Sean McCourt

Cock Sparrer is mates first


MUSIC While it may not be a household name in the mainstream music world, Cock Sparrer has been one of the most beloved and influential bands in punk rock for four decades and counting.

Hailing from the East End of London, childhood friends Colin McFaull, Mick Beaufoy, Steve Burgess and Steve Bruce — who all remain members of the group today, along with Daryl Smith, who joined in 1992 — formed the band in 1972.

I first encountered Cock Sparrer blasting out of a stereo at a friend’s house in high school during the mid-1990s, and became an immediate fan of its powerful, sing-along anthems propelled by simple, yet infectiously catchy and memorable melodies and hooks. This is all with lyrics that — while written about growing up working class in England — anybody who grew up in a similar environment could relate to regardless of geography.

A few years after I was bitten by the Sparrer bug, it was announced that the band would be coming to the United States to play a few shows, something it had never done before. One of those gigs in 2000 was at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, so I made the trek up the coast from Santa Cruz with a big group of friends, and we were not disappointed — it was an amazing experience, a huge sing-along that felt more like a giant party than paid concert.

Two return shows in 2009 in the city delivered the same adrenaline and endorphin rush, as did the one I flew to Las Vegas for last year. Local fans can rejoice again, as Cock Sparrer will be gracing us with its presence at two special 40th anniversary shows at the Warfield, co-headlining with Rancid, which will be marking its 20th year.

“We wanted to celebrate our 40th birthday with some special shows and when the opportunity came up to return to San Francisco, we jumped at the chance,” singer Colin McFaull told me from his home in England. “The city holds a special place in the history of Cock Sparrer and we love playing there.”

McFaull points to the fact that band was born out of a group of friends, and that they all remain close, as one of the main reasons that Cock Sparrer has managed to survive for so long, and outlast many of its punk contemporaries.

“We’ve always maintained that we are mates first and band second. We tend to do things at our pace and on our terms. Someone once described us as ‘the biggest little band you’ve never heard of’ and we like that.”

Forty years ago, when the group first got together, this frame of mind was in place — it informed the naming of the band. “We wanted to have a name that was synonymous with where we came from — it’s just an old East London term of affection and means ‘friend.'”

Despite the fact that Cock Sparrer has influenced generations of streetpunk and Oi bands, and the group plays to sold-out crowds when it does venture out to perform live, all the band members still have regular jobs back at home in England — which McFaull says he is perfectly fine with.

“It would be possible to earn more from the band but that’s not really what we’re about — we’ve never taken ourselves too seriously, there are no egos in Cock Sparrer, we wouldn’t allow it. We don’t believe in putting on rock star airs and graces.”

“We’re the sort of band that you’ll find in the bar of the venues we play chatting to fans and on the odd occasion even buying the beers.” 


With Rancid and Factory Minds

March 23-24, 8 p.m., $30 (March 23 sold out)


982 Market, SF

Large, in charge: “Elephant Seals” at the SF Ocean Film Festival


Featuring an incredible variety of fascinating films about the ocean and its importance in nature, along with the role it plays in our society, the ninth San Francisco Ocean Film Festival (running now through Sun/11) showcases programs ranging from documentaries on marine life and environmental science to surfing videos and parables about pollution.

One of the highlights of this year’s festival is the short film Into The Deep With Elephant Seals (screening Sat/10), which offers a unique look at how marine biologists are using new technology to study the elephant seal population at Año Nuevo, just down the coast from San Francisco. Filmmaker Sheraz Sadiq, who produced the film for KQED as part of the station’s excellent QUEST series, says that he and his colleagues had wanted to do a story on elephant seals for some time, but had waited for the right mix of criteria to be met before setting out to do so.

“We wanted to take a different approach, we wanted to highlight the use of technology and the brilliant researchers who are pioneering the use of this technology to understand more information about elephant seals — where they go, what they eat, how long they dive,” he explains.

The captivating short introduces the work of UCSC Professor Dan Costa and his team of students, who are placing — and then retrieving — new satellite tags on a series of elephant seals to gather a variety of data about the animals. Once the story idea was approved, Sadiq and his team had to consider a number of logistical factors and faced a variety of challenges in order to get the project made.

“The timing was very tricky because the elephant seals at Año Nuevo breed from December to March, and getting the necessary permits, the necessary permissions, and working out all those details, along with trying to coordinate our production process with the research team was a bit of a challenge,” says Sadiq.

Even once all the needed arrangements had been made, the film crew faced yet another obstacle — they were going to attempt to film the retrieval of a satellite tag from a specific female subject, who could be at any part of the rookery that day, and not necessarily be in a spot easily accessible by the team. Luckily, the elephant seal was found in a reasonable area, and the day’s work was completed, but not without a close encounter that made an indelible mark in Sadiq’s mind.

“We were just a few yards from a couple of massive, slumbering male elephant seals, then without warning, one of them decided to challenge the other, and reared his massive head and let out this large bellow, and we literally froze in our tracks. It looked as though one was going to charge the other, and if you’ve ever seen a male elephant seal fight, it is a sight to behold, it’s these massive blubbery giants just going at each other. The park ranger very calmly told us to just step back, which is what we did, and fortunately the threat dissipated. That’s definitely a production moment I’ll never forget — and one that I don’t want to relive.”

The film presents a wealth of information and knowledge about elephant seals in a remarkably short amount of time, telling the sad story of how the animals — which can weigh up to 4,500 pounds — were nearly hunted to extinction for their oil-rich blubber in the 1800s, and were reduced to a colony of about only 30 individuals along the coast of Mexico before being protected and making an incredible comeback in the intervening years, reaching a population today estimated to be 170,000.

It also clearly maps out what scientists are learning today from their tagging research, including how far the pinnipeds travel out into the Pacific Ocean during their yearly migrations.

Sadiq attributes part of the film’s success to Costa. “He was terrific,” he says. “I could tell within five minutes of interviewing him that the interview was going to be sterling, he is so comfortable in front of the camera, and that is awesome. When you’re a producer, and you have to talk with incredibly smart researchers, there are some times unfortunately when they’re absolutely amazing, impeccable researchers, but they are just at that rarified academic point of view that it is kind of hard for them to come down and make their research accessible to a lay person. But Dan didn’t have that problem at all. He was extremely comfortable talking to a non-scientist like me about his research, the significance of the research, and why the elephant seals are such fascinating, charismatic animals, and why he had been studying them for 30-plus years.”

When Into The Deep With Elephant Seals screens during the 10 a.m. program Sat/10, Sadiq will be in attendance, and hopes that both the audience at the festival and future viewers take away a few key things from the film. “I really hope that viewers, especially young people, will get inspired by the work of Dan Costa,” he says. “I hope they see this and learn a little bit more about the scientific process and these amazing tools — it’s fascinating and a great joy to see the scientists and the passion that they bring to bear on their research. Plus, I hope they take a keen understanding of elephant seals and their comeback from the brink of extinction — this is a great conservation story.”

San Francisco Ocean Film Festival

Through Sun/11, $5-$12

Bay Theater

Aquarium of the Bay, Pier 39, SF

Cheers, puppeteers!


Showcasing the boldly imaginative and innovative talents of the artisans at the Jim Henson Company, the 1982 fantasy film The Dark Crystal broke new ground when it came to visual special effects and believable creature creations.

The movie’s tale — evil Skeksis versus good Gelflings and Mystics, just tryin’ to restore balance and freedom to their world — captivated viewers’ imaginations upon its release, and has gone on to become a beloved part of many people’s childhood memories. And it’s still earning new fans: in honor of the film’s 30th anniversary, SF Sketchfest presents a special Crystal screening with guest Dave Goelz, who performed the puppetry for fan favorite Fizzgig, as well as the Skeksi Garthim Master SkekUng.

Goelz, who’ll introduce the film and share some rare, behind-the-scenes footage, is looking forward to marking the movie’s milestone with fans. “What I love about doing these events is that it reminds me of the quality of the things we were doing, and that they are enduring, and how much we enjoyed making them,” he says.

Having worked with Henson since 1973, Goelz was no stranger to busting through creative and logistical boundaries on film and television projects, but even he was uncertain for a time about Crystal‘s chances of success. “We all knew Jim as an incredible, indefatigable optimist. He was just so positive about everything, and he just believed that we could do anything — and he usually figured out a way to do it,” Goelz remembers.

“On the first day of shooting, though, we had to have the Skeksis file by the bedside of their dying emperor, and that was the very first shot that I was in. We were up on a two-foot riser, walking, and each Skeksis has two people inside, and then about four people down below, sort of duck walking on the floor, with each one holding a cable control.

Partway through the first shot I fell off the riser — it was dark, I couldn’t see where I was going. I remember thinking at that moment, ‘Jim’s optimism has really caught up with him this time. We’ll never get this thing shot!’ But of course, within two weeks we were ad-libbing in the characters.”

Goelz attributes the film’s success to the hard work of everyone involved, but points especially to Henson’s emotional and financial commitment to the quality of their projects.

“These things were developed and rehearsed for months, only Jim Henson would make that kind of investment,” Goelz says. “He was always like that. People who worked in the shop all those years tell me that he never came in and said, ‘You can’t buy that fabric for Miss Piggy. It’s $200 a yard!’ — he never held back on anything for the shop and the characters.”

In addition to the time, money, and effort spent on bringing the world of Crystal to life through advances in special effects technology, the crew also found simple ways to add depth to the film’s characters, as was the case with the lovable Fizzgig.

