|ATTENTION FELLOW FORMER FANS OF KABL
FIGHT THE AWFUL NEW FORMAT!
Join Will the Thrill and Monica, Tiki Goddess in protesting the horrendous change from classic Standards, Swing & Big Bands to creepy "Adult Contemporary" - if you prefer Louis and Keely to the Captain and Tennille, or if you know Dean Martin is way cooler than Ricky Martin, write to the clueless Corporate clucks who think only old people like great music, email@example.com, and demand they bring back our music that no one else plays! Don't let the eternally cool sounds of Sinatra disappear from the Bay Area airwaves - or die altogether in the 21st Century!
Also, call the KABL comment line to complain: 415.344-9060
On This Month's Thrill-bill:
as anyone else besides me considered the irony in the surnames of our presidential candidates? Bush, who is anti-abortion, and Gore, who promotes gun control? Notice I said Bush was "anti-abortion" as opposed to "pro-life" - I hate that latter term in this context. If Republicans were truly "pro-life," they would have more respect for cultural diversity, including higher regard for the privacy of our country's women. They also wouldn't be so supportive of gun rights - heaters are made for one purpose, guys: to kill, I don't care how you couch it. Hey, I admit that I love kinetic Hong Kong action flicks, but I would feel very uneasy if some unhinged road-raging redneck kept a loaded shotgun in his pickup, or little Johnny packed a pistol in his lunch instead of a peanut butter sandwich. How can Republicans campaign on reducing Government control over our lives in every respect except the most basic right there is - our own bodies? Anyway, I have no qualms about telling everyone out there that Monica and I are voting for Gore and Leiberman. Normally, I always prefer Bush over Gore, meaning sex over violence, but politically this preference has been reversed, and I find that ironic. If you frequent Thrillville and are still Republican, then I am not doing my job right. Then again, I believe in everyone's right to choose, even if you choose a moron to run the country. Now, Gore is no Clinton - and that statement can be taken as either a negative or a positive. Personally, I relished having a prez who played saxophone, loved Elvis and french fries, and chased women. It showed he was endearingly human. But Clinton is also one ultra-intelligent guy (except when he turned the Oval office into the Oral orifice - dumb, Bubba, dumb!), a lot smarter than I am when it comes to stuff like making policy and running a country, and from the looks of the economy and the colorful faces in his cabinet, my trust in him as a leader was not betrayed. As far as my trust in him to set a moral standard for our country - I never did that, actually. I set my own moral standards. So I can't say he let me down there, either. Blowjobs notwithstanding, he did his job and didn't blow it. I will be sorry to see him go.
Gore is okay, too. Not exactly Mr. Personality, and he does have a tendency to embellish the truth (to me that's part of a politician's job description), but I like his stands on the environment, free choice, and civil rights, which are the issues that affect me the most, personally, though maybe not in that order - pretty much all equally. I like Leiberman, too - he seems like a really decent guy, and it would show some semblance of social maturity if a minority was elected to the highest office in the land - that would positively define the zeitgeist and get the 21st century moving in the right direction, at least morally (I've already given up on the movies and music.) Cheney is an uptight throwback to the Era of the White Man (which is over: face it, honkies), and when people talk about Bush's "charm" and "personality," I am dumbfounded. What charm? What personality? He's like a smirking little brat you want to shut up and send out of the room. I can't even work up the energy to hate him anymore. He's too pathetic. Clinton, on the other hand, has loads of charm and personality in my book. Republicans resent him for this, because he also has brains to back it up. No one can claim W. is a cerebral whiz-bang - he is dangerously stupid - so they try to sell his annoying, boyish need for attention as "charm" and "personality." He may "charm" himself into the White House, since the mainstream mentality also finds duds like Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts somehow attractive, but he will never rule here in Thrillville. I am the Lounge Lizard King in my domain, folks, and the only discrimination here is against ignorance.
