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Director Peter MacDonald on Sly Stallone’s Lawrence of Arabia, Rambo III.

This interview was conducted in the Fall of 2015.

BOZUNG:   1987 was a busy year for you…You worked as the Director Of Photography on one of my all-time favorite films SHAG (1989) and then immediately went on to direct Stallone in RAMBO 3 (1988)…

MACDONALD:  Yes, that’s about right.   I literally finished SHAG, took a plane back to England, said hello to my family, changed my clothes, and then jumped on a plane to Israel to shoot the film with Stallone.

How did you come to direct RAMBO 3?

Originally, I was hired to shoot Second Unit Photography on the film.  When I got there you could sense that there was a lot of tension between Stallone and the original director Russell Mulcahy.    Mulcahy had only shot on it for about two or three weeks before he was sacked along with the all of the First and Second Unit Camera teams and a couple editors.   I had worked on RAMBO already so I knew what I was getting into! (laughing)      I had directed and photographed the second unit on RAMBO 2.  When I arrived in Israel for RAMBO 3, my assistant was ahead of me–so I landed and went directly to the desert.  I started right away shooting some helicopters in the desert.     I took over as director during the third week of shooting–and that was fine with me because both of my kids were in school at the time so I needed all the money I could get.    I was never a great fan of the RAMBO-image, so I guess I became a whore and sold myself to it.   But, it was quite an experience, because I thought that if I could survive that type of film with that type of pressure on me–and to work with Stallone who thought he was Rambo at that time–I thought that I could handle anything.   When I took over at the three-week point, they were already behind two weeks in the shooting. It was a mess.

And how does one direct Stallone?

You don’t. (laughing)   I tried, though.  I had worked on RAMBO 2 (1985) and Stallone had liked the way that I worked.  So we had a good relationship.  He was the one who persuaded me to take on RAMBO 3.   I did discuss with him the idea of making Rambo a bit more vulnerable, but also, to give him some humor in his soul.    We started that in Week 3 and by Week 11 he had thrown it all out the window…(laughing)    Stallone is a very bright man, but I think that the problem with the film–was his entourage.   They always cause the problem on a film set, not the actor.  Any problems are created by them.

One thing that strikes me about RAMBO 3–it’s a film that the critics didn’t like, but it’s a very ambitious film.  It has a very LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) quality to it.  It has a strange mix of Conan The Barbarian meets political ideology…

It does, yes.   I remember when we were shooting the film, about half-way through, I said to Stallone:  “I don’t know how many papers you read, but did you see this thing with Perestroika and Glasnost–the Russians are shaking hands…”   I can’t remember what he said exactly now, but it was to the tune of: “They’re all Commie bastards…”    They were all the enemy, and that was in the time in which the film came out.    It was a film very much of its time politically.    And there has always been a love-hate relationship between Stallone and the press, and the film wasn’t a subtle one.   And it was pure fantasy as well.  There is a scene of Stallone shooting a helicopter out of the air with a crossbow!  (laughing)  If that were possible, don’t you think the Defense Budget would be reduced to nothing? (laughing)   So the press really tore it to shreds.

I love that first big battle sequence in RAMBO 3…Where the Russian helicopters are assaulting that little village…You have that shot in there of that female villager running and screaming toward the camera holding a baby and all of a sudden she’s blown up!  (laughing)  I mean, this is a film that has a very high body count…

There’s a lot of carnage in the film. But it’s in a very comic book way…I kept a tally of the dead during the shooting of the film, and at a point, I went up to Stallone and said, “Thus far, you’ve killed about forty-seven and you don’t have a scratch…”     That’s when he wrote that scene where he has a splinter in his side.  It was the scene where he lights the gunpowder behind his back.  I was shooting that hand-held as the camera operator, and when the charge went off, it went through the prosthetic that he had on his back.  If you watch the film, you’ll see the camera shake during that explosion–because it made it look like it was super-charged, but the camera shaking was really me laughing while I was operating.  (laughing)  It was so absurd, but it was something that a soldier actually did in combat.  So, he got rid of the splinter in his side, and went on to kill another thirty or forty Russians….

But those sequences are really quite ambitious.  Visually, but in their execution… Did you storyboard any of that stuff out before shooting it?

No, we didn’t.   Because I was really comfortable shooting the action sequences as a Second Assistant Director.  I didn’t find them difficult, and we had very good helicopter pilots that had all flown in Vietnam.    When you have explosions and innocent people being blown up just because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time–we were very careful with it all.      At the end of the shooting, Stallone became very angry with me because when we were shooting that finale with the helicopter coming up over the hill after him on horse–and Stallone is a superb horseman–we shot the sequence with a very long lens which gave it the look that the helicopter was one about three feet behind him, but in reality, it was forty feet behind him.   But I hadn’t told him that the helicopter was going to come up over the hill at him! (laughing)  So when he ran in on horseback and jumped off the horse–he started screaming and yelling at me about it.  I said, “Yes, but look at the rushes of it.”   So I showed him the rushes and he said, “Wow, that’s really wonderful…” (laughing)  I knew that if I would have warned him that it was coming he may have left on queue on the horse and it wouldn’t have been as effective.  And to go back to what you mentioned a moment ago about the film having LAWRENCE OF ARABIA like qualities–my Assistant Director, Michael Stevenson, had worked on LAWRENCE with David Lean…

Right, and RAMBO 3 really has that sweaty and dirty/dusty look of LAWRENCE…

And once Stallone found out that Michael Stevenson had worked with Lean on LAWRENCE–he was elated.

What do you remember about the shooting of that opening stick fight sequence of RAMBO 3?

We shot that in Bangkok, Thailand.   I shot most of that hand-held myself as the camera operator because it was so carefully choreographed.  It was almost the last thing we shot on the film.   It was quite complicated so we could only shoot about four or five hits each take.   Everyone got really bruised during that–including myself.   I don’t think that Stallone liked the guy who he was fighting in that opening sequence because he had a big mouth on him and he and Stallone went at each other a couple times during that.    It was a great set and it had a wonderful mood about it.

There are some great lines in the script that Stallone wrote for RAMBO 3 as well…I love that bit a dialogue between Richard Crenna and his Russian Torturer…  The Russian says, “Where are the missiles at?”   Crenna responds:  “In your ass…” (laughing)  

Richard Crenna was a delightful man.  He was a true gentleman.  He was the kind of guy that kept everyone on that set inline.

 I have noticed a visual connection between RAMBO 3 and SHAG–two different films, as you’d agree…In SHAG you use that wonderful blue light mixed with the shadows of a ceiling fan going throughout it during many of the dance pavilion sequences and in RAMBO 3–during that opening stick fight one can’t miss the shadows of a ceiling fan above going through the entire fight…

Right, yeah.  Well, it worked for Tony Scott, didn’t it?

 In a way–those are your vertical blinds of film noir…Wasn’t there quite a bit of trouble with RAMBO 3 when it came to the editing of the film?  Aren’t there different edits of the film for the US and UK?

No, I don’t think that’s correct.   The editing of the film was done very quickly and there was no preview for the film.   It was because they were so behind on the shooting of it.   When I took over, not only was the film two weeks behind the shooting schedule, but the initial shooting of it had started later than expected.   The entire film was supposed to be shot in Israel, but because we were behind, and because of the fact that no-one had found a good location to shoot the final battle sequence, we eventually packed up everything and went back to The States.  We shot the rest of it in Yuma, Arizona.      We shot the final battle sequence with the helicopters and horseman there.   By the time the film was finished–they had already scheduled the release date.   We had three or four teams of editors working on the film at .the same time around the clock.   One team of editors would work on certain scenes, while others would work on others.    It was barely finished in time for its release date.    There was no time to produce different versions of the film for the US and the UK.      If there were separate cuts of the film for different countries–I certainly wasn’t involved with it.

Atomic Energy, Moonshot, Heart Transplants and Hippies: The story and legend of the holy grail of unreleased films THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED

NOTE:  I wrote this piece in 2011.  At the time I published it, it was the most in-depth examination on CLOWN that had been written to date.

I don’t care if the film doesn’t make a nickel! I just want every man, woman, and child in America to see it. -Samuel Goldwyn

By 1970, comedian Jerry Lewis had directed ten films. Films like, The Bellboy (1960), The Ladies’ Man (1961), The Patsy (1964), and The Big Mouth (1967) all had showcased Lewis at his profoundly zany, child-like genius best, but his popularity with movie-goers was fading. His films, while successful moneymakers for studios like Paramount and Columbia were considered passé to a generation that was smack in middle of embracing “flower power.” Things had become quiet, Lewis had no new film projects in the works. To fill the void, Lewis had begun a series of long term performance commitments with several casino’s across the United States. He was waiting out the time. Lewis was searching for something serious for his next project. Something to direct, so that people would take him as the serious first rate film artist behind the camera here in the United States that France already considered him to be. Jerry Lewis was looking for a project to shake up Hollywood.

Just five years prior in 1965, a screenplay had been just been completed by a public relations guru and television producer, Joan O’Brien. O’Brien originally conceived of the story while obsessively reading about the atrocities of the Holocaust while at the same time, being steeped in heavy public relations work for the great iconic clown, Emmett Kelly. Based on an initial story idea, and with the help from her writing partner and Los Angeles television critic, Charles Denton, the two collaborated on a screenplay which became a very hot Hollywood commodity. The name of the project was The Day The Clown Cried.

The Day The Clown Cried is the story of a former Ringling Brother’s circus performer, Karl Schmidt. A low down, and self doubting tramp clown past his prime during the era of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. During a performance, Karl accidentally bungles another performers act in the second rate German circus and he’s promptly fired. Creatively frustrated and angry at everyone and everything, Karl spends an evening at the local bar, getting drunk and telling jokes about Germany and Adolph Hitler. When an unhappy patron complains, Karl is then arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo. He’s then promptly thrown into a concentration camp for political prisoners, where he will remain for the next several years.

To keep his own spirits high and those of the others, Karl spends his days telling stories of days past in the great circus. Begging him to perform his act, the camp prisoners coax Karl into entertaining them, but he denies their request, realizing that he’s simply a lacklustre performer. Out of anger, the camp prisoners assault Karl, dragging him out into the middle of the camp square where he remains alone. As minutes pass by, Karl notices a group of Jewish children laughing at the him behind a bigoted wire fence.

Excited to be appreciated, he begins to perform for the captive Jewish children daily, until the Nazi commandant warns him to discontinue, or face a severe punishment. Unable to leave the children sad or unhappy, he continues. Karl is severely beaten, and placed into solitary confinement for several days. Seeing the power the clown has over the children, the Nazi commandant offers Karl the job of leading the Jewish children out of the camp and onto the box car trains which are heading toward Auschwitz in exchange for leniency of sentence.

Realizing the children’s fate, Karl decides to board the train alongside the Jewish children toward Auschwitz and into the gas chamber, helping to ease their horrible and tragic fate. The clown asks the commandant to allow him to be the one person to spend the final moments with the children, after leading them into the Nazi “showers.” Searching, praying, and depending on a divine miracle, nothing arrives. As the children file into the death building, overcome with remorse, Karl enters the gas chamber with the children, holding tightly the hand of a little girl.

Trying to entertain them in their final moments, the clown pulls three small pieces of bread from his pocket and begins to juggle them. The children laugh, they are engaged as the doors to the gas chamber close, and a single tear falls down the face of the clown, swearing his make-up, as the story fades to black.

Immediately, the O’Brien and Denton screenplay received a massive amount of interest and attention. Hollywood A-listers such as Milton Berle, Dick Van Dyke, and singer Bobby Darin all expressed desire in acquiring the rights and starring, but later declined due to the screenplay’s controversial subject matter.

In 1971, Jerry Lewis met a Hungarian film producer named Nathan Wachsberger after a performance at the now legendary Olympia Theater in Paris, France. Wachsberger prior to meeting Lewis, would produce a slew of Hollywood released – internationally produced pictures over the course of his career starting in the late ’50s. Wachsberger had owned the rights to The Day The Clown Cried since the mid/late ’60s. Wachsberger offered Lewis the lead role and directing carte blanche, fully financed with the assistance of a partnership with the then juggernaut Europa Studios. Upon reading the first draft of the screenplay, Lewis was skeptical of his ability to deliver such a dramatic performance. The critics had destroyed Lewis a decade earlier and his attempted dramatics with his remake of The Jazz Singer for the NBC television series, Startime in 1959.

Lewis recalled meeting Wachsberger for the first time in his 1982 autobiography, Jerry Lewis In Person. “Why don’t you try and get Sir Laurence Olivier? I mean, he doesn’t find it too difficult to choke to death playing Hamlet. My bag is comedy, Mr. Wachsberger, and you’re asking me if I’m prepared to deliver helpless kids into a gas chamber. Ho-ho. Some laugh — how do I pull it off?” Lewis shrugged and sat back. After a moment of silence I picked up the script. “What a horror…it must be told.”

Many Lewis insiders have speculated that Lewis became immediately interested in the concept, as he believed the subject matter would not be ignored by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences when Oscar season came around, if he himself took on the duties of auteur on the film. Interestingly, the script to Clown Cried was actually brought to Lewis’s attention for a first time back in 1966 by another producer, Jim Wright, but Lewis had passed on it still deeply stung from the critical backlash from his Jazz Singer remake.

The Day The Clown Cried would not be the first foray for Jerry Lewis into Nazi slapstick. Lewis had already directed the bizarre, but funny many faces of Jerry Lewis as a Nazi comedy in 1970, called Which Way To The Front? Front would be released for only three days theatrically before it was pulled by the studio to make room for the film sensation of 1970, Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock.

When the $1.5 million dollar budget for The Day The Clown Cried was secured, Jerry Lewis dove full steam into the controversial concept. He rewrote the screenplay, changing the name of the clown from Karl Schmidt to Helmut Doork. In addition, Lewis also changed the principal idea, basis and design of the lead character to reflect his own acting comfort zone and sensibilities.

The character became emotionally perverse, heavy on pathos. An Emmett Kelly or Charlie Chaplin persona with a childlike nature and heart, unlike O’Brien and Denton’s original character concept completely. Lewis had changed their character from a mediocre subject, a mean and selfish bastard of a clown to that of a gifted pied-piper type trying to save the world. When word spread throughout Hollywood in the middle of 1971 of Lewis and his next project, many were skeptical about the concept, even shocked. It was even reported by Lewis insiders that Lewis himself was scared of the character.

In the 1982 book, Jerry Lewis in Person, Lewis recalled the decision. “I thought The Day The Clown Cried would be a way to show the world that we don’t have to tremble and give up in the darkness, ” he wrote. “The clown would teach us this lesson.”

As pre production commenced, the next step for Lewis was one of pure method. Lewis traveled in early 1972 to visit and tour the remains of the German and Polish concentration camps of Auschwitz and Dachau. He shaved off forty pounds, with a pure grape fruit diet, that was also assisted at the time by his long time addiction to the prescription pain killer, Percodan, which he had first started taking after he injured his back in a pratfall gag on the Andy Williams television show in 1965. Filling both roles as director and actor, Lewis headed off to Paris, France for some initial exterior filming in the spring of 1972.

After several days in Paris, the production moved to Stockholm, Sweden for principal photography. An international cast was assembled for the film. Ingmar Bergman starlet Harriet Anderson was cast to play Helmut Doork’s wife. Anton Diffring (known for playing Nazi officers) took on duties of the commandant, Colonel Bestler. An unknown at the time, was second Assistant Director — Jean-Jacques Beineix. Beineix would go on to direct two of the most critically acclaimed international films of the 20th century, Diva (1981) and Betty Blue (1986).

As shooting began, complication instantly started to plague the production of the film. Producer Nathan Wachsberger disappeared off to the south of France for weeks at a time. Film equipment (Lewis was known for insisting on using only Mitchell BNC cameras) ended up missing or not showing up at all. It was shortly into the production that Lewis realized that he was in real trouble. It wasn’t long before the film’s financing completely dried up, that Lewis discovered that Waschberger in fact had lost the film rights to the O’Brien and Denton story just prior to the start of shooting.

Waschberger had tried to renew the rights by paying O’Brien and Denton an initial five thousand dollars of fifty thousand owed, but never paid the balance to renew the rights to film the story. Word spread back to Hollywood quickly, and it has been speculated by Lewis insiders that Lewis was unaware of the problem prior to the start of shooting, but it’s also been insinuated that Lewis was very aware before leaving for Stockholm of the situation.

Rather than leave a project incomplete, Lewis committed to the concept, and began sinking his own money into the film to simply finish the work in progress. It was money being spent on a project that he didn’t own the rights to film any longer.

In a interview given to the New York Times in 1972 Lewis recalled, “I almost had a heart attack.” Lewis said, just after the production wrapped. “Maybe I’d have survived. Just. But if that picture had been left incomplete, it would have nearly killed me. The suffering, the hell I went through with Wachsberger had one advantage. I put all the pain on the screen. If it had been my first picture, the suffering would have destroyed me. But I have the experience to know how to use suffering. I was terrified of directing the last scene.” Lewis told the interviewer. “I had been over 100 days on the picture, with only three hours of sleep a night. I was exhausted, beaten. When I thought of doing that scene, I was paralyzed; I couldn’t move. I stood there in my clown costume, with the camera’s ready. Suddenly the children were all around me, unasked, undirected, and they clung to my arms and legs, they looked up at me so trustingly. I felt love pouring out of me.”

Lewis continued on, “I thought, this is what my whole life has been leading up to. I thought what the clown thought. I forgot about trying to direct. I had the cameras turn and I began to walk, with the children clinging to me, singing into the gas ovens. And the doors closed behind us.”

Crew members on the film’s production later reported that Lewis during shooting was “distracted, nervous, and preoccupied with money issues.”

In the midst of post production, Lewis decided to go public with the details of Waschberger’s lack of follow through as producer. Waschberger responded by filing a lawsuit against Lewis for breach of contract, denying the sum of Lewis’s accusations and allegations. Lewis began to fear for the future of the film. With a schedule that never ended, Lewis began again to travel across the United States with his one man comedy show. With film cans under his arm, Lewis went from city to city, cutting the film after performances into the late hours of the night, remaining fiercely critical of anyone and everything standing in his way of achieving an initial rough cut of The Day The Clown Cried or offering up criticism on the edit.

Europa Studios had decided to retain the negatives of the film, claiming they were owed the sum of $600,000 dollars. It was rumored that Lewis himself after the fact, actually maintained a copy of the negative as well as the sole ownership of the film negative for the final three scenes shot during production.

With a rough cut assembled by January of 1973, Lewis announced on The Dick Cavett Show that the film had been scheduled to be screened for the first time at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, with a release into U.S. theaters shortly after. It was never to be. The film was shelved, due to it’s legal and financial complications.

Lewis begged and pleaded with copyright holder’s Joan O’Brien and Charles Denton for release of the rights. Lewis had screened certain key scenes for them in person. O’Brien and Denton were outraged and disgusted with the final product. Lewis had altered their original vision, changing their character into something they had not foreseen or believed in and would not allow. Joan O’Brien and Charles Denton continue to retain the copyright to the story to this very day, and the film has never been released. Over the years, many producers have approached O’Brien and Denton trying to secure the rights to release the Lewis film and have attempted to shop the film’s negative around for distribution, but in the end O’Brien and Denton have always denied the story of the tramp clown it’s proper ending.

Recalling again in his 1982 autobiography, Jerry Lewis in Person, Lewis wrote: “I’m still hoping to get the litigation cleared away so I can go back to Stockholm and shoot three or four more scenes. One way or another, I’ll get it done. The picture must be seen, and if by no one else, at least by every kid in the world who’s only heard there was such a thing as the Holocaust.”

During the ’80s and ’90s, several revisionist concepts of the story of The Day The Clown Cried surfaced. There were rumors of remakes of the film, based on the Lewis concept as well as of the O’Brien and Denton idea. Reports in trade paper’s showed upcoming version’s starring Richard Burton set in Russia, while others have reported William Hurt tackling the role around 1991 and 1994 respectively.

With no end in sight to this story, or to the legal obstacles the film still faces to this day, Lewis had over the years maintained a very candid and open dialogue regarding the film with the media, until around 1992. With the interest in the film growing over the decades, the now defunct Spy magazine, a national print publication published an interview with eight one time Lewis insiders that had the unique and privileged experience of seeing the rough cut of the film, which to this day Lewis keeps closely guarded in his private archive in Las Vegas, Nevada in his office safe. This included actor/comedian Harry Shearer, screenwriters Joan O’Brien and Charles Denton, former Lewis associates Joshua White and Jim Write, and then Rolling Stone magazine journalist Lynn Hirschberg, amongst others.

Providing detailed insight’s from all that experienced the film, all found the film’s intentions in contempt. Actor Harry Shearer remarked that the concept and the anticipation of the idea itself was better than the actual film. Shearer also commented that the pathos on display in the film, and the comedy was severely misplaced.

It’s been rumored that the cause of Lewis no longer wanting to discuss the film in the media was because of the negative feedback showcased in the Spy magazine interview. As early as 1993, journalists were now being cautioned to stay away from any questions regarding the film from his agents and publicity staff prior to all interviews.

In 2001, a reporter mentioned the film to Lewis during one of his public motivational speeches, indicating that rumors were abound that the film might actually see a release, and Lewis replied, “None of your goddamn business!” In 2002, interviewer and Lewis fan, Scott Marks was given brief access to Lewis. Asking immediately, when people would have the chance to experience his masterpiece The Day The Clown Cried, Lewis turned his head slowly and uttered, “Kid, you’ve got as much of a chance of seeing it as you the Chicago fire.”

A year later in 2003, former Lewis publicist, Fred Skidmore sold his production used screenplay of The Day The Clown Cried on Ebay. It sold for fifteen dollars plus shipping. The script, dated March 1972 and marked “Final Draft,” featured production notes as well as detailed notation of specific actor’s names cast in the film. The screenplay has since traded hands, selling at a higher value than previously and is rumored to be in the private collector hands of either Robin Williams or uber Lewis fan, Joe Piscopo.