“The reason he’s convincing is because he’s used sparingly,” Goelz notes. “He’s a character who can’t really do much; he can move his paws and blink and open his mouth, so if you overexpose him you will realize that he’s limited. But the way he was conceived was to be used sparingly and that was useful.

Secondly, the way he traveled was by rolling [himself into a ball], which made it very easy for us to shoot him. We just rolled him across the shot, so that was extremely simple. One of the simplest things in the movie!”

Having worked with the Muppets for nearly 40 years (bringing life to much-loved characters like Gonzo and Bunsen Honeydew) and lending his talents to affiliated projects such as Labyrinth (1986), Fraggle Rock, and a host of other films and television shows, Goelz says he loves to see the impact of his efforts on fans.

“A lot of people who originally saw these projects [as children] are in their 30s now and have little kids, and they want to pass this along to their kids,” he reflects. “It’s very heartwarming to see there is a legacy.”


Sat/4, 11 a.m., $10

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

Come, as you are


YEAR IN MUSIC While thousands of shoppers — many appearing unfocused in their consumerist abandon — swarmed around me in the midst of Black Friday madness a couple of weeks ago, I knew exactly what I was looking for. Indeed, it was the only thing on my shopping list — the only thing that could make me get out of bed early the morning after Thanksgiving.

Capping off this fall’s many assorted special releases marking the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind, Universal Music was issuing a special, limited-edition, four record, 10-inch vinyl singles box set in conjunction with Record Store Day’s Black Friday festivities.

The re-release of these seminal singles — “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Come As You Are,” “Lithium” and “In Bloom”— probably only appeals to die-hard Nirvana fans or the completests; though possibly also to all those who were around when Nevermind first started making waves, and can vividly remember the impact of each single (and its accompanying music video) as they were released in the fall of 1991 and throughout 1992.

I fall into all of these categories, so it was with reverence and much anticipation that I braved the crowds of Union Square, walked briskly into Rasputin Music, found a set, and grabbed it off the shelf. There were no new tracks to discover, nothing that I hadn’t heard before — but the sense of excitement and joy from racing down to the record store was a welcome feeling, transporting me back to junior high, when Nirvana was exploding, and I was first exposed to a new world of music that would forever changed my life.

It was with these same highly-charged emotions (albeit months earlier) that I made the pilgrimage to Seattle in September to visit a new exhibit celebrating Nirvana’s legacy and impact on popular culture at the Experience Music Project museum. “Nirvana: Taking Punk To The Masses,” opened in April and features a treasure trove of artifacts and interactive installations telling the story behind Nirvana — how it became one of the most influential and beloved rock bands of the last quarter century.

Seeing the instruments that were used to create the music that has had such a profound effect on my life was awe-inspiring; as was gazing at hand-written lyric sheets, original demo tapes, artwork, family photos, stage props and more. Oral histories from band members Krist Novoselic and Chad Channing, along with others who had worked alongside them including producers Jack Endino and Butch Vig, and guitar tech Earnie Bailey, provided a personal look at the life of the band.

When coming to the end of the exhibit, my friend and I both commented that while it was a touching experience, it somehow seemed too brief, that there really should have been more to it. It was then that we looked at each other and came to what should have been an obvious realization; for all its influence and impact on our lives and the lives of millions of fans around the world, Nirvana only existed for a mere seven years. The band’s career, like Kurt Cobain’s life, was cut much too short.

In that time, however, the band made an incredible impression on its fans — and at the end of the exhibit there’s a video station where visitors are invited to share and record their memories of Nirvana — what the music has meant to them personally. After walking past the final panels and displays that recounted the events of April 8, 1994, though, I (and several other people nearby) was a little misty-eyed, and didn’t feel much like trying to sum up what Nirvana has meant to me all these years, on the spot, in front of a camera.

Instead, my friend and I proceeded to do what Nirvana had inspired us to do as teenagers; we went into one of the jam rooms in the museum, picked up a guitar, cranked up the volume, and played some tunes off Nevermind.

Visual wizard


FILM Having brought life to a host of magical creatures and creations in movies including the original Star Wars trilogy, Jurassic Park (1993), RoboCop (1987), Starship Troopers (1997), and more, special effects legend Phil Tippett’s film credits span more than three decades and counting.

Fans of his work and films are in for a special treat Thursday and Friday, when Tippett will be appearing at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley as part of its “Behind the Scenes: The Art and Craft of Cinema” series. Tippett, who was born and raised in Berkeley, will give an illustrated talk, screening film clips from a variety of films that influenced him, then move on to cover his career, showing more clips and behind-the-scenes photos, and sharing personal anecdotes about working on different projects.

King Kong came on television in 1955, when I was 4 years old, and my brain just couldn’t even comprehend what I was seeing. I guess parents didn’t care if kids watched stuff that freaked them out back then,” Tippett laughs.

“Then when I was seven, in ’58, I saw The 7th Voyage of Sinbad — it just totally knocked my socks off. I was never the same after that. It was like a lightning bolt had hit me, and over the years I just tried to figure out what that was that I was looking at, because it was just mesmerizing,” he remembers. “There weren’t really the trade periodicals and journals that they have today. The only thing we had was Forry Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland.”

Tippett religiously read the magazine, and eventually befriended Ackerman, who in turn introduced the budding filmmaker to Ray Harryhausen, the legendary stop motion animation pioneer who had worked on The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Tippett went on to hone his stop-motion skills without the benefit of a formal education, gleaning what he could while offering to help out others already in the industry.

“I never took any film or animation classes or anything like that, but found the people that did, and availed myself to them — you know, throw some hay down in the back room somewhere and I’ll sleep there and help you out,” recalls Tippett. “I was just lucky, being in the right place at the right time.”

Although he remains humble, Tippett has created some of the most iconic images and scenes in modern movie history. Some of his most recognizable work includes the Imperial AT-AT Walkers and Tauntauns from 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, the design of Jabba the Hutt in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, the ED-209 from Robocop, and several dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. Tippett has run his own studio based in Berkeley for the last 25 years, and is still very active in the movie business, with his company being involved with the production of current films such as Immortals, which came out last week.

Although the industry has largely shifted from stop motion animation to computer animation, and Tippett Studios is at the top of the game in that realm, Tippett himself still prefers the classic, old-school method to movie magic making.

“It’s the whole craft — it’s some kind of weird alchemy,” says Tippett. “You are just looking for this thing that’s always elusive and you always surprise yourself in what you find.”


Thurs/17-Fri/18, 7 p.m., $5.50–<\d>$9.50

Pacific Film Archive

2757 Bancroft, Berk.

(510) 642-5249

Weird Al Yankovic never misses a beat at the Fox


For someone who got his start in the music business by recording his first single in the men’s room, “Weird Al” Yankovic has certainly come a long way. Forging a wildly successful career that has lasted three decades and counting, the master of musical parodies hit the stage at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Sunday night, proving that while his act is hilarious, his talents for showmanship and performance are no joke.

Throughout the nearly two-hour show, Yankovic was a tornado of comic energy, leading his band through selections from his entire catalog, starting with “Polka Face,” a medley of contemporary pop parodies from his latest record, Alpocolypse, which includes spoofs of current radio stars such as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber, among others. Fan favorites like “Eat It,” “Amish Paradise,” “My Balogna,” and “White and Nerdy” drew wild applause from the audience, while lesser known, but equally gleeful tracks including “I Want A New Duck” and “Lasagna” were welcome additions to the set list.

When he first appeared on stage, Yankovic was dressed in his trademark Hawaiian shirt, but he and the band quickly began a series of fast-paced costume changes, running backstage between various songs while a series of videos were shown on giant screens above the stage. Entertaining clips of various pop culture references to Yankovic and from the likes of Johnny Carson and The Simpsons, mixed with segments cleverly edited to look like zany interviews between Yankovic and pop culture heads such as Eminem, Madonna, and Jessica Simpson.

Al and company wore a vast and dizzying array of costumes and grabbed props to match his iconic music videos, wardrobe included spot-on wigs and sweaters for “Smells Like Nirvana,” and headbands and a keytar for the Dire Straits take off “Beverly Hillbillies.” Yankovic even managed to pull off the look in the original clip of Michael Jackson spoof “Fat,” charging out in an over-the-top fat suit, and still somehow jumped around stage, singing and dancing without missing one uproarious beat.

While he is mainly known for direct parodies of specific songs, Yankovic has also comically mastered the art of synthesizing a band’s general sound and parlaying it into a
witty and humorous send up. Two of his best and more recent examples were “CNR,” his ode to actor Charles Nelson Reilly, done in the vein of the White Stripes, and “Craigslist,” a Doors-esque tune where he channeled his inner Jim Morrison, complete with leather pants and dark baritone intonations.

For the encore, Yankovic and band came back dressed as Jedi, and were flanked by a line of Stormtroopers and Darth Vader for a rendition of “The Saga Begins,” which tells a tongue in cheek tale of the life story of Anakin Skywalker set to the tune of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” When the song started, the Imperial troops and Sith lord stood at fast attention, but as the song picked up tempo, they broke character and started dancing about to hilarious effect.

Continuing with the Star Wars theme for his last song, Yankovic ended the entertaining show with “Yoda,” his tribute to everybody’s favorite Jedi master,
encouraging the crowd to chant along during the chorus.

The Damned celebrates 35 years of punk at Slim’s


The Damned first turned heads back in 1976. On Saturday night, the UK punk band took to the stage at Slim’s as part of its 35th Anniversary Tour and proved it’s only grown better with time.