Now, unlike the Tiki Goddess, I am not exactly a rabid, hot-blooded liberal, just a moderate one. I only vote Democrat because I hate Republicans that much more. In truth, I'm not that crazy about any politician, but as a citizen of this country (Thrillville is a state of mind and as such, unincorporated), I can't just stand by and let the Christian Right take over. To me, they are Nazis. I don't know about you, but I don't like Nazis. I don't like anyone who tries to enforce his or her world views on others. You can share it, but don't try to make it a mandatory agenda for the whole world just because you're insecure in your own convictions, and need as many other people as possible to agree with you, or your whole foundation of faith crumbles. Republicans are too closely aligned with the right wing extremists out there, for my tastes. 2000 has almost come and gone. No Armageddon to fall back on. Get over it and face reality: We as a race are going to be here a while. The hereafter will take care of itself. It's time for everyone to concentrate on the here and now, on this planet, and not force everyone else to live like a religious robot just to validate their own sacrificial salvation. I dig spirituality, don't get me wrong. Monica worships Elvis, and to me, that's as valid as praying to any other mythical entity. I bow before the Holy Trinity of Frank, Dino and Sammy, because I want to really live and love my life like they lived and loved theirs, and choosing them as spiritual mentors (not saviors) is as arbitrary as any other doctrine or deity. I am not agnostic. I am not an atheist. I believe in the Almighty Rat Pack. If you dont, fine, I couldn't care less. I don't care if you have faith in a Higher Power or not. Just don't mess with my chosen creed. You serve wine in your church; I serve martinis in mine. There's plenty of booze to go around for all.
Oh, and the people out there grousing that Sinatra went conservative in his later years, so why do I still hold him in such high esteem? Well, his greatest musical legacy comes from the decades when he was a passionate leftie: the 40s, 50s and 60s. His output during his Reagan years sucked (relatively). It was JFK's post-election snubbing that made Frank go sour on the Democrats. Sammy was always running for office himself, and Dino didn't care one way or the other, he was apolitical, by all accounts. And anyway, I don't think Frank ever truly loved Republicans. He just hated hippies. I can respect that.
Sometimes I get flak from unenlightened folks who claim I am nostalgic for a racially oppressive, narrow-minded, conformist, politically incorrect era. They don't get it. Monica and I both aesthetically prefer the Kennedy era, when civil rights were at the forefront of the national consciousness even if black people were still at the back of the bus, and the future still looked like The Jetsons. Monica's all-time favorite TV show is the one that defines that era, The Dick Van Dyke Show. In the early 60s, the Rat Pack ruled Vegas when it still had its own gritty, unique personality and wasn't an overblown family theme park comprised of other cities' personalities. Tiki bars were on every street corner, damn near. Bowling alleys, drive-ins and Googie-style coffee shops were still prevalent pop cultural outposts. Elvis churned out three movies a year, God bless him. Monster movies and magazines reached the zenith of their popularity. Sure, we have a lot more freedom nowadays, and minorities have made significant strides in our society. But there've been some regrettable trade-offs: romance for sexual awareness, style for fashion, imagination for commerce. My role and goal as Lounge Lizard King is to show the mad modern world that it can be politically, socially and morally hip without losing the beautiful romantic heritage of the past.
All right, enough about politics - just get out there and vote your conscience, and if that means voting for Nader, just bite the bullet and vote for Bush, because it will have exactly the same effect, I don't care what any bleeding heart pedantic Deadhead says. For better or worse, this particular race is between two candidates, there's no third choice in the running, so get over it, face reality, and pick us a real president, or stay out of it.
