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The Thrillville Beat

By Will ("The Thrill") Viharo



When I was 19, Mickey Rourke gave me a shirt that looked like an American flag, because he thought I looked like “the All American boy.” I actually wore the damn thing. (Mickey also dressed me up as Marlon Brando in The Wild One one Halloween, or so I thought – he actually decked me out in leather to look like a “Christopher Street hustler,” for his own twisted amusement. Boy, was I naïve. ) Anyway, one night in 1982 I actually wore it out to dinner with Tom Waits and his wife, Kathleen. I’m not just name-dropping; this is a fact, the significance of which will be soon be revealed. Mickey had also given me my first car, a ’64 Thunderbird painted white with dice on the doors. I met Tom and his wife via Mickey, since they worked together on Rumble Fish and had become fast friends. Tom was the nicest, humblest and most talented celebrity I met in my LA days, but that’s not the point either. We went out to dinner at my favorite Hollywood restaurant, Musso & Frank’s. Tom and Kathleen had parked far away, and I was closer, so I offered to drive them back to their car in style, with my T-Bird.

Now, keep in mind, I was a lousy driver. I had just obtained my license in Houston a few months before, barely passing the test after flunking parallel parking. I guess the big fat redneck cowboy instructor felt sorry for me or something. Anyway, I was driving Mr. and Mrs. Waits, both seated in the front seat with me, up a steep street. Tom was telling me how much he liked the radio power of these old cars, that the sonic energy from the speakers made for great freeway cruising. Kathleen was talking to me about something else, and I was nervously trying to navigate from our steep uphill side street into the busy perpendicular cross street, but I had trouble seeing past my passengers. Finally, after sensing that all opposing traffic had passed, I just pulled into the street, swerving left, and we were nearly broadsided by….a police car. If it had made contact, Tom would’ve been the first one crushed, as he was in the passenger seat. Kathleen was between us, so she would’ve been next.

As it was, the cop slammed on the breaks just in time and barely missed us, but naturally pulled us over to find out what the hell was going on. He poked his flashlight into the car. I don’t think he recognized Tom Waits, but he did give me a pass. Tom later said it was because of my flag shirt – I was like Jack Armstrong, the “All American boy,” after all, not some hopped up hot-rodder out for a joy ride, so all I got was a friendly warning to be more careful, instead of a ticket. Tom and Kathleen couldn’t have been more gracious about the whole thing, though that was the last time I went out to dinner with them. And it was the last time I wore that stupid flag shirt. To me, it was cursed, even though it may’ve protected me from my own nation’s law enforcement. (In retrospect, I think it was the color of my skin, not my shirt, which saved my ass.) I was shaking for days afterward. Later I realized how close I came to ending a brilliant musical career with one stupid move. If that cop car had come any closer, Tom Waits’ last album would’ve been the soundtrack to One From the Heart. Whew!


The irony is, I was always apolitical until a few years ago. All I cared about was getting published and getting laid. I was very selfish, but then I was also very confused. My father, who didn’t raise me, was a far-left liberal, while my stepmom, his third wife, who raised me in New Jersey, was a far right conservative. Dig it: they both worshipped the same guru, too. On my own since I was 16, I was so screwed up I couldn’t really concentrate on much besides my own survival. Much later, once my personal life was finally in order – happily married, good job, etc. – I found myself actually paying attention to the outside world. I didn’t like what I saw.

One good thing about my upbringing, or lack thereof: I was able to make my own mind up, without anyone’s parental influence. As a writer, I firmly believed everyone had a right to express themselves any way they chose, creatively, sexually and philosophically, without harassment or censorship from others, so that automatically made me a social liberal. I didn’t actually vote, though, till ’91, when I went for Clinton whole hog. I never regretted it. I still love that guy. A president who fights for civil rights, loves Elvis and plays saxophone, too. Sure, he was pretty centrist and I didn’t agree with his “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which was a chickenshit compromise, but I admire the fact he made that the first thing on his presidential agenda. He didn’t get enough credit for that – pretty ballsy, coming right off twelve years of a Republican fascist regime. The Lewinsky scandal made me love him even more. A president who got laid, all right! Never mind it wasn’t his wife. That was her problem, not mine. In my eyes, the liberals chiding him for his sexual peccadilloes were just as uptight, judgmental, and hypocritical as the conservatives out to destroy him – it may’ve been dumb to bang an intern while on the clock, but as long as he got his job done, it was his business, as far as I’m concerned. I still feel that way. Rosie O’Donnell can suck my dick, right after Kenneth Starr and Rush Limbaugh get their fill of Thrill. And Monica, too. Tiki Goddess, that is.

