Month: January 2021

Queen of Schlock! Oh Canada! Billy Van

Did you know that The Billy Van Singers performed the theme song for 1967’s Spider-Man? You know the one, it’s that earworm that gets stuck in your head… and… you… can… never… get… it…. out! Even just mentioning the show, triggers it. I thought it would be fun to start the blog post this way, so you can all join in on my torture. You are welcome!

Now you are likely wondering why I have that song stuck in my head. It isn’t because I’ve been watching the cartoon. I not so secretly dislike it, along with The Mighty Hercules. As a child, the reruns ran on one of three channels we got and my brother was obsessed with them and even to the point where he would have a meltdown if he couldn’t watch them. The cartoons also annoyed me. But… that isn’t why we are here today. Today, I want to talk about someone and a program that brought me great joy. Billy Van and The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.

I lovingly remember Billy Van from shows such as Sonny and Cher, Bizarre (with another favourite John Byner) and Bits and Bytes, but, it was Hilarious House of Fightenstein that had the most impact on me. As a creative kid, I loved that he played almost all of the characters on the show (with the exception of Igor (Fishka Rais) and Mini-Count (Guy Big), The Professor (Julius Sumner Miller), Super Hippy (Mitch Markowitz), Harvey Wallbanger (Joe Torbay), and of courses the host Vincent Price) and I often imagined how much fun it must have been to go to work everyday.

If you aren’t familiar with The Hilarious House of Frightenein, let me give you a bit of background. The Hilarious House of Frightenstein was the brilliant creation of Billy Van. The show was shot in a studio in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1971 and there are 130 episodes. Most will remember the host, Vincent Price, but it is truly Billy Van who made the show into the wonderful sixty minutes of entertainment that it was. If you grew up in Ontario the 1970s and 1980s, the show ran in reruns consistently. I’m certain I’m not the only one who remembers it fondly, or were inspired by the show. I think Grizelda will always be my favourite character. I dreamed of making potions with her.

This show and Billy Van helped to spark creative inspiration in myself and many others. I’m certain that many filmmakers born in Ontario, can say that Billy Van and his wonderful show set them on their path. Stacy Case was so inspired by Billy Van, that he co-wrote a book (with Greg Oliver) and created the Billy Van Museum. What are your fond memories of Billy Van and The Hilarious House of Frightenstein?

Coming back around to my opening few sentences; Billy Van was an incredibly talented person. He started his career as a teenager with his four brothers as a singing act called the Van Evera Brothers. Eventually, he left the brother group and dropped Evera from his name, eventually forming Billy Van Four. He then went on to create the Billy Van Singers (the band that did the Spiderman cartoon theme song). He also appeared in many Canadian variety television shows. I really, really miss variety television shows. As Billy continued to hone his skills, he landed the CBC show Nightcap. This would make him a household name and put him onto that path, that brought him to The Hilarious House of Frightenstein and so many of his other successes. As with actors in the silent and pre-code era’s they needed to be able to do it all and Billy Van truly could. He will also continue to be my inspiration to strive to be a better creative.

A little extra tidbit. Deadly Grounds sells the official Hilarious House of Frightenstein coffee. I have a bag and don’t want to open it so I can keep it pristine! Please also support The Billy Van Museum.

Each month I run a b-movie night called Killer B Cinema. Join Lizzie Violet & Zoltan Du Lac for a monthly evening of b-moves from the 1950s to 1990s! There will also be trivia with prizes & much more! Please follow us on Instagram and Facebook!

Redheads Writing In Cafes It’s Been A While

(except when it’s my bedroom)

Raise your hand if you are over this pandemic! You know it’s gone on waaaaay too long when it’s starting to get to the introverts. Let me tell you, it’s gotten to me. I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a more personal blog (and I’m going to start doing them more regularly again), and that is mostly due to the fact that writing about b-movies has been the distraction I’ve needed. So… how are things? Frustrating to say the least. I miss so, so many things. One of the most missed, is being able to see my friends and family, especially the latter. Zoom is great and all, but it isn’t the same. It will be more than a year and a half before I will be able to safely see my parents. Why so long you ask? Let me tell you.

My parents live in a small town north of Toronto and are in the age group that puts them at the highest risk of catching Covid. Because I’m not a selfish, self-centred jerk who thinks that a) I will never get it, b) no one can tell me what to do, and c) it’s a hoax, I am choosing to not visit my parents and chance spreading Covid to them. It’s a four hour drive, which means needing to stop at least once, risking exposure. I want to keep my family safe. It’s also the other reason I haven’t spend any reasonable amount of time with friends. Yes, this whole situation frustrates me, especially when there are so many who refuse to follow recommendations. Oh, I get it, some are just over it all and have given up, but hold up, there are a large number of people who don’t think the rules apply and therefore they can do what ever the fuck they want! To them, I say grow the fuck up. If you are someone who is following recommendations and are making a concerted effort to help stop the spread, thank you.

