Friday, August 19, 2011


Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelly are finally free men. Eighteen years ago, they were convicted of a horrible crime none of them committed.

The mutilated bodies of three little boys were found dumped in a creek in West Memphis, Arkansas. Untrained for this “sort of thing”, the local police destroyed the crime scene, left behind their own fingerprints, shoe prints and even cigarette butts. The outrage was immediate. Just as quickly, it turned into hysteria.

Because of the nature of the crime, the speculation, the “had to be”s, erupted throughout the neighborhood. It “had to be” Satanists—who else would cut up a little boy that way? Faggot Satanists. Shouldn’t be allowed around decent folk. Obviously, it “had to be” the three weirdoes, the freaks who wore black and listened to that head-banger music.

Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelly.

The three men were respectively 18, 16 and 17 years old when the crime was committed.

Most of my friends and I were just in our 20s. We all wore black. We listened to that ‘devil’s music’ and watched ‘them slasher movies’. None of us were religious, unless you count “recovering Catholic” as a religion. None of us, despite our trappings and obsession with the morbid, were Satanists. What we were is what the WM3 were: misfits surrounded by the ignorant and the hysterical—both real and imagined. In your 20s, everyone is an uneducated asshole to be feared or mocked. From 14 until about 25, you learn backwards—you go from knowing everything to the realization that you weren’t only wrong about it all, but you can’t even fathom what the reality might be.

It happened, right there, in Arkansas. A bunch of hicks rounded up the “art fags” and tied them to a stake. But you expect that kind of shit from those banjo-playing mouth breathers down in the Bible Belt. Don’t’cha?

There was no evidence to tie them to the crime scene. Not before the cops jumped up and down all over it, not later. Not 18 years later.

The reason many of us knew of the case was due to the two documentaries, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations. Those of us in film school had tenuous ties to the filmmakers, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. They had made another film about justice miscarriage called Brother’s Keeper, and that was mandatory viewing in our doc class. Plus, they became popular rentals from the local video stores. Because these three guys were so much like us. Or we were so much like them. It was our first glimpse at the real world. Our first taste of real moral outrage. Our first sense that “it can’t happen here” is complete and utter comfort bullshit.

“Free the West Memphis Three!” became our “Attica!” We wore t-shirts emblazoned with the young men’s mug shots. It was the cause of our generation, whatever-the-hell generation we were. (What were we? Gen-X? Did it matter?)

The West Memphis Three showed us humanity in group-form: a powder keg of pitchforks waiting to be lit, to turn into a Simpsons mob, to march down on whatever scared them most that day.

My rhetoric doesn’t come from prejudice, or, not entirely. “Them faggots” and “them freaks” were used a lot by the Arkansas neighbors in both docs. The word “God” is used a lot too. As in “didn’t have God in ‘em.” “They need to see the Wrath of God.”

We were guilty of snap judgments too. While neither doc took a definite stance, preferring to let the evidence and the people speak for themselves, it was “obvious” to us that it “had to be” John Mark Byers, the admittedly abusive (“Not overly so”) father of one of the dead boys. By his own ranting, we painted him as a psychotic at worst, bi-polar at least. He didn’t show much in the way of grief, but he definitely loved the cameras shoved in his face.

But none of us had any evidence before us either. It was just “obvious” that this dumb, slack-jawed hick “had to be” the killer. I mean, he gave the filmmakers a blood-crusted utility knife that he said had never been used. He’d had his teeth voluntarily extracted not too long after the murders, when dental impressions could be used to match the bite marks found on the little boys. He passed a polygraph but while on anti-psychotics.

What the fuck were those asshole “authorities” missing?

Eighteen years of new evidence. New theories proven and disproven. The only “real” evidence was a signed confession from Jessie Misskelly, a borderline-retarded man with a 72 I.Q. who had been questioned, alone, by police for more than four hours. With obvious gaps in the audio recordings indicating that the machine had been turned off for periods of time. While They fed him what they wanted him to say? His details never matched, no matter how many times he told the story. Because they were innocent or because he had a 72 I.Q.?

