So,  what’s up with our fascination with the great ape anyway?

King Kong captured the public’s imagination back in 1933 when his love for a human beauty was his undoing in the original film starring Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong and Bruce Cabot.   To be sure, the original film introduced the world to special effects and big budget action movies, but there are other metaphors and themes that continue to tweak our interest in the big gorilla.

Writers/Directors Frank Dietz and Trish Geiger explore  the history and continuing curiosity and affection for the original movie in their documentary Long Live the King,  which will be screened at Hooray for Hollywood, presented at Edesia: A Culinary, Wine & Spirits Adventure  at Wine Country Inn on Sunday, April 5.

Brian Kelly Jones,  a Sacramento entrepreneur, and Scott Weitz, a 20 year veteran of theme park productions, are the Producers for Long Live the King

Besides Dietz and Geiger,  Victoria Riskin, Wray’s daughter who is a psychologist, author,  television writer/producer and human rights activist,  and Alexis Iacono, the actress who was a friend and played Wray in the Broadway production,  will participate in a panel discussion.

Arn McConnell, a.k.a. Craven Lovelace to his radio and podcast fans, will be moderator for our Long Live the King panel.

Afterwards, there were will an opportunity to get autographs and purchase books and merchandise.

Frank Dietz

You might say Frank Dietz is a triple threat in Hollywood.   He is a working writer/producer/director as well as an actor and animator.

Trained as an actor and artist at State University at Oswego, the New Yorker  cut his teeth on a series of what are now considered low-budget,  cult horror films  (Zombie Nights and Black Roses).   After relocating to Los Angeles, he wrote scripts for independent features, including Naked Souls, Cold Harvest and Magic in the Mirror for Paramount.

Switching gears, Dietz joined Walt Disney Studies as an animation artist in 1996.  He worked on Hercules, Mulan, Tarzan and Atlantis-The Lost Empire.    Then in 2007/2008 he received  “Artist of the Year”  from the first Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Film Awards.

Another role includes the comedy The Lost Skeleton Returns Again where he met his collaborator Trish Geiger.   They created Benevolent Monster Productions and went on to produce the documentary Beast Wishes-The Fantastic World of Bob and Kathry Burns,  which garnered several awards.   Their next documentary was about the legendary King Kong, Long Live the King, which is being screened at Edesia’s Hooray for Hollywood in Palisade, CO on April 5.   That film also has won “Best Documentary” at several film festivals.

More recently, Dietz appeared in the comedy I Hate Kids, which was released in January 2019.  Directed by John Asher, the film stars Tom Everett Scott, Tituss Burgess, Rhea Seehorn, Julie Emery, Rachel Boston and Marisa Tomei.

Dietz’s Damn Dirty Geeks podcast focuses on genre movies and television and features guest stars such as Greg Nicotero of The Walking Dead, comedian Dana Gould and actor Tom Everett Scott.

sketchythingsart.com

Trish Geiger

Trish Geiger is a busy lady.   Besides directing and producing, she is an award-winning actress and singer.

Geiger earned her MFA in Acting at Brooklyn University, where she studied with F. Murray Abraham.  She has earned her way as an actress/singer as well as teacher of acting, music, art and storytelling at Lincoln Center Institute, Fairleigh Dickenson University, Oberlin College, Playwrights Theater of New Jersey and Preparator Center for the Performing Arts, respectively.

Geiger’s better-known work includes roles in Larry Blamire’s horror movie spoofs (Trail of the Screaming Forehead, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again and  Dark and Stormy Night),  films which she also produced.  While she was documenting the filming,  she met Bob Burns, who played the Gorilla, and wrangled an interview through the efforts of fellow actor Frank Dietz.

Geiger discovered that Bob and his wife Kathy had a quite collection of movie props, which included the original King Kong armature from 1933.   After Geiger and Dietz  launched Benevolent Monster Productions, they produced Beast Wishes-The Fantastic World of Bob and Kathy Burns.  The film went on to garner several “Best Documentary” awards.

Intrigued by the King Kong armature during Beast Wishes…, the new partners were inspired to make Long Live the King,  a documentary on King Kong.     Although she knew little about the ”Eighth Wonder of the World,”  Geiger learned that Dietz had long-time interest and knowledge. Their second effort also collected multiple “Best Documentary” festival awards.

Since 2009, Geiger has devoted herself to a new documentary Maestro Messenger, a film about well-known Choral Director Paul Salamunovich,  who has worked on such Hollywood films as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and True Confessions.  This, she says, is her true labor of love.  She is hoping to wind up her work this Spring.

