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Fay Wray
Actress Fay Wray, who won the heart of Kong and the admiration of legions of fans, died at her New York apartment. No official cause of death was given. She was 96. "She just kind of drifted off quietly as if she was going to sleep," Wray's friend Rick McKay told the Associated Press. "She just kind of gave out." She appeared in more than 90 films, including such genre classics as "Mystery of the Wax Museum, "The Vampire Bat," "The Most Dangerous Game" and "Doctor X," but she achieved screen immortality opposite the 18-inch armature of "King Kong." The 1933 film created a sensation, and Wray's blood-curdling scream brought her lasting fame. While she initially resented being so closely identified with the role of Ann Darrow, the young girl that Kong carried to the top of the Empire State Building, she once told an interviewer, "I don't fight it anymore. I realize that it is a classic, and I am pleased to be associated with it."

Wray was born Vina Fay Wray in Cardston, Alberta, Canada. Her family came to the U.S. when she was three, moving to Arizona, then Salt Lake City and eventually settling in Los Angeles. She was just 16 when she broke into films, appearing in the 1923 short "Gasoline Love" after securing a contract with Hal Roach for $60 a week. Soon, she was appearing in myriad Westerns including "The Man in the Saddle," "Spurs and Saddles" and "The Wild Horse Stampede." Following her appearance in director Erich von Stroheim's "The Wedding March," Wray was in demand. When the talkies arrived, she appeared opposite many of Hollywood's top leading men, including Ronald Colman, Gary Cooper, Richard Arlen, Fredric March and Wallace Beery. But it was Kong who ensured her enduring fame. The film saved its studio, RKO, from bankruptcy. Wray was paid $10,000 for her role as unemployed actress Ann Darrow. What was supposed to be a 10-day shoot instead lasted 10 months. "Residuals were not even considered," she wrote in her autobiography, "On the Other Hand," "because there were no established unions to protect us." But she maintained that she was proud to have co-starred with the armature brought to endearing life by animator Willis O'Brien and his team. "[Kong] is a very real and individual entity. He has a personality, a character that has been compelling to many different people for many different reasons and viewpoints."

Wray worked steadily throughout the 1930s (In 1933 alone she appeared in 11 films, including "King Kong"), but she left the movies in 1942 to raise her family. At age 19, she wed screenwriter John Monk Saunders. The marriage was not a happy one as Saunders battled alcoholism and drug addiction. They were divorced in 1939. In 1942 Wray married Robert Riskin, screenwriter of such film classics as "It Happened One Night" and "Lost Horizon." Riskin passed away in 1955. In 1970 Wray wed Riskin's physician, Dr. Sanford Rothenberg, who died in 1991.

She returned to films in the 1950s with supporting roles in such films as "Treasure of the Golden Condor," "The Cobweb," "Hell On Frisco Bay" and the teen exploitation pictures "Rock, Pretty Baby" and "Dragstrip Riot." In 1959 she left films again. She emerged from retirement for her final film role in the 1980 made-for-TV movie "Gideon's Trumpet" starring Henry Fonda. She was the guest of honor at a special ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Empire State Building and made a special appearance at the 70th Academy Awards ceremony in 1998. She maintained a New York City apartment and drove her own car until she was well into her nineties. She wrote in her autobiography, "Each time I arrive in New York and see the skyline and the exquisite beauty of the Empire State Building, my heart beats a little faster. I like that feeling. I really like it!" Three nights after her passing, the lights of the Empire State Building were dimmed in her honor.

Actress Acquanetta, an exotic beauty best known to cult movie fans as Universal's Paula, the "Captive Wild Woman," died at Ahwatukee Foothills Alzheimer's care center in Arizona. She was 83. Born on an Arapaho reservation in Wyoming, Acquanetta grew up in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and began her professional career as a top-salaried Manhattan model. New York columnists fabricated a South-of-the-Border background for the girl they dubbed "The Venezuelan Volcano," and she soon landed in Hollywood with a contract at Universal Pictures. She had small parts in "Rhythm of the Islands" and "Arabian Nights," but it was as Paula in "Captive Wild Woman," and its follow-up, "Jungle Woman," that she came to the attention of B-movie fans on late show reruns years after the films were originally released. She also appeared in the Inner Sanctum thriller "Dead man's Eyes" with Lon Chaney and "Tarzan and the Leopard Woman." She had a small part in the 1951 sci-fi film "Lost Continent."

