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By Will ("The Thrill") Viharo
By Will "the Thrill" Viharo
THE CALM INSTEAD OF THE STORM
Like an old pineapple, Im mellowing with age. Without even really trying, Im finding myself gradually letting go of ancient grudges and fresh resentments. Im discovering the uselessness of Hate. Theres nothing constructive about this emotion, really. Sure, you can channel it productively (protesting for/against causes you believe in, writing eloquent and insightful letters to the Editor, and my favorite anger fucking!), but by and large, its a particularly deadly and painful form of cancer that is actually contagious. It spreads easily from one to the other and there is no known cure. By the time it burns itself out, youre already a pile of ashes yourself, often taking down the people around you in an inferno of pointless rage.
Before you start thinking your local cynical, acid-tongued lounge lizard has gone all New Age hippy-dippy on you,
I still have strong likes and dislikes, and remain passionate about stuff like civil rights, the Rat Pack, and B movies. But Im starting to spend a lot more energy Loving the Things I Love than Hating the Things I Hate to the point where I no longer Hate the Things I Hate, I just choose to ignore them.
Case in point: the Bush administration and its destructive policies. The sight and sound of W. used to turn my stomach. Now I just find him pathetic, and change the channel whenever hes on, without giving him much more thought. Hes not worth the effort it takes to despise him anymore. He never was. Id rather just do what I can do to get him our of office and for me, that means simply voting against him in November but aside from that, my Bush-bashing days are behind me, even if he wins re-election (or election, I should say). Spending any more cyber-ink railing against his existence just no longer strikes me as an attractive pastime. The point is, I cant disapprove of him as a president any more than I do already, but to actively Hate the man or Cheney or Rice or any of their ilk - only detracts from my own appreciation of Life in general. Its kinda like giving into terrorism living your life in Fear is pretty much the same as living it in Hate. The result is you go around with that uneasy feeling in your gut, like youre always about to vomit, and whatever beauty lies around you gets obscured by clouds of discontentment. They win.
When I found out Ronald Reagan died I was hosting a release party for a new CD comp called The Essential Dean Martin at The Conga Lounge. Mockingly, I irreverently raised my tiki mug in celebration, and no one joined me. Remember this is in Oakland, a liberal bastion. None of the aloha-shirted revelers wanted to seem disrespectful of the deceased, I guess though many of these same folks have no qualms about bashing Bush, who is still alive and causing damage. To be perfectly honest, I dont give a shit about Reagan one way or the other. I feel pretty much the same about him as I do Arnold he could be a charming bastard, I guess, but I am completely opposed to his conservative viewpoints, especially on social issues (I have no money so I do not judge politicians on that basis), and I resisted his efforts to force that ideology on my own life. Other than that, I couldnt care less about him his life or his death. He had almost zero impact on me and my life (though he made an excellent bad guy in his last film, Don Siegels remake of The Killers), at least that Im aware of. My wife The Tiki Goddess thinks he was Evil, (she even cried when he was first elected, when she was eight), due to his cold-hearted stances on AIDS, the homeless and the mentally ill (my own mother is a chronic schizophrenic, by the way). Again, at the time, I didnt pay much attention to any of these atrocities, as I was largely apolitical throughout the 80s, selfishly pursing my literary ambitions and obsessed with trying to get laid and watching Miami Vice. I was miserable, dejected and broke throughout both of his terms. Whatever optimism and idealism Ronnie preached and allegedly propagated was completely lost on me personally. But do I Hate the man personally? Nope. What would that get me? I choose to move forward in a positive fashion rather than wallow in disdain of his lopsided right wing legacy, which can only be corrected by voting out the people carrying it forward.
Ironically, I finally found inner peace, got published and banged on a regular basis and learned to relax, during Clintons administration, and he remains my favorite politician, the man who ignited my interest in politics because he spoke to and for me. I sorely miss Bubba as our representative and Leader of the Free World, mainly because of the blowjobs and saxophone (though the fact he was highly intelligent, articulate and relatively liberal as liberal as you can get away with in the post-Reagan world and still become president of this mainly conservative nation helped as well). Anyway, once I took an interest in politics and social issues, turning my attentions outward, I discovered a whole world of pain and suffering I had previously been oblivious to, beyond my own little morbid, lonesome hovel. I still have a strong social conscience and I purposely book many fundraisers and other socially relevant events at The Parkway, just to Do My Bit. That seems to be more effective and constructive than wallowing in Hatred of Bush, or even the enemies of Classic Cool like Friends, reality TV, Britney Spears and Tom Cruise. Its pointless to just Hate things that dont appeal to you the fact is, if you dont like them, theyre not aimed at you, anyway. For example, rather than just hate hip hop which I respect as a musical form sorely beloved and needed by those who appreciate it and look to it as an expression of their voice I just choose to respectfully ignore it, without putting down either the music or the people who are moved by it, since I dig melody and mood in my music. But thats just me, and Amoeba is a huge record store. Same with Reagan and conservatism in general. Not my thing, just dont shove it down my throat and we can all co-inhabit the planet together. Ill be in my tiki bar if you need me.