As anyone who’s read this column for a while knows, I now consider myself a “Rat Pack Democrat” – liberal, with style, and sense of humor. I’m not into politically correct whining. I relate to the Rat Pack’s politics – march with MLK, kick the doors open for Sammy, but slap women on the ass, too, if it’s an ass worth slapping, and taking racial jabs at each other was not only acceptable, but warranted to help ease the tension and put it all in proper perspective.

Monica is even more liberal than I am, at least in some ways. For instance, I’m not even a baseball fan per se – I’m an A’s fan by marriage – but when they threatened to go on strike, I was pissed off that these millionaire play-boys would have the gall to walk away from a game bankrolled by poor blue collar stiffs who blow their paychecks on season tickets and overpriced hot dogs. Monica defended them, because she’s a staunch union supporter (she didn’t cross any picket lines at the recent UC clerical worker’s strike), and that means ALL workers, in any field, deserve the right to collective bargaining. Sure, the owners were probably the instigators, but still, to me, they were all a bunch of spoiled rich fucks, and this was yet another example of greedy corporate American insulting the integrity, dreams and hopes of the lower economic classes. To Monica, a diehard lifelong A’s fanatic, the players were simply exercising their rights, just like migrant farm workers, and she wouldn’t boycott them, because all unions, not matter what their payroll or uniform, deserve uniform respect. Another example: she doesn’t believe in capital punishment, for anyone, even child killers, whom she detests. Me, if anyone touched Monica, I’d go Dirty Harry on their sorry ass without even thinking twice. But on most other important issues – abortion, civil rights, gay marriage, Elvis – we’re totally simpatico.

So with all this so-called “patriotism” in the air during the one-year anniversary of 9/11, I was forced to reflect on this issue of “Americanism.” Even the most left-minded columnists were waxing patriotic and frantically waving their flags. (I’ve already written about how disappointed I am in the left for their cowardly lack of dissent in these troubled times – the cancellation of Bill Maher’s Politically Correct, an even-handed fair-minded nightly platform for televised public debate, was truly a sad sign of our increasingly oppressive/suppressive times.) For a personal barometer, I asked Monica, the most liberal person I know, if she felt more “patriotic” since the events of 9/11, current administration notwithstanding. I was surprised by her answer: “Yes.” She went on to elaborate that her citizenship had been bumped closer to the forefront of her conscious identity, along with liberal, Democrat, female, Native American, Mexican, bi-sexual Elvis and A’s fan. Before 9/11, she didn’t really think of herself as an American – now she realized that, though her heritage was Mexican, she was raised in America, so she is an American, and if someone is directing hostility toward Americans, that includes her. Especially her, since she’s part Navajo, and they were here long before any of these flag-waving white folks. Made sense to me, but then I felt even worse about my own truthful feelings: if anything, I feel less “American” now than I did before 9/11. Before I start getting emails accusing me of being a radical pinko fag, allow me to break it down.

Before 9/11, here’s how I basically described my own demographic, in order of characteristic:

  1. Lounge lizard
  2. Human being
  3. B movie buff
  4. World citizen
  5. White, but not vanilla (white chocolate, I’m a wafer with soul, baby)
  6. American, but proud because of our previous president’s intelligence, charisma and passion for civil rights

This is how I describe myself now:

  1. Human Being
  2. Lounge lizard
  3. World Citizen
  4. B movie buff
  5. White, but not vanilla (white chocolate, I’m a wafer with soul, baby)
  6. American, but ashamed because of our current president’s ignorance, arrogance and bigotry

