Columns & Blogs

Couch Fest coming to Pickford Film Center; Mickey Dolenz at Skagit casino

Mickey Dolenz arrives at the premiere of "Jack and Jill", Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011, in Los Angeles.
Mickey Dolenz arrives at the premiere of "Jack and Jill", Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011, in Los Angeles. AP

One of the niftiest happenings that has taken place in Seattle and in many other cities for about seven years is the Couch Fest. And now it’s coming to Bellingham, thanks to Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay St.

Here’s the scoop from Lindsey Gerhard, Pickford’s marketing manager.

Ranking in the top five coolest film fests in the industry, Couch Fest Films is the largest single-day shorts film festival in the world. Originally held in strangers’ homes around the world, Couch Fest Films is now expanding into venues such as caves, boats, vans and independent cinemas.

Featuring highly curated content of the best short films available on the 2014 festival circuit, enjoy this year’s Couch Fest at Pickford Film Center — Gerhard calls the venue “Bellingham’s community living room” — at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6.

A limited number of tickets are available at the box office; the rest will be released at the door. It’s a 90-minute event, with a 5-minute intermission. And it’s free.

Details: and rsvp via the Facebook invitation.

Hey hey! It’s a Monkee!

Micky Dolenz took some time out from his national tour to conduct an email interview with me. He’s performing a “Monkees Christmas” concert at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 5 and 6, in the Skagit Valley Casino & Resort’s Pacific Showroom in Bow.

“At the shows, we have kids who first heard Monkee music in ‘Shrek,’ and fans from the beginning,” Dolenz says.

For people who don’t know, or whose memory may have faded over time, the quartet was formed in 1965 after an audition notice was placed in Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporters. Out of 437 applicants, Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork joined Davy Jones, the original musician selected for the band. Jones died in 2012.

The Monkees Christmas Show aired in 1967 as part of the band’s TV series, which ran from 1966 to 1968. You can watch the program on YouTube. (Be aware that the show was shot before “political correctness.”)

In recent years, Dolenz has been performing in musical theater around the country, including “Aida,” “Pippin,” “Hairspray,” and, recently, “Comedy is Hard” with Joyce DeWitt at the Ivoryton Playhouse in Connecticut. He also has two solo albums, “King For A Day” and “Remember.”

Dolenz says the Monkees were cast “much like a Broadway show. I like to think as it as it more of The Marx Brothers than anything else. ... My memory is that it was a quick audition, but clearly the choices that were made were due to the instant chemistry.”

Their tunes were selected by their music supervisor, Don Kirshner, in the beginning, with songs from some of the best writers around — Neil Sedaka, Carole King, Boyce and Hart, Harry Nilsson and Neil Diamond.

He says “meeting The Beatles and hearing ‘Sgt. Pepper’ in the Abbey Road studio was a memorable moment for sure. ... But being able to perform the caliber of songs we’ve had is terrific, too.”

The show is one in a run of events at Skagit Valley Casino that have been successful since it opened in 1995, including the sold-out Seattle International Comedy Competition Semifinals a few weeks ago. The casino’s hotel and Pacific Showroom were added in 2000.

Along with “Monkees Christmas” this weekend, the casino is getting ready to celebrate its “19th Anniversary Giveaways” on Thursday, Dec. 4, and Dec. 11 and 18, according to John Seyler, corporate director of marketing. This year’s celebration includes drawings, special points-earning prizes, and weekly grand prizes of $20,000.

The casino has hosted a wide variety of events over the years, Seyler says, and continues to showcase popular artists in many musical and comedic genres, as well as invite back favorites, including monthly headline entertainment and shows by national tribute acts and local bands mixed in as well, he says.

“We’re looking forward to our annual gala on New Year’s Eve (this year featuring The Beatniks), Neil Diamond tribute artist Jay White in January, and ‘Comedy Central’ and ‘Showtime’ comedian Christopher Titus in February.”

Many of the shows sell out.

“Most recently, our September shows with Air Supply were a huge hit, selling out well in advance,” Seyler says. “Peter Noone, Steve Earle, Marty Stuart, the Presidents of the United States of America, and Jim Breuer have also sold out in the last few years, and the comedy competition semifinals sell out every year.”

Seyler is excited about the return of Burton Cummings in March, whose shows in May 2013 sold out faster than any other show they’ve had. Tickets for Cummings go on sale Friday, Dec. 5.

Patrons must be 21 or older to enter the casino or attend concerts in the Pacific Showroom, but minors are allowed in the Skagit Skillet, both hotels and at privately hosted functions in the casino’s meeting spaces. The Upper Skagit Indian Tribe owns and manages Skagit Valley Casino Resort.

“It is an important economic entity, both for the tribe as a whole and for the many individual tribe members who are employed here,” he says.