In early October, Monica and I went to visit some special kids who are in a special program called ArtEsteem, part of the Attitudinal Healing Connection, which helps kids from broken backgrounds find a positive path in life. Amana Harris, the director, invited us to put on a mini-Thrillville show as part of their weekly artist visitations, designed to inspire the kids to find their own creative outlets and reactions to the world. With a Halloween theme, we passed out little monster toys from my private collection and I showed them some of the same drive-in snack ads and vintage movie trailers (on video) I show weekly in Thrillville Theater. I explained that I Was a Teenage Werewolf was my favorite flick when I was their age (between 8 and 13), and for sentimental reasons, it still is, because I related to the fact the teenage werewolf was really a lonely, misunderstood dude - like I was, before I made myself morph into a swingin' lounge lizard. I think they all got it, maybe not, but they really liked the monster toys. I was proud to introduce them to the likes of El Santo, Godzilla, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon - all positive influences in my youth, unlike the neurotic, sick, hockey-masked slashers that pass for monsters and heroes these days. Those kinds of "monsters," unlike werewolves and vampires, have real life counterparts, and I personally do not find serial killers appealing or suitable as role models or fantasy figures. Anyway, if you want to contribute to this worthy cause, either with your art or your money, call Amana at 510.652-5530.
I know and you know that I bitch a lot about the state of music these days, so now I am going to do something about it - this month in Thrillville Theater I am showcasing Mondo Musicals. Believe me, this is more effective and acceptable than my taking up the saxophone, which would only serve to drive away paying patrons, even the loyal ones. I want to do what's best for all.
Speaking of music, Monica was the Awards Girl at the Wammies (SF Weekly Music Awards) this year, held at the Great American Music Hall. She helped Mr. Lucky, swank MC and lounge singer supreme, pass out the trophies, and she looked mighty glamorous doing it. Our public thanks to Alan Parowski of Lift-off Productions, responsible for most of the cooler cabaret events in these parts. For the Wammies, Alan also summoned the talents of local legends like the delectable Devil-ettes, who wowed the crowd in Thrillville last year at our Tiki-sploitation spectacle, and the burlesque beauty of Eddie Dane's Dames, who have visited Thrillville twice in the recent past. Me, I was the barker - I stood out front hollering hyperbole at the hedonistic hipsters - the cool cats and kittens were amazed and astounded by my assault of alliterative adjectives.
Of course I am going to show the 1961 multiple-Oscar winner West Side Story, once only, due to its nearly three hours length, at a special time of 8PM on Thursday, 11/2. This is one of my all-time favorites, as Jets face off against Sharks, love takes on ignorance, and I never fail to get misty during the finale. I don't know what else to say about this modern re-telling of the ol' Romeo and Juliet saga. I wish David Lynch had made Richard Beymer (Tony) and Russ Tamblyn (Riff) actually meet when they both starred on Twin Peaks ten years ago. I wish Natalie Wood (Maria) was still alive, and I wish they hadn't dubbed her voice. I wish Elvis had taken the role of Tony, which was on the table at some point. That would've changed the course of his career altogether.
Instead, Elvis went on to make fun cheesy flicks like 1966's Spinout, which I am showing in a special Thrillville event on Saturday, November 11: a "Swingin' Chicks of the 60s" book and calendar release party. Cedco Publishing of Marin County is co-sponsoring this very big deal, and my pallie Chris Strodder, author of the book and the calendar based on his award-winning web site, www.swinginchicks.com will be there in person. Also in attendance will be real live living legends, original swingin' 60s chicks, now in their 60s and swingin' harder than ever: Deborah Walley, who co-stars in Spinout but who is better known for Gidget Goes Hawaiian and Beach Blanket Bingo; my very own stepmom Anne Helm, who co-starred with The King in '62's Follow That Dream as well as cult faves like The Magic Sword and Nightmare in Wax; and Joan Blackman - that's right, fans, Elvis' leading lady in Blue Hawaii and Kid Galahad, will be there signing and selling her own memoirs. The film program includes about a dozen original swingin' 60s movie trailers from the astounding collection of Uncle Bill, the Trailer King. Before the films I will conduct an on-stage interview, and after the screening you can meet and mingle with our special guests in the lobby for a star-studded autograph session. Admission is $10; no advance ticket sales, I suggest you get there early. Entire program kicks off at 8PM sharp. My sister Serena, Annie Helm's daughter and a swingin' chick in her own right, might be here too. Annie is like the fortieth ex-wife of my old man, Robert Viharo, whose first big movie was the swingin' 60s classic Valley of the Dolls. Maybe she's not his fortieth ex-wife, it just seems that way. She's family, that's all I know, and a real babe.
