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.”
It was Friday afternoon when MeTV’s horror host sensation, Svengoolie, arrived at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2). As soon as I was alerted of this by his Producer, Jim Roche, I rushed outside to meet them. It’s rather surreal seeing Svengoolie in broad daylight but there he was; patiently waiting as Jim and his Director/cameraman, Chris Faulkner, prepared their supplies and equipment. C2E2 is always a frenetic experience for the crew and this year they were adding merchandise sales to the mix (T-shirts and posters). I’ve had a bit of experience selling Svengoolie shirts at past appearances such as Flashback Weekend and Nightmare on Chicago Street but this would be a lot more demanding. Consequently, I’d be “knighted” as temporary paid staff for his Friday signing. With Svengoolie armaments in tow, it was time to kick-off his two-day appearance at C2E2.
With the kids and I settled in our new place I haven’t been this excited about the holidays in years. We’ve got a new pre-lit Christmas tree that offers both color and white lights, a freezer full of homemade cookies awaiting decoration, and a honey baked ham for the big day. In fact, I’ve been feeling so festive these days I don’t even mind the local 24/7 holiday music station that usually drives up a wall.
Yet, despite all the trappings, it wasn’t until last weekend at the Elmhurst Animal Care Center that I really felt the holiday spirit. This was thanks to their annual “mystic” fundraiser/adoption featuring adorable puppies, spooky artisans, and my favorite celebrity; national horror host, Svengoolie, in his seasonal “Sventa Claus” attire! And if there’s one holiday tradition to uphold, it’s seeing Sventa.
Last week saw a milestone for MeTV’s national horror host, Svengoolie. After nearly forty years on broadcast television, Rich Koz’s alter ego received a satirical nod from the legendary MAD Magazine! Sven was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule of Halloween appearances to answer a few questions about it…
Every time I’d hit a stoplight en route to this year’s Houby parade in Cicero (sponsored by Berrrrr-wyn), I glanced up at the sky expecting a downpour. Fortunately, my iphone’s weather app was as wrong Sunday as it is just about every other day of the week and this didn’t happen. With the help of my friends, Don and Bunny, I found a parking spot about half a mile from the event before my daughter, Jade, and I sought them out on foot. This was the 50th year Berwyn celebrated its Czechoslovakian heritage by holding a festival dedicated to mushrooms…or at least that’s how it all began. In an interesting twist, the Slovak tradition has since been embraced by the community’s predominant Latino population, thus making Chicago’s parade (and, yes folks, there are others) rather unique even by Houby standards. Now I do love mushrooms, especially when sauteed and sitting next to a sirloin steak, but confess they weren’t the reason for my being here. Rather, I was celebrating a more personal tradition…stalking national horror host, Svengoolie during his busy Halloween season!
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.
The crowd hushed as WGN Radio personality, Nick Digiglio, took the platform. For as long as I’ve been attending Flashback Weekend it’s been his job to introduce Chicago’s local-gone-national TV horror host, Svengoolie, to the audience before the annual costume contest begins. It’s a fitting role for Digiglio as they’re genuine pals and Sven’s been a guest on his program numerous times. Whether delving into the illustrious career of his alter ego, Rich Koz, or dishing on their favorite horror films, it’s always a treat for us listeners. On this occasion, however, it was a one-man show as Sven replaced him on stage. The crowd broke into applause and for good reason. For us seasoned attendees, we knew we were in for an hour of imaginative costumes coupled with Svengoolie’s quick wit and banter.