Just recently I posted a blog called HORROR HOST SPOTLIGHT: The One and Only, Svengoolie and based on the response, it’s obvious how popular horror host Svengoolie truly is. Without a doubt, with the possible exception of Elvira, Svengoolie is the most widely known in this field. He is also one of the nicest people I have ever met; a man who truly appreciates each and every one of his many fans. He was kind enough to sit down with me and participate in this celebrity interview; something I am truly appreciative of.
David: Growing up were you a fan of the types of movies you feature on your show? What are some of your favorites?
Sven: I was, but not when I was very young! As a small boy, I was terrified of everything: dogs, the dark, you name it! The first frightening movie I saw was THE WIZARD OF OZ! The Wicked Witch scared the heck out of me. I attribute a lot of that to her voice. But, by junior high school age, I was definitely a fan. By then and into my high school years, there was no shortage of horror films on TV and I recall sneaking out of my bedroom to watch some of them that started at midnight, with the volume on the TV turned down so that I wouldn’t wake up my sleeping family. That was when I got my first look at some of the Universal classics, which immediately became favorites and then the American International horror films.
David: With film companies charging high fees to show their films, if there was one film that you could get for free to show, what would it be and why?
Sven: I would say the original KING KONG, which I have never shown in my career. It was also probably the SECOND scariest film I ever saw, after THE WIZARD OF OZ. I was almost afraid to even open my eyes watching it, but ended up being glad I did. I think I was close to four years old at that time. It was truly amazing to me, and I think it is also where my love of stop-motion animation came from. Money is not the only consideration these days, though. The run time can be a problem. I hate to have to edit down a great movie to fit our time slot, and will often limit my onscreen time as well to make the time work out. We probably take more care than most in our editing. Some cuts are as short as 7 or 8 seconds, and we do our best to maintain the integrity of the story.
David: I first saw you as the Son of Svengoolie in the early 80s as you were syndicated on a UHF station out of Boston. Are you the only horror host that did that besides Elvira?
Sven: I’d have to leave that one to the horror host historians, but I don’t know for sure. We ran on stations in Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, San Francisco, and our home base Chicago.
David: Do you have a favorite horror host? Why?
Sven: It would have to be my mentor and friend; the man who got me into the business and was generous enough to decide that I should be his “heir,” the original Svengoolie, Jerry G. Bishop. He brought a lot to the genre, encouraged me to do the same, and he had such a great sense of humor as well as incredible talent. I was originally a fan of his radio work, and he is still an inspiration to me today.
David: You have the license to show Universal films which is fantastic. I remember back in the day when you would show films by Full Moon Productions, which were a lot of fun. Any chance of getting them again?
Sven: It may be possible, but a lot of the Full Moon movies may be a little to “rough” for MeTV management who wants us to maintain the “family entertainment” aspect of our network. But who knows? I do love the Full Moon films!
David: Are there things from the Son of Svengoolie days that you wish you could do now?
Sven: One thing that I used to do more was playing other characters. We still do that, but it often isn’t as easy to find the time to do bits with completely different make-up due to how much production time we have available. And, we had more latitude in using clips from other movies and shows the station had, and doing popular and contemporary songs. People weren’t as into suing for using them back in those days!
David: With everything going on in the world with covid, what is filming like now?
Sven: It’s much more difficult. We have to shoot remotely, from my home, using an iPad Pro and green screen. It really limits what we can do, though I think we’ve managed to pull off quite a few things that, at first, we thought would not be possible. It’s weird having my director, Chris Faulkner, on a Facetime thing, and not having our great audio guy, Chas Alling, doing sound. While my executive producer, Jim Roche, is there, masked and maintaining distance while helping record the segments, send the files to Chris, etc. I really miss being in the studio, having our crew right there, and being able to actually move around the real set.
David: Son of Svengoolie started in 1979. How did this come about?
Sven: I had begun working with Jerry G. when he was doing the original Svengoolie show and when it was cancelled, he though enough of me to bring me along to work with him at WMAQ radio in Chicago. When our run there ended, I was fortunate to be able to work with the great Dick Orkin, creator of radio’s “Chicken Man” and “Tooth Fairy” as well as tons of funny radio commercials. Then, however, came the great migration to the West Coast. Dick moved his company to L.A., and Jerry got a great gig in San Diego. Before he left, Jerry asked what I was planning to do. I said I thought I might try to pitch a local station on doing a TV show.
A few years before, one local program director had asked Jerry about doing a limited Svengoolie series just for the summer and Jerry didn’t really want to play the character again. He felt that I could do it, and play “Son of Svengoolie” while he would produce and help write the show! It was, of course, very flattering to me that he felt I had the talent to do so. We had a couple false starts, and nothing ever really came of the idea. So, as he was getting ready to head west, he remembered that idea and said that if I wanted to try to do the “Son of Svengoolie” thing, I had his blessing! I shopped it around to a few stations. One, when I called the program director and explained what I wanted to do, laughed and hung up on me!
When I got a meeting at the station Jerry originally ran on, WFLD, and came in with a full presentation, the program director said “we’ve been thinking of doing something like that. I think we’ll do, like a bake-off, and have anybody who wants to try, audition!” Even though I brought him the full blown concept, I had no choice but to be just one of the “contestants.” To my knowledge, I was actually the only one who came in and watched a full movie. To make a long story short, eventually they decided I could have the job. And the rest, as they say, is history. One final thing I’d like to say is, I doubt I could ever have gotten to where I am without the amazing support of the fans who have stuck with me all these years. I am truly grateful for their loyalty; so, thank you all!
Again, I cannot thank Svengoolie enough for taking the time out of his busy schedule to be a part of this. I have been fortunate enough to hang out with him many times, creating such great memories that I will never forget. If you have not seen his show, he is on every Saturday night on Me-TV at 8 PM EST. If you are a huge fan like me, make sure to check out the SVENGOOLIE – METV STORE for all kinds of Svengoolie collectibles!