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Monday, January 13, 2014

ELEGY FOR A TRASH CINEMA PRESERVATIONIST




It is with a very sad heart that I bid R.I.P. to Mike Vraney (Dec. 29, 1957-Jan. 2, 2014), the founder of Something Weird Video. News of his death from lung cancer has apparently only just been made public and I doubt it will make the mainstream news (I received a note about it because I've been a regular customer for over twenty years), but the man's contributions to the preservation of obscure, trashy, cult, and even downright pornographic cinema cannot be overstated. Something Weird has personally enriched my own collection to a considerable degree, with close to sixty examples of their wares evident on my shelves, and for that I owe Vraney a great debt of appreciation. Though I never met the man, I did speak with him a few times over the phone and he was always very knowledgable and nice. Rest well, Mike. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart. The company's official press release follows:

We regret to inform you that Something Weird's founder, Mike Vraney, passed away on January 2nd 2014 after a long heroic battle with lung cancer. He was 56 years old, way too young to leave this planet. There was still so much Mike wanted to do in his life, so many films to be found, and adventures to be embarked upon.
      This sad news may come as a shock to most of you. Mike was a very private person and didn't want anyone, except his closest friends, family and colleagues, to know about his illness. He went through aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments for over a year, but sadly the cancer spread and cruelly took him from us.
      Mike had a larger-than-life personality and a genuine enthusiasm for movies. Something Weird was his heart and soul, he was obsessive in his pursuit of tracking down the weirdest, wildest movies out there. And it wasn't enough to find a few forgotten films, he was always in search of the movie motherload. (Making 370 two-hour volumes of Nudie Cuties loops is a good example of this. Who does that?! Mike Vraney!) Even as a child, Mike loved movies. During his teenage years, he worked at the Bel-Kirk Drive-In, and then later as a projectionist at the Green Parrot and Apple Theaters in Seattle. Then around 1990, Mike went in search of as many old, unusual, obscure, and lost low budget exploitation movies as he could, and preserved them for prosperity. Mike amassed thousands of these rare movies and had them transferred to video so that people could relive the good old days of going to the drive-in or grindhouse theater, in their very own home. We have him to thank for introducing fandom to the wonderful world of sexploitation sinema, rescuing it from the dark recesses of forgotten film vaults and defunct movie theatres.
      Some of you may know that prior to Something Weird, Mike was involved in the early Seattle punk rock music scene. He was a partner in Modern Productions, the group who started Seattle's seminal rock venue, The Showbox, in 1979. Mike then went on to manage such well-known bands as The Dead Kennedys, TSOL, and Seattle's own The Accused. Mike always seemed to be at the forefront of whatever was happening and cool.
     Mike's second greatest passion in life was collecting old comics, vintage toys, movie memorabilia, and pop cultural ephemera. He enjoyed going to the swap meet and always had a magical ability for finding great stuff. But when he wasn't working, collecting, or telling great stories, Mike spent quality time with his beloved family. Mike adored his wife and business partner, Lisa, and two (now young adult) children, Mark and Danielle. These three were the center of his universe, and his reason for getting up each and every morning.
      The folks at Something Weird fully intend to keep Mike's incredible legacy intact. Mike may be gone, but his remarkable achievements will live on. One of the happiest days of Mike's life was when legendary David F. Friedman and Dan Sonney called him "the forty-first thief," which to him was the ultimate compliment and recognition for his work. We'd like to think that Mike's now hanging out with his old pals Dave and Dan, reminiscing and talking shop with Dwain Esper, Kroger Babb, Barry Mahon, Joe Sarno, Doris Wishman, Bob Cresse, Dale Berry, Michael Findlay and all the other exploiteers and smut peddlers who've gone to the great grindhouse in the sky.
      We will miss Mike with all our hearts. Goodbye dear friend, husband, father, and fearless leader…
      -- Lisa Petrucci, Tim Lewis, Kendall Bechtel, Mark Vraney, Danielle Vraney of Something Weird Video

1 comment:

Hellbilly said...

Really sad news indeed - Mike was a true cool cat. I enjoyed many a grindhouse double-feature at the Bel-Kirk drive-in Mike worked at, including my introduction to horror films with "The Exorcist"/"Legend of Hell House", when I was all of 6 years old.