‘Svengoolie’ host Rich Koz recovering from heart attack

Rich Koz, the Chicago television icon known to generations of fans as the wise-cracking horror-movie host Svengoolie, is recovering from a heart attack. 

Koz, 60, was stricken at his west suburban home Saturday night and was admitted to a Chicago hospital, where he was being treated Monday.

On his Svengoolie Twitter and Facebook accounts Sunday, the following message was posted: “After a very busy Halloween holiday season, I’ll be taking a short reprieve from updating my blog. Daily updates will return soon!”

Koz, who has a history of heart problems, suffered a heart attack in March 2002. He returned to work two months later after undergoing two angioplasty procedures. “Maybe it’s a good thing that rubber chickens are cholesterol-free,” he quipped at the time.

“Rich’s condition is improving and his family has asked for privacy at this time,” Neal Sabin, president of content and networks for Weigel Broadcasting, told employees in a memo Monday. He said friends and fans may send Koz cards in care of: WCIU The U, 26 North Halsted Street, Chicago, IL 60661.

Koz made news here last week after he unveiled the design for a new studio coffin for Svengoolie — replacing one in use since the early 1970s. “The current coffin is even more decrepit than I am,” Koz joked. “This new coffin will probably last longer than I will.”

A throwback to an era when stations across the country employed movie hosts, Koz’s Svengoolie is one of the last and best of them all, interspersing his often D-grade horror films with witty observations, groan-inducing puns and clever song parodies. When all else fails, there always are the ubiquitous rubber chickens and the punchline “Berwyn.” The late John Callaway dubbed Koz “the longtime Chicago master of postmodern vaudeville.”

His greatest success has come in the past year since Svengoolie broke out on a national front through Weigel Broadcasting’s Me-TV network. In addition to hosting Svengoolie for Me-TV and The U, Koz also hosts Stooge-a-Palooza, a weekly showcase for The Three Stooges, airing Saturday nights on Me Too.

Koz, a Chicago native who got his start in broadcasting at the student radio station of Maine East High School in Park Ridge, was attending Northwestern University when he began working for Jerry G. Bishop, the original Svengoolie, at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32. In 1979 he succeeded Bishop in the role, at first calling himself Son of Svengoolie.

He’s been a fixture at The U since 1995, when Weigel Broadcasting transformed the station from Spanish to general market programming. A multiple Chicago Emmy Award winner, he was inducted in the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2004.


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)