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Svengoolie Talks Michael Bolton, Holiday Horror Flicks & More

By Howard Ludwig | December 13, 2013 6:39am
 Svengoolie will appear from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday at Alternate Reality Comics in Mount Greenwood. The Chicago icon has been hosting a television horror show since the 1970s.
Svengoolie in Mount Greenwood
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MOUNT GREENWOOD — He's not Santa Claus, but Svengoolie hopes to draw a crowd when he appears from 1-3 p.m. Saturday at Alternate Reality Comics in Mount Greenwood.

To celebrate the holiday season, the horror show host will don his finest green-and-red garb, signing autographs and posing for pictures as "Sventa Claus."

Svengoolie (a.k.a. Rich Koz) has been hosting a television show that plays low-grade horror flicks since 1979, taking over the role from Jerry G. Bishop, who created the character in 1970.

A Chicago original, Svengoolie fills the airwaves with corny jokes between commercial breaks. Before his appearance at the comic shop at 3149 W. 111th St., Sven participated in an exclusive Q&A interview with DNAinfo.com:

 Alternate Reality Comics in Mount Greenwood has dedicated its front window to television horror show host Svengoolie since April. The man who made suburban Berwyn a punch line will appear at the store on Saturday.
Svengoolie Window In Mount Greenwood
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You’ll be appearing at Alternate Reality Comics in Mount Greenwood on Saturday. How does this Southwest Side neighborhood compare to BERR-WYNN?

Probably far fewer mushrooms (see, Berwyn has its yearly Houby Parade, in honor of mushrooms) — no, actually, I think it’s very similar — lots of salt of the earth, hard-working people who are great Sven fans. Also, not in close proximity to Cicero.

On a serious note, you suffered a heart attack in November 2012. How’s your health?

Thanks for asking. I’m doing well these days. I lost about 35 pounds after the heart issues, and have gained back only about 5. After a double bypass and the implantation of a defibrillator, I’m very lucky to be here and in such decent shape! During my recovery, the guys who work with me gave me one of those "Iron Man" chest arc things like Tony Stark. So I guess I’ll be fine — as long as the batteries hold out.

Switching back to the lighter side of things, your show airs on Me-TV. What’s your favorite show on the station (besides your own)?

Hmmm — well, “Get Smart” would be right up there, as would “The Honeymooners" — as well as “Batman” and — Oh, you wanted ONE favorite? Sorry.

Many rubber chickens have been thrown your way. If you could throw a rubber chicken at someone, who would it be and why?

Right about now, it’d be Michael Bolton in those awful Honda TV commercials.

Zombies are all the rage these days, spurred on by television shows such as “The Walking Dead” and modern movies like “Zombieland.” What’s your take on the zombie craze?

I think it’s interesting that we’re getting so many different takes on them — like the difference between the “Walking Dead” ones and the speedier ‘World War Z” walkers — that kind of thing keeps it interesting. I do think, as other productions get on the bandwagon, and the product is too similar to everything else like it, it may just become too repetitive. But just like with anything else, the ones that tell a story well will survive.

Your makeup artist is clearly unmatched. Where does he or she draw inspiration?

I see he or she every time I look in the mirror (well, maybe not she). The main design really comes from the original Svengoolie, the late Jerry G. Bishop, and his makeup. I modified it somewhat — the hair changed from green to brown. As time restraints and production demands got in the way, I streamlined it a little bit. Also, when I used to use a real fake mustache (how’s that for a term? “real fake"?), the spirit gum — the stuff you use to stick it on — would sometimes get into my mouth. That was having a bad effect on my gums. So I started to just paint one on. One of my comedy influences was the great Groucho Marx, though I most certainly am not comparing myself to him. If it was good enough for Groucho, it’s good enough for me!

It’s hard to imagine that anything would scare Svengoolie. But is there anything that keeps you awake at night?

Other than worrying about getting everything done that I have to do, not really. Remember, you’re dealing with a goolie who stared death in the face a year ago and made it through. Although I did lose some sleep worrying that I might not see the “Victoria’s Secret” special the other night.

What’s your favorite horror movie of all time?

My answer here will be as bad as the one about my favorite Me-TV show. Actually, I like different movies for different reasons. I love the original Universal flicks like “Dracula” and “Bride of Frankenstein” and all the Gill-Man movies ("Creature from the Black Lagoon"). But I also like the original “Halloween” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” ( I have to mention that one, since Robert Englund — Freddy Krueger himself — has dubbed me his favorite horror host!) then, there’s “Fiend Without a Face” and ... See? I’m doing it again.

Any holiday horror films you can recommend?

I WOULDN’T recommend “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” That’s just too painful. We ran “Silent Night, Deadly Night 5 — The Toymaker” many years ago, but I don’t know that I’d recommend that either. Heck, just watch “Gremlins.”

Have you ever met Santa? If so, what did you ask him to bring you for Christmas?

Oh, I’ve met Santa in many incarnations — including WWE Hall of Famer and ultimate Christmas fan, Mick Foley. I pretty much believe in all of them. I asked him for a new coffin, and got that. Asked him for a national show, and got that. Asked him for Carmen Electra, and got an electric can opener — boy, I hope he got that hearing aid replaced.