On This Month's Thrill-bill:
onica, Tiki Goddess and I have been swingin' with the stars lately. Dig it: Recently I attended this movie memorabilia convention down in Millbrae (well, they called it San Francisco), as a special invited guest of our dear pal, the delightful Deborah Walley. Deborah was Gidget when she Goes Hawaiian; she is also famous for doin' the Beach Blanket Bingo, amongst many other things. (My interview with Deborah is in Filmfax # 77). While there I hobnobbed with Adam "Batman" West, Frank "Riddler" Gorshin, David Hedison AKA The Fly and Captain Crane on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Jeanne Carmen (the babe carried off by The Monster of Piedras Blancas), Gordon "Tarzan" Scott, Pat Priest from The Munsters, Paul Picerni from The Untouchables, Michael Callan from Mysterious Island, and Ben Chapman, who was the original Creature From the Black Lagoon (my favorite monster), at least in the above-water sequences. Sitting next to Ben was hipster Edd "Kookie" Byrnes from 77 Sunset Strip (though he is better known to youngsters these days as Vince Fontaine in the movie Grease). I bought Edd's autobiography, Kookie No More, and he signed a comb for me. "Hey look!" Ben said excitedly to Edd. "It's Will the Thrill!" Edd nodded coolly in acknowledgment: "I know. I know it's Will the Thrill." Later someone asked me how I did at the show. I said I collected quite a collection of autographed photos. No, they said - how did I do signing my photos? I politely explained I was just there as a fan, like everybody else. It was the jumpin' junction of Coolsville and Weirdsville, cats and kittens.
All this time The Tiki Goddess was back home in Thrillville, cookin' up a storm. (Yes, she was barefoot, but not pregnant in the kitchen, at least as far as I know.) Deborah was our special dinner guest that evening, along with famous Elvis fan and eBay babe Rockin' Robin Rosaaen. Deborah suggested I also invite her ol' buddy Stella Stevens, whom I met a few years ago when she appeared at The Castro for a special screening of The Nutty Professor, in which she played Miss Purdy opposite Jerry Lewis' Buddy Love, one of my idols, well if I had use for any. I called up Monica: "Guess who's coming to dinner? Chickibaby!" The still-sizzling Stella Bella also co-starred with three other Thrillville icons: Bobby Darin in Cassavettes' Too Late Blues, Elvis in Girls! Girls! Girls!, and Dean Martin in The Silencers (which I showed here last year, a pristine print). Now she was co-starring with Will the Thrill in his own digs! It made cosmic sense, as I am Lounge Lizard King, after all. While driving across the Bay Bridge in terrible traffic, I was making awkward small talk with Stella, feeling intimidated, trying hard not to think of her hot nude love scenes with Jim Brown in Slaughter. Then I asked her if she's read my novel, a copy of which I had given her back at the Castro. She asked me to remind her of the title, which I did: Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me. "YOU wrote that book? I LOVE that book!" she enthused to my utter delight and amazement. Thereafter we became fast friends, and we all had a blast at supper, spilling out our hearts and souls over Monica's excellent meal. After dinner I showed the gals our recent HBO Real Sex foot fetish segment and even offered to re-enact it for them. Instead I just showed them another tape from our private video collection: our guest appearance a couple of years ago on Jan Wahl's Bay TV show Talkin' Pictures (Jan had interviewed Stella on the Castro stage). On this program I introduced clips from some of my favorite flicks, like Sweet Smell of Success, Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, and Bare Knuckles, starring my pop Robert Viharo as Zachary Kane, Modern Day Bounty Hunter. Lastly I subjected our guests to the SF State student film Monica and I did a while ago, a particularly nasty scene from Blue Velvet. I naturally played Frank Booth, the Dennis Hopper role, and Monica played Dorothy, the Isabella Rosellini role. Yes, I even inhaled from that weird helium mask and forcefully told Monica not to "fuckin' look at me" as I had my violent way with her. She wore a custom-made blue velvet robe for the occasion. It was quite festive.
