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Jerry Bishop, Chicago's Original 'Svengoolie,' Has Died

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 17, 2013 7:15PM

Image Credit: Rick Klein, Museum of Classic Chicago Television

Sad news from the world of classic Chicago television. Jerry Bishop, the man who originated the long-running “Svengoolie” character on WFLD-TV, died Sunday. Robert Feder has a post on his website with tributes from Bob Sirott and Rich Koz, who received Bishop’s blessing to play the character and continues to do so to this day.

Bishop was the narrator for WFLD’s “Screaming Yellow Theater” when he started the role of Svengoolie in 1970. In contrast to the slightly wacky version of the character played by Koz, Bishop’s Svengoolie made several nods to the 70s counterculture movement I wrote in 2011 that Koz’s Svengoolie was a nerdy uncle while Bishop’s portrayal had you wanting to smoke up with him.

Rick Klein at the Museum of Classic Chicago Television noted Bishop was a longtime radio veteran whose career began at Evanston’s WNMP-AM and his post-Svengoolie career included a move to the West Coast, where he hosted the morning show “Sun Up San Diego” on KFMB-TV for 13 years. He retired in the mid-90s and became a restaurateur.

In this clip from 1984, Bishop and Koz (as Son of Svengoolie) appear together on screen.