Chicago’s 2019 Days of the Dead took place at the Crowne Plaza in Rosemont; a new venue for this convention but certainly not for me. After fifteen G-FESTS and a handful of Flashback Weekends, I was well acquainted with the place as well as its monolithic manager, Don Johnston. This event took place last November; not the most ideal time for me but workable. Several months earlier, my friend Jason Schoolcraft generously purchased VIP passes for us and arranged to fly in from New England to join me. As many of you know, the man loves film and I always enjoy our pre/post-convention movie marathons. We arrived at the hotel around 3 PM that Friday and were greeted by my friends, Ron and Angela Urban. I was just introducing them to Jason when Richard Dreyfuss breezed past us. The Academy Award-winning star of JAWS and Close Encounters of the Third Kind was a bit shorter than I’d envisioned and had noticeably bad knees but there was no denying it was him.
Friday, August 2, 2019, 8:30 PM: When the Svengoolie 40th Anniversary panel ends, I rejoin Don Johnston and the crew before heading upstairs the room. Svengoolie and Jim eventually join us and the host gets to work removing his makeup so they all can leave. As it happened, Robert Englund’s panel took place right after his and the two managed to meet up in-between. They’re old friends who see each at Flashback Weekend just about every year. The challenge, of course, is finding a moment between their busy schedules to do so and this year it happened off-camera. According to Sven, Englund was very kind and shared tips on doing out-of-state conventions with him; a subject that came up during Sven’s Q&A. I must say, the idea of Svengoolie venturing outside of Chicagoland and meeting his newer fans is exciting to me. I’m always fascinated by seeing the impact he’s made on people since MeTV went national back in 2011.
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.
9:45 am – I arrive at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) with my two youngest kids, Jade and Luke. Luke is taking my older daughter, Leia’s, spot today and this is the first time he’s been to a C2E2 in six years. What inspired his decision to join us today? Well, that would be Charlie Cox a.k.a. Daredevil of course! The star of the Netflix series only appeared Sunday and we were determined to get the most out of it – pre-paying for autograph tickets as well as his photo op. As I mentioned in my C2E2 Friday post, you gotta knock the autographs out of the way first thing, and ours was scheduled for the earliest group.
When I reached the booth where Svengoolie was scheduled to sign, it felt like deja vu. Just like the day before at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) he had a long line of fans camped out early to meet him. The key difference was that today’s would precede a special Q&A “Svengoolie Spotlight” panel which I was excited about since it was a C2E2 first and on a rather special occasion. Saturday, April 7, 2018, marked seven year’s since the Chicago-based icon has been on national TV – an unbelievable accomplishment in horror host history. His autograph line seemed to bear the fruit of this event as some of the fans waiting were from Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, and Arizona. It was a not so subtle reminder that though he may still physically reside in Chicago, he’s no longer exclusively ours.
National horror host, Svengoolie, has been a staple of the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) for the past seven years and I’ve faithfully seen him at each one. This year would be no exception, though his role would expand to an additional session on Friday’s opening day. In addition to greeting fans again on Saturday, he’d also be the subject of a “Svengoolie Spotlight” panel – another Svengoolie/C2E2 first. His crew graciously allowed me to hang with them both days in an example of mutualism at its best – I get the inside scoop & photos and they get an extra set of hands and guy built like a bouncer while he’s on the floor. The biggest challenge is just keeping up with them!
Special thanks to Angela “Bunny” Urban for sharing her photos and intel from the Days of the Dead Chicago Robocop panel with Ronny Cox and Ray Wise. I did get to finally meet Wise and will discuss that at the bottom of the post. First, let’s see how well you know the original Robocop film…