(Continued) With so many contestants at the Flashback Weekend costume contest, there wasn’t as much time for Svengoolie to get celebrity guest interviews for his show. Feeling the pressure, the crew quickly headed for the main convention hall to see who was available. I know there had been some discussion earlier of him possibly interviewing the singer, Meatloaf. Thankfully, this did not happen as it likely would’ve been his ONLY interview (see my first Flashback post). As we made our way through the crowd, numerous fans approached Sven for a selfie and he obliged whenever he could despite the rush. Fortunately, Jim was able to keep many of them at bay.
I hadn’t seen Svengoolie in person since December 2019 when he was dressed as his holiday alter ego, Sventa Claus, at the Mystic Market in Lyons. It was a fun occasion and, in the spirit of giving, I brought him an animatronic Creature from the Black Lagoon figure I’d purchased from Days of the Dead. I recall it ending with my friends and I toasting another successful year of Sven-chasing since, for us, attending his appearances was not unlike following a favorite band on tour. In this regard, the Mystic Market was something of a finale’ – though we could never have known at the time just how final that would be. We took for granted the tradition would continue on into the coming year not knowing a Pandemic was lurking just around the corner. So, with 2020 a wash, we looked at the summer of 2021 as a bastion of hope.
By July, Chicago had lifted its indoor mask mandate and, further cementing a feeling of normalcy, Svengoolie signed on for his first public appearance in over a year. Unfortunately, the closer Flashback Weekend loomed, the more news of the virus’ Delta variant started making headlines. Suddenly, what should have been a joyous occasion had a giant black cloud hanging over it. I was excited to join the Svengoolie crew and see my favorite horror host again but with a fair share of trepidation.
A deluge of rain wasn’t enough to deter fans from descending on the Museum of Broadcast Communications to celebrate Svengoolie’s 40th Anniversary. I met up with my fellow super fans, Ron and Angela Urban, who graciously allowed me to join them for the ride into the city – something a suburbanite like myself dreads even when it’s dry out. It was the same arrangement we had five years ago for his 35th. We stopped for a drink at Chicago’s famous Harry Carey’s – hoping the downpour would stop before our walk the museum. It didn’t. When we reached the building we were still too early and asked the young gentleman sitting inside the museum’s lobby if he’d let us have shelter inside. Thankfully, he agreed and we stood to wait next to ZZ Top’s famous car, The Eliminator. This was the official one seen in their humorous videos back in the ‘80s – usually featuring downtrodden individuals getting a much-needed boost from the band.
On Saturday, December 7th, I pulled into Saint John’s Church in Lyons, Illinois to see Sventa Claus. The holiday version of MeTV’s horror host, Svengoolie, has become a tradition here in Chicago and one aspect of our local-gone-national celebrity we can still claim for ourselves. I was looking forward to seeing him while also supporting my friend, Lozen Brownbear. Lozen’s an animal-lover like myself and I’d attended her “Mystic Market” fundraiser up in Elmhurst last year. It’s a great way to pick up some unique, hand-crafted gifts for the holidays while sending much-needed funds to her furry friends at the Sacred Space Animal Sanctuary and Rescue.
I’ve never attended a horror event that was being protested before but this would be the first. I’m not talking Kent State level protesting of course but rather just a few religious people screaming at everyone who was trying to enter. Personally, protesting doesn’t bother me as the right to do so helps make our country what it is. However, being in close proximity to somebody screaming at the top of their lungs is irritating no matter what the cause. Unfortunately, that’s what we had here with a couple guys holding a sign while another yelled about choosing Jesus over the Satan. Instead of just ignoring them, some guy felt the need to go up and start an argument. On the one hand, I was irritated by his feeding into their nonsense while on the other grateful his distraction provided me safe passage inside.
Saturday, August 3, 2019, 5 PM: The Flashback Weekend costume contest ends and Svengoolie reunites with his crew before we all head, single file, to the main convention hall. Don Johnston takes the lead; helping to reel in celebrities for Sven to interview. I’m the caboose of this entourage doing my best to stay out of the way while taking photos. Suddenly, Svengoolie makes an unexpected detour to visit one of the vendors. She’s a Svengoolie fan who follows him on social media and mentioned how they’ve never formally met despite his passing her booth every year at Flashback Weekend. This time, he makes sure to break tradition and say ‘hello!’