One of my all-time favorite cinematic ladies, Esther Williams, created quite a commotion earlier this year with the publication of her racy autobiography, Million Dollar Mermaid. Esther was not shy about revealing the size and stamina of her lovers' equipment, or the fact that Jeff Chandler was a cross-dresser. Her candid memories won her a whole new legion of fans, and I hoping they all come to see Neptune's Daughter, (11/9; Nursery 11/7, after you go vote), her classic 1949 aquatic musical co-starring Ricardo Montalban in his latin lover heyday, dueting with Esther on the Oscar-winning song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and dancing to the big band rumba sounds of Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra, all in breathtaking three strip Technicolor. At the Thrillville Nursery and the 9:15 Thrillville Theater shows I am hosting an on-stage Swimsuit Competition, all sexes encouraged! The Nursery contest is for babies, so parents: suit up the little tykes and show 'em off for special prizes.
I sometimes get complaints from politically correct patrons that I don't showcase enough classic African American movies in my repertoire of cool classic cinema, blaxploitation notwithstanding. The sad fact is, when I do show a black classic that is not about pimps or pushers, hardly anyone shows up. Carmen Jones with Dorothy Dandridge bombed last year and Blackboard Jungle with Sidney Poitier tanked big time last Spring. Go figure! I really hope this is not the case when I finally show another of my all-time favorites, Stormy Weather (11/16; Nursery 11/14). The cast of this all-black showcase is simply incredible, including the torrential talents of Fats Waller, Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, and the amazing Nicholas Brothers. When we showed the recent documentary American Pimp, it was our biggest hit ever in the daily 9:45 slot, setting an all-time Parkway attendance record. Why I still do not know, as it is not even titillating, just interesting, in an HBO sort of way. But Stormy Weather is a musical masterpiece, a positive triumph over stereotype and cultural prejudice. It's a Thrillville kinda movie I would assume African Americans would be very proud of, since it was made during the darkest of eras for black actors in Hollywood, and yet has survived to endure as a timeless classic on its own merits, sans the novelty of its racial makeup. Music and movie fans of all races should put it on their must-see list.
After a week off to give thanks and eat turkey and all that jazz, I am returning with my all-time favorite musical and one of my Top 5 Favorite Flicks of All Time, 1955's Guys and Dolls (11/30; Nursery 11/28, note special times for early shows, at 6PM, due to film length). My spiritual mentor Frank Sinatra plays henpecked Nathan Detroit, while his professional nemesis Marlon Brando softly croons in the role Frank wanted, the more romantic Sky Masterson. Frank was already pissed at Brando for beating him out for the role of Terry Maloy in On the Waterfront, for which Brando went on to win his first Oscar. Reportedly when Frank met Brando on this set, Sinatra snapped, "Don't give me any of your Method shit." Despite this cheerful backstage hostility, the boys managed some true chemistry, making the Damon Runyon dialogue zing like colorful urban poetry. The songs are all memorable and sing-along favorites, including one written just for Frank in this film adaptation of the Broadway hit, "Adelaide" (Nathan's long-suffering fiancée, portrayed by vivacious Vivian Blaine, who reprises her original Broadway role). Brando actually sings okay but really, he just looks, dresses and acts very cool. Jean Simmons shines as Miss Sarah Brown; her scenes with Brando in the Cuban cabaret are priceless. I am proud to present a beautiful archival print of one of my all-time favorite flicks for this very special occasion.
This is our favorite time of year. Happy holidays from Will the Thrill and Monica, Tiki Goddess, folks. Next time this column appears, we will know who are next president is. Either way, the Lounge Lizard King rules in Thrillville, that you can count on. No one else could handle the job.