She retired to Arizona where she raised four sons and become well known for her philanthropic work. With her former husband, Jack Ross, she helped to fund Mesa Lutheran Hospital (later Banner Mesa Medical Center), and founded Combined Charities Inc. She co-founded the Stagebrush Theatre of Scottsdale, and raised money for the Phoenix Symphony. She was also a member of the Arizona Press Club.

According to film historian, Tom Weaver, Acquanetta was one his most interesting interview subjects. "She talked about being able to touch people's hands and see their futures," Weaver recalled. "About how the biggest storm in the history of Arizona deposited several feet of water in all the areas around her house, but not a drop of rain fell on HER property; about a magic fountain that sprang up in her garden and was photographed and documented by people, including clergymen -- it was all very strange. But the way she talked, and the fact that her memories of her life and career were so vivid and lucid -- she had me half-believing it all!" Weaver also recalled the time he and "Universal Horrors" co-authors, Michael and John Brunas, took the actress to dinner following a convention: "At the table, she started boasting to Mike how strong and muscular her legs still were, and then she got after him to punch her in the leg, below the knee. Mike of course resisted and she PERsisted, and it went back and forth a few more times, and the next thing I knew, Mike was out of his chair and kneeling on the floor of TGI Friday's, repeatedly rabbit-punching Acquanetta in the leg. I thought she was a wacky, wonderful lady and being around her was always an adventure!"

In the course of her divorce from Ross, Acquanetta acquired property that contained the ruins of Mesa Grande, which scientists believed was the site of an ancient Hohokam Indian temple. Mesa later paid Acquanetta $1.1 million for the property. "I took stock in the fact that I'm not young anymore," she said at the time. "And what will happen to the ruins after I'm gone?" "She really enjoyed Arizona," her son, Lance, told the Arizona Republic, "and loved helping the people here."

Virginia Grey
Actress Virginia Grey, who appeared in more than 100 films and dozens of television programs, died of a heart ailment in Woodland Hills, Calif. She was 87. While she had small but showy parts in such "A" pictures as "The Women," "Idiot's Delight" and "Another Thin Man," cult-movie fans will remember her best for appearances in such films as "House of Horrors," "Unknown Island," "Target Earth" and "The Black Zoo." Grey was born in Edendale, Calif. and grew up near the Mack Sennett studios. Her father was a silent film director and her mother a film editor at Universal. Grey's parents sometimes asked Sennett starlet, Gloria Swanson, to babysit Virginia and her sisters. One day, while waiting for her mother to finish work at Universal, Grey was approached to portray Little Eva in the studio's 1927 production of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Grey abandoned her desire to become a nurse and pursued an acting career because her family needed the extra income.

Throughout the 1930s she had supporting roles, sometimes unbilled, in such features as "Misbehaving Ladies," "Gold Diggers of 1935," "The Great Ziegfeld," "Test Pilot," and "The Hardys Ride High." In the 1940s she enjoyed better roles in smaller-budgeted pictures such as "Grand Central Murder," "Swamp Fire" and "Jungle Jim." In the 1950s and '60s, she appeared in the aforementioned sci-fi and cult films, several Westerns, and the occasional big-budget feature, including standout performances in "The Rose Tatoo," "All That Heaven Allows" and "Madame X." Her television work included appearances in such series as "Science Fiction Theater," "Wagon Train" "The Jack Benny Program," "Yancy Derringer," "Peter Gunn" and "My Three Sons." Grey never married, but was once romantically linked to Clark Gable.

