Ken Leighton 5:01 p.m., Nov. 24
He was Chicago television's answer to SCTV's 'Count' Floyd Robertson, a professional broadcaster picking up change on the side while dressed in a sub-Ben Cooper Halloween getup and telling jokes between commercial breaks on a low budget kid's horror-movie show.
Jerry G. Bishop was not big on scary movies. His decision to play his ghoulish alter ego, Svengoolie, for counter-cultural laughs was the inspiration that paved his way to small screen immortality. For three of my seven high school years, Jerry G. Bishop was right up there with Bugs and Groucho as one of the funniest beings on the planet.
Screaming Yellow Theatre hit the air in 1970 on WFLD-TV. Bishop's penchant for running gags was one of the show's hallmarks. The only thing funny about Berwyn, Illinois, a small suburb outside of Chicago, was Bishop's prerecorded drop-in of a group of quizzical voices stating the name of the town in question form.
The movies he showed were awful at best making Sven's routines frequently more entertaining than grade-Z horror programmers like Teenage Zombies or Attack of the Giant Leeches.
Bishop was the first media personality to introduce me to the art of placing audio effects where they don't belong. The sound of bells normally associated with the opening of the door to a mom and pop business could be heard when a character on screen opened his refrigerator. Something similar to the 3 Stooges "glug-glug" was heard whenever someone took a drink. Though it may sound lame by contemporary standards, at the time Bishop's cutting-edge schtick was light years ahead of local vanilla kiddie counterparts like B.J. and Dirty Dragon or Ray Rayner.
The show ran for 3 years, or just long enough for Kaiser Broadcasting to buy the station and relieve Bishop of his scary duties. The show returned in 1979 with Rich Koz, a fan of Sven's who was eventually hired as a writer, assuming the role with Bishop's backing. Koz's Son of Svengoolie can currently be seen Saturday nights on Me TV.
Mr. Bishop moved to San Diego in 1978 to host the morning wake-up show, Sun Up San Diego He went on to win three Emmy awards in his 13 years as host. After leaving the show, Bishop could be heard spinning oldies on radio station KRLL. Bishop continued to oversee two local San Diego restaurants that his family owned, Greek Islands Cafe and Asaggio Pizza.
Jerry G. Bishop, 77, died of a heart attack Sunday, September 15, at the University of California at San Diego Medical Center. Bishop is survived by his wife of 49 years, Liz; a daughter, Melissa Moore; a son, Christopher; and a granddaughter.
Thanks for the tutelage, Sven. You will be missed.
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