During the production of the film in 1971, a documentary film crew lead by former co-host of ABC television’s Good Morning America and former MDA telethon contributor David Hartman was in place in Stockholm to capture aspects of Lewis on set. A brief fifty-three seconds of the footage was used in the 1996 Cable Ace nominated A&E Biography of Lewis titled, The Last American Clown. No doubt, the remainder of the documentary footage is well secured in the vault of Lewis, as Jerry Lewis has a reputation of acquiring and maintaining copies of everything he’s been involved with since the start of his film and television career some 60 years ago. There are no publicity stills or lobby cards circulating, there is not a unreleased film score available via bootleg. There exists only a hand full of behind the scenes production photos that have surfaced on the internet in recent years since the shooting of film was completed in 1972.

While in pre-production on The Day The Clown Cried, Lewis had considered that a film of such subject matter could earn the attention of voters during the Academy Award’s season. How ahead of his time was Lewis and his method of thinking? Conversation and comparisons to Lewis and his The Day The Clown Cried were brought up again in 1998, when Italian filmmaker Roberto Benigni released La Vita E Bella aka Life Is Beautiful.

Benigni’s film documents an Italian family, who is forced to separate during the Nazi invasion of Italy. Benigni smuggles his son into a mens’ concentration camp, and instructs him to hold his tongue, pushing the child off as belonging to one of the Nazi camp officials. During the United States military liberation of the camp, Benigni hides his son in a holding tank in desperation, and comically entertains him in a pure Jerry Lewis fashion, as he’s being escorted to his ultimate death. The film won Benigni an Academy Award that year.

Is the tale of The Day The Clown Cried really the story of art gone wrong, or misdirected pathos? Or is Jerry Lewis saving his work, because it is ahead of it’s time? Are his fans ready for such controversial subject matter? Or is it Jerry Lewis hiding his work, cause he misjudged the entire concept? Could releasing a film like The Day The Clown Cried today tarnish a perfect humanitarian and film auteur’s 60 year reputation, if in fact it is truly a cinematic disaster? What if it is a masterpiece as Lewis and his fans have at times proclaimed?

The subject matter of The Day The Clown Cried will forever haunt Jerry Lewis. Lewis would only write and direct two more feature films following The Day The Clown Cried. The first, Hardly Working (1980), the story of a past his prime out of work circus clown who tries to accumulate into the normal nine-to-five world. The later, Cracking Up aka Smorgasbord (1983), the story of a clown like klutz whose many attempts at committing suicide fail because of the laws of fate and nature.

At the end of a amazing career like that of Jerry Lewis, what is it about The Day The Clown Cried story that has rare film collector’s and Lewis fans still obsessed all these years later? While no one may ever be able to figure out the mystique of the concept or the true intention of Jerry Lewis, current Google search results for the film provide over one hundred and twenty-five thousand hits upon searching the words, The Day The Clown Cried. As interest continues to grow, only time will tell if the clown decides to come out from under his elusive big top

Dyanne Thorne Interview

This interview was conducted in the winter of 2009.  I spoke with both Dyanne Thorne and her husband Howard Maurer.    They were both incredibly lovely people.   My questions, looking back now, are incredibly naive though.

Down the street from where I grew up, there was a video store.  This was perhaps, the first video store chain I had ever been into by the time I reached age 15.  Of course, I knew of Blockbuster Video back then, but we didn’t have one in my immediate area.  We had Mom and Pop shops, busy grocery stores that rented out a hodge podge of tapes, then–this chain store that went by the name of Mammoth Video.  All of these were in bicycle or walking distance from home.

In the days of pre-DVD, my friends and I would spend hours in this video store going through every single VHS tape. We were trying to uncover that one hidden gem, that perhaps none of us us had ever seen or heard of before.

As we stumbled into the action section we of course encountered films starring Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, even the occasional ‘misplaced and not supposed to be in the action section’ oddities like the David Lynch film, DUNE (1984) for example. One weekend afternoon, as we made our way down the alphabetical rows, I stopped quickly, when out of the corner of my eye I discovered three VHS tapes sitting side by side that all had very similar cover art in common. The same woman was also featured of each box, but I had noticed that the woman on each of these covers was dressed differently.  My eyes were drawn immediately to the cover I subconsciously thought was the most attractive, and above this woman read the words in bold face red type, “Dyanne Thorne”   Below the woman, the verbiage violently followed up with ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE S.S.

For a few weekends straight, my friends and I would look at these covers in curious wonder, we’d all share a laugh about the cover art, asking each other what we each thought these movies could possibly be about, and at times even making up fake and hilarious titles for our own Ilsa film. We did this perhaps, because we never had the guts to rent any of these.

Finally, after weeks of boredom I went to the video store alone and rented ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE S.S. (1975).  Getting home, and putting  it in my VCR quickly, I couldn’t wait to see what this movie was all about.   By the time the film was over, my jaw slapped against the floor, my body convulsed in a ‘oh my god’ discovery and my eyes exploded out of my head in pure exploitation astonishment. ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE S.S. provided me a cinematic self combustion that I still haven’t recovered from all these years later. Today, I still consider the film to be the most bizarre and important over the top exploitation film ever released in the United States.   It’s a filthy,  raw extremely exaggerated sadistic story with comic book nuances and sexual escapism and I love every damn bit of it all these years later.

The essence of  film ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE S.S. (1975) will always be that of character actress Dyanne Thorne.  Dyanne is a glowing, raving actress that brings a dangerousness to the ILSA role all the while a sexual ambiguity.  The character is cruel, seductive, painful, beautiful and all the while deadly.    Dyanne Thorne would go on to play this character of ILSA again in following sequels, ILSA: THE HAREM KEEPER OF THE OIL-SHEIKS (1976) and ILSA: TIGRESS OF SIBERIA (1977).   These are exploitation classics that everyone out there in Mondo Video land needs to experience at least once.

Dyanne Thorne started out on the theater stage at a very early age.  As a young women, she studied religion and anthropology at the university level before her singing and acting career blossomed and sent her heading toward California.  Once arriving, Dyanne would continue performing on stage while she landed walk on roles in classic 1960′s television shows like STAR TREK and FELONY SQUAD.  In addition, she would work on the stage in Las Vegas while occasionally taking on film roles in low budget fair like, LOVE ME LIKE YOU DO (1968), POINT OF TERROR (1971) and BLOOD SABBATH (1972).

POINT OF TERROR (1971), penned by actor Peter Carpenter is a  soapy ’70′s rock-n-roll melodrama about a struggling singer trying to hit the big time by befriending and seducing a rich but obsessive music executives wife who has a penchant for blackmail.   The film, with it’s rich psychedelia, music, sex and dramatics did not receive a wide distribution on its initial release and prior to  a DVD release was all but forgotten.  In recent years, the film has been considered by many to be a cult classic, and features Thorne in her greatest performance to date.

Shortly after, Dyanne would meet and marry her soul mate, Howard M. Maurer, a successful musician and songwriter, and the two would settle in Las Vegas permanently.  Over the years, the two have been a non-stop force on the Las Vegas strip writing and performing numerous shows all the while starting their own successful wedding chapel.

Howard and Dyanne created A SCENIC WEDDING in Las Vegas.   Each are independent officiants and non-denominational ordained ministers, with Dyanne herself receiving credentials including being accredited as a Professor of Comparative Religions.  The business is very successful and fans from across the United States travel to Las Vegas to be married by the one and only, ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE S.S.  In addition Howard and Dyanne travel to several horror/exploitation movie conventions each year throughout the United States and Canada where their martial services are utilized in front of  hundreds of ghoul/ zombie / and monster movie fans.   35 years after her infamous role in ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE S.S, Dyanne continues to receive a great deal of fan mail yearly, and takes the time to answer every single letter that arrives in her mailbox.

Speaking with Dyanne and Howard has been one of the most positive, uplifting and enlightening experiences of my life.   They are both gems, glorious souls that offer up genuine caring and interest for the lives of their friends.   Both are exceptional people, with warm hearts, fun, filled with rich stories, and overall just a pleasure to speak with.

Justin:  I love how great the two of you guys are together.  I was curious to see how the two of you met?

Dyanne: I was working a show in Las Vegas.  The gal I was working with, we went on to do our own show together that we called, Thomas & Thorne.   All the while we were doing our show she was always saying to me, “I”ve got a guy you’ve gotta meet!”

Howard: Right, and I was friends with her as well, and every time I’d see her, she’d say to me, “I’ve got a girl you gotta meet!”   The more she said that, the quicker I was running the other way. I was traveling a lot.  I was doing well.  I was thinking that “this girl” must have a problem or something with her.   So I was in Los Angeles working in a club, and they contacted me about writing some music for them.  So we met in a club in Los Angeles, and that was it.  We looked at each other, and that was that..

Dyanne: It was funny cause I thought we were just going to this club in Los Angeles to discuss business. I hadn’t put two and two together about the fact that we were going to meet the guy that my friend was trying to set me up with.   When I met Howard, we just hit it off right away, but we were both very busy.  I was going out of town to do stage work.  He was going out of town to perform his musical act.  But we stayed in touch, we wrote letters to each other for over a year every week.  We got married not long after that, and we’ve been together ever since.

Justin:  Very nice.  So how did the two of you start your wedding chapel in Las Vegas?

Howard: Dyanne had been ordained a long time ago.  I was here in Vegas playing music at a lodge. I overheard the owner of the lodge say that they needed a minister for a wedding that was coming up in a couple weeks.   Now, in order to be able to marry people legally in Nevada you have to be issued a certificate by the state.   At the time it was a very involved process.  Dyanne was approved and did receive it.  So, having that I was able to offer up Dyanne to the lodge owner.  So that was Dyanne’s first Vegas wedding.

Now, how we opened up our business that was several years later.   We have two close friends that were getting married and they asked Dyanne to marry them, plus they asked me if I’d play at their wedding.   Which we did.  Then someone who was at that wedding heard us and saw us, and then they asked us if we would do their wedding.  So, we really built the business out of word of mouth.

Dyanne: The irony of it all, was that we were producing and starring in a show on the strip, which was an afternoon show.  So we were free to do weddings on the weekend.   So we did that for a few years, and the business just started doing very well for us.  And now we’re marrying people at these movie conventions that we’re going to.  

Justin:  Right.  So before we get into talking about some of these exploitation movies, I wanted to skip forward and talk about how you guys got involved in the shooting of the film ARIA (1987)?

Dyanne: Oh..I’d like to tell this one.  We both had an agent, who was also the same agent for Jay Leno.  Her firm was getting big, so she had sub-agents.  I was listed with one sub-agent and Howard was listed with another.  So we both went to see the casting people.  But they didn’t know that we were married.  So I was cast as the bride and then I went home.   A while later Howard came home, and told me that he was cast as the groom.  But they had saw each of us separately you see, so it was by chance that we were cast as bride and groom for the movie. [laughing]

Howard: [laughing] Right..so it was fate or just good casting.

Justin:  So Howard, I know you’re a musician.  So how did you become interested in music?

Howard: My family was musically involved.  I had generations of my family that were involved in music.  When my mother was a young girl, she was offered a role in Ziegfeld Follies, but her parents wouldn’t allow her to do it.

I grew up in the Bronx.  There was a lady in our apartment building that was offering piano lessons for cheap.  All the kids in the building took piano lessons. Shortly after there some kids in the neighborhood asked me if I wanted to play in a band.  Right away, we got offered a job to play at a hotel up in the Catskill mountains.  This was for an entire summer.   So I just became the piano player.  I played piano through high school, I played my way through college, in which I was originally interested in going to med school but I realized right away that there was no way I could be in class at 8 a.m, when I was staying out playing music all night long.  So that’s when I realized that I was a musician.

From there, my brother and I started a very successful musical act. We headlined casino’s like MGM, Caesars Palace, and The Sandsso business was really good.  We were playing clubs and hotels, and my sister was even performing with us at times.   One thing that you’ll find interesting is that when the business started to slow down some, I had just met Dyanne.   So that’s when I decided to move to Las Vegas.  And when I moved to Las Vegas one of the first jobs I got was managing The New Aladdin Theater which I opened up with Neil Diamond.

Justin:  So Howard… Who are some of your musical influences?

Howard:  Louis Prima.  I just loved what he did.  He influenced me as a performer.  Also, George Gershwin. Cole Porter’s lyric’s knocked me out too. Mel Torme.  Plus growing up in New York City, I used to go to Birdland Jazz Club.  So I got to see all the great jazz musicians.  Also, I got to see Lenny Bruce several times in New York.  You probably don’t know this, but I went to high school with Bobby Darin, and we used to play cards together many years ago.

Justin:  So Dyanne…Where did your initial interest in acting come from?

Howard:  Dyanne knew she was gonna be an actress from the minute she was born. [laughing]

Dyanne:  When I was three years old there was a Christmas pageant.  And the girl that was supposed to be in it, had gotten sick.  So my mother came home one day with this nice pink satin dress, and told me that I was gonna be her replacement. They had been rehearsing for months prior.  So I went in with no rehearsal and they kindly instructed me on where to walk, and what to say.  My mother being my mother, told me that I stole the show. So I think I caught the bug then.

Justin: So I know that you’ve got this major background in comedy as well.  Where do you think your interest in comedy comes from?

Dyanne:  Survival. [laughing]  Comedy is much more fun and mellow.  That was the fun for me of doing the ILSA stuff.  Comedy has always been something that’s attracted me to acting I think..

Justin: Now growing up didn’t you also have an interest in Anthropology as well?

Dyanne:  Yes I did, but honestly the money just wasn’t there for me to follow that interest.  When I was growing up they didn’t have scholarships that helped you pay for college, unless you were a straight A student, and I wasn’t.

So while I did study Anthropology for about a year, I did not get a degree.  But I did get to go on a couple anthropological digs, which was great. In the last few years it’s been written that I have a degree in the field, but I don’t.  So then my idea was to be a journalist working in the Anthropology field, and study at N.Y.U.  Along that path, my singing career started to open up some doors for me, cause I had studied singing very seriously since age 12.  So I found that I could make more money on the weekend singing at places than any of my journalist friends could make writing.  So I switched my interests to singing and drama.

Justin:  Right, and didn’t you have the opportunity to work with Stella Adler around this time?

Dyanne:  Yes, I worked with Stella Adler and she recommended me for my first movie role, which was for a movie called ENCOUNTER. Robert De Niro was in the film.  I worked with Lee Strasberg too. It just kept moving forward for me, I met some good people, and that lead me out to California.  I will say that doing the film stuff has been great over the years,, but I’ve also done thirty years of work on the stage, that no one ever asks me about it. [laughing]

Justin:  So do you think acting is a natural ability for most people that pursue it?

Dyanne: That’s a good question.  That’s sort of like judging someone, like you’re saying that I don’t see the natural ability in you.  Years ago here in Las Vegas I was teaching acting at a local college in the theater department.   It was wonderful. I pulled out every script I had ever read.

Justin:  So how did you get involved in the film, LOVE ME LIKE I DO (1968)?

Dyanne: I was living in Los Angeles at the time. I was doing a lot of television.  I did that Star Trek episode, and I did an episode or two of Felony Squad on which Richard Donner was the director.  I had an agent, who was getting me work, so I was very loyal to him.  But he was really sort of retired and he wasn’t really submitting me as much as I would have liked.   So this agent had invested some of his own money into LOVE ME LIKE I DO (1968).  So I was sent in,  I read for it, and I got it.  Charles Napier was in the film, and Peter Carpenter as well.   And the best thing about that was that the next two films that those guys did I worked on. They recommended me on those, and that’s how I got POINT OF TERROR.  So I’m working with these kids, trying to inspire them and I was trying to get them to read these plays and scripts, and they’d come in and tell me that they weren’t gonna read it cause they just wanted to be a ‘star.’  I was so disgusted.  I just couldn’t believe it. This wasn’t the mentality that I had growing up.  

So I couldn’t imagine that someone could say that, how they were just interested in the party of it all, and not necessarily interested in the craft itself.

Justin:  Yeah, I love POINT OF TERROR (1971).  I think it’s perhaps the performance of your career?  How was that experience for you?

Dyanne: I had a wonderful director on that film.  He was so experienced and professional.  Alex Nicol was a real director.  He took the time with me to rehearse and discuss the film.  I think if I would’ve been more confident back then, I would’ve done even better in it.  Now I have the confidence but just no job. [laughing]

I was in really great shape back then.  I can’t tell you all the things I did back then to keep my body in shape.  Remember that scene where I show up in a bikini?  Peter Carpenter thought it was too much. Originally I was supposed to enter the scene from the water.  I was supposed to come up out of the water, and Peter would see my body and I would lie next to him. So they changed the direction and had me come down from up on that hill and the next thing you see is that I’m laying down next to him covered up by a towel, like there’s something wrong with my body. [laughing[

Then there was that pool scene where Peter and I are supposed to be making love. While we were shooting it, Peter was wearing a jock strap, and he wouldn’t take it off. Not that we were going to do anything, but the pool was lit from underneath, so the jock strap showed on the film.  So they couldn’t use very much of that footage in the finished film.  So there is stuff like that I think that could have been done better.

Justin:  So do you know if POINT OF TERROR (1971) was successful on its initial release?

Dyanne: Not really. I don’t know. It was originally distributed by Crown International Pictures.  At the time it was released, I wasn’t living in Vegas yet, but they brought me to Vegas for promotion.  I did some radio interviews, I think I went to some drive-in’s to promote the film.  I never even saw the poster to the film when it was released. I didn’t see it in fact, until after Peter Carpenter passed away actually.

Justin:  So playing someone like “Andrea” in POINT OF TERROR (1971) and playing “Ilsa” in the ILSA films is it more interesting as an actress to play a villain rather than a hero?

Dyanne: This will sound corny, but I think we all have that side in each of us, where we wanna be someone else.  There’s a dark side, a light side.  As an actress, it’s a challenge to pull that out of yourself.  I’ve played a lot of dumb blonde’s on stage, it’s just interesting to do that. I have also had the honor to work with Tim Conway on stage, and comedy is of course wonderful to do.  As an actress it’s a challenge.  So to do that, to play someone like ‘Andrea’ there isn’t much to it, but to dig deep and pull it out of you.

Justin:  So by the time you did POINT OF TERROR (1971) you had done a lot of television and the film LOVE ME LIKE YOU DO (1968), but at this point in your career is there any frustration that you’re not getting bigger roles?

Dyanne: Not really.  Not if you truly love the craft.  You don’t ever judge it, big or small.

Justin:  In the ’70s were you ever approached by someone like Russ Meyer or Playboy magazine to be in any of his films or the Men’s magazine?

Howard: I do remember that Dyanne had been approached by men’s magazines which suggested the exposure could give her a big break; she turned them down, until Cinepix arranged for her to fly to Chicago for a OUI magazine photo-shoot to promote TIGRESS.

Plus I know that Quentin Tarantino’s office approached her for a cameo in his GRINDHOUSE movie, but she was busy doing something else at the time.

Dyanne: I was approached by Russ Meyer at one point; his films are respected and very successful, but just were not my cup of tea.

Justin:  So doing all these movie conventions that you guys are starting to do, is it a positive experience for you guys after having done all these movies and now meeting these fans?

Howard:  It’s dynamite.  These people come up to us and tell us how much they love these movies.  They come from all over, and they’re all very wonderful and respectful.

Dyanne: Yes, they are simply wonderful.

Justin:  Doing some basic research on the internet I’ve seen some pictures of you guys hanging out with Joey Ramone and then Johnny Lydon from The Sex Pistols.  Aren’t they ILSA fans?

Howard: Dyanne get’s calls all the time when those guys come into town.

Dyanne:  Yes.  We’re wonderful friends with a lot of these musicians, and they are fans.  I was wonderful friends with Joey Ramone.  When he passed away it was very upsetting to me.   We’re friends with the manager of Motley Crue.  When he comes into town, we get together sometimes..

Howard: Yes.

Justin:  So going to these movie conventions, what do you guys think about some men that may consider Dyanne or the ILSA character as a sex symbol of sorts?

Dyanne: [laughing] ILSA a sex symbol?  Have you seen pictures of the actual Ilsa Koch? I was trying to represent her.  You don’t think about how you look, you just go and do the role.  It’s really amusing that some may consider ILSA a sex symbol.  Certainly there is nothing wrong with someone being a sex symbol, or people admiring a sex symbol but that wasn’t my motivation certainly.  I don’t know how someone could be aware that they are a sex symbol. Unless maybe, people are constantly telling you flattering things. I’m sure there was some sort of subconscious part of me at the time that would have admitted that I looked good, sure.  But did I think of myself as a sex symbol? No.  But I may have thought at the time that I could show off what I had. [laughing]

Howard:  Also, I’ll tell you that we don’t see too much of that at these shows.  We have guys coming up to us at these shows and their age ranges from the young to the old.   Mostly they are genuinely interested in her work as an actress.  Like what you said early about POINT OF TERROR (1971).  People come up and talk about that movie with her, not just the ILSA movies.   Dyanne get’s a huge amount of fan mail, it’s  overwhelming to me, but she always, always takes the time to answer all of these  letters. It may take her a while but she does it.

Justin:  Dyanne, how did you get cast as “Ilsa”  in ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE S.S (1975)?

Dyanne: I had an agent at the time, that sent me out for it.  At the time, I was in need of another job.  Things were slow so I had taken a part time job as a chauffeur.   So when I showed up to the audition I had my chauffeur’s suit on.  It was strange, when I went in there to audition the room was filled with people. Don Edmonds the films director was there.  Some of the other actors that were eventually cast in the film were there.  So I read for it, and after that they asked me to wait around.  So after a few minutes, they called me back in and started talking to me about the shooting schedule, and they said they would be in touch with my agent.  Two days later I got the role.

When I read the original script I was appalled.  It was just awful.  But this was typical of the ’70s. Sometimes you’d just get an script outline, make yourself available and then everything would get filled in later. So I was a little worried initially signing on, but a friend at the time told me that he knew Don Edmond’s personally and that I shouldn’t worry cause I would be in good hands.

Justin: So when you read the original script for the film, were you OK with the fact that the film would have so much nudity in it?

