IN MEMORY OF “SOMETHING WEIRD” FOUNDER MIKE VRANEY (1957-2014)

dailygri

Dailygri is living proof that people want something beyond the daily grind...

The world of cult film was dealt a huge blow this morning when Something Weird Video’s Facebook page reported the death of Something Weird’s founder, Mike Vraney, at the age of 56, in the following post:

In Memorium
MIKE VRANEY
Founder of Something Weird
December 29, 1957 to January 2, 2014

We regret to tell you that Something Weird’s founder, Mike Vraney, passed away on January 2, 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 honor Mike’s incredible legacy. 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

sw7

Mike was undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the modern restoration and distribution of exploitation cinema. The works of David Friedman, Andy Milligan, Joe Sarno, Barry Mahon and countless others are known to as many exploitation film fans now only because Mike took an interest in their work and tirelessly released and promoted them with a ballyhoo that would make P.T. Barnum proud. Even better-known cult icons like Bettie Page and H.G. Lewis wouldn’t be as well-known on the pop culture scene as they are without Something Weird’s releases of their work, pulling them from the dark corners of aging VHS tapes and into media for new generations to appreciate. Mike even assisted in releasing newer films with their creative roots in grindhouse oddities such as John Michael McCarthy’s TEENAGE TUPELO, and he paid tribute to the world he loved with last year’s THAT’S SEXPLOITATION documentary/love letter written and directed by Frank Henenlotter.

I only had the chance to talk to Mike once, while ordering a batch of Something Weird tapes for a video store I managed in the late ‘90s, but his distribution work had opened my eyes to an amazing work of oddball cinema long before that. A store I frequented in Milwaukee had a closet-sized space devoted to Something Weird titles, and I spent much of my meager earnings exploring the likes of FLESH AND LACE, THE SECRET SEX LIVES OF ROMEO AND JULIET, THE FAT BLACK PUSSYCAT and PSYCHED BY THE 4-D WITCH.

The world of Something Weird and Mike and Lisa’s love for the films they brought back to life was explored by Evening Magazine, in a piece visible below:

Our condolences go out to Lisa, his children Mark and Danielle, and everyone whose cultural interests were forever changed by his work. We’ll miss you, Mike.

 

@Paul Freitag-Fey

vraney


Tags: ,


20 Comments

  • Reply
    January 3, 2014

    Wow I came to this website to talk about what a great guy jim was and how after coming home from my minimum wage job and finding a package from something weird made me feel I wasn’t the only one out there who loved movies that were off the grid and because of companys like something weird and others that I became a film collector and preservationist .Thanx jim you will be missed

  • Reply
    Mark
    January 3, 2014

    Thanks Mike, SWV gave me the opportunity to see so many films I had read about but never thought I would ever have the chance to see. RIP.

  • Reply
    January 3, 2014

    Meant mike goona watch blood feast thanx

  • Reply
    Rob
    January 3, 2014

    Video West was indeed a truly great video store, the best in the Milwaukee area! It’s a small world after all. Have you ever had Champion Chicken?

    RIP Mr. Vraney. You made a living doing what you loved and created joy in the hearts of so many of us.

    What struck me about Mike was how he always looked at a movie for what it is, not what other people think it should be. He never ceased to be excited about “trash”. I have a much deeper appreciation of film and art from digesting the unique films he unearthed.

    Rob from the North Side

    • Reply
      dailygri Author
      January 3, 2014

      I grew up just a few blocks from Champion Chicken, so, definitely! Video West was one hell of a store, I’m so glad that somebody else out there remembers the wall of SW titles tucked away in the basement. I was kind of envious, as I was working at another (also great) store on the east side at the time.
      Thanks for your memories — completely agree on Mike’s point of view. It’s one I try to keep myself. -Paul

  • Reply
    January 3, 2014

    This is very sad news to me, and Something Weird was very dear to me also. I hope the company can be carried on, don’t let it fade away and leave us without all those great things he was doing. I would like to think he is in a great place and we will all be there too someday, farewell Vraney, and thanks so much. —VM—

  • Reply
    David
    January 3, 2014

    I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for what Mike Vraney did in preserving and making available to me so many films I’ve grown to love. To slip a Something Weird DVD into the player is to travel in time to a wild and wonderful cinematic adventure land of the past full of sights both delicious and gloriously ghastly. 56 is too young to go, but Mike contributed to a lot of people’s happiness in his short life and his legacy will continue to spread that happiness in his absence.

