You've been both associate producer and historian on the documentary
World of Edward D. Wood jr - so could you talk about your work on
the project in a little more detail?
Actually a little bit of
everything where needed. I started as an assistant to the late Crawford
John Thomas, who produced Ed Wood's [Ed
Wood bio - click here] first, unreleased film Crossroads
of Laredo. I started searching for every scrap of information about
Ed that I could find that I could provide to Crawford for our database.
Also reaching out to anyone who knew Ed or might have some idea about
what to do with the film. It was neither fish nor fowl: we had Ed Wood's
first film, but it was not even a half hour long with no soundtrack, so
what would be the best way to make it marketable? I got to attend a lot
of screenings and meet a lot of interesting people like A.C. Stephen,
Timothy Farrell just before he passed away, Harry Medved, Roger Corman [Roger
Corman bio - click here] and many others. I was kind of an idea man for what in the world were we
gonna do with this thing? The most amazing experience was coming into
contact with (late) Academy Award winning screenwriter/producer Philip
Yordan (Johnny Guitar, Dillinger, Houdini and many others). He watched
of Laredo footage
and wanted to do a Citizen Kane-type biography of Ed but Crawford
didn't have the kind of budget for that so that didn't work out. Anyway
I came up with a lot of the questions that were asked of the people on
camera and a lot of other things. The whole Crossroads saga
itself is worthy of a book, although I don't think I would be the best
person to do it. I suppose I'm still on board so whenever they decide to
do a special edition I'll be ready to run and do whatever they need in
order to get it ready. Laughs.
Now how did you get
involved with the project back when?
Crawford and I were in a
Toastmasters-type speech club for our church. We both gave our
"Icebreaker" speech, so I learned about his "16mm western
film" that he did back in the late '40s, and he learned of my
acting aspirations. From time to time at church services he would ask me
how my acting career was going, and one of those times he chuckled and
said "The director of our western later went on to do Bela Lugosi's
last movie" [Bela Lugosi
bio - click here]. Of course red lights began flashing in my head: I
asked and, sure enough, it was Ed Wood. So from there I was pretty much
off to the races.
Do talk about your
collaboration with The
Haunted World of Edward D. Wood jr's director and writer Brett
Thompson for a bit!
It was kind of a low
point of my life in a lot of areas. I became good friends with "Ed
Wood Stock Company Player" Conrad Brooks and used to hang out with
him at the swimming pool area of his apartment. One night I crashed
overnight in his living room. The next morning I called Crawford's
number to check in with him, and his wife told me to call him immediately
on his car phone. I called him and he gave me Brett's number and told me
to call him right away. Crawford and Brett were both clients of the same
attorney, who put them in touch with each other. I called him and we met
up at The Salt Shaker restaurant in South Pasadena, CA later that day.
Basically Brett told me what he and Crawford planned to do - a
documentary plus a restoration of Crossroads
of Laredo. Crawford was a huge
fan of The
Civil War series by Ken Burns. I was kind of
hoping that we would expand the footage and had a few ideas, but looking
back, what was done was probably the best route to go. I will always
remember that Brett asked me what I wanted from the film. I asked for a
producer credit and true to his word, he got it for me. Crawford had
also talked about doing a scene from The Blackguard Returns play with me
as "Little Willie Mason" who gets killed, but it didn't work
out unfortunately, but the producer credit really was the big prize.
Brett came through for us. Without him there wouldn't have been a film
of that quality.
So what can you tell us about your
personal appreciation for Ed Wood, and how have you discovered his films
(maybe also books) in the first place?
I saw Bride
of the Monster one Saturday night on TV in the New
York City area when I was about five or six years old. I saw it again a
few years later one Sunday night. I still had my white shirt from church
on. I was imitating Bela Lugosi as Dr. Eric Vornoff and really got out
of control and got spanked and sent to bed. I remember thinking to
myself in bed "This is no vay to treat Dr. Eric Vornoff!" I
told this story at the premiere of the film while introducing it at the
Nuart Theater and saw Bela jr in the audience laughing at it. I mean,
what more can you ask out of life than that? But little by little I
found out more about Ed Wood and his films through the pages of Famous
Monsters and reference books in the library and saw his films, so by the
time I saw him mentioned in the Golden Turkey Awards book, I was well
acquainted with this man.