Every time George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, or John Ashcroft open their foul mouths, I want to renounce my U.S. citizenship. They just plain make me ashamed to be American. This includes Bush’s celebrated post-9/11 stumping, which “surprised” even many of his critics (I guess they “misunderestimated” him?). Sure, I appreciate my freedom. But if the current powers that be had their way, most of the things I cherish about being American would be taken away anyhow. First of all, the concept of freedom only works if it’s for everyone (like a union) – that includes people with dark skin, pagans, men who suck cock, women who lick pussy, people who think for themselves, people who did not watch “American Idol,” and people who choose not to stand up during the National Anthem at a baseball game. I just don’t understand the mentality that if you’re not “for” America, you’re “with” the terrorists. Rednecks assume if you question the authority of your own government, you want to blow it up. They say soldiers are dying for freedom so the least we can do is chant the Pledge of Allegiance I unison whenever it comes up. The tragic irony for me is, these brave soldiers are dying for our collective freedom not to say the Pledge of Allegiance if we don’t feel like it. Otherwise, who is this great, diverse “Land of the Free” meant to be free for – SUV driving Anglo-Christians only? I personally thought the guy who wanted “One Nation Under God” struck from the Pledge was a stick-in-the-mud wasting his breath, and that it was a nitpicking issue (of course my ultra-liberal wife disagrees, and that’s okay, she’s still damn sexy). BUT I strongly support dissent, even amongst schoolchildren, so if they don’t believe in it, sit down silently through it. Individuality should be encouraged at an early age, despite the social rejection it might cause, which they’re gonna have to get used to sooner or later if they’re independent thinkers anyway.

Bush and company –which means everyone in his cabinet, including Uncle Tom’s Rice, with the lone exception of Colin Powell, who will probably be ousted because of his moderate sensibilities – have shown their true colors time and time again: refusing to attend the NAACP convention because our prez had already appointed black people to his cabinet, so what was the need?; not showing up at the Global Warming Summit, thereby telling the world the environment of the global community can stick a bottle rocket up its ass, for all we care; attempting to slyly eliminate Roe V Wade via subversive language here and there; hell, I could go on and on. The point is, he’s every liberal’s – or free thinker’s – nightmare come true, and he consistently embarrasses all of us on the world stage with his arrogant strutting and stuttering. Now there’s all this talk of attacking Iraq. What the hell is this, Manifest Destiny, 21st Century Style? I’m not a peacenik per se – I was all for tracking down all Al Queda members and shooting each one in the knee caps and guts and letting them bleed to death in the middle of a blazing desert. But to just go out and bomb the fuck out of a third world country, with millions of casualties, basically because of oil (not terror, let’s face facts), and to even Daddy’s scorecard, is plain genocide. I don’t understand Republicans – they always flaunt this “pro-life” stance, but when it suits their agenda, they have no problem switching to selective “pro-death” – i.e. violently slaughtering countless innocent people who are all long past the debate of whether a fetus has a soul or not. They’ve been here a while. We all agree they’re actual people now. But if you can’t see ‘em, and they’re on the wrong side of the fence, fuck ‘em, is that it? As long as our long range objective – “peace and security for all freedom loving people” – is achieved by the long range missiles.

I think all human beings are freedom-loving people, whether they have it or not. That’s why after 9/11, I feel more closely connected to the overall community of human beings on this planet, since we’re all mortal and vulnerable to random hatred. But I also feel completely detached from people who give W. a high approval rating simply because they’re too afraid to criticize a spoiled, war-mongering illiterate buffoon born sucking on a silver spoon. I also can’t relate to all the right wing flag-waving bigots now clamoring for a return to a prehistoric society dominated by straight, white, Bible-thumping illiterates, patterned after our president, in which social liberals, artists, jigaboos and fairies know their proper place – which ain’t here in “God’s country.” Hell, even minorities are being “white-washed” by this resurgent prejudice in the popular consciousness. All in the name of “patriotism.” Think I’m exaggerating? Recently, a poll indicated that 49% - that’s nearly half – of all Americans think the First Amendment protecting our cherished Freedom of Speech goes too far. That poll, if accurate, represents a frightening case of mainstream brainwashing, and is a disturbing warning sign that democracy as we know it is being seriously threatened by a Nazi-like mentality within our own borders. That’s why I’m writing and posting my own opinions on these important issues that impact us all – while I can.

