CALLING ALL STATIONS, CLEAR THE AIRLANES, CLEAR ALL AIRLANES, FOR THE BIG BROADCAST!!!
By S.L. Schmitz, Author of Let It Bleed
Anybody who grew up in the 1970’s and 1980’s in the suburbs of Chicago remembers when there used to be only 6 television stations. There was the obligatory ABC, NBC, and CBS, and PBS stations, as well as WGN-Chicago which was on Channel 9. But then there was the Holy Grail of pre-cable TV – the elusive independent UHF station known as WFLD Channel 32, which showed a non-network extravaganza of programming such as cartoons, syndicated shows, Sox Baseball and Bulls Basketball, and the beloved Horror Hosts Svengoolie (Jerry G. Bishop, 1971-1973) and the Son of Svengoolie (Rich Koz, 1979-1986). The Svengoolie show went off the air for a few years, but then In 1995 the station, now known as WCIU, re-introduced the show back to the Chicago airways. Rich Koz returned to his infamous role, all grown up and no longer needing to be the ‘son of’anyone. 32 years later, he is still going strong!
For years and years, on Saturday afternoons and weekend nights, Svengoolie has entertained us with his bad movies, his silly Bela Lugosi accent, and his rubber chickens. He has sung song parodies with trusty piano player Doug Scharf (AKA Doug Graves), laughed at the Chicago suburb with the unfortunate name of Berwyn, run around the set having conversations with a talking skull called Zallman T. Tombstone or a pair of disembodied arms, and told lots of CORNY jokes. How can you not love a guy in zombie clown makeup who reads viewer mail and holds up pictures of himself drawn by 2nd graders, then proceeds to use Sven-surround to talk over the soundtracks of the many B and even C level movies from such classic (and not-so-classic) studios as Hammer and Universal? He would screen such gems as the 1956 “Godzilla”, and in the middle of the show he and Doug would break out into a song parody of “Godzilla’s Back”, sung to the tune of “My Boyfriend’s Back”. Every show always ended with him being backed into his graffiti-covered coffin while spouting one-liners and puns as the stagehands and camera crew threw rubber chickens at his head. It was magic!
Here is a little trivia that many people don’t know about Rich Koz – he is a really nice guy. Whether it is accepting his 2008 Rondo Award for Favorite Horror Host or taking pictures and signing rubber chickens with fans at the White Castle in Berwyn, he is just an overall favorite personality. But Koz’s success is bittersweet because for 32 years, the show did not air in any other market except the Chicagoland area. If you moved out of state, there was no way to get your weekly dose of Svengoolie, other than clips available on the web. That is why so many people have been begging him for years to either syndicate or at least post his shows on the internet using streaming video. Due to various licensing and contract problems with the companies who owned the rights to the movies, the Svengoolie show could never be available as an internet download.
And then, in 2011, the great announcement was made! Neal Sabin, corporate executive and long-term Svengoolie supporter, let the world know that Svengoolie was joining the Me-TV Network as a nationally syndicated show. And to ensure that Koz had the best material to work with, Sabin acquired the rights to some of the best old monster cult movies ever made – including such long-lost black and whites as the Bride of Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Original Dracula, and many other Horror classics. The Me-TV show enables former Chicagoans to see and hear completely new shows, as well as allow people who have only heard but never seen a Svengoolie show to become a part of the old tradition of Horror Hosts.
So, on Saturday nights around 9 or 10 pm, if you happen to be flipping through the channels and see that Svengoolie is on, I urge you to gather the kids around the set and watch the hilarity unfold. Rick Koz and the character he has created is a part of monster movie history. So pop some popcorn, turn out the lights, and get those cards and letters ready. Svengoolie is officially on the air, coast to coast!
This dedication to Svengoolie is Tombstone approved –a Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe Production
Want more info on Svengoolie? Visit http://svengoolie.tvheaven.com/main.html