A lot of people think I hated Soderbergh, Clooney, Pitt, Roberts etc for blaspheming the legacy of my Holy Trinity of Frank, Dino and Sammy with their bland, anti-Rat Pack remake of Oceanss 11. Thats ridiculous. I never even met those people, so how could I hate them? They never did anything to me personally. As far as their careers go, Im not a fan of any of them, except maybe Clooney, who has definite old school charm (truth be told, Im a BIG fan of both his Aunt Rosemary and father Nick, so he has respectable genes). But by and large, I just dont see their movies, choosing to spend my time and money on more entertaining and rewarding pursuits, and let it go at that (case in point: Oceans 12). The media attention lavished on my boycott well over two years ago (whew!) made it seem like this was the only cause I cared about. Again, utter bullshit, but whatever. The more seriously people took it, the more serious I acted. I admit, I get off on that kinda crap sometimes, messing with peoples perceptions. Or I used to. Nowadays, I just dont have the energy to play these games. Nor do I feel the need to SHOUT OUT MY OPINION TO THE WHOLE GOD DAMN WORLD all the time.
This is one reason Ive cut back on posting this column to every other month. Another reason is I write it on my own dime and time and frankly, Ive got better stuff to do, like lie in my new B Movie Tiki Lounge here at home in The Thrillpad, drinking screwdrivers and watching my bootleg home-made DVDs of obscure monster movies like Voodoo Woman and Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. Ive given up on trying to change the world to suit my own agenda and philosophies, and Im sure it gave up on changing me a long time ago. Maybe its all the relaxing exotica music I listen to that has soothed the savage beast within me. More likely, the very special and fulfilling love Ive found with the Tiki Goddess has served as the ultimate antidote to my lifelong battle with bitterness, and that makes me uniquely fortunate. I dont want to become totally apathetic to the world outside my home tiki bar, though. Were all in this human race together and should all take a proactive interest in our mutual survival and quality of Life and fight for equality. I just dont want to waste any more time being so pissed off at everything, or anything. It just doesnt seem to induce much change for the better, in my experience. It only succeeds in making me unhappy, and that is a serious waste of Life.
Basically, I am anti-patriotic, because, like religion, nationalism only succeeds in dividing us as a species, when in fact, were ALL just confused little blobs of flesh trapped on a small ball of dirt floating aimlessly in a vast void, and all these petty, artificial, manmade differences and borders only make our brief time here that much more difficult. In my book, Patriotism, especially as its being espoused these day, the kind Reagan evidently represented for the ages, is not a virtue I covet.
Until we can globalize humanity, blending the cultures as one with respect to everyones individuality and heritage, then we will never attain anything resembling world peace. Yes, I am talking about the Federation from Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry's vision of a united future makes much more sense to me than Reagans simplistic "were better than everyone who doesnt agree with us" philosophy. Call me a dreamer, but thats just my take on the matter of human life on this planet.
I was much more deeply affected by the passing away of someone who truly had a lasting impact on our culture, from my humble perspective, a real uniter if people from all walks of life, whose legacy of artistic compassion and understanding of the universal human condition is well worth eulogizing: Ray Charles. As my wife put, he had more vision than Reagan ever did. Id rather spend my energy loving Rays memory than hating Reagans, but thats just me.
My epiphany, if you can call it that, can be summed up simply: Ive finally fully embraced the Lounge lifestyle, where Hate and other forms of ugliness simply have no place. LOUNGE ON!
SPEAKING OF NOT HATING SOMEONE LIKE MY LANDLORD .
The last person I spent a lot of time and energy hating recently was our landlord, who of course, for legal and ethical reasons, will go nameless. Lets just call him The Little Nazi. (No offense, but if it quacks like a duck .) In my last column I mentioned that before we even had a chance to unpack from our trip to Mexico(see my May/June 2004 column for a complete photojournal, if interested), he informed us we were being evicted so he could turn our newly renovated digs into a doctors office and he could capitalize on commercial rates. We quoted the Just Cause ordinance, which cites specific requirements for the removal of a tenant, which do not include abject greed, but he just laughed at us. We then got an attorney and told him about the illegal eviction attempt and the attendant harassment, and he just laughed, at our landlord. Everyone was laughing but us, it seemed. But the long and short of it is we may have the last laugh after all. Our landlords last deceitful tactic was to claim, via his lawyer, that we misinterpreted the eviction notice, and we dont really have to move out after all the notice was simply to inform us our rental terms would be changing in the near future. This still sounds like a veiled threat, abuse of authority and proof of ulterior motives, so our ace attorney is not buying it, and were going for an out of court settlement, including the honoring of the two year lease I signed which into effect four days before the eviction notice was served, giving us sixty days to vacate. I wont go into much more detail, but the bottom line is, the law is on our side, the landlord is on the defensive, where he should be, and were busy decorating our new expanded digs, so for now, as of this writing, The Thrillpad is secure, insidious efforts of The Little Nazi notwithstanding.
I have to try hard not to hate the man for putting us through this unnecessary hell. I do resent him and dislike him, though. A lot. Ill choose to avoid confrontation with him from now on, though, and just deal with via our lawyer. Let them do the worrying. Thats the Lounge way.
ATTACK OF THE TIKI GEEKS!
In early May, The Tiki Goddess and I went down to Palm Springs for Tiki Oasis IV, the annual exotica event at the Caliente Tropics produced by our pals Otto Von Stroheim and his lovely wife Baby Doe. This was our third trip to PS in as many years, and once again, our main impetus was to stay at one of our favorite spots on Earth, the Orbit In. Last year, for my 40th birthday roast, we stayed in the Rat Pack Suite. This year, it was next door at the Leopard Lounge.
We were pretty fiscally and emotionally spent after our Mexican trip/eviction attempt, but I promised to host this years Dive-In Movie. In the past, this meant setting up a screen and 16mm projector and showing episodes of Hawaiian Eye (which I watch religiously on GoodLife TV every Tuesday night, along with Surfside 6 and 77 Sunset Strip.) This year, since Warner Brothers had gotten wind of this and were demanding outrageous fees for showing their programs, I stepped in with my bootleg video of the 1957 classic From Hell it Came, featuring Tabanga, the Tiki Tree Monster! We hung up a sheet and used our pal the Cali Kids handy video projector. The presentation sucked because the sheet was too small, the picture too dark, and everyone was too sun-drained and drunk to appreciate a lumbering tree zombie as they should. Normally, lying in the water on a warm night sipping a Mai Tai and watching a flick on a poolside screen is pure heaven. It shouldve been this year too, but due to the technical limitations, I felt I let everyone down, though few actually complained. Otherwise, it was a fun weekend. Some of our favorite bands and friends like Project: Pimento, APE and the Fishermen Trio all performed, there were lots of tiki merchants setting up shop, and even some burlesque acts.
On a certain web site, some of the partygoers later expressed their opinion that stuff like burlesque is not Tiki and has no business at a Tiki event (despite the obvious link: old fashioned hedonism). I countered that our version of Tiki is not authentic anyway, so the borders of definition are fluid. From, say, a Polynesian standpoint, a bunch of middle aged hipsters wearing aloha shirts and tiki necklaces listening to surf music in the middle of the desert is not Tiki either. I even recounted a conversation I had at Shermans Deli in PS (excellent joint, highly recommended try their Turkey Reuben!) , with an Asian hostess. She was asking me why all these people were converging on their desert community to drink Mai Tais and worship pagan idols. I told her it was a very popular subculture and this was just an excuse for us to get drunk and hang out together in celebration of our common interests in all things Tiki. She still didnt get it.
So, do a lot of Asians go? she asked.
Um, not really, I said. Its pretty much a white thing. And it is, at least stateside.
I didnt know white people had their own culture! she said, wide eyed.
They dont! I said. Thats the point!
Well, after I repeated this exchange in the forum, some of the posters on this site just went ballistic in defense of White Culture, completely missing the gist of what I was trying to express, in a good natured way. They started throwing John Updike and Shakespeare and other famous whiteys at me, like I didnt know White Culture dominates the planet as it is. Of course, a lot of American white culture is derived from the cultures of non-Caucasians like Jazz, Hip Hop, and Tiki. In any case, youd think I just assassinated Andy Griffith. The touchy honkies got all in a tizzy. What finally calmed them down was a first time post from an actual Hawaiian, who agreed with my assertion that in the Islands, our version of Tiki is, well, silly, to put it nicely, but the whole spirit of aloha were allegedly claiming as our lifestyles means that its okay to poke fun at each other and not take stuff too seriously. A few other posters jumped on and said this P.C thing has gotten way out of hand, and I agree. As a white person, at least on the outside, I reserve the right to make fun of my own race especially when the best they can offer the culture these days is Frasier and Garth Brooks. Lighten up, people. So to speak. Aloha!
