Thrillville - Archives for Thrillville Beat
By Will ("The Thrill") Viharo
THIS MONTH: N'AWLINS LIVES; BLOODY BEATNIKS & TIKI MONSTERS
S.O.S: SAVE OUR SOCIETY!
More than anything else - including the tragic Iraq war, our topsy-turvy economy, sundry civil rights offenses and various other arrogant blunders - the recent hurricanes that devastated our Gulf Coast nakedly exposed a fact many of us knew all along: the Bush administration is an unnatural, moron-made disaster that could've and should've been avoided, given all the glaring warning signs. But now that our Constitution and fair-minded citizens lay in ruins in W's ruthless, myopic, cold-blooded wake, no one, including the pansy-ass Democrats, is attempting to save us. They're just letting us drown. And the rich fat cats and oil barons and war profiteers are all thriving while the rest of us flail and sink into a mucky, murky, toxic sea of embarrassment, disgrace and theocratic tyranny masquerading as good old-fashioned patriotism. HELP!
All this, and the greatest radio station in the world, KABL, the only local one specializing in lounge and swing, recently went off the air; the last great local oldies station KFRC had its format forcibly changed to 70's & 80's crap; the Holiday Bowl in Hayward closed; both Gilligan and Maxwell Smart died; and Arnold announced his plans for re-election. (To all you so-called Democrats out there who helped the Republicans recall poor Gray Davis so they could install their own right wing robot puppet: thank you, thank you very fuckin' much. I don't even want to hear you bitch now that he's treated you just like what you are: a bunch of girly-men. I'll vote against all his bullshit initiatives this November and for anyone running against Arnie next year, even it's another Hollywood figure like Dick Tracy or Meathead. At least they're better actors. God, I'm so glad I'm an independent now.)
Yes, the 21st Century blows, and not just because of the wild weather and hot-winded incompetent assholes calling the shots.
TOP 10 "DESERTED ROOFTOP" NEW ORLEANS FLICKS
While we're stranded on our collective rooftops, isles of sanity in an ocean of chaos, let's watch some movies that best commemorate that modern Atlantis we call New Orleans. Here are my suggestions:
Nothing beats the real thing, though. Plan your own excursion to the French Quarter once the city reopens for business. They'll need your tourist dollars and they deserved them even before this catastrophe. There's no place like it in the world. See ya at Café Du Monde for beignets and café au lait.
A DETOUR OFF THE ROAD TO STROKESVILLE
Chalk it up to coincidence, but my blood pressure has risen steadily since W. took office. Recently I was diagnosed with Hypertension and prescribed daily medication, Verapamil. It's also meant to prohibitively treat my life long migraines, complete with that god damn aura, which have now apparently morphed into clusters. Whatever they are, they've been the bane of my existence since I was first afflicted at age 12. I pop a Xanax now and then, like whenever Hollywood announces another stupid remake, but having to take a pill a day is a sobering mortality check. Brings me one step closer to Elvishood, though, at age 42, I won't want to feel too close to The King and draw unnecessary parallels, especially since I wasn't the one who got to sleep with Ann-Margret. I should be the one who gets to live to a ripe old age. Fair is fair. (Of course, he never got to sleep with The Tiki Goddess - but he could've if he had the chance. What, like I'd stop her?)
BEATNIKS, BLOOD, & BEER
Speaking of blood, I've come a long way since I worked for the blood bank, delivering buckets of it to Bay Area hospitals. Fact is, I'm not crazy about the stuff. I only donated blood once, as a teenager, and I actually passed out afterwards. Freaked me out, man - haven't gone there since. But I do dig Beatniks, at least the bastardized pop culture version of them, and so for my November 10 show at The Parkway, I proudly present my CRAZY BEATNIK PARTY, featuring Roger Corman's classic horror comedy A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959) starring the great Dick Miller as the homicidal would-be sculptor, with local beatnik music group ARUNDO live on stage. (In fact I used to work with one of the band members, GP Skratz at the blood bank!!) I've shown this AIP favorite twice before and it sold out both times, because it's a true gem. It offers us a terrific time capsule of the beat café culture circa late 50's LA, and it's a brilliant social satire as well. It carefully walks the line between faithfully reflecting the whole beatnik scene and lampooning it, too.
