Thrillville - Archives for Thrillville Beat
By Will ("The Thrill") Viharo
By Will "the Thrill" Viharo
MAY/JUNE 2005: ISLAND OF LOST THRILLS; MORE THINGS THAT "BUG" ME
Just so you know, I almost made this my last column. After eight years I'm burning out on it, to be honest. I'll keep it going for a while anyway, since I can't think of anything better to do. I still like doing the show, but it seems like I'm repeating myself a lot lately in this space. Bitch, bitch, bitch. But hey, isn't that what blogs are for? If you're still reading, and want me to keep writing, LET ME KNOW. Otherwise, I may just retire to my tiki cocktail lounge. I'll never hang up my fez for good, I may just reveal less about what' s under it. Meanwhile
I don't really have much new to report anyway, so I'll keep this relatively short and simple. My monthly gigs are doing well at The Parkway, and we're looking forward to our second theater over in El Cerrito opening hopefully this December, but probably more like next Spring, where I plan to relocate many if not all the shows so I'll have a fresh venue and virgin audience, as it were. Monica, Tiki Goddess and I are happily exploring our newly adopted home base of Alameda. I just turned 42, which according to some philosophies, particularly The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but also my web host, 42 IS Computer Consulting, http://www.42is.com/, is a portentous number heavy with universal secrets and spiritual meaning. I spent a lot of my 42nd birthday exploring the galaxy, actually courtesy of the Chabot Space Center in Oakland, http://www.chabotspace.org/ my first visit there. It was outta this world, man, I highly recommend a trip there for all you junior space cadets.My favorite part was the little theater in the Mars exhibit that showed scenes from Invaders From Mars, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Flight to Mars, Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, This Island Earth, Invasion of the Saucer Men, Destination Moon, and Queen of Outer Space (and I bet I was the only geek there who could name em all!).
A shout to anyone who attended this year's Annual SF Bay Area Tiki Crawl, organized by my friends Mig, Hanford and Martin of Tiki Central http://www.tikicentral.com/. The East Bay leg was the day before my birthday, and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown officially proclaimed April 1, 2005 TIKI DAY in Oakland. One of the "Whereas" bits read aloud at The Conga Lounge http://www.congalounge.com/ was about Oaktown being one of the "haunts of Monica, Tiki Goddess ." Turning 42 a few hours later, on the way home from Trader Vics in Emeryville, wasnt so painful, especially with all those Mai Tais in me.
Elvis decided to go underground at 42, too. Unlike Elvis, I got a very late start and I have way too much to do first.
That means TCB, baby.
TAKE MY PLANET - PLEASE
So there's a lot of gloating on the Right now that this Democracy-at-gunpoint movement is sweeping the Middle East. Meantime, back in the good ol' MidWest, people are losing their jobs, their right to file Chapter 7 and start fresh (I did it!), their social security benefits, and the right to choose whether to have sex without procreating. Religious zealots are attempting a hostile takeover right here in the most allegedly democratic society on Earth, trying to enforce their views on the rest of us via Law, which they now claim as their "mandate," opponents be damned literally. Our own economy, civil freedoms and Constitution are being raped and pillaged right before our eyes by our own Administration, and yet we're supposed to be happy a country half way around the globe had so-called free elections. "Free" my ass tell that to someone who lost a husband, wife or child over there, paying the ultimate price. Am I still against the War now that "democracy" is being force-fed to millions of Muslims? Let's put it this way: if I'm not willing to die for a cause, I'm not willing to send anyone else to die for it, either. I only respect pro-war opinions that come directly from the trenches. Otherwise, as far as I'm concerned, you're just another SUV driving, flag-waving lemming cheering on our troops from the safety of the sidelines, greedily guzzling the gas they're laying their lives on the front lines for. And yes, IT'S ALL FOR OIL. Otherwise, why would our nation care if the Muslim world got democracy? There are plenty of despots still in power around the world our cowboy government is totally apathetic towards, but hey, as long as their gross national product is bananas or something, they're easily ignored. Think about the motives behind this War, the real ones, now that all the phony ones used to justify the unprecedented US invasion of another country have been exposed as outright lies, then ask yourself if you yourself would be willing to die for it, in horrible, practically anonymous fashion. Or don't think about it. Stick your head in the sand and sing the Star Spangled Banner with a mouth full of dirt for all I care.
Now, nuff said on politics. Almost
IRS, UR RIDICULOUS!
Oh, there is one thing going on now that isnt so great, personal-wise WE'RE BEING AUDITED. Hm. Working class beatnik lounge lizard is suddenly worth some serious scrutiny, despite my paltry income and economic low profile. When we went to Mexico last year, we actually got pulled out of line and patted down at the airport, our luggage examined while they ran a check on us. Naturally, there was no reason to detain us. Now out of the blue, we get audited. For the year 2002. Who the hell keeps records from three years ago? What am I a corporation? No matter. We're being put through the paces, adding to our regular stress, conscientious citizens being harassed by our own government for apparently no reason, for chump change. Just like us being singled out at the airport. No good reason.
