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The Thrillville Beat

By Will ("The Thrill") Viharo



Being a lounge lizard doesn’t necessarily mean one is carefree, footloose and fancy free. The stress of surviving in this Bush-whacked world takes its toll even on a loose-livin’ Latin lover like me. (Well, I’m not exactly Latin, but I love Monica, Tiki Goddess, who is.) Recently I was diagnosed as being literally Stressed Out. This was shocking news to me. I didn’t even realize it until certain physical manifestations took place, symptoms culminating in an all-out anxiety attack. I traced this sudden nervous explosion to recent events in my personal life – mostly the horrific hit-and-run rear-end accident last November that nearly erased Monica from the face of the planet and demolished our brand new car, a recent wedding gift. This combined with some other disturbing private matters, including a bizarre stalker situation and crazy letters from my poor schizo mother, plus the whole post-9/11 trauma still in the air, resulted in a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. I was even afraid I had a brain tumor – subliminally suggested first by a 60 Minutes report on the subject, soon followed by Dr. Green’s fatal diagnosis on ER, one of those shows I watch with Monica, who only watches it because she wants to finish the god damn series which will seemingly never friggin’ end. Not only did Dr. Green have an inoperable brain tumor, he went to die in Hawaii, land of my honeymoon and my future dreams. I developed a psychosomatic reaction every time I watched the stupid show, until it culminated in the near-breakdown. The fear of having a brain tumor was practically giving me a stroke! Granted, I was already fragile from the combination of those other factors, but still, it was major cuckoo time. I confess all this because in a public forum the humor of my pathetic condition seems more obvious, but I also wanted to share with others two hard-learned life lessons: 1) Take it easy and 2) don’t watch network television, it sends evil signals that fuck with your head. Literally.

Anyway, I’m much better now that I’ve been meditating, learning breathing exercises, avoiding anything with “brain” in it (even beloved flicks like The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, Brainiac, and The Brain From Planet Arous) and taking vitamin B supplements. I thought I had plenty of “B” in my life already. But my daily pots of coffee combined with the several pints of booze I consume at The Parkway on a regular basis were eroding the rest of my frazzled nerves. So I cut back on those liquids, increased my exercise (meaning I now take even more walks to the Video Room on Piedmont), and in general learned to Relax. Sipping martinis while listening to Martin Denny and Jackie Gleason records is apparently not quite enough to soothe the mind, heart, body and soul (though that helps, too). Anxiety is an insidious internal illness that just creeps up on you, as a fellow meditating anxiety-sufferer put it, “like something in a David Cronenberg movie.” Now I feel like one of those celebrities waxing philosophical and remorseful about their trip to the Betty Ford Clinic, but hell, maybe someone reading this is suffering from the same problem, and my tale of truth and triumph will inspire them to likewise take a time-out to smell the neuroses. Sure, being in the public eye added to my stress, but was not the source of it by any means. It just impaired my ability to deal with it. Public figures like me – and I just started thinking of myself as one recently – are subject to random anonymous vilification, which can be a real pain in the ass. People think I do this for the adulation. Truth is, I don’t need the strange love or the faceless disdain. What I need is the money, which trickles in slower than a leaky faucet. Until I get paid like a real celebrity, I refuse the abuse such a position warrants in the minds of malcontents. Meantime, I keep at it because I love sharing B movie lounge culture with anyone remotely interested, and there’s many more of you out there than I ever dared to imagine. It gives one hope for the future of mankind.

And of course, on top of all this other crap, I’m turning 40 next year. Unreal, man. Though I’m grateful to have made it this far, it’s just weird to be leaving behind the 30s, the last decade you can safely classify as “youthful.” I don’t want to delve too deep into the age thing, since normally I don’t trip on it, but when I look in the mirror, I don’t see the face of a 39 year old man. I still see the same baby face that grooved on toys and monster movies years and years ago – and maybe that’s because this face still does groove on toys and monster movies. That’s the secret to staying young – keeping in touch with your inner child. It may also be the key to reducing the stress of adulthood. The further you get away from your youthful sense of innocent fun and awe, the more tightly wound you become, until you pop your springs.

Speaking of springs, Monica and I spent a great weekend in Palm Springs a little while back. It was a big Tiki Blowout event co-sponsored by Otto Von Stroheim of Tiki News (, and his lovely bride Baby Doe of The Devil-ettes, who just had a son, Vander Vegas Von Stroheim, a helluva name to live up to but he has the pedigree to do it, and with style. We stayed at a restored motor lodge called the Caliente Tropics (, hobnobbed with aging punkers sporting tattoos and babies, hung out with our favorite artist Shag (, ate at some stylish restaurants with our pallies Bruce and Lisa, and drank authentic Mai Tais that actually gave us a buzz (you can get good drinks down there, another big plus over Vegas). I finally met Atomic magazine editor Leslie Rosenberg poolside, and she’s quite a doll. We also got to visit Uncle Bill, the Trailer King, who lives down there, and I had a chance to pay tribute at the gravesite of my spiritual mentor Frank Sinatra in nearby Cathedral City. I finally had my photo taken with The Chairman – six feet under, but that’s as close as I’ll ever get now that he’s passed on to that Big Showroom in the sky. It was sadly, sweetly surreal, standing over Frank’s remains in the middle of the desert, no one else around. The plaque in the ground read: The Best is Yet to Come.