Other great beatnik flicks include Mamie Van Doren in Albert Zugsmith's THE BEAT GENERATION (1959); our pal Linda Lawson and Dennis Hopper in the psycho-noir NIGHT TIDE (1961); moody caper flick THE REBEL SET (1959); and of course the "beatnik" episodes of Mister Ed, The Munsters, My Favorite Martian and the entire run of Dobie Gillis, starring the late great Bob Denver as Maynard G. Krebs. My favorite beat character in pop culture is of course jive-talkin' Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, from one of my all time favorite TV shows, 77 Sunset Strip. He's the ginchiest, dad, and a nice cat, too.
A great book on Beat iconography in pop culture is Beatsville, by Martin McIntosh, from Outre Gallery Press . It vividly explores with eye-popping graphics how authentic Beat culture - the novels of Kerouac, the poetry of Ginsberg, the jazz of Brubeck and Baker - was co-opted by the mainstream and morphed into a cartoonish caricature of goatee-sporting, beret-wearing, bongo-playing, lazy ass, free form poetry-spouting sex fiends. For better or worse, that remains the popular image of "beatnik" today, the one brilliantly exploited by modern popular artists like Coop and Shag. I can dig it too, baby.
ALOHA AND MELE KALIKIMAKA
Or course another vintage pop trend that has become a thriving, if inauthentic subculture is Tiki. It remains a white guy fantasy of nympho island girls, cool mood music and exotic potions, but now with that postmodern twist of irony. You see Tiki everywhere nowadays since the underground revival has been co-opted by the mainstream - in drug stores, discount stores, department stores, grocery stores, even refurbished trendy hot spots like the newly opened Freaky Tiki in SF. Recently the game show Wheel of Fortune had a "Tiki Week"! Well, my own private Vanna, Monica the Tiki Goddess and I are hosting a TIKI HOLIDAY MONSTER MASH at The Parkway on December 8, featuring a brand new restored print of MOTHRA (1961) subtitles and no sound slugs this time) and making their Thrillville premiere, those swaying superstars of Tiki Oasis and beyond, THE MAI KAI GENTS.
There's a lot of tiki stuff in Japanese monster movies (in this one, Mothra's South Sea Island temple is surrounded by Easter Island-type tiki statues), as I discuss in my article on this very subject which I contributed to the latest issue of Tiki News. You may recall that pioneering publication, founded and edited by my pal and neighbor Otto Von Stroheim, who must have the new issue completed and distributed by showtime, not only so I can make it a release party, but because his second son arrives in late November and after that, it'll be too late. He's already made us wait four years since the last issue (and the birth of his first son Vander Vegas) - and remember, this is the 'zine that revived and defined the scene back in the early 90s - so it's long overdue. Parenthood is no excuse to slack off, we've got a world to save.
Meantime, other great tiki monster movies I recommend: FROM HELL IT CAME (1957), BRIDES OF BLOOD (1967), KING KONG VS GODZILLA (1962), and GAMERA VS MONSTER X (1970), in which the Big Turtle actually impales his dinosaur adversary in the forehead with a giant tiki statue! For more, read my article. If it's not out by December, please bug Otto . Tell him I sent ya.
And there goes another year. Thanks for all the support. As we look forward to 2006, Thrillville's mission is clearer now than ever: preserving precious artifacts of cool pop culture from our collective past, too often and easily discarded by the amnesiac mainstream. Couldn't do it without you. Cheers.
NEXT: SEX & SORCERY!
Thrillville - Archives for Thrillville Beat