"When Koz starts to perform, it is clear that he brings with him a marvelous sense of irony, an eye for genuine satire and the comic timing of a pro...Even the cameramen crowd around the monitors after each segment and actually laugh as they watch the scene unfold on the TV screen!"
Tom Valeo - Daily Herald, 1983
The Son of Svengoolie show won three consecutive local Chicago Emmy awardsas Best Entertainment Series on WFLD for the years 1980, 1981,1982. The Svengoolie show on WCIU went on to win five more Emmy awards for a grand total of eight! In 2004, Rich Koz was inducted into the Television Academy's "Silver Circle" for outsanding contribution to Chicago broadcasting and recentley won the 2008 Rondo award for favorite horror host...wow, a pretty impressive career so far! Sven himself is played by Rich Koz. It all started with the original Svengoolie, played by Jerry G. Bishop, who hosted the WFLD show Screaming Yellow Theater in 1970. A young man by the name of Rich Koz , a drama student at Northwestern University, was a big fan. Koz wrote a letter to Bishop that included comedy material for the show. Bishop used the material and soon asked for more. Soon after Koz would be found doing more writing, as well as artwork and voices for the show. In 1973, Screaming Yellow Theater was cancelled . Bishop and Koz, continued to work together for a time. Then Jerry Bishop moved to L.A. . Before leaving Chicago, Bishop gave Koz the permission to use the name Son of Svengoolie, should he get the chance to do his own show.
The original Son of Svengoolie set contained a couple of surviving flats that were set pieces used in Chicago's original "Shock Theatre" (1957) on channel 7. It was donated to Columbia College after the show was cancelled and when WFLD Chicago (channel 32) moved from Marina City to Michigan Avenue. Sadly, the college destroyed it not long after.
The show's opening theme music was written by Sven's on-screen side kick, Doug Scharf (AKA Doug Graves). Doug and Rich composed most of the song parodies used on the show. Here's a great example of their talent.
The hands you see, usually at the door during the close of each weeks show, were that of WFLD staff announcer Jim Barton. Barton was THE voice of WFLD for many years.
(Left):PM Magazine ad 1981. (Middle): Rich at WFLD studios, 1981. (Right): Rich Koz - High School picture 1969
Zallman T. Tombstone Jr. The talking skull on the show was actually made from a Revell Skull model kit. Zallman's character is based on Raymond J. Johnson Jr, who was famous for the phrase "You doesn't have to call me Ray". His voice is none other than Rich Koz! Here's Zallman in action.
Here is Sven's recent recollections of Tombstone from his WCIU Blog entry:
"Tombstone came to be, of course, as a result of the talking female skull, Zelda, who was on the original Svengoolie show with Jerry G. I wanted an equivalent, and Tombstone (proper name Zallman T. Tombstone Jr.) , like Zelda was based on Flip Wilson’s Geraldine character, was based on Billy Saluga’s Raymond J. Johnson character (“You can call me Ray- or you can call me Jay”)- we build him from a build-it yourself skull kit, then put him on a pole with the string mechanism to make his mouth move. We added a thin green moustache —in honor of both Zelda’s green wig, and the fact that the moustache was made out of the same green crepe hair that the original Sven used as his moustache and beard- a salute to him as well! If you ever see the bottom of my coffin- you will see a picture of Tombstone that still has a green moustache! He did have a big plastic cigar hanging from his mouth, but, it was hard to super-impose, due to the color- and also didn’t stay attached to his mouth very well -so, Tombstone quit smoking. The green moustache was also not easy to super-impose, so we replaced it with the bright orange one he sports today. It is not in the best shape- and, if I can ever find a similar one, chances are he’ll have a facial hair transplant! If you were watching last week- you saw Tombstone’s nephews- who also have a pretty long history. We originally portrayed them with some small wind-up chattering skulls (like chattering teeth)- and used sped up voices for them. The problem with the chattering skulls was that they would move around while they chattered, and often would start to drift out of camera range, turn backwards, etc. Finally, we found some skulls that are like the alligator and animal heads you get at the zoo- mounted on a stick, with a trigger you pull to make their mouths move! This made them easier to puppet onscreen- and staff announcer Jim Barton and I would record their lines, slowly, so they could be sped up, similar to the Chipmunks! They helped picket in honor of Tombstone once (“Bonuses for Bonehead” was their rallying cry)- and you might have seen them doing a western song medley with me back at WFLD. It may well be time to bring them back… I have to say- Tombstone has always been one of the most popular characters on our show! Not bad for a Revelle plastic model kit…he has been on some of our t-shirts, and autograph cards- we may have to put him on one again!"
Durwood, the fuzzy haired wise cracking dummy, was the only cast member that was also used by the original Svengoolie.
Sven's coffin is the original one used by Jerry G. Bishop on "Screaming Yellow Theater". Sven repainted his face on it and still uses it to this very day! It is almost 40 years old!
Sven's skits each week usually involved parodies of local Chicagoland commercials. Here's one for "Vampire Carpets" (Empire carpets) and one for "Bert Im-ho-tep" (Bert Weinman Ford). Funny Stuff! Clever skits like "It came from the Audio/Visual dept., "Puttin' on the Boot" and "Boggie Woogie Bogeyman of Berwyn" were always fan favorites!
Rich Koz (AKA- Son of Svengoolie) got his start by sending the original Svengoolie (Jerry G. Bishop) jokes and skits to use during his show. This eventually lead to Koz doing small acting parts and voiceovers for Bishop's show. Some time after the original "Svengoolie was cancelled, Bishop gave Koz his full permission and blessing to continue on the "Svengoolie" Character. In fact on "Son of Svengoolie's" first show, the voicover intro was done by none other that Bishop himslef. Here's a clip of the original Svengoolie in action.
On the show's pilot, Son of Svengoolie was made up to look exactly as that of the original Svengoolie on "Screaming Yellow Theatre" (1970). They decided to update the make-up and costume because the original Sven was more of a hippie ghoul and the look was very late-'60s/early-'70s. Here's the opening from the very first "Son of Svengoolie" show! "Hey dad! Can I borrow the keys to the hearse tonight!"
The "Son of Svengoolie" was NOT WFLD's first choice as host for their horror movie show at the time, called "Creature Feature". Here's Rich Telling it in his own words..."I've told the story before about how I auditioned, along with a bunch of others- and how the program director actually did not choose me- he had opted for my friends, the comedy team of Penny and Wayne, whos audition had them as a couple who was getting dressed to go out on the town- but were distracted by the movie, and ended up staying around and watching it. It was actually a cute premise, but, the WFLD big shots , upon hearing his choice, said- 'No, you idiot- we want the traditional 'guy coming out of the box' type horror host."
Most folks are unaware of some of Sven's sound clips like "Thank you for cards and letters" - came from an old Stan Freeburg "Wunnerful" bit, and "the following prescribed is transgrammed" (an old Kermit Schaefer Bloopers LP) and of course the famous opening to every Son of Sven show: 'Clear the air lanes, Clear all air lanes' clip which is from the beginning of the 1932 film "The Big Broadcast!
In 1982, Sven aired the 1955 film "Revenge of the Creature" in 3D. The glasses were available from 7-11 stores all over Chicagoland so that viewers could see the 3D properly. The 3-D effect varied and some veiwers demanded their 69 cents back for the glasses. One rumour even had a fan drive his car through a 7-11 front window! Never-the-less the show was a big ratings hit. Visit Svengoolie-Nation's 3-D THEATER page here.
Not everything went as planned each week. Here's a rare clip from one of those "not-so-perfect" moments". Sven and John ad-lib to perfection!
On January 25th, 1986, the final "Son of Svengoolie" show was aired on WFLD TV 32 in Chicago. Koz, with his ever present flair for seizing any opportunity to poke fun, made light of the situation with this parody.
Here's a rare interview with Rich Koz (A.K.A Son of Svengoolie) from October 1992, 6 years after the show was cancelled.
Read Sven & Doug's "Official Biography" as written by Rich Koz in 1982 and included in the "Son of Svengoole" Fan Club packet.
In 1995, "Svengoolie" was back on the air in Chicago on independant station WCIU TV 26. Here's the opening from the film "The Killer Shrews" from 1996. The show continues to air to this day, lasting far longer than the original "Son of" show!
Here's a clip of the WCIU's "Svengoolie" show where Rich prevues the film "Plan 9 from outer space" in Svensurround, a unique way of watching this old Ed Wood classic snoozefest.
LATEST SVENNEWS: UPDATE: Svengoolie has won the RONDO AWARD for favorite horror host of 2008. Here's the full story with Mr. Koz' acceptance speech.
LATEST SVENNEWS: UPDATE: Check out our exclusive tribute to Jerry G. Bishop, the original Svengoolie. Click here to visit "Screaming Yellow Theatre" page.
LATEST SVENNEWS: UPDATE: Check out our newest videos featuring Sven past and present. Click here to visit the "Videos" page.
LATEST SVENNEWS: UPDATE: Lost "Screaming Yellow Theater" original Svengoolie segments found!. The three newly found "Screaming Yellow Theater" shows, Episodes #59, #60 and #61, all come from March & April 1973 Check them out over at Fuzzy's Museum of Classic Chicago Television.
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