Rich Koz is, in my opinion, the one man whose work would go into a time capsule if I had to pick just one example of the American folk-art form of movie hosting. I know he wasn’t around before Vampira or Zacherle but his work is pretty much the Gold Standard when it comes to those wonderful old local and/or syndicated movie host shows of the past.
As Son of Svengoolie, Rich Koz was the official “inheritor” of Jerry Bishop’s original Svengoolie, the Hippie Vampire, who starred on Chicago’s Screaming Yellow Theater in the very early 70’s. With Bishop’s blessing, (and Bishop even did the very first voice-over introduction for his succesor’s new show) Koz debuted as “Son Of Svengoolie” in the Windy City in 1979. The show won multiple Chicago Emmies with its brilliant blend of schlocky movies, song parodies and comedy sketches that often parodied scenes from the campy horror films being shown. Koz mostly wrote all his own material and brought a wry, sometimes snarky, drive-time DJ sensibility to the format.
Yes, I know all the major markets in the U.S. have had plenty of their own movie hosts but I’ve sampled pretty much all of them and I think Koz was the best and certainly the one whose influence has been the most far-reaching. Son of Svengoolie went off the Chicago (and some syndicated locales) airwaves in 1986, then was revived by Rich Koz for guest-bits on his 1989 venture “The Koz Zone” before returning to his own show as just plain Svengoolie (no relation to the old radio show Just Plain Bill) in 1995…AND THAT SHOW IS STILL ON THE AIR! To me, Rich Koz and his vampiric alter ego represent Chicago better than Carl Sandburg or even Mike Wilbon. I’ve mentioned Son of Svengoolie a few times on this blog already and I’ll continue to do so as well as post links to some examples of his work. Here’s a link from a 1985 episode of Koz’s show. The Godzilla remake was coming out and Son of Svengoolie was showing an old Godzilla flick while giving away tickets to the remake as a promotional bit. Here he and his Musical Director “Doug Graves” (Doug Scharf) perform “Godzilla’s Back” to the tune of “My Boyfriend’s Back”. http://www.fuzzymemories.tv/screen.php?c=196