Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Parkway Can't Help It

Poster by R. Black
In August 2005, I booked one of my favorite movies, The Girl Can't Help It (1956) the ultimate '50s rock 'n' roll sex comedy ,starring Jayne Mansfield, Tom Ewell, and Edmond O'Brien, with musical performances by Little Richard, Fats Domino, The Platters, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Julie London and many other pop luminaries of the era, shot in widescreen Deluxe color and directed by the great Frank Tashlin.  Since it was Thrillville, Jake, I added live burlesque by The Devil-Ettes - frequent guests and one of the Bay Area's most popular troupes - to the already busy bill. Artist R. Black contributed a fantastic poster which remained in the lobby through the duration of The Parkway's existence. You probably remember it, hanging right near the men's bathroom...

"Scheme C6" starred my wife Monica Cortes Viharo
in the female lead
Additionally, legendary local filmmaker Rob Nilsson (Chalk, Heat and Sunlight, Signal 7), an old friend of ours, wanted to make the final film in his gritty, streetwise, cinéma vérité style 9@Night series, called Go Together (2007) at The Parkway, with me in a cameo as myself, "Will the Thrill," and Monica not only playing "the Tiki Goddess" on stage, but reprising her role of "Yve," the sexy female lead of an earlier film in the series, Scheme C6 (2001). My father, actor Robert Viharo, had a recurring role in this series as well, including Go Together. So Rob set up cameras and shot footage of me hosting this particular show, including The Devil-Ettes' performance, to incorporate into the movie, in which I was actually hosting a porno festival! Not much of a stretch. I improvised some bits which later wound up in the final cut, and the audience went along with it. Later, Rob shot a bunch of scenes for the movie privately during the daytime, with Parkway patrons volunteering to play "the audience." The late David Hess, star of the grindhouse classic The Last House on the Left (1972), played a bum in the Parkway alley! But most of my scenes were filmed at this show, which I called "Thrillville's Rockin' Bombshell Revue." It sold out and was quite a memorable experience - but not all for the reasons already mentioned.
The Devil-Ettes - who needs a movie?

The night before the gig, the 35mm print for The Girl Can't Help It was dropped off in our lobby, cutting it pretty close to showtime. Our projectionist popped open the can and discovered only two reels - three were simply missing. That was pretty much most of the movie! Panic quickly set in. At the time, Girl wasn't on DVD yet, but I did have a bootleg VHS copy in my private collection. Unfortunately, that would have to there I was with a packed house, a film crew shooting live footage for an indie flick, and a movie on the big screen that I taped off TV. Thankfully sans commercials. Still pretty ghetto. I promised the audience this wasn't the usual practice at The Parkway, and being regular patrons, they were already accustomed to such unexpected mishaps. In their typical forgiving spirit, the crowd rolled with the circumstances, and nobody left and everyone had fun. It was simply a great night - and so was the premiere of Go Together at The Parkway a couple of years later. Here's to all you patient people. Cheers.
At the Mill Valley Film Festival screening of "Go Together" (2007)

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