Monday, November 19, 2012

"Papa-Palooza" at The Parkway!

Poster by Miles Goodrich
In the spring of 2007, The New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles was in the midst of an incredible "grindhouse" film festival (as it usually is, actually), showcasing many rare 35mm prints provided by Quentin Tarantino from his private collection, curated by my friend Brian Quinn. And on my very birthday, April 2 (no gifts please - well, okay, why not), the movie just happened to be  Bare Knuckles (1977), starring my father, Robert Viharo, as "Zachary Kane, Modern Day Bounty Hunter," co-starring Sherry Jackson (from Danny Thomas's old TV series Make Room For Daddy) along with genre icons John Daniels and Gloria Hendry. Needless to say, I drove down and celebrated with a bunch of friends, including Parkway founders/owners Kyle and Catherine Fischer, and Pop himself.  Even the film's director, Don Edmonds, most infamous for the Nazisploitation masterpiece Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, made one of his final public appearances before sadly passing away not long afterwards. Needless to say, it was one of the best birthdays ever.

Pop has starred in a number of notable movies over the years, including Valley of the Dolls (1967, as "The Director"), Villa Rides! (1967), as a Mexican revolutionary, alongside Yul Brynner, Robert Mitchum, and Charles Bronson; and Hide in Plain Sight (1980), as a gangster in a true story directed by and starring James Caan. But Bare Knuckles has always been my favorite. It's a bizarre hybrid of grindhouse, blaxploitation, kung fu, and serial killer cinema, with a soundtrack by a dude who normally scored porn flicks (in fact, the LP is quite a collector's item - I have two copies!). I've been championing this flick for years, and now Tarantino himself was finally giving it some overdue love and validation. On the big screen. In 35mm. It was my Thrillville Holy Grail, found at last. But would QT let me book it at The Parkway, with Pop in person? 

The short answer: yes, and yes.

Pop and me, Parkway, May 2008
On May 8, 2008, I hosted by final Thrillville show at The Parkway, since for various reasons (mainly dealing with projection issues, since the Cerrito had a change over system required for archival prints, detailed here), I was moving the show to Speakeasy Theater's new sister venue, The Cerrito. I called it "Papa-Palooza." QT's assistant shipped me the prints (gratis!) of both Bare Knuckles and another classic cult movie co-starring Pop, Return to Macon County (1975), wherein he played a crazy copy chasing Don Johnson and Nick Nolte through the rural '50s South. Since Pop showed up at The New Beverly he would just have to fly up and appear with my own screenings. And so he did.

Now let's be clear - Pop is not a B movie buff at all. These jobs were just paychecks to him. He's a serious artist and thespian. But bills are bills, and they must be paid by any means necessary. (Pop also guest starred - either as a bad guy or a crazy cop - in nearly every major TV cop show in the 70s and 80s, including The Mod Squad, Starsky and Hutch, Baretta, Kojak, CHiPs, Hill Street Blues, and The A-Team, to name a few). He never understood the pride I took in these particular career credits. But he showed up at this gig just to make me happy, and "Papa-Palooza," with live burlesque once again by The Twilight Vixen Revue, turned out to be one of the most memorable and unique programs I ever booked at The Parkway, and it remains one of the highlights of my so-called Thrillville "career." Cheers. 
(Watch video of the live stage show here.)

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