Following this quality viewing, I drove the gals over to The Parkway so they could check out our unique venue. "This is the coolest theater I've ever seen!" Deborah gushed. Stella and Robin agreed.
The next week another close pal, the luscious Julie Parrish, was in town. Amongst a million other things Julie co-starred with Elvis in Paradise Hawaiian Style and later played the girlfriend of the guy who owns the diner on Beverly Hills 90210. So we had her over for dinner too, along with our good buddy Chris Strodder, marvelous mastermind behind the award winning Web site swinginchicks.com, who is also putting out a calendar and book on the same sexy subject. It was another memorable evening of frivolity and friendship.
A couple of weeks later Monica and I were swingin' through Las Vegas for my birthday, where we hooked up with Vitina Marcus, AKA "The Green Girl" on two episodes of Lost in Space. Vitina is a real sweetheart, now into yoga, UFO watching and real estate. We met her in the Caravan Coffee Shop at the Sahara, where we were staying. While there we also checked out the David Cassidy produced show The Rat Pack is Back, a pretty good imitation of the celebrated Sands stage act of Frank, Dino, Sammy, and Joey (they had no Peter Lawford - how do you impersonate a guy who didn't do anything?). Last year Tina Sinatra tried to sue and have the show shut down to no avail, and I cant imagine why - this was the only class act around, since it pays tribute to her old man, unlike the rest of that amnesiac town. Anyway, I interviewed Vitina for the next issue of Scott Moon's Planet X Magazine (Scott provided us with much of the archival wonders on display at the epic Psychotronic Film Show). While in Vegas we also met with Ray Dennis Steckler, who gave me his own prints of The Thrill Killers and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, which I showed to wild acclaim here in Thrillville last month. We rendezvoused with Ray at a Taco Bell, aptly enough. When he walked in he nodded at me and then went straight to Monica and gave her a huge hug. Okay, I get it, she's sexier than me. Ray is a great guy, and Monica commented on how sweet he is, a good dad (he was with his two young daughters) and a very nice man. (She hadn't seen him as Mad Dog Glick yet.) It was a swell time. Otherwise, Vegas is a wasteland of bland commerce and faded glory. It's no longer a glittering jewel box in the desert, an adult playground; it's an amusement park with garish theme malls. Bad modern music blares everywhere you go - and this town used to have the greatest musical acts in the world performing every night: Louis and Keely, Eartha Kitt, Steve and Eydie. No one knows how to dress with any style or pizzazz, and this place used to be the Mecca of Cool. I looked for tikis at The Tropicana, where once they were an integral part of the exotic motif, and no one knew what the hell I was talking about. Fremont Street is completely ruined, reduced to a domed walkway. Vegas Vic is all caged in. Its so pathetic and typical of our clueless contemporary culture. If The Amazing Colossal Man went on a rampage there today, he'd be dwarfed by the modern high-tech casino complexes, which have all the charm and style of an airport. I stayed away from Bellagio on principal - that's where the Dunes used to be and still should be, god damn it. It ain't 1960 anymore, that's for sure. The real Vegas lives only in Thrillville.
As a birthday get-together back in LA, at my favorite restaurant, Dolores', I hooked up with my Pop and his wife Paige, my brother Rome, my sister Serena, and a bunch of pallies including Julie P. and Myrna Hansen, beauty queen, starlet, and Gil Elvgren's pin-up model, whom I interviewed once for Outré magazine. She is still as glamorous as ever. Va va voom! Also in attendance was lovely Luree Nicholson, daughter of James Nicholson, ex-president and founder of American International Pictures (I also did a piece on him for Filmfax last year). While in LA we also met up with our pallies Greg Vargas, Anna and Karen at this amazing bar at LAX called The Encounter. It's straight out of The Jetsons, with retro sci-fi sound effects greeting you as you ride up in the elevator. It used to be the observation tower, so it looks kind of like a big flying saucer on a stick. Now it's a sleek, colorful ultra-lounge that plays nothing but space age pop, from Esquivel to exotica, no Kenny G or Whitney Houston noise to spoil the atmosphere. Plus the martinis are great. I had one actually called The Ultra Lounge, of course. The Thrill says check it out next time you're down there.
