For faithful viewers of MeTV’s Svengoolie, you know some of his best “On the Road” segments feature the host interviewing celebrity guests at horror cons. In this regard, 2018’s Flashback Weekend has given us a LOT to look forward to. Just after hosting the event’s annual costume contest, he and the crew made their way out to the main convention hall where the magic all began. I’d been sitting with the audience and quickly grabbed my camera and dodged other attendees to catch up. The team graciously allowed me to join them and this was always my favorite part insofar as it’s always so unpredictable. You see, pinning down convention guests for interviews is something of a crapshoot – even if you are hosting a highly rated television show on prime time Saturday nights. You just never know who’s going to be available nor who will participate if they are. Fortunately, Svengoolie had the considerable might of the hotel’s manager and friend, Don Johnston, on his side.
After numerous years of featuring Robert Englund and Nightmare on Elm Street reunions, I’ve heard many gripes among horror fans about how this convention has been living up to its “Flashback” moniker. Thankfully, this year saw more guests from other franchises such as Ash vs the Evil Dead, Child’s Play, and the original Fright Night. In addition to meeting many of their star players, the event also offered fun photo ops which included a replica Chucky doll with the Child’s Play folks or a shot with Stephen Geoffreys donning his Evil Ed “Raggedy Ann” wig like he did in Fright Night. Since the latter coincided with Svengoolie’s signing, the awesome folks at Celeb Photo Ops invited Svengoolie to join in on it.
Things could prove less smooth on the convention floor which is where Don came in. Thanks to a little bit of what he calls the “Don Charm,” Svengoolie had a few notable participants straight out of the gate! The first was the beautiful Dana DeLorenzo (Kelly Maxwell from Ash vs the Evil Dead) who gave the Svengoolie show her “all” with a fun and energetic interview.
At one point the exchange was interrupted by her former co-star, Ray Santiago (Pablo Simon Bolivar). Sadly, I couldn’t get a clear view but will when you watch him on an upcoming show! The next stop was a few booths down and just past the event’s headliner, Brad Dourif a.k.a. the voice of Chucky. to where his daughter, Fiona, was signing. Fiona Dourif has starred in the last two installments of the Child’s Play franchise: Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky. She’ll also be starring in the upcoming television series, The Purge.
For me, the best part was when he interviewed the actors from Fright Night. It started with a conversation with the film’s lead, William Ragsdale (Charley Brewster) before things would take on a life of its own.
Not wanting to be left out, Amanda Bearse (Amy Peterson) jumped in on the action just as the Ragsdale interview ended. Bearse, who also starred in the hit comedy TV series, Married with Children, shared a funny story about Chicago’s famous Buckingham Fountain. The fountain was featured during the show’s opening theme but Bearse had yet to actually see it since filming took place in Los Angeles. With Flashback Weekend only thirty minutes from the landmark, Bearse actually drove out to finally get a look the night before but fate would not be on her side. The same weekend, the Windy City was hosting their annual music festival Lollapalooza making security around the entire Grant Park area tighter than a snare. Bearse would be unable to get anywhere near the fountain despite pleading with security and explaining the entire situation.
Bearse then brought her Fright Night co-star, Jonathan Stark (Billy Cole), into the conversation making this the first Svengoolie interview I’d ever witnessed that morphed into a triple play. Considering a horror host (played by Roddy McDowall) was integral to the plot of Fright Night, I found it rather cool watching the cast interact with a real one.
Next, Svengoolie interviewed John A. Russo who helped create the modern zombie along with George Romero in Night of the Living Dead (1968). I attended Russo’s panel at last year’s Days of the Dead convention in Indianapolis, just days before Romero’s death. Russo took the stage in place of Romero; using the scheduled hour as an opportunity to share stories of the beloved director instead. It was a wonderful eulogy for a horror fan such as myself to be a part of. Russo is still hard at work on zombie projects such as the upcoming films, My Uncle John is a Zombie and Escape of the Living Dead.
Svengoolie’s interviews at Flashback Weekend ended as they began; with an attractive, vivacious woman. This time it was the inimitable Felissa Rose from Sleepaway Camp. The last time I saw Rose was in November at Chicago’s Days of the Dead and I know anyone reading this who’s had the pleasure of meeting her will attest that she’s a one-woman party. After her electrifying interview, she ended by sharing a sentiment mirrored by Svengoolie, himself. In response to people constantly saying “you should appear at (insert convention name here),” Rose had a pretty fun retort. “Convention appearances are like going to Prom,” she said. “I need to be asked.”
With another successful Flashback Weekend under their belts, Svengoolie and crew headed back upstairs to cool off and kick back a bit before leaving. They invited me to join them but I was slated to pick my daughter up from work and bid them farewell instead. While walking in the parking lot a group of thirty-somethings asked if I’d snap a picture of them all in front of the Crowne Plaza’s new Caddyshack Restaurant opened by Bill Murray and brothers. One of them noticed my shirt and said, “Hey, is that Svengoolie? OMG I love him! I wonder what he’s like.” I just smiled and walked back to my car.