Led by founding members Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible, the current lineup of the group ripped through a set of two complete albums from start to finish; its debut LP, Damned Damned Damned, and its fourth release, The Black Album.

When he first walked out on stage and strapped on his guitar, Captain Sensible greeted the audience and thanked them for coming to the special anniversary show, saying with a smirk, “We’re going to play a couple of records that some people consider classics — I guess I can’t really comment on that.”

The band then launched into the first salvo of the opening bass notes of “Neat Neat Neat,” on to “New Rose,” “Drinking About My Baby,” “Hit Or Miss” and more, charging through the material, with the sold-out crowd singing along with Vanian’s goth punk-meets-rockabilly crooner vocals, and pulsing to the jackhammer rhythm section of drummer Pinch and bassist Stu Miller. Keyboardist Monty Oxy Moron presided over the proceedings like some sort of mad conductor or possessed version of Beethoven, his hands flailing wildly about when not pounding the keys.

After completing the two albums in their entirety, the group came back out for a short encore of other fan favorites, including “Jet Boy, Jet Girl,” (with Vanian encouraging the crowd to help him with the tune’s signature “woo-ooh-ooh-ooh!” chorus) and ending with the appropriately titled “Smash It Up.” Once again, the Damned cemented its reputation as one of the best bands to come out of the first wave of punk.



Harry Houdini: the name conjures up a multitude of images and ideas about what a magician and escape artist should be. The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco is currently celebrating that rich and long-lasting legacy with Houdini: Art and Magic, a new exhibit featuring a collection of vintage photographs, event posters, archival film, original props, art installations, and more, focusing on the world’s most famous magician — who died in 1926, on Halloween.

“The genesis for the show was just really seeing how Houdini’s relevance still remains today in popular culture, and how despite being born in 1874, he still is so visible in the culture, visible in contemporary art. His celebrity has really transcended three centuries,” says CJM curator Dara Solomon.

The exhibition was originally put together by the Jewish Museum in New York, with the CJM also getting involved early on in the process, as local organizers felt that there would be a strong interest in Houdini from the Bay Area — after all, the legendary icon had performed in San Francisco several times; he appeared at the Orpheum Theater, broke out of locked box lowered into the bay at Aquatic Park, and hung off the side of the Hearst Building to perform his famous straitjacket escape stunt.

Tracing Houdini’s life from his birth as Erich Weiss in Budapest in 1874 and following his family’s immigration to the United States, his upbringing as the son of a rabbi, and the eventual evolution of his performing talents and ascension to the world stage, the exhibit tells Houdini’s story through displays of rarely-seen personal photographs, handwritten journals, and what may be the biggest draws for fans — a trunk, milk can, straitjacket, and handcuffs that actually belonged to the magician and were used in his shows.

What visitors to the exhibit won’t see are any explanations or descriptions revealing Houdini’s secrets — something that organizers wanted to avoid.

“It would be seen as the ultimate sort of betrayal if the exhibition set out to reveal Houdini’s tricks,” says Solomon. “He worked so hard at making his body this sort of instrument to do these performances, he was in such amazing physical shape — that was what really allowed him to do these amazing feats of strength.”

Another aspect to the exhibit is the exploration of the impact of Houdini and his mystique on contemporary artists — paintings and other installations from artists such as Deborah Oropallo and Raymond Pettibon add to the survey of his legacy.

“So many artists in the past 20 or 25 years have really been taken by Houdini as inspiration and as a model for how an artist works; they find this real connection with the art of the magician and the art that they make, that they are both illusionists,” says Solomon.

For 10 years after his death, Houdini’s widow Bess conducted séances on Halloween attempting to contact and communicate with him from beyond the grave — with his ever-growing popularity, and a new fan base with each new generation, somebody, somewhere in the world will undoubtedly be trying to do the same on Monday night.

“I think that there has been nobody else like him — he was such a master of communications and a marketing genius that he ensured that he left this incredible legacy,” says Solomon. “When people think of the world of magic, he is still the one and only.”



Through Jan. 16, 2012

Thurs., 1-8 p.m.; Fri.-Tues., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

$5–<\d>$12 (18 and under free)

Contemporary Jewish Museum

736 Mission, SF

(415) 655-7800

Think this is Judas Priest’s final concert? You’ve got another thing coming


With some of the most memorable and recognizable heavy metal anthems ever put to tape or performed live, Judas Priest has been at the forefront of the scene for some 40 years now. Featuring singer Rob Halford’s piercing vocals, the twin guitar attacks of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, and the rock solid rhythm section of Ian Hill and Scott Travis, the band has come a long way from its humble beginnings in Birmingham, England, where it earned the moniker, “Metal Gods.”

Songs such as “The Ripper,” “Breaking The Law,” “Living After Midnight,” “Hell Bent For Leather,” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” are among just a few of the classic tracks that fans will be able to sing along with the band when they take the stage in Concord tonight. Although this outing for Judas Priest is being dubbed the “Epitaph” tour, and some venues are advertising it as a “farewell” tour, that doesn’t exactly mean what it might imply, as Halford explains over the phone from a tour stop in Las Vegas.

“We don’t want to get wrapped up in these farewell fiascos where people say ‘We’re quitting,’ and then come back three years later, we think that’s not a very cool thing to do, so we’re making it plain and clear to fans that this is not the end of Priest — this is our last world tour, but we will be going out for selected shows in the future.”  Halford, who recently turned 60, said the band’s decision to stop undertaking massive world tours after this one was due in part to several factors, with the desire to continue to making quality music and put on the caliber of shows that fans have come to expect from Judas Priest being the ultimate reason.

“We’re just facing mortality and reality — the fact that these big world tours take a couple of years to accomplish, and we’re such a physically demanding bunch of guys, we really push each other on stage, so it’s a workout as much as anything else. We just had three back to back shows and I’m feeling it today,” Halford says.

He promises fans an epic concert tonight, worthy of the band’s storied reputation — a nearly two and a half hour set featuring songs spanning the entire spectrum of it’s career, and of course, an elaborate stage show, complete with the lights, lasers, smoke, costume changes, and more. The singer adds that he will ride out on his signature Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which is something done for JP tradition, and it also represents something for him personally.

“The Harley really represents rock ‘n’ roll — it’s made of metal, which is very apropos, and then of course it’s loud and smells and pisses certain people off. Rock ‘n’ roll should still be a kick in the butt, it should still be offensive to some people who don’t understand it.”

As a sign that Judas Priest really is going to continue on in the future, Halford says the band is working on a new album. With most of the songs already written, he hopes to record and have it out sometime next year.  “We’ve been in each other’s lives for so long, it would just seem an impossible thought not to see each other again, and not to work with each other again. There will be more to come,” Halford laughs, “as Johnny Carson used to say…that’s showing my age!”

He ends in a more serious tone: “It’s a combination of a lot of feelings and emotions when you’ve been doing something as wonderful as we have for the last four decades — we’ve loved every minute of it.”

Judas Priest
With Thin Lizzy and Black Label Society
Thurs/27, 6pm, $20-$108.50.
Sleep Train Pavilion  
2000 Kirker Pass, Concord

The killer next door


TRASH Having terrified generations of horror film fans with his portrayals of some of cinema’s most feared and iconic characters, Kane Hodder is a modern monster movie legend.

Perhaps best known for his long-time portrayal of the hockey mask-clad killer Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th franchise (he played the role four times — more than any other person) the actor and stuntman has had a storied 30-plus year career in Hollywood, which he covers in his excellent new autobiography, Unmasked: The True Story of the World’s Most Prolific Cinematic Killer (Author Mike Ink, 352 pgs., $25.99).

Co-written with Michael Aloisi, the book is full of great behind-the-scenes stories from Hodder’s entertainment work, but it also delves into his childhood, when he was the victim of many a bully, and into brutally honest and heartbreaking (but ultimately inspiring) detail about the horrific burn he suffered in a 1977 stunt gone awry.

“It’s not so much the re-living the traumatic stuff that’s hard, but it’s the stuff that I am really grateful for that’s hard or emotional to talk about,” says Hodder over the phone from a book tour stop in Massachusetts. “It’s like any other therapy session, though — you talk about the things that bother you and you feel better.”

The softer side of the celluloid boogeyman is revealed throughout the pages, from stories about the people that helped save him and aided his recovery, to interacting with his loyal fans. Hodder also talks about teaming up with Scares That Care! a nonprofit organization run by horror industry professionals to help sick children.

“It’s nice to not only help raise money — I [also] enjoy talking to young people who have burned or have been bullied, because I can certainly identify with both of those things,” he says.

One shouldn’t think that Hodder has lost any of his ability or appetite for terrorizing, however. His roles in recent films such as BTK (2008) and Hatchet (2006) are clear examples of that. He enjoys giving people a good scare even when he’s not working on screen — around Halloween he sometimes appears at events at haunted houses and attractions to sign autographs — and he can’t help himself from getting in on a little of the fright action.

“Very often I’ll just go into the haunted house and take somebody’s spot for a while, and scare people for fun. When I can smell that fear it’s very intoxicating to me,” Hodder says with a dark chuckle. “I just really enjoy scaring people, I think it’s so much fun.”

