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!
While traveling to Horrorhound Weekend/MASK-Fest convention in Indianapolis, my friend, Jason Schoolcraft, and I decided to stop in Elkhart. This little detour inspired by a unique museum an old comic book geek like myself couldn’t resist. Even the building is modeled after the “Hall of Justice” I grew up watching on the Super Friends cartoon. Although I grew up a Marvel Comics loyalist when it came to print, I did enjoy the DC heroes on TV and film. Now that comic book heroes, especially Marvel, has punched their way into mainstream, my devotion has changed from hiking two miles to the nearest drug store hoping the next issue of “Secret Wars” was out, to reading all my favorite comic stories in hardcover Omnibus collections while gazing at the MCU movie posters in my living room. I don’t know about Jason, but there was no way I was going to pass up the chance of visiting the Hall of Heroes a.k.a. the world’s only known superhero museum.
For the past few years, I’ve been a regular contributor to the Terror Dave site since I love horror movies and have a soft-spot for independents. I get excited every time Dave requests a review but this one was particularly alluring. Last week he shot me an email saying, “Hey, Jason! I’ve got a movie I hope you’ll have time to view and write a review about. The title is Deadly Crush and it’s an erotic, supernatural thriller which the Director warned is rather risque.” Was he kidding??? He had me at Erotic! So let’s dive in.
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.
“I go online and print everything I can find on Svengoolie and then hang them all over my kitchen walls,” said the older lady to my right. “I’m just worried since I saw him at last year’s Flashback Weekend he’ll think I’m stalking him by coming to this one.” Considering the number of Svengoolie appearances I had under my belt, I confidently gave her some reassurance. It was just a few short weeks since G-FEST and I was back at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, this time swapping Godzilla for slashers. Somehow the two conventions still seemed related thanks to the presence of my friend, Don Johnston. Don’s a powerful presence at the hotel and it’s never more apparent than when his venue hosts events such as these. He’s a larger than life character that appears to be everywhere at once – a titan with a heart of gold who shares my love of comics, horror, and Svengoolie. He was definitely in the “convention zone” on this day as he barreled past me near the photo op area asking if Sven’s crew had arrived. Minutes later, MeTV’s national horror host and company materialized; ready to take on Flashback Weekend as they’d skillfully done at the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) last April. And, just like that occasion, they permitted me to stay amongst them where I could observe the broadcasting legend interact with fans, host the annual costume contest, and interview celebrity guests. In exchange, I’d assist them in selling T-shirts and posters while snapping a few fan photos when needed. This gave producer (Jim Roche), director (Chris Faulkner), and cameraman (Chas Ailing) more freedom to keep the appearance running smoothly while capturing material for his upcoming Saturday night shows. So to be put things into perspective – I get the best seat in the house doing something I enjoyed doing anyway.