Thursday, January 08, 2009

Bob Wilkins (1932-2009), R.I.P.

Today's posting pays tribute to Bob Wilkins, an inspired, witty and idiosyncratic Northern California television personality who passed away at 76 on January 7. Pretty much the entire underground movie event scene in the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento can be proudly counted among the incorrigible progeny of Bob Wilkins and Creature Features. Bob was a friend, mentor and colleague to many of the creative talents who make the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival happen.

Bob Wilkins hosted and worked on a wide variety of productions for KCRA-Sacramento and KTVU-Oakland, paramount among them the Creature Features and Captain Cosmic shows. The shows exemplified the long lost tradition of freewheeling local programming and captivated the imaginations of Northern California viewers. Demonstrating his ability to have fun with the medium, both shows were imbued with Bob's trademark droll humor and style.

Here's Bob, bringing his customary deadpan delivery, laid-back approach and dry wit to the Creature Features opening:

Creature Features, a late-night Northern California institution, well established before Saturday Night Live and SCTV hit the airwaves, ran for fourteen years: Bob hosted through 1978, while John Stanley hosted from 1979-1984. Movies ran the gamut from old school Universal Pictures horror to 50's sci-fi, 70's schlockers and everything in-between. Guests ranged from movie stars to the fellows in the following clip:

The show is the subject of an entertaining documentary produced by Tom Wyrsch, Watch Horror Films, Keep America Strong. Tom is also the author of The Bob Wilkins Scrapbook and The John Stanley Scrapbook.

I would be remiss to omit the opening title segment from The Captain Cosmic Show, which brought the high camp and humor inherent in Japanese monster movies to the attention of impressionable young minds in the latter 70's.

The wide-ranging influence of Bob Wilkins on filmmaking, animation and entertainment events in Northern California reminds me of a comment I read about the 1960's avant-rockers The Velvet Underground: their records may have not sold a gazillion copies (like, say a 45 RPM single by The Cowsills), but everyone who bought one formed a band. So Bob Wilkins' greatest contribution may not have been his uncanny knack for creating entertainment from whatever means he had at his disposal, but his talent for inspiring others to do the same. . . and then say, "don't stay up late - it's not worth it!"


erik hogstrom said...

I was thinking about how influential both "Creature Features" and "Captain Cosmic" were to me as a kid growing up in Concord. It's been years since I watched Bob Wilkins, but I found myself feeling melancholic most of the day after I heard the news.

paul etcheverry said...

When the DVD of "Watch Horror Films: Keep America Strong" becomes available, I'll post it on the blog.

paul etcheverry said...

When we opened the last Psychotronix Film Festival with Bob interviewing Forry Ackerman, the audience responded with thunderous applause.

It sucks to say farewell to Bob Wilkins, Ray Dennis Steckler, Ron Asheton, Freddie Hubbard, Eartha Kitt, etc. bang-bang-bang. All left unique, lasting and non-market researched imprints on the entertainment world.

All one can do is fire up YouTube, Daily Motion - or DVD or CD player - and enjoy their original contributions to pop culture.