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.
This year’s Nightmare on Chicago Street had near-perfect weather and another large turnout. My daughters and I arrived at the Safe Zone early to take photos and peruse a few antique stores located inside. The plan was for us to stay together until the arrival of MeTV’s national horror host, Svengoolie. At that point, I’d take off to assist him while the girls covered what was going on in the streets. And believe me, there was a LOT going on.
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!’
Friday, August 2, 2019, 8:30 PM: When the Svengoolie 40th Anniversary panel ends, I rejoin Don Johnston and the crew before heading upstairs the room. Svengoolie and Jim eventually join us and the host gets to work removing his makeup so they all can leave. As it happened, Robert Englund’s panel took place right after his and the two managed to meet up in-between. They’re old friends who see each at Flashback Weekend just about every year. The challenge, of course, is finding a moment between their busy schedules to do so and this year it happened off-camera. According to Sven, Englund was very kind and shared tips on doing out-of-state conventions with him; a subject that came up during Sven’s Q&A. I must say, the idea of Svengoolie venturing outside of Chicagoland and meeting his newer fans is exciting to me. I’m always fascinated by seeing the impact he’s made on people since MeTV went national back in 2011.
I can safely say this past Flashback Weekend horror convention was my best one yet. That’s in no short thanks to MeTV’s national horror host, Svengoolie, and his amazing crew for deputizing me as one of their own. Despite his having attended faithfully for over a decade, this year was exceptional in lieu of Rich Koz’s 40th Anniversary as Sven. Consequently, he’d have a busier schedule than usual with activities planned both Friday and Saturday. In exchange for my extra set of hands, the crew granted me a special guest pass, paid me to sell merchandise, and threw in a complimentary Svengoolie sweatshirt for good measure. The icing on the cake was getting to stay at the hotel overnight (in a room they provided) and keep an eye on their equipment so they wouldn’t have to lug it all back the next day. In other words, it was about as close to winning the lottery as I’ll likely ever get!
So let’s get started…
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.”