Write what you know


LIT Most fans probably associate Will “The Thrill” Viharo with Thrillville, the awesomely cool series of B movie screenings he hosted at the Parkway (now closed) and Cerrito (now operating under new ownership) theaters. But in recent years, Viharo’s become “The Quill,” shifting his focus to his first love: writing. He’s written several novels and numerous short projects in a retro, neo-pulp vein; he’s currently working on new material as well as publishing several of his older novels, some of which go back decades. He started his first novel, Chumpy Walnut — about a foot-tall boy lost in a world of macabre make-believe — when he was only 16.

“I am a born writer, as pretentious as that may sound. I’m basically unemployable, possess no other marketable or practical skills, and so realistically, my career options are severely limited. It’s a matter of simple survival: sink or swim, write or die,” the 48-year-old Alameda resident explains. “Once I started writing, I just couldn’t stop. It’s how I respond to life and the world in general, my natural mode of expression. I really have no choice.”

Viharo’s first published novel, Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me, was released in 1995 by Wild Card Press. Movie rights to the book, which introduced recurring character Vic Valentine, have been owned by the actor Christian Slater for the past ten years — though Valentine, a San Francisco private eye, has yet to make his big-screen debut. Undeterred, Viharo has penned a slew of other killer, colorfully-titled books, including A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge, Fate is My Pimp, Romance Takes a Rain Check, and Diary of a Dick. All are written in a feverish style that recalls not only the hard-boiled detective novels of authors like Raymond Chandler, but also a wide variety of cinematic influences.

“My work has always been informed and creatively inspired by films, particularly exploitation cinema, and all kinds of ‘mood music,’ even more so than my sundry literary influences,” Viharo says. “I think that’s why my stuff has a keen visual sense and fluent rhythm unique to the form, kind of like graphic novels, sans the graphics.”

It makes perfect sense then that Viharo has made a book trailer to help promote his work. The clip, posted on his website (, recalls a classic film noir narrated by tempting excerpts from Viharo’s books. The brand-newest Viharo tome, Freaks That Carry Your Luggage Up To The Room, is a blistering tale he describes as “gonzo bizarro pulp;” it’s due out in November. He’s self-releasing it, as he has all his works since Love Stories.

“My stuff is good, I know it, and I’m taking it directly to the audience I know is already out there, bypassing the corporate middleman,” Viharo says. He’s learned that the mainstream publishing industry is a conservative, fickle beast — and he’s done trying to win the hearts of corporate titans. “I’m actually riding a new wave since digital publishing has usurped the marketplace, opening doors for many neglected talents at both ends of the scale.”

Viharo’s novels are available online through Lulu as eBooks or print-on-demand paperbacks, and he recently got approval to sell Down a Dark Alley on iTunes after a period of “special review” — it seems his more lurid material had triggered an additional vetting before being given the green light.

“Basically, after several decades of self-exploration, I have no more inhibitions, at least artistically,” Viharo says. “My brain has been irrevocably damaged over the years, via sustained exposure to the insanity of our world as well as endless viewings of seriously fucked-up movies, and it shows, but I’m shameless by nature.”

Although his books can feature sensationalistic and savage settings, events, and characters, they are still meant to be simply entertaining — a goal that they exceedingly achieve, thanks to Viharo’s artistic outlook.

“Even the most graphic depictions of XXX kinky sex and ultra-violence are presented in a satirical, cartoonish context, not meant to be taken too seriously,” says Viharo. “I’m a softie at heart; my hard-boiled veneer is pretty transparent, I think. It’s impossible for me to remove my tongue from my cheek no matter how twisted my subject matter happens to be.”

Hey Nikki! Sixx heads to SF to sign his new book, “This Is Gonna Hurt”


Known not only for his fiery stage presence and key songwriting contributions as bassist for Mötley Crüe, Nikki Sixx gained a notorious reputation for his off-stage antics as well, particularly his legendary appetite for drugs and debauchery. Sober now for several years, Sixx detailed many of these early escapades and horrors in his 2007 book The Heroin Diaries.

He returns — just in time before a major summer tour featuring Mötley Crüe, Poison, and the New York Dolls, which hits San Francisco June 15 — with the follow up, This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography and Life Through The Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx (William Morrow), a look at his post-addiction life that finds him a successful author, radio host, and of course, still rocking the stage as a member of the Crüe and Sixx: A.M.

The new book, which Sixx signs tonight (Thurs/14) at Book Passage in the Ferry Building, is a strikingly designed collection of attention grabbing and thought-provoking photos and essays, a body of work that covers a wide variety of subjects. When he came up with his first draft of the project, Sixx says that it wound up being 500 pages long — his passions for the book and subjects inspiring a flurry of writing that he eventually streamlined into the 200 page tome that was released earlier this week.

“I had this body of work from the last ten years as a photographer, and once I started talking about photography, it was really like peeling an onion; I started looking at a lot of social issues, a lot of issues of my own, where I came from, where I’m at and where I’m going,” says Sixx.

“It took a lot of trimming down and finding that thread — when I write I kind of just do this stream of consciousness writing, I’m really influenced by Beat Generation writers. I can really get lost in words, and sometimes that’s hard for a reader to follow, so it really took an editor to help me figure out the best way to deliver the message.”

That main message, which Sixx touches on throughout the book, is that he hopes to show people a different way of looking at life, that where mainstream society sees freaks and deformities, he sees through to the inner beauty.

Some of the images he captured while travelling the world on tour with Mötley Crüe; there are pictures of the band included, but the collection mainly focuses on his adventures offstage: exploring brothels in Germany, drug-infested alleys in Vancouver, gothic churches in St. Petersburg, Russia. Several images featured in the book were shot in his private photography studio, with models running the gamut from women who could be called obese to men with a variety of birth defects to a double amputee.

“For me, it’s all about seeing something and going for it, I wanted to push myself to the next level as a photographer,” says Sixx, who says that after working with the models, he often felt that they were the type of person that he — and others — should aspire to be.

In one passage of the book, he relates a story of visiting San Francisco a few years ago; while walking down by the waterfront and piers, he was approached by a large, African American homeless man, who said, “Hey Tattoo Man…you have any money?”

Sixx replied, “I’ll do you a favor if you do me one…don’t judge me by the color of my skin, ok?”

The man apologized, Sixx smiled and told him “It’s ok, happens all the time.”

The man’s response: “Yeah, me too.”

“That fit with what the overall message of This Is Gonna Hurt is all about, it really is in a nutshell what we do to each other as people, and this man who has been judged is whole life is judging another man. And I’m guilty of it too, it’s something I have to work on,” says Sixx.

With several book signings in the near future, the release of the book’s companion CD from Sixx: A.M., the summer Mötley Crüe tour, his radio show and new clothing line, Sixx certainly has his plate full; he admits to being a workaholic in the book, but it clearly brings him satisfaction and inspiration.

“I’m just so excited to get out there and see what kind of reaction that it raises in people,” says Sixx, who hopes that the book will inspire his fans to do something creative and fulfilling in their own lives. “Music will always be there, along with other creative outlets, whether its clothing design, or photography, or writing. For me, creativity is something anybody can do at any age — not have, do. Some people say, ‘Well I’m not a creative person’ — that’s not true. If you want to be creative you can be, you can pick up a guitar or a pen or whatever, and it’s sort of like being a magician — you just make stuff appear, it can come out of thin air. It’s amazing.”

6 p.m., purchase of book ($29.99) is required for admission.
Book Passage
1 Ferry Building, SF
(415) 835-1020

A long time ago, in a galaxy not far away


SCI-FI DOCUMENTARY Recalling a simpler time — before mass commercialization and marketing took over the world of science fiction, pop culture, and fan conventions — local filmmaker Tom Wyrsch’s new documentary Back To Space-Con conveys the story of the home-grown, grassroots-fueled sci-fi conventions of the 1970s, told through interviews with the people behind the events, fans who were there, and rare footage shot on location here in the Bay Area more than 30 years ago.

Coming off the successes of his first two projects, 2008’s Watch Horror Films, Keep America Strong, which looked at the local TV phenomenon Creature Features and last year’s wildly popular Remembering Playland At The Beach, about the now-gone San Francisco beach-side amusement park, it wasn’t hard for Wyrsch to decide on what subject to tackle next.

Several years ago, the late Bob Wilkins, former host of Creature Features, had given Wyrsch a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind 16mm footage taken for his show at a series of Star Trek and sci-fi conventions, showing a great array of fans, their handmade costumes, and of course, the many special guests and celebrities who were on hand.

Wyrsch himself had attended some of these events, the larger ones called “Space-Con,” when he was growing up in the Bay Area. “At that time they were a brand new experience,” says Wyrsch. “To go to these conventions was just fabulous. And they definitely left a mark.”

With his fond memories in place and the opportunity to use Wilkins’ rare original footage, Wyrsch decided to interview the people who helped put on the shows, along with those who had attended the conventions as fans, all to help share the feeling of what it was like back then, which the film does very effectively.

“My approach to making documentaries is to really do two things: First, I want to take people back who actually experienced it. The other part is, I want to be able to take people there who never had a chance to go because they either weren’t in the area or they were too young,” says Wyrsch.

One of the great things about Back To Space-Con is seeing all the homespun costumes that fans wore — this was before the Star Trek movies started being made, and for some of the conventions included here, just before and at the beginning of the Star Wars (1977) phenomenon. There were virtually no official costumes or merchandise, and many of the people interviewed remark how wonderful it was to see such creativity and excitement in their fellow fans.