Any Ed Wood tales
you'd like to share that haven't made the final cut of The
Haunted World of Edward D. Wood jr?
I don't think it's in
the final version of the film, but Maila (Vampira) Nurmi talked a good
bit about James Dean and said something that stood out in my mind. She
said that she was never as happy in her life after he died as she was
was when she knew him. I thought it was very sad and moving.
whichever way you want to look at it, Ed Wood was hardly the most refined
of directors nor a big success during his lifetime - so can you at all
explain the continued appeal he has enjoyed over all the years, and even
Haunted World of Edward D. Wood jr and Tim Burton's Ed Wood?
I think he is an
expression of a certain valued viewpoint. I admire the work of John Ford
and Orson Welles and Martin Scorsese and so many others. But Ed's
film's, whatever their drawbacks, whatever the content, were from his
heart and soul. Philip Yordan pointed out that Ed was a good looking guy
and could have found a "sugar mama" (don't remember if that
was the term he used) and would have been set for life, but instead he
chose to make his films, one way or the other. Not to belittle him, as
William Thompson did some great cinematography on them, but Ed's films
are kind of like their kid's drawings that parents put on the
refrigerator. You can tell they are from the heart in a mercilessly
"cool" and prepackaged world.
your work on The
Haunted World of Edward D. Wood jr has rather directly led to you
being associate producer on the feature Canaan
Land roughly a quarter of a century later - could you elaborate on
that story a bit?
Well, Richard Rossi [Richard
Rossi interview - click here] emailed me
about ten years ago, telling me he was a fan of The
Haunted World of Edward D. Wood jr.
It so happens that we were getting closer to an actual meeting when I
had to relocate from the L.A. area back to my hometown of Syracuse, NY
for job reasons. I was pretty discouraged about it all, but Richard was
a source of hope and encouragement that everything was not all over and
that there was light at the end of the tunnel. He interviewed me long
distance about The
Haunted World of Edward D. Wood jr on
his radio program. Not long after that at some point he sent me some
material that I was going to be associate producer on this new project
he had going, Canaan
Land. I figured, who am I to argue with him?
what can you tell us about Canaan
Land's director and star Richard Rossi, and what was your collaboration
Richard is just an
amazing, multi-talented person. Minister, musician, filmmaker, actor,
author, teacher, husband, father, and probably a whole lot more. And,
importantly to me, he is a person of faith who believes that the
creative arts should be a part of ministry, as they are for him. This
disconnect which exists is probably a much bigger part of the problems
that we see all around us. It is something that I have seen and
experienced first hand by well-meaning and intentioned people. If there
is someone of prominence besides Richard who represents both the
teachings of Jesus and an appropriate appreciation and involvement in
the arts in the way that he does, I don't know who it is.
Let's return to Ed Wood (sort of): You were also
involved in Kelton's Dark Corner starring Ed Wood alumn Paul Marco
as an older, wiser version of his Kelton
the Cop-character - so what can you tell us about that project?
The late Paul Marco, who
was a bit of a character, was another Ed Wood associate [Ed
Wood bio - click here] that I was
blessed to know as a friend. I had also stayed in touch with him, but at
a certain point, he went under the radar. A friend from out of town who
was doing a book and wanted to interview him, so I tried to locate him. I
found that he had fallen in his apartment and had been placed in a rehab
facility, so I began visiting him for moral support. Some time before
that I had appeared in a music video by Vasily Shumov, who is a prominent
Russian Rock musician who was living in the Los Angeles area. Vasily
contacted me to tell me that he was doing another video, this time an
homage to film noir that he is a big fan of, and I was cast in it. The
title of it was The
Dark Corner. Long story short, in his convalescence, Paul told me
that he felt that "he had one more film in him." I noticed
that there was no police presence in the video which was still being
shot, so, of course I arranged for Vasily and Paul to meet, and bingo, Kelton's
Dark Corner was born! Paul was extremely proud of
his work on it as he well should have been. We had begun shooting a
second episode when we were notified that Paul had passed away. Although
it may seem like it was an immediate decision, Vasily was able over time
to produce three more episodes using scenes he shot with Paul much like
Ed Wood did with Bela Lugosi in Plan
9 from Outer Space. I will add that Vasily is
a master of video technology, so it is of a much higher quality than was
done with the other! There is more to that story, and I may actually do
a book about that at some point. And one more thing: Richard Rossi was
in episode #4!
