Gene Simmons ain't got nothing on Count Smokula. While both showmen are face-painted night crawlers with ungodly long tongues, the Smokula's more of a vaudevillian-style villain and musical comedian, who'll fire off one-liners in machine-gun fashion when he bites into The Trunk Space, 1506 Grand Avenue, on Wednesday, September 22. The good count usually keeps his lengthy licker firmly planted in his cheek, refusing to break from his character of fez-topped Bela Lugosi-meets-Jackie Mason. He uses an accent native to his homeland of Smokesylvania, the little-known European nation where he was (allegedly) born close to five centuries ago.
"I'm 496 years old, and I love to vock like you vouldn't believe it," says Smokula, describing how he jams out rockabilly and blues on his "sqveezebox" (a.k.a. the accordion), ukulele and guitar. With this genre, it's expected he'd find influences in "Muddy Vaters, Moyle Haggard and Johnny Cash," but who'da thunk Britney Spears and Don Ho provided additional inspiration?
"Vat's that one? 'Voops, I Did It Again,' I play that one. Ve've got a killer song from Havaii, because they moved my country, stone-by-stone, to the South Pacific, because the veather vas too inclement," he says. "So I'm vandering around looking for my homeys under the coconut trees, and it inspired me to channel ancient Smokesylvanian Havaiian songs."
Smokula cut his not-so-pointed teeth in L.A.'s underground scene, performing at punk gigs and burlesque shows, usually backed by an array of groovy go-go girls. He's even become a regular in TROMA's series of schlock films and hosts his own public access show (natch).
But does he get heckled by those who might accuse him of sucking? "No, they like my crap, it's unbelievable. They all say I suck, but they vant me to suck them. That's the problem, I gave up the fangs and blood 300 years ago, my doctor told me too much cholesterol," quips Smokula. "The only fangs I got now are fangs for the mammaries. Hah!" Thank you, don't forget to tip your waitress.
Bard Habit to Break
Shakespeare's double feature
If you're in the mood for some hot thespian action, then head out to the high country for the Arizona Shakespeare Festival. The Arizona Classical Theatre will perform two of the Bard's faves -- Twelfth Night and Titus Andronicus -- at Granite Creek Park, 554 North Sixth Street in Prescott, from Friday, September 17, through October 3.
Director and development coordinator Chris McFarland says the company is mixing a little comedy with a lot of tragedy. For those seeking highbrow high jinks, Twelfth Night, a dark comedy involving twins who each thinks the other is dead, is a safe bet. And for those who need to feed a little blood lust, Titus Andronicus has plenty of pillaging and bloodshed -- at least enough to warrant a "parental discretion" sign at each show.
Alas, there will be no men in tights at this Shakespeare festival. Well, maybe one man in tights -- but definitely no codpieces. For tickets, $10 to $25, call 928-443-9220. --C. Murphy Hebert
Leave the dessert for the islands
Dining daredevils out to test their mettle should consider the annual Caribbean Festival on Saturday, September 18, at Heritage Square, 115 North Sixth Street, where exotic ethnic dishes like souse (pig's feet stew) and curry goat with rice will be served. There's not the same kind of fear factor involved with downing, say, Rocky Mountain oysters, but things might taste kind of irie. "But if you don't tell people what's in what they're eating, they'll enjoy it," says event organizer Shaiba Barry. "Caribbean slaves learned how to live with very little, sometimes throwing into their pots whatever food they had." For fearful foodies, the more commonplace jerk chicken and pelau (a paella-like rice dish) will also be available at the all-day cultural event. Entertainment options range from steel pan drumming and reggae artists -- such as Tony Culture and the One Love Band -- to colorful Caribbean dance troupes. The tropical punch starts at 10 a.m. Tickets are $5, and kids 5 and under are admitted free. Call 602-595-1659 or see www.caaaz.org. -- Benjamin Leatherman
Cannes be damned, we've got yer indies right here Sun 9/19
Don'tcha hate it when you're the last to hear about the latest breakthrough indie flick? It seems like by the time you drag your unknowing ass to the theater, cineastes everywhere have already dissected the plot ad nauseam and pre-ordered the DVD from Amazon. Get revenge on those film nerds by signing up for the seven-part Talk Cinema film series, starting Sunday, September 19, at Harkins Camelview, 7001 East Highland in Scottsdale. You can check out upcoming independent and foreign films before they hit the art-house circuit, followed by a discussion with local critics. It's a blind date, though, as you won't know what movie's in store until it hits the screen. So far, the biannual series has a pretty good track record, as past installments have included selections such as Y Tu Mamá Tambiénand Pulp Fiction. Organizers would prefer we didn't divulge which title is up first, so rest assured it's a secret we'll keep deep in our hearts, huckabee. Talk Cinema unfurls at 10 a.m., and subscriptions for the series, which runs through December 19, are $120. Prorated admissions are also available. Call 800-551-9221 or see www.talkcinema.com for dates and to register. --Benjamin Leatherman
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