“[Space-Cons] were fan-based conventions that really did not have anything to do with the industry. They were the fans putting on shows for each other,” says Wyrsch. “In the film you can see how they are the grassroots movement of conventions that led to the ones we have today.”

Wyrsch is grateful to have been able to use so much original film footage, and he hopes viewers will appreciate how rare it is that material like this has survived all this time.

“What the younger generation doesn’t know was that it was very difficult and very expensive to go out in the field and do an interview or to film indoors because of lighting and the old cameras,” he explains. “With video and all the high-tech electronics and computers you can put in the camera [today], you don’t have to worry about that stuff anymore. But back then, it was tough, and with a lot of interviews they would go out and do them and then throw the film away because there was no use to it anymore and it took up a lot of storage space. Bob [Wilkins] kept this, and he kept part of history.”

Wyrsch will be on hand at a special Back to Space-Con premiere event at the Balboa Theater, along with former Chronicle writer and Creature Features host John Stanley, and Ernie Fosselius, the man behind the Star Wars spoof Hardware Wars (1978).

“I think people get to see the simplicity that was there in the seventies, it wasn’t so regimented like they are nowadays,” says Wyrsch. “And people love that.”


Thurs/14, 7 p.m., $10

Balboa Theater

3630 Balboa, SF

(415) 221-8184


Transylvania twist


FILM For many devoted fans of horror films who grew up in the 1980s — especially those who were monster kids in spirit or became one in the ensuing years — the 1987 movie The Monster Squad has a special, firmly staked place in their hearts.

Paying tribute to the icons of the classic Universal monster pantheon while weaving a modern storyline into the mix, writer and director Fred Dekker created a now-cult favorite, a film that is scary and funny, entertaining and touching all at the same time.

Dekker, who was born in San Francisco and grew up in Marin County, will appear for a post-screening Q&A after The Monster Squad unspools at the Castro Theatre, part of Midnites for Maniacs’ “Heavy Metal Monster Mash” (the rest of the mash: 1981’s Heavy Metal, 1984’s This is Spinal Tap, 1986’s Trick or Treat, and 1984’s Monster Dog).

“I loved the Universal monster movies and would stay up on Saturday nights and watch those on TV, but I also loved The Little Rascals and Our Gang and Abbott and Costello,” Dekker says. “The Monster Squad came out of my idea to kind of do a new take on Our Gang — kids with a club who all have their own lives apart from their parents and grown-ups — [mixed] with the Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) approach, where they meet the classic Universal monsters. That was the genesis of it in a nutshell.”

Although the film has finally gotten some of the recognition it deserves over the past several years, culminating in a two-disc 20th anniversary edition DVD release, along with several tributes and live events around the country, it was not considered a success at the box office when initially released.

“It was a little depressing for me because I had worked so hard on it and I felt like I hadn’t connected, but I’m happy that we made the movie that we wanted to make,” the director says. “We made a very peculiar kind of movie. We made it for ourselves, and a lot of the choices that seem a little politically incorrect now actually make the movie, I think, hold up better because we were true to the characters and our experience as kids. I think that people respond to that, the verisimilitude of it.”

In addition to the bold, creative reimagining of the monsters and their design and characteristics, Dekker added another layer of depth to the story with the character referred to as “Scary German Guy.” Viewers discover he’s a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp when he tells the kids that he has dealt with “monsters” before, and the camera zooms in on his camp tattoo.

“I believe that genre stuff only really works if it’s got some foot in reality that an audience can relate to,” Dekker explains. “I think you have to imagine that the world you’re seeing in the movie is the world you live in. It makes those fantastical elements more believable.”

Dekker didn’t realize that The Monster Squad had become such a beloved part of so many people’s lives until a few years ago, when he was invited to a tribute event in Austin. These days, he enjoys attending screenings and events, and is looking forward to answering questions from local fans on Saturday.

“I found that the movie had this enormous following from the people who had grown up with it and taken it to heart because they saw themselves in it,” he says. “It’s been really gratifying in a weird way, because it did find its audience — it just took 20 years.” 


Sat/16, 2:30 p.m. (Monster Squad, 4:45 p.m.)

$13 for all five films

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

(415) 621-6120

SATURDAY SATURDAY SATURDAY! Monster trucks, y’all!


For many of us that grew up in the 1970s and 80s, the recent slew of TV commercials for this weekend’s “Monster Jam” monster truck event in Oakland has been bringing back a flood of fond memories, with the overly-exaggerated and amped up announcer wildly informing us about the stampede of horsepower that is about to come thundering into town — though it’s Sat/26, not SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY as it seemed most of the ads back then proclaimed.

Generations of kids have undoubtedly imagined being in the driver’s seat of Bigfoot, Grave Digger, or one of the other many colorful and burly monstrous machines over the years, going to live shows, watching them on TV, or playing with their Hot Wheels toys in the backyard.

One Bay Area native who has gone on to actually become a professional monster truck driver is Kelvin Ramer, who was born and raised in Corralitos, down in Santa Cruz County. Ramer’s retro cool custom creation is Time Flys, a monster truck based on the body of a 1934 Ford pick up, which he drives for his own family-run team, the appropriately named Living The Dream Racing.

Ramer can trace his racing and automotive roots back to high school, where he spent a lot of time in the auto shop, and got his first 4×4. He then attended UTI, worked as a mechanic for several years, opened his own shop, Auto Care Towing, and gradually became involved with the local auto racing and monster truck scene.

Finally, about 14 years ago, he bought the first part to start building his own monster truck — but it would be another 7 years before it was completed.

“I started buying parts and saving money and building, saving and building until it was done,” says Ramer, who now takes part in about 30 monster truck events each year, some part of the famous ‘Monster Jam’ series, others at smaller, independent events, fairs, and festivals.

Considering the humble beginnings of his truck and team, Ramer has come a long way, having travelled all throughout the western United States with Time Flys — and now he even has his own official Hot Wheels car — Mattel approached him last year about making a replica toy of Time Flys, and he excitedly approved.

“From where we started to where we are now is sort of surreal. They’ve actually made a Hot Wheels of Time Flys! It’s sort of unbelievable that something I designed is a Hot Wheel. It’s like, ‘I’ve really made it big — I’ve got a Hot Wheel!’”

This weekend’s show will be somewhat like a hometown event for Ramer, who with his family and team, does all the work on the 10,500 pound, 1500 horsepower truck at his shop in Watsonville. On Saturday he’s expecting that he’ll probably see many of the same fans that have come to meet him before, which thrills him — and he always enjoys meeting new ones as well, and likes to use the opportunity to help inspire people, in several different ways.

“I had a whole bunch of Boy Scouts come up at the last show I was at — they were about the right age for algebra and calculus — so I started talking about how my shocks work, and how the pressures change in the shocks from the accumulator from the nitrogen side to the liquid side. I started giving them the numbers, and they realized that there’s a lot of mathematics involved in monster trucks and understanding how to adjust these things and tune them — you can actually lay it all out on paper mathematically.”

He also makes side trips to meet with some of his fans, such as a young boy in Turlock, who has had to have multiple heart surgeries, and he sees him every time he’s in town. He’s gotten to know the family over the past couple of years, and recently the boy’s mom told Ramer that her son won’t wear a nice shirt to the first day of school, he’ll only wear his Time Flys shirt.

Ramer says that it’s things like this that are really what he appreciates about being in the position that he is, whether it’s helping out charities, visiting one on one with fans, or simply getting out there and smashing some cars and blowing off some steam in front of thousands of spectators.

“To me, it’s really cool that I have the ability to let people forget their troubles for a few hours, and bring a smile to their face.”

“Monster Jam 2011”
Sat/26, 3 p.m. pit party; 7 p.m. main event, $7.50–$30
Oakland Coliseum
7000 Coliseum Way, Oakl.

Forget “Deborah” — Debbie Gibson is back!


Despite having had a nearly 25-year (and counting) career in show business, singer Debbie Gibson is still full of youthful energy and excitement when talking about recent projects and what she has planned for the future — perhaps that is due in part to the fact that she had her first hit single and taste of fame when she was only 16 years old. The ever-vivacious Gibson is particularly excited about taking part in a benefit concert and cabaret show tonight here in San Francisco, “One Night Only: A Shrektacular Holiday Celebration,” which will also feature the cast of Shrek currently at the Orpheum Theatre, and raises funds for the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation.

“Pretty much if I’m available, I can’t say no to this organization,” says Gibson, who has always been heavily involved with helping charitable groups throughout her career. “I really enjoy these intimate shows with solo theater performers, and it’s kind of a perfect fit for me — obviously I bring my pop persona to the table, but at the same time I’m part of the theater community, so it makes perfect sense really.”

The ‘80s pop chanteuse, famous for her initial hits such as “Only In My Dreams,” “Out of the Blue,” and “Electric Youth,” was one of the few stars of that time and genre who wrote and arranged much of her own material, which led to her successful forays into Broadway productions, and eventually into acting for film.

Her recent appearance in the cult B-movie Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus has also sparked a new run of interest for celluloid gigs, with Gibson happily looking forward to the release of a new SyFy Channel movie, Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, which finds her teamed with another singer and actress who once vied for the same airwaves and video times as she did back in the 1980s — none other than Tiffany.

[Mega Shark] was so bad it was good; this one is smart, kitschy, and campy, it’s sexy sci-fi horror, and it was so much fun to do,” enthuses Gibson. “The first one was done a lot on blue screen, and all that; for this one I was hanging from rope ladders, crawling in the swamp, and climbing buildings. It was actually quite an action movie in addition to being a sci fi movie. Throw in a little food fight between me and Tiffany and there you go!”

