It’s a known fact that when MeTV’s national horror host, Svengoolie, makes an appearance near the Wisconsin border. It’s going to generate a record number of fans. Especially when you factor in temps in the ‘70s, that it’s his last appearance of the Halloween season and his first at Volo since 2019. This is why even a prolific Sven-stalker like me generally avoids this event; especially, since I’d just visited the museum with my friend, Jason, last August. However, when Svengoolie’s producer, Jim Roche, asked if I’d give them a hand, I couldn’t turn him down. I guess I was relieved they still wanted me around after sharing my displeasure with “Svengoolie Uncrypted” in a recent post. But now that the appearance is over, I’m wondering if this wasn’t retribution.
Who’d of thought zombies terrorizing an Illinois city’s streets would inspire warm, cuddly feelings of life getting back to normal? That’s what happened last Saturday when I visited “Nightmare on Chicago Street’ – the quintessential Halloween event that many feared would never happen again. Fortunately, a Global Pandemic proved no match for the Undead as I entered the Safe Zone of Elgin, Illinois smiling from ear to ear.
On that Saturday morning at Flashback Weekend, I was enjoying breakfast with my friends when Svengoolie’s producer, Jim Roche, called to say they were en route. This was a whirlwind weekend for the horror host as he’d be appearing at two major Chicago conventions – C2E2 (Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo) and Flashback Weekend – while filming segments for his October MeTV special – Svengoolie Uncrypted. If you watched it when it first aired back on October 1st (encore presentation this Sunday, October 30th), then you know that Flashback Weekend played a pivotal role during its ongoing skit.
(Continued) As soon as Svengoolie completed his interview with the cast of The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre (2021) the room quickly filled up with contestants and onlookers for Flashback Weekend’s annual costume contest. It was soon evident that a lot of creative fans used their time in last year’s lockdown to make costumes as this was the largest number of contestants I’d ever seen. The line of hopefuls wrapped around the room and beyond – with no end in sight. This would be “Mayor” Don Johnston‘s turn to shine as he had the dubious task of directing everyone on and off the stage – something a bit more challenging when dealing with kids or those visually impaired by their own costumes.
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.
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.