Rob Morse of the San Francisco Chronicle, whom I often disagree with, especially when it comes to Clinton, nonetheless inspired me to write this whole column with a Sunday column he recently wrote, that ended with this astutely depressing observation: “Bush wants to invade Iraq. He got into Yale. He got into the Air National Guard. He got a baseball team. He got the Oval Office. He gets what he wants. He gets to invade Iraq.”

And this spoiled idiot will continue to get his way as long as we let him.

You know what will make me feel truly patriotic in this frantic, fearful post 9/11 times? Voting against a two-faced, extreme right wing, bigoted corporate crook like Bill Simon in November. Sure, Gray Davis is ineffectual, (I hear he might secretly be Gay Davis, which would make me like him even more), but he’s the lesser of two evils, and these days, that’s all we got to choose from – that third option, voting your conscience, is at least a generation away, probably more. The last presidential “election” set that prospect back years, maybe even decades (a right wing Supreme Court would pretty much achieve the objectives of the terrorists – the Death of Freedom For All in America.) And I’m totally Pro-Choice – in every way. You have the right to choose, so don’t bitch if you don’t and you’re not happy with the status quo. I might even go out and buy another stupid flag shirt for the occasion.



Whenever I get blatantly political in this column, I run the risk of alienating people from attending Thrillville. That shouldn’t be the case. I happen to know of at least one Republican who attends almost every single show, and he has for years. His name is Harold, a genuinely sweet guy who BARTS over from SF every other Thursday (except when he’s in Graceland) just to attend Thrillville. He’s not rich, either, but he always saves enough money for the trip and admission, and maybe a popcorn and beer. We always give him a ride back to BART, too. The bottom line is, Thrillville, like Elvis, is for everyone. As long as you love B movies, we’ve got enough common ground to get along. That’s how I honestly see it. The rest we can leave at the office. If you disagree with my political views, I’ll be happy to answer your emails, but otherwise, if you come to a show, there is only one objective for all: escapism from the outside world. This column is my own personal platform, written and published on my own dime and time, and if you’re reading it, it’s because you took the trouble to look it up. I’m not forcing anything on you. I didn’t email this to you, and it’s not syndicated by The New York Times. If you don’t like it, offer a healthy argument, or ignore it altogether, it’s all the same to me. And I will likewise respect your right to express your own views. I have no desire to influence you, and you certainly won’t change my mind, so agreeing to disagree is always copacetic in my world.

However, Thrillville the show is something different, since you paid to get in, so I owe you a good time without any hassle or harassment. And that’s what I promise to offer always, just as I have been for five and half years now. Thrillville is and will always remain a haven for heathens, hipsters, hippies, hopheads – and hypocrites. Welcome!

One person who could run for president and win the entire Bay Area vote hands down is Bob Wilkins. I have no idea what his personal political affiliation is, and I don’t really care. His show, Creature Features, which he hosted from 1971 to 1979 on KTVU before the great John Stanley took over till its cancellation in ’85, appealed to all demographics, regardless of age, sex, color or creed. You mention Bob Wilkins to anyone old enough to remember him, and their eyes bug out with nostalgic enthusiasm that borders on iconic worship. I’ve never seen anything like it. I was in New Jersey during the ‘70s, and my local TV horror host was Dr. Shock (R.I.P.), who hosted Mad Theater and Horror Theater every Saturday afternoon on Channel 17 out of Philly. So I never watched Creature Features, but I began hearing about Bob Wilkins soon after I moved to the Bay Area via LA in 1985. Parkway owner Kyle, who grew up in San Jose, was a huge fan. He told me if I could get Wilkins to re-emerge on stage for his adoring public, it would be a locally historic cultural phenomenon. I did, and he was right.

This October marks Bob’s third appearance in Thrillville. This time, though, he wants to do something different, so he suggested returning as his kiddie show alter ego, Captain Cosmic. He even vowed to rescue his robot sidekick, 2T2, from mothballs in Sacramento. To those who grew up around here, this is yet another major celebrity comeback. Captain Cosmic specialized in vintage sci-fi series like Ultra Man and Flash Gordon, broadcast on KTVU every weekday afternoon in the early ‘80s (Monica, from Union City CA, remembers it fondly – she loved it when he showed Space Giants.) For this special occasion, on October 24 (see Schedule link for complete details, including advance ticket info), I am presenting yet another Bay Area big screen premiere: GODZILLA VS SPACE GODZILLA (1994), the 40th anniversary stompfest of Big G’s first screen appearance, with appearances by Baby Godzilla and the giant bird-robot Mogera from The Mysterians. On the same thrill-bill is the ever popular Hong Kong kung fu monster action spectacular, INFRA MAN (1975), plus the usual astounding assortment of drive-in trailers from former Creature Features film editor, Uncle Bill Longen.

