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By Will ("The Thrill") Viharo
By Will "the Thrill" Viharo
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2004: WHY EVEN BOTHER? IT'S A NOIR WORLD; THE HORROR OF IT ALL!
NOW WHAT? WHAT NOW?
he relative optimism and cheeriness of my last column seems to have worn off, according to the rather bleak sentences above. Not so. I feel good about Life in general. To be truthful, though, times are strange. It feels like I'm in a transition phase, even as I'm trying like mad to just relax for good in my home Tiki Lounge. Could be because the whole country is on the verge of either rebirth or crisis, and I got the jitters by proxy. Right now, our living situation is still up in the air, with litigation looming, so I'm not sure where we're gonna be by the time I write my next column. But then, who does? As long as I have my Tiki Goddess, I'll be in the right place at the right time.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE A PAIN THE ASS
Speaking of Monica, as of this writing, she is just about to finish Shaking her Speare for Women's Will, in which she played "Oliver" in Will the Quill's "As You Like It." I gotta be honest - I didn't like it. Not the play, they put on a fine production, setting it in swinging 60s London, giving it a sort of Richard Lester twist. I just didn't dig seeing Monica in a suit with her hair short and slicked straight back, fingernails cut, totally de-femmed (though it's hard to hide those hips, baby). It was such a turn-off for me personally, though it made her happy to be in the play and face such a thespian challenge, and that's all that counts. I'm just not into the whole gender-twisting thing. Some of the cast members wondered why I didn't find my wife "totally hot" dressed up in a tie, jacket and slacks, all buttoned up - with her hair cut the shortest it's ever been. I kinda got the idea they were gently challenging my preconceived definitions of gender and borders of acceptable sexuality. That's the PC thing to do, I guess. That kind of annoyed me. Not in a big way, just a little bit, because I resent it when anyone imposes their morality on me, whether it's from the left or the right. And these days, that cultural tug of war is non-stop. More on that later. Right now, back to "Manica."
Ever see "9 1/2 Weeks"? It starred my ol' pal Mickey Rourke. I remember him telling me he was originally attracted to the script because it reminded him of a Harold Pinter play, very simple and sadly poetic. He and Kim Basinger did not get along at all behind the scenes, despite their onscreen steam, and he was disappointed with the final product. Anyway, there were several scenes that made it a cult date hit on video (it bombed first run, you may not recall). One of them or course is the food scene. Another is when Mickey had Kim dress up like a dude and they made out in a public restaurant. That did absolutely nothing for me. I don't care what anyone thinks or what they're into. Me, when it comes to lowdown dirty lust, I dig a babe wearing a tight dress over an hour glass figure, big hair, in your face cleavage, with lotsa makeup, lipstick and strutting on big fuck-me heels. In short, the mid-century pin up ideal. If you think this makes me a chauvinist or an asshole, so be it. I just flat out don't care. Monica has the same taste in women I do, so it's not a problem at home, and that's all that matters. In fact, on our very first date, Monica hinted she was a "lipstick lesbian." I didn't know what that meant at the time. By the next morning, I knew what it meant, but I also knew there was a lot more to her than lipstick or lesbianism. The point is, why should anyone care what I find sexually appealing? When uptight feminists (and my wife is a lifelong card-carrier, by the way) claim I'm being sexist when I worship at the altar of retro va va voom bombshell femininity, to me they are being as bigoted as someone who claims homosexuality is morally reprehensible. Nobody has any right to judge what turns someone else on, as long as no one is getting hurt or abused or exploited in the process (a la child porno). I'm not asking anyone to conform to my standards of sensuality. Either you're naturally the big booty Jessica Rabbit type, or you ain't. Monica is, and lucky me, she can cook too! If you don't like what I just said, tough.
I'm really sick of people telling other people how to think, talk, and live. And there are fascists on both sides of the fence intent on force-feeding their viewpoints and ideals on the rest of society. This is just plain insecurity. Get over it. If you're really a liberal, you'll realize that anytime you scoff at someone else's sexual preferences, musical tastes or lifestyle in general, you're as bigoted as the right wing mentality you claim to oppose. Wake up.
My father, who is one angry liberal but who also appreciates a nice rack when he sees one, claims that if Bush wins the election, or at least remains in office, however he accomplishes it, he will give up on politics altogether. I doubt it, but I feel his frustration. We have to keep fighting, no matter what, or this country will never be the same, and will ironically fall prey to the very kind of religious and social persecution our founders were fleeing when they founded it. If you believe in Freedom, keep voting....
