5 Questions with...WCIU, The U's Rich Koz


5 Questions with...WCIU, The U's Rich Koz

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

March 24, 2010

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite weekly local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeka Chicago television legend who has entertained audiences for over 30 years as alter ego star and host of Svengoolie (Saturday nights at 9:00 PM on WCIU-TV)he also hosts the popular Stooge-A-Palooza collection of Three Stooges short films (Saturday nights at 7:00 PM on Me-TV)hes a Chicago TV icon who actually doesnt sleep in a coffinhere are 5 Questions withRICH KOZ!

BIO: Rich Koz cut his teeth in broadcasting at WMTH, a small low-powered non-commercial FM station operated by the students of Maine High School (now Maine East) in Park Ridge. Broadcasting at 88.5MHz since 1959, the school district owned station gave aspiring disc jockeys, writers, producers, and future station managers a chance to learn in a real environment.

Rich found his calling and later, while still a student at Northwestern University in Evanston, known for its extensive performing artsbroadcast facilities and curriculum, he sent comedy material to Jerry G. Bishop at WFLD-TV. Bishop, a popular WCFL radio personality had been doing voice-overs during the commercial breaks of "Screaming Yellow Theater." Bishop, impressed by Koz's work, hired him when the show advanced to short comedy sketches from just simple slides between breaks. In 1973, when Kaiser Broadcasting decided to use their own horror movie host "The Ghoul," Bishop and Koz moved to WMAQ Radio where Koz worked as writer, producer, and on air talent on Bishop's morning show.

Rich also had the chance to work with the great Dick Orkin, who created the well known "Chickenman" and "Tooth Fairy" radio serials. Koz co-wrote with Orkin 65 episodes of the serial "Chickenman Returns For The Last Time Again." In 1979, with Bishop's blessings, Koz returned to WFLD as "Son of Svengoolie" from 1979 to 1986. However, ownership changes would force Rich off the air again as Fox purchased the station and found the award winning local program beneath them. However, about three years later Koz would find himself back at WFLD, this time as himself and again hosting movies. Rich appeared as a pirate broadcaster breaking in on WFLD signal so he can do his stuff. The show was so well done that it prompted inquiries by the FCC. Koz won a Chicago Emmy award for Best Entertainment Series. In 1995, Koz came back on the air as part of the launch team for newly independent station WCIU-TV Channel 26. He became Svengoolie (after Bishop told him he could drop the "Son of" because he "was all grown up now") and resumed weekly horror movie shows, along with hosting the popular Stooge-A-Palooza show airing classic short films of The Three Stooges.

The name Rich Koz may not be as common to Chicagoans as Dave Garroway, Don McNeil, Ray Rayner, or Fahey Flynn, among many others, but it should be. Well respected by his peers in the industry and admired by his legion of fans, not just in Chicago but across the country, Rich Koz, like those pioneers of Chicago television, has continued the tradition offering quality and original programming from a local station.

Rich's hard work was acknowledged in June of 2004 when he was inducted into the ChicagoMidwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences prestigious Silver Circle.

1) CSNChicago.com: Rich, youve entertained millions of Chicago TV viewers over the past 30 years as your alter ego Svengoolie highlighted by your legendary comedy sketches, song parodies, along with numerous celebrity impersonations and jokes. Why do you think this character still continues to resonate with todays younger generation?

Koz: Its just another example of how misguided todays youth areno, actuallyhopefully, its because theyre finding what I do funny andor entertaining. They enjoy the jokes and parodies of stuff they recognize, like the old vaudeville-type shtick they may not have ever been exposed to, along with all the smart-aleck comments. Also, I think, for the same reason I liked locally-hosted shows when I was a kid, the fact that this show IS done right here in Chicago, and that they feel that Im communicating with them, one on one, like those classic personalities did and that they could indeed run into me on the street or at a local event. Its probably one of the few cases where they feel someone is doing that, since so few stations do this kind of programming. I also think they are attracted to the horror flicks, so thats icing on the cakeor coffin.

2) CSNChicago.com: Rank the top three worst of the worst B-movies ever to appear on Svengoolie and tell us briefly why each one is so horribly bad?


The Creeping Terror its so bad because the monster appears to be a combination of one of those Chinese parade dragons and a throw rug. Plus, the producers lost most of the soundtrack...which probably was a good thing.