Dyanne: Well when I read it there really wasn’t any nudity.   There was a love scene in it, but they told me that we would discuss it, cause I told them up front that I wouldn’t do any frontal nudity.  What was funny is that the male actor that I was supposed to work with in that love scene was tipsy, the day we shot it.  I’m not sure if he was just tired or what. Because he had waited outside like 10 or 12 hours before we even got to him for that scene. So when we were ready he was barely able to keep his eyes open, so they took away most of his lines, and I think you see way more much of me in the scene.

Justin:  Didn’t you do  a lot of research to prepare for the ILSA character as well?

Dyanne: I read a lot of books. I had a friend who is now gone but he had been an English teacher at Oxford University, so I called him up and he started telling about all these different historical situations that I wasn’t aware of.  He gave me a list of books that I should take a look at.  Then I read up about Ilsa Koch, and all the horrible stuff she had done.

Justin: So where do you think you pulled the German accent from for the film?

Dyanne: Well as an actor I had already studied dialects.   As an actress you work on things of course. I did try to hire a professional dialect couch for the role, but the movie wasn’t willing to pay for it, and I didn’t have the money for it.   It was really expensive.   So I just read a book on it, dug in, and hoped for the best.

I’ll point out that there were times when it was simply awful.  For example when we did the ILSA: THE TIGRESS OF SIBERIA (1977) film.  It was the same situation, we started shooting the film and they wanted me to use a Russian accent, then they decided I need to do a German accent, then about half way through the shoot they decided that they didn’t want the character to have an accent, so I stopped doing it all together.   They had told me that they were gonna re-shoot those scenes, but there was no money to do that by the time we finished.  So the dialogue doesn’t match, and it makes it look like I screwed up, but that was what I was asked to do.

Justin:  If someone was to ever remake ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE S.S. (1975) who do you think you’d want to be re-cast in your role?

Dyanne:  Oh, I don’t know.  We have the human part in each of us that would say, ” I can’t imagine anyone playing that role but me. “  But years ago, I used to watch a show on USA Network that was called La Femme Nikita.   The actress that played “Nikita” was named Peta Wilson.   Now the show wasn’t that great, but I thought she was great, and I thought that maybe she could have been ILSA if they would have ever decided to do a remake of the film.

Over the years, I’ve been approached to do something like, ILSA and her daughter.  That sort of movie. I’ve always turned it down, cause ILSA would never have had a daughter like that.  That would include “Greta” as well in GRETA: THE WICKED WARDEN (1977). I want to set it straight and say very clearly that the Jess Franco film GRETA: THE WICKED WARDEN was not part of the ILSA story…  It gets lumped in there, but it was designed to be a stand alone film, and it was based on a entirely different story separate from ILSA.

Justin:  Okay, I gotta ask simply because I would be remiss if I didn’t…  If the money was there. The story, the time, the director everything was there for you today, would you make another ILSA film?  What about ILSA 2000?

Dyanne: Nah…What would the point be?   What could they do?  All the previous ILSA films were based on some sort of true story.

Justin:  Okay, so here’s my last question.  So given all the life experiences you’ve had, all the interests you’ve had, working in film, on the stage, spending all this time  marrying people in Las Vegas, having this amazing and long lasting marriage – with all this wisdom you have, what is the secret to happiness and success?

Dyanne:  Well, that’s a little much isn’t it? [laughing]  If I knew I’d have a magic wand.  I think that’s why I did THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO (1971).   I could hold that wand over everyone’s head and say, “It’s OK, It’s OK.”   I really don’t know.  If we go into the wisdom box I’d truly say that you have to accept yourself, dare to dream, and stop judging yourself for thing’s you’ve done and what you haven’t done.

I worked with Omar Sharif in the film, PLEASURE PALACE (1980). He was such a gentleman.  It was his birthday the day I was there.  I had a scene with him.  I was dressing in the girl’s room, and I didn’t have a make up artist.  So he was so kind and he offered his hair dresser and make-up person to me.  So be kind to one another.  These are the memories that we don’t forget, and this was over 30 years ago.  So you have to be kind to one another, but you know that already.

Re-printed with the permission of Mondo Film, LLC. All rights reserved.

William A. Wellman Jr. Interview

Actor and writer William A. Wellman Jr. talks with Justin Bozung about his father/director “Wild Bill” Willam A. Wellman, the making of WINGS (1927) and his 2006 book documenting the production.

137262311BOZUNG:   Hello Mr. Wellman.   I just want to extend a “Thank You” to you for taking the time out of your schedule to speak with me today.    Your book The Man and His WINGS: William A. Wellman and the Making of the First Best Picture is one of my favorite books on film that has ever been written…

WELLMAN JR:  Well, thanks for saying that. I appreciate it.   

BOZUNG:  For those that might read this interview…One of my favorite aspects of the book is how you’ve included some of your Dad’s early correspondences inside…In particular I’m impressed with a particular incident that happens to “Wild Bill” William A. Wellman Sr. as a young man in Paris early in his life pre-movies…

WELLMAN JR:  Right, when he jumped into the river to save that girl?    

BOZUNG:  Yes!

WELLMAN JR:   The letters that my father wrote are amazing.  He wrote 82 letters to his parents during his years in the War.   I’ve been thinking about putting out a book of just those letters.

BOZUNG:  You also suggest in the book that one day you aspire to produce a film about your father’s days in the War…

WELLMAN JR:  Right, I have a script all set.  I’ve been close to getting it produced a couple times, most recently, with Disney.   Then FLYBOYS (2012) came out and they backed away from it when that film didn’t make the money that it should have.  Making a film about my dad is the only thing I haven’t done for him yet.   It’s on my wish-list.    I’ve done a documentary. I’ve produced the only retrospective on him that happened in his lifetime in the United States.  I’ve done two books on him.  I’ve hosted screenings of his films in five different countries since 1993.  I only have the movie to get made yet.

BOZUNG:  I’ve been a huge fan of WILD BILL: HOLLYWOOD MAVERICK (1995) since I first saw the film following it’s original VHS release.

WELLMAN JR:   What makes that whole project wonderful is that I still have over 20 hours of interview footage on file with all of those Hollywood icons that appeared in the film.  You only get a minute and a half in the final documentary with Robert Mitchum but I actually have forty-five minutes on film with him.  I’m looking at putting the film out on DVD and using all of that extra stuff on the release.

BOZUNG:  For those that haven’t read the book yet, how did Wild Bill come to direct WINGS (1927)?

WELLMAN JR:   He was put under contract in 1925 by B.P. Schulberg at Preferred Pictures.  Schulberg, then moved over and began working as the head of production at Paramount.  When he moved over there he took with him two contractees–my father and Clara Bow, the “It” girl.   My father…No-one paid any attention to him at that time because he was primary known as a director of “B” Westerns.    The first non-western that he directed at Paramount was called THE CAT’S PAJAMAS (1926).  It’s a lost film today, and even up until the time that my father passed away–he always said that he hoped that THE CAT’S PAJAMAS stayed lost.    There wasn’t much of a chance for him to direct WINGS with his resume or on face-value, but B.P. Schulberg was pushing for him.   He went to the head of the studio Jessie Lasky, and told him  about how my father was the only director under contract that had front-line battle experience as a decorated fighter pilot.   Schulberg said that he was the only director that could understand the picture and the battles that are depicted in it because he fought in them.   

They gave my father another film to direct before called YOU NEVER KNOW WOMEN (1926).  It was successful artistically and commercially.   Lasky believed that Paramount was the most successful studio at the time because he felt that he had the best directors under contract.  He had: Cecil B. Demille and Victor Fleming…   Lasky said to my father, “What makes you think that you can direct this picture better than any of the other directors in my stable…”  My father said: “My war record does, and I’ll make it the best goddamn picture this studio has ever had.”   Lasky decided to take a chance on him.  He was only 29-years-old when he came to work at Paramount and at 30 he was directing WINGS.

BOZUNG:   Another incredible story in the book….The story of your father flying his airplane in and landing it on that Polo field during a match to talk with Douglas Fairbanks…

WELLMAN JR:  Right.  Yeah, that really happened.  It was true.

BOZUNG:  Some of the pilots that worked in WINGS came from here in Michigan…

WELLMAN JR:  Yes, and the picture was shot down in San Antonio, Texas and on the studio lot at Paramount.    There was a second-unit team that shot in Paris as well.   When Paramount got the support of the War Department–it made sense to shoot in San Antonio because they needed all of the background actors. San Antonio put them in close proximity of all the service stations there.  There were 5000 troops in WINGS.    Lasky was running Paramount in Hollywood while his partner Adolph Zukor was in New York.   Zukor ran the money and he oversaw the 1000-theater chain that Paramount had at that time.   WINGS was Lasky’s project, and when he went to Zukor and told him that he needed $1.2 Million dollars to make the film–Zukor wasn’t cooperative.   They didn’t want to put that kind of money into a film about planes in the sky.  So Lasky was overruled by Zukor and the bankers.

Lasky sent the writer of WINGS–John Monk Saunders–to Washington to see if he could get some funding through the War Department.   Lasky ended up sending one of his producers, Lucien Hubbard, to Washington for support as well.    They got one General at a time on board at a time at the War Department and the project even went to President Calvin Coolidge.  He signed off on it.  The War Department gave Paramount $16 Million dollars of support!  They gave them 5000 troops, over a dozen tanks, and over a hundred airplanes.  WINGS never would have been made had it not been for the help of the U.S. War Department.    And that wasn’t the end of it.  

The budget actually spiraled up as well.  Paramount eventually put in another $2 million dollars to finish the film and promote it.   That’s $18 Million dollars in 1926!   What is that today?   Today, it would cost $1.5 Billion dollars to make if they didn’t use any CGI.    There are no special effects in WINGS.  In fact, my father made all of the actors take flying lessons so that he could actually shoot them up in the air flying!  It’s all real.

BOZUNG:  Do you think Wild Bill saw WINGS as a uber personal project?  It seems like it was a way for him to re-live his actual combat adventures?

WELLMAN JR:   Absolutely.  There is no way of knowing…When my father came on board WINGS had been in pre-production for about 4 months.   My father and John Monk Saunders, who had both been pilots in the War, sat down and made some changes in the script.  We’ll never know exactly what aspects of the script were my fathers and which were those of John Monk Saunders, but there are aspects that I can’t help but think are direct contributions to that script by my father.   For instance, the Gary Cooper sequence.  My father looked at 35 actors before he decided on Gary Cooper.  He had only had one role prior to WINGS.   He was a total unknown at the time, but for some reason my father thought that Gary Cooper was perfect for that role.   In the War, my father had a close friend named Billy Meeker.  They trained together and Meeker was killed in a training exercise just as Cooper is in WINGS.  I have to believe that my father added that sequence into the script.   

When my father got his wings and was sent into action–he was the only American pilot flying in a squad of Frenchmen.   Just like we see in WINGS.     Then a gentleman named Tommy Hitchcock joined the squad and my father and he became best friends.  They went on two-man patrols together.  Just as in WINGS, Hitchcock went lost and my father spent all night waiting on the tarmac for him to come back, eventually leaving out on a crazed-mission on his own…

BOZUNG:   Right, just as in WINGS–where Buddy Rogers does almost the same thing, eventually leaving out alone on a dawn patrol to find his friend.

WELLMAN JR:  That’s right.

BOZUNG:   After WINGS Wild Bill went on to make LEGION OF THE CONDEMNED (1928)…

WELLMAN JR:  That’s now a lost film as well today.   We know a little bit about the storyline for LEGION but because we’ve never seen it we can’t be completely certain.  What I can say is that my father always said that LEGION OF THE CONDEMNED was an even more personal film than WINGS was for him.    He cast Gary Cooper to star in LEGION and he managed to use outtakes from WINGS in that film as well.   When Howard Hughes saw WINGS he called my father and asked him if he’d like to direct HELL’S ANGELS (1930).  My father turned him down because he didn’t want to direct three aviation films in a row.   But, he did supply Hughes with the list of the best thirteen cameraman that were used on WINGS as well as a list of names of the seventeen stunt pilots that he had used on WINGS as well.  I mean, these guys invented the entire technology of air-warfare as we know it today in movies.   None of that had been done before WINGS.     Almost anything in aviation in the movies before WINGS was done with miniatures or process shots.

What they did in WINGS…No-one knew if any of it would work actually.  They had to figure out how they could even photograph these pilots and planes in the sky.  Originally, they tried to photograph the stunt pilot from a second plane but that didn’t work because if you got too close you’d see that stunt pilot wasn’t the actor.    Keep in mind too, the cameras that they first started using were hand-cranked as well.   After trial and error they had no other option but to mount the camera to the plane and send the actual actors up into the sky.

BOZUNG:  Can you imagine Wild Bill trying to direct such?  It’s seems so audacious and daunting…

WELLMAN JR:  He would go up into the air and direct as they were flying.  He’d also orchestrate it all out on a blackboard or he’d even draw it out in the dirt on the ground.  Once they’d get set to shoot, the actor and a stunt pilot would go up in the plane.  Once they reached the altitude that was necessary, the stunt pilot would duck down into the plane and the actor would have to turn the camera on themselves and in effect not be just the actor, but the cameraman and director as well.  Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen, when you see them in WINGS, are flying the planes.   There was no automatic pilot, it was all control stick.  You had to work hard to fly those planes back then.

BOZUNG:  The the way the camera moves on the ground in the film is really special..In particular, one thinks of that overhead dolly shot that goes throughout the Paris nightclub in the film…Scorsese borrowed that shot for his THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013)…

WELLMAN JR:   My father loved to move the camera.  In almost every one of his pictures you see unusual camera angles.  One of my favorites is in THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (1943) because it tells you about his philosophy on camera movement.   The scene where they hang the innocent men–the camera is in a set position.  Everything that happens is in a big master.  We start on the Colonel, who goes over and gives the riding crop to his son so he can whip the horses.  The son doesn’t want to do it.   The other horses are whipped away, and the character that is played by Mark Lawrence shoots one of the horses.  The camera pans over a bit to get the other characters in.  There are no cuts to close-ups, or two-shots.  It’s all one shot.  He’d shoot the lips of an actor because the actors eyes were hindered.

 He was an assistant director before he became a director, and he made eleven films before he directed WINGS.  He always shot with the idea that he was editing the film in the camera, and he did that because he didn’t want an editor to have the ability to take what he shot and make it his own.  

BOZUNG:  Could we talk about the shooting of the battle scene finale in WINGS?  In your book you talk briefly about the shooting of that scene and the tragedy that befell it with the accidental death of one of the troops during it…

WELLMAN JR:  First of all, the Air Force pilot that was killed, he’s not actually in the forefront of the shot, he was somewhere in the back.  My father didn’t even know that it had happened during the shooting until later.  The weather wasn’t cooperating that day.  He needed sunlight but the clouds were cast over the location all day long.   They rehearsed it several times and they really had it down perfect.   Finally, my father saw a glint of sunlight coming and in minutes everybody got ready.  They decided to go for it.   They shot the whole thing in 5 minutes.  There were 3500 troops in the sequence.  Dozen of planes flying overhead.    My dad was firing off the explosives himself during the sequence.  He had told everyone to not bother him during it.   They had built two 100-foot towers and he was up on the third level of one of them.  In the middle of the sequence, one of the Paramount bankers came up the ladder and said something to my dad.  This caused him to hit the wrong button and effectively, a explosion went off and it injured two of the troops in the sequence.  My dad, without turning away said, “Whoever you are you son-of-a-bitch, get off this tower right now or I’ll kill you.”  

BOZUNG:  It was a very crazy situation and shoot…In the book you also talk about the pressure that was put on Wild Bill by the studio, crew members skimming money from the budget, the death of that trooper, bad weather, Wild Bill scrapping, at a certain point, everything he shot to start all over at beginning…Do you think the film opened up doors which enabled him to go to make even more important films….

WELLMAN JR:  I think it followed him for his entire career.  Jessie Lasky called it “The Last Great Silent Film.”   It won the first Academy Award for Best Picture.   It created a rift between my father and the studio once it was all over though.  I mean, my dad punched out one of the Paramount executives when they visited the set!   They thought about firing him off of WINGS several times.    Paramount just didn’t understand the logistics of shooting the aerial stuff.  They didn’t get it, and eventually he just grew tired of trying to explain it to them.  So he stopped talking to them, and the studio thought that he was just thumbing his nose that them.  The studio, also, didn’t know what they had in the picture either.  They had released a film five or six months before WINGS called OLD IRONSIDES (1926), which did no business.  They were worried that they’d have another flop on their hands.  They didn’t even allow my father to attend the premiere of the film in New York City.

When it opened in New York City, it opened very strongly.  It played for 63 weeks at the Criterion theater. That theater had almost 900 seats.  Then it was moved to the Rialto Theater, which had almost 2000 seats.  It played for almost two years solid.   Paramount eventually gave my father a new contract, but they never really had a great relationship.  

This interview was conducted in early 2012.  Copyright Mondo Film, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Scott Wilson: In Cold Blood (The Interview)

The following interview with actor Scott Wilson was conducted in January of 2014.   The interview was done for Shock Cinema magazine.  The majority of the below interview was not included in the Spring of 2014 issue.

BOZUNG:   Is there any truth to the rumor that Quincy Jones suggested you to Richard Brooks for IN COLD BLOOD?

WILSON:  He did.  Also, Sidney Portier did as well.   While we were shooting IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT Sidney had asked me if I was up for IN CLOOD BLOOD. I said, What’s that?”   He said, “It’s something that you should be up for.”   So I called my agent about it and he said, “How much do you weigh?  How tall are you?  You’re not what they’re looking for.”  I said, “OK.”  Then I forgot about it.   On the last day of shooting on IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT the Second AD came up to me and told me that I was wanted over at Columbia.  So I went over and met with Richard Brooks.  I found out later that both Sidney and Quincy had both called Richard Brooks about me and that Norman Jewison had been allowing Richard to watch the dailies on IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. That got me in the door to audition for IN COLD BLOOD.

BOZUNG:  What was the audition for Brooks like for IN COLD BLOOD?   It must have been a hot property considering the success of the book at that time…

WILSON:  Yeah, it was.  But I didn’t know that, because right before I had been cast in IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, I had been working as a parking lot attendant at day and then going to acting class at night.  I wasn’t going to see films at the time because I was so busy and plus I didn’t have a lot of money either.  So when I went in to meet with Brooks for the first time, while I was waiting, I met Tom Shaw, who was Brooks right-hand man.  He was like an Asst. Director at the time, but today he’d probably be considered as a Line Producer of sorts.   He said to me, Did you read the book?”  I told him that I hadn’t and he couldn’t believe it.  So he said, “Well, don’t tell anyone that but Richard.”   When I walked into Brooks office he had all of these photos and maps all over the walls in connection to IN COLD BLOOD and you could just feel a energy in the room.   Brooks starts telling me everything he’s looking for and he names off like five or six big Hollywood actors.  I said, “Well you have the wrong boy, I couldn’t play any of those guys, but I’ll tell you what..I’m one hell of an actor.”  (Laughing)   I was really cocky.   

So I went and picked up a copy of the book and read it.  After I read it, I said, “Why did I tell him that I couldn’t play this like any of those other actors?  I can do this.”  So the day after I finished reading the book I called Richard’s office to kind of set the record straight, and Tom Shaw answered. I started telling him about how I had just read the book and he stopped me and said, “Don’t worry, you’re coming back in for this role. I’m in your corner.  I want you in this role.”   I went back and forth to Brook’s office for about six weeks.   We would read scenes together and I did a screen test.  

BOZUNG:  I think I saw somewhere, maybe, in an interview with you at the time of the shooting of IN COLD BLOOD that you saw ‘Dick Hickox’ as being connected to Hamlet?  Could you expound on that a bit?

WILSON:  Well, since you brought it up….One of the first scenes I did for Brooks was a soliloquy from Hamlet.  He said, “Where have you done Hamlet?”  I said, “At home, in my living room, for myself.” (Laughing)  Then he said, “Why did you choose to read that scene from Hamlet for me?”  I said, “Well there’s a correlation between Hickox and Hamlet in that they both were contemplating murder and they both had suicidal impulses.”   

BOZUNG:  In terms of creating that character or personifying him…Was there a collaboration with Truman Capote in that he may give you insights into that character, then Richard Brooks may  also be giving you his own insights into the character…

WILSON:  My only collaboration with Capote was what I got from his book.  Capote and I never discussed a approach to Hickox.  We never even talked about the book.  In fact, the first thing I discussed with Richard Brooks after I had read the book was how it seemed that Capote seemed to have an issue with Hickox.  Capote never gave you a psychological justification for Hickox as he did with Perry Smith in the book.

BOZUNG:  Right, yeah, I’ve noticed that as well in the book.  There seemed to be some sort of sympathetic feelings toward Perry Smith…

WILSON:   Well, you can see how awful Smith’s childhood was and how bad that motorcycle accident was that he was in.   Capote psychologically justifies Smith, and romanticizes him in a way.   You didn’t get that with Hickox in the book. Hickox was just this bad guy, who had no reason to be bad, but was.   I really wanted the film’s audience to dislike Hickox when the film was over, but I wanted them to know that he was a human being.  You can dislike someone but still realize that he is a human being.

BOZUNG:  What do you think that you took from Capote’s book that helped to realize that character for the film?  Was there one thing for example, that triggered any sort of epiphany in regards to understanding that character for you?

WILSON:  It’s hard to say, because that book is so brilliantly written.  I also read books about the psychology of people that write bad checks and molest children.  I love getting into the research for the characters that I play.   You do all that research and then you just give yourself to it and let go and allow it to take you were it wants you to go.   Brooks was very possessive of the script for the film.  He only gave us half of the script to read in advance, and once we were done he asked for it back.  Then when we were shooting the film, he’d only give us one scene at a time to read.  He didn’t want any of the scenes to leak out around Hollywood. He said, “Before you know it, these will end up on television.”  It was interesting, because we had the book…laughing   So it wasn’t like we were in the dark as to what was going to happen in the story.  Yet, Brooks also had the belief that the result from the moment was more powerful than the scripted scene too.  He was a great director.

BOZUNG:  In the film, Robert Blake as Perry Smith calls Hickox an “artist” after he’s just passed off that bad check…Hickox is, as you said moments ago, unlikeable, yet at the same time he’s slick, cool, calculated, and in many ways an actor….Did you see it as an actor playing an actor?