The highlight of the weekend was when they projected a 16mm episode of the great early ‘60s detective series Hawaiian Eye starring my man Robert Conrad – poolside. That’s right, we got to wade in the water with our Mai Tais in plastic cups while we watched the show. It was Thrillville, Palm Springs style.

The only drawback was that it was 90 degrees by 9AM, around 110 by 3PM – and our car’s air conditioner didn’t work. (It sure worked in the car that got demolished by that hit and run asshole, though.) But all in all, the coolness was worth the heat.

The trip happened several weeks after my last real anxiety attack, and it was just what the doctor ordered. Palm Springs is an oasis of lovingly preserved Modern architecture, thanks largely to the influx of a fashion-conscious gay population – it’s what Vegas could and should still be if it had any respect for its own cultural history. If you get the chance, PS is a swingin’ town worth a visit. We plan to return sometime when it’s not so hot, though.

A few weeks after that we got to see Nancy Sinatra perform at Bimbo’s in SF as a guest of the promoter, our pally Alan Parowski (I was also a guest on his KALX radio show recently, where he DJs as “the Cali Kid.”). This experience was likewise therapeutic, as Nancy still swings hard (her drummer on this tour was Clem Burke of Blondie!), but now I know that no one thing can keep you calm and strong. If you’re feeling blue, jittery or just unlike yourself, take a chill pill, then take stock of yourself, that’s the experienced advice from Dr. Thrill.


Before we get to this month’s movies, I want to pay public tribute to Rosemary Clooney, who sadly passed away recently at the age of 74. We were lucky enough to see her in concert twice, and to meet her in person just last December. She was one of Monica’s three favorite female singers, along with Keely Smith and Eydie Gorme (whom we’ve also had the pleasure of seeing live in concert), and she will be sorely missed in Thrillville. She even co-starred with her nephew George on ER once or twice. Won’t be seeing those reruns again, though. I’ll just stick with White Christmas from now on. (Monica watches it every year on her birthday – at least got to tell Rosey that before she passed on.) I highly recommend her last released album, Sentimental Journey, where she is backed up by the great Hawaiian swing band, Big Kahuna and the Copa Cat Pack. Aloha, Rosey.


The weirdest thing just happened. I got up to check the mail so I could rest my fingers, and I noticed Monica got a letter from Bill Clinton. Haven’t opened it. Really. I’m sure he routinely sends little notes to delectable Democratic dames, especially those named Monica. Man, I miss that Elvis-lovin’, sax-playin’, womanisin’, French fry-eatin’ bubba, now more than ever. We went directly from my all-time favorite prez to the all-time worst. What a social-cultural-political whiplash. No wonder I’m stressin’. But why is he writing my wife? Maybe he has her confused with someone else named Monica. Hm.

Ironically, this month Thrillville pays homage to redneck royalty, including the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, as well as the King of the Monsters.

First up, on Thursday August 1 at The Parkway, I am astonished to be hosting an extremely rare 35mm print of a notorious drive-in legend: POOR WHITE TRASH (1957), also released over the years as Bayou, starring Peter Graves and the incredible Timothy Carey in a torrid tale of passion, mayhem and swamp lust. That’s all I know about it, frankly, because I’ve never actually seen it (I don’t think), and if I don’t book it, I might never get to see it, and neither might you. I often book movies based on rumor only, and if this one lives up to half its reputation, it will be as outrageous an experience as Shanty Tramp was last year. Both of these prints hail from the voodoo vaults of The Werepad, ( , which boasts perhaps the coolest, most eclectic collection of ultra-rare cult flicks on the planet. They don’t show as many movies at their beatnik nightclub in SF as often as they used to (and I’ve hosted several Thrillville gigs there), since the current trend is toward live music. But Werepad curator Jacques Boyreau along with his suave sidekick Scott Moffett will never turn their back on their retro-vision roots, as evidenced by the new book Trash: the Graphic Genius of Xploitation Movie Poster Art, published by Chronicle Books in SF. This absolutely gorgeous tome illustrates the golden age of drive-in trash cinema (‘50s thru the ‘80s) via Jacques’ uniquely eloquent prose introductions to the different chapters, and the full color reproductions of their massive collection of posters. Jacques and Scott will be on hand to sign and sell copies of this recently published masterpiece in the Parkway lobby after you get your brains blown out your buttholes by Poor White Trash. All in all, a grand wallow in classic trash you can ill afford to miss.

