Thrillville - Archives for Thrillville Beat
By Will ("The Thrill") Viharo
By Will "the Thrill" Viharo
The Conspiracy Against Cool Continues; Ed Wood, Bogart, Demons, Aliens, and Androids
he Art of Cool is dying: A 20th Century artifact fossilized for the vapid 21st Century.
Proof: Monica, Tiki Goddess and I went to the Cloverdale Creamery in Fremont on its final day of operation on Saturday, March 24. We met up with regular Thrill seekers and good pallies Bruce, Enid, Brendan and Dean, hipsters and pop cultural archeologists supreme, to mourn the passing of yet another icon. It was one of our favorite hangouts. For those not in the know, Cloverdale Creamery is, now was, a family-owned ice cream parlor that makes its own delicious product, serving the East Bay for 63 years. It's one of those establishments that was born old-fashioned. The décor is simple but perfect, instantly classic, built for nostalgia. It was never refurbished to keep up with the plastic sensibilities of changing times - it remained as frozen as its desserts. They would often play our favorite radio station, KABL (a station which we lost then were given back again, when its format went from swing to 70s sap before swinging back to the classics again), setting the perfect mood. Monica and I went there after the closing of another childhood institution of hers, the Union City Drive-In. We saw I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and went to Cloverdale for a sugary nightcap in a boat-shaped dish, recapturing briefly the magical pastime of yore, a drive-in/malt shop date, something kids nowadays can only read about in history books, if they care to, or watch in TNT reruns of Grease. After the closing of Cloverdale, we had nowhere to go but home.
It wasn't long ago that Otto Von Stroheim and his tiki troops - including Bruce, who has an incredible tiki bar in the basement of his own home - descended upon Columbus, Ohio to witness the tragic closing of the greatest tiki bar in the country, the Kahiki - to make room for a Walgreens. I doubt Bruce will be allowing any chain stores to take over his basement any time soon, which is reassuring, but still, it isn't open to the public, like the Kahiki was, and tiki bars were once a ubiquitous source of cool, a hipster's haven in the banality of the burbs. Now their motifs are co-opted by the likes of Old Navy, which pedals the same stupid ugly clothes everyone else does - their mass-marketed, crassly commercial, disgustingly modern product does not live up to its colorful retro-advertising. For all the clueless kids who patronize their stupid store know, tikis are the latest hip-hop thing. Lounge is a lifestyle, not a billboard.
We still have Trader Vic's in Emeryville, which is very cool, but they play crappy music. The bartenders wear aloha shirts, they serve exotic drinks in tiki mugs, but apparently no one who works there has heard of Martin Denny. It could be perfect, but isn't. And it's the flagship restaurant, one of the few left, in fact, though I heard there's a new one opening in Palo Alto. I also heard about a tiki bar opening in Walnut Creek, an authentic one, replete with Les Baxter exotica music and authentic Polynesian cuisine along with the tiki decor. I'll check it out when and if it happens, which should be soon, and report back to you. I have high hopes based on early reports.
The first Trader Vic's bar opened here in Oakland, in fact - though it was originally called Hinky Dink's, back in 1934. (The first tiki bar in America opened in Hollywood, called the Beachcomber.) In fact, another tiki bar soon opened across the street from Trader Vic's, called Zombie Village, on San Pablo Ave.! They're both long gone now. The San Fran Trader Vics is gone, too. Tiki is all the rage now, at least among the retro set and style-starved advertisers, but the fact that is celebrated as kitsch while simultaneously dynamited from the scene leaves one feeling whiplashed. If it's still so popular, why is it being erased? Already in Vegas they're talking about actually doing something I used to sadly joke about: a Vegas Vegas Hotel, a theme joint based on the Rat Pack glory days. Now that Lounge culture is trendy, they want to immediately resurrect what they insanely tore down in order to cash in on the sudden, morbid interest. All they had to do was not do anything: not blow up the Sands, not dome downtown, not destroy the Strip. Just leave it, build around it, not on top of it. I will never patronize the Bellagio because that's where the Sands should still stand, as a monument to its great history, if nothing else. It's a fucking desert out there, and they couldn't make room for both? There's more classic Vegas in my living room than in all of Nevada. Vegas Vegas Hotel my ass. Too late, bozos.