WILSON: Hickox was basically a petty criminal.  He was a crook.  He would probably do anything that he would’ve had to do in the moment.  That was part of the book.  What was the most interesting part of it was that neither Hickox nor Smith would have committed those murders on their own.  Capote writes in the book about how when these two guys got together, it created a third person, and it was only then, that they were able to commit those murders.

BOZUNG:  Right, yeah, I love that aspect of this story.   It’s so wonderfully supernatural.  There seems to be a lot of supernatural undertones in a lot of true crime writing…

WILSON:  It really was, or whatever you wanna call it.  It really wasn’t a healthy chemistry that they shared.

BOZUNG:   How did you connect with Hickox internally?   As the actor, you can’t pass judgement on the character you’re playing, and the bad guy doesn’t know that he’s a bad guy….

WILSON:  You’re right.   Most people don’t think their bad people.  They justify why they do bad things.  When we were shooting it, I came to a estimation that Hickox would have been sorry for having a part in committing that crimes.  

BOZUNG:  If you would have had the opportunity to sit down with the real Dick Hickox before he was hung as part of your preparation for that role what do you think you would have asked him?

WILSON:  I don’t think that I would have needed to talk to him.  I don’t think I would have wanted to pick his brain.  I thought that Capote had done that too well already in his book.   I felt confident in my research.  Plus, I had met several people while we were shooting in Kansas who had known him, and they said, “You’re nothing like him.”   Then later, when they saw the film being shot they said, “You’ve become him.”  There was a lady that was at his trial, and she told me afterward, that I had done some of the same things that he himself had done at his own trial, so that was pretty flattering.

BOZUNG:  I’ve read newspaper and magazine articles that were published at the time of the film’s release that Robert Blake and yourself made a conscious effort to not interact with the locals in Kansas….

WILSON:  That is true.  We had to be outsiders, and we really bonded, Robert and I, and we were very close at that time.  He is a wonderful actor.  We really leaned on each other, and he was very helpful to me.  I hope I was helpful to him as well.

BOZUNG:  I saw an interview with Brooks once where he said that once Robert Blake and yourself realized that you were shooting IN COLD BLOOD in the actual locations where the actual crimes had occurring that you stopping behind actors and became those men…How does that resonate with you?

WILSON:  I think there’s a truth to that.  I think it did the same thing to the crew and to Richard Brooks himself.  I think that all had a major impact on the film for sure.   For me, one of the most interesting things about the entire experience of shooting IN COLD BLOOD was how Richard Brooks never referred to either Robert or myself by our real names.  Whether it was in a print interview or wherever, he always referred to us as “The Boys”.   Robert and I were lucky to get those roles.  He could’ve gotten anyone he wanted to play Hickox and Smith.

BOZUNG:  I read once where he had wanted Steve McQueen for one of the roles…

WILSON:  Right, the studio wanted him to cast McQueen and Paul Newman in those roles, but he was insistent in casting unknowns.  He didn’t want his audience to identify with those guys.  

BOZUNG:  Any truth to the rumor that Capote came to the Clutter house while you were there shooting and gave both yourself and Robert Blake a sort of room-by-room tour of the house and what had happened in each room and when?

WILSON:  That’s not true. But he did come to the house while we were there shooting.  Brooks usually had a closed set, but he opened it for about three days and allowed the World Press in.  That’s when I first met Capote.   In fact, that was that same day I believe that Robert and I went with Capote and shot that photo that was on the cover of Life Magazine.

5-12-67

BOZUNG:   The tough question it seems….Considering your playing this real person, and Robert Blake is playing a real person, and you’re shooting this film in this house where this actual story happened, and you’re re-creating a murder in the house where it happened, on the exact spot in which they actually died in the house…What does that do to you?  What kind of vibe or energy does that offer in that moment?    Could you feel that energy in that house?  Even in that Life Magazine article that came out on May 12th, 1967, the crew members interviewed in the piece even stated that the vibes of the house became too much for them…

WILSON:  That was part of what Brooks created, and maybe there was some of that down in that basement and in the upstairs.  Maybe there was that sort of psychic energy present in those rooms.  We were playing characters, and I know there was a quote where someone said something like, “We get the feeling that we really are those guys..”  And that may be so, but it was while we were working.  You didn’t take that home with you at night.  It was really an incredible experience there, it was incredible to speak to the people that knew those guys, the arresting officers, the people who crossed their paths.  I talked to many people in Kansas but I never had any real probing questions for them about Hickox.  As I said, Brooks created quite a environment on the set, and of course we had the great Conrad Hall as our Director Of Photography too.

BOZUNG:  Do you think with Hickox that you were more interested in interpreting the character or the reality of who he actually was?

WILSON:  I wanted to reincarnate him for the film.  I wanted to bring him back to life for IN COLD BLOOD.   It was one of the few times in any actor’s career where you get the chance to play someone that actually existed, where people knew him.  And when they tell you how close you came to realizing him, it is really validating.

BOZUNG:  Going back for a second to the idea of the supernatural in IN COLD BLOOD…..Was there ever a moment, when you had to step out of Hickox and consider his crimes?  Did you ever step out of the character to feel empathy for the his victims?   Writer Spaulding Gray once talked of “clouds of evil that come over certain moments in history,”  and I can’t help but suggest that same thing here because of the utter submissiveness of the Clutter family in the film and in Capote’s book and how they put up no restraint whatsoever when these two killers forced their way into their home that night and took their lives…

WILSON: Of course.  I think Capote nailed that in his book, and I think the film captures the utter reality of that crime as well. Brooks really captured the essence of the book. Was the dialogue that was said by the actors that played the Clutter Family in the film what was actually said to the real Hickox and Smith in that moment?  I think it probably was.  Brooks once said that Capote’s book was “The Orange” and the film was “The Orange Juice”, and I don’t think the film could’ve captured that crime any more realistically then it did.  

Did the Clutter’s actually succumb that easily to Hickox and Smith?  Yeah, they probably did.  I think Capote was able to capture that intimacy because of how close he was in his relationship with Perry Smith.   

BOZUNG:  Then there’s also that interesting sexual tension in the film between Hickox and Smith…

WILSON: I don’t think we ever talked about that to be honest.   You just got that sense with that dialogue, “Honey, Baby, Sweetheart…”  Then there was that moment in the Clutter girl’s bedroom when Hickox goes in and Smith pulls him away.  Before we shot that scene, we had just broken for lunch and I went to Brooks and said, “I think he should say “OK, Honey.”  If you’re going to have him say that throughout the film then he should say it in that moment too.”

BOZUNG:  Is there any truth to what I’ve read about Richard Brooks buying the actual urinals that the real Hickox and Smith used in prison after they were executed.

WILSON:  Yeah, he bought them and had them installed on the prison set that we shot on.  He was really trying to recreate the whole thing.  He wanted to create the crime in essence on film.  He wanted to capture what Capote had captured in his book.   There was a scene in the film that we shot, where Robert Blake gets off the bus with his box, and Brooks brought in the entire Kansas City football team for that.  He didn’t bring them in because he was a football fan, he brought them in because he wanted to diminish Perry Smith.  Brooks wanted him to appear smaller than everyone else.  He wanted to create something psychological.  You only notice it subconsciously as the audience, and that for me, is what acting is all about too.

M.Dung Interview

The Wolfman on Acid! An audio retrospective on M. Dung is featured at the bottom  of this page.

40548_1369168105582_392641_nO-Day, O-Dow, Eye!  Justin is joined by radio great M. Dung aka Michael Slavko.  M. Dung first hit the airwaves with his “Idiot Show” in Grand Rapids, MI on WLAV-FM before transplanting himself out on KFOG-FM in San Francisco, CA.   Dung earned a massive following in California in the mid ’80s–which grew into legions of followers by the early ’90s–earning him his place in the book as the last truly great radio DJ in the pre-Clear Channel era of radio.

Dung, a Michigan native, talks with Justin about his days on the air in Grand Rapids and San Francisco, his podcast “The Mutant Idiot Show” and how he crafted his signature rock-n-roll wild man persona. 

BOZUNG:  You grew up in Detroit and during  the pinnacle of the Detroit sound.  You grew up with Motown.  And bands like the MC5 and The Stooges were going strong…

63165_4985702116672_1932393287_nDUNG:  Well, it was great. I was a kid and I didn’t know anything different.  It was exciting and totally different that how it is today obviously.  Motown was really cooking.  The rock scene was healthy. The automobile industry was firing on all pistons and it was an exciting time to be in Detroit.  Radio was great.  That was the thing that really got me.   My dad, of all people; he wasn’t from the rock-n-roll generation and he really couldn’t stand the music.   He liked to listen to the oldies stations on the weekend out of New York or Chicago.  The New York stations would play only Doo-Wop.  That was my first impression of rock-n-roll and the wild and crazy disc jockeys of that day.     When my dad wasn’t doing his oldies thing during the weekend he was listening to beautiful music, shit like Ray Conniff.  It definitely wasn’t my kind of thing.  I have an older brother as well, and I’d listen to his records too.  I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and that event changed my life.   I knew that I wanted to be like them, but I wasn’t a musician.    However, it ignited in me, a real passion for music.

Then the Boss radio era came in in ’65.  I was listening to the big stations coming out of Chicago.  Then, CKLW out of Windsor.    Not so much New York stations though.  Detroit had some great stations.   Radio was like oxygen in those days.   You’d listen and you’d hear all the cool tunes and get all the information.    

526601_10200535405005996_2020636050_nBOZUNG:  Were you influenced by Wolfman Jack as a DJ?

DUNG:  Well, Wolfman was around my entire life.  I never heard him when he was done in Mexico broadcasting.  My first exposure to Wolfman was probably when he was hosting The Midnight Special on television.   I really didn’t have much of an effect on me at that time, but later on when I was able to hear some of his early airchecks–that really had an influence on me.  AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973) had a big influence on me as well.   That movie was great.  It has the best radio scene that I’ve ever seen in a motion picture. It was perfectly portrayed and it was true to form.  Wolfman was a regular guy.  He was in the booth eating popsicles and when he cracked the mic he became Wolfman Jack.   It occurred to me that you didn’t necessarily have to be who you were to be on the radio.   

1167265_10202993251610625_110845593_oWith M. Dung, of course, it started out differently but the same too.  I never took a radio broadcasting class in my life.  I started out in the theater.  I was a theater major.   So, it was easy for me to translate that experience into radio because I approached M. Dung like he was character.  It wasn’t like I sat down and thought M. Dung out–it just sort of happened.   At the college radio station (WSRX), I eventually became the program director.  I wanted the station to be on 24 hours a day.  My overnight guy stopped showing up, so I decided to do it myself.  I was on overnight from Midnight until 6 a.m.   I was doing the show and after a few weeks of that I said to myself, “Fuck it, I’m going to do what I want.”  That’s how Dung was born.

Mostly, I was just trying to stay awake and provoke a reaction from someone.  When you’re on overnight no one would call you.  It was like I was there alone.  So by screaming and doing weird shit, people would call us and say, “What the hell are you doing?”  Mostly, my audience were diary farmers in Allendale, Michigan.  They’d be up at 3 a.m. milking their cows.   I’d get requests from them.   I just figured that since I had to be there at that time of night that I might as well do something and it just caught on.

1888506_10203056397549234_1666499046_nBOZUNG:  So where did the name “M.Dung” come from?

DUNG:  Well, it was 1977, and Punk had just came in and I wanted to come up with a name that would be offense.  I couldn’t say “shit” on the radio, but I could say “dung.”  

BOZUNG:  So you created Dung in college…You finished school and did you go back to Detroit and get on the radio or did you head straight to WLAV-FM in Grand Rapids?

DUNG:   No, I went straight to WLAV.  It was my first professional radio job.   WSRX was the “in”.  WLAV would recruit from there for fill-in guys, part-timers or interns.  I heard through the grapevine that WLAV was looking for someone. At that time they were a Top 40 station.  I didn’t really have an interest in that…But I put together a tape and I guess they liked my voice or something.   Tim Steele, who I started at WSRX with was over at WLAV.   Tony Gates was the morning star of WLAV.   There was a set of people there: Aris Hampers, Ogie, Doc..the people that were there had been in place for a while by that time.  I got my foot in the door, and I was hired as the weekend guy.   Then I started doing  7p.m. – Midnight.   This was on the AM side.  Then I started doing some part-time stuff on their FM side.    I was working there as me, not M.Dung.  No-one had knew that I was him.  

1911875_10203056312947119_907777162_nThen the Program Director at WLAV passed away and they brought in a guy named Dave Logan from Chicago.   I didn’t know it at the time, but he had heard Dung and when he found out that I was him–he hired me to do the “Idiot Show”.     It started out on Sunday nights and went from Midnight to 2 a.m. initially and then it was expanded out to 6 a.m.   Can you believe I did Dung for six hours?!?!

BOZUNG:  In terms of M. Dung…Where does his speech come from?  Where does that “O-Dow, O-Day, or Eye!” come from?

DUNG:  Well, because I was so bad that I would often make mistakes and I would make these noises to cover up my slips.  I would get so excited and worked-up to do my show that it was almost like speaking in tongues.   It was just get in a zone and that is what would come out. I couldn’t swear on the air either so the sounds come out of that.

1795663_10203056352628111_123256876_nBOZUNG:  Do you think that Dung energy comes out via the performance or because of your enthusiasm for the music?

DUNG:  Back then, it was a little bit of both.  I really loved the music and it was a big part of my life.  Being on the radio was exciting.  When it was time for my show I was pumped.  I just go in there and scream my brains out for hours.

BOZUNG:  You mentioned the dairy farmers that would call over the middle of the night while you were at Grand Valley WSRX, but what about the crazies that would call you overnight while you were on at WLAV?

307616_10150400315557429_1000595785_nDUNG:  Oh, they would come out of the woodwork.  There are a lot of weird people in the world, and they really have no outlet for their particular brand of weirdness.  People respond to that type of stimulus.  They’d just call us and I would really play their requests.  That was a plus because people would really get excited about that.  With Dung, they could get on the air live and they could scream and go nuts too.  It was a release for everyone.

BOZUNG:  You were totally free-form too.  You wouldn’t stick to any playlist or genre.  You were totally eclectic.    Were you pre-programming the show or were you just playing what you felt like?

DUNG:   The only thing I knew that I would play would be if I was doing a feature on a artist.   I would walk into the studio with a stack and records and whatever happened happened. Other than that, I would let my audience pick.    They would call us and say, “I wanna hear this!”

Want more Dung?  Listen to my full interview with M. Dung and hear a archival and uncut Dung aircheck from WLAV-FM 1982 here:

Check out M. Dung’s podcast “The Mutant Idiot Show” here:

P.J. Soles Interview

I can still remember the very time that I saw Alan Arkush’s brilliant film, ROCK ‘N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979).  I was seventeen years old, and I experienced it for the first time at a friend’s house who owned a large Laserdisc collection, and I fell deeply in love.

From that very first moment, I knew that the character of Riff Randell was for me.  Not only was Riff the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, but she was everything I was, and more.  She was on that next level.  She was what I wanted to become. She loved music, it was everything to her, and she needed it to breathe.  She was interested in self expression and rank individualism just like most teenagers of a certain pedigree, myself included.

She inspired me on so many levels, and if Riff Randell would’ve been in my high school–she would’ve been my soul mate. Riff Randell was a self constrained wild child, a female Iggy Stooge.  She was edgy, rebellious, and most of all – fun.  Her wonderful sense of humor, and a “at all costs” passion to achieve her dream made it an easy choice to not allow anything to stand in her way.  This is the very essence of American life.   She is everyone’s American Girl, and on many levels she is each and every one of us.

The talented character actress behind it all, is P.J. Soles.  Pamela Jayne Soles [born Pamela Jayne Hardon] arrived on July 17th, 1950 in Frankfurt, Germany.  With her father’s job, insisting that the family spend so much time traveling, P.J. spent her entire adolescence growing up in and around Europe, occasionally returning to the United States for very brief periods of time only.  Later, while on summer vacation in New York City with her college roommate, P.J. happened by the famed New York Actor’s Studio. Since then, Soles has gone on to appear in some of the beloved movies of the ’70s and ’80s.

Appearing in such films as, HALLOWEEN (1978), CARRIE (1978), SOGGY BOTTOM U.S.A. (1981), STRIPES (1980),   Soles has always brought a lovable girl next door quality to her work, regardless if she’s sitting on a stove top or setting up a plan to humiliate a poor girl at a high school prom.  With a important body of work behind her, Soles has remained for the most part a secret.   Often, Soles is mentioned as a genre film actress only.  However, she has amassed a body of  film work, that’s seen her participation is everything from comedy, horror, action, sci-fi, to family films.  She’s an actress that’s been severely under-used on all accounts, and it’s time that someone did something about it.

Chatting with P.J. last month was so much fun.    She’s one of the funniest people I have ever met. She’s intelligent, wickedly clever, insightful, and very down to earth.   Not to mention timelessly beautiful.  She’s everything I knew she would be, and she’s everything that I loved about the Riff Randell character so much from the start.   Check It Out…

BOZUNG:  One of the most interesting things I find about you, is how you grew up.  How did your parents meet, and what are some of the places you’ve lived growing up?

PJ SOLES:  Yeah, my dad was from Holland and my mother was from New Jersey.  Her first husband was killed in World War II in Germany, so she traveled to Germany to see the cemetery where he was buried.  My dad, being Dutch was captured by the Nazi’s and put into a camp.  By the time my mother came to Germany, my dad had just been released from one of the work camps, and they ended up meeting each other on an Army base.  Then my dad got a job with the insurance company called, A.I.U – American International Underwriters, they become A.I.G.

My dad spoke six languages, and they wanted to spread out all around the world, so we moved around as he traveled all over opening up branch offices. The first five years of my life, we lived in Germany.  Then we moved to Morocco, which was very exotic and wonderful.  Then we moved to Venezuela, to Maracaibo. I went to high school in Brussels, in Belgium.  At that time, my dad really worked in Algeria, but he didn’t want us to live there.

So by the time I was ready to go to college, my parents were moving to Istanbul. I was eighteen by then so I came to the states, cause I had never had the opportunity to live here, even though I had visited.  Every time we’d leave each country we’d have to come back to the states for medical evaluations and get dozens of shots for the next country.

My college roommate was from Manhattan. We spent one summer at her mom’s place in the city, and one day we wandered by the Actors’ Studio.   But even in all that traveling, I was always in plays. I was always interested in drama, but I never thought it something you could do for a living. In college I was a Russian language major, and I also speak French and Spanish.  

It was a very nice upbringing. I always thought it was just normal. It’s only now that I find it really interesting myself considering most people just grow up in one place.

BOZUNG:  So P.J stands for Pamela Jayne.  Were you named after anyone in your family’s history?

PJ SOLES:  No.  The only thing my mother ever told me was that she had seen a movie where it was the name of a character.  When I ask her what movie, she’d say that she couldn’t remember.  She did say though, that Jayne was spelled like Jayne Mansfield.  I mean it’s not a Dutch name.  My dad was from Rotterdam, and all my cousins have these very Dutch names, so I guess I’m lucky I didn’t get one of those names.  My mom was from New Jersey, but to me, Pamela Jayne sounds southern.

BOZUNG:  With your dad’s history, growing up did he ever share any of his stories about being captured by the Nazi’s?

PJ SOLES:  Not really, not a lot. He was very tight lipped about it, just like a lot of people from that generation were.  But whenever I would do my high pitched laugh, he would give me a very bad look.  My mom would say that he didn’t like that cause it reminded him of the screams he heard back in the camp.  My dad loved Americans.  George Patton was the one who actually opened up the gates to his work camp, and released the prisoners and captured the Nazis.

Patton was a huge hero to my dad.  This wasn’t a concentration camp, it was work camp. My dad was helping the Jews escape from Holland. He was only nineteen years old.  He was up in a attic hiding, and they stormed through my grandmother’s house, and they took him right in front of his mother. They found out he had been helping people. He was in the camp for nine months, and when they were rescued he weighed less than 100 lbs. The Nazis were brutal to the Dutch people.

He did say that they tried to get the potato peels from the garage to eat, and he also told us about the sperm donors. They were offered freedom if they would be sperm donors, cause they were all gorgeous, the Aryan race with the blonde hair.  He did say that anyone that volunteered never returned to the camp, so he doubted that they were ever given their freedom, after being sperm donors.  So he never volunteered for that.  That’s really all he ever said about that time.

BOZUNG: So I wanted to see if you could confirm something.  I wanted to know if you could share any memories about one of the very first projects you worked on, Joel M. Reed’s BLOODBATH (1976)?

PJ SOLES:  I don’t know.. I don’t remember it…laughing   I don’t know.  I know it’s on my IMDb.  But I don’t remember doing it.  I wanna say I remember that I just screamed.  Someone showed me a copy of it once.  I was on a bed, and I screamed. I don’t remember filming it, but it must have been done before I came to Los Angeles. So it must have been shot in New York.  Like a half of days work or something, silly.

BOZUNG: How did you get involved with OUR WINNING SEASON (1978)?

PJ SOLES:  I auditioned.  There were a bunch of us going up to A.I.P cause they were making a bunch of teenage movies at the time.  I went up and read for CALIFORNIA DREAMING (1979) with Robert Carradine.   Joe Ruben was casting OUR WINNING SEASON and he saw me come out from reading for CALIFORNIA DREAMING and he asked me and Robert Carradine to read for OUR WINNING SEASON.  I got cast but Robert didn’t, and the next thing I knew I was on a plane going to Noonan, Georgia.  It was a lot of fun.

BOZUNG:  Next comes one of my favorite movies, BREAKING AWAY (1979).   How did you get involved in the film?

PJ SOLES:  By then I was married to Dennis Quaid.  We met on OUR WINNING SEASON.  So we had a rule that we’d never spend more than two weeks apart.  I didn’t have a job on BREAKING AWAY but I went along hoping to get the part of the french girl.  I was about to do PRIVATE BENJAMIN (1980) by then, or had just done the film. I can’t remember the timeline now, but I had bought this black wig.  