Gibson says that both actresses had fun playing on their supposed rivalry from their youth, and that they didn’t mind that some of the people behind the film may have had, er, some ulterior motives. “We were like, ‘what dirty old men at SyFy sat around [asking] how they could get Tiffany and Debbie Gibson to get whipped cream on each other?'”

Gibson is referencing a scene from the movie — which comes out next month — that was released early, showing a drawn-out, extended cat fight between the two involving smashed cake, wrestling in a river, and a hilarious reference to the title of one of their hit songs. At tonight’s special show, Gibson is planning on performing a new song, one she hopes will provide a new take on holiday tunes, and also on her supposedly squeaky clean image from her past. 

“I wrote it about a year ago, and it’s a kind of a modern ‘Santa Baby,’ a sexy, jazzy, original Christmas song. It’s tongue in cheek,  mocking myself, it’s called ‘The Naughty List’ — I’ve always been the good girl and I’d very much like to be on ‘The Naughty List’ for once!”

Debbie Gibson
Mon/13, 8 p.m., $35-$65
Theatre 39, Pier 39, SF
(415) 273-1620

Are you ready for GWAR??


Apparently, even the massive, all-powerful aliens and scumdogs of the universe known as GWAR have trouble with reception on their iPhones.

While conducting a phone interview before a show in Hollywood, band leader Oderus Urungus’ connection cut out twice, leaving him grumbling, “Maybe I’m clutching my iPhone too tightly!”

Perhaps it was his giant claws proving to be too much for our puny human technology to handle — either way, once the connection was re-established, the intergalactic beast that has led GWAR for more than a quarter century had no shortage of hilarious and outrageous things to say.

Having just finished taping a segment for the Fuel TV show Daily Habit, Oderus was being informed that he had revealed a bit more of himself to the television audience than he had thought. “I just did the show apparently with my balls hanging out the entire time and nobody told me! That’s not like a big thing for Oderus, my balls usually are hanging out — but to try to get on national TV, I’m willing to do the ball tuck, but apparently the ball tuck didn’t work, it was horrible, it looked like a duck-billed platypus coming out of a burrow or something!”

Although someone out there in TV land was undoubtedly offended by this show of alien masculinity, they can just add themselves to the scores of non-believers and critics who have unsuccessfully assailed the musical and cultural force that is GWAR over the past couple of decades. Currently celebrating their 25th anniversary, the heavy metal space gang that brought our planet recorded gems such as Scumdogs of the Universe and This Toilet Earth are back in all their unholy glory with a new album, The Bloody Pit of Horror (Metal Blade).

Propelled by the first sleazy single, “Zombies, March!,” Oderus Urungus and his cohorts have returned in fine beastly form, ready to again spread their love to fans around the globe — which of course means spraying audiences with all manner of fake blood, bodily fluids, and god knows what else.

At a time when many bands their age would be mellowing out and producing so-called “mature” material, GWAR has shown that they are only getting dirtier and heavier with time, as any fan should expect from a group with their background and history.

“With any of the records we’ve made, we didn’t really go into it with a preconceived notion of what it was going to sound like. We just went at it and tried to make the record that was appropriate to what we felt like at the time, and I guess we were feeling particularly ferocious [with this one],” says Oderus. “We just wanted to emphasize how fucking awesome we are, and recall a day not so long ago when bands actually put out an album about once a year — nowadays that just doesn’t happen, bands take forever in between albums, and half the time they’re full of re-mixes, or tracks from other albums that got cut.

We just wanted to have a whole bunch of great music for our fans, and just celebrate the idea of GWAR. One of the things about this album that’s a little different that gives it that ferocious sound is that we tuned down I believe to F#, which is basically the loosest that guitar strings can be and still stay on the neck — it sounds like the guitars are vomiting — in a good way! I think it makes for a very powerful record.”

When asked if his band of rubber aliens, mutants, deviants and demons ever looks back on their history and thinks about the fact that they’ve been  doing what they do successfully for so long, the answer is a firm “No.”

“If we took the time to go back and actually examine what we were doing, we’d be so shocked and appalled that we’d stop doing it. It’s better to just keep mindlessly plugging onward,” laughs Oderus. “[With that being said] we are very well aware of just how awesome it is what we’ve managed to do, and we intend to keep doing it as long as possible — or until we escape the planet Earth, whichever comes first.”

With the release of The Bloody Pit of Horror, GWAR have been hitting the road in support, crossing the United States and making an appearance on national late night television, with a performance last month on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

“We did Springer and Joan Rivers like 20 years ago, and it took them 20 years to let us back on television!”

Oderus himself has been making several more recent appearances on TV, however — in the last year or so he’s been a regular guest on, of all places, a Fox News program, Red Eye. Although it does sound like an awfully strange pairing, the intergalactic barbarian thinks that Fox sees in him a potential for higher ratings, thus justifying having a giant space beast running around their studios.

“It is an odd match that they would put GWAR in a position where I can not only comment on society but do it over and over again, but obviously they’re having a little fun with it. It’s pretty funny to be walking around the Fox studios in New York City and run into Glenn Beck…yeah, Oderus and him are hanging out, backstage buddies!”

Having toured all over the world in the past 25-plus years, Oderus and his bandmates have seen all manner of crazy and twisted things, but the singer says that no place can hold a candle to what’s he’s seen and experienced right here in San Francisco.

“Pretty much every time we’ve been to San Francisco, it’s been insane, since the very first GWAR tour where we showed up in an old school bus, and ended up parked in the Tenderloin for a week straight, that neighborhood was really bad. And then our show at the Warfield where the bums were dropping dead right outside of the venue; the line was going around the block, they were three dead homeless people laying on the sidewalk, and out fans were just very politely stepping over their corpses, that was pretty weird!”

He also mentions a doorman selling crack by the side of the stage within just a few feet of a nearby cop — one that at first the band didn’t even believe was a real officer. “I thought he was a guy that dressed up in a joke cop outfit, because his uniform was so fucked up and dirty, and he was driving this cop car that was all beat to shit, the fenders were even hanging off it!”

With that said, Oderus is eagerly looking forward to playing here in the city on Sunday, and has some words of praise for his local fans.

“San Franciscans — you still have a complete, stone cold lock on the sickest, weirdest, most fucked up town in the United States. New Orleans has nothing on you people!”


With the Casualties, Infernaeon, and Mobile Death Camp
Sun/21, 7:30 p.m., $22-$25
Regency Ballroom
1290 Sutter St., SF
(800) 745-3000

Next stop Mustaine: rappin’ with the Megadeth man


Dave Mustaine has seen more than his fair share of difficult obstacles to overcome throughout his musical career due to his past drug and alcohol addictions, which famously got him kicked out of the early line up of Metallica. Even during his ensuing triumphs with his own band, long-time metal favorites Megadeth, he struggled often with his demons.

Now clean and sober, the singer and guitarist is riding high on his current successes, which include a new autobiography, Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir (Harper Collins) which hit the New York Times’ best seller list earlier this month when it was published. Megadeth’s latest studio album, 2009’s Endgame (Roadrunner Records) was received well by both fans and critics, and the band is currently on the road as part of the “American Carnage Tour” with Slayer and Testament.

Mustaine and company hit the Cow Palace tonight; he also did a book signing this morning. The first-time author is happy with the ways things have been going so far during his first foray into the literary world.

“I’m very excited about it, because when I initially set out to write this thing, it wasn’t to be on the Oprah book club — although now that I know a little bit more about books it would certainly be cool to sit on the couch and tell her a little bit about my story,” says Mustaine, speaking by phone before a concert in Albuquerque.

“My story is about helping other people and just giving people an indication that they’re not the only one that’s going through hard shit — and that you’ve just got to turn your collar up and lean into the wind, and persevere.”

In the book, Mustaine details his troubled upbringing; how his mother had to take her children and constantly flee from his alcoholic father, how her struggles led to an involvement with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and how this religious indoctrination would eventually cause a rift between mother and son that resulted in his moving out on his own at the age of 15. There are the stories of sex and drugs along with the music, as is pretty much a requisite of any rock n’ roll memoir, but Mustaine doesn’t attempt to glorify his past mistakes.

“I’ve always wanted to tell the truth to people about what happened to my career, so they don’t think that I’m such a horrible person. I remember when my son was just a little guy and we did VH1’s Behind The Music and I had talked about crack — my son was coming home on the bus and some of the older students started chanting ‘Your dad’s a crack head’ to the point where he was in tears. It was really painful.”

Mustaine’s now-infamous stint in the early days of Metallica are covered as well, giving an insider’s perspective on what really happened — and despite years of trading barbs in the press, the axeman has appeared to have resolved most of the issues that he had with the other members of that band, who unceremoniously gave him the boot during a 1983 trip to New York. Earlier this year Megadeth and Metallica, along with Slayer and Anthrax — collectively known by fans as “The Big Four” — performed a handful of concerts together in Europe.

“I saw them over in Europe, we had dinner and it was fine. I was sitting there at the table with Lars and James, and I thought it was so great that we were together again — we’re in different bands, but the fact that we as three young little guys, what we accomplished, how we changed the world. I mean honestly, you can’t even listen to a television program anymore without hearing music that’s [evolved from] what we created. To be able to sit there with our brethren and knowing that in this room stands the cream of the crop of American heavy metal talent, and it was such a great feeling.”