Geiger, who hails from New Jersey, now lives in the Los Angeles area with her four “ridiculous cats.”  She is a co-founder of the website insidewink.com, which showcases good people, places and things “happening all around us.”

www.benevolentmonsters.com & www.insidewink.com

Victoria Riskin

As the daughter of a legendary Hollywood parents movie star Fay Wray and screenwriter Robert Riskin,  Victoria Riskin had quite a springboard to an illustrious career in her own right.

Last year Riskin published  Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir,  a Hollywood love story which focuses on “the woman who stole the heart of King Kong” and the man who “is one of the greatest screenwriters of all time, an Academy Award winner, producer and longtime collaborator with Frank Capra on eight pictures.”

The couple were parents to three children,  Robert Riskin Jr., Victoria and Susan Saunders Riskin.    Robert Sr. died in 1955;   Wray passed in 2004  at the age of 96.

A licensed psychologist, Riskin practiced for 15 years before launching a successful career as a writer and producer. After representing screen and television writers through the Writers Guild of America West,  she rose to become president of the organization which her father had founded some 75 years prior.

She served on the International Board of Human Rights Watch for 12 years and chaired its Hellman-Hammett Committee which distributes funds to persecuted writers internationally.

As her book points out, King Kong not only elevated Riskin’s mother to the top of the Empire State Building, but also lifted her to the heights of film immortality.   Wray starred in more than 120 movies with such co-stars Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy and William Powell, to name a few. Her career bridged the industry from silent films to talkies and television. King Kong alone is credited with saving RKO Studios from bankruptcy.  She also wrote plays for regional theatres.

Her father, an originator of the screwball comedy genre and populist voice of the little guy with Frank Cara,  Riskin went on to write sophisticated stage plays and screen comedies that blended humor and romance, wisecracking and idealism.   In 1935 It Happened One Night won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adapted Writing. He and Capra collaborated on many projects such as The Miracle WomanPlatinum Blonde, American Madness, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Lost Horizon and Meet John Doe.

Riskin currently serves on the Board of Directors of National Public Radio station KCRW in Santa Monica.  She resides in Martha’s Vineyard with her husband of 40 years, writer-producer David W. Rintels.

Alexis Iacono

Worldwide audiences know this New York native by her Female Goblin character’s voice in the popular World of Warcraft Cataclysm (2011) and World of Warcraft Legion (2016) video games, but those are only a few of her industry credits.

She also has done multiple voice characters in Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and the Damned, as well as roles in the black and white short film Prescott Place, Leigh Scott’s The Horror Anthology: The Penny Dreadful Picture Show-The Slaughter HouseThe Black Dahlia Haunting and Blue Caprice.

Iacono’s stage roles include Elle in The Meadowlark and Fay Wray in King Kong on Broadway. She studied at HB Studio and the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York City.   She credits her exposure to a world class theatre and arts community where she grew up in Bayside, Queens for her career path.

More recently Iacono has branched out as an independent film producer producing features such as The Pipeline feature film,  the documentary Layin’ the Pipe and  Escape From Ensenada with Noel G (Fast and the Furious) and Louis Mandylor (My Big Fat Greek Wedding).   She was an Associate Producer in Thomas Churchill’s Nations Fire (2018),  starring Bruce Dern and Gil Bellows,  as well as a production assistant at AFX Studio for America Horror Story Season 6,  and Jamie Lee Curtis’s Scream Queens. Currently Iacono is working as a production assistant for Steve Wang at Alliance Studio.

Arn McConnell, Moderator

Arn McConnell, a.k.a. Craven Lovelace to his radio and podcast fans, is the ideal moderator for our Long Live the King panel. While he is known locally for his work in broadcast television and teaching video film making and animation at Western Colorado Community College, he also has the professional chops and a deep knowledge of the original King Kong movie to keep the discussion lively.

An award-winning animator and filmmaker with over 35 years-experience in New York and Colorado Western Slope film and broadcast video industry, McConnell’s credits are impressive. He was the original editor of Beavis and Butthead show on MTV. He directed the first film role of the acclaimed late actor James Gandolfini (who went on to Soprano’s fame) in the cult film Shock! Shock! Shock! In 1999 his short film Fun for Men was an official selection for the New York Underground Film Festival.

Additionally, McConnell created Notes, a short-form radio program and podcast. He has written for various publications and currently hosts the Sunday night broadcast The Museum on KAFM Community Radio. He is a recipient of the Colorado Broadcasters Award and multiple Colorado Press Assn. accolades. By day, McConnel is Communications Coordinator for the Western Colorado Alliance.

And as if he didn’t have enough on his plate, McConnell has generously gifted our Hooray for Hollywood fund-raiser for MarillacHealth with his expert touch on multiple tasks. Look for his caricatures of iconic stars, animation at the VIP luncheon and the commercial that will air on our host station KKCO News 11, the local NBC affiliate.

McConnell deserves an Edesia statuette for his many contributions! So here’s to you Arn/Craven!