Cloverdale was packed on its final day. There are still people out there who appreciate the grace, pleasantness, and beautifully detailed style of the past, and I don't just mean wistful geezers on a field trip from the nursing home. Imagine if all our neighborhoods and buildings were built after 1970. What a depressing landscape that would be - and still might, if this conspiracy against cool continues. The architecture of the postwar era endures because of all the idealism, creativity and tenacity that were woven into the fabric of the popular consciousness at that time. Nowadays the popular imagination is creatively bankrupt, architects and manufacturers are cost-cutting lazy zombies pandering to MTV morons, and computers have replaced our hearts, minds and souls. Still, there seems to be a backlash against this cultural amnesia, this societal cynicism. So why does it go on? Same reason we are now stuck with a cold-hearted, empty-headed idiot as President. America is being dumbed down to the point where it can't even remember a time when passion, intelligence and romance dictated the course of our culture as much as economics, politics, and fear.
I'm getting fed up with this Conspiracy Against Cool, and do everything in my power to resist it. It's a losing battle I will never cease waging. Thrillville is my act of rebellion against the dumbing down of our society and the heartless destruction of our cultural history. I am attempting to preserve the final vestiges of hip and cool for future generations, so they won't be lost forever amid the conformist brainwashing of our nation being packaged and sold as expressions of individuality.
Anyway, screw all that. We're in Thrillville now, and safe from the madness of the outside world. But not safe from the madness of psychotronic cinema.
I'm all over the place this month: at THE PARKWAY twice, as usual, with two true blue classics of psychological suspense: I Walked with a Zombie/Cat People/Out of the Past director Jacques Tourneur's cult horror thriller CURSE OF THE DEMON (1956), starring Dana Andrews, in the original uncut British version called NIGHT OF THE DEMON, on April 12 (see Schedule for details); then a great, rare film noir, DEAD RECKONING (1947), starring a surly Humphrey Bogart on the trail of his pal's killer, trading quips with Bacall stand-in, sultry femme fatale Lizabeth Scott, on April 26. With both I am showing Chapters One and Two, respectively, of the 1940 serial THE SHADOW (1940), starring Victor Jory as Lamont Cranston. If you can find a more enlightening, entertaining, edifying, electrifying night at the movies than either of these, go. But you won't.
I also have two road shows this month: back at the swingin' SF showcase THE WEREPAD April 7th with A TRIBUTE TO ED WOOD, featuring a mint 16mm print of his masterpiece PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1956), from the collection of Buzz Bob Ekman, who is also throwing in some rare footage of Wood and Bela Lugosi eyeballing scantily clad women, ostensibly from the GLEN OR GLENDA phase, plus more outré surprises. There will also be a VAMPIRA/GLEN OR GLENDA lookalike contest, so bring the angora sweater and leave the bra at home. It is already a night to remember, and get there early - the Werepad is like a Greenwich Village beatnik nightclub with a movie screen, the kind of place where Andy Warhol and Matt Helm might mingle -meaning it's cozy, largely SRO, but they do have sofas and comfy seats a la the Parkway, so if you want one, don't cut it too close.
Then on April 14 I am debuting Thrillville at yet another classy establishment, the fiercely independent and ingeniously creative FINE ARTS CINEMA in Berkeley. For this auspicious occasion I am presenting from the astounding archives of the Werepad the very essence of Psychotronic Cinema: 1965's FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER. Crispin Glover's dad is in it somewhere, but that's only one of many strange pleasures this incredible film offers. It has aliens, androids, go go girls, and garage rock, all as you 've never experienced them before or since The alternate title was Mars Invades Puerto Rico. I will also be showing some really weird, cool shorts before the feature, including the William Shatner industrial film I was unable to roll at the epic and legendary Parkway tribute last month. This very show will be a magazine release party for the latest issue of the terrific sci-fi fan mag PLANET X, published by the mysterious, but very nice, Scott Moon, who has put on several Psychotronic Film Shows in Thrillville at the Parkway with the help of fellow film collector Buzz Bob. Scott has a killer stash of classic scopetones which I dip into from time to time. This latest issue, focusing on Outer Space, contains a cover story by yours truly profiling Lost in Space's sexy, eerie, ethereal Green Lady Vitina Marcus, plus some of my capsule film reviews - including Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster.
And keep in mind that at the road shows you can see Monica, Tiki Goddess perform her Exotic Erotic Ritual Raffle Dance, since we will be without the Parkway's wheel. But don't worry, it's not going anywhere.
NEXT MONTH: a Blood Feast, a Bachelor Party, and Bettie Page!
SPECIAL NOTE: Check out the latest issue of the ultimate retro lifestyle guide ATOMIC MAGAZINE, # 8, WINTER 2001, for a cool spread on Thrillville, featuring an interview with yours truly by swingin' scribe Sharon Lintz. Available at Cody's, Tower, Border's, Barnes and Nobles and wherever fine periodicals are sold. Check out their site as well, www.atomicmag.com
Thrillville - Archives for Thrillville Beat