THRILLVILLE: Will "the Thrill" Viharo's weird, wild world of Pulp Fiction, B Movies, & the Lounge Lizard Lifestyle.

Friday, January 7, 2011

ELVIS: It Happened at the Parkway

Yvonne and Elvis, "It Happened at the World's Fair," 1963
Tomorrow, January 8, 2011, is Elvis Presley's 76th birthday. He's not around to celebrate it with us, but that never stopped me from hosting Elvis B-day (and D-day, August 16) parties since the early '90s. Originally they started in my little apartment; then I teamed up with friends PM Clary and Cory Levenberg to convince restaurants - and once, a Berkeley church! - to let us host public parties which often featured guest stars flown up at our expense, including Anne Helm, my stepmom, who co-starred with Elvis in 1962's Follow That Dream. After I scored my Thrillville gig at the Parkway, Elvis B-day and D-day parties became regular events, and I could actually book prints of his films. My first Elvis screening was Jailhouse Rock (1957) on May 31, 1997, when Thrillville was still called "The Midnight Lounge" - and that's where I met a sexy chick named Monica, whom I chose to come up and spin my Big Wheel as a "guest lovely assistant." She showed me her Elvis/Navajo tattoo, I awarded her an Elvis blanket, and didn't think I'd ever see her again, though she made quite an impression.  Then a few months later, on January 8, 1998, she showed up (per PM's invitation) at the Ivy Room in Albany for our Elvis B-day bash there, and, well, the rest is history. (Later we even got blonde co-star Jennifer Holden to appear at the Parkway with another of my several screenings of Jailhouse Rock, though meeting Monica was by far the most memorable.) Monica and I tied the knot at the Cal-Neva Resort in North Tahoe on May 31, 2001 - with mariachis performing Elvis and Rat Pack songs at the ceremony. I formally proposed to her on January 8, 2000 - though by then the Cal-Neva had already been booked...

Monica, Yvonne and her sister Meridel in our Oakland home, August 2000
With Rockin' Robin Roseaaen, Yvonne Craig, and Gary Lockwood
With Yvonne and Gary, Parkway, August 2000
Next to these, my absolute favorite Elvis Party happened in August 2000, when I screened a badly faded but rare 35mm print of It Happened at the World's Fair, which was initially released the very day after I was born, April 3, 1963. I managed to coax my friend Yvonne Craig (most famous as "Batgirl" and the Green Girl in the Star Trek episode "Whom Gods Destroy"), who co-starred in the film with Elvis (she also co-starred in 1964's Kissin' Cousins) and her lovely sister Meridel to make an appearance at the screening, and she helped me convince our mutual friend Gary Lockwood to show up as well. Gary also co-starred in two Elvis movies, World's Fair as well as Wild in the Country (1961 - in which Elvis plays an aspiring writer!) though he is best known for his roles in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and the official  Star Trek pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before." I first met Gary via my dear, late friend Julie Parrish, who co-starred with Elvis in Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966) as well the Star Trek  episode, "The Menagerie" (both she and Gary appeared at a lot of fan conventions together.) Both Julie and Yvonne I met via Annie. They're all great folks in person.

Interview plugging this screening on KTVU's "Mornings On 2"

Anyway, the funny thing was, neither Yvonne or Gary had ever actually seen It Happened at the World's Fair. I was honored to finally give them both the opportunity, but they didn't really break their record this time, either. Both sat through the first twenty minutes or so before they both got bored and drifted back into the Parkway lobby to greet fans. Before that, though, I had the honor of sitting on a sofa next to Yvonne while, onscreen, Elvis sat next to Yvonne on a sofa, seducing her with the song "Relax." Wow. It was cosmic kismet. It remains one of my all time favorite Thrillville memories.
Kurt Russell and Elvis, 1963
Kurt Russell AS Elvis, 1978

World's Fair also features a cameo by a very young Kurt Russell, who gets hired to kick Elvis in the shins. Fifteen years later Kurt gave the best portrayal of The King ever in John Carpenter's TV biopic Elvis.

It's all connected somehow.

With stepmom Annie Helm and the late Deborah Walley, screening of "Spinout," Parkway, November 2000

I've also had the privilege of meeting and interviewing (for Filmfax and Outre magazines) Elvis co-stars Deborah Walley (Spinout) Joan Blackman (Blue Hawaii and Kid Galahad), and Stella Stevens (Girls! Girls! Girls!). I've profiled Annie in Filmfax as well. Never met Ann-Margret, but years ago I emailed her a fan letter and she sent both Monica and me autographed photos for free!

1994 Elvis D-Day party with special guest, my stepmom Anne Helm - in a Berkeley Church!

This year I'll be hosting the annual ELVIS B-DAY PARTY at its new home, Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge in Alameda, with cocktail specials, Elvis music videos and prizes. Be there. Aloha and TCB.
Elvis marries Joan Blackman in "Blue Hawaii"

Our Hawaiian honeymoon, June 2001