THE DEMOCRAT PACK: RING A DING DING
I was surprisingly inspired by the Democratic Convention this year, even though, after Arnie won the recall with their help and Dean got dissed by his own party for daring to speak the Truth, I tore up my lifetime membership and went Indie. Like most cynical liberals, I'm still very afraid we'll lose the election - mostly because too many liberals don't vote at all, letting rabid conservatives call all the shots. They'll most likely stay in power because they want it more and are willing to fight as dirty as it takes to secure their base. Too bad for the rest of us, who actually let our voices be heard and recognized. The reason I define myself as a "liberal" and align myself with these lazy losers is because I have a live and let live philosophy. I believe everyone has the right to pursue their own happiness, regardless of my personal beliefs. Of course, I support gay marriage and abortion rights. If those on the right side of the fence oppose these things philosophically, that's their right to do so. But trying to impose their ideology on me and the rest of the nation is fascism, plain and simple. I'm secure enough in my own beliefs that I don't need to enforce them on anyone else. Apparently, many people who identify themselves as religious conservatives can't just relax in their own convictions. They have to make them the Law, and ram their rules down everyone's throat. It seems to really bother them when people are not only "gay" but get publicly accepted as such. My feeling is, if you believe something is "evil," like being homo or having an abortion, don't do it yourself. But that's where your rights end and others' begin. Seems fairly simple to me - and Constitutional, as well, though, as an avowed anti-nationalist, I am far from being a flag-waving patriot.
Imperfect as their voting records are, I will still vote for Kerry/Edwards though - and, thanks to their recent revelatory stumping, not just against Bush. Their convention speeches were passionate and addressed my own social concerns, and they both seem dedicated to the preservation of our civil liberties, which have never been more threatened. Slickly produced, yea, yea, but it's television, man. Of course it's all just a "show." But unlike all this "reality" garbage poisoning our airwaves like Who Will Screw My Dog and Who Wants to Marry a Rich Retard or whatever the fuck they're doing now, this contest will affect each and every citizen of this country, whether they realize it or not. And they put on a damn good show. The highlight for me - except for Clinton, whom I expect to excite and uplift me - was Barack Obama. Too bad his name rhymes with "Iraq Osama," but he certainly lived up to his own hype. He may be the first black president, unless some right wing wacko takes him out. I doubt it, though.
Of course I was also highly motivated by Al Sharpton, but then I've come to expect that, too. The biggest surprise was John Kerry, and his tough, sexy wife, Theresa. I liked them, as people, I mean. And I really think this election - like most of them - will come down to that, the war and the economy and terrorism notwithstanding. It really has to do with issues like Trust and Values. Unlike half the electorate (but not necessarily half the country, since half of them do not vote, remember), I just cannot relate to W., his personality or his policies. As a person, he strikes me as a simple-minded frat boy. He does not charm me with his homespun folksiness (via the Ivy League). He bores me to the point of offending me. And he's arrogant. Stupid people have no right to be arrogant about anything, and culturally, he is an idiot. (I do not consider this "Bush Bashing," by the way. This is my honest, gut reaction to our president, take it or leave it.) Contrarily, a lot of people obviously think Bush is simple and straightforward, and so they can and do relate to him on this level. As far as his policies go, for a long time now the Republican party has embraced this far right conservative platform that is very exclusive and judgmental, and Bush has pandered to the worst of this mentality. To me, no matter how they want to couch it, they are bigots. And they make modern social calls based on ancient religious texts. I'm not religious and agree with the Constitution, that this has no place in government, spirituality is a private relationship between a human and his or her "god." Even if 9/11 and the Iraq attack never happened, I still don't want a bigoted Bible-thumping corporate cowboy simpleton who looks at this complex world as a simple clash between Good and Evil speaking for me to the rest of the planet. I'd rather have a thoughtful, intelligent, culturally sensitive, intellectually curious, morally balanced guy like John Kerry representing me. But that's just me. And about half the electorate. If more people who share our penchant for a president who is smart and champions civil rights actually vote this year, we may have a shot at having someone we can relate to in the White House. If we just let the people who normally vote vote, odds are we'll lose again. Thanks to true patriots like Michael Moore, the Truth Is Out There. Ignorance is no longer an excuse not to participate in our society, and cynicism no longer a justification to be complacent. The Democratic ticket is not perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than what we're afflicted with now, which is the most oppressive administration in modern memory. The choice is simple, and yours to make. Of course, I'm not renouncing my new Independent status. But until Republicans wake up and realize they are the party of and for rich white Christians and nobody else, despite the increasingly diverse demographics of our country, I will continue to vote Democratic, even if it's a compromise, because that's the definition of "liberal" to me: sacrificing for the greater good.
Yes, that means I will set aside my own differences regarding the war and vote for a presidential candidate who not only voted to authorize it, but strongly resembles the undead decapitated professor in "Re-Animator." In fact, that should be the Democrats' campaign slogan: RE-ANIMATE AMERICA!
No matter who wins in November, I'm still keeping my Howard Dean bumper sticker in place, at least until we finally get a new car.
ODE TO BRANDO
When Marlon Brando died, the first thing I flashed on was this memory I had of sitting with Mickey (Rourke) at Café Casino in Beverly Hills, right around the dawn of his own movie stardom, which at the time really perplexed him. He seemed unusually pensive, and I asked him why. He said he was thinking that if, after Brando (one of his idols, natch) died, someone took all of his movies and burned them, it'd be like he never even existed. I told Mickey he'd live on in people's minds, at least as long as the people who remembered him lived, but then....I saw his point. For some reason, Mickey's rising star made him confront his own mortality, at least at the time. He was already thinking of it as a fleeting, ultimately empty and meaningless distraction, but with fun fringe benefits like money and sex, so fame wasn't totally without merit, despite its transitory nature. Of course, at the time, around I'd say 1982, Mickey wasn't considering DVDs, which are pretty tough to burn. Digitally, at least, Brando lives on. But I'll never forget that moment. Celluloid posterity is more for the sake of those left behind than for the celebrities themselves. You think Marilyn Monroe gives a damn, wherever she is, that her visage remains alive in our collective consciousness? What does that do for her now?
Anyway, I was pretty bummed when I heard Brando died. He had a huge influence on my father, actor Robert Viharo, a fellow Actor's Studio alumni. Pop knew Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg and all those Method cats Brando hung with, but Pop never actually met his idol. I know Brando's passing had a profound impact on Pop, too. It was not only the end of an era, but the abrupt vanishing of a cultural, and personal, touchstone, leaving a painful void in his wake. Few people in my immediate circle seemed to care much. Brando was cremated, according to his wishes. It's sad to think he's no longer among us, even as a huge, rotting corpse. I never got the acting bug, so I can't say he was an idol, but I did admire him, both as an artist and as a unique individual. I loved his autobiography "Songs My Mother Taught Me." I felt like I knew him. But I didn't, and don't pretend to. He was always an enigma. The thing I envied most about him? He owned his own island in Tahiti. Man, now that's a dream come true. He had a good, long life, punctuated with tragedies, like most of us, and while he did die a lot fatter than Elvis, another icon who was a god in his youth, at least he was twice as old, almost. He was definitely done being "Brando." In fact, I think he was done being "Brando" decades ago, and decided to just eat his way into irrelevance. Fat chance, so to speak. We'll always remember him as the most dynamic actor of his generation (yet to be matched, too), no matter what his personal peccadilloes.
Case in point: his legendary role as "Johnny" in THE WILD ONE (1954), which I'm bringing back to the Parkway on Thursday, September 2 as a belated Tribute. This one has the famous exchange, "What are you rebelling against, Johnny?"- "Whaddya got?", which was a rallying cry for repressed rebels around the globe. It's actually not my favorite Brando flick - I prefer On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Godfather and my number one, Guys and Dolls - but it's the most "Thrillville" of the bunch, being the first of the Biker genre, which helped revolutionize the drive-in B movie industry. It's a great flick on its own, with a terrific jazz score, Lee Marvin, and featuring perhaps Brando's most iconic role, as the oddly effeminate tough guy cast out by the conformist squares who don't dig his alien coolness. I can relate to that, and so can any social outcast fighting against the status quo, and that's probably most of you, too.
Sayonara, Bud, and thanks for leading the charge, even if you didn't really mean to.
SEPTEMBER 10-30: THE PARKWAY'S SIXTH ANNUAL FILM NOIR FEST
As much as I love and respect the Castro Theater in SF, it's hard, as a film programmer, not to resent their status as a theatrical behemoth, hogging most of the glory in these parts. They deserve it, of course. But when my good pal Eddie Muller, now internationally acclaimed as the Mayor of Noir City (www.noircity.com) was asked to program and host their first film noir festival in ages, it not only broke box office records, but was hailed as being both the best and first of its kind in the Bay Area. Like by that time I hadn't already hosted five film noir festivals in a little place known as Oakland - with Eddie Muller as my co-pilot in cinematic pulp. Oh well. While they're busy plotting their third epic series in January, I've already booked THE PARKWAY'S SIXTH ANNUAL FILM NOIR FEST! (And by this time next year our El Cerrito Theater should be open, so we can have a two house Speakeasy Theater Film Noir Fest!) This time I'm boasting several relatively rare, raw 'n' raunchy gems (DEAD RECKONING, 1947; GUN CRAZY, 1949 and BORN TO KILL, 1946), an established genre classic (DOUBLE INDEMNITY, 1944) a pre-noir prototype (one of my all time faves, ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, 1938), and even a neo-noir crowd pleaser (DIRTY HARRY, 1971). Of course, in Thrillville, I've dug up the really offbeat B stuff: THE MOB (1950), THE BURGLAR (1957) and FIVE AGAINST THE HOUSE (1955), all with the final chapters in the longest running serial (thanks to my sporadic programming) of all time, THE SHADOW (1940). Complete program and schedule info can be had here:
Hope to see you there. If not, I'm sure I'll see you at the Castro next January. Sigh.
