Koz celebre: Svengoolie getting coffin worthy of a star

Just in time for Halloween, Chicago’s most beloved ghoul is getting a brand new coffin to call home.

Svengoolie, the iconic horror-movie host played by Rich Koz, is trading in the satin-lined box he and his predecessor occupied for more than 40 years for a new state-of-the-art beauty with more bells and whistles than you can shake a rubber chicken at.

A protoype of the new coffin was unveiled last weekend at the Nightmare on Chicago Street party in Elgin. Starting sometime in 2013 (since all of this season’s main show elements already have been taped), it will be seen regularly on Svengoolie, which airs at 9pm Saturdays on Weigel Broadcasting’s Me-TV and at 11am Saturdays on The U.

Koz calls the new model “a visual extravaganza,” incorporating a variety of three-dimensional animated features in the lid, chicken feet coffin handles, LED back lighting, and even an ultra-quiet fan to keep Sven cool under the hot studio lights.

The familiar double-door coffin now in use was built at WFLD for the original Svengoolie, Jerry G. Bishop, by the late Bobby Walker (to whom Koz paid tribute in a 2010 blog post). It’s expected to be donated to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, where it will be enshrined alongside such venerable Chicago television artifacts as Bozo’s buckets and Garfield Goose.

“The current coffin is even more decrepit than I am,” Koz joked. “Fans always notice that I have to give the upper door a lift and twist to close it every week, since the hinges are deteriorating. Back when the set piece was originally built for Jerry back around 1972, who would have even thought it would still be in use today? When I started using it in 1979, I wouldn’t even have thought that. This new coffin will probably last longer than I will.”

Koz worked closely with Elgin-based Acme Design Inc. on specs for Svengoolie’s new resting place. “It was an honor to be involved with meeting the goals that Mr. Goolie set in front of us, and we hope the fans are pleased with our effort,” Clint Borucki, owner of Acme Design, said in a statement.

To create a coffin that would “tell a story,” artist Ryan Guenther began by researching the history of American horror hosts, Chicago architecture, funerary practices and Sven himself.  The new design draws from the history of horror hosting, with symbolic tributes to ’50s hostess Vampira, original Sven Bishop and the film genre.

“I was proud to have the opportunity to do it,” Guenther said.  “I see it as a thank you to Rich for doing this for over 30 years. He’s a humble guy. Personally, I like to go above and beyond what people are expecting, and I believe the final product will reflect that.”

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)