Friday, November 23, 2012

Elvis Lives! The Parkway

The King and I
I love Halloween and Christmas, but for Monica Tiki Goddess and me, our very favorite holidays of the year are Elvis B-Day (January 8) and Elvis D-Day (August 16), the anniversaries of The King's birth and "disappearance," respectively.  My wife Monica and I first met at The Parkway on May 31, 1997, when I was hosting Jailhouse Rock (1957) in The Midnight Lounge and picked her out of the audience to spin my big wheel, so to speak. I had been hosting Elvis B-Day and Elvis D-Day parties at various venues around the East Bay since the early '90s, often sponsored by the Elvis-friendly computer company 42 Inc. Monica and I officially met  (i.e. started dating) months after our initial Parkway encounter at my Elvis B-Day party at the Ivy Room in Albany, on January 8, 1998. She remembered me as the Parkway dude who gave her an Elvis blanket as a reward for her sexy wheel-spinning, and I remembered her as the hot babe with the tattoo of a Navajo symbol that read "Elvis." She got the gigs of both lovely assistant and wife, and has been spinning my wheel ever since.

Impersonator contest...
The Midnight Lounge was the original name of my weekly cult movie show at The Parkway before it suddenly morphed into the B-movie/burlesque extravaganza known as Thrillville on January 8, 1999 with a "prime time" screening of Viva Las Vegas (1964), one of the greatest nights ever in my so-called "career" as "Will the Thrill." The crowd just went totally nuts over the cosmic, combustible combination of Elvis and Ann-Margret. After that surprise smash, I moved the gig permanently to Thursday nights, where it remained for the duration of its run, with much bigger audiences, unlike my early, sparsely attended Saturday midnight shows (replaced by the much more successful Rocky Horror Picture Show presented by Barely Legal Productions). 

I decided to host all my annual Elvis B-Day and D-Day parties at The Parkway following that  fateful screening of Viva Las Vegas. Once we even got Elvis's blonde co-star in Jailhouse Rock, Jennifer Holden, to make a special appearance. She was a trip.

Me with Annie, Deborah Walley, Monica,
September 2000
Another memorable show: the time I brought up my stepmom Anne Helm, who co-starred with Elvis in Follow That Dream (1962), along with our friend Deborah Walley (Gidget Goes Hawaiian), who co-starred in Elvis's Spinout (1966). I managed to score a 35mm print of Spinout, and was pretty pleased about it - until I belatedly discovered, during the screening, that some jerk had cut out all of Elvis's musical numbers from the print, leaving us with his thespian talents only. I guess it was "the Director's Cut." Sadly, this was one of Deborah's final public appearances before she passed away the following year. She was a great lady.

With Cari Lee Merritt and The King
I was actually fortunate enough to meet, befriend and interview several "Elvis babes" via my connection with Annie, including Stella Stevens (1962's Girls! Girls! Girls!), Joan Blackman (Blue Hawaii, 1961; Kid Galahad, 1962), and the late, great Julie Parrish (Paradise, Hawaiian Style, 1966). 

At yet another revival of Jailhouse Rock, the unconventional, controversial and unpredictable performance artist known as "Extreme Elvis" showed up with his own throne (toilet), mooning the audience as he pulled down his jumpsuit and took a seat...

With Yvonne Craig and Gary Lockwood,
August 2000

For Elvis D-Day 2000, I showed a rare, faded 35mm print of the 1963 "classic" It Happened at the World's Fair with two of the original co-stars - Yvonne "Batgirl" Craig and Gary "2001/Star Trek" Lockwood - in person. Neither had ever even seen the film before! And they only lasted about 20 minutes with it this time before drifting out into the lobby to mingle with fans...But before that, I did get to sit on a Parkway sofa next to our pal Yvonne while Elvis tried to seduce her younger self on a big screen sofa as he serenaded her with the song "Relax." Definitely one of my favorite Parkway memories, obviously. (See video of our appearance on KTVU's Mornings on 2 to promote this show.) 

Anyway, I already have Viva Las Vegas booked for Thrillville Theater at The New Parkway on January 6, 2013. Perhaps history will repeat itself. Cheers and TCB.

Posters by Miles Goodrich

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