THIS MONTH: END OF THE CENTURY BLOW-OUT!
December 9th: TIKI-SPLOITATION! A Celebration of Pop Polynesia!
December 16th: A RAT PACK CHRISTMAS PARTY featuring Robin and the Seven Hoods!
December 30th: MILLENNIUM MADNESS PARTY featuring Roger Corman's Death Race 2000!
Is it just me, or is The Future morphing into The Present and then The Past much faster than it used to?
Nothing brings this chilling acceleration of Time closer to home than the calendar: This is the final month of the Twentieth Century. After this, that's it: no more Nineteen-anything. It's over. All the cultural artifacts and icons of our collective lifetimes will be passe, relics of a dead century - hell, a dead millennium! The beauty of this fact is, I will no longer be a member of that strange tribe dubbed "retro" by the media and masses at large: in a mater of days we will ALL be retro-fitted, baby!
Nobody said it better than Vic Valentine, Private Eye, pathetic protagonist of my single published novel of the 20th Century, Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me: "People tell me I live in the past. We all live in the past, I tell them, we just don't know it yet."
Except in a few days, we will all know it.
Dig it: We are officially in The Future as perceived by the popular imagination. The Year 2000 has always been a kind of Finish Line for denizens of this century. Will we make it? Who will make it? How will we make it?
Unless the Y2K bug wreaks apocalyptic havoc, or some wacko decides to declare doomsday and set off a nuclear holocaust, it looks like we made it.
Yea, and .so what?
What's really different? Computers? Theyre already ho-hum. They even seem dated by now, since we're saturated with 'em. What I want to know is: where are the personal jet-packs and hovering automobiles? The robot servants? Where is that stylish, swinging, sophisticated, snazzy, shimmering lifestyle promised thirty-odd (and I do mean odd) years ago by The Jetsons?
Answer: The Cartoon Network.
I'm used to the fact that most things I love are outdated or just plain dead. But I suspect most of the mainstream population is in for a serious mind-fuck, culturally speaking. I'm curious to see how they deal with it. All the young hipsters out there who are oh-so-cutting-edge will suddenly, at the stroke of millennial midnight, become fashion's fossils. Think of it this way: how many people today would be watching movies made in the 1800s, if they were invented then, cast with people dead for over a century, when you could watch all the hundreds of thousands of films made in the 1900s? In fact Cinema is only a hundred years old, and already there is a protean proliferation of product for even the casual consumer. It won't be long before almost every movie on the planet, in video stores and on cable, will be representative of an ephemeral era. Won't it be just plain weird to be living in Two Thousand Something and scanning the TV Guide, seeing all these movie titles made in Nineteen Something? And then get this: in most of our lifetimes, we will again see The Twenties, 21st Century-style. Live, not on tape. Yikes.
Maybe we'll become a nation of disillusioned alcoholics. On the upside, that would mean booming business here at The Parkway. In the meantime, let's enjoy the 20th Century while it's still alive, at least on the calendar. On tape it will live forever. Or until the tapes turn to dust, just like the people on them, supposedly preserved for posterity. Then it'll be like we never happened. But let's not dwell on that right now. Because after all, what's in a number? The calendar is man-made. We mark time, it marks us back. Any significance it has is what we decide, individually, to give it. The Earth is way older than 2000 years. So is mankind. When you think about it, the year 2000 is a completely arbitrary date to celebrate or fear. But let's have fun with it anyway.
One exponent of the late century retro-revivalism is the obsession with everything tiki. Proof of this is the sudden mainstream marketing of Hawaiian shirts. Beats the hell out of grungy, tired old flannel. But Hawaiian shirts have been the hipster's attire of choice for decades, especially in the '50s. And tiki idols were popular long before Greg Brady wore one, kiddies. Exotica was a product of the postwar suburban boom, when weary GIs settled down to safe, domestic bliss but still missed the strange dangers of their Pacific travels. The mainland media was quick to capitalize on this tropical longing. Used to be there was a tiki bar on every corner, in every town. Oakland had its share - the flagship Trader Vic's (now in Emeryville) used to be on San Pablo Ave., and kitty-corner from that was Zombie Village (God, what a great moniker for a dive!) which later burned down and moved to SF, where it eventually closed anyway. My pals, regular Thrill-seekers Bruce Woodbury and his sweetheart Enid, have an incredibly ornate tiki bar in their basement, right next to the largest smiley face collection in the world. They've been on TV talk shows a lot, you may've seen 'em - they're celebrity collectors (which does not mean they collect celebrities, like cannibal head-hunters). Anyway, now most of the old tiki bars, once a suburban staple, are closed. But they're making a minor comeback, as evidenced by the trendy next-door-neighbor to the Hi-Ball Lounge on Broadway, The Bamboo Hut, and The Lilo Lounge on Potrero Hill in San Francisco. Over here, besides Trader Vic's in Emeryville we have The Mallard's tiki-courtyard on San Pablo in Albany. And there are even more if you hunt around. Tiki, once considered lowbrow pop culture, is, in its postmodern (and postmortem) incarnation, not only hip, but chic.
Then there is Thrillville Theater's stage set, a humble homage to tiki-dom. I admit it - I am a tiki-aholic. I suffered severe tiki envy when I encountered Bruce's formidable tiki collection, the largest I've ever seen, maybe the largest in the country. But hey - I have Monica, the Tiki Goddess, so there! Of course, when I met Monica, she couldn't spell tiki, much less tell you what one was. Now she's a Goddess, personally ordained by the Lounge Lizard King. She will be dancing on our stage with San Francisco's celebrated eighteen-member cheesecake dance troupe The Devil-ettes at Tiki-Sploitation: A Celebration of Pop Polynesia (December 9, 9PM only, $5 admission - no Cheap Thrill this week.) The program will feature several short tiki movies (see ad on page one for list) co-hosted by Otto Von Stroheim, DJ supreme and mad genius behind the definitive publication on this sub-culture, Tiki News. Also on board as guest MCs will be author and pop culture maven John Turner, signing copies of his gorgeous book published by Last Gasp Press, Leeteg of Tahiti, all about the artist who painted velvet paintings of Paradise and its people; and author Martin McIntosh signing his fabulous tome Taboo: the Art of Tiki, which profiles thirty-six tiki artists with lush reproductions of their work. If you don't know what tiki is, this is the night to find out. If you do know what tiki is all about, this is a night to revel in.
The following week I present another special evening with a lounge theme: A Rat Pack Christmas Party (December 16th, 6 and 9PM, regular Cheap Thrill $3 admission). I'd love to show the definitive Rat Pack movie, Ocean's 11, but guess what? Can't find it in 35mm. But I was able to obtain their second best movie, , which is even more suited to the occasion, since it winds up at Christmastime, with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. sporting Santie Claus drag! (That's right, kiddies - you must've been thinking of Rob, Emilio, and Molly, who are The Brat Pack, and are not anywhere near this movie, which came out in 1964. This Pack has a little distinction called Class, something you can only learn about in your high school history class or here in Thrillville when you hit 21.) Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop ain't in this one, though, but no one seems to care. Instead there's Bing "White Christmas" Crosby. No one seems to care much about that either. The real attraction is seeing Frank, Dino and Sammy lookin' sharp as usual, playing Prohibition-era gangsters and talking tough, tossing Style around like it's pocket change. Frank, who was in one of my Top Five All Time Favorites, Guys and Dolls, another gangster musical, here sings one of his big hits, "My Kind of Town," while Sammy stops the show with a song-and-dance routine featuring a machine gun. Dino just plays it cool, as usual. These cats are my idols. Well, if I had idols. They are the absolute Gods of Lounge, and we will never see their likes again (except for me, but I can't sing), not in the 21st Century or any century thereafter. Unless of course they rise from the dead and go on tour as the Rot Pack, singing medleys of "Witchcraft" and "That Ol' Black Magic" while knocking back Zombies (the drink) on stage. I can see it all now: Dino could pluck out Sammy's glass eyeball and use it like an olive in his martini. Anyway, that probably won't happen, but what will happen here on December 16th is an appearance by the local Prince of Lounge, Robert Ensler, singing Sinatra songs on our very stage. Robert did his bee-yootiful Dino bit when I showed The Silencers back in March, and his Frank is just as swingin'. He has recorded a Sinatra tribute CD that he will have on hand, and he just cut a Dino CD a little while back as well. He is very suave and talented, so watch out, ladies. I am very grateful to have him here to celebrate our Rat Pack Christmas Party in style. I will also be giving away special Christmas gifts, so don't miss it. (NOTE: Robert Ensler will be performing at the 9PM show only). Two sad but interesting facts: Our celebration comes four days after what would've been Frank's 84th birthday, December 12th. And Dino died on Christmas day. Let's toast their memories and milestones together.
I'm taking December 23rd off, because everyone will be doing last minute Christmas shopping that day, including probably me. So that leaves one last Thursday of the year, decade, century, and millennium. What could I possibly show to do this milestone date justice?
Easy: Roger Corman's Death Race 2000 (December 30th, 6 and 9PM, Cheap Thrill $3 admission). Come celebrate our Millennium Madness Party with special games and prizes and one crazy way-out flick. This is the one with David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone (in 1975, right before Rocky) as racecar drivers who score points by running down pedestrians! Wow! Nobody made 'em like Corman. I loved the hell out of his hosting of AMC's Monterfest this past Halloween weekend, featuring his serialized original homage to schlock movie monsters, The Phantom Eye. Corman is another original the next century will sorely lack (well, after he kicks off). Some of his best-loved B-movies (beasts-blood-and-breasts) are Bucket of Blood, Little Shop of Horrors, Teenage Caveman, Not of this Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters, Sorority Girl, Teenage Doll, The Intruder, The Trip and of course all of the gothic Edgar Allan Poe flicks starring Vincent Price. My favorites are The Day the World Ended and It Conquered the World. Death Race 2000 is right up there, one of his most popular and outrageous flicks.. This is your last chance to see this cult classic before it is no longer set in the future! (Who knows, it could still prove prophetic, but there's not much time - and don't make it come true on your way home from the theater, either, drunkenly mowing down any poor suckers in the crosswalk.) But get this: word has it Tom Cruise is going to re-make it - which does not bode well for the 21st Century in general.
But hey - there's always Thrillville, the time capsule of Cool. I'd like to extend formal thanks to everyone who has made this past year so fun and rewarding and sometimes even lucrative: David Capurro the Yo-Yo King who performed his magic before The Girl Can't Help It on extremely short notice; Robert Ensler for being Dino and Frank but mostly just for being himself; Eddie Muller, author extraordinaire of Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir, for generously co-hosting my most successful fest ever, Film Noir last April; Robert Silverman for his thrilling therapeutic theremin during my hit Creature Features fest; Parkway head honchos Kyle and Catherine Fischer for indulging my B movie tastes at their expense and offering me the perfect venue for my peculiar talents, an outlet for my outré obsessions; and of course to Monica, Tiki Goddess, whom I met when I showed Jailhouse Rock way back in The Midnight Lounge, and who's been spinning my Big Wheel, on and off stage, ever since.
And last but not least, I'd like to thank you, my loyal loony thrill-lovin' supporters. Cool people like the ones above and like you almost give me faith in the future of this pathetic planet. Or at the very least, Thrillville.