Plan 9 from Outer Space yes, the Ed Wood classic highlighted by flying hubcaps, cardboard tombstones that jiggle, a faux Bela Lugosi who did the cape over the face thing to hide the fact that he really wasnt Bela at all, and Criswell acting as the whistleblower to the plot of Grave Robbers from Outer Space.

Creatures The World Forgot -- after seeing this, youll know why. I had high hopes for this one. A film about cavemen, but then, no dinosaurs, mastodons, etc. Just a guy in a cheap bear suit, no dialogue, and a lot of nudity we had to edit around. The only saving grace was then-supermodel Julie Ege as a hot cavewoman.

3) CSNChicago.com: As host of Stooge-A-Palooza, youre no doubt one of the top Three Stooges experts in the country. Since CSNChicago.com is a regional sports network website dedicated to the Chicago sports fan, enlighten us on two Three Stooges fronts if you dont mind: Are there any stories out there to your knowledge of Moe, Larry, Curly (cant forget about Shemp, Joe and Curly Joe of course) ever making any appearances in Chicago back in the day?...and which Three Stooges sports-themed episode is your favorite?
Koz: Oh, sure - Moe, Larry, and Curly appeared at the Chicago Theater! And before forming their own act, when Moe and Shemp were stooges (comedic underlings) to boss comic Ted Healy, they actually discovered Larry here in Chicago, appearing with the Haney Sisters at the Rainbow Gardens, and offered him a job right then! I just read about Moe and Shemp dining at Blackies (not Boston Blackies which has been in the news lately) and supposedly getting into food fights with the Marx Brothers! In the later years, when the shorts first hit TV and the boys became stars to a new generation, they appeared at a Hillside Theater (Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe De Rita). I occasionally get letters from people who met them there as kids! I know they were sports fans too - baseball, boxing, horse racing, etc. - but havent read anything about them attending events here. Of course, some people swear that Stooges show up at every Chicago city council meeting

My favorite sports-themed Stooge short just beating out Three Little Pigskins, their football short that featured a very young and very blonde Lucille Ball, has to be their second short Punch Drunks. That one starts out with the boys as separate characters who dont know each other, and fight manager Moe finds out that Curly becomes an unstoppable fighting machine when he just so happens to hear Larry play Pop Goes the Weasel on his violin. They team up, and we see Curly train and rise through the ranks until he has a title shot - but, just as the match starts, Larrys violin gets broken, and the rest of the short involves him trying to find SOMETHING that will play Pop Goes the weasel to give Curly enough steam to win the championship (they re-used the idea of something driving Curly crazy a few times, like in the wrestling short Grips, Grunts, and Groans where the scent of the perfume Wild Hyacinth starts Curlymania running wild!).

4) CSNChicago.com: Youve probably answered this question a thousand times, but please explain to CSNChicago.com readers the whole BERRR-WYNNNN! thing on Svengoolie and did the residents of Berwyn ever give you a hard time or demand that you stop poking fun at their town?

Koz: Well, theres a two-pronged reason. When the original Sven, my mentor, Jerry G. Bishop, started doing his Sven show, Rowan and Martins Laugh-In was just dying down, and they, along with Johnny Carson, made small-town jokes about beautiful downtown Burbank. Jerry liked that idea, and also was reminded of his days in Cleveland, where famous beatnik horror host Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson- the guy who later was the ABC announcer who always read the promos for the LOOOvvve Boat) would make fun of the Cleveland suburb of Parma in a similar way.

Jerry decided on Berwyn when he discovered it was, at the time, chock-full of used car dealerships and savings & loans and that it held a parade each fall in honor of mushrooms (a.k.a. the famed Houby Day festival). He thought it would be good fodder for the jokes, and so it was. I just picked up the torch. Honestly, almost anyone Ive ever ran into from Berwyn enjoy it. They realize its just jokes and enjoy the ribbing. They feel that it put them on the map. They have always been very kind and supportive. Theyre good, salt of the earth hardworking people, the kind of people I grew up with. To this day, you can say Berwyn almost anywhere, and SOMEBODY will respond - in our TV inflection - Berrr-Wynnn? Whenever radio guys have to read a spot that mentions Berwyn, nine out of ten times, theyll also read it that way. The only person who seemed upset by it was a former mayor and his cronies, who felt that my jokes didnt contribute to people thinking Berwyn was the hip and happening place they wanted the public to think it was. They just never got it, I guess.

