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.
This year’s Flashback Weekend offered something different from previous years and specifically geared towards younger horror fans; a screening of the 1967 Rankin/Bass Mad Monster Party hosted by national commercial TV horror host, Svengoolie! Though not as popular as the animation team’s Christmas TV specials (Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, The Year without a Santa Claus, etc.) this full-length film featured the voice work of the legendary Karlos Borloff as well as Phyllis Diller!
There’s a whole room reserved for national commercial TV horror host, Svengoolie, to his fans at Flashback Weekend. I was informed by my friend, Don Johnston that he and his crew arrived and headed straight there from the main ballroom. Don manages the event’s hotel, the Crown Plaza in Rosemont, and is a great guy who often grants me event and parking passes in exchange for helping out where needed. In this instance it was to direct fans into the room he was in while seeing to it the line stayed moving. Lucky for these folks, waiting in line involved sitting in chairs that wrapped around the room’s perimeter. After fans got up to meet him, the rest would simply move down the corresponding number of chairs until it was their turn. It may sound goofy but, trust me, as someone who has stood in line for hours to meet a convention guest before, being able to sit in a comfortable seat for the duration was worth its weight in gold!
This year’s Flashback Weekend paid homage to the Halloween films (original, remake, and sequels) and featured numerous cast members from the franchise(s) along with an outdoor screening of the original John Carpenter classic.
Joining me on this adventure was the beautiful Susan Hoss who last appeared during our coverage of the Hearse Show (which you can check out HERE). Since Susan looks a helluva lot better in front of the camera than I do, I figured I’d do you all a favor and showcase her in most of the photos rather than myself (you’re welcome). Flashback Weekend is a family run expo (Mike and Mia Kerz) and usually more navigable than the corporate ones I attend. Consequently, if meeting a horror celebrity is the goal, I find it a LOT easier doing so here. This year’s theme worked out perfectly since it meant adding more signatures to my 1978 Halloween poster. It would also be the the first time I’d see Svengoolie and his crew since C2E2 and this year he’d not only show up for his customary Saturday appearance (greeting fans and hosting the annual costume contest) but also returning the next day for a a special event (more on that later).