Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Creature Features" Live at The Parkway!

Monica Tiki Goddess, Bob Wilkins, and me
October 2000
One of the most gratifying experiences in all my years as Parkway programmer/publicist and Thrillville producer/host were the annual and now legendary Creature Features reunion shows with former famous TV horror hosts Bob Wilkins and John Stanley, as well as editor/reporter/film reviewer, the late great Bob Shaw, in person. These spectacular spook shows were among the most popular programs to ever play The Parkway, creating precious memories both for the legions of Creature Features fans who grew watching the series every Saturday night throughout the 1970s and early '80s on KTVU (and Friday nights in Sacramento), as well as introducing the beloved local icons Bob Wilkins and John Stanley to generations of new fans. It was always a fun, festive event where I met and networked with many long time Creature Features fanatics and newfound friends, who often joined us on stage, including Mister Lobo, Michael Monohan AKA Dr. Goulfinger, Bill Longen AKA "Uncle Bill, the Trailer King," Sci-Fi Bob Ekman (Psychotronix Film Festvial, more on those later), Scott Moon, August Ragone, Bob Johnson, Tom Wyrsch, Strephon Taylor, Chuck Jarman, Doug Jones (who worked on the show and built a replica of the original TV set for the Parkway stage!), and many, many others, all of whom have gone on to make their own unique marks on the regional (and national) film scene.

With John Stanley
I grew up in South Jersey, and my local TV horror host was Dr. Shock out of Philly (who partly inspired my "Will the Thrill" public persona), so I didn't even hear about Bob Wilkins and Creature Features until I moved to the Bay Area in 1985, the year it went off the air! Parkway co-founder Kyle Fischer, who grew up in the Bay Area, was a big fan. Over the years I heard more and more about Bob as well as his successor, John Stanley, whom I actually met first when he appeared at the UC Theater in Berkeley in the mid-90s. Unlike Bob, John was and remains a true expert in the field of horror and sci-fi movies, and he wrote a series of successful Creature Features Movie Guides as well as contributing to the San Francisco Chronicle for many years. John also directed his own vampire movie, Nightmare in Blood, which I had the proud pleasure of showing once at The Parkway, co-hosted by John himself.
Bob Shaw, John Stanley, and Bob Wilkins
on the reconstructed "Creature Features" set
created by Doug Jones

I first contacted Bob Wilkins via my friend and frequent Thrillville poster artist Miles Goodrich, who interviewed him once for his own 'zine, back in 1999. I also interviewed Bob for The Parkway News, and asked him if he'd ever consider coming out of retirement for a personal appearance. He eventually agreed, making his first personal appearance at The Parkway the following October, along with John and ob Shaw, and thanks to the help and encouragement of official Creature Features archivist and documentarian Tom Wyrsch, who worked out the travel logistics, it was a spectacular crowd-pleasing smash with several equally successful "sequels."

(Watch video of the first Creature Features reunion from October, 2000.)

Posters by Strephon Taylor
Every October from 2000 thru 2006, until Bob became too ill, he would come down on the bus from his home in Reno to co-host specially selected monster movies, including several local premieres of new Godzilla flicks, like Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II and Godzilla-Mothra-King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack along with vintage favorites like The Tingler and Night of the Living Dead. John, who lives in Pacifica, would show up weekly throughout the month of October to co-present Halloween hits like Creature with the Atom Brain, Zombies of Mora Tau, 13 Ghosts, The Vampire LoversHorror Express, and many others. One year, 2002, we made the annual event a tribute to Bob's weekday afternoon kiddie sci-fi show alias, Captain Cosmic, and even brought his original robot sidekick, 2T2, out of mothballs in Sacramento for a true reunion. (Video.)
The Return of Captain Cosmic, October 2002
With 2T2,  Bob Wilkins, and Mr. Lobo
Sadly, Bob Wilkins passed away on January 7, 2009 - ironically, the same day as my friend and another frequent Thrillville guest, cult movie god Ray Dennis Steckler (more on him in a future blog) - only a few months before The Parkway closed on March 22, 2009. It was truly the end of an era, but one that lives on the minds and hearts of Creature Features fans everywhere. Cheers.

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