5) CSNChicago.com: As you well know being native of our great city, Chicago is one of the greatest sports cities in the world. Do you ever get a chance to go and watch any of our teams in person? Also, what was your favorite all-time Chicago sports team growing up?

Koz: I do get the chance every so often to see games. Ive been to Bulls games, actually shot the puck at a Hawks game, have seen the UIC Flames play, and have been to many White Sox games. Im always amazed when I run into athletes and announcers and they know who I am! I was a White Sox fan as a kid and became a fan during their big World Series push in 1959 and the Go-Go Sox era. I got caught up in the excitement of them winning the pennant race and going on to a first game win in the series. When The U first went on the air, we had a special day at the park, and I was thrilled to meet Bill Melton - and Sven even got to meet Ozzie! My brother, a Cubs fan, gives me hell every time I mention Im a Sox fan in an interview, since he gets razzed by his pals. Sorry, Johnhes promised to get me to Cubs game this year! Hmmmfunny how they havent had me sing for the 7th Inning Stretch, but Jim Belushi has done it forty-seven times!

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: You have solidified yourself as an icon in Chicago TV history. How much longer do you see yourself doing this before the coffin finally closes on Svengoolie for the very last time?

Koz: The whole reason Im still doing this is, other than the paycheck, goes back to when I wasnt doing it for a while. Just about every week, somebody would recognize me and ask when are you going to do it again? Today, people constantly tell me how much it means to them, and thank me for the years of laughsthat still blows me away. They tell me I watched you as a kid and now I watch you WITH my kids. Its so cool that its a family thing that brings generations together. I guess that, until I can actually afford to retire, and as long as people really enjoy it, and as long as Im healthy, and as long as management will allow it, Ill be opening that coffin liduh, if I ever DONT open it, would you check on me?


WCIU-TVSvengoolie home page

WCIU-TVSvengoolie blog

Rich Koz on Facebook

Richard Panik fueling Blackhawks' top line

Richard Panik fueling Blackhawks' top line

Richard Panik was coming off his first career hat trick last week when he was asked about solidifying his spot on the top line with Jonathan Toews.

“I wouldn’t call it mine, for now,” Panik said.

The right wing’s hesitancy was understandable: Outside of some Blackhawks veterans, your place on a line is only as good as your last game.

But considering how he’s playing right now and the amount of goals he’s scored, you’d think Panik will be a top liner for a little while longer.

Panik scored the game-tying goals against his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, with 88 seconds remaining in regulation on Saturday night. There was probably a little feeling of vindication for Panik on that goal – Panik spent last season with the Leafs’ minor-league team until he was traded to the Blackhawks. But no matter the opponent, Panik’s been a scoring threat.

“We didn’t expect six goals in six games but we knew he’d be an offensive threat for us,” Toews said. “He’s showing consistently. He had the hat trick – when you have a game like that, the puck keeps finding you and he’s making no mistakes around the net. He’s shown he can score goals in any which way.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Part of the reason Panik’s back on the top line was the Blackhawks wanted to get more balance among the forwards. Marian Hossa, a longtime sight on that line, is on the third. But again, it’s all in what you do with the opportunity.

“The position he ended up being in was probably more so [for] being ready every game, consistent, doing the right things,” coach Joel Quenneville said after Saturday’s game. “He has all the tools we look for. He’s coming up with loose pucks, hanging around the net, going to the hard areas, giving us some physicality and finish as well. That was a big one, for sure, so he’s been a very pleasant start for us and for himself.”

The Blackhawks will always take goals no matter who scores them. But it’s how and from where Panik’s scoring those goals that’s especially good for the Blackhawks. Constantly looking for a net-front presence, Panik’s providing it. Most of his goals have been within a few feet of the net.

“Yeah, I’m just trying to find the space in front of the net and the goals are scored from there,” he said. “That’s the area I want to go to and it’s working.”

In six games Panik has already reached the totals he had in his 30 games with the Blackhawks last season (six goals, two assists). Panik approaches every game on the first line like it could be his last up there, and considering how often the Blackhawks change combinations that’s a smart approach. But the Blackhawks were looking for more consistent scoring on that top line, and as long as Panik helps provide that, he’ll stay put.

“Consistency was my biggest weakness. I’m just focusing on that, bringing it every night,” Panik said. “I think I know what I’m capable of. I know I can play on this level. Now I have an opportunity. I just have to take advantage of it and keep playing this way.”

Toppling mighty Buckeyes, James Franklin finally gets his big win at Penn State


Toppling mighty Buckeyes, James Franklin finally gets his big win at Penn State

James Franklin finally has himself a win over a ranked opponent.

And what a win it was.

Franklin hadn’t taken down any team with a No. 1 through 25 in front of its name since he arrived at Penn State ahead of the 2014 season. But wins don’t get much bigger — and opponents don’t get much better — than the Nittany Lions’ stunning upset of the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday night in Happy Valley.

Franklin was hired to take Penn State back to the top of the college football mountain, and because college football fans and observers are impatient, he hasn’t appeared to make much progress toward that goal in his two and a half seasons at the helm. The first two campaigns finished in 7-6 records, and that kind of mediocrity doesn’t really fly at Penn State, even if Franklin is still doing the work of dragging the program out of the shadow of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

In the preseason, Franklin looked at this season as one where the effects of that scandal start to get shed a little bit. He boasted about decisions made to redshirt players over the past two seasons, despite the Lions needing the depth, beginning to pay off.

When Penn State lost to Pitt in a game that was very entertaining but saw the Lions’ defense absolutely gashed and then to Michigan by a 39-point margin, it looked like the middle level was all Franklin would be able to deliver for yet another season. Those losses even spurred hot-seat talk. Remember the point about college football fans and observers being impatient?

But Saturday, questions about Franklin’s job status were deemed null and void.

You can look at the way the Lions won the game: returning a blocked field goal attempt 60 yards for a game-winning touchdown in the game’s final five minutes and wonder if this wasn’t more a product of college football magic than it was a product of Penn State turning some kind of corner. But the Lions did play very well, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, on Saturday night. Despite some good yardage totals for Ohio State, Penn State’s defense persistently flustered Heisman candidate J.T. Barrett and sacked him six times, including on the Buckeyes’ final two offensive plays.

Ohio State had huge advantages in most offensive categories. A small sample: Barrett completed 20 more passes than Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, and the Buckeyes were 10-for-24 on third and fourth down while the Lions were just 2-for-14.

But special teams are special for a reason, right? Even before the wild play that ended in the game-winning touchdown, Penn State blocked an Ohio State punt that turned into three points. Ten points off blocked kicks? That’ll do.

Again, does all this mean that the Lions are finding their footing under Franklin and resuming their ascent back to the top of the Big Ten?

The fairer question might be: Was that even possible in the first place?

Taking nothing away from Franklin, he was handed the mighty difficult task of getting back to competing for conference and national championships while playing in a division loaded with some of the best programs in college football. When he arrived ahead of the 2014 season, it was Ohio State and Michigan State slugging it out for those titles on an annual basis. Then Jim Harbaugh showed up in Ann Arbor and flipped the Wolverines back into title contenders overnight.

Whether the Sandusky scandal had a crippling effect on this program or not, the sheer quality of those three annual opponents made Franklin’s task look almost impossible.

But now one of those Goliaths has been slain. Cry not for the Buckeyes, their title hopes are still very much alive after suffering just their first defeat of the season. Instead, look at this as the next step for Franklin, the next step toward where he wants Penn State to be. Look at this as him getting the monkey of not beating a ranked team off his back. You want a win over a ranked team? How’s the No. 2 team in the country sound?

And while the Lions aren't suddenly anyone's trendy pick to make a surprise run to the national championship, take a look at the Big Ten standings. Penn State's 3-1 conference record places it second in the East Division, behind only undefeated Michigan. Of the five teams with 3-1 or better marks in the league, three were ranked in the top 10 coming into this past weekend. Penn State has the same overall record as the Wisconsin Badgers, a top-10 team which still has hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff. So pretty good company to be in for the Lions.

Penn State might not be challenging for the conference championship this season or in the next one, but this is one big thing checked off Franklin’s to-do list.