JULY IN THRILLVILLE AT THE PARKWAY: THE TWO BIG GS
Every subculture seems to have its Orthodox true believers, who get very uptight if they feel their religion is being practiced impurely by others. This fundamentalist mentality infects all organized forms of society, including Tiki, Christians, Muslims, Republicans, Democrats, and Japanese monster movies. There are those who think that the infamous dubbed prints of these movies featuring giant rubber-suited atomic rampaging beasts are insulting, since it inspires people to laugh at them, while contending that in their original, Japanese, subtitled versions, these films can be reckoned with as serious Cinema. Whatever. In any language, watching Godzilla step on a bunch of toy tanks is a major hoot, and hes been doing it for 50 years now. Now theres a cultural milestone worth celebrating.
I am: on July 8 at The Parkway, I am proud to host yet another Bay Area premiere of a recent entry in this ferocious franchise: GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS (2001), yet another direct sequel to the 1954 original masterpiece, in which Big G battles a giant mutated dragonfly, or something like that. Its action packed, stupid and exciting, as usual. The beauty of this series is that, while a little CGI has crept in here and there, Toho has kept their legendary icon true to his rubber-suited roots, which explains his enduring appeal. Godzilla is the most reliable and consistent celebrity in history. Right now theyre making the last Godzilla movie at least until they pick up the series again called Final Wars, in which Big G takes on about a dozen of his foes from the past few decades, all at once, in a sort of remake of Destroy All Monsters. And on October 21, for the return of Bob Wilkins to Thrillville, Ill be presenting a brand new 35mm print of one of my favorites, 1966s Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster. Meantime, we gotta deal with this giant dragonfly problem
Of course, on the other side of Tokyo, Daiei Studios has their own famous giant G to promote into the 21st Century, and that would be our lovable giant flying turtle Gamera, who returns to Thrillville in the final of Shusuke Kanekos awesome trilogy, GAMERA 3: REVENGE OF ISIS (1996), featuring a new nemesis as well as those dreaded giant killer vampire bats, the Gyaos . Of course, dont call Gamera a turtle in front of Kaneko Sayonara.
AUGUST IN THRILLVILLE AT THE PARKWAY: BATMAN A BOO BOO, BABY!
Theres only one Batman that counts in Thrillville. Need I even say his name? I will. Adam West.
He offers the most brilliant and unique stilted dialogue delivery this side of William Shatner, for starters. And theres something about his little belly sticking out of that skin tight suit that is just adorable. The 60s TV show remains my all time favorite. I used to dig it for the drama, now I dig it for the comedy. All along Ive been entranced by the colors, the costumes, the wit, the sets, the tilted camera, Nelson Riddles loungey score, and best of all, the special guest villains. Four of them appeared in the 1966 feature, made after the wrap of Season One, which Im showing on August 5 for the second time. BATMAN the feature has all the elements I loved about the TV show by now the Camp was unabashedly outrageous and the Pop Art look is simply stunning on the big screen. Plus in one over-sized episode you get The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin, my favorite) and The Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, standing in for Julie Newmar. And Halle Barry aint ever gonna be no Eartha Kitt, man.) I recently read Burt Wards (Robin) autobio My Life in Tights, and it is the raunchiest celebrity tell all Ive ever devoured. Apparently backstage at the Batcave it was one long bat-orgy. That infectious sense of shameless fun and wild abandon still resonates from what is preserved on film, too. I just wish Robin had a bat-camcorder back then .
Again, within the Comic Book world, a lot of fans think the 60s camp Batman is blasphemy. They prefer the pure vision of the Dark Knight, as created by Bob Kane in 1940, and which Tim Burton attempted to capture on film with Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer (we wont even go into the other ones.) At the risk of offending these, um, purists, my favorite incarnation of Batman will always be Adam West, which, to be fair, accurately reflected the silly, offbeat nature of the comic book during this period, before people actually starting taking the idea of a man dressed up like a bat seriously. To each their own, I say. Or as Batman used to say on the show during a commotion, Citizens! Calm yourselves!
The on August 19, its the return of my good buddy and psychotronic indie film icon RAY DENNIS STECKLER, but this time hes bringing his leggy leading lady, the Queen of Cult herself, CAROLYN BRANDT IN PERSON! Of course, Carolyn promised to visit us last summer but something came up at the last minute. Do not miss this very rare opportunity to meet the former husband wife team and stars of such classics as The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, The Thrill Killers, The Lemon Grove Kids (just released on DVD), Blood Shack (ditto), and the film Im once again showing, one of my favorites, the immortal Batman spoof RAT PFINK A BOO BOO (1965)! Ray will be happy to tell you his version came out the year before the TV show, too. Also on the bill is Carolyns 1960 debut in Rays beatnik short, GOOFS ON THE LOOSE. Ray is a true original and theres no one like him. Ive had the honor of hosting his presence several times over the past few years at The Parkway and also the defunct Fine Arts Theater in Berkeley, and he never disappoints his old fans or fails to make new ones. Whichever one you are, come out meet a legend. Make that two legends, for the price of one. Only in Thrillville, guys and dolls.
Now, back to the tikicave
Have a great summer!
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