Next up, once again, it’s the annual THRILLVILLE ELVIS D-DAY PARTY 2002 (Thursday August 15, Parkway), one day before the 25th anniversary of The King’s death/disappearance. Yessir, it was a quarter century ago on August 16, 1977, that I first heard the news while getting ready for my paper route in the mythical kingdom known as New Jersey. JFK was killed in my lifetime, barely, but I don’t remember where I was when that happened (probably asleep in my crib, I know nothing about it!), but I do remember the precise moment when I was told, “You hear about Elvis? He died.” Stunsville, baby. I still can’t accept it. Neither can Monica, the biggest, and prettiest Elvis fan in the world, even bigger and certainly prettier than I am. And I was pretty hardcore. One time a Catholic priest driving us kids in a van to school was making cracks about The King, and I tearfully yelled, “And you call yourself a priest!” Little did I know that making Elvis jokes can be the least of a priest’s offenses, but to me at the time, when Elvis was like the surrogate father/big brother figure I desperately craved, that was the worst. I’ve learned to have a sense of humor about The King in the years since, after I developed my own identity and stopped sneering at people, because I also have a sense of humor about myself. Everyone needs to be in touch with their Inner Elvis. As Deacon Rivers of Elvis Underground: the Church says, “People who hate Elvis only hate themselves.” The Deacon also hates libraries, “because whenever I walk into one all I can see are all these books that aren’t about Elvis.”

Deacon Rivers (alias PM Clary, and Cory Levenberg of the Berkeley computer company 42is Consulting ( and I used to put on bi-annual Elvis parties, B Day on January 8 (E’s birthday), and D Day on August 16, throughout most of the ‘90s. In fact, that is how I cultivated my public movie host persona, and why Parkway head honchos Kyle and Catherine Fischer were inspired to ask me to concoct Thrillville when they opened The Parkway in early ’97. Every one of our famed Elvis parties was themed according to an Elvis movie (in a Mexican restaurant for Fun in Acapulco, a Chinese restaurant for Girls! Girls! Girls!, the Temple Bar in Berkeley for Paradise Hawaiian Style), and since my stepmom Anne Helm co-starred with Elvis in 1962s FOLLOW THAT DREAM, we had connections for some very special guests at these shin-digs, which featured movies, prizes, music and fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Along with Annie and her daughter, my sis Serena, we were able to entice our now dear-friends Julie Parrish (Paradise Hawaiian Style), Jennifer Holden (Jailhouse Rock) and Yvonne Craig (It Happened at the World’s Fair, Kissin’ Cousins) to appear at our parties, along with such local luminaries as the awesome Elvis Herselvis. I have since met and become close with other “Elvis babes” like Stella Stevens (Girls!Girls! Girls!) and the late Deborah Walley (Spinout). In fact, I showed Spinout (sans musical numbers, the print had been cannibalized!) in November of 2000 for a book release party for Swingin’ Chicks of the 60s, by our pally Chris Strodder ( Both Deborah and Annie were in attendance – but the audience was pitifully and mysteriously small, and since this was one of Deborah’s very last public appearances before she passed away a few months later from esophageal cancer, I was pretty chagrined. I wanted Annie to return to Thrillville this August to appear with my 35mm print of Follow That Dream, but I got upstaged by Graceland, who asked her to appear there for the 25thDeath Week” in Memphis. So whoever had the chance to meet Annie and Deborah that night but blew it off really blew it, since Deborah won’t ever return, and Annie doesn’t travel much these days. BUT…it’s still gonna be a helluva party, since Follow That Dream is one of E’s better vehicles, a genuinely funny, free-wheelin’ comedy co-starring Arthur O’Connell and Joanna Moore, and it hasn’t appeared on any big screen in years, maybe decades, plus we’ll have the usual pre-show surprises, so follow that dream while you can to Thrillville, cats and kittens.

(One last thing: I met my wife at an Elvis B Day party at Albany’s Ivy Room. Actually, we first met at The Parkway months before when I showed Jailhouse Rock and she showed me her Navajo Elvis tattoo, but our official meeting was at the Ivy Room, January 8, 1998. Elvis is your good luck charm, baby.)

Lastly but certainly not leastly, on Thursday August 29 at The Parkway, I am proud to present yet another Bay Area big screen premiere of a modern Japanese classic, GODZILLA VS DESTOROYAH (1995), Toho’s final Big G movie before the American debacle blasphemed the good name of the King of Monsters but did nothing to threaten his throne. In this one, yet another “direct” sequel to the original 1954 classic, they actually killed him off.

The first few scenes alone are worth the price of admission – on video, the sight of a radioactive Godzilla glowing with nuclear energy as he trashes Hong Kong in an atomic frenzy is impressive enough, but on the big screen it promises to make you drool beer and pizza. He finally melts right through the center of the earth. I’m not kidding. Also in the mad mix are Baby G (the clue to the series’ continuation), and of course Destoroyah itself. I’m still not sure what the hell Destoroyah is, some kind of bad-ass hybrid between the original oxygen destroyer and crab shit or something, but no matter, the sheer spectacle of the battles will leave you breathless. This special print is courtesy of every Thrill seeker’s benefactor Mike Schlesinger at Sony Pictures, who always hooks me up with some seriously slick stuff – and you’ll be seeing more of his amazing archives throughout The Parkway’s Fourth Annual Film Noir Fest next month (complete schedule now posted at And coming from Mike in October – the Bay Area big screen premiere of Godzilla vs Space Godzilla, hosted by none other than Captain Cosmic (Bob Wilkins)!

Anyway, as Stan Lee used to sign off with in his Marvel Comics Soap Box – Excelsior!


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