“Calling all stations, clear the air lanes, clear all air lanes for the big broadcast!”
Thus begins the show all fans know as Svengoolie, hosted by Svengoolie himself, Rich Koz! Koz has hosted the show from 1979 until today--35 years. But Koz wasn’t the original Svengoolie—that honor belonged to Jairus Samuel Ghan (AKA Jerry G. Bishop) who originated the name!
Jerry was an announcer and the host of an afternoon movie/call-in contest show Dialing For Dollars on WFLD-TV and on the station’s Friday night scary movie anthology “Screaming Yellow Theater” when the idea of a live host for the show occured to him. This character became known as Svengoolie, a cross between Svengali and ghoul!
At first only a Lugosi-style voice under a title-card while the song “Rumble” played. Then, on screen in the guise of a green-haired, green bearded guitar-strumming hippie who slept in a psychedelic coffin and told corny, vaudevillian jokes with a horror-movie twist.
Svengoolie began in September of 1970 at WFLD (Channel 32) in the Chicago area and was very popular. It lasted until ’73 when parent company Field Communications sold the station to Kaiser Broadcasting, which replaced it with”The Ghoul Show” which was a similar show popular in Cleveland.
Thus died the original Svengoolie.
And so Son of Svengoolie was born!
Given permission to use the character once Field Communications took back WFLD from Kaiser in 1978, Rich Koz resurrected the ghoul in 1979. Koz was a fan of the original show who sent in sketch ideas and was eventually hired on as a writer. The show aired briefly in Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco and Detroit. That is until Rupert Murdoch’s Fox bought it and canceled the show, deciding that it did not fit Fox’s direction.
After 334 shows, the final episode aired in January of 1986.
Koz went on to other roles as host of Fox Kids Club and The Koz Zone.
That’s when Neal Sabin of Weigel Broadcasting brought the show back in late 1994. Koz finally took the name Svengoolie as Bishop had told him that he was grown up enough to no longer just be the Son.
The show currently airs on Chicago’s WWME-CA, Milwaukee’s WBME-CD and WMLW, and occasionally on WMYS-LD in South Bend, Indiana—stations all owned by Weigel Broadcasting and on the nationally available Me-TV network.
For it’s 25th anniversary in 2004, Svengoolie was given the Silver Circle Award by the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for outstanding contributions to Chicago television.
Additional Points of Note
Koz started out at his high school radio station, WMTH-FM.
Koz worked on many commercials and features with radio legend Dick Orkin, including “ChickenMan Returns for the Last Time Again.”
After Son of Svengoolie was cancelled, Koz returned to WFLD with a hosted movie show where he appeared to be breaking in on the Fox signal (a take-off on an actual event where WGN had it’s signal pirated). The show was originally untitled, but fans were asked to address letters to “Lose Weight by Selling Real Estate, No Money Down”.
As Son of Svengoolie, Koz is also known for the early ‘80s 3-D broadcast of REVENGE OF THE CREATURE that resulted in a civil action suit by those who felt they didn’t get “enough 3-D” for the 89 cents spent for the cardboard glasses.
Rumors that the broadcast included an accidental pornographic image are false.
The original Sven had real musical talent as is evident here:
Who is Sven?
Check him out…
And tonight (October 10th) Rich Koz is being honored at the Museum of Broadcast Communications with the launch of a new exhibit showcasing Sven’s original set and coffin!
Here’s a WGN radio interview with the man himself about the event:
And for those with nothing to do tomorrow night,
Svengoolie will be at it again on the Me-TV Network,
Hosting “The Uninvited”!