other past films of yours you'd like to talk about, in whatever function?
with Cinzia Roccaforte and Paul Marco in
Kelton's Dark Corner
I am very thankful for
the opportunity to have worked in different capacities on a number of
films and videos, but I don't have a really favorite role so far that I
can point to, although Kelton's Dark Corner #1 comes close, although
there is not a lot of real acting in it. Probably my very best
performance was a monologue as Zaccheus the tax collector who climbed a
tree to see Jesus as he passed by. It was performed at the Ambassador
Auditorium and can be see on YouTube.
future projects you'd like to share?
I have been working as a
writer on the memoir of the late Conrad Brooks, which I am the co-author
of, called I Was A Cop In Ed Wood's Plan 9, ironically enough :)
Regretfully I have been very much behind due to my having minimal time
for creative projects due to day to day circumstances, but I really am
coming closer and closer to finishing it. I will also be the co-author
of a book by the former manager of the late Pauline Wagner, who was the
stand-in for Fay Wray in the Empire State Building scenes in the
Kong. She worked on a number of classic movies in small
roles and was an amazing woman and had some some hilarious stories. And
I'm hoping to get financing soon for what will be my first produced
feature length script.
What got you into
the filmworld in the first place, and did you recieve any formal education
on the subject?
Mostly from watching
movies on on TV on weekends when I was a little boy with my late brother
Don, who was also an associate producer on Canaan
Land, as an investor.
He was also in Kelton's Dark Corner Episode 4! I probably have the
equivalent of a Bachelor's Degree in Theater Arts. I have had a number
of acting teachers over the years, including Guy Stockwell and Estelle
Kelton's Dark Corner
Filmmakers, writers, actors, whoever
else who inspire you?
Three and three: as a
young boy, it was Bela Lugosi [Bela
Lugosi bio - click here], Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff [Boris
Karloff bio - click here]. As I moved
into adolescence and young adulthood it was James Dean, Montgomery Clift
and Marlon Brando. But every one of them still inspire me to this day.
But those are obvious ones. Another one is Sir Laurence Olivier who is
one of the greatest actors of all time. But many other lesser known
which I will also mention below. But an actor can derive inspiration
from non-acting sources like The Beatles. I watched the entire Beatles
Anthology series as inspiration for my Zaccheus
role. In fact afterwards I had a date with a beautiful girl who was so
impressed with my performance and she actually treated me like I was one
of The Beatles! So there is a kind of a channeling energy aspect to it.
To be honest, to this day many of the best known actresses don't do it
for me. My all time favorite is probably Julie Newmar who is beautiful,
funny and incredibly talented. Michael Caine likes to say "Steal
from the best!" Very true.
Your favourite movies?
I will qualify this by
saying that my favorite films sometimes represent realities that in a
better world, which I aspire to, would not exist. Once
Upon A Time in The West is a very violent movie
but is made with an overwhelming passion for films and filmmaking. The
Manster stars a great little known actor named
Peter Dyneley. He was British Canadian but he plays a former G.I. who
comes across as American as hot dogs and apple pie. He invests so
much in scenes which, in the script, probably say something like
"Larry walks down the hallway." In what is frankly a cheap
little horror movie but yet has an emotional resonance. Ed's movies(of
Wood, the first two James Dean movies, From
Here to Eternity and King
Kong! And I am a big fan of director William (One Shot) Beaudine.
Anyone who can get a film in the can under the most adverse
circumstances as he did regularly demonstrates excellence to me.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
and of course, films your really deplore?
I try to respect all
films, whether I enjoy them, agree with their message, or whatever. As
one of my teachers once said, to get any film made is a miracle. One
movie I walked out on was the original Zombie movie
because of some horrifying violence. Although I really enjoyed and
Upon A Time In Hollywood, I walked out before the violence at the
end as I am just not into it as much in my old age. However I was able
to see the end at a later time and, given the choice, I would have
chosen that to have occurred over what actually happened in real life.
social media, whatever else?
Anything else you're dying
to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Only to say, be good to
yourself, and be good to others.
for the interview!