So I put on the wig, and went up to Peter Yates and starting talking to him in a french accent.  He looked at me and said, ‘Is that you, PJ?”   I asked him for the part, but he told me that it had been cast earlier in the day, so they ended up putting me in as one of Hart Bochner’s groupies.  His character – Rod, needed a little cheer leading squad. I just had that one line at the house.

BOZUNG:  Weren’t you guys all really close working on the film?

PJ SOLES:  Yeah we all became instant friends, it was a wonderful shoot. Bloomington was great.  We were there for three months. We’d go swimming in the quarries together.  We used to call Dennis Christopher, ‘Dennit’.  It was a blast, so much fun.  We all lived at this Holiday Inn type hotel, and we’d all go to town to dinner every night.  Peter Yates was this British professional. This was an “A” movie, and that was nice cause we all really were only used to doing these independent films.

Dennis and I went to see James Dean’s grave, cause he was buried close by.  In the same town we saw this advertisement for this old car for sale.  Dennis loved old cars. My dad did too, so I said, ‘sure’ let’s go see it. This little old lady owned this ’54 Chevy that was yellow and green, that only had like three thousand miles on it. She had just driven it to church, her husband had passed away.  She wouldn’t sell it to us, cause we were from Los Angeles. She said that she didn’t want her Cream-Puff out on the freeway.  But finally we convinced her.  Also, right before we left for Los Angeles we got a little basset hound puppy there in the same town that we named, “Bluebonnet”.   We drove this car and the dog back from Bloomington to Los Angeles, and we stopped off in Montana, and decided that we’d build a house there.

Later we did come back to Bloomington for the film’s premiere and we got a limo and stopped and picked up the lady who sold us the car, and took her to the premiere with us.  We put a license plate on the car that read, “Cream-Puff.”  We took pictures of the car in front of our house in Los Angeles and sent them to her. She was lovely, we stayed in touch, and over the years we’d send each other Christmas cards.

BOZUNG:   How was Peter Yates as a director?

PJ SOLES:  I remember Peter having a 50/50 relationship with the D.P. for sure.  He discussed everything with him, and they really took their time getting some really carefully planned out shots.  He was always in a huddle with the guys, they were planning out what they’re characters were gonna do.   Such a great cast, Danny Stern, Jackie Haley – the Moocher.  Those guys really bonded.  It was a cool movie.

BOZUNG:  One thing I really love about you is how casual and open you are about a lot of personal aspects of your life. Is that just an trait of your personality that allows you to do that?

PJ SOLES:  Yeah, I don’t know.  I believe that everything happens for a reason and a purpose.   The biggest thing for me is that after Dennis and I got divorced I got re-married to Skip Holm. We met, he was test pilot, on the location for THE RIGHT STUFF (1983)..  We had two kids together.  Had Dennis and I stayed together we might have had kids. Things happen for a reason.  I really loved Dennis, I still love him.  This is all documented.  Back then there wasn’t really any sort of intervention.  It was Hollywood, drugs were rampant.  I just couldn’t deal with that, I didn’t know how to deal with that type of stuff.  It was an exciting time too.   We were both just starting out, and we were coming home at the end of day, telling each other about parts that we had read for, that we hoped we would get.

The weirdest thing is that I live in a suburb of Los Angeles now, and when I go to my local grocery store, I’ve got a whole grocery cart of stuff, and I’m in the checkout and I notice one of the rags, and I see Dennis on there, and in my head I’m thinking, ‘geez, there’s my past life…’   It’s very strange.

BOZUNG: The obvious question about ROCK ‘N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL…Do you still have your jacket from the film?  If so, how much can I buy it off of you for?

PJ SOLES:  Yes, I still do have the jacket, with the musical notes.   What size are you?…laughing… It’s really small.

BOZUNG:  I would be like Chris Farley in TOMMY BOY (1994) and be the ‘”fat guy in a little coat”.  I know you supplied your own wardrobe for the film?  Was that something you owned prior to shooting?

PJ SOLES:  laughing…You know, I actually had to wrestle Rod Stewart for that jacket!   I found that jacket at Fred Segal’s in Los Angeles.  It was two hundred dollars. It was outrageous.   I had put it on hold.  I went down to pick it up, cause I realized how critical it was for the character. Rod Stewart was there in the store.  He saw it, and said, ‘I want that.”  I tried explaining to him, ‘”please, no..no..I need this jacket for a movie. I’m doing a character”  Then he said, “I want it…I’ve give you double!” So, I said, “please, look – let me wear it for the movie, and you can have it.”  Then he laughed and said, ” You can take it, you can just take the bloody thing…”  It was kinda funny.

My daughter wore it for Halloween when she was twelve. She wore the striped leggings too.  It looked really big on her. I’ve worn it since the film too.  They asked me to wear it in a Donnas’ music video.  It didn’t fit as good as it used too.   So I told them to shoot me from the chest up…laughing

BOZUNG:  That jacket should be in a museum, no?

PJ SOLES:  laughing…Maybe if they ever make a wax figure for Madame Tussaud’s of Riff, I’ll let them use it

BOZUNG:  How was working with Alan Arkush on ROCK ‘N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL?

PJ SOLES:  The thing about filming ROCK ‘N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL was that we only had twenty-one days.  The same amount of time we had when I worked with John Carpenter on HALLOWEEN.   

HALLOWEEN was a little more relaxed.   On ROCK ‘N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL it was stressful, but a lot of fun.  Poor Alan, he was used to cutting trailers for Roger Corman.  So we had limited time, and limited budget. Stressful but fun again.  If you could get it on the first take it was like, “Thank You.”

BOZUNG:  Working on the film, off camera did you spend any time with Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov?

PJ SOLES:  Not a whole lot, I think I spent some time with them at lunch.   They were very funny people and very sweet.  I don’t think that Paul ever really understood that I could be a cool chick. I’m not sure what he thought about me.  I think he thought I was very ‘white bread.’  I can appear sometimes like that I think, but I’m not, at all.  We would’ve had a good time.  He should’ve had a hint by the time we had our scene together in the film, right after I destroyed the files, and we’re dancing and I’m taking off his clothes...laughing

BOZUNG:  Did Arkush allow you the opportunity to improve anything?

PJ SOLES:  Yes. In those days anything was welcome.  In that scene in my bedroom with Dey Young were Tom calls up on the phone to ask for a date. After we hung up, all that was improvisation.

BOZUNG:  Do you have a favorite line from the film?

PJ SOLES:   Yes, but they aren’t my lines.   I love when Mary says, “Do your parent’s know your Ramones?”  Also, I love when Dick Miller says, “Those are ugly, ugly people..”  That’s just so funny…

BOZUNG:  In the ’90s you teamed back up with Allan Arkush.  Dey Young, Mary Woronov, and yourself had cameo’s for Arkush’s T.V movie, which is really enjoyable, SHAKE, RATTLE and ROCK (1996).   Was that cool to work with them again?

PJ SOLES:  Yeah, it was great.  The best part about being there was seeing Renee Zellweger walking around the set with her dog, barefoot, eating cottage cheese.  Then five minutes later, she’s in costume, in make-up and singing and dancing. She was the star. She was just so relaxed, so natural.  It was fun being there for the day, and it was fun to play Mahjong with Mary.  It was cute of Alan Arkush to get us together again for that.

BOZUNG: Singing for the soundtrack for ROCK ‘N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, did you have any concerns that you wouldn’t be able to pull something off like that?

PJ SOLES:  In my ’20s I was married to musician Steven Soles, when I lived in New York.  We were always singing and recording demos.  I had done some singing in television commercials.  So I was totally comfortable doing it, and it was fun.  I’m still writing lyrics to this day.   My daughter’s the singer in the family now.

BOZUNG:  What do you think makes the Riff Randell character so encompassing?   Why is she so timeless?

PJ SOLES:  She is just an energetic, fun, spunky kind of girl.  She’s not a slut, she’s not a tramp. She’s a fashionista. She’s really cool.  She’s got energy, and she loves this crazy rock band, it’s a punk band. It’s just so bizarre that she was just so enamored with them.   She wasn’t a groupie, she wanted to write songs with them.  She was a cool chick. She was sexy and wore hot clothes.  She was hot, but also very fun to be around.  She was very imaginative.  An all around fun girl.

BOZUNG:  Do you have an update on the remake or re-imagining of ROCK ‘N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL that’s said to be in the works.  I’ve heard that Alex Winter will be doing it?

PJ SOLES:  I don’t know. It’s one thing to take something and re-imagine it or re-fashion it. That’s cool. But, what can you do with something like ROCK ‘N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL?   It was a film of it’s time, but it’s timeless.  You can put it on now – it’s quirky, zany and mad-cap.  It’s in a category all it’s own.  Riff’s wardrobe is still cool today.  I don’t know how you could re-make it.   You can’t blow up a school now.   It can’t feature a weird band, cause there are so many weird bands now.  So you can’t use that angle.  What would the premise be?   Where are they gonna find people like Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov?   It won’t be that way now.  Parents are so proactive today. If your kid comes home and says ‘my principal was mean to me today.’ Those parents are gonna be right in your face. So,  I don’t know what you could do?

Ten years ago, we had an idea.  Riff Randell became a jingle writer, and she’s upset cause she spent twenty years writing jingles. So she decides to try to get the Ramones back together. She get’s in a van with her kids and drives around the country to see the Ramones who are spread out in different states. She gets them back together, and they play a concert at her daughter’s high school, and we bring back all the characters.

Kinda like ROCK ‘N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL revisited?  But now we’re all SO much older, I don’t know how interesting that would be?

BOZUNG:  OK, so for the sake of it,  if they actually did make it again, who would you want to fill your shoes?

PJ SOLES:  God, that’s like asking me what my favorite album is…laughing

BOZUNG: You’re supposed to say, “NO ONE!”…laughing

PJ SOLES:  Well, I don’t know…I think that girl from AN EDUCATION (2009) Carey Mulligan is pretty good. She has a good American accent, and kinda has that quality.  But I guess it would be good to have a real American I suppose.

BOZUNG:  So you have thought about it then?

PJ SOLES:  Well, you’re making me think about it…laughing  Oh!  Kim Kardashian...laughing.  Howard Stern would love it…laughing  Directed By Rob Zombie.  Let’s Do it!…laughing

BOZUNG:  You mention Rob Zombie, and we’re talking about re-imagining films.  So, do you think his HALLOWEEN films deserve the nasty feedback they’ve gotten by the fans of the original?  It seems really overly harsh, no?

PJ SOLES:  Well, it’s fifty / fifty.  The people that like the films are true original HALLOWEEN fans. When I go to these conventions, people always ask me what I thought of it.  I really liked it. I love Rob. I love Sherry. They are wonderful people, they have this amazing romance and marriage.  There are people that love his take on it, and then there are others that hate the fact that he went into the psychology of it.  He took it to the modern age, he used the modern techniques.  So, yeah, totally.

BOZUNG:  How did you get cast as “Sharlene” in SOGGY BOTTOM U.S.A.?

PJ SOLES:  I loved working on SOGGY BOTTOM!  It was awesome. I just went and auditioned. I brought my guitar, cause they said she was a 1930’s singer and songwriter, and I played a couple songs.   The director loved me. The next thing I knew we’re down there in Marshall, Texas.  We flew into Shreveport, Louisiana. I think it was thirty miles from the set.  We were there for three months. It was so much fun.  Don Johnson and I went into a studio down there and recorded some songs that the producers son had written that they ended up using in the movie.  So great, such a great cast.  Don Johnson, Ben Johnson, Jack Elam, Lane Smith, Lois Nettleton.  It was so great.   We built that whole town, and after we were done Walter Hill came in and shot SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981) there with Keith Carradine.   I worked with him on THE LONG RIDERS (1980).  I was a hooker, but I was cut out of the film.

BOZUNG:  So would you consider yourself a sex symbol back in the 70’s?

PJ SOLES:  When I hear the term “sex symbol” I think of someone like Pamela Anderson, or Kim Kardashian.  Those are very sexy and busty women, I wasn’t certainly busty, I was playful. I may have been flirtatious. I may have been considered sexy, but I don’t personally think of myself that way.   Was I attractive enough to be able to work in movies, be a model, work in television commercials, I appreciate that, yes.  But I’ve always thought of myself as being intelligent. That probably comes from my upbringing.  I wanted to be a Russian interpreter at the U.N. when I was younger.  I was playful in all my movies, I was topless in some of the movies, but am I a sex symbol?  I don’t really think that I am.

BOZUNG:   I read an interview with you once that you gave around the time that the latest special edition of STRIPES came out on DVD. You said that you were happy that your son was graduating from The Merchant Marine Academy at that point, cause you didn’t want him to suffer his friend’s seeing your scenes in the film, and giving him a rough time.  So my question is,  what’s it like to be a “Milf”?

PJ SOLES:  laughing…They all did see it!   They gave him a lot of talk about it.   My son, Sky, is a captain of a Coast Guard Cutter. He’s became a captain at twenty-five, but now he’s twenty-seven.  A lot of the guys he’s with now have seen it too...laughing    I went down to see him, and I took some photos from the film and I signed a bunch of them.  I took some pictures with the crew. It makes him a very popular Captain in the Coast Guard…laughing

He came and hung out with me when I did this convention in his area last year.  I did it with John Carpenter. So, he got a chance to spend some time talking with John.   He came and saw these lines of all this people, and he said, “Oh My God, they really like you!”  I tried telling him, “Look, I’m not just your mother!”…laughing

BOZUNG:  I was wondering if you could talk a little about your participation in the 1987 film, SAIGON COMMANDOS (1988)?

PJ SOLES:  Oh Yeah…That was a way way independent very cheap movie that we shot in the Philippines.  When your choosing a project, they always say  the script, the location, the other actors, the director, you’ve gotta pick one of those,  you can’t have all three.   I liked the director, I liked the actors in it. We had a really great time. The movie didn’t turn out so good.  I remember going to a rough cut or a screening or something and remember thinking it was just “OK.”   It would probably be something you’d put on television  or put out on DVD.  It was fun.

I played a journalist. We shot it at like three in the morning in the streets of Manila and out in the country.  The locations were fantastic.  I remember I had a massage every night there, by this little old lady.  She was probably like in her ’40s, but she looked like she was in her ’60s.  It was twelve dollars for an hour massage, and then you’d go to sleep.  I loved that country…laughing

BOZUNG:  You did what I think is a very under-rated horror film a few years ago, Bill Lustig’s UNCLE SAM (1997).  Such a great idea, great Larry Cohen script, how did you get involved?

PJ SOLES:  Yeah, it didn’t get seen a lot.  But everyone that”s seen it, liked it.   I think my agent got a call, and I really liked Bill.  So I agreed to do it.  We had a nice rapport.  He was a fan of all my movies.  It was a good premise, it just wasn’t a gang buster of a film.

BOZUNG:  Do you ever worry that you’ll be typed cast as a horror actress?

PJ SOLES:  Well, I think people think of me more as a comedy actress.  Certainly, I’ve done a lot of horror conventions. There aren’t any comedy conventions I don’t think.  I’ve been lucky to have been in a few films that have gotten a lot of notoriety. I don’t feel like I’ve been in just one genre of movie in my career. I did STRIPES, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005),  CARRIE, and ROCK “N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL.  So when I go to these conventions, guys come up and we talk about THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, and then they bring their dads and they want to talk about STRIPES.

I wish I could have gone further of course.  But by the time I had re-married for a third time, I had two young children. Back in the early ’80s, agents would tell you, ‘don’t tell them that you have kids!”   Now it’s different, People Magazine features actors and actresses with their children.  Then, if you had to go on location that’s something very difficult if you have a six month child at home.   So that’s the one thing I wish I could have maybe done better, figure out how to juggle kids and career.

BOZUNG:  What about LITTLE BIGFOOT (1997)?

PJ SOLESlaughing.…I had a good time making that. I liked the director.  I was hoping to be in something else with him. He was a cool guy.  We shot that up in Big Bear, and I had my own cabin, and I took my daughter with me.  The little girl in the movie that plays my daughter was the same age as my own daughter, so they got to play together.  It was great.

BOZUNG: So how many posters for LITTLE BIGFOOT have you signed at these conventions?

PJ SOLES:  laughing….None!

BOZUNG: How has Hollywood treated you over the last 10 years?  Is it more difficult now than say it would have been 10 years ago, for you to get cast on something?

PJ SOLES:  Maybe like five years ago  I pushed a little harder than I am now.  I get offered horror movies all the time, and everyone says the same thing, “we don’t have much money, so will you do the film for less money..”  Even working on THE DEVIL’S REJECTS that was SAG, and I only got scale for the day. But it was Rob Zombie, and I had to audition three times. I couldn’t believe it. To get that I actually brought in an autographed photo that I made out to Rob that said, “Rob, I’m ready to scream for you again, Love, PJ.” and asked that they give it to him.  I was cast the next day.  Rob’s so great. He’s been so nice to me, telling people in the press that I’m his favorite 70’s cult actress. Because of that role, that’s allowed me to go to all these conventions and sign thousands of posters.

BOZUNG: What’s one thing you never get asked about, but wish you would get asked about in a interview?

PJ SOLES:  Well, I really appreciate it when I get asked about growing up in other countries.  I’ve starting writing my autobiography, I’m the one that’s lived my live, and my life started in all these other countries before I started acting. To me, that seems like my life. Your childhood is so significant and so important, and my parents and their beginnings is very overwhelming. Especially with my parents gone now, I really see the perspective on things. I’m a parent.  There is more to life than just being in these cool movies. It’s much bigger than that.  But acting became a big part of my life too.  So I wish I’d get asked more about that. What else?….What size shoe do I wear?  Nine…laughing

BOZUNG:  What’s your favorite swear word?

PJ SOLES:  To use or to hear?

BOZUNG: Hear.

PJ SOLES: The F word, you can’t get better than that. It’s a great word...laughing

This interview was originally published on Mondo-Video.com in the Fall of 2010.  Re-print permission from Mondo Film, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Dave Brockie Interview

This interview with Dave Brockie was conducted over the telephone at his home in Richmond, Virginia in 2010.  He was doing the dishes after having made dinner for his kids he told me eagerly upon answering my call.   R.I.P. Dave.

BOZUNG:  You were born in Canada, how the hell did you end up getting to Virginia?

BROCKIE: Well…you know I didn’t have anything to do with it. I was just a kid.  At the time I was like 4 years old when my parents moved us from Canada to the suburbs of Washington D.C.   I consider myself actually a 100% American even though my passport says I’m Canadian.  I’ve always considered myself to be a American suburban brat.

BOZUNG: What were like as a kid?  What did you think you wanted to be when you grew up?

BROCKIE: I always knew that I wanted to be some sort of artist.  I think the first thing I realized or thought that I wanted to be was, a cartoonist.  Really I’d say that I was torn between being a cartoonist and being a marine biologist, cause I loved the movie JAWS (1975).  I was really obsessed with sharks.  As a freak kid I had every single name of every species of sharks memorized even the Latin names.  But when it came down to it, I really hated the biology and the math, I knew that I wasn’t gonna be able to handle that stuff, and I decided long ago that whatever I did I knew it was something I had to enjoy doing.

So, by the time I got to art school I tried to take that cartoon sensibility through the fine art program. But my teachers weren’t having that, they didn’t wanna see me drawing a bunch of cartoon’s plus they were all very traditionalists.   At first I sort of rebelled, but then it became good, cause I was trained and had that fine art tradition drummed into my head, and that’s a beautiful thing.   I really thought I’d end up being a painter, showing in galleries or whatever, I thought I had the chops to do that, but I just messed around with it.

I had always played in bands for fun over the years, so in college I met this group of guys, and the whole idea of GWAR just came up, and here it’s over 25 years later and I’m still doing it.   In many ways, I’m still the same kid I was 25 years ago, and I still enjoy doing the same things I did back then.

BOZUNG: Do you think there were any early inclinations that you’d be doing what you’re doing now? Meaning, were you a natural performer as a kid?

BROCKIE: Well I was always playing in bands growing up, but I was also doing stuff in the theater department in school as well.  It was just a bunch of regular guys just hanging around.  I was just doing all of it for fun, and it seems like it was something that just sorta came natural to me, and I enjoyed doing that stuff the most.  So it wasn’t until we came up with the idea of GWAR that I realized it was something that we could do for a living.

BOZUNG: Can you remember the actual instance when you first came up with the Oderus character?

BROCKIE: The funny thing about Oderus was that I didn’t even come up with his name.  I came up with a bunch of the other character’s names in GWAR, but the Oderus name came from a guy named Joe Annaruma who was one of the first lead singers in an early version of GWAR who played the character: Joey Slutman.  Because initially I was just playing guitar in GWAR, but when everyone realized what a horrible guitar player I was, I just graduated into the lead singer position, and things seemed to merge and mutate into the right places, cause before that we where going through lead singers, cause we couldn’t find the right fit.

The Oderus character originally started out as something different.  He was kinda just this hairy barbarian guitar guy.  Once Oderus graduated into the singer, the first thing he got was the big puss sack head, then I added the Satan nose, and the horns, and that’s when the Oderus that we all know and love came to be, and I honed the personality from there over the years.

BOZUNG: I was wondering if you’ve ever seen the 1957 film directed by Jacques Tourneur called, CURSE OF THE DEMON.  I was wondering if the look and design of Oderus was inspired by the creature in that film.

BROCKIE: Yes it was. I’ve loved that movie since I was a kid.   You get that awesome close-up of the demon at the end.  The demon looks like Satan, and I wanted to make Oderus look like Satan, I wanted people to be reminded of Satan for sure with Oderus.

BOZUNG: So besides CURSE OF THE DEMON–have any other films influenced you in terms of what you do in GWAR?

BROCKIE: I was really freaked out by the movie BLACK SABBATH, in particular the part called, ‘A Drop Of Water.’  I remember seeing this at around four years old, and just being completed scared by it. It really scared the crap out of me and I was unable to watch television by myself for a few years after that.   Then for sure, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. GODZILLA, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, DRACULA  I saw all those classics growing up too.

Then in high school, I saw DAWN OF THE DEAD.   We saw it like 20 times in the theater. You were supposed to be over 18 to see it, and we weren’t.  So we went and bought a bunch of college logo shirts. We wanted it to look like we were in college, so we put them on so we could get in.  It was a different time in America then, the era of the midnight movie was wonderful.