The prosecutors only had to “aw shucks” the jury, spout some “lack of God” and everyone was out for blood. The same yer-honor, Circuit Court Judge David Burnett, presided over the first trial and each subsequent hearing. The convictions were upheld each time: Baldwin and Misskelly would serve life in prison; Echols was to get the death penalty. He was, after all, the weirdest of the three. At 18 years old, he knew everything. So he smirked at the flimsy evidence during the first trial. In later ones, he never smiled. You age quicker in prison. Particularly if you’re in there for child murder.

We grew up with our eyes on their status. We continued to shout “Free the West Memphis Three!” We wore their shirts, donated to their defense, waited for another documentary. The latter is coming, soon, but now Joe and Bruce will have a new ending.
The State of Arkansas admitted that there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed with a new trial, but the three men still plead guilty. Key word: plea. They took a bargain to get out of prison. Even though the deal says they can still maintain their innocence, they’ll be on the books as child murderers for the rest of their lives. They said “We’re sorry, we’ll never kill little boys ever again, even though we didn’t really do it”, to get Damien off death row, and Jason and Jessie out of their cells. And by doing this, the Great State of Arkansas Wins. Justice has been served, but more importantly, the West Memphis Three cannot sue the state for wrongful imprisonment, cannot and will not be compensated for eighteen lost years. They cannot say that the Great State of Arkansas was wrong.

But the West Memphis Three are now free!

That’s our new battle cry and some of us are breathing a sigh of relief, but we’re all breathing fire. This isn’t justice, but it is freedom. What’s more important? It’s a long time between 20 and 40, as any of the Three can tell you. Closer to 40, you learned and relearned what the world is. It’s money. It’s finding blame. “It’s not my fault”.

Jury tampering, evidence mishandling, leaking of evidence, a prejudiced judge and jury foreman.

Three dead little boys. Three men who grew haunted behind bars, facing stuff that would make the worst episode of Oz look like Happy Fun Time.

There’s no justice to be had today. There’s the freedom that open-air brings, but that doesn’t sponge away the pain the Great State of Arkansas caused those three men. It won’t erase what they’ll be carrying around with them. They plead guilty, though the law knows, understands, supports, that they didn’t really do it. Everyone is getting what they want in this scenario, fellas. You go free and the Great State of Arkansas can finally prove to the world that we was right all along and maybe tourism will pick up a little around here. Seems to be a big gap in the 30-50 year olds visitin’.

What’s worse, the Great State of Arkansas couldn’t care less who killed those three little boys, whose lives were less than a third of the Three. Of ours.

Welcome to the outside, guys. You have a legion of supporters who, I hope desperately, won’t turn its back on you now that you’re free. You need jobs? We’ll help you out. We know you didn’t do it. You survived this long in that horrible hole. Don’t let the real world stomp you down further. Be brave. It might get harder from here.

But forgive us, U.S.A., if we’re not up to waving the American Flag today, if we’re not hugging cops or judges today.

Tomorrow we’ll mourn the still-decaying corpse of the American Judicial System. Today, we celebrate.

The West Memphis Three are Free.

Friday, July 29, 2011


The news that has all of Facebook atwitter (and all of Twitter afacebook) is that the world-famous Me will be signing at Eljay’s Books on Saturday, July 30 at Eljay’s Books in lovely and palatial Dormont. Based on past signings we’ve attended there (namely Tim Gross and the debut of his sixth book, “The Big-Ass Book of Gross Movie Reviews”), I’ll likely do a quick reading, answer questions, then sign until everyone is gone. It runs from 3pm to 6pm so if you attend, we can make that time both stretch and fly by!

So if you have been holding out for the best time to purchase my short fiction collection Phobophobia or the new novel Suicide Machine, tomorrow may well be the rainy day you’ve been yearning for (50% chance of showers, partly-cloudy in the morning). 