Elmer Bernstein
Academy Award-winning composer Elmer Bernstein died at his Ojai, California, home following a long illness. He was 82. Bernstein helped break new ground as a film composer by introducing jazz inflections from the bop era in scoring gritty urban dramas and lushly orchestrating epic Westerns. The New York native received his musical education at the Walden School and New York University. He initially wanted be a concert pianist and auditioned for Aaron Copland when he was just 12 years old.

Bernstein scored more than 250 films and television programs and was nominated for Oscars 14 times. He received his first nomination for his trendsetting jazz score for "The Man With The Golden Arm" in 1955. He received the award for Best Original Music Score for "Thoroughly Modern Millie" in 1967. He was most recently nominated for the 2002 film "Far From Heaven." According to Reuter's, Bernstein was "'Gray-listed' in Hollywood during the McCarthy era of the 1950s for his left-leaning political sympathies." Early in his film career he scored the cult-classics "Robot Monster" and "Cat Women of the Moon." Bernstein went on to score such film classics as "The Ten Commandments," "Sweet Smell of Success," "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Hud." He may have left the greatest impact on the Western genre. His score for "The Magnificent Seven" was often imitated and informed many subsequent Western scores, even some of Bernstein's own. Among the Westerns scored by Bernstein are "The Comancheros," "The Sons of Katie Elder," "The Hallelujah Trail," "The Scalphunters" and "True Grit."


Three of Hammer Films best known actresses, Ingrid Pitt ("The Vampire Lovers"), Caroline Munro ("Kronos") and Veronica Carlson ("Dracula Has Risen from the Grave"), have banded together to form a DVD production enterprise called Hammer Glammer Films Ltd. They are currently offering shares in the new venture, proposing to offer one million shares at one pound per share to be offered to potential investors in blocks of 500 shares. "Shares will also be offered to Artistes and Crew," says the official Website, "redeemable when the company is in profit, in exchange for services to the company." The cooperative will produce low-budget horror pictures "aimed at the booming DVD market." Pitt is listed as "Chairman," with Carlson, Munro and Stephanie Pitt listed as "Directors." The first production, "Three For Hell," is planned as an anthology, each star to be featured in a half-hour segment. According to Hammer Glammer's proposal, "the individual segments will be offered to Television as half hour shows. The three segments will also be introduced by the Artiste starring in the film. The resulting 90 minute film will be sold on DVD." For more information, visit:
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Brace yourself! "Horror Host Palooza" will soon be upon us! The Bay Area's retro-hip, fez-wearing wildman, Will "The Thrill" Viharo, has again wrangled a slew of gruesome celebs who'll present what we expect to became a Golden Gate tradition at the Parkway Speakeasy Theater. Here's the rundown for this year's fearsome festivities according to "The Thrill" himself:

Part one: Thursday, October 7, 7:30 "Creature Features" legend John Stanley, Docktor Goulfinger and Mr. Lobo return for more moonlit madness. This time Paul Naschy drools with the ghouls as the Spanish Wolf Man battling sexy female vampires in "The Craving." And then for a truly obscure psychotronic experience you must stay for "Dr. Jekyll's Dungeon of Death," in which the mad doctor plays "Hyde" and go seek with some swingin' modern day San Franciscans! Both rarities courtesy of The Werepad. Admission: $8

Part two: Thursday, October 21, 7:30 The one and only Bob Wilkins returns to The Parkway along with John Stanley, Dr. Goulfinger, and Mr. Lobo to host the local big screen revival of the South Sea island monster bash "Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster," co-starring Mothra, in a brand new 35mm print. Plus, the brand new B-movie classic "Lost Skeleton of Cadvara," a hilarious, pitch perfect riff on 1950s sci-fi gems like "Cat-Women of the Moon" and "Brain From Planet Arous!" Plus, live theremin music by Robert Silverman! Admission: $12