Also, another film that influenced me that I saw by accident was WIZARDS. The Ralph Bakshi film.  In fact, I love all of his movies.   Then, Charlton Heston in THE OMEGA MAN too.  That had a huge impact on me growing up. THE EXORCIST as well. Plus John Carpenter’s THE THING.  It’s just such a sick movie, my absolute favorite movie.  I’m old enough to have been able to see all these movies in the theater so that was cool, but on that same note, it really sucks that I’m getting older…laughing

BOZUNG: You’re a big Sam Peckinpah fan yourself right?  Any favorites?

BROCKIE: Oh yeah.. Peckinpah is my favorite. He’s the father of modern cinematic screen violence.  I love all his stuff.  I like CROSS OF IRON. It is the greatest war movie ever made.  It came out right when Vietnam was just killing us, so the last thing American’s wanted to do was see a war movie, and one about Germans in Russia no less.  So Peckinpah had big balls.

BOZUNG: One thing I’ve always loved about you and GWAR is that you’re never afraid of offending anyone, as you get older, is this philosophy stronger than ever?

BROCKIE: Totally, stronger than ever.   As people get older you notice just how strong they are in their convictions.  As you get older you’re convinced more and more that you’re right.  I’m not about to back down at this point. I think it’s why people like what we do.

BOZUNG: I’d like to talk about the PHALLUS IN WONDERLAND and SKULHEDFACE films.  I know PHALLUS was a concept based on true events of sorts, but how did you come up with the whole concept for SKULHEDFACE?

BROCKIE: SKULHEDFACE was the result of the entire band and the art department just arguing and arguing for months on what we wanted to achieve.  I’m still not sure exactly what we came up with.  SKULHEDFACE is a beautiful look at film in a lot of ways, but it murders itself.  If you can get past the boardroom scene you might actually enjoy it.

By that point, we were just so diluted with our own grandeur that we couldn’t care less what anyone had to say, and we weren’t gonna let anyone tell us what to do, including each other. We thought that everything we did was just perfect.  We thought we were king shit of diarrhea mountain.

I just remember having script meeting after script meeting after script meeting.  So I think everyone was just so wore down that everyone just agreed to do whatever.  I remember reading that boardroom scene and just thinking how horrible it was.  But I just kept my mouth shut just so we could get the damn thing made.  We came up with the idea that everyone in the band would write a scene.  This was a very bad idea, I can’t believe we thought it was a good idea at the time even…laughing

The film is what it is. It’s sort of our masterpiece. It killed some of the weak band members and it sent us in a spiral of confusion for the better part of a decade. I don’t think we really knew what we were doing after it, except when we were playing live. But I don’t think we came outta of it until we hit the Violence Has Arrived era that we came out of that ego.   We thought we were everything, we were making comic books, and movies, we had at one time 20 artists working for us.  It really was the golden age of GWAR, a great time, and it’s my favorite era of the band.

BOZUNG: I agree, and both PHALLUS AND WONDERLAND and SKULHEDFACE were just so damn ambitious don’t you think?

BROCKIE: Oh god yeah….We shot SKULHEDFACE on 35mm film.  What other band made a movie on 35mm film?  We’re still doing skits like that..  We took it to a completely different level. If you think back to when SKULHEDFACE came out there was no internet even. It’s just so strange that it reached the amount of people it did.

BOZUNG: I love the television commercials in SKULHEDFACE especially the “Lawn Jockeys” sketch, is that sort of like the first incarnation for the X-COPS?

BROCKIE: laughing.…Yeah absolutely…that was a good one.  While we were on the set in those cop costumes we looked at each other, and said “We should start a band and play in these costumes cause this is hilarious.”  So the X-COPS were born there.

BOZUNG: Going in reverse for a second, how did Gibby Haynes from The Butthole Surfers come to be in PHALLUS IN WONDERLAND with you guys?

BROCKIE: We knew Gibby [Haynes] cause we had played down in Austin, Texas quite a few times.  They invited us out to their ranch in Driftwood and ended up partying with them, so they were our buddies.   So when we were doing PHALLUS we just invited him up to do it.  He said he would do it for a case of Milwaukee’s Best and some pornography.  So that’s what he was paid. He caused so much trouble when he was here…  He took one look at the script, and then decided to make up his own lines…laughing

BOZUNG: So Gibby came up with the whole “sucking off the family dog” line?

BROCKIE: Yeah…[Gibby accent] “Then perhaps sucking off the family dog….” laughing

BOZUNG: Any bitterness remaining toward Annie Lennox all these years later for stealing your Grammy for PHALLUS IN WONDERLAND?

BROCKIE: Oh yeah…Bitch!   And to everyone else that’s ever screwed us out of an award.

BOZUNG: One of my all time favorite GWAR appearances in the history of the band, was when you did “Sacrifice Your Daughter To GWAR” with Alex Winter on MTV’S The Idiot Box.   How did that whole thing happen?

BROCKIE: Yeah, that was great!  God, that was twenty years ago!  Working with Alex was so great.   In fact he made one of my favorite movies of all time, FREAKED.   Such an amazing movie.

They just called us up one day, and asked us I think.  Alex was hanging out a lot with The Butthole Surfers, cause he shot that video with them, and of course we knew those guys, so I guess he was introduced to us through The Buttholes or something. I’ll tell you… I’d love to collaborate on anything with Alex Winter again.  It was so great.

BOZUNG: I’m a huge fan of Carnival Of Chaos. It’s your Pet Sounds.  Reading stuff on-line I’ve noticed that people [GWAR fans] seem to have some distaste toward the album, I was wondering if it was an album that you guys didn’t like either?

BROCKIE: No..No..No..No..  I think it’s a great album.  I love that album.  We did so much on that record, that’s so cool.  It’s called Carnival Of Chaos cause it’s all over the place.  I think it’s a brilliant record, and I know it’s got a very special place in the heart of a lot of GWAR fans.

BOZUNG: One of my favorite songs on the album is ‘Scalloped Boat’.  I know that was based on an actual fan letter you got right?

BROCKIE: Yeah..we actually got a fan letter from this guy in jail who killed his wife.   All the lyrics in the song where inspired from the letter.  I still have that letter somewhere.

BOZUNG: One of my favorite GWAR songs of course is ‘The Road Behind’.  With that appearing on Beavis & Butthead back in the day, do you think that helped get the band more notice than you previously had.

BROCKIE: I think when we wrote that song, it was intended to be a sort of parody hit like stuff that Weird Al was doing.  We really thought we were lampooning stuff that Guns N Roses were doing at the time.  We kinda hoped that the song would have even reached out farther than it did.  But it’s a great song.

BOZUNG: With a song like that, given what you had written previously — is that song just a progression perhaps of an artist maturing some?

BROCKIE: Definitely.  We were still growing a lot as musicians by the time we got to America Must Be Destroyed.  We were having a lot of fun doing stuff like that, writing all kinds of different music.  We followed that pattern probably up until Carnival Of Chaos.  Then  with something like We Kill Everything we took a new direction and made that a straight out comedy album really.  And now we’ve had our re-birth as a pure metal band which we’ve been doing for the last few albums, so the progression is always moving us forward.

BOZUNG: Moving on, I wanted to talk about your totally bad ass cover of Alice Cooper’s  ‘Schools Out’  which I love, and the video is great too.  Why the decision to do a cover finally after over 25 years of recording?

BROCKIE: To be completely honest, we had been kicking around the idea of doing a cover for many years, but just never managed to get to it.   At the point we did that cover, we had just signed with DTR Records, and they were the one’s that actually brought it up.

Originally I didn’t wanna do ‘School’s Out’, I wanted to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ but they said “nobody ever covers Zeppelin in the industry – it’s taboo.”   So, then we kicked around doing ‘If You Want Blood’ by AC/DC.  We were gonna resurrect Bon Scott from the dead, and that never materialized either.

So ‘School’s Out’ came up, and DTR Records was pushing us on that song.  So we said, “well maybe this label knows something that we don’t.”  They didn’t…laughing   You know they said they were gonna get Alice Cooper for the video, but at the last minute he decided he didn’t wanna do it. Whatever, it’s all good.  It still turned out great. It’s a fun video. Dave the guy who directed it, is one of my favorite directors, and he did a great job with it.

BOZUNG: I’ve seen a couple interviews with you online where you mention that you’re working on a spoken word album that you’re gonna call The Spoken Turd. I was wondering if you’re still working on it?

BROCKIE: That’s a great title isn’t it?  Yeah, I’m working on it.  I don’t think I’m gonna have the record label release it.  I think it’s just gonna be something that’s available like on CD Baby or something on the internet..  It’s gonna be something like DBX [Dave Brockie Experience] but a comedy spoken word album, or something with songs that are more story oriented.   I’ve got some crazy ideas about what I wanna do on it..  You can look for it soon.

BOZUNG: I’ve seen you mention in the past, that your a fan of bands like Slayer and Bad Brains.  But I was wondering if you’ve got a secret love of other genre’s of music?  Are you a closet fan of Hank Williams or something?

BROCKIE: Well, I love pop music.  I’m a big U2 fan.  A lot of the GWAR fans will probably freak out when they hear that.   My first album that I ever bought when I was like four years old was a single by Barry Manilow.  I was just a kid, and I didn’t know any better…laughing    The first actual real album I bought though was Welcome To My Nightmare by Alice Cooper.  So you see, I figured it out…laughing

BOZUNG: So in GWAR does the music always come first, or can some of the stage theatrics get a priority over everything else?

BROCKIE: Well, that’s how it really started initially.   At first, the theatrics took center stage.  That was the whole concept, then when we all realized we could make money at this, we decided that we had better write some good music since the fans actually gave a shit about the band, and plus – the fans started to expect more from us too.

BOZUNG: Now in your 25th year of GWAR, are you starting to see a mix of the ages at your live shows when you go out on tour?

BROCKIE: Oh hell yeah dude.. I’ve seen generations show up at a GWAR show. You wouldn’t believe it.  I’ve seen a grandmother, her daughter, and then their daughter or son there.  All covered in GWAR blood in the slam pit.   You’ve got grannies like 55 years old there covered in blood.  There aren’t a lot of grannies showing up but I have seen them at various shows in recent years.  GWAR is something that families rally around and that is truly disturbing to me…laughing

BOZUNG: Well there is certainly a family dynamic present there in the audience and on the stage, wouldn’t you agree?

BROCKIE: Yeah, totally.  GWAR is just one big family.

BOZUNG: I’m quite fascinated with your complete transformation in the regard that when you put on that Oderus mask, you become a completely different person, than the person that I am talking to right now.  Do you look at yourself as an actor?  What are some of your comedy influences?

BROCKIE: Well, it goes back to high school.  I did theater in high school as I said earlier.  But I grew up idolizing people like Laurel and Hardy, and The Marx Brothers.   I didn’t really like some of the more contemporary comedians growing up.  But as I got older I started to really appreciate someone like Bobcat Goldthwait for example.

Monty Python was also a huge influence on me.  But that’s what GWAR is all about for me. I get to take all this stuff that I’ve been influenced by and utilize it and do something that I love.

BOZUNG: One thing I’ve always loved about Oderus is the fact that he’s so dramatic.  Is he a frustrated Shakespearean actor on one level?

BROCKIE: laughing…Yeah he’s always thinking that there’s some sort of grandiose destiny out there waiting for him, but at the end of the day he’s really just a drug addict and a drunkard. But he does have a noble soul definitely, and he’s quite the blow-hard.

BOZUNG: Some of the stuff I’ve seen you say while in the Oderus character like on Fox New’s Red Eye is just insane.  I have to ask you how difficult it is for you to not break that character and laugh out load in the middle of some of that stuff you’re doing and saying?

BROCKIE: Anytime I’m in the suit I’m not gonna break that character.  I can kinda flirt around the edges of it, but you have to be very sure of what you’re doing.  You can’t back down an inch, cause you’ll lose people immediately.  You can’t wear a costume like that in a half ass manner.

I think I’m kinda laughing to myself most of the time.  It’s totally thinking on your feet. It’s not that hard for me to do.  If someone were to ask me to perform brain surgery I wouldn’t be very good at it, cause I’m horrible at algebra.  But what I think I am good at is singing and dancing, acting like a complete idiot, thinking on my feet and improvisational acting. I mean what the hell I’ve made an entire career outta it.   But I still don’t have a retirement plan but I still have a lot of life in me. There is no 401K plan in GWAR.  The only security in doing this is that people still want to see us do GWAR. It makes no sense, but it’s my fate.

BOZUNG: Are you still doing the commercial and commissioned artwork?

BROCKIE: Sure, the business is doing great.  I’m still pursuing the stuff I learned in school.  Graphic art stuff.  People are asking me to do little collectible pieces for them.  My friend just tapped me to design the label for his new hot sauce line.   So I’m keeping busy on a lot of different levels.  I just put out a book a while back called WAR GHOUL.   But GWAR is the main focus.

BOZUNG: So what’s the chance of me purchasing from you a replica Oderus Urungus mask?

BROCKIE: laughing…I have sold some actually.   They are 600 bucks.  I charge 300 up front, and then 300 on delivery.  And it will take me like 8 months to do them, cause I’m so damn busy.  I have to charge so much cause people want them, and  if I didn’t charge so much I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demand of it.

BOZUNG: So if you weren’t doing GWAR what would Dave Brockie have chosen as his career?

BROCKIE: Shit…I don’t know man.  Maybe politics, I’ve always been good at talking people into doing things especially if they don’t wanna do it.  Maybe stand up, I don’t know.  Prior to GWAR I was a construction worker for years.   It was how I paid my bills before GWAR.  But I would’ve hated doing that for the rest of my life.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with being a construction worker, as you get to put in an honest days work out in the clean fresh air, but I just don’t think I could have done that for the rest of my life.  But what the hell you know, construction workers get all the chicks.

BOZUNG: What can fans expect to see from GWAR on this current tour?

BROCKIE: Well this leg is just sort of a wrap up of The Bloody Pit Of Horror tour.  Pick up dates that we missed from last year.  Plus there are places that if we don’t play them the fans will be pissed.  They can expect the same blood and meaningless horror that they’ve all come to know and love.

BOZUNG: One last question…Does Oderus have a favorite joke?

BROCKIE: Okay…. A women is having a baby.  The doctor walks into her room holding the baby by the leg. He takes the baby by the leg. The women says “What are you doing with my baby?” The doctor takes the baby and bashes the head of the baby against the bed smashing it’s head in and it’s brains go all over the place.  The women screams “MY BABY!”   The doctor says “April fools, it was already dead!”

Re-printed with the permission of Mondo Film, LLC.  All rights reserved

James Best Interview

Actor James Best talks with Justin Bozung about his work with the great Sam Fuller.  An abridged version of this interview first appeared in the pages of Phantom Of The Movies’ Videoscope magazine in early 2014.

BOZUNG:  I just finished reading your book Best In Hollywood…I really loved it.   I enjoyed how it was written.  I found myself reading sections then going back and reading them again but aloud to my wife….

BEST:  Thanks.  What we did with the book…I dictated it to my friend Jim Clark.  He helped with it.  We talked for three days down in Florida where I was living at the time.   And everything in the book was something that I told him and I do have a tendency to just ramble on.  It took us three years to complete it, and my wife helped me to pick all of the photographs inside of it.   Over the years I became kind of a hoarder. I just have all of these photographs and articles all over the place.  I never threw anything away when it came to my career.  The reason I wrote it more or less is so I could give my grandchildren a little insight into my trials and tribulations as an actor.

BOZUNG:  I really loved what you did as an actor on The Dukes Of Hazzard.  I never realized exactly how much acting you were actually doing as that character of Roscoe when I would watch the show as a kid.   It wasn’t until years later when I saw you in films like VERBOTEN! and ROLLING THUNDER that I realized exactly how incredible what you did on the Dukes was…

BEST:  Well thanks.   Actually, The Dukes came to me when I was finishing up HOOPER with Burt Reynolds.  My agent had called me and told me about this new television series and after he had finished telling me about it I told him, “I don’t want to do anything about a gang.”   My agent said, “No, this is a good ol’ boy thing and they want to shoot the show in Conyers, Georgia.”    I have always loved the south and I had worked down in Conyers a couple years earlier when I produced a film for Burt Reynolds called GATOR (1976).   So my agent gave me the script and I read it and I told him, “This guy is a Sheriff but I won’t play him like an mean idiot.  I have too much respect for law enforcement and what they do”.   How I saw the character of Roscoe was that he was a a kid at heart like all of us.  I saw him as this twelve-year old kid who liked hot pursuit.   And then I remembered how I used to chase my kids around the house when they were very little.   I used to chase them around and say (in Roscoe’s voice):  “Geet! Geet! I’m gonna get you!”   So I went in to audition and the second I did that the producers almost fell off their chairs and they hired me on the spot.  That’s how that character was developed.

Most of what I did on The Dukes Of Hazzard was ad-libbed because the writers on the show were not from the south and they had no idea about the humor or any of the expressions  of the south either.  Sorrell Brooke was a total professional and great to work with.   He wasn’t from the south but he played the perfect straight man to Roscoe.  He had perfect timing and he was a very serious actor.  He spoke five languages actually.  The writers really didn’t like me because when they’d give me the script I’d tell them, “I’m not going to say this.”  At a certain point the scripts would come to me and they would say – Boss Hog and Roscoe ad-lib…  Sorrell went along with it because he knew that what we could do together would be much better than anything the writer’s could come up with.    There were times that they would try to write me out of a scene too and I had to sneak my way in.   There where times when I’d  have to pop my head into a doorway to talk to Sorrell just so I could be in a scene.   When I ad-libbed and it went over well, the writers would take credit for it and when it didn’t go over well they’d blame it on me.   They didn’t treat us very good at all on The Dukes.

BOZUNG:  In your early days as a contract player at Universal you be-friended Jimmy Stewart and got to watch him work on the set of HARVEY (1950).   What was that experience like?

BEST:  I started at Universal in 1949.  I had been an actor in New York and I was spotted in a show there and then offered a contract at the studio.  At Universal,  an actor could go and visit closed sets on the lot as long as you were under contract and I was a great admirer of Jimmy Stewart.  He is my greatest icon.  So I went down to the sound stage and I found a stool in the corner and I sat down to watch him work.   After a while he noticed me sitting there and he said (In Stewart’s voice):  “Young man, who are you?”  I told him my name and mentioned to him that I was under contract and that I was allowed to be there and that the reason why I was there was because I wanted to learn from the best.   He was flattered.  He said, “Get this man a chair.”  He sat me down next to him.    I was a theater actor and I had about 2-3 years of stage experience by that time.  I had toured Europe with Arthur Penn’s company.    Working on a film is much different than working on the stage.   I wanted to learn camera technique.  I wanted to learn how to work in front of the camera.   Working on the stage, the audience sees the entire stage whereas in a film you’re working in a six-by-six square.   

When I watched Stewart work on the set of HARVEY it didn’t seem like he was doing much.  But when I would go to watch the dailies the next day he would just explode off the movie screen with energy and talent.  I was so impressed.  Every performance I’ve given over the years was influenced by Jimmy Stewart.  I learned so much from him.  I also got to watch Brando shoot THE MEN (1950) and I also worked with Abbott & Costello too.  I learned about comedy from them.   Being under contract at Universal was a wonderful training ground for the couple of years that I was there.    Then I shacked up with the wrong woman and the studio booted me out and I was blackballed for a year.  The only person that would hire me was Gene Autry and when I hooked up with him he had five different series going at once so I got to work quite a bit.

BOZUNG:  How did VERBOTEN! (1959) come to you?   

BEST:   I had gotten a call to go over and meet with Sammy Fuller about VERBOTEN!   I had never met Mr. Fuller before but I was a great admirer of his work.  He was a true rebel in Hollywood.  When he would direct he would yell action and fire off a .45 with a live round into the air.    He was  wild man and he was a hero.  He had gotten a silver star in the war from pulling guys off of Omaha Beach.   The guy was all man.  He didn’t back down either. It didn’t matter if Jack Warner or Louis B. Mayer told him to do something, he was always going to do it his way.   He was a genius.  His movie THE STEEL HELMET (1951) should’ve won an Academy Award the year it came out but because it was a “B” picture, it didn’t have a chance.   So I was very flattered that he wanted to meet me.    So I went over to his office to meet him and I walked in and his secretary greeted me.   She said, “Mr. Fuller, James Best is here.”  I could hear him say, “Send him in.”   

I walked in and he was sitting in the corner of the room with a typewriter.  I could see that he had tape on the ends of his fingers.   He typed so much that his fingers were calloused.   I walked into his office and he didn’t even look up from his typewriter at me.   After a minute, he ripped the paper out of his typewriter, walked over to me, handed it to me and said “Read this!”    I read it and he said, “My wife and my secretary think you’re a good actor.”  I said, “I am a good actor.”  (laughing)     He asked me if I had ever been in the service.  I told him that I was in the air core.  He said, “Oh Christ! You guys killed more of my men than the damn Germans.”   I said, “I didn’t kill any of your men.”   I went on to tell him that after the war was over that I was in the military police and I told him about fighting the Werewolf Gangs in Germany and he was very interested in that.    Girls started to come into his office and he asked me to read with them.   I  read with one girl after another for well over an hour.  I must have read with about 10-15 girls.   Finally I said, “Mr. Fuller, I don’t mean to be rude but I came over to see you about getting a part in your movie.”  He said, “Oh Hell…you had the part when you walked in the door.”  (Laughing)

BOZUNG:  You worked with Sam Fuller again after VERBOTEN! too…

BEST:  Right.  Later on, I worked with Sammy again on a film called SHOCK CORRIDOR (1963).   I used to go over to Sammy’s house and we would drink vodka.  He would never let you see him get drunk.   I would go over there and he was always writing the script for THE BIG RED ONE (1980).  That was his real labor of love.   He would read me scenes from it and ask my opinion about them.   Once I went over to see him and I said, “I’ve got a great idea for a movie.”   I can’t repeat the language he used, but in so many words he said, “I don’t wanna hear your damn idea!  I’ve got enough ideas of my own.”  He then said, “If you have an idea for a movie, put it down on paper.”  I learned a lesson that day because after that, any time I ever had an idea for a movie I wrote it down.