“My relationship with Lars and James has been publicized a lot, so I went up to James and I said, ‘I don’t want to try to repair our old relationship. That would be like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I want to have a new relationship with you,’ and I think that’s what we have now, it’s great, and I’m going to see the guy when I get into town.”

At one of the concerts they played together, the guys got on stage to jam on old favorite, “Am I Evil?,” a cover song that goes back to the formative days of Metallica, when they used to live and play in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

“We would play the Stone and the Old Waldorf, and one of the songs that we would play, guaranteed, every single set, no matter where we played, no matter how big we got, we always played ‘Am I Evil?’ a song by Diamondhead. If you could have been in the little jam room right before we went on, it was so moving, because when the band stops there’s a little guitar part where there’s some hammer-ons, and Lars looked over to James and he said, ‘Hey, who should we have play this?’ He was pointing to me like he wanted me to do it and I thought, dude that is so cool. Who would ever have thought that we would have gone to that place where we were so hurt, and we just kept lobbing grenades at each other, to the place now where we’re playing together again, and we’re hanging out and hugging and having dinner with our wives.”

As he continues on his concert and book tours, Mustaine enjoys meeting the multiple generations of fans that come out, and the fact that he gets to talk to them about what he’s been through in his life.

“One of the things that I want the reader to know is that this wasn’t something that I wrote to be this self-absorbed book. It’s just a lot of revealing stuff that I share about my life and my walk, and how my life changed in 2002 when I became Christian.”

“I really have a hard time saying that I’m Christian because so many Christians are hypocrites, and have just given Christianity a bad name; I believe in God and I believe in Jesus, that’s my bag, that’s it, no more, I don’t push it on anybody. Being a dude who read the Satanic bible and did witchcraft and put hexes on people, that’s pretty cool.”

Doing both tours at the same time have been draining on the metal icon, but he says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m exhausted right now, my voice is sore, my arm is sore, my wrist is sore, but this is what I signed up to do, this is the job I do. I’ve always wanted to be the best at what I do.”

“We’re just constantly searching for that next riff that’s going to set us over the top and give us that number one record, that next lyric that’s going to break us through mainstream radio and we have a number one hit again, that perfect guitar solo, so that we get back on top again. We’re doing everything that we can, we’re every ounce of strength that we have.”

After this current tour wraps up, more touring around the world lays on the horizon — but first, Mustaine is excited about going back into the studio to record a new album — one that will again feature founding bassist David Ellefson, who had not played with the band since 2002 until re-joining earlier this year.

“The cool thing is having the signature bassist back, it gives a certain root to the bottom end again that people have grown to love, I’m excited about how our lives our progressing. I’m just so blessed I can’t even tell you, I look at my career right now and to think there was a period where no one wanted to touch us anymore — here we are,” Mustaine emphasizes. 

“I’ve got the band back, we’ve got a great record that’s getting critical acclaim, I’ve got the book on the best seller list, the tour, everything is so magnificent and I’m so grateful for all of this.”

Slayer, Megadeth, and Testament

Tonight, 7 p.m., $39.50

Cow Palace

2600 Geneva Ave., Daly City


Gunning solo: Slash speaks!


For more than 20 years, Saul Hudson — better known to his millions of fans around the world simply as Slash — has exuded the very essence of what it means to be a rock star. His iconic stage image, with the trademark top hat, sunglasses, and low-slung Les Paul, is instantly recognizable, as are his innumerable guitar licks and solos that are now part of the rock n’ roll canon. He plays the Warfield Sun/29.

Having made a name for himself first with the titanic sound and success of Guns N’ Roses in the late 1980s and early 1990s, then capturing lightening in a bottle yet again in Velvet Revolver, the agile axeman released his first solo album in April, recruiting some of biggest names in music to lend their vocal talents to the self-titled effort. Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy Kilmister, Dave Grohl, Iggy Pop, Ian Astbury, and more fill out of the collection of tracks that feature Slash’s trademark sound and style, yet explore some new territory when it comes to the sonic soundscape that he’s canvassed over the years.

Slash wrote the music, and then sent the track to the performer that he thought best fit the song, asking if they would like to participate. The approach to the record was an almost compete role reversal for the guitar slinger, who has recorded countless guest appearances and performances over the past two decades.

“That was exactly what inspired the record, really — I’ve done so much stuff on other people’s records it finally got to the point where I wanted to do a record where I get everybody,” says Slash, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles.

“The music dictated who should sing each song, that’s where the choices came from; the music inspired in my mind who should sing it.”

The process of writing and recording for the album was a collaborative effort, with Slash providing the foundation for the songs, then giving his friends free reign to write their own lyrics and change the arrangements if they wanted to.

“It was really open ended — I had what I considered to be some sort of an arrangement; a riff, a couple parts, maybe a chorus. That was open to interpretation to whoever I was working with — the vocal melodies and the lyrics were totally up to the singer. All these people are obviously great, I didn’t need to tell them what to sing,” he laughs.

“I would send them the demo and if they had some ideas to change anything then I was totally open to it, so in some cases we really dissected the song and rebuilt it from the ground up.”

The first video from the album, “Back From Cali,” was released earlier this month, and Slash’s U.S. tour in support of the new record kicks off at this weekend’s Sunset Strip Music Festival, where he will also be honored for his contributions to the Strip and the music world in general. The city of West Hollywood even declared August 26 to be “Slash Day,” something that the soft-spoken and humble musician has trouble wrapping his brain around.

“It’s a huge honor, but it’s really surreal, you know what I’m saying, I mean, ‘Slash Day’? Come on,” he laughs. “But they called me up and told me that I was going to be the honoree for this year’s festival, and it’s a little overwhelming. Being that I’m at home, I haven’t left the house — there’s a lot of activity going on around Sunset right now.”

The six string shredder will also be inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame and receive his own star on Hollywood Boulevard next year, another honor that has left him almost speechless.

“That’s even more surreal, that’s one of those things where you don’t even know what to say. I feel like very much a part of L.A. because I came up here — I wasn’t transplanted here later on, I got here when I was five years old, and I’ve been in this area for that long. Being recognized as being significant enough to be honored a star, that’s a whole different trip, it’s very flattering.”

He pauses before laughing and adding, “I’m wondering if there was some payola involved.”

Slash says that fans can expect to hear a wide range of songs on the upcoming tour, both from the new album, and broad sampling of tunes from across his back catalog, including Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver tracks. His new band, featuring singer Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge, hits the Warfield this weekend, a place that Slash says holds some good memories for him.

“It’s actually one of my favorite theaters in the country, I remember the first time Guns N’ Roses played the Warfield, it was just one of those amazing magic nights. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad gig at the Warfield. It’s just one of those iconic old theaters, always a hell of a good time.”


Sun/29, 8 p.m., $29.50-$40.
982 Market, SF


Point of entry


MUSIC Blessed with the pipes and vocal chords of an angelic opera singer but willing and able to deliver the type of piercing wail that would shock a banshee, Rob Halford has long been considered one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time. Rightfully dubbed “the Metal God” by fans, he has been making his mark in music for nearly 40 years, from his iconic role as front man for the legendary Judas Priest, through his tenure with Fight in the 1990s, and some excellent solo ventures during the last decade.

Halford is embarking on a summer tour with his own eponymous band. It kicks off in a San Francisco club before joining the mammoth OzzFest, so local fans are in for a rare, intimate treat. “I think San Francisco is still a very important part of America as far as the music scene. And it’s a place that has a lot of great memories for me personally,” says Halford, speaking on the phone from his home in San Diego.

“I remember one of my first ever visits to the Bay Area, in the late ’70s, when [Judas] Priest came over to the States. The big climax of that was a surprise performance with Led Zeppelin. And then some years ago, the guys from Pansy Division took me around to some cool places they thought would be of some interest to me besides Fisherman’s Wharf,” he adds, laughing.

The set list for the tour promises to touch on all facets of Halford’s career, not just Judas Priest. “That isn’t what this is about for me. It’s about playing the Halford material and the Fight records,” he explains. “The music from them is still quite potent and show off what the Halford band is able to achieve, more than anything else.”

Soft-spoken and humble, Halford is still happy to discuss his old band’s accomplishments, including Judas Priest’s classic album British Steel, which received a deluxe 30th anniversary rerelease earlier this year. “Music is like a time machine in some aspects” Halford muses. “[The rerelease] just reinforces that a great song is able to last forever. If a song you wrote in 1980 can still touch people in 2010, then I think you’re doing your work well.”

Next month Halford’s own Metal God record label is releasing the concert DVD and CD Halford: Live In Anaheim, and he hopes to enter the studio later this year to record a new album with his current band before Judas Priest roars back into action in 2011. Obviously, the 58-year old rocker shows no signs of slowing down. Indeed, he says that he loves to keep busy and wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The great thing about music is that there’s no gold watch waiting in the wings,” he says. “You keep doing it for as long as you want, and I’m always grateful because I wouldn’t be able to set foot out of the house without knowing this tremendous and resilient fan base is going to be waiting.” 


Sat/17, 9 p.m., $37–$40

Regency Ballroom

1290 Sutter, SF

(800) 745-3000

The facts of Cloris


STAGE With nearly 250 credits in film, television, and stage roles to her name, Cloris Leachman is a true entertainment icon. It’s hard to believe the ever-vivacious and lively actress got her start in show business competing in the Miss America pageant back in 1946, but the now 84-year-old star has generously filled a career spanning more than 60 years.