Unless .have the Feds actually following my column? If so
HEY THERE! GOT YOUR MESSAGE! THANKS FOR READING! SEE YA AT THE AUDIT AND ONE MORE THING, IN CASE I HAVENT MADE THIS CLEAR .I THINK OUR PRESIDENT SUCKS!!!
I could be, and am most likely wrong in this suspicion. I'm not a paranoid conspiracy theorist. The sad thing, I wouldn't be surprised if this were the case. That's the kind of adversarial relationship this Administration has established with those who dare to dissent, even small fry like me. But hey, the only skeleton in my tiki-closet is The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. Or the ones from Jason and the Argonauts. Or the one Vinnie Price rigged in House On Haunted Hill. Hm. I actually do have a lot of skeletons rattling around Thrillville. They may be bad, but they're not illegal.
Like I said: Waste as many batteries as you want probing my fez hat collection with your Federal flashlights. B Movie Hosts are obviously a public menace trying to bilk the US Government out of dozens of dollars! Not like there are any real criminals, blue, white or no collar, out there worth your time and energy, huh? Big time corporate crooks like me get busted all the time. Or become Vice President of the United States.
THE LAST LUAU
One final aloha to the King of Exotica, MARTIN DENNY, who recently left us for that Quiet Village in the Sky at age 93. RIP and mucho mahalo for the melodic memories. Click here to read my farewell fan piece: http://www.porthalcyon.com/features/200503/denny.shtml
SOME COOL THINGS TO CHECK OUT
This great new lounge band out of Iowa, THE METRO-LITES, is obsessed with all things monster, spy and tiki, as I am. They are my spiritual kin. Order their excellent debut CD "In Spy-Fi" here: www.metrolites.com These ain't no red state rednecks, either, they're hip and happenin', baby, as are just about everyone else I've encountered from that part of the country. In fact, one of their members who moved out to Oakland recently showed up at my "Cops n' Calypso" show in March to present me with their CD in a big martini glass! Band leader Scott Morschhauser told me via email that when they were recording the CD they figured they had at least one perfect target audience out there me! Bullseye, Scott, and keep swingin'!
I also accidentally discovered (on a rare trip to Best Buys) an amazing new direct-to-DVD B movie combining Mexican wrestlers, zombies and lesbian sex three of my favorite things! called ENTER ZOMBIE KING. It's Santo meets George Romero in Canada! Definitely check this one out, it's witty, sexy, gory, funny, fast and really entertaining, order it here: www.enterzombieking.com
ALAMEDA: ISLAND OF LOST THRILLS
I'm loving it over here in Alameda. True, it's a bit conservative by East Bay standards, but mostly in a good way, meaning a lot of cool stuff from the past is preserved as a matter of civic pride. (Or just plain laziness, but whatever.) Along with the amazing array of eclectic architecture, from Victorian to Colonial to Spanish to 60s Modern sometimes all on the same block! there are all the charming Mom and Pop shops, the deep and epic Antique Stores (never seen so many on the same stretch of sidewalk!), the tree-canopied streets, the friendly neighbors, and of course the monthly Antique Fair and Flea Market on the old Navy base, the biggest and most popular one of its kind in the Bay Area. I've already mentioned some of my favorite haunts over here, like Jim's Coffee Shop, Tilly's Diner, Ole's Waffle Shop, Tucker's Ice Cream and the local branch of that nifty retro chain Happy Trails, but there's so much more:
Alameda Cable is worth living here just so you can get it and tell the conglomerate crooks at Comcast to fuck off. As I said last time, they are not only cheaper and more reliable than Comcast, but they offer better channels, including BOOMERANG, the Cartoon Network spin-off featuring the classic Hanna-Barbera and Warner Brothers classics I grew up with, and the AMERICAN LIFE NETWORK, formerly GoodLife, which shows not only 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, and Surfside 6, but now also Bourbon Street Beat, The Man from UNCLE, The Girl From UNCLE, and I Spy. True, it's aimed at Baby Boomers and there seems to be a fair amount of patriotic and religious daytime programming, but who cares? It's the best station on the air as far as I'm concerned, and clueless Comcast yanked it. Alameda, AKA Retroville, has it. Their local access station, Channel 31, even has a weekly horror hosted show called MONSTER ISLAND, presented by a gothic hottie named Vicki Vampyr, featuring public domain B flicks like Cat Women on the Moon and Creature From the Haunted Sea.
Reminds of growing up in New Jersey with Doc Shock and Mad Theater out of Philly. Sweet, spooky nostalgia.