BOZUNG:  Given the storyline of VERBOTEN! and then your own personal life experiences in WWII, do you think that Fuller’s script for the film was based on your experiences as told to him?

BEST:  No, but I think my own experiences were the reason why I got that part.   I had told him about the problems I had over there.   I had dealt with those Werewolf Gangs in Germany post war while I was in the military police.   Those gangs were basically “Hitler Youth”.  They were tough kids that were taught to kill you.  When Hilter took Berlin, those Hitler Youth kids would try to defend Berlin against Russian tanks rolling in on bicycles with bazookas.     We had quite a few run-ins with those Werewolf Gangs.   While you were over there…Three cigarettes would get you a night with a German woman.  They were the barter over there, they were like gold.  That whole thing wasn’t my temperament though.  I was over there but I was a peace loving guy.   I didn’t let anyone screw with me but I didn’t go looking for trouble neither.   It wasn’t fun to be over there.  There were guys that really enjoyed strapping on a gun and killing someone.  That wasn’t me.  That’s not in my make-up.

BOZUNG:   You got your start in acting while you were over there in Germany in the military police too, right?

BEST:  That’s right.  I met a girl over there that was touring with one of the solider shows.   I wanted to date her and when I asked her out she said, “You should come to see the show.”  I told her, “I don’t want to see no damn show.”  She said, “If you don’t come and see the show then I won’t go out with you.”   She was a good looking little heifer.  I went to see the show and afterward I went backstage and there were all of these guys backstage changing back into their G.I. uniforms.   I said to her, “What the hell are you those guys doing?   Those guys are traveling with you pretty girls and staying in the finest hotels like officers?”   She said, “That’s right.”   I knew that I was in the wrong outfit.   I was getting shot at every night.   I went to my Commanding Officer and told him that I didn’t want to go home in a body bag and that I was going to audition for this touring company. 

  So I did that,  got transferred, and ended up in Arthur Penn’s touring company and eventually made my way to New York City and ended up on Broadway.

BOZUNG:   There’s that incredible scene in VERBOTEN! with your character speaking to the townspeople about the food shortage while he’s standing on the back of that Jeep…

BEST:  Sammy Fuller was always balls-to-the-wall.    He had his camera up on a platform and he was shooting down into the crowd of those angry German guys.    Sammy’s direction was, “I want you to jump off the back of the Jeep into that crowd of angry guys. There’s going to be a fist fight and they’re going to beat you up. Then they’ll scatter when the military police come.”   So he called action and I jumped into the middle of those guys and the fists started flying.   He yelled cut and I said, “Sammy what the hell is going on ?  I’m getting the hell beaten outta me!”   They were really hitting me. I found out afterward that he had told them to jump on me and really hit me.    One of them busted my lip.  I busted my nose.   He said, “Let’s do it again!”  I looked at him, “Sammy what was wrong with that one?”  He said, “Don’t give me any back talk just get in there and do it again!”  (Laughing)   So we did the scene again.  I jumped into the crowd and I started swinging and I put three guys down on the ground.  Sammy started screaming at me, “Lay down you son-of-a-bitch! Lay down!”  (Laughing)    Sammy loved reality.  I loved the man, I really did. (Laughing)

There was another scene that came at the beginning of VERBOTEN  The scene where that German is shooting at me and I use the body of my friend as a sandbag.  The scene started out where I’m walking down the street and I hear a sound and I shoot into a storefront.   My father was a gunsmith, so growing up I learned about guns and other weapons.   When I was handed the gun for the scene I noticed that the gun had real ammo in it.  I said to Sammy, “I think there’s been a mistake.  This gun has really ammo in it.”  He said, “Yeah, I wanna see the real thing.”   I prayed that there wasn’t some poor guy standing on the backside of those sets during that scene.   I remember Sammy got a notice from the head of the studio once asking him not to shoot his .45 on the lot because they were worried that he was going to kill one of the electricians up in the rafters on the soundstage.   He never did stop. (Laughing)

BOZUNG:  The war stories in your book are incredible.   You arrested that war criminal, got stabbed in the neck, ect…As an actor it must have seemed a bit like art imitating life in a sense with the character you played in Fuller’s VERBOTEN!.    Did you need to find that character in any way inside of yourself?

BEST:   It’s going to sound conceited but I never have any trouble finding a character.  I feel like I’ve experienced ten mens’ lifetimes and I’m always drawing on that.  Jimmy Stewart was like that.  I’m not trying to put myself on the same level as Stewart or any other actor of his caliber but it’s great when you can draw upon your own past experiences.   Also with a violent experience…You never forget something like that either.     Some people who experienced the war don’t like to talk about it, but they should.  Audie Murphy was one of my best friends and it took him a couple years of knowing him before he would talk to me about his war experiences.    It’s really important for WWII veterans to tell their stories because they need to be documented.   I recently read something that said that a thousand WWII veterans pass away every day.  

BOZUNG:   I really don’t know how your generation that fought in WWII managed to survive through it and it’s psychological aftermath…

BEST:   You could have done it too.   You didn’t do it for your country.   You fought to survive really.   That’s the only reason you did it, or to protect your buddy.   When you went into a dangerous situation or into a shoot-out, you went in because you were ordered to or because your buddy was going in.  You didn’t think that you were going in for your country.  You didn’t  think that what you were doing was going to bring peace.   You also always thought that you were never going to get hurt either.  It was a very strange thing.

BOZUNG:   It must have been surreal for you in a sense because of the fact that you did so many war movies in your career…THE NAKED & THE DEAD (1958) and FIRST TO FIGHT (1967) for example…

BEST:   Yeah, it does seem like a movie when you think back on it.   You think to yourself, “My God,  did I really do that?  Am I still capable of doing something like that today?”    I remember talking to Audie Murphy about his movie TO HELL AND BACK (1955).  That was his life story and he didn’t want to make that movie.    He didn’t want to re-live that situation and that was tough on him because they replayed the stuff that he had experienced.   For me, it was a bit different because with something like FIRST TO FIGHT, I never experienced that type of combat.     As an actor over the years,  I’ve had a reputation in Hollywood that died very well on screen.   I’ve always been proud of that.   Even when I was a kid when we would play Cowboys and Indians I would mimic how people would die in the movies.  I’ve been killed so many times on screen.   We have a composite reel of just my death scenes in movies.  My wife made it for me. It has twenty plus scenes of me dying on camera in it.  It’s great because she edited it all together and at the end of it she has that scene from the Twilight Zone [The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank; 1962] that I did where I sit up in that coffin. (Laughing)

BOZUNG:  Can we talk about THE KILLER SHREWS (1959)?

BEST:  Sure.  We’ve just made a sequel called RETURN OF THE KILLER SHREWS (2012).   The first SHREWS movie I made for Sammy Fuller.  He had a friend named Ray Kellogg.  He was a special effects man and one of the best.   Sammy called me up and said, “Jimmy I need you to do me a favor.  I have a friend named Ray Kellogg who’s shooting a picture down in Texas. They don’t have any money but they have Ingrid Goude.”  I said sign me up.   Also the producer on SHREWS was Ken Curtis.  Ken was the actor who played “Festus” on Gunsmoke and I had worked with him on that show.   So I went down to Texas. Sidney Lumet’s father, Baruch Lumet was in the movie too.   They shot the movie for less than $100,000 dollars but it looks like it was shot for fifteen cents.   We had to paint the sets even.   If you watch the movie there are scenes were everyone is walking sideways and we did that because if we didn’t we would’ve gotten paint on our clothes.    When it came out it was voted the worst movie of the year.   But over the fifty years since I did it, SHREWS has become a cult film and people always ask me about it no matter where I go all over the world.  

BOZUNG:  I love the Shrew monsters in the film!

BEST:   Yeah,  when it came time to shoot the Shrews they put fur coats on some dogs…laughing

BOZUNG:  But how did you get the dogs in the shrew costumes to chase you in the movie?

BEST:  They couldn’t figure out how to do that at first.   I told them that they should use raccoons.  So they put some raccoons in a cage and set them out and when the dogs were let loose they took on to the scent of the raccoons and went running.

BOZUNG:   The best scene in SHREWS is the big escape to the ocean where everyone gets underneath those barrels and walks with the barrels over their heads.

BEST:  Laughing...Those barrels were heavy.   You had to be a Hercules to have that thing over your head and then hunch down and walk down to that beach.   It was funny because we could only walk a couple feet at a time then we’d all have to stop and take a break. Then we’d get up again a few minutes later and go a couple more feet…laughing

BOZUNG:  The film has a charm to it today, but back when it was released and voted the worst movie of the year…Did you ever feel any level of embarrassment to have been in it?

BEST:  Not really.  I was working so much during that time doing television that I didn’t really care if it was good or bad but only that the check didn’t bounce.   I did it as a favor to Sammy Fuller and I really didn’t think that it would be seen.   Now I’m very proud to have been a part of it.

BOZUNG:  What made you want to revisit SHREWS and the character all these years later with the new SHREWS film?

BEST:  Money...laughing    You can’t argue with success whether it’s good, bad or indifferent.   There had been a script going around for a few years but no one liked it so we just forgot about it.  Then I met Steve Latshaw who has directed some horror movies and he wanted to direct me in something so we started working on the script back and forth over email.   We did that until we were happy with it.   I have a production company now and we have all of the finest equipment.   So we shot the new SHREWS movie with the Red camera and we got a great group of professional actors to come in that includes Bruce Davison and some of the cast members from The Dukes Of Hazard.   We just had a ball shooting it.   We could always hear the crew laughing while we were shooting, and when you can do that you know that you have something special.  I did that on The Dukes Of Hazzard too. I always try to make the crew members laugh.  

BOZUNG:  Years later after SHREWS you got to work with Jerry Lewis a couple times.  What was that like?

BEST:   Well, I had been a fan of Jerry Lewis before I had worked with him.  I was a big fan before I had met him.  I first met him at Paramount when I visited the set of THE LADIES’ MAN (1961) to watch him work.  I got called to do an episode of Ben Casey (1964) with Vince Edwards.   I didn’t want to work with Vince Edwards.  Edwards wasn’t professional.  He was a jerk.  He wouldn’t read off camera for you and he was always on the phone with his horse racing bookie.   I told my agent that I didn’t want to do it.  Then my agent told me that Jerry Lewis was going to star in the episode and  direct it.   I wanted to be a part of it.   So I went over to Jerry’s office at Paramount and I said, “My name is James Best….”  He stopped me and said, “I know who you are.  You’re a good actor. I like your work.”   Out of left field he said to me, “Say something nice about me…”  That took me by surprise.  I told him, “To be honest Mr. Lewis I’m a big fan and I’ve seen every film you’ve ever done.   But in a lot of your humor I see  pain behind it.”  He looked  at me like I had hit him across the mouth.   I said, “Well, it looks like I blew this interview.”  He said, “No you didn’t.  You’ve got the job.  We’ll talk later.”   I always thought that Jerry was like Charlie Chaplin.  He was always mistreated or misunderstood as the character that he played in his movies.   When I got to know Jerry better later on, I saw that he was carrying a lot of baggage.    He was one of the most talented people that I’ve ever worked with in my life.  He was brilliant at slapstick.  He could do it all.   I was very flattered to have had the opportunity to work with him on Ben Casey and then after that in his movie THREE ON A COUCH (1966).

We became friends.  We used to go out on his boat and party.   I remember I told him once that I had never seen him live on the stage.  He told me that he was going to play Vegas and he invited me to see him.  He got me a suite.  He got me tickets right in the front row.  I didn’t sit in the front row because I wanted to watch him prepare for the show.   I wanted to watch him put on his make-up.  His dressing room was like a reception room.  He had all of these actors and fans of his coming through and talking to him before the show.    I remember there was this one guy that was standing outside of his dressing room and he looked like he was going crazy.  I went into see Jerry and I said, “Jerry, there is a guy outside and he’s having a real fit.”  Jerry laughed and he invited the guy into meet me and that was Charlie Challis.   I became a huge fan of Charlie Challis after that.  

He had wanted me to be in THE FAMILY JEWELS (1965) with him.   I had studied Karate for many years.  So when he got started on THE FAMILY JEWELS he had written a scene with a Karate guy in it and he wanted me to play that part.   I couldn’t do it though because I had signed on to do FIRECREEK (1968) with Jimmy Stewart.   I remember he called me about it.  I said, “I can’t do it Jerry.”   It pissed him off.   He got really mad at me, but he got over it eventually.   We did that funny Karate scene in THREE ON A COUCH where his character tries to break that board with his hand.

BOZUNG:   I’m a huge fan of FIRECREEK.   Was that something that they called you in for or was that character “Drew” in the film someone who you had to audition to get?   

BEST:    I had worked with Jimmy Stewart on SHENANDOAH (1965) and he had quite a bit of say about who was cast in one of his films.   My agent of course got me the job but I’m sure that Stewart saw my name on a casting list and then told them that he wanted me.

BOZUNG:   I love that “Drew” character.  It’s a very dark character for you.  How did you find such a dark character?

BEST:   Laughing…I’m not sure.   From the dark side of my personality I guess.  There was a scene that was cut out that was even darker than any of the others.  My character was playing with a child and I pull out my gun and show it to the child.   Some of the scene is still in the movie today but they cut a section of it out where I say, “This gun will blow your head off!”  I really enjoyed playing that part in FIRECREEK because you always love playing a part that’s the complete opposite of who you actually are as a person.  That’s the fun of acting.

BOZUNG:   FIRECREEK has an amazing cast!   Gary Lockwood, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Elam, Inger Stevens and Henry Fonda….What was it like working with Henry Fonda?

BEST:   It was fantastic.   Henry Fonda was a fantastic actor as Henry Fonda.   He always played himself.   John Wayne did that too.     ON GOLDEN POND (1981) was one of Henry Fonda’s finest performances and he was a shoe-in for the Academy Award.  But he didn’t have to reach for that character. He could’ve played that character standing on his head.   He had that same type of difficult relationship with his own daughter Jane Fonda.  

BOZUNG:  How about Jack Elam?

BEST:   I had worked with Jack Elam several times before FIRECREEK.   He was a gambler.  I can remember we were driving out to a location once and we saw two birds on a telephone wire and he said, “I’ll bet you $100 dollars that the bird on the right takes off first.”   He would bet on anything.  I said, “I’m not going to do that.”  He said, “OK, you pick the bird then!”   We used to play dollar poker on the set.  Elam made more money gambling around the world than he did acting in movies.   We used to play liars poker and I used to tease him that no one could beat him at poker because no one could tell what he was going to do because of his glass eye.  Henry Fonda worked for free on FIRECREEK because during the shooting of FIRECREEK Jack Elam took all of his money playing cards.

After we finished shooting FIRECREEK…Henry Fonda invited the cast of the movie to his home for a little party.  I was very excited to go.  A lot of people don’t know that Henry Fonda was a great artist.   So I drove out to his house and there was valet parking, the cars were stacked up all over.  I went in and it was a who’s who of Hollywood there.   I saw Lucille Ball, Danny Kaye, Elia Kazan, and Barbara Stanwyck.  I was very intimidated because I was the least known person there.    Jimmy Stewart was there too.  I was sitting in the corner of the room watching all of these big name movie stars and Stewart was talking to someone, and I can’t remember now who he was talking to but I heard him say, “Jim’s here.  Let me go and talk to Jim.”   And Jimmy Stewart walked away from all of these big movie stars to come and talk to me.   That just thrilled the heck outta me.

BOZUNG:   In FIRECREEK….I love that scene with you at the Irish wake…Was that a difficult scene to do?   Your stare is intense….

BEST:  Right.  Yeah it was.   Because there was a fire going…The fire would dry my eyes out and it was very hard to sit still for so long.   It was very cold out too that night and I got pneumonia after we did that scene.

BOZUNG:   That tension and chemistry that you share with Gary Lockwood in FIRECREEK is really dazzling too.   That big fight scene that the two of you have is really wonderful.   Did the two of you rehearse or block that out at all?

BEST:  Well, you really can’t rehearse something like that out.     That drowning scene was just done with us both just physically struggling with each other.   Working with Gary was wonderful.   FIRECREEK was one of the best experiences in my life.

BOZUNG:   In your book Best In Hollywood, you said that the time you worked with Jimmy Stewart on SHENANDOAH was the best time of your career.  What was it about working with Stewart on SHENANDOAH that sets it above working with Stewart on a film like FIRECREEK?

BEST:  Well, SHENANDOAH was just a better picture.  FIRECREEK was kind of a re-hash of HIGH NOON (1952).   The story lines are very similar.   Stewart really gave a Academy Award performance in SHENANDOAH in my opinion and it was not a easy film to make.   I had a lot to do in SHENANDOAH.   I had to do all of that swimming and I rescued that kid from prison.  Then of course, the combat stuff was very dangerous to do.   They had impregnated the ground with explosives.   You had to be careful where you walked.   We had real bayonets too.   You couldn’t have rubber bayonets.  It was very dangerous.   When my character in SHENANDOAH is shot and I fall…If you watch the film you’ll notice that when I fall, my head is facing away from the camera and I did on purpose so after my character was shot I could see the rest of the action going on in that scene…laughing   Those combat scenes were something else.

BOZUNG:  How did ROLLING THUNDER (1977) come to you?   

BEST:    ROLLING THUNDER was just a job for me.   I didn’t really want to do it.   I turned it down quite a few times.   Once I heard that William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones were going to be involved I decided that I would do it.  I really respected those guys as actors.   I just didn’t want to play that character and say all of those dirty words.   The producer said, “Well, that’s the character.”  I had already committed to do another film around this time so I told the producers that if they wanted me to play this character that I would have to have a specific start and stop date for shooting because I had to do this other picture.   They agreed.   So I went down to Texas and my time came and went.  The director of ROLLING THUNDER [John Flynn] was having martial problems and that slowed down the shoot.   My time came and went and I had to leave.  I couldn’t stay down in Texas any longer.  When you watch ROLLING THUNDER you’ll see me in those scenes where I’m that very bad guy but in the long shots they had to dress up another guy up to look like me to shoot those.   

BOZUNG:   That scene with the cigarette lighter in ROLLING THUNDER is so incredible and intense…How did you find that intensity?

BEST:     It wasn’t really that difficult.  You read the script and if it says you’re supposed to be mean, you play it mean.   That character was very easy for me to play.  I wanted him to be a sweaty Texan.  So I used a Texas accent, and  I put ice cubes under my cowboy hat so when they melted and dripped down it would look like I was this greasy killer that was constantly sweating.    

BOZUNG:   The calmness and the quietness of your character adds so much to that character…

BEST:   That makes you deadly.   I’ve gotten into quite a few fights in my own life and the guy that’s always the quiet one is the one that is the most dangerous.  You don’t worry about the loudmouth.  You hit the guy that isn’t talking first because he’ll usually have a knife.

BOZUNG:    You mentioned that you didn’t like the language of the character a moment ago…But did you have any reservations about playing that big scene at the end during the shoot-out where you had to be in bed with that women as you’re shot to death?

BEST:    Not really.  I had gotten comfortable with the girl, I talked to her before to make sure that she was comfortable with the nudity.   It didn’t bother me though.   The shotgun scene where my character was shot through the stomach was done with an air gun.    They shot a gel at me.  It’s really like a Jello. They put these little pieces of black paper inside of it and so when they shoot you those little pieces of paper stick to you and they look like bullet holes.   When they got ready to do it, I asked the guy who had prepared the effect if he had tested it out before.  He said, “Oh Yeah, it will be fine.”   I said, “OK, do me a favor and shoot that at yourself first to test the pressure.”  So he did it and it almost killed him.    So I told him, “Why don’t you turn the pressure down by half!”    

BOZUNG:   Last question about ROLLING THUNDER….Reading that script for the first time and then seeing the finished film…Did you see that film as some sort of statement on the Vietnam War itself?

BEST:    To be honest, I never really thought about that.   War is hell and whatever happens is never good. It’s never palatable.  If you bring a poor guy back and he’s honored with some silver dollars and then someone tries to steal those…That stuff is happening today yet.    I think ROLLING THUNDER was really about the brutality of one human being against another.

BOZUNG:  What about HOOPER (1978).  I’m a huge fan of your work on that film…How did that whole project come to fruition?

BEST:   I was co-producing THE END (1978) with Burt Reynolds.  I had done all of the re-writes on that script.   Burt and I were sitting in the editing room working and Hal Needham, the director of HOOPER called and said, “I’m having a hell of a time with the script for HOOPER.”   So Burt said, “I’m sitting next to one of the the best writers in Hollywood Jim Best…”   I had already known Hal Needham because he used to double for me back when I was under contract with Universal at the end of the ’40s.  Hal was a great stuntman before he was a director.  So I ended up doing all of the script re-writes on HOOPER.  I did all of it as a ghost writer.

I had written myself a hell of a part in HOOPER.  I played Burt’s best friend.   Just before we started to shoot Burt came to me and said, “Jimmy, I’ve got Brian Keith and I want him to be in the movie.   Would you mind if we split that part up a bit so we can have Brian in the film?”   Burt owed Brian a favor because Brian used to let Burt use his condo in Hawaii.   I told him that I didn’t mind because Burt and I were supposed to be friends.     So Burt gave Brian the best-half of my part and I was stuck with the rest.    Not only did I lose the best half of that part but I never got paid or got the credit for re-writing the screenplay for HOOPER.  Hal went to Burt on my behalf about that and he told Hal that that was the way that it was going to be.  That was the last time I worked with Burt Reynolds.   

Joe Bob Briggs & Honey the Mail Girl Interview

TEARIN’ THE HEART OUTTA SATURDAY NIGHT:

A look back at TNT Monstervision with an interview with host Joe Bob Briggs and Honey Gregory; the Monstervision mail girl.

