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.
“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.