There was still sunlight when I arrived at the Elgin Safe Zone for their annual Nightmare on Chicago Street this past Saturday evening. This year I’d be attending alone as most of my friends were back home watching the Chicago Cubs play in a historic baseball game that would see them heading to the World Series for the first time in over seventy years. Under those circumstances, their absence was understandable…and what better reason to skip a zombie Apocalypse than for the possibility of watching Hell freeze over instead? In my world, however, the Nightmare on Chicago Street IS the World Series and there was no place I’d rather be.
It was a beautiful sunny day this past Sunday and not unlike the last time Svengoolie visited J.J. Blinkers in Antioch, Illinois. In fact, it was just over five years ago when the national TV horror host descended upon the trick shop like an atomic rubber chicken; blasting all turnout expectations in an unforgettable visit the locals still talk about to this day. Mere minutes from the Wisconsin border, Antioch would be inundated with fans while providing them with fun embellishments such as complimentary gift bags and Svengoolie-style treats. By the time it was all over, the village wouldn’t know what hit them and Rich Koz would prove himself to be one broadcasting legend whose popularity only seemed to grow stronger with age. The question surrounding his latest appearance wasn’t if he’d bring in the crowds but how the store was prepared to handle them all?
THIS Saturday Night on MeTV National Horror Host, Svengoolie, will debut a brand new song sure to become an instant classic! I’ve had the privilege of hearing this song for myself (I don’t think I was supposed to, but I’m sure glad I did) and absolutely loved it! Yeah, I know, you’re probably sitting at home waving off my endorsement of a song about Svengoolie like it’s the NRA approving the GOP, but I swear even non-Svenatics will love it! Performed by ’50s rocker, Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon (“Palisade’s Park”), the song will also be available for purchase. Want more details? Check out this official press release and tune in Saturday night!
For me, one of the biggest draws for this year’s Days of the Dead Chicago was the appearance of Cassandra Peterson a.k.a. Elvira: Mistress of the Dark! I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her a few times before (the first of which I discussed HERE) and later enjoyed her brief reboot of Elvira’s Movie Macabre on our local Chicago station WCIU; the same channel as Svengoolie before he’d go national via MeTV a few months later. That was an exciting time since they were the two hosts I’d grown up with. From age eight to fourteen, I idolized Rich Koz’s Son of Svengoolie (now simply “Svengoolie” with the blessing of his predecessor) before our local WFLD 32 station got swallowed up by the corporate FOX. It was also around that time when I discovered Elvira after renting some of her “Thriller Video” hosted films from my local mom & pop video store. I also remember making frequent road trips in my ’20s to all neighboring Illinois and Indiana Suncoast Video stores in an effort to collect all of her Midnight Madness VHS tapes. That’s one thing we collectors have lost in our modern Internet world; that good old fashioned thrill of the hunt!
During a recent Svengoolie appearance I covered at Pinball Life, I mentioned that one of the benefits of stalking the national commercial TV horror host was being introduced to new venues and activities I’d of never experienced otherwise. Attending the Roe Conn Halloween special on Thursday October 29th was a prime example! For those lucky enough to gain access, you’d be treated to a live taping of WGN’s Roe Conn Show at a beautiful suburban venue. But first one had to apply for a ticket.
About a month before the big day I logged on to the WGN Radio site to apply for a pass. Although they were free, they were granted on a random and limited basis making it the luck of the draw. After a few weeks of silence I assumed it wasn’t meant to be until just days before the event when I finally received word I’d been chosen. Along with acceptance came instructions on where and when it would take place and what to do once I got there.
So far as fall days go, you couldn’t ask for anything better than Friday October 16th in Illinois. The sun was shining with temps hovering in the ‘60s and it was one of those rare weekdays I was scheduled off. Best of all, it was on a day when national commercial TV horror host, Svengoolie, was making one of his Halloween season appearances! This one was about 90 minutes northwest from my place in the village of Huntley, Illinois. I was familiar with the rural town as my sister used to teach school there several years back and this had been our favorite time of year to visit her. It meant postcard perfect fall leaves and a visit to one of the numerous apple orchards and pumpkin patches found in that region. Today would be a lot different.
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!