Thursday, July 07, 2011


[Piece 2 of 2 of the speculative biographies]


      In 1988, Harris Glenn Milstead was said to be the only “saving grace” of a popular but critically-panned television show called Married…With Children. “Milstead,” wrote TV Guide, “better known to the freak culture as ‘Divine’, hasn’t quite left his cross-dressing days behind, playing both Ephraim Wanker and his wife Beulah on FOX’s Married…With Children, parents to trash-chic Peggy Bundy. It’s not hard to imagine Peggy Bundy as the offspring of Divine herself, with her bigger-than-life hair and spandex outfits, as it was Divine who set that standard for all-that-is-filthy in the cult wretch-a-thon Pink Flamingos. But on Married…Milstead’s dual role is a comic goldmine. He squeezes the most out of the hillbilly pair, often evoking the biggest laughs with perfect comedic timing between himself! This Sunday’s episode features a gag centered around the origins of “Welsh Rarebit” that is the trailer-park equivalent of “Who’s On First”, and it’s Milstead alone as Ephraim and Beulah for the entire scene. If anything deserves a spin-off (justifying the jettisoning of the rest of the cast), it’s these two characters.”
      The following season, a spin-off was attempted, though Welcome to Wanker County didn’t do as well as expected. Cancelled after only six episodes, Milstead returned to the regular cast of Married…
      You wouldn’t hear the-man-who-was-Divine complaining, however. He was happier than he’d ever been, finally achieving his dream of success, fame and friends. His dual role on Married…proved to be a mixed blessing, however. While his role as Ephraim—particularly one out-of-the-ordinary touching episode where he comforts his adult daughter following a disastrous and humiliating high school class reunion (right before he spikes the punch with “Uncle Timmy’s Moonshine” in revenge, striking the evil Vice Principal blind!)—garnered him attention of such diverse luminaries as Martin Scorcese (who cast him in a small role as a doomed mobster in Goodfellas) and John Patrick Shanley (who directed Milstead—as Tom Hanks’ loathsome boss—in the playwright’s film debut, Joe Versus the Volcano), it was Beulah who kept him relegated to character parts—and in drag.
      Milstead couldn’t escape the character of Divine. Divine played Ramona Ricketts in Cry-Baby, Divine played herself in Honeymoon in Vegas, even though “she” hadn’t played a nightclub (or drag revue) in years. And while Milstead had nothing against Divine, it wasn’t who he was. Not any longer.
      It was Divine they wanted for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it was a different character that he gave them. Milstead arrived on set completely transformed into a sleazy biker, complete with greasy dreadlocks and a gotee straight out of Mandrake the Magician. And Fran Rubel Kuzui loved it. So the character stayed—not as an overweight vamp, but as a vicious, but comedic, biker vamp.
      But it was his take on a classic role that shone the spotlight on him directly. When it was announced that Paramount Pictures was gearing up to do a big-screen treatment of the television show, The Addams Family, Milstead’s ears pricked up. Encouraged by friends, he began to lobby the studio heads, going so far as to meet three times with first-time director Barry Sonenfeld. Neither Sonenfeld nor Paramount were interested in casting Milstead, preferring veteran actor Christopher Lloyd for the part. “Lloyd?” remembers Milstead’s friend John Waters. “He weighed less than his own shadow at the time. Glenn could play Fester without padding. And I don’t say that to be mean. Glenn knew who he was—he was a big, fat man with a big fat heart.” Which is how Milstead saw Uncle Fester. The studios were afraid that casting Milstead would look like a publicity stunt. Particularly next to such high-profile luminaries as Raul Julia and Angelica Huston, who were already accused of “slumming” for the cartoony film.
      Ultimately, it wasn’t Milstead who persevered, it was his fans. Letters began pouring into the Paramount production offices from Milstead’s fans. “Not just the freaks, either,” recalls Waters. “Not just the Divine fans but fans of Married… With Children and the new, little freaks who loved him in Buffy. There was this letter-writing campaign from all over the world—and this was before the Internet was a household thing. So studios paid attention to things like this.”
      Ultimately, the fans had their say. Milstead stepped into the bulky black coveralls to play the bald, beloved Uncle Fester, a character created by former child actor Jackie Coogan on television. Milstead’s portrayal called Coogan to mind, particularly with the high Divine-esque voice that he gave Fester—one that he’d turn into a macabre growl without so much as a syllable to warn you. The most famous publicity still, naturally, was one of Milstead solo, a glowing lightbulb in his mouth, which was considered classic Fester.
      The Addams Family was a smash summer hit for 1991 and it, of course, spawned an immediate sequel. Addams Family Values shoved Fester directly into the forefront once again, this time with another devious diva, Joan Cusak, as his side playing his murderous bride.
      Sadly, Milstead didn’t live to see Addams Family Values on screen. At the height of his career, weeks before the premiere, Milstead died of a heart attack, brought on due to complications of his weight and sleep apnea, a condition from which he suffered for most of his adult life. Ironically, his co-star and now good friend, Raul Julia, died a few short months later from an aneurysm.
      Even after his death, though, Milstead was considered a larger-than-life film icon. While he never did escape the “disguise” of Divine, at least to a new generation of fans, the object in his smiling mouth that gave him fame was not dogshit or an enormous sandwich, but a glowing lightbulb. As weird as he seemed on screen, his friends knew him as sweet, giving and—sometimes surprisingly—very, very talented. 