There are also lots of great restaurants I've been deliriously discovering: Sushi House on South Shore, right across from a cool bowling alley. La Pinata and Ark (Chinese) on Park are well worth a trip over here. Also on Park, the main downtown drag, The Marketplace has a great organic grocery store, seafood market, sushi counter, baked goods store, café and more. We just bought bikes from the friendly folks at the Alameda Bicycle Shop (a shame they're dumping their tiki logo, though). Kelly's is a really swank new jazz bar with excellent cocktails. Coffee For Thought is my local coffeehouse, a really groovy little hangout with first rate java and beatnik atmosphere. Pagano's is just about the coolest hardware store I've ever been in. Monica recently joined the rustic Harbor Bay Club to workout on a regular basis. I meet her there sometimes, but only to drink in the bar or get a massage. She digs the athletics, I'm there for the luxury. And of course, there's that rogue movie house in a former mortuary, Central Cinema, www.centralcinema.net/index.cfm, founded and run by Mark Haskett, boldly providing a sorely needed service to his community despite massive (and so far futile) city council opposition. It's like a mini-Parkway with sofas (no beer though), only seating around 40 patrons, but it's very cozy and the sound and projection are excellent. Hard to believe anyone would want to shut it down, for any petty reason, but I know Mark, and they're in for a fight. Hopefully he will have a hand in re-opening the grand Alameda Theater downtown. He's a real player and possibly the new movie baron on the Island.
My favorite discovery is Crab Cove, the reason Alameda was once known as "the Coney Island of the West." It's a perfectly peaceful setting that reminds me of the remote sections of Monterey or even Kauai. It was once the home of a huge boardwalk amusement park known as Neptune Beach, home of the original snowcone, with a theater and even a tiki bar in its midst. A video that plays in the aquatic, historic museum in the park perfectly preserves the long gone fun-loving ambience, with colorful vintage footage depicting an idyllic, nostalgic dream world. Why is it gone, replaced by condos and a shopping mall? People suck. Some do anyway, the ones in power, who make these stupid decisions. But Crab Cove as it is remains a beautiful vacation spot within walking distance from my house. I even love the name sounds like something out of The Hardy Boys: "Mystery at Crab Cove." Or any old movie or detective story: "Shootout at Crab Cove." "Romance at Crab Cove." " It Came From Crab Cove." I love it. No petty tax audit can destroy the serenity inspired by the view from Crab Cove.
For more on the Alameda of yore, with vivid illustrations, check
out this link my friend Rusty sent me:
Speaking of Islands, I recently wrote a piece on Tiki culture in Japanese monster cinema for my new upstairs neighbor here in Alameda, Otto Von Stroheim, to include in the long delayed new issue of his seminal Exotica guide Tiki News www.tikinews.com. A primo example of this cross-cultural cinematic hybrid is on display May 12 at The Parkway when I present SON OF GODZILLA, the 1967 Toho classic introducing Big G's only offspring Minira (or Minya, in US parlance), facing off with giant insects and invasive humans on a remote isle somewhere in the South Pacific (filmed on location in Guam!). It's fun, stupid, surreal, silly and a must see in a pristine new subtitled print. Also on the Thrill Bill is an episode of ULTRA MAN from the 16mm collection of Buzz Bob Ekman, Kaiju eigu experts Bob Johnson and Augie Ragone of www.henshinonline.com, and to put you in that Tropical Island Monster Mood, live hula dancing by THE WIGGLING WAHINES! I'd still like to know who Minya's goddamn mother is. Unless Big G just adopted, which would be quite honorable and kinda sweet.
OH NO - NOT THEM' AGAIN!
It's true - on June 9 at The Parkway I'm bringing back one of the greatest sci-fi classics of the 50s, the seminal "big bug" classic THEM! (1954) as part of my ATOMIC PICNIC SHOW, kicking off the Summer in swingin', super-radiated style. Also on the bill along with the giant rampaging ants are my pallies Johnny and Gin Atomic of THE ATOMIC LOUNGE SHOW www.johnnyatomic.com putting you in that Mutated Monster Munchies mood, Classic Vegas style. My favorite big bug flick is TARANTULA (1955) but I haven't been able to score a 35mm print of that one yet. But this is the acknowledged King of the (Ant) Hill, inspiring a whole genre of big bug movies like THE BEGINNING OF THE END (grasshoppers), THE DEADLY MANTIS, MONSTER FROM GREEN HELL (wasps), EARTH VS THE SPIDER (another tarantula), and THE FLY. If I'm leaving any major insects out, please forgive me.
Yes, vintage American society had its fair share of xenophobia, racism, sexism, pseudo-patriotism, and religious persecution. But their movies, music, cars and fashions were so damn cool, you could almost forgive them for it. Almost. If we only had those cool cultural compensations these days otherwise, how will future generations ever forgive us?
I'll leave you with that rhetorical question see you around Thrillville, hipsters. Thanks again for listening. Cheers!
NEXT: AN IMPULSE I JUST CAN'T HELP
Thrillville - Archives for Thrillville Beat