Saturday, August 3, 2019, 4:15 PM: I enter Ballroom 1 at the Crowne Plaza in Rosemont and quickly take a seat next to my friend’s, Ron and Angela Urban. Those two always show up to panels and events early and get the best seats. The participants in this year’s costume parade were all lined up against the wall. The first thing I notice is how many kids there are. Usually, the Flashback Weekend costume contest kids division is lucky to have three or four entries. This year, however, they were a force to be reckoned with. But I’m getting ahead of myself here…
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.
The Following highlights were “transcrammed” from the 2019 Flashback Weekend panel celebrating 40 years of Rich Koz’s Svengoolie. The event began with a video presentation narrated by the original Svengoolie – the late Jerry G. Bishop. The panel was moderated by WGN Radio’s Nick Digilio and proved an entertaining 90 minutes – with a few surprises!
5:30 PM, Friday, August 2, 2019: I walk outside the hotel just as the Svengoolie crew parks. Sven’s in the passenger seat with his producer and assistant, Jim Roche driving. In the back is his director, Chris Faulkner, and “hit the theme for us” Chas Ailing. As soon as they come out I hand them their passes. The last to exit is the host, himself, and I jokingly hold up his lanyard like a Hawaiian lei, prepared to put it over his head. “Well, if you’re gonna kiss him, make sure you do it on his cheek so you don’t mess up his makeup,” quips Jim. When it comes to comedy, these folks are “on” whether the camera’s rolling or not.
I can safely say this past Flashback Weekend horror convention was my best one yet. That’s in no short thanks to MeTV’s national horror host, Svengoolie, and his amazing crew for deputizing me as one of their own. Despite his having attended faithfully for over a decade, this year was exceptional in lieu of Rich Koz’s 40th Anniversary as Sven. Consequently, he’d have a busier schedule than usual with activities planned both Friday and Saturday. In exchange for my extra set of hands, the crew granted me a special guest pass, paid me to sell merchandise, and threw in a complimentary Svengoolie sweatshirt for good measure. The icing on the cake was getting to stay at the hotel overnight (in a room they provided) and keep an eye on their equipment so they wouldn’t have to lug it all back the next day. In other words, it was about as close to winning the lottery as I’ll likely ever get!
So let’s get started…
This blog was originally titled “Physical Media’s Last Stand” but I thought it too pessimistic. And when it comes to this topic, there’s plenty of cause to feel that way. The MPAA recently revealed a staggering 50% drop in sales as the rise of Streaming services takes hold. I’m sure I speak for my many of my fellow lazy fans that it’s a lot easier pushing a button than getting of our butts to pop on a disc. However, anyone who’s spent 20 minutes scrolling Netflix only to finally give up in frustration knows that what we like isn’t as accessible as the modern world would have us believe. For horror fans like us, there are plenty of cause for us to continue coveting physical media. In fact, despite the current Blu-ray apocalypse, some of the most amazing upgrades and rare titles are being released – though you may need to look beyond Amazon.com to find them. There are several companies out there fighting the good fight and today, I’ll be highlighting a few of the ones I think are worthy of our support!