Most recently Monica and I socialized with still more famous friends, the divine Yvonne "Batgirl" Craig and her equally delectable sister Meridel. They were in Oakland for the Wondercon. Yvonne has a new autobiography out, From Ballet to the Batcave and Beyond, which I highly recommend. We had cocktails in the hotel bar. Monica used to dress up as Batgirl when she was a little baby doll! Of course, when you get to know movie stars personally, you kinda forget how you used to worship them as their fans. You just respect them as people co-inhabiting the same planet at the same time. They're just like anyone else, only better documented. Some are as cool in person as they are on screen. Others are not. Either way, your fantasies get shattered once you meet them in the flesh. And either way, this is a good thing. I think it's healthy to be sentimental and admire the work of artists, but the artists themselves are not deities. That puts a lot of pressure on people, and we set ourselves up to be let down. Still, I won't lie to you: having cocktails with the woman everyone knows as Batgirl is pretty fuckin' cool. The only thing that makes it cooler is that she is also a very nice lady who happens to be a friend of ours.
Do I drop all these names just to impress you? Of course. This is my humble function in life, to razzle and dazzle the mundane masses. And this month in Thrillville Theater, I present a blazing Bitch Fest, a fiery firmament full of rising stars, falling stars, and shooting stars.
I do not use the term "bitch" here in the gangsta rap sense, i.e. females you slap around. That would be offensive. The females featured this month do all the offending and slapping themselves. So I guess that makes it more politically correct. To me PC can mean everything from Partly Cloudy or Pre-Code, so if you're looking for the uptight definition, you might want to look elsewhere. All of these movies, however, are Pretty Cool.
Dangerous dames and dastardly divas usually get an early start on their deadly deeds, as is demonstrated in The Bad Seed from 1956 (5/4), in which a seemingly innocent pig-tailed little brat (Oscar nominee Patty McCormack) goes on a killing spree. It's based on Maxwell Anderson's play by the same name, originally staged with the same star but a different ending, and it is a classic chiller exploring the inherent nature of evil.
Joan Crawford won her Academy Award for the fabulous film noir Mildred Pierce from 1944 (5/11), based on the novel by James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity). It is referred to in the notorious biopic Mommy Dearest, starring Faye Dunaway as Joan. Mildred can be appreciated from many angles: high camp, family drama, crime thriller, or just plain old-fashioned fun and beautiful nostalgia. It was directed by the great Michael Curtiz, who also helmed Casablanca as well as two movies in my Top Five of All Time, Angels with Dirty Faces starring James Cagney and the Dead End Kids, and Elvis' greatest flick, King Creole.
Recently adapted into a Broadway musical starring Glenn Close, Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard from 1950 (5/18) is still inimitable entertainment. It's another nutty noir tale starring William Holden as the down and out Hollywood hack and of course Gloria Swanson in her immortal role as the freaky has-been silent screen star Norma Desmond, who hires Bill to script her comeback vehicle. Eric von Stroheim plays her creepy chauffeur. This is a film about deep dark secrets suddenly exposed to the bitter rays of Tinsel Town's harsh, brutal sunlight, and it's another classic case of killer cinema.
For a finale to this sinister series I am naturally presenting "the bitchiest movie of all time," 1950's Oscar winner for Best Picture, All About Eve (5/25), with the brilliant Bette Davis as another over-the-hill legend clawing her way back to the bottom. It co-stars Bette's real life hubbie Gary Merrill, and Marilyn Monroe has a pre-stardom cameo in the awesomely acerbic script by Joseph Mankiewicz, which is chock full of uplifting put-downs and whiplash wit, deconstructing the entire show biz industry. Afterwards you'll wonder what anyone ever sees in movie stars, but then you'll remember the movie stars that played the movie stars, and wish you could take them out for a cocktail, or even have them over to your house for dinner.