Of course, John Stanley deserves his due, too, and he too often gets short shrifted when Bob’s in the limelight, since Bob is semi-retired, so his public appearances are few and far between, while John is still rolling full steam ahead. Unlike Bob, John is an actual fan of horror movies, and one of the genre’s most renowned and respected experts. His essential Creature Features Movie Guide is in its umpteenth printing, and he’ll be signing and selling copies of that when he appears with Bob on the 24th, but also on October 10, when he gets the stage to himself to co-host a gothic Creature Double Feature of two ‘70s classics. The first, HORROR EXPRESS (1972), stars icons Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, plus Telly Savalas, all trapped on board a train with a mind-melting monster, from the atomic archives of Uncle Bill. It shares the thrill-bill with a true rarity, from the voodoo vaults of The Werepad: DEATHDREAM (AKA DEAD OF NIGHT, also 1972), a modern twist on “The Monkey’s Paw” in which a Viet Nam vet returns to his small town and starts slowly becoming a vampire zombie. I saw it years ago on video courtesy of Professor Curtis, and it is genuinely creepy. All that plus Uncle Bill’s trailers, cool prizes, and Monica, Tiki Goddess.

BUT…there’s only one conflict in these happy proceedings. Monica’s film debut, SCHEME C6, which has already played at numerous film festivals, including Mill Valley, Santa Barbara, and Chicago, happens to be showing at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley THE SAME NIGHT BOB WILKINS RETURNS AS CAPTAIN COSMIC AT THE PARKWAY! What kind of cosmic conspiracy is that? Plus it’s on a double bill with STROKE, which stars my father, Robert Viharo, and which I’ve never seen on the big screen!! Both of these films are part of the Nine at Night film series, shown as part of PFA’s retrospective of the work of resident filmmaker Rob Nilsson, which also includes his celebrated films Chalk, Northern Lights, Heat and Sunlight and Signal 7. Rob, who once played a drug lord on Miami Vice (!), is as much a Bay Area legend as Bob Wilkins, he’s just not as universally known. His innovative film work is very much in the mode of his idol, John Cassavettes, and in fact following this series of his own films, he’ll be introducing some of Cassavettes’ classics in November.

Herein lies the rub: not only is Monica on fire in Scheme C6, burning up the screen with improv passion as a bi-sexual biker babe, but she even has a brief nude scene. I’m going to have to let her out of her Tiki Goddess duties early on the 24th so she can attend the screening with the rest of the cast at 9:15 at PFA. Me, I’ll have to stay behind in Thrillville. Of course, I get to see her nude, in the flesh, all the time, but still, I’m bummed I can’t be there to support her, and protect her from all that drool. Just don’t tell Bob Wilkins about this – he might skip The Parkway and head straight to PFA. Every year when I see him, he doesn’t remember me at first (at least he pretends not to), but he always remembers Monica right off the bat….Sorry to make this choice so hard for you, so to speak. But I do plan to book a Rob Nilsson fest at The Parkway sometime, just so you can see my lovely nekkid wife on the big screen. Am I a nice guy or what?

I want to publicly thank the following nice guys for their help in making the third THRILLVILLE CREATURE FEATURES a reality on the Parkway stage: Tom Wyrsch (editor of the John Stanley and Bob Wilkins Scrapbooks), John Stanley, Scott Moon (who does Bob’s official web site, you can find it at, Doug Jones, Buzz Bob Ekman, Bob Johnson, and Strephon Taylor for his beautiful poster art. (My normal brilliant poster artist, Miles Goodrich of Design-o-rama, is taking this month off – look for a Poster link archiving both Miles’ and Strephon’s fine work on this site soon.)

And lastly, we would all do well to always remember the Creature Features slogan: WATCH HORROR MOVIES, KEEP AMERICA STRONG!


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: