The crowd hushed as WGN Radio personality, Nick Digiglio, took the platform. For as long as I’ve been attending Flashback Weekend it’s been his job to introduce Chicago’s local-gone-national TV horror host, Svengoolie, to the audience before the annual costume contest begins. It’s a fitting role for Digiglio as they’re genuine pals and Sven’s been a guest on his program numerous times. Whether delving into the illustrious career of his alter ego, Rich Koz, or dishing on their favorite horror films, it’s always a treat for us listeners. On this occasion, however, it was a one-man show as Sven replaced him on stage. The crowd broke into applause and for good reason. For us seasoned attendees, we knew we were in for an hour of imaginative costumes coupled with Svengoolie’s quick wit and banter.
His first order of business was breaking down the rules. The contestants were to walk onstage, giving the audience a good look at their costumes. Svengoolie would ask them their names and who (or what) they were dressed as, peppering the exchange with his humorous commentary. That’s assuming, of course, he could them to talk at all since every year brings its fair share of Friday the 13th Jasons and Halloween Michael Myers who usually stay true to their characters by remaining silent. Once all the contestants had taken their turns, they’d line up so the audience could cast their votes via applause. The one garnering the loudest reaction (good or bad) would be declared the winner.
First up, the youth division…
Now I’ve seen Svengoolie host a LOT of costume contests in my day and could tell that he was genuinely impressed with this bunch. They all looked great and did a stellar job being confident onstage. The winner was the cherubic son of artist, Mitch O’Connell, who was dressed as the Ray Milland/Rosey Greer composite from The Thing with Two Heads (1972). Clearly having an artist for a father has its advantages as this undoubtedly was one of the most creative kid costumes ever.
Ironically, my familiarity with the movie was from when Svengoolie hosted it via Chicago’s WCIU in October of 2009 – a couple years before going national via its sister station, MeTV. The film features Milland as a racist surgeon who gets his dead transplanted on the body of Rosey Greer – an African American man who maintains his own noggin in the process.
If there was one thing I walked away with from this contest, it’s that little girls are no longer squeamish when it comes to horror. These little ladies often out-gored the boys and with great results!
When their portion of the festivities ended, Svengoolie commented on how impressed he was with all of these kids and, believe me, he meant it.
Not that this should imply that the adults weren’t pretty clever themselves…
My personal favorite was a really elaborate version of John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982). Portraying the creature in full transformation, this guy went all out. I was prepared to cheer my head off for this contestant when the time came but, unfortunately, I’d never get the chance. The poor guy became so overheated he bowed out before the end. If you read my last entry, you’ll know it was hot as hell that day and I totally understood where he was coming from. Still, it was very unfortunate since I believe he had a strong shot at winning.
The theatrical remake of Stephen King’s IT was not only a financial smash but one that made a big impact on horror fans. Although less than a year since its release, every event I’ve attended since has multiple cosplayers of its version of Pennywise (deftly portrayed by Bill Skarsgard). This event was no exception with both a male and female entry – the latter even brought along Georgie Denbrough as her date. Talk about a dysfunctional relationship!
As usual, there was a fair share of slashers. I gotta give creative props to the guy who played the ill-received Nintendo version of Jason. As mentioned, most of the Michael Myers and Jasons remained silent when Svengoolie stuck a microphone in front of them with the exception of one Myers who not only talked but ended it by yelling “mother-f**cker” to the audience. I guess he must have been the Rob Zombie version.
There was an Elvira impersonator in the mix too which harkened back to when the real one stood next to Svengoolie on this very stage, exactly ten years ago.
When the finalists were called to the stage for judging, the top prize ended up going to Nosferatu.
After it was over, I rejoined the Svengoolie crew and headed off through a door leading to the convention hall. After performing all his scheduled duties, it was time for the host to obtain celebrity interviews for upcoming “Svengoolie on the Road” segments. But which of Flashback’s headliners would be willing to participate? The most unpredictable part of Svengoolie’s Flashback Weekend appearance was about to begin…
Coming up Svengoolie vs The Evil Dead!