But age is irrelevant when talking to Leachman, who continues to work with a full schedule in film and television projects as her solo stage show comes to San Francisco this week at the Rrazz Room. Speaking by phone from Palm Springs, where her former husband, George Englund lives — or as she says, her “Once upon a time” husband — “I don’t like to say my ‘ex.’ I don’t think that’s appropriate. It doesn’t mean what happened,” she said.

“A couple of years ago my family got all concerned about me. I don’t really know what it was, but they felt I wasn’t my old self. My daughter talked to her father, and they decided I should write a book, have a one woman show, do talks — and we did it all,” Leachman said, laughing in a deeply infectious and endearing way.

Incorporating spoken passages along with a little piano, singing, and a healthy dose of humor, the show promises to touch on a broad spectrum of Leachman’s career, which includes notable performances as the bombshell beauty in the noir classic Kiss Me Deadly (1955); her Oscar-winning role as neglected wife Ruth Popper in The Last Picture Show (1971); a long string of successful television appearances (which have garnered her nine Emmys) on programs including The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Phyllis, and, of course, her portrayal of Frau Blücher in Young Frankenstein (1974).

The normally forthcoming Leachman demurred when asked about particulars of the show, preferring that people see it for themselves. She did stress that one of her favorite parts of this show — which has been performed in several warm-up gigs leading up to her arrival here — has been interacting and meeting with her fans.

“That’s the fun part, that’s the other half of your show,” she said. “We laugh and hug and cry — having a live audience is thrilling.”

Reminiscing about some of her favorite memories of San Francisco, Leachman espoused her love of the city’s cuisine before commenting — with somewhat embarrassed but gleeful candor — on her fling in a local hotel with Gene Hackman in the 1970s, an assignation she revealed in her autobiography, Cloris, released last year.

“We met in the lobby and he asked if I wanted to have dinner, so we had dinner. I don’t know what happened, we just got on fire, we couldn’t run fast enough to the room,” she laughed heartily. “I remember the first 10 seconds after we got in the room, but I don’t remember anything after that — isn’t that terrible?”

After this week’s shows, Leachman has an array of projects on the horizon, including a new show on Fox from the creators of My Name Is Earl and a role in the film The Fields, a psychological thriller due out in the fall. She will also appear in a movie called You Again with her friend and former Mary Tyler Moore costar Betty White.

Asked about any possible secrets to her success, her openness and self-deprecating humor showed themselves. “I always went on the Johnny Carson show after I’d done a character so people would know I wasn’t that character,” she said seriously, before cracking herself up, and laughing hysterically. “I was even worse!” 


Through June 11

Wed-Sat, 8 p.m.; Sun, 7 p.m., $40–$45

Rrazz Room

222 Mason, SF


Just “Duck”-y


CULT FILM STAR Although the mainstream Hollywood press and audiences at large may not have flocked to theaters in support of the initial release of Howard the Duck in 1986, a core group of devoted fans and successive generations of viewers have elevated the film to cult classic status, resulting in a long-awaited special edition DVD release last year.

Ed Gale, the actor who stepped inside the Howard costume and helped bring the character to life, will be appearing at this weekend’s WonderCon, the largest comic book and pop culture convention in Northern California, to meet fans and sign autographs (look for him at booth M19 in the Autograph Area, room 105).

In what was his first Hollywood role (it was actually the first movie he even auditioned for), Gale used highly energetic body language to convey the emotions of the diminutive yet daring duck. That high level of energy expenditure took a physical toll on the actor — and the restrictions presented by the full-body costume made even simple things, such as eating, very difficult.

“When it became apparent I was losing too much weight too fast — I lost 11 pounds in 30 days — they had to give me straws with protein shakes, or they’d drop M&M’s down my beak,” Gale remembered, speaking over the phone from Los Angeles.

Filmed largely in the Bay Area (the characters visit the California Academy of Sciences, take taxis in the Sunset District, and fly over the rooftops of downtown Petaluma), Howard the Duck had the backing of George Lucas as executive producer — which is one reason Gale suspects the movie was treated so harshly by critics when it appeared to be a financial failure.

“We as a society love to build people up and then tear them down, apparently they felt it was time to tear George Lucas down. But the power of the people has proved them wrong.”

Gale, who has also appeared in films like Child’s Play (1988) and Spaceballs (1987), along with more recent roles in television including My Name is Earl and Bones, says Howard is still the most popular character he has played. He’s looking forward to returning to San Francisco.

“The adage that my manager told me was, ‘If you’re going to be good, be the best. If you’re going to be bad, be the worst, and you’ll never be forgotten.’ And with Howard the Duck and all the great fans, that has never been more true,” he said. “I definitely want to meet a whole new bunch of friends in the city where it all began.” (Sean McCourt)


Fri/2, noon–-7 p.m.; Sat/3, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.;

Sun/4, 11 a.m.–-5 p.m., $5-$40

Moscone Center South

747 Howard, SF

It lives again — Creature Features rises from the grave


Seemingly rising from the grave like so many of the monsters and ghouls that it showcased over a 14-year run on local television, the beloved Bay Area show Creature Features is being resurrected once again to satiate fans’ undying thirst for the creepy, kooky and campy.

On Thursday night, John Stanley (who took over hosting the program from the late Bob Wilkins in 1979) will be on hand at the Balboa Theater for a recreation of what an original “Creature Features” episode would have been like circa the early 1980s, including a full feature film, interview segments, mini-movie, and even the vintage commercials that ran during the breaks. This particular show is a rare treat, as many of the original tapings were simply recorded over once they aired, as was the common practice by television stations in those days to save money.

Several of the interviews and segments have survived over the years, however, thanks to Stanley asking for certain tapes to be saved, and also in part to now-official Creature Features archivist Tom Wyrsch collecting tapes and reels during the show’s initial run from 1971 to 1984.

“You have to remember, the show started when there was no VCR, so no one was really thinking in terms of ‘we can get these on tape some day,’” says Stanley. “I was just thinking ‘maybe someday I’ll want to replay that interview,’ if it was with an important actor like Christopher Lee or something.”

One such interview that Stanley is particularly fond of, and will be shown at the event, is an entertaining multi-part chat with Frank Gorshin, perhaps best known for his work playing “The Riddler” in the 1960s “Batman” TV show. “He seemed to just be totally relaxed,” says Stanley. “I think he was quite surprised when he saw I had all these photographs of him, and the amount of preparation that we had put into the interview.”

The main feature will be Horror Express, a 1972 flick starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas, featuring a monster terrorizing a continent-crossing train, and the evening will also feature one of Stanley’s mini-movies, The Demon Strikes Back, a short not seen since 1980. Fans attending the event can also pick up a new series of DVDs that Stanley and Wyrsch have put together, to take home and relive the experience in their own living rooms on a late Saturday night.

Though it’s been more than 25 years since the show left the air, the people behind it still find a faithful following at event after event throughout the Bay Area.

“It’s amazing to me that Creature Features lives as never before,” says Stanley. “But when those who used to watch the show see it now, they are suddenly transported back through time—it’s like looking through an old photo album or reliving happy moments of one’s adolescence.”

Thu/25, 7 p.m., $6.50-$9
Balboa Theater
3630 Balboa, SF
(415) 221-8184

tlhIngan maH!


EVENT Encompassing an entire universe of exotic worlds, cutting-edge technology, and larger-than-life characters, the realm of Star Trek has inspired fans and captivated their imaginations since the first episode of the original television series was broadcast back in 1966.

Created by Gene Roddenberry, who wove many of the pressing social issues of the 1960s into the fabric of the Star Trek ethos, the franchise has continued to live on through several spin-off television series, feature films, books, video games, and more.

San Francisco — which also happens to be home to the fictional headquarters of “Starfleet Command” — will be filled with sci fi fans this weekend for an official Star Trek convention featuring luminaries from the series such as the legendary William Shatner, the newly knighted Sir Patrick Stewart, and several other notable actors.

Two fan favorites who will be in attendance on Saturday are J.G. Hertzler and Robert O’Reilly, best known in the Star Trek pantheon for their roles as the Klingons Martok and Gowron. Both will be making a rare appearance in full costume and makeup, and will be doing some light-hearted improv in character, including what they call “Kling Bling” — a bit of Klingon hip-hop.

Hertzler, who spent several years at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco before beginning his television career, enjoys stepping back into the character, which not only allows him to entertain fans but to interject political and social commentary into the proceedings.

“The thing about being a Klingon is that it allows you to rant. It’s on the edge of acceptable human behavior, but it’s all acceptable if you’re a Klingon,” Hertzler laughs.

The fervor with which fans embrace Star Trek is admired by O’Reilly, who also notes that many Trekkers have gone on to make valuable scientific contributions to society after being inspired by the series.

“People really feel deeply about Star Trek. If you see who the fans are, they’re scientists, astronomers — they’re very bright people,” O’Reilly says. “I’ve talked to astronauts who have said, ‘I wanted to be an astronaut because I watched Star Trek and I wanted to get up there.'”

Both actors, who have also done a great deal of work on the stage during their careers, are proud and appreciative of the connections they and others in the series have made with fans over the years, which they say can transcend differences even in culture or location.

“It’s truly amazing, I correspond with fans who live everywhere,” Hertzler says. “Because of Star Trek, I have friends all over the world.”


Sat/23, 11 a.m.–9:45 p.m.;

Sun/24, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; $20–$65

Westin St. Francis

335 Powell, SF

(818) 409-0960