My 40 Years of Rich Koz Svengoolie Fandom

Do you remember what you were doing on the night of Saturday, June 16, 1979? I sure do. Here in Chicagoland there was a bit of fanfare regarding a new horror host hitting the airwaves via our favorite UHF station, WFLD Channel 32. For a young monster movie fan like myself, the idea of watching them on prime time was a gift in and of itself. Having them presented along with hilarious parody songs, skits, and sound effects took it to an even higher level. Even before the big night, I recall my parents discussing the new talent at the dinner table. “Oh, you’ll probably love this Son of Svengoolie,” my mom said, looking up from the Chicago Tribune’s entertainment section. “Your father used to watch his dad back when he was on TV.”

Not only was my dad a fan of the original Jerry G. Bishop Svengoolie, but claims to have been watching him in the hospital waiting room while my mother was in labor with me. So perhaps it was destiny that his protege’ (not his biological son as my mother incorrectly assumed), Rich Koz, would go on to become my favorite entertainer and that we’re still talking about him forty years later. His corny sense of humor seemed to mirror my own and I couldn’t get enough of it. Every Saturday would be an event as I’d camp out on the living floor in anticipation for the “Son of Svengoolie.” The show ended in my mid-teens after FOX took over the channel, though his character would survive off the airwaves via signings and special appearances. Meanwhile, Koz retained his broadcasting presence on FOX-32 as a weatherman and on The Koz Zone. He would resume his career as a horror host with the birth of a new local station – WCIU/The U in 1995. This time around he’d simply be “Svengoolie” with the blessing of Bishop and in 2011 go national with its sister station, MeTV, where he’s remained ever since. This has given many Chicago fans like myself the rare privilege of sharing our childhood horror host with our own kids. For me, it would also lead to the creation of this blog and years of attending his public appearances. So, in honor of Rich Koz’s special milestone, I’ve decided to open up the archives and share some highlights. This October I’ll also have a special article in Scary Monsters Magazine which will center specifically on his show with some behind the scenes. It’ll also feature some anecdotes from other fans including the great Mark Hamill. Hamill took time out of his busy schedule to call me on the phone and share his fervor of Svengoolie which was a surreal experience – one of my childhood idols calling me to discuss another. It stands as a testament to the kind of devotion Rich Koz inspires from fans; be they celebrity or Average Joes.

And now this Average Joe is going to share some of his experiences with you…

1st photo I took of Sven (2004) – I sent my kids up since I was too nervous to meet him myself!

Attack on Antioch

Even before MeTV, Svengoolie’s popularity in Chicago was no less than that of a national star. This was never more evident than an appearance he did at a trick shop called JJ Blinkers near the Wisconsin border. His autograph line didn’t just extend around the building but the entire block! In an effort to entice fans, the store offered Svengoolie gift bags and Rice Krispy treats but would soon learn the name “Svengoolie” was enough of a draw on its own!

Literally a block away from the building!

Horrorbles = Happiness

The world’s only horror store, Horrorbles, was the perfect fit for Svengoolie – especially since it actually stood in the town he and his predecessor helped make famous – Berwyn, Illinois. I remember taking my son, Alex, dressed as Svengoolie to his first appearance there. Alex had worn the costume on Halloween and I emailed Rich a photo, asking if he could wear it to Horrorbles. “Yes, please have him come in costume,” he replied. As we stood in line to get in, Svengoolie arrived and walked right up to Alex. “Your picture is going to be on TV next week!” he said. Alex was excited as was our entire extended family who tuned in to see it. I think my Grandma Francesconi about keeled over from sitting through Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight but Alex was very proud.

On another memorable visit to Horrorbles, I brought my Rondo Award for “Best Blog” 2011 to have Svengoolie sign. It was one of the most humid summer days and by the time the line made it into the air-conditioned building, I looked like I’d just been through a steam bath.

Yes, Svengoolie fans, there is a Sventa Claus!

What began as a favor for his friends at a local comic book shop soon morphed into an annual Chicago holiday tradition. With some festive alterations and embellishments, including a red-nosed rubber chicken, Svengoolie became Sventa Claus, reminding us that no matter what the calendar says, every day is Halloween.

Sventa Claus Conquers the Martians!

The Capture of Sventa with Brian Bernardoni

A couple years back I assisted his producer and assistant, Jim Roche, with their annual Christmas card picture. When they’d finished I asked if I could take advantage of the photo-op.

Autographs!

