SEATTLE, Wash.—Mike Vraney, the founder of Something Weird Video and a pioneer in the discovery, preservation and distribution of thousands of lost and obscure exploitation and sexploitation films, died Thursday following a long battle with lung cancer. Born in 1957, Vraney had just celebrated his 56th birthday on December 29.
Something Weird, which was founded in 1990, remains in business to this day, offering fans of alternative cinema a cornucopia of bizarre titles on DVD and video on demand. The company also screens new releases, including this past June in Los Angeles, when Something Weird Video collaborated with the Grindhouse Film Festival to present the world premiere of Frank Henenlotter's new documentary, That's Sexploitation! Over the years, Vraney's releases were also recognized by AVN, and garnered AVN Awards nominations, as well.
Vraney's friends and family posted a written eulogy to Somethingweird.com today in which they explain that the news of his passing will probably come as a shock to the many people who visited the site or knew Vraney by reputation only.
"Mike was a very private person and didn't want anyone, except his closest friends, family and colleagues, to know about his illness," read the eulogy. "He went through aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments for over a year, but sadly the cancer spread and cruelly took him from us."
The eulogy continued:
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
Image: Mike Vraney, courtesy of Something Weird Video.