Friday, May 9, 2008

Reasons To Be Cheerful: week of 05/09/08

Greetings from Mill Valley!
("...talkin' about Mill Valley, California, that's my home...")

I was on the road last weekend, beginning the process of moving back to my old stamping grounds.

So far, change has been a cheering process, and much of that has come from words of support from many folks - - including readers of this blog.

('Selfishly delighted' is a phrase I've been hearing often from the local contingent - -with qualifiers - - in response to news of my move back being tied to my marriage breaking up)

Thanks to all - - it's been helpful and heartening, and is much appreciated.

A couple of San Francisco bay area related items this week, for starters:

1. Fans of the old local 'Creature Features' and Bob Wilkins, the TV show's original host, will converge next Thursday night at Oakland's historic Grand Lake Theater for the premiere of a film - - 'Watch Horror Films – Keep America Strong'; A New Creature Features Documentary.

Wilkins was host of KTVU's 'Creature Features' program throughout most of the 1970's.

Part of his particular charm was that unlike many other
late-night horror movie hosts, Wilkins did not dress-up or play an over-the-top character.

His spartan studio set may have had a few horror accoutrements, but essentially it was just Wilkins, his very low-key manner, his droll sense of humor, his trademark cigar, a plethora of perfectly bad movies, and some great guest interviews with film icons passing through the neighborhood.

I know from first-hand experience that the combination was a huge part of the formative years for people (of all ages) watching bay area TV in the '70s.

Wilkins left KTVU in the mid-1980s, and has long since retired from television.
Now in the latter half of his seventies, Wilkins is unfortunately struggling through advanced stages of Alzheimer's.

The new film focuses on 'Creature Features', Wilkins, and the other hosts who followed him after he left the show in 1979.
Featuring old and new footage and interviews, the special premiere sceening will also benefit
The Bob Wilkins Alzheimer's Fund.

If you were a fan, and if you're local, show support and turn out for the screening at Oakland's
Grand Lake Theater, this Thursday, May 15th, shows at 7pm & 10pm

(Looks like my friends and I will be at the early show. See you there!)

(ADDENDUM, 5/16/08; What a great time! The Grand Lake was packed with enthusiastic fans of a TV program that hasn't aired in something like 24 years. As it turned out, the documentary film was GREAT. Very spirited, with some great footage from the show, including behind-the-scenes stuff, interviews from now and back in the day. Beyond the specifics, the movie does a perfect job of capturing an era that is gone, when truly local TV programming - - pre-home video, mostly pre-cable, pre-internet - - offered what was often just about the only place for horror flick enthusiasts to catch the essential fare on shows like this. - - And you couldn't Tivo it or tape it on your VCR, so having to be there as it aired made it something of a ritual. Word from the filmmakers is that 'Watch Horror Movies, Keep America Strong: A Journey Into Creature Features' WILL be made available on DVD, but the question remains as to when. Watch the skies...)

(UPDATE, 4.23.09: Good news / Bad news.
The bad news is that I've only now discovered that Bob Wilkins passed away earlier this year, back on January 7th, 2009.

The Wilkins website now includes a memorial page with a description of his memorial service, that sounds like it included some fittingly light-hearted reminiscences from some of the assembled friends and family.

The only good news is that the Creature Features documentary IS now available on DVD, and includes an extra disc of what sounds like some pretty juicy archive footage and other extra stuff. I'm looking forward...

2. This past week I had fun reminiscing with a friend about interior designer Tony Duquette, specifically trying to recall experiences visiting his other-worldly 'Duquette Pavilion of
Saint Francis'
, that had been on Geary Blvd. in San Francisco, near Fillmore Street.

Beginning in the 1940's, Duquette's work in his native Los Angeles had made him a notable designer of costumes and settings for film, primarily in MGM productions.

The Duquette Pavilion was one of the artist's 'Celebrational Environments', housed in a former synagogue that he'd purchased in the early 1980's to host his exhibition, it was vaguely similar to his 'Our Lady Queen of the Angels' installation that he'd done in L.A.

Walking through the spaces inside the pavilion was like being on a fully-realized film set or turning a corner into an episode of 'The Twilight Zone' - - Soaring, monumental sculptures, jewel-encrusted tapestries, explosions of light and color, and a central expansive interior that featured a repeating audio collage that included narrative pieces read by Ray Bradbury and Charlton Heston.

It was a great way to leave the planet in the middle of an afternoon.

Sadly, in 1989 Duquette's pavilion burned to the ground one evening, as a concert was under way next door at Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium.

My own (possibly muddled) recollection is of it being a Neville Brothers show that was interupted by the fire, and hearing that the band kept playing as the audience evacuated the building.

◀ I found this image online of a 1989 Fillmore poster for a Neville Brothers show.
- Can anyone corroborate that February 16th of that year was the date of the Duquette Pavilion fire?

Following my discussion about Tony Duquette, it was nice to confirm the existence of a book that sounds promising, a huge visual biography published last year.

In searching around the web, I also found:

- The expansive Official Tony Duquette Site

- Duquette's 1999 New York Times obituary

- A piece about Duquette and a magazine photospread of his Beverly Hills estate 'Dawnridge', at The Peak of Chic

- 'Tony Duquette's Dawnridge', a guided tour video clip at Style.Com

3. Thus far I've somehow managed to miss them all over the web, so thanks to MC 8th-Grader and his Krew for introducing me to the series of Trunk Monkey TV ads!

4. I'm looking forward to investigating 3 new DVD releases in Kino Video's 'Slapstick Symposium' silent-era comedy series, scheduled to appear next month.

In addition to discs of Harry Langdon and Mabel Normand films, I'm especially excited about a second 2-disc Stan Laurel set, collecting 21 shorts produced between 1918 - 1926.

Kino's first collection of Laurel's silent work prior to teaming wth Oliver Hardy was SO good, and such a revelation that I'm eager for more...


Kate said...

I think that rose is "Peace" ... appropriate, I would have said... Intentional or just serendipitous?

The In Crowd said...

Yes, the Peace Rose.
Not quite intentional, perhaps a subconscious effort.

I'm currently roosted in a gracious friend's guest room as I begin to 'regroup' and spin plans for the next steps of my move back to California.

I walked perhaps ten steps to shoot that photo on the lovely sun deck that adjoins the room.

I think on some level I was trying to capture my joy at being back home, where the proximity to lush, abundant, vibrant scenery can be staggering.

Thombeau said...

Ooh, thanks for introducing me to Mr. Duquette---the designer of my dreams!

Freshly-stirred links