When it comes to Svengoolie signatures, I’ve accumulated quite the collection. Sometimes I’ll even bring him 8×10’s from past encounters and have him write funny things on before returning them to me at the next event.

Screen used rubber chicken

Will he sign your WHAT?

I remember one of his appearances at the Volo Auto Museum when one overzealous fan wanted to take things a bit too far asking if he’d be willing to sign one of her breasts! The embarrassed host signed the palm of her hand instead.

Visiting the Studio over the Years

I’ve had the honor of seeing Svengoolie at the studio several times. My upcoming Scary Monsters article will discuss my most recent visits but here are some shots from past years…

Director, Chris Faulkner, coordinates Svengoolie’s desk for every movie
Bringing Tombstone out for filming

With Durwood
Jessica Carleton, the creator of Kerwyn, now lives in LA and writes for Sesame Street

The set used to roll out in sections for filming but has since found a permanent location

I got to throw the chickens during these two shows

With David Albaugh 2015

The Legend of the Squared Circle and Svengoolie Burger

What is it that made his appearances at the now-defunct Squared Circle Restaurant so amazing? Was it the enigmatic owner and pro-wrestler, Lisa Marie Varon? Was it the delicious menu that included the one and only Svengoolie Burger? Or maybe it was because of all the amazing friendships I forged there with other fans? The answer is YES!

The Svengoolie Burger

Signing the restaurant

Getting a Svengoolie Ostrich Egg from the “King of Geeks,” Elliott Serrano
With Jim Cornette and Lisa Marie Varon

Svengoolie Magazine Articles

I’ve lost count of the number of Svengoolie-related articles out there but am happy to say many were authored by yours truly.

Rubber Chicken-Gate…a Svengoolie Scandal!

Berwyn’s annual celebration of mushrooms (one of the many reasons Svengoolie pokes fun of the town) chose Svengoolie as their parade’s Grand Marshall in 2011. During the procession, Sven hurled rubber chickens at the crowd (my daughter caught one herself). Those chickens would soon find themselves embroiled (or rather broasted) in a political scandal referred to as Chicken-gate! Apparently, they’d been purchased from a store owned by one of town’s board member which was against the rules. Officials cried “fowl” even though the move ended up saving the town lots of money since the chickens were dirt cheap. Of course, Svengoolie had nothing to do with the scandal and participated in the parade again last year.

Jade catches one of Sven’s unethical Rubber Chickens!

Svengoolie is Downright Comic(al)!

The host has also made appearances in unexpected places such as an official Wacky Packages card courtesy of the artist & fan, Sam Gambino

Sam shows off his “Sweet Sven” card!

He also ended up in the Dick Tracy comic strip. My fellow Svenatic, Nicholas Cara, was kind enough to make me a poster of Sven’s entire run which I later had signed.

Svengoolie in Dick Tracy ComicSvengoolie holding a fantastic poster of his Dick Tracy stint, courtesy of Nicholas Cara!

Most recently, Svengoolie was given the ultimate tribute with a full-on parody in the Halloween 2018 issue of MAD Magazine!

Jim Roche also got an honorable jab in MAD!

 The Man Behind the Make-Up

In 2012 I joined fellow Sven fans, “Don and Bunny,” at DePaul University to see a special Rich Koz Q&A. I think this was one of the first times I was around him without makeup and it felt a little strange.

Summers with Svengoolie

Svengoolie is not relegated to Halloween and makes appearances year round. One of the hottest ones was at a minor league baseball game where temps rose to a scorching 107 degrees! The fans didn’t care and showed up in droves anyway. Sven threw a pitch while I intercepted a rubber chicken!

MORE Autographs!

 

One of my most cherished possessions – a drawing of Sven and I by the man himself!

My rubber chicken signed by both Svengoolie and the Mistress of the Dark!

Another item I’m quite proud of is a mounted green rubber chicken that once hung in the back of The Koz Zone (and now over my dresser). Svengoolie gave it to me a couple of years back and I think it’s a cool link to his horror host persona in-between the Son of Svengoolie and Svengoolie shows.

Nightmare o Chicago Street a Svengoolie Fan’s Dream Come True

Every October Svengoolie risks life and limb to enter Elgin, Illinois’ “Safe Zone” during a Zombie apocalypse! It’s one of my favorite nights of the year and here are some highlights…

With Elizabeth Haney from Acme Design
Kicking back with Sven at Nightmare on Chicago Street 2017

With Elizabeth Haney and Alice Moring

New Coffin…New Set…Old Fan

Speaking of Acme Design, they were behind both Svengoolie’s new Coffin as well as his new set. They were kind enough to invite me during their creation and even let me paint the walls!

Future Door for the new Svengoolie set
Painting the new Svengoolie set at Acme Design

Ryan Guenther – the man behind the new designs

The new coffin design was unveiled during the Nightmare on Chicago Street.

Svengoolie debuts a prototype of his new coffin at Nightmare on Chicago Street 2012

The finished coffin!

Svengoolie shares the mechanics of his animated casket, Body Sorell

Svengoolie Health Scare!

Svengoolie at Muvico…less than a week before his heart attack

Less than a week after finishing a rigorous Halloween season of appearances, Rich Koz would suffer a heart attack. Fans and loved ones held their breaths as well-wishes poured in. With a successful medical procedure and Koz’s determination, both Koz and Svengoolie would survive – their best days ahead.

A Family Affair

With a Sven-stalking daddy, my kids definitely participated in their fair share of appearances!

Sven’s Goolies!

From fellow fans to dear friends…

Nicholas Cara author of “The Grey Ghost” series

Bill and the late Joan Yingst

Jim Verheyen Currie and “Don & Bunny” Urban

The Cortese family

“The Mayor” Don Johnston between “Don & Bunny” Urban

Johnny Doyle

Brian Bernardoni

Donna Sweeney

With “The King of Geeks,” Elliott Serrano
“Forces of Geek” – Kate Davis
Keith Davenport
Vicki Lakomecki & Deb Reinert
John a.k.a. Russ Wrangler

Larry Lang with his annual “pumpkin patch” poster

Svengoolie and the Zoo(s)!

Svengoolie has aided both major Chicago Zoos with their fundraisers!

Lincoln Park Zoo AAZK “Bowling for Rhinos”

With Brookfield Zoo AAZK
With Lincoln Park Zoo AAZK

Svengoolie and the Celebrities

If you hang around Sven, you’re bound to bump into some notable people!

Peter Davison a.k.a. the Fifth Doctor WHO
“Sleepaway Camp’s” Felissa Rose
Dana DeLorenzo from “Ash vs Evil Dead”
Professional wrestler, C.M. Punk
John A. Russo
William Ragsdale “Fright Night” (1985)
Amanda Bearse “Fright Night” (1985)

Svengoolie’s most famous fan is Luke Skywalker, himself, Mark Hamill. When Hamill was filming The Force Awakens in England, Svengoolie asked if I’d ship copies of his current shows to him along with past episodes he might enjoy. OBVIOUSLY, I was ecstatic. Mark was very kind and I decoupaged a box for him to store the episodes in. Mark sent me a photo of himself with my creation and then, on Memorial Day 2018, tweeted that he showed David Dasmalchian from Ant-Man and James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) my Svengoolie box. My kids thought I was the coolest dad ever but that was the power of Svengoolie at work and I’m forever grateful to him for it.

 

Co-publisher of DC Comics – Dan Didio
Tom Kenny – Voice of SpongeBob SquarePants
Mark Sheppard a.k.a. “Crowley” from “Supernatural”
“Scary Godmother” artist, Jill Thompson
With Chicago Radio personality, Roe Conn (2017)
Witnessing the meeting of Svengoolie and MST3K’s Joel Hodgson

Gene Simmons draws his signature bat wings on my shirt. “I know Svengoolie!” he told me

With MST3K’s Trace Beaulieu
Sven receives a plaque from legendary Arizona hockey player/coach, Leo Golembieski

Letter Svengoolie had me bring, Elvira, who’s also a fan

Jerry “The King” Lawler

Svengoolie with cast members from “A Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise

It was a great day when the Svengoolie crew asked if I’d assist them at Flashback Weekend when he’d be interviewing Robert Englund in his full Freddy makeup. I can’t remember what it was they needed me to do, but I sure won’t forget standing backstage next to Freddy Krueger!

The Svengoolie Stomp!

Another superfan Svengoolie inspired was ’50s rock n’ roller, Freddy “Boom Boom” Canon (“Palisades Park”). The singer penned the “Svengoolie Stomp” in Sven’s honor and the performed it together at last year’s “Nightmare on Chicago Street.”