Part three: Road Show at Copia, The American Center for Food, Wine and the Arts, Friday, October 29, 8pm It's a "Hipster Halloween Party" up in Wine Country featuring William Castle's creepy classic "House on Haunted Hill," starring Vincent Price, in the original "Emerg-O!" Plus, the pioneering 3D short, "Murder in 3-D" directed by George Sidney, the Three Stooges short, "Spooks!" and very special musical guests Johnny and Gin Atomic. All this plus Doktor Goulfinger and Mr. Lobo. Admission: $6

The following Websites are packed with additional, indispensable info:
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The Cinema Wasteland Movie and Memorabilia Expo happens this October 1, 2 and 3, 2004 at the Holiday Inn Select in Strongsville, Ohio, only minutes from downtown Cleveland. Promoted as "three days of films & fun celebrating the drive-In era of horror & sci-fi movies," the con boasts the usual dealer's room, multiple film screenings and a guest roster of gore-film vets. Topping the guest list are a handful of players who appeared in the notoriously gratuitous Wes Craven Shocker, "Last House on the Left:" David Hess, Jeramie Rain and Marc Sheffler

Other attendees include:
Don Edmonds, director, producer, and writer
Basil Gogos, Famous Monsters "monsterpiece" painter
Jeff Lieberman writer, director, and producer
Lynn Lowery, who appeared in "They Came From Within" and "The Cat People" remake
Tom Sullivan, "Evil Dead" makeup and effects man
Alex Vincent, of the "Child's Play" franchise.

And, like last year, The Horror Host Underground will be there in force. Prominent among their ranks are:
-- A. Ghastlee Ghoul, host of Dayton and Springfield, Ohio's "The Ghastlee Movie Show," entering its 17th season
-- Baron Von Wolfstein, currently seen via Dayton Public Access
-- The Bone Jangler, who calls Aurora, Illinois his haunted home
-- Butch R. Cleaver and his lovely wife Joan E., of Cleveland
-- Dr. Creep, dubbed the "granddaddy" of Southwestern Ohio horror hosts
-- Dr. Freak, billed as the world's youngest horror host, and "the designated driver to all of the Horror Host drunks in and around his Dayton."
-- Dr. Mor B.S., whose perfidious practice services Fort Wayne, Indiana and Defiance, Ohio
-- Dr. Shock, star of "Dr. Shock's X-Ray Chiller Theater" haunting the airwaves of Northwestern Ohio and Southwestern Michigan
-- The Ghoul, Cleveland and Detroit's very own since 1971
-- I. Zombie, recognized as "the first and only horror host out of Lexington, Ky."
-- Suspira, who also happens to be Mrs. A. Ghastlee Ghoul

For more info, check out:
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The Twisted Nightmare Weekend gets under way September 17 at the Crowne Plaza Suites in beautiful Akron, Ohio. In addition to a dealer's room no doubt teeming with costumed role players, swords, statues, posters, toys and all manner of grisly ephemera, the guest list includes:

Reggie Bannister of "Phantasm" and "Bubba Ho-tep" fame
Gigi Bannister, "Phantasm IV" special effects artist
Dirk Benedict, star of TV's "Battlestar Galactica" and "The A-Team"
Tireless Ed Wood alum Conrad Brooks
Richard Hatch, "Battlestar Galactica's" Commander Apollo
Lloyd Kaufman, Troma mayhem maven
The "American Werewolf In London" himself, David Naughton
Makeup and goremeister Tom Savini
Horror heroine and marine biologist, Brinke Stevens
Tim Thomerson, star of the "Trancers" and "Dollman" series
Plus a host of supporting players, filmmakers, Leather Faces, Jasons and myriad miscreants.

Tickets paid in advance are $10 per day or $25 for the weekend. If you pay at the door, it's $15 per day or $35 for the weekend. For more info, check out:
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It promises to be another horrific Halloween in New Jersey's Meadowlands. We'll offer a preview of the Chiller Theatre con October 1. Meantime:

Cult-film director Curtis Harrington, whose credits include "Queen of Blood" and "Night Tide," is preparing a new film