Well, all of you bloggers and blog followers out there, we have come to the end of our special series that focuses on some of the many talents that have helped make Chicago TV ever so legendary; I have covered as much of those personalities as I ever could. If I ever left out any other Chicago television personalities, I would very much like to apologize.
What better way to conclude this special series on Chicago TV Legends than to shine one final spotlight on a man who has made many a Saturday night special for many Chicago viewers everywhere, and now all across America (and NO, I am NOT talking about Docky-Wocky-Mocky-Hoo-Hoo!! You know darn well whom I am talking about!!!); The man that I am REALLY referring to is none other than that wacky man from Berwyn (BER-WINNNN!!!)…
Rich was born Richard Koz in Park Ridge, Illinois on March 12th, 1952; While attending Maine East High School, he got his broadcasting start at its radio station WMTH-FM. While attending Northwestern University, Rich Koz became fond of the original Svengoolie, a man by the name of Jerry G. Bishop, and he began sending him material for the horror movie program, and right afterward, Bishop invited Koz on to the show, in which then was called Screaming Yellow Theatre, its title a take on the snack food “Screaming Yellow Zonkers”.
Following the show’s cancellation in 1973, Koz and Bishop would work together alongside radio legend Dick Orkin in both commercials and syndicated features. Jerry G. Bishop would leave for San Diego in 1978, and as he was leaving he gave Koz permission to create a show that would simply become known as Son of Svengoolie; Bishop would pass away in 2013, and this year Dick Orkin also passed away.
Son of Svengoolie, featuring Koz as the video vampire, made its debut on WFLD-TV in June of 1979, and throughout the show’s run, it would win numerous local Emmy awards, and for a brief period, the show would be syndicated to cities such as Philadelphia, Detriot, and Boston. When WFLD-TV had been acquired by News Corporation in 1986, the axe fell on Son of Svengoolie, simply because it was not an appropriate fit for a station that was about to become an affiliate of the Fox Network.
Koz would return to WFLD-TV in the years from 1989 to 1993, in which he had hosted a new movie show; at first, it was untitled, then later changing into The Koz Zone, in which later became a kids’ daily version of the show. Koz would also do mornings for a brief period on WCKG radio while co-hosting live 4th of July and New Year’s Eve programming, not to mention being a weekend fill-in weather anchor for Fox 32 News.
Two years after leaving WFLD for good in 1995, Koz returned to local television to become a part of a launch team for a newly independent station called WCIU-TV, channel 26, and there he would just plain become “Svengoolie”, after his mentor Jerry G. Bishop told him that he could stop using the “Son of” moniker because he was “all grown up now”; He had resumed weekly horror movie shows, as well as other duties for the newly formed station, and since that time Rich Koz had become well known and well regarded in the Chicago area, thus having won numerous awards and even being admitted to the NATAS/Emmy “Silver Circle” for his “outstanding contributions to Chicago television”. Later, he became national in 2011 with his very own show on the classic TV channel MeTV which is still running as of this writing…
But in November of 2012, Rich Koz suffered a heart attack at his home (he had been stricken by a previous heart attack 10 years earlier, in 2002); But he has since recovered, and now Rich Koz and his ghoulishly time-honored character of Svengoolie are still continuing to excite viewers even today. And although the look of the show’s set may have changed, his humorous style remains the same.
Yours truly would like to thank you all so very much for joining me on this journey into the lives of the Chicago TV legends; Let me know what you think of it, and/or would like for me to do more special series like this one by leaving a comment below. Thanks, with love-JW