BackThrillville - Archives for Thrillville Beat

The Thrillville Beat

By Will ("The Thrill") Viharo


By Will "the Thrill" Viharo



By the time you read this, there’s a good chance Bush has already said “fuck you, I rule” to the peace loving people of Earth and invaded Iraq – and the world as we knew it will never be the same. My stance on this has been well documented in this column, but once the war begins, I might back off from commentary for a while, and just let events unfold before updating my opinion. Suffice to say, I don’t care if Iraq becomes the 51st state – if ONE US soldier dies or ONE Iraqi citizen gets killed due to “collateral damage” in this conflict, I’ll consider it a tragedy, homicidal outrage and crime against humanity. I’ll also blame any ensuing terrorist acts of revenge directly on the Bush administration for their arrogance and defiance of the United Nations and the world community (ironically, the same bullshit excuse they’re using to take out Iraq.) And if the US seizes ANY kind of control over ANY of Iraq’s oil fields, this will corroborate what many of us already believe – innocent blood has been spilled for the sake of cold-hearted commerce, and America has become an Imperialist regime in the 21st Century.

Yes, the world will be a better place without wicked dictators like Hussein, and murderous fanatics like bin Laden. And it will be an even better place once we finally get rid of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rice, Powell and all the other war-mongering bull-headed bullies trying to take over the entire planet and forever ruin America’s historical reputation (not to mention our economy and civil rights) in the name of “patriotism” and even worse, “God.”

As of this writing, I am officially endorsing the Howard Dean presidency for 2004, largely for his outspoken liberalism and anti-war stance (before it became “fashionable.”) I’m not crazy about any of the other Democratic candidates. In fact, I’m not crazy about the Democratic party, period, especially the ass-kissing two-faced poll-pandering pussies currently crowding the field. But sadly, our choices as freedom-loving people interested in equal rights for all are severely limited.

Realistically, though, I think Senator Kerry will win the nomination, and choose Senator Edwards as his running mate. Or vice versa. Senator Lieberman doesn’t stand a chance – I hope. He’s way too uptight and conservative. Plus he has a really scary set of tiny bottom teeth that always distract me from anything he’s saying. We need an opposing voice of reason, not a flip side to the same dirty coin. I guess I’ll be okay with a Kerry/Edwards ticket. At this point, Rocky and Bullwinkle would be preferable to Bush and Cheney. (Or even Kerry and Edwards, for that matter, but it’s all relative.)

And I don’t even want to hear Ralph Nader’s name mentioned. Bush has gotta go, or we’re all doomed. If he is allowed to stay in office, forget about a third political party – we’ll become a Third World nation. As it is, we’ll be digging out of the monumental mess he’s making for years, maybe decades, maybe even generations. His is by far the worst administration this country has ever endured, hands down. And he shows no signs of slowing down with his megalomaniac “mandate” as 21st Century monarch. He’s making life-changing, world-shattering decisions he wasn’t even popularly entrusted with. I hate it when people say this attitude is “so September 10.” To me, ignoring the epic, nightmarishly negative toll his illegitimate presidency has already taken on our country is “so September 12.”

I have heard from people who support Bush and the war, and I want to say publicly, I appreciate both your viewpoints and the time you took to read my own and reply in writing. I respect your civility, too, even if I still wholeheartedly disagree with the conservative stance on just about everything.

But once the war begins, if it hasn’t already, I won’t even respond to anyone pro-war unless they’re emailing me from the front lines in Iraq. Unless you’re personally willing to run through a violent, blinding sandstorm into a hostile Baghdad under intense firepower and possibly bio-chemical bombardment, your argument will ring hollow to me. I salute our men in combat, though. They’re just doing their job – and I bet most of them never imagined they’d actually see combat. No matter what their personal beliefs, they’re very brave guys. It’s all the old farts sitting back safely on the sidelines calling all the shots without firing or facing any that I detest, and do not respect at all.

That said, I also think a lot of like-minded liberals are whiney hypocrites, but the fact is, the current administration has pushed me about as far to the Left as I’ve ever been. I’m almost left of The Tiki Goddess by now, and that puts me in some radical territory indeed. We both wish that most liberals had better tastes in fashion in music, but as far as politics go, we stand united, with all due respect for the other side’s opinions and equal right to express them.

One recent surprise development that really pleases me: the return of Bill Maher’s regular even-handed round table social debate to television, now seen on HBO as “Real Time With Bill Maher.” I love that guy, even when he pisses me off, though lately we see eye to eye on almost everything. The cancellation of his ABC “Politically Incorrect” program was a rude slap in the face to domestic and democratic debate and dissent. Bill is a voice of reason offering an irreverent forum for serious discussion, and we need that now more than ever before.

‘Nuff said. At least for now. I have my own problems to deal with.