  • Reply
    Paul
    January 3, 2014

    So many, many things I’m happy to have been able to see thanks to SWV. Thanks for contributing so much Mike.

  • Reply
    Chris F
    January 3, 2014

    Wow, this is so sad. I looked forward to seeing Mike and Lisa twice a year at the Chiller Con in New Jersey. Those days are gone now as well as my friend Mike. Thanks for the education and the chance to meet legends like Dave Friedman et al. R.I.P. Mike

  • Reply
    January 3, 2014

    Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

    All the best to you Mike forever.

  • Reply
    Jim
    January 4, 2014

    I also remember talking with Mike at the NJ Chiller Show in Hackensack, as well as buying more movies than I could afford! Thanks for the hours of enjoyment Mike, you will be sorely missed.

  • Reply
    Jerry
    January 4, 2014

    I dealt with Mike while working for a stock footage company and I don’t think I ever came across anyone who was as knowlegeable and passionate about film as he was. He had a special mentality that understood the significance of those crumbly 8mm exploitation films as well as the drive to make it a living. We’ve lost a film visionary.

  • Reply
    MarquisDesMoines
    January 4, 2014

    I stumbled across a Something Weird trailer sampler DVD at a local used bookstore and it opened me up to a whole world of weirdness that I never knew existed. My generation is spoiled for media, and it has become easier than ever to make your own contribution. This spirit of DIY media and creativity has it’s roots in the grindhouse/exploitation genre and it’s my sincere hope that it continues to get the recognition it deserves. If you look at what’s big on the internet you will find a form of what was big in the exploitation circuit. That basic idea of “Show me something new” is the primal and vibrant force that animated this school of cinema and the more creative aspects of the internet.

    Anyway, enough geeking out. Thank you Mike for your work. I hope you are having a good time in punk rock Valhalla.

  • Reply
    Rich
    January 4, 2014

    Did business with Mr. Vraney since he founded SWV. He introduced me to films which I consider classics. His love for the genre was authentic and his knowledge base was incredible. To his family I offer sincere condolences and wish him Godspeed.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2014

    Shanty Tramp!!!!!

  • Reply
    JoeS
    January 5, 2014

    It’s hard to explain to folks who don’t know (or understand!) what SWV is how important Mike Vraney’s work is.

    We all hear about preservation efforts from the Motion Picture Academy, UCLA, Scorsese etc.. Vital work, yes. But, they are mostly about preserving already well-known movies. Vraney can be credited with saving Hundreds if not Thousands of films from almost certain extinction. He saved the offbeat, the unloved, the just plain forgotten. For that, and for being a cool soft-spoken dude in person, Vraney’s name should also be preserved in our memories.

  • Reply
    Ralph
    January 5, 2014

    that is a shock to hear. I bought VHS tapes from Mike back in 1995. we talked about films over the phone a few times. he was pretty knowledgeable about films.

  • Reply
    Keith
    January 8, 2014

    Only superlatives where Mike is concerned. I met and talked and
    Had meals with legends of the exploitation world because of Mike.
    His passions and obsessions and abiding preoccupations mirrored
    my own in so many ways. Our conversations over the years at
    Chiller were always a high water mark in my searches for the ob-
    scure and the outré. He always made time for me on even his
    busiest afternoons. Impressive,sincere,honest,and completely
    BS free. Bye mike,and good hunting.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2014

    Mike Vraney’s death is a major loss to the genre film universe,since Mike was a very important figure in the likes of film restorarion,recovering long lost films,and widely uncovering the careers of cult film personalties(Herschell Gordon Lewis,Joe Sarno,Doris Wishman,Michael and Roberta Findlay,Lee Frost,David Friendman,Harry Novak,Barry Mahon) to a whole new generation of film audience,as well as brought the films of Jose Mojica Marins(Coffie Joe) to American shores. Mike will indeed be very heavily missed.

Leave a Comment