Honey2On June 28th, 1996 cable television changed for many late night B-movie addicts. This was the premiere of Joe Bob Briggs [John Bloom] as host of TNT’s Monstervision. The show had been previously broadcast with various hosts on the network ranging from Penn and Teller to Bob Denver, but the show hadn’t managed to gain as wide of an audience as the network was anticipating. It was an era where the drive-in movie theater was seconds away from permanent death, the video store was booming, and pay cable was king.  TNT was looking for a full time host for it’s Friday night slot. Someone that could entrance an audience, with a wonderful blend of knowledge, humor and wit, who was also — everyday person identifiable . They chose America’s foremost drive-in movie expert and film critic personality, Joe Bob Briggs.

Briggs was hired to educate late night cable television subscribers. Regardless of the fact that the movies were edited by the TNT ‘High Sheriffs’ for content. The drive-in movie critic had arrived, and weekends wouldn’t be the same for many ever again.

Prior to Monstervision, Joe Bob Briggs spent three years as a syndicated film critic for the Dallas Times Herald. His Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In column reviewed exploitation/horror and sexy B-movie’s not covered by other film critics. At the same time, Briggs also began hosting low budget films on local Dallas access television. The Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In newspaper column ended in late ’84 when the Brigg’s parody of the U.S.A for Africa rock song ‘We are the World’ was appropriately made into ‘We are the Weird’. The spoof drew much criticism and led to the cancellation of the Joe Bob Briggs print column and not so coincidentally the resignation of one columnist, named John Bloom. Both would return again to print a few years later on a larger scale.

Joe Bob Briggs hit the road with a developed stand-up/story-telling/musical comedy act that took him across the U.S.A offering up his unique brand of humor to audiences everywhere. An Evening with Joe Bob Briggs re-titled later, Joe Bob Dead In Concert launched in Cleveland, OH. in late 1985 and the show received national notice.

On the success of Joe Bob Dead In Concert, Briggs was offered a spur-of-the-moment weekly hosting job, on the up and coming sister network of Showtime, The Movie Channel. And it’s here where Briggs cut his teeth, and catapulted himself to becoming the greatest movie host of all time.

The Movie Channel was looking for someone to introduce several of the films they had recently acquired, thus was born the landmark cable series, Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater. Drive-In Theater ran for nearly ten years and became the cable networks highest rated show. Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater would be nominated for two Cable Ace Awards during it’s tenure on air. At the height of popularity, Briggs would host the pinnacle of pay-per-view B movie-ism with the 1994 Joe Bob’s Hollywood’s Hottest Babes special. The sixty-minute pay-per-view gift aired across the country and featured Briggs interviewing scream queens such as: Julie Strain, Michelle Bauer and Julie K. Smith. This was followed by slow motion segments of each women dancing nekkid in a hot tub, and at the end of the show an eight-hundred number was flashed across the screen allowing viewers to call in a vote for their favorite.

After almost a decade, The Movie Channel began to have major concerns over demographics.  In 1996 the channel re-vamped itself and Briggs quickly transitioned to a Friday night slot on the Ted Turner TNT network. From the ashes of Drive-In Theater came the soon-to-be landmark and highly influential, TNT Monstervision.

The Monstervision format was similar to that of Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater, but unlike The Movie Channel series, Briggs was given even more time on-air. Often, Briggs would appear as many as sixteen to twenty-four times on-air during a weekly two film presentation on TNT. Similarly to Drive-In Theater, the Monstervision stage set was made to resemble a mobile home. Joe Bob sat in a leather recliner topped with steer horns. A green neon TNT sign was strategically placed in the background resembling a bug zapper. Movie posters of each night’s features were placed on the wall’s in the background and the Briggs home littered with dozens of empty beer cans, movie memorabilia, strange props and hidden nudie magazines. After all, Briggs was appealing to the common man within a certain age range, and the hobbies of such were late night television, gross-out comedy, monster and action movies, and lots of beer.

Briggs had a truly unique system and vocabulary in which he would provide his audience highlights or stand out moments from any film he would be introducing each week. Briggs would dub these, the Drive-In Totals. The Drive-In Totals were based on the Briggs invented principle, that dictated that any great B-movie must contain all of the following three B’s. Blood, Breasts and Beasts. This trademark transpired into invention years prior when Briggs interviewed B-movie mastermind Roger Corman back at his days at the Dallas Times Herald.

With the three B’s ideology being marketed each week on air, and to appeal even more to the late night male viewer of Monstervision, TNT execs allowed Briggs to implement a character he had created back on-the-air during his Movie Channel days.

The character, a smart, sexy and sassy mail postal carrier. The Monstervision mail girl. The character would be played by many on-the-up actresses over the course of the show’s history [1996-2000]. The overall series fan favorite and the original mail girl, Honey [Honey Gregory] followed Briggs to TNT from The Movie Channel in 1996. Honey would stay with the show for two seasons, and subsequent replacements followed over the course of the shows history before Monstervision was forced off the air in 2000. The mail girl character not only appealed to the shows demographic but also provided Briggs fan’s each night with a humorous rapport between the two characters, which always showcased Briggs hilarious and embarrassing failed attempts at “bedding” his trailer park mail lady.

The chemistry between Honey and Briggs was quickly obvious. Both were Texans. The rehearsed banter seemed less scripted and more impromptu as the two would tease each other to the delight of the viewer each week. Although the mail girl character endured many scrutinies by feminists who felt the character was demeaning to women, Monstervision fans adored Honey and looked forward to the weekly mail girl visit as well as seeing her in many over-the-top sultry and exposing wardrobes.

In 1998, Monstervision moved from it’s original Friday night time, to a new Saturday slot. With the constant airing on TNT of various sports broadcasts the show often failed to begin at it’s advertised time slot each week. This move also saw the creation of, Joe Bob’s Last Call. This variation still meant Monstervision–but saw Briggs moving inside his trailer home where he would guide you through the final film of a two movie evening behind a Old Milwaukee “tall boy” nestled in a beer cozy–all the while Briggs resided at a diner booth looking directly into the camera. Brigg’s schtick would become raunchier over the course of the evenings cinematic offerings and each weekly show would finish out with a joke that would become one of the series highlights.

In addition, TNT Monstervision was one of the first television series to heavily promote it’s companion website. In an era where the internet was not yet in every home in the U.S, a scrolling banner reminded viewers to meet other fans of the show online on it’s forum board also known as “Joe Bob’s Rec Room” to discuss Briggs, the films of the evening, or make an attempt at the infamous caption contest. The caption contest allowed the fans of the series an attempt at “making the six headed jury laugh”. This involved providing a caption for a weekly playmate. The playmates were not beautiful models, but still photos of “beasts” as seen in films that aired over the course of the Monstervision series run. The prize? The highly sought after and now very collectable Monstervision t-shirt.

Theme nights became abundant on the series as well. These theme nights were an extension of the classic drive-in movie aesthetic, a vital part of the Monstervision experience. Theme nights eventually carried over into yearly specials.

Halloween became a special night on Monstervision instantly. Halloween 1998 saw the one-time epic and now fan favorite famous Friday the 13th Dusk ‘til Dawn Marathon. Briggs introduced five of the Friday the 13th movies in a row. To the amusement of his audience, Briggs hammed it up pretending to be stalked by a killer that was roaming around the shows set rubbing out it’s crew members one-by-one, only for Briggs to discover each grizzly execution prior to commercial break.  The effort was unforgettable and fans of the series, today still discuss the one-off special. A subsequent Halloween special included the 1999 Nair Witch show. The Nair Witch special saw Briggs and his mail girl’s [Rusty and Summer] lost in the woods of the Hollywood Hills searching out the elusive Nair Witch, a Blair Witch parody. In addition, slight spin-off variations of the concept were offered to fans of the series during it’s run as well. Fans were treated to such seasonal special’s as Joe Bob’s Summer School, Joe Bob’s Hollywood Saturday Night, even a one time big Monstervision Super Bowl marathon of ’70s football movies that was co-hosted with Briggs by the one and only Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson.

Following the 1999 season, TNT proposed a format change for Monstervision. The show’s production was relocated from Dallas to Los Angeles and with TNT deciding they’d like to focus on capturing a stronger female demographic, the network decided to cut back the two movie format into one and take it more “mainstream”. The change to normalcy would not fare well for the series and with ratings down TNT cancelled the show without warning, airing the series last original episode on July 8th, 2000. The cancellation ended Joe Bob Briggs four year turn on the TNT network.

Today, the interest in the series is stronger than ever. With the outlet that the internet offers, fans of the show post dozens of rare YouTube clips as well as visit forum boards designed to offer fans the opportunity to swap recorded episodes of the series between each other. Fans continue to sign petitions to bring the series back to air. TNT Monstervision gave it’s audience an outlet for appreciation. For genre and B-movie fans the series was a late night place of gathering. The party may be over, and the late night television landscape changed forever, but as Joe Bob Briggs has always said “The Drive-in will never die”, and neither will TNT Monstervision. Viva la Joe Bob!

BOZUNG:  So how did you come up with the character of Joe Bob Briggs?

J.B.BRIGGS: Well, I wanted a character that was from my milieu. Someone that was from the Texas, Arkansas area. I wanted to play a character that liked movies, but hated film. I wanted a character that people could identify with, someone that was populous. Originally I thought I might play it multi-ethnic, ‘cause the majority of people that went to drive-in’s in Texas were Hispanic. The original name of the character was ‘Bo Bo Rodriguez’.

The newspaper editors I was writing for at the time wouldn’t let me use that ‘cause they thought it was racist, so I came up with Joe Bob Briggs cause it was the whitest and most redneck name I could think of at that time. Rednecks are the last ethnic group that you can pick on in America, and it’s fun.

BOZUNG:  How did you get involved with The Movie Channel?

J.B.BRIGGS: I was on the set of Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and I interviewed Dennis Hopper for Rolling Stone Magazine. The Movie Channel noticed the article and also I had done a comedy tour across the U.S. So anyhow, at that time they were bringing in guest hosts for a month at a time. So one guest host spot, turned into another, then turned into three, and then it turned into a job. It was really by accident, ‘cause they never really planned to hire anyone from the start.

BOZUNG:  So once the job at The Movie Channel was over how did you get the job on TNT Monstervision?

J.B.BRIGGS: Well there was about two months in between I think. After I did my final show on The Movie Channel someone called from TNT and asked if I wanted a Friday night slot. They liked the fact that I had a production company that could shoot really cheap, so we just used the sets from The Movie Channel on Monstervision.

BOZUNG: The show was shot in Dallas, Texas?

HONEY: Yeah, we shot in Dallas; It was at a couple different studios.

BOZUNG: So were you picking the movies that you showed on The Movie Channel and TNT Monstervision?

J.B.BRIGGS: On The Movie Channel I was not picking the movies. They were buying a lot of bad movies and they seemed to always end up on my show. On the other side, Turner television had a huge library as they had bought a bunch of films from MGM in the early ’80s. So once a year I would go through a big list of the films they owned and marked off the ones I wanted to show. Unfortunately they wouldn’t show anything prior to 1975 or in black and white. So there were a lot of things that I would’ve liked to have shown but wasn’t allowed to like Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932).

In addition they bought movies or acquired the rights to particular movies, and those were mandatory for me to show ‘cause they were required to air so many times.

BOZUNG: Like what?

J.B.BRIGGS: Well for example, there was this Filipino movie that they asked me to show called, Superbeast. If you’ve seen it, you know this movie has no plot whatsoever. I ran a contest where I asked for people to write in and successfully describe the plot of the movie, and the winner would receive a six pack of beer. Out of thousands of entries no-one ever got it right and I got in trouble with TNT for offering an alcohol prize. I guess you’re not supposed to do that [laughing].

BOZUNG: How did the TNT mail girl come into the equation?

J.B.BRIGGS: Well, I wanted a retro girl. I used to go to a lot of television development meetings, and they always wanted the mail girl to be strong and independent. Which is a cliché in a sense. So I suggested that they create a character that was similar to Carol Wayne. So I suggested that we make her sexy, and I’ll hit on her, and she’ll always shoot me down, and that will be her vengeance.

BOZUNG: Honey, you were the very first Monstervision mail girl, how on earth did you get caught up in this role?

HONEY: Well, I had an agent in Dallas. John’s [Joe Bob Briggs] office just called over cause they were looking for girls. At that time he was looking for someone to do The Hubbie Awards for the show on The Movie Channel.

John had me back another time after that appearance as he noticed that he was getting good feedback from his fans. So he started to write these quirky little things that they could stick me in on the show every now and again. Finally, I just asked him to put me on the show full time. After a while, he came up with the mail girl concept and he called me in. I, of course said “sounds like fun.”

BOZUNG: So as an actress how did you develop that character?

HONEY: Well, we just tried a few different ideas. We tried stuff where she had different types of attitudes. We wanted to try to figure out what would stick. John liked it best when I was kind of snotty and uppity and hateful towards the Joe Bob character. You know, maybe I was a bit of a gold digger type ’cause I was looking for a guy that was the exact opposite of Joe Bob Briggs. If you look at it, Joe Bob Briggs was really just a cowboy with no money [laughing].

At Monstervision we pretty much kept the character the same, but towards the end we played around with some different attitudes where I was kind of nice, just to mix it up and make it more fun.

BOZUNG: Who was the character of Honey to you? I’m curious to get any insight in terms of who you thought Honey was?

HONEY: She was this kind of a trashy, bimbo, gold digging Marilyn Monroe type. She had that Marilyn Monroe sex appeal side to her, but ultimately she’s just a normal postal lady running around half naked.

BOZUNG: So who picked out your own outfits for the show?

HONEY:  Well, both John and I did. I would meet with the wardrobe lady prior to shooting and bring some of my things, while the wardrobe lady brought some items, so we kind of mixed and matched. Towards the end, more and more of the costumes belonged to the show.

There was one particular costume which we had a lot of compliments on, it was a little blue jean short sleeve shirt about two sizes too small. I would put on a push up bra and hold the front of the shirt together while the wardrobe lady would take fishing line and literally sew me into the top. It fit like a corset and you couldn’t even breathe, but it would make my girls really pop. We got a lot of really good reviews from that particular piece of wardrobe.

BOZUNG: Joe Bob, Can you clarify the correct order of appearance of the TNT mail girl over the run of the series?

J.B.BRIGGS: Well, Honey was the first. She came over from The Movie Channel with me. The women in the marketing department hated the whole concept of the mail girl, and were always trying to get rid of it. Eventually I was forced to re-cast the role. If it had been up to me I would’ve kept Honey forever, ‘cause she was the most popular with the fans.

After Honey came Reno, but I can’t remember why we had to replace her. Then came Summer. Summer was played by a friend of mine, Kathy Shower. Kathy was the 1985 Playboy Playmate of the Year. She wanted to do it even though the money was terrible, ‘cause we were good friends. TNT execs thought that she was too old for the show, ‘cause she billed herself as the oldest Playboy Playmate. She was there for a few months, then Rusty [Renner St. John] came in.

What people don’t know about Rusty is that she had served in Operation Desert Storm in the United States Air Force. Her father was also a general in the U.S. Army. She was very serious. She was a pilot for General H. Norman Schwarzkopf during Operation Desert Storm. Once she got out she wanted to pursue a career in acting and modeling. She was quite good, and second most popular after Honey. Rusty stayed with the series until it finished out.

BOZUNG: So Honey, Did you know at the time that the TNT marketing execs were trying to eliminate the mail girl character during your era on the show?

HONEY: John [Joe Bob Briggs] never discussed those kind of business issues with me, but sometimes he would make comments about how he was getting slack from feminists who didn’t like how my character was being portrayed. They thought the character was degrading to women. I think John was right because he wasn’t trying to be politically correct on that show. His target market was primarily males age twelve between forty and that demographic typically like trampy, sexy, over the top women.

Some of his comments he made to me or during the show was that they didn’t like my name being Honey. John thought it was funny because ‘Honey’ is my real name. They thought he made up the name. John loved calling me ‘Honey, Baby, Sugar’, you know all that kind of stuff. I think it just a different culture. I still get people saying darling and sweetheart whenever I go home to Texas.

BOZUNG: Honey, One thing in particular I really liked about you on the show is that you weren’t as nasty to Joe Bob as the other subsequent girls. So I have to ask if there was ever a secret love affair between Honey and Joe Bob Briggs?

HONEY: I would say no. I think it was always Joe Bob’s fantasy to have an affair, but he was just annoying, and bordering on sexual harassment. No didn’t mean no to him, it just meant not at this time. There are moments when she would break down just a little bit, like she was maybe secretly a little attracted to him, but then he would open his mouth and she would be turned off again.

BOZUNG: A fan favorite segment on TNT Monstervision was when you’d read the fan mail on the air from prison inmates from around the country. How much mail did you actually get from prisons?

J.B.BRIGGS: We got a lot of letters from prisoners. I think everyone on television gets letters from prison, but they get ignored, we celebrated them. Quite a few prisons have cable television. I’m a big supporter of it. But there are some out there that don’t. Wardens support it, ‘cause it helps keep everything relaxed and settled.

The most of it came from prisons in California, and then also a state prison in upstate Pennsylvania called, Camp Hill. We got letters from Robert Bardo, the guy who murdered television actress Rebecca Schaeffer. I wrote to the authorities at Vacaville prison saying that I didn’t think this guy should be allowed to write letters to people on television [laughing].

BOZUNG: Honey, I know the show got a ton of mail. How much of that mail was for you?

HONEY:  Well I don’t know the percentage, but John would bring me letters that were specifically addressed to the mail girl. A lot of times people would write John a letter and say something about the mail girl. I did have quite a large following of incarcerated folks that though. He would tease me sometimes that I had a captive audience [laughing].

BOZUNG: So how did the ‘Tearing the Heart Out Of Saturday Night’ song come into being?

J.B.BRIGGS: The marketing department came up with that. They wrote it, I didn’t write it. I’ve written some songs but not that one. It was basically just a commercial for the show.

BOZUNG: I think one of the greatest TNT Monstervision shows was when you did the Friday The 13th Dusk ’till Dawn Marathon show in 1998. Why didn’t you do another one, and wasn’t it supposed to be an annual tradition?

J.B.BRIGGS: Yeah, it was. But it was sort of difficult ‘cause each week our show was never on at the same time. It was also delayed by basketball or ice skating or something like that. The programming on TNT reset itself at 6 a.m. every day, so no matter what we showed it had to be wrapped up by 6 a.m.

So while I would’ve loved to do more of those marathons they were difficult to work ‘cause of that reason, but also because we only had temporary rights to those Friday The 13th movies, and not necessary another block of films with sequels ready to show.

BOZUNG: You interviewed so many actors and actresses on the show, do you have a favorite looking back now?

J.B.BRIGGS: It was great interviewing Clint Howard cause he was right there with us in the moment. Then Tippi Hedren and John Waters. Gary Busey was great. Robert Forrester was great. Also, Lance Hendriksen was my favorite ‘cause he was just so honest with me. He’s a guy that’s rarely interviewed and doesn’t like to be interviewed. So he was probably my favorite interview that I did on the show.

BOZUNG: So Honey, how did you leave the show? Did they let you go?

HONEY: Actually, I left the country to pursue a Master’s degree. I spent a year in Switzerland and a year in London. I had talked to John about flying me in to make an appearance but it never materialized. It was just too expensive to do that, so they brought another girl in to replace me.

BOZUNG: So why did TNT Monstervision go off the air?

J.B.BRIGGS: Monstervision went off the air ‘cause the network was attempting to be more female friendly. They were interested in having a stronger female demographic. They were buying more shows with female perspectives. They did try to save the show. They moved us to Los Angeles and we had to show more mainstream movies. We had been shooting the show in Texas all this time, and it was cheap to make. So when we moved they realized just how expensive it was to shoot the show in Hollywood.

Eventually they didn’t wanna pay for it anymore, and that’s how it ended. I was always trying to get more females to watch the show, but the show was always very heavily male [laughing].

BOZUNG: TNT Monstervision has been off the air for ten plus years now, what do you think resonates so well with people that they are still interested in it all these years later?

HONEY: I think John’s humor. It’s so unique. When it comes to movies nobody does it quite the way he does.

BOZUNG: You’ve since been approached to come back to television haven’t you over the years since Monstervison has been off the air?

J.B.BRIGGS: Well yes and no, but not really. We did a little twenty-thousand dollar pilot for C.M.T Country Music Television a couple years ago, but it wasn’t well thought out, and I really didn’t like it. Cable Vision was gonna do a pop culture network and I was going to be on there, but it never launched. There have been a few more things like that, but they never took off.

Networks aren’t looking for people to host movies anymore. It’s an extra expense for them. They’ve already licensed the movie, and now they’ve gotta spend money on a host?

BOZUNG: What are you working on now?

J.B.BRIGGS: I’m, well John Bloom is working on a new book about military satellites in outer space.

BOZUNG: Do you have a favorite Monstervision moment?

J.B.BRIGGS: I have favorite bits that we would do. Some of them aren’t necessarily audience favorites though. We did this bit on condom testing that I kinda liked. I really loved the night that we showed The Warriors (1979) and we mapped out their travels through Manhattan.

Also, one of my favorite things to do was when we would show a time travel movie and I’d talk about the second law of thermal dynamics, and how that made time travel possible [laughing]. We had a blackboard and we’d show the timeline, and how your head would explode if you actually went through the time machine [laughing]. I don’t know how many people will remember that [laughing].

BOZUNG: As everyone is dying to know, whatever happened to your ex-wife Wanda Bodean?

J.B.BRIGGS: Wanda Bodean split years ago as I’m sure you know already, and last I had heard she had went lesbo. [laughing]

BOZUNG: Honey, Do you think Joe Bob ever wore you down? Like maybe once in Las Vegas at a vulnerable moment or during a night of drinking together he finally got to you ?

HONEY: There were a couple times when you kind of wonder. There was a New Years Eve episode we did where everybody begins the evening kind of stiff and as the night goes along everybody gets a little more loose, drinks a little more and start acting a little goofy. Then at the conclusion, Honey the Mail Girl is laying in a bed with her clothes messed up while Joe Bob is sitting on the foot of the bed and you kind of wonder if something happened. I think people wanted them to finally come together but it never quite happens. Or did it? [laughing]

This interview was originally published on Mondo-Video.com in the Spring of 2011.  The introduction portion was co-written by Tom Reider.  Re-printed with permission of Mondo Film, LLC.  All rights reserved.