This month I celebrate my sixth year as The Thrill. My task as your local B movie lounge lizard has not been an easy one, contrary to the fun-loving façade I present. Behind the scenes I often have to sweat and struggle to keep the program going. Monica, Tiki Goddess talks me out of quitting almost every day. Why? For one thing, appearing in public is very draining (one reason I only do two shows a month and very few “road shows”.) But that’s not the main hurdle. My biggest problem as The Thrill is the never-ending quest to find and present quality drive-in cinema on the big screen, in original 35mm.

Recently Thrill Seekers have noticed I’ve been forced to replace two highly anticipated films at the last minute, back to back. In the case of the ‘70s pimp classic Candy Tangerine Man, we found out too late that the Werepad’s print had suffered irreparable sprocket damage, rendering it virtually unplayable. Of course, we managed to pull off an eleventh hour replacement, Fred Williamson in Jack Arnold’s revisionist Western (and final film) Boss Nigger – memorable for the theme song along (think wah-wah pedals in the Wild West.) And it was a fun night, so I got over it and so did the crowd. But then two weeks later, I had to pull my booking of The Brain From Planet Arous, a dream show for me personally, because out of the blue these assholes showed up declaring theatrical rights, hundreds of dollars we don’t have, and worst of all – outright ownership of the actual print! So the program suddenly went from a “brain” theme to a tribute to Abbott and Costello. Thanks to Uncle Bill and Buzz Bob Ekman for their vital and timely contributions to this successful turnaround.

Thing is, I only actually own two 35mm prints myself. One of them is The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, which my buddy Ray Dennis Steckler himself gave me, and the other is an Elvis movie, Follow That Dream, starring my stepmom Anne Helm. The rest I get from other sources, either official or independent. I never try to rip anyone off. Not my style, and anyway, that only backfires. I like to think all of us classic B film lovers are in this together, since it’s not the most lucrative industry in the world, and solidarity is our only hope of survival. But sadly, this is not the case.

The first time I was belatedly forced to replace a film at the last minute happened last October, when I originally planned to host my all time favorite I Was A Teenage Werewolf for a Halloween road show at Copia in Napa. As in the recent case with “Brain,” a week before the scheduled show date, we got this hostile letter from some lawyer out of left field making all these monetary demands we were in no position to gratify. And I actually surrendered my 16mm print to them, just to avoid a protracted court battle – which I now regret. I never got to show it at Copia (though it did previously play at the the Fine Arts and the Werepad), and now it’s probably just rotting away in a vault somewhere. Both of these incidents smelled like shady shakedowns to me. I just don’t have the time, energy, resources or patience to fight these petty people over something so simple and silly, so I always just let it go and move on quickly to the next project. We small time impresarios get treated like big shot criminals when all we’re trying to do is spread the B movie gospel, which is good for everyone involved in this business. You’d think they’d appreciate the incidental local promotion – instead, we get legally threatened. A lot of films I show are from collectors and are either in the public domain or what’s called “a gray area,” meaning we’re not sure who the hell owns the rights, since these obscure films are forty or fifty years old, never even show up on TV anymore, and the major studios don’t give a damn about them. Only the fans do. So when I have to cancel a show, everyone loses – me, the potential audience, and the jerks making a latent attempt to fuck it up for everyone. They don’t get their money, and we don’t get to see the movie. What does this achieve?

THRILLVILLE TO EARTH (and yes, that includes any of you mercenary so-called champions of B cinema monopolizing the marketplace): I DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY. I barely break even on this gig. I do it for one simple reason: love. You want some of that, I got plenty of hugs and kisses to go around. But you wanna just get in my face so you can reach in my pocket, you’ll come up empty handed. Well, you’ll have something in your hand, but it won’t be a wad of cash, and it ain’t cause I’m happy to see you, either.

Some people wonder why I never show original Russ Meyer or the classic Godzilla movies or the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns. The reason is all of these distributors charge exorbitant fees for exhibition, and we can’t make our bottom line. I don’t mind breaking even, but as The Parkway’s programmer and PR dude, I don’t have the authority to lose money for them. A lot of great films are either unavailable or aren’t cost effective for us to showcase. So what happens? They don’t get seen at all.

Another roadblock is the fact many of these films are from archival sources, and The Parkway, comfortable and wonderful venue that it is, does not have the reel-to-reel 35mm projectors needed for a changeover. So my resources are severely limited. Still, via private collections, and sympathetic studio guys like Mike Schlesinger at swingin’ Sony Pictures, I’ve been able to keep the thrills comin’ for six years and counting, the efforts of John Ashcroft and the conspirators against Cool notwithstanding.

Another milestone is marked in Thrillville this month (April): I turn fucking 40. For the occasion our wedding minister Robert Ensler will once again perform as Dean Martin – to roast yours truly at a special celebration in Palm Springs. Details in the next column. So now I’m a Middle Aged Lounge Lizard. And I have more toys and robots than ever. Plus The Tiki Goddess as my private nurse for life. So I’m okay with it.


