we Chicagoans can be sure of two things; the weather will be erratic and our local/national TV horror host, Svengoolie, will be amidst a busy schedule of appearances. In fact, it almost seemed like this year’s list of events rivaled that of his ultra-busy 2012. I’d covered almost all of those and remember being thoroughly exhausted by the time it was over. This year, however, my “Svengoolie-stalking” activities were clearly lacking as my schedule never seemed to be in sync with his. On this rainy day, however, he was slated to make two appearances with one starting just when my shift ended. I decided it was high time I broke out of my Svenertia. and braved the elements to see him at Fantasy Costumes – the largest costume shop in the windy city!
For lack of a better word, visibility sucked but finding the place was a breeze thanks to my WAZE app. If you use an iPhone, I highly recommend it over Google Maps and, no, I’m not getting paid to say this. By the time I arrived they were already 45 minutes into the appearance and a line stretched across the front of the store (which, as Donald Trump would say, was “Yuge!”). Of course I’ve seen Svengoolie draw long lines before but was particularly impressed with this one considering it was outside in a downpour and with no awnings offering protection. I, myself, debated whether or not I should high tail it home and skip this appearance altogether but instead tucked my SLR camera under my sweatshirt and headed over.
The line seemed to move every ten minutes or so which seemed like forever when you’re getting drenched. Worse, every few feet there’d be a depression in the roof that caused the water to collect before falling in a steady stream. It was like someone was standing over you with a bottomless pitcher while steadily pouring its contents down your back. I can’t remember the last time I was that wet and miserable and was just about to surrender when I heard an exchange between a father and his young son behind me. The dad kept teasing him saying, “I dunno, it’s raining pretty hard out here…maybe we should just go back home…” and the boy would adamantly respond, “No! I want to see Svengoolie!!!”
Had my soggy socks and windblown hair caused me to forget my Chicago heritage and the importance of paying tribute to our now ‘National’ horror host during the Halloween season? I immediately stopped feeling sorry for myself and started focusing on something else…like a nice, dry desert! The visualizations must of worked because the line seemed to move quicker and it wasn’t long before I was inside.
Once there, I wrung out the hood of my sweatshirt and started staring at my surroundings. We entered into the store at “wig” section and, let me tell you, they had aisles of them! I can’t imagine anyone looking for fake hair being disappointed at this place!
They also lived up to their name in terms of size. They had several rooms chock full of costumes, masks, and props.
The line weaved through the wigs (see what I did there?) and as I got closer, I could see the host interacting with fans while his assistant, Jim Roche, cracked jokes about needing to find himself a “real job.” There was a guy dressed as Svengoolie whom I stopped on the way out to pose…
Apparently he wasn’t alone…
After Jim spotted me, he gave me a big hug (and, since he was so nice in sharing some of his photos for this blog despite his busy schedule, I’ll be giving him another one tomorrow at the Nightmare on Chicago Street) and he told me Sven’s got a whole bunch of new movies in line for 2018!
Right before it was my turn, a very talented young fan had him sign a painting he did. I’m always impressed with how my more talented fellow fans express their devotion.
I made a point of telling Sven that the crappy weather did nothing to diminish his turnout. “The line was really long!” I said. “I should know; I just swam in it!” We talked about upcoming appearances and then it was time for others to get a chance to meet him. For me, this was Svengoolie appearance #79 and, after looking at face of that eager, young fan who was behind me, I knew it was time for me to dive back into that storm.
Needless to say, I was soaking wet when I walked in my front door and, after a hot shower, was just in time to watch Svengoolie on TV. Not only has the host defied horror host history by surviving on commercial TV for over five years but recently grabbed a primetime slot at 7pm Central during MeTV’s Super Sci-Fi Saturday lineup. This past summer a Svengoolie doll was released and quickly sold out (I’m told more are on the way). As I wrapped myself up in a blanket and watched the show’s intro I felt a sense of satisfaction having done this appearance. If there’s one celebrity worth risking pneumonia for, it’s Svengoolie.