What have I been up to? Currently, I am working on what I hope will be the final edits on my novel (as suggested to me by the publisher), I’ve also eeked out a first draft of a compilation of short stories (which I will go back to when the novel edits are done) AND, I’ve pulled The Last Single Girl back out to update and complete. I also decided end of last year, that is was time that I start selling my ready to wear, vintage reproduction knitwear/garments designs, which means I’ve been knitting and sewing a lot. I’ve been thinking about this idea for quite a while and working it all out. If you give @killerkitsch13 on Instagram a follow, you will see what I’m working on. I know that seems like a lot, but I need to keep my mind and hands occupied, otherwise I will fall into that deep cavern known as depression and anxiety. I know I’m not the only one.

Now that the vaccine is finally getting put into peoples arms, I am starting to feel like there is an actual light at the end of a very long tunnel. Every once in a while, I will run through my head a list of things I want to do as soon as it is safe and what we can do as soon as we are fully on the other side of this. Here are my lists. What is yours?

As soon as it is safe to be around other people, even though we still need to social distance:

Fabric shopping with Laurie! I need to touch the fabric! (it will still be a social distance excursion)
Nature walks with Cate!
A walk in High Park with Heather B AND Heather M.
In warmer weather… (this will help me get through the winter) Sit on a patio with friends.
Show movies in the backyard. (this helps with the deep sadness of not being able to do Killer B. Cinema)
Social distance crafternoon in the backyard!
Writing sessions on my own and with friends in the backyard.
Coffeeshop writing on a patio.
Sketching in High Park with Heather B.

As soon as we are on the other side of this:

See my parents.
HUG my friends.
Have a movie and dinner double date with Heather and Neil at the Revue and Skyline.
Go to the theatre with Cate.
Games night in person with Kevin and Lisa.
Have friends over for a BBQ!
Do a bat walk with friends.
COFFEE SHOP WRITING (inside a cafe)!!! Holy fuck do I miss this!
KILLER B CINEMA
Go see live events again (local bands, poetry, artisan shows, other b-movie night events)
HALLOWEEN!!!!!

In the grander scheme of things, these seem like little things, but they are things that I need to look forward to for my own mental health and I know there are many more things I want to do. By giving myself this list, I have something to look forward to and that is really important. I am fortunate that I’m not doing this alone. I have an amazing husband and even though we need to connect virtually right now, truly wonderful friends and family.

I truly look forward to a day when this is over and things go back to what ever our normal will be. What things are you doing to help yourself through this pandemic?

Queen of Schlock! The Screaming Skull

It has suspense. It has physiological horror. It has a stunning dame with a gorgeous sweater girl wardrobe. Most importantly, it has a SCREAMING SKULL!

The Screaming Skull is one of my all time favourite 1950s b-movies. When I need a little pick me up, I will either watch it or Plan 9 From Outer Space. Why these movies instead a comedy? Because they both remind me that dedication and love of your craft help you succeed in making your end product. Also, they are both a helluva lotta fun!

The Screaming Skull is a 1958 independently made American black-and-white horror film, produced by John Kneubuhl and directed by Alex Nicol, that stars John HudsonPeggy WebberRuss Conway, Tony Johnson, and Nicol. The Screaming Skull marked Nicol’s directorial debut; he decided to try it because he felt that he was not acting in the roles which he wanted. The film was distributed by American International Pictures as a double feature in different markets with either Earth vs. the Spider or Terror from the Year 5000 {source Wikipedia}

If you are a fan of westerns you will likely recognize Alex Nicol. During the 1950s he starred in dozens of them. As mentioned above, he personally didn’t feel as if he was getting the roles he really wanted so he decided to create his own, though funny enough a lot of his directing efforts were in westerns. Like they say, do what you know.

Personally, the thing that keeps bringing me back to this movie is the main character Jenni Whitlock and the actress who played her, Peggy Webber (she will be getting her own blog post soon) and of course the skull. Peggy Webber is perfection in this movie. The issue with some movies in this genre, is actors can take the acting really over the top and not in a good way. Peggy Webber doesn’t do that. She is very convincing as a fragile, newly wed, in a creepy old house. Dealing with the circumstances she is put in, would be enough to put anyone on edge, let alone be recovering from a nervous breakdown. She is an absolute delight to watch. It’s why I keep watching this movie over and over.

As I also mentioned before, though minimal, her wardrobe is fantastic, including the bullet bra look! She is classic without looking boring. As a sewist, when creating my own wardrobe, I tend to look at the b-movies of the 1950s. Currently, The Screaming Skull and Little Shop of Horrors have been a huge influence and will continue to do so.

Now, back to the movie. If you haven’t seen the movie before, you are in for a treat. It’s about a newly married couple moves into the home of the husband’s late wife. {seriously, who does that to a new bride} The grounds are lovingly looked after by the late wife’s ever loyal gardener, who is still grieving and reminiscent of the dead woman’s memory. Almost immediately after they cross the threshold, creepy and nerve wrecking events begin. These spooky moments have the new lady of the house thinking she is having another breakdown. This movie has it all! Now go watch it!

Below is a link to the entire movie!

Each month I run a b-movie night called Killer B Cinema. Join Lizzie Violet & Zoltan Du Lac for a monthly evening of b-moves from the 1950s to 1990s! Please follow us on Instagram and Facebook!