Monica and I always love going to The Paramount Theater in Oakland, a truly awesome Art Deco landmark just miles from The Parkway. Along with featuring live performers like Jerry Seinfeld and James Brown, they also show classic films occasionally, with cartoons, newsreels, a big wheel spin, a lovely assistant and prizes - but in a much more classy, old-fashioned and hokey manner than Thrillville, which puts the fun in funky. I see both shows as being complementary, not competitive, offerings for the community. After all, The Paramount is the #2 rated Most Appealing Spot in the Bay Area for the second year in a row according to the esteemed Zagat Night Life guide.

And for the second year in a row, The Parkway is Zagat’s #1 Most Appealing Spot in the Bay Area!!

But hey, who cares? We’re all friendly here in the magical land of show biz.

Then I learned the Paramount is kicking off their Spring Film Series with the premiere 007 film classic DR NO (1962), on Friday, April 11 – the day after I’m showing it (Thursday, April 10) at The Parkway!!!

Now, normally this kind of conflict never comes up. The Paramount specializes in mainstream classic Hollywood cinema, whereas my specialty is Cult Movies. James Bond is one of those things that straddles both – he’s classic and cult. But what are the odds we’d not only be showing a Bond film back to back – but the same one?!

Yes, the conspiracy continues. Though the Paramount powers-that-be are no doubt unwitting dupes. They probably booked this months ago – and so did I. But now I admit – I’m worried this double booking is going to kick my ass and my Dr. No will play to an audience of crickets. Even if we sold out The Parkway at 150, that means only 4,850 people would go see it at The Paramount instead of their usual 5,000. We’re in totally different leagues. But the choice will be simple:

You can either see the movie that launched Sean Connery as the only real Bond (see my article on ‘60s spy cinema in the current issue of Atomic Magazine for a detailed explanation of that declaration) at Zagat’s #1 Most Appealing Spot in the Bay Area, with beer, on a couch, or….wait and see it (after I show it first) at Zagat’s #2 Most Appealing Spot in the Bay Areawithout beer, in a regular theater seat. True, the Paramount does serve mixed cocktails in the awe-inspiring lounge under the dazzling lobby before the movie – you just can’t take your drink into the movie with you. They give away prizes, we give away prizes. They show trailers, we show trailers. But one other thing they won’t have is a behind-the-scenes look at Thunderball courtesy of Bob Ekman. Or, of course, The Tiki Goddess, which always makes all the difference.

This is the only Connery Bond (and I won’t ever book a Bond flick starring anyone else) I haven’t shown yet besides Diamonds are Forever, making this a Thrillville first. And I’m not backing down from the mighty Paramount. The Thrillville Security Council has spoken!


I also have to go up against San Francisco’s premiere movie mega-palace, The Castro, with my annual Film Noir series at The Parkway, which I program every September. If I do another one this year, it’ll be our fifth. All four previous Parkway fests were co-hosted by the leading noir expert on the planet, my good buddy Eddie Muller ( Then back in January, the Castro had its first big film noir fest in years – and it sold out almost every show, up to like1400 people on a single night. The media acted like this was the first film noir festival in the Bay Area ever. The programmer and host of the extraordinary Castro series? Eddie Muller. It was such a sensation he’s already making plans for another noir fest at The Castro next January. Kudos to Eddie, he’s a great guy and great talent and he deserves the success. He’s unanimously earned his position as Mayor of Noir City, and no one is calling for a recall or recount.

But….hey, I’ve hosted four noir fests with Eddie in Oaktown already, and it’s like – who cares?? I was lucky if The Parkway attracted 1400 altogether over all four fests! Sigh.

Anyway, I’ll keep on plugging and the 5th Parkway Film Noir Fest will no doubt go on this September – without the Castro’s resources, sponsors and high media profile, but with Eddie Muller. Meantime, I’m hosting a book release party for his latest tome, The Art of Noir, an astounding collection of noir poster art featuring Eddie’s typically powerful prose along with the eye-popping illustrations. It just got nominated for a Edgar Award, Eddie’s second (his first book on the subject, the definitive Dark City: the Lost World of Film Noir, was also nominated for the Mystery world’s most coveted prize.) For this special occasion I’m once again showing Eddie’s personal favorite noir, Nicholas Ray’s moody Hollywood expose from 1951, IN A LONELY PLACE (Parkway, April 27). This classic covers similar psychological and cultural territory as Sunset Boulevard did the same year, but for my money, it’s the superior effort, starring Humphrey Bogart in one of his most cynical roles, and co-starring sexpot Gloria Grahame, one of Eddie’s (and my) favorite femme fatales. Though in this one, she’s the good girl. You still wanna fuck her, though. Bogey gets to, but he’s Bogey. And in real life, he was as bald as Sean Connery. Two of the ultimate cool guys in cinema history wore rugs.

At 40, I’m eight years older than Connery was in Dr. No. But still younger than Bogey In a Lonely Place. What do I have they don’t (besides The Tiki Goddess)? My own hair. And that’s enough for me.


Order a copy of
"Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me,"
a novel featuring Vic Valentine, Private Eye
by William Viharo from Wild Card Press: