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Archive for April, 2012

You Meet The Nicest People In Burbank

Friday, April 27th, 2012

There’s an annual event in Burbank called “Monsterpalooza,” a convention for people associated with horror movies. Actors come to sell signed photos, makeup and special effects artists network and demonstrate their scare skills and there’s even a museum dedicated to the craft of monster creation. The halls are teeming with thousands of fans, mingling with dozens of fabulously costumed monsters.

I had lead roles in one horror classic (“Suspiria”) and in a sorta-horror cult movie, a rock-and roll redo of “Phantom of the Opera” titled “Phantom of the Paradise.” So I have been invited to attend such events before but have always declined. But this time, I had a brain flash: I would do it to raise some quick bucks for PXE International, my favorite non-profit group.

I went to the Burbank Marriott on that Saturday morning with a bit of trepidation. I mean, who knows what might happen in a building packed with horror fans? (Not to mention monsters, who are not known for their social skills. ) The event had great potential for turning gnarly.

I had a rep, Carol, who meticulously set up my table, arranging a variety of photos of me in various damsel-in-distress poses,. At the next table was Caroline Munro, a gorgeously fify-something actress who appeared in horror flicks but is best known as a Bond girl. (Think Roger Moore.) Carol explained that Caroline would sell hundreds of pictures based on that pedigree alone, her buyers being mostly middle-aged men with lingering crushes.

On my other side was Chris Sarandon, and beyond him many tables dedicated to the cast of “Fright Night.” Jon Landis was selling a new book (“Monsters”) and other actors and directors sat at tables beyond him.

And the fans poured in.

99% of them wore logo-printed tee shirts, usually black ones. This seemed to be the uniform of the day. Many of them bought photos, but many brought other things for me to sign—DVD jackets, original soundtrack LP covers and random posters. Some brought gifts: a painting of a scene from “Phantom,” a plastic replica of the mask the phantom wears in the movie, and a beer glass with the phantom’s masked face etched on it.

The fans ranged in age from five years old to seventy-something, and they were, without exception, gracious and respectful. Each one expressed interest when I handed them a PXE postcard and helped them pronounce pseudoxanthoma. All were touched and pleased that their money was going to charity.

It’s always reassuring to be reminded that one can, even in the most unusual settings, depend on the kindness of strangers.

Other highlights of Monsterpaloza: 1. Meeting Boris Karloff’s daughter. 2. Having my picture taken with the most fabulous monsters I have met, well, ever. 3. Watching a makeup artist transform an ordinary fanboy into Schreck. 4. Going home Sunday feeling like Scrooge McDuck carrying a bulging sack with a $ sign on it.

Next time I do this, I think I’ll try selling a picture of myself with my head photo-shopped on a scantily clad, Bond-quality body. I’d certainly double my take.

P.S. Please also see my post on William Finley, my co-star in “Phantom,” who passed away last month.


William Finley, 1940-2012

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

I knew William Finley because we acted together in a movie, directed by Brian de Palma, called “Phantom of the Paradise”. In the 70’s, Bill and I spent two months in each others face in Dallas, Texas, shooting this rock-and-roll redo of “Phantom of the Opera.” Bill played the phantom, and I his muse.

It was my first movie, and on the first day of shooting, I was clueless and terrified, wracked with self-doubt and fears of screwing up.

My condition was not helped by the fact that we started the day with a scene in which I was sexually assaulted by a 400-pound man (wearing turquoise boxer shorts and cowboy boots). This did nothing to allay my fear that I had chosen the wrong profession.

But then Finley showed up. We had a key scene together, the one in which our characters met for the first time…

Bill was tall, kind, smart, focused, and almost immediately I appointed him my big brother, my protector…and my explainer. All day long the crew shouted mysterious things (like, “Checking the gate!”“Bring in the baby junior!” “Set up for the martini shot!” “Hit your mark, you stupid cow!”), and Bill patiently translated for me.

But mostly, he was just reassuring. He treated me with respect and kindness, as if he had complete confidence in me. He may never have said the words out loud, but he made me believe that he was thinking, “You’ve got this. You’re gonna be fine.” And once I calmed down and got over myself a little, I had one of the better acting lessons of my life, just by watching Bill’s skill and commitment in the creation of his character.

I can’t tell you how much I valued his warm friendship and his talent.
Whenever he was not on set, I missed him.

After the Dallas days, I did not see as much of Bill and his family as I’d have liked, as we lived on opposite coasts.
But he was one of those rare people who, even if you know them for a limited time, etch their initials on your heart.

To paraphrase a line from “Phantom,” we’ll remember you forever, Finley.

(For more on William Finley, click here.)


Easter’s Comin’. Got Eggs?

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012