OCTOBER: MORE "CREATURE FEATURES"
One boast I can make the Castro can't (yet...) is my annual live revival of the local TV legend, CREATURE FEATURES, starring the iconic BOB WILKINS and his swingin' successor, the internationally respected field expert JOHN STANLEY. This October will mark my fifth Thrillville Creature Features series, which, as of last year, has been re-dubbed HORROR HOST PALOOZA, thanks to the onstage participation of DOKTOR GOULFINGER (www.goulfinger.com) and MR. LOBO (www.cinemainsomnica.com) joining in the frightful festivities, along with extra horrific prizes, surprises and scary short subjects.
Horror Host Palooza 2004, Part One on October 7 at The Parkway features two sleazy spookshows courtesy of THE WEREPAD: first is the Euroshock classic THE CRAVING (1980), featuring Spanish horror star Paul Naschy in his ninth turn as the Wolf Man vs. a bevy of vampire babes. Yes, there's nudity and gore galore promised, though I've never seen it. Trust me on this, though - Euro horror flicks do not flinch in these departments, especially during that era. Also on the bill is a true obscurity (obscenity?) shot in SF, DOCTOR JEKYLL'S DUNGEON OF DEATH (1979), in which our modern mad scientist injects the local citizens with some sort of serum that turns them into kung fu zombies. Never seen it myself, and if I don't show it, chances are none of us ever will, and how we can pass up such an experience? We can't. It's that simple. Should be a hell of a night, and Dok, Lobo, John, the Tiki Goddess and myself will all be there to guide you through it.
Bob Wilkins actually took last year off, so October 21 will make his fourth appearance in Thrillville at the Parkway. This time he's showing up to wave to the crowd and probably not even refer to the night's double feature. At the top of the bill is a brand new 35mm print of the old school "kaiju egu" (or whatever the fuck) masterpiece, GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER (1966), in its original Japanese incarnation, one of my favorites, a true Tiki island classic originally meant for King Kong and co-starring Mothra and Ebyrah (or whatever), a giant shrimp! (I still say it's a lobster, but again, whatever). This is the first "classic" Godzilla flick I've been able to show because I got it via our friend Mighty Mike Schlesinger at Sony and didn't have to go through Toho, which charges an arm and a yen for its prints. Thanks, Mike. Also on the bill from Mighty Mike is the Thrillville debut of the all new B movie masterpiece, LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA, a truly inspired tribute to 50s sci fi bargain basement beauties like Brain From Planet Arous and Robot Monster, shot in glorious B&W with dead on performances by a talented cast of nobodies, just as it should be. Dok, Lobo and John will also be sharing the stage with Bob, along with live theremin by ROBERT SILVERMAN, and there will be advance tickets on sale for this one, sign up for the Thrillville newsletter so you don't miss out on another memorable monster mash in Horror Host Palooza 2004, Part Two.
Then Dok, Lobo, the Tiki Goddess and myself head north to the esteemed establishment COPIA, the American Center of Food, Wine and the Arts in Napa, as guests of artistic director RICHARD MIAMI, for A HIPSTER HALLOWEEN (October 29). This special road show features a live performance by those haunting hep cats JOHNNY AND GIN ATOMIC with their ATOMIC LOUNGE SHOW (www.johnnyatomic.com). They are the Louis and Keely of the 21st Century as I've said before and will say many times again. TOM WYRSCH, who has authored both the John Stanley and Bob Wilkins Scrapbooks and has done more than anyone to keep their legacies alive via print and now DVD, is loaning us his flawless 16mm print of William Castle's classic HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959), starring Vincent Price and yes, we're going to try to rig the Emergo effect. Also on the bill are a Three Stooges short called SPOOKS and probably the first 3D flick ever, the haunted house short MURDER IN 3D (1940), directed by George Sidney later of Viva Las Vegas fame, and yes, BUZZ BOB EKMAN is bringing the glasses. Horror Host Palooza 2004 Part Three will be well worth the trip, kids.
I haven't nailed it down yet, but there just might be another TIKI HALLOWEEN PARTY at THE CONGA LOUNGE in Oakland right around or on the holiday itself this year, check the Thrill Bill and sign up for the newsletter for updates.
It it's Fall, it's Film Noir and Creature Features in Thrillville. Some traditions are worth preserving. It's a Values thing. I'm all for inter-monster marriage, gay gangsters and alien abortions, though.
NEXT: MARTINI MADNESS AND MARINE MANIA
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