My Fellow Fans

I’ve met far too many extraordinary Svengoolie fans to list them all here. Needless to say, they come from all over the country and are often armed with memorabilia and stories from their years of devotion. Fans like Eric Haschke who drove up from Peoria with a handwritten letter Koz mailed to him back in the ’80s.

 

Svengoolie Celebrated at the Museum of Broadcast Communications

Svengoolie’s original coffin retires at the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Its exhibit debut was a celebration of Koz’s career with politicians, fellow broadcasters, and a room full of grateful fans.

Svengoolie – Best in Show!

Every so often, Svengoolie finds himself in a canine driven event. These are usually fundraisers and make for fun photos.

 

Sven judges a doggy costume contest during one gorgeous Halloween season

Jim Roche…the Wind Beneath his (Rubber Chicken) Wings

No Svengoolie appearance is complete without the energetic and quit-witted Jim Roche!

Random Scenes from my Svengoolie Adventures

“Horror Hosts and Godzilla” panel at G-FEST

So you wanna be Svengoolie this Halloween but are unsure how to do the makeup? Thanks to this handy tutorial shared at a Hawthorne Racetrack appearance, you can get a tutorial from the man himself!

Presenting Svengoolie with his “Horror Host Hall of Fame” plaque

Celebrating “Dr. Rabbies” – an old Son of Svengoolie skit based on the David Naughton Dr.Pepper commercial

Svengoolie with one of his favorites – “Fiend without a Face”
Man’s priceless reaction to seeing Svengoolie walk by at C2E2

Roe Conn Halloween show with Anna Davlantes & Richard Roeper

Behind the Scenes at the Svengoolie show 2019

Details on the crew and show mechanics in the Halloween issue of Scary Monsters Magazine!

People often ask if I consider myself the #1 Svengoolie fan and I always answer “no.” There are far too many other super fans out there for me to even come close. I would, however, argue that I’m the luckiest.

Happy Anniversary Svengoolie! Thanks for all the joy and incredible experiences you brought into my life!

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6 thoughts on “My 40 Years of Rich Koz Svengoolie Fandom

  1. Greetings, David! I enjoyed your recent “Terror From Beyond the Dave” article on Sven along with your visits with Sven and Sven retrospective in honor of Sven’s 40th anniversary in television! Cool, neat, awesome, fantastic and two thumbs up on behalf of the entire crowd of fellow super Svengoolie SvenPals everywhere! I also recognized several fellow super SvenPals from Twitter in some of the Sven photos! Looking forward to your upcoming Sven article in the upcoming Oct. issue of “Scary Monsters” magazine! I will check one of my local booksellers in town to see if they carry “Scary Monsters” magazine! Looking forward to Sven’s upcoming big broadcast premiere of Ray Harryhausen’s sci-fi “Dynamation” creature classic for Warner Bros., “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” (1953) this Sat. on the airlanes of Me-TV! Keep up the excellent work, David! See you and all fellow SvenPals in the Sat. Me-TV airlanes! Kudos, two thumbs up, peace and “Hi-Keeba” to you and to all fellow super Svengoolie SvenPals from coast-to-coast! And happy 40th anniversary to (son of) Svengoolie and to Sven’s alter-ego, Mr. Rich Koz! -All the best, Chris Hamby (watching Sven’s Sat. classic monster/horror/sci-fi/creature film showcase since Me-TV came into my neck of the woods back in early 2013)!

  2. Pingback: “Svengoolie” to present his big broadcast premiere of “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” (1953), this Sat. on Me-TV | Silver Screen Reflections

  3. First off let me say hello to you and this site I finally went to. I follow your YouTube channel and almost never miss a post there. I was wondering if you sell Terror Dave merchandise?
    I enjoy reading about your exploits with Svengoolie as well. I was to go to Chicago once and actually meet Svengoolie, but sadly that did not happen.
    Here’s to the fortieth anniversary of Svengoolie who I remember watching in my youth on a Philadelphia station before his being on the U and MEtv. They might be the same I am not sure. Svengoolie makes Saturday night more fun with his horror movies and comedic stylings.
    Thanks again from a devoted follower and fan.

  4. Watched and loved Sven’s show starting in 79 and stuck with it throughout its’ various timeslot changes. I moved to L.A. in 94 and can now enjoy Sven on MeTV. Neal Sabin is to be commended for bringing Sven back to the airwaves. (I was a pain in Neal’s backside when he was PD at WPWR-TV in the 80s.) And please convey my congratulations to Mr. Koz on the occasion of Svengoolie’s 40th anniversary.

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