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


[Note: the following is one of two pieces that were written in commission for a project that changed direction.]


      On August 5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe received her long-wished-for gift from God. She awoke in a Los Angeles hospital, having been revived from an accidental overdose of the barbiturate Nembutal. According to doctors, she’d been legally dead for three minutes. For the insecure actress suffering from multiple nervous conditions both real and imagined it seemed like a miraculous second chance.

      The previous weeks and months had been nightmarish, both for her and for those around her. Her public firing from the 20th Century Fox production Something’s Got to Give had opened up a floodgate of tabloid scrutiny, not to mention industry backlash. If it hadn’t been for her co-star, Dean Martin—who immediately quit the project after she’d been replaced by Lee Remick—who knows what would have happened to her career. She was still under contract with Fox. Something’s Got to Give would be the third of her four-picture deal and she had the distinct impression that they were eager to be rid of her.

      Not that she blamed them. But didn’t they understand? She was sick. Sinusitis, the gallbladder surgery. She thought back to her ruined marriages, the husbands who never understood her.

      Then she thought of Clark Gable. She used to tell people growing up that her father looked like him. She used to fantasize that Gable was her father. And then she met him on The Misfits, and he was nothing like the father in her fantasies. He was old. He was sick. And she was…

      She treated him horribly. She treated everyone horribly. Not that she ever meant to. Didn’t they understand how hard she worked—staying up all night to learn those lines, was it any wonder she couldn’t get up the next morning? And all those lines! Lines that would just slip away the minute the cameras pointed towards her. Those cameras, their unblinking eyes. And the people behind those cameras, all of them, staring at the “sex goddess”, waiting for her to fail.

      The pills were an accident. Stupid. Dr. Greenson told her, over and over again in their sessions, that it was miraculous that she could quit any time without withdrawl. She had strength, didn’t she see?

      Taking a deep breath, she thought about what to do about it all.

      Filming on Something’s Got to Give resumed in October. Marilyn—still “Norma Jean” in her head—avoided the press in the interim, though she collected the things that were slowly coming out. Cosmopolitan’s interview with her was non-judgmental, for the most part. Bert Stern’s shots of her came out in Vogue. She thought the nudes were tasteful and pretty and she was surprised they hadn’t used more of them. But the outside world was still outside.

      Fox held up their end of the deal. Cukor was gone from Something’s Got to Give and they brought in Jean Negulesco and things were better. She liked Jean. Cukor made her nervous, and he didn’t like Paula Strassberg being around her all the time. He didn’t understand that she, Marilyn, needed Paula. Paula was her acting coach. She was trustworthy. She knew her. She knew Norma Jean. Jean Negulesco understood. Dean understood. Dean was nice to her. Dean was…

      Her resolve had strengthened after the hospital. More or less. She got sick. She still missed days of shooting. Those camera eyes still chased the lines from her head. But the movie got done. Jean finished it.

      It didn’t do well. Fox, finally, released her from the contract.

      But it was okay. Billy Wilder made good on his word and Irma La Douce turned out to be a smash. He still got exasperated with her, just like he had on Some Like It Hot, and he made it perfectly clear that her outbursts “would not be tolerated”. She didn’t come in the next day after that little lecture, but things got better. They didn’t fight as much. His direction made more sense to her this time around. Even Paula said so. Towards the end, she even made it to the set on time. A couple of times, anyway.

      What a Way to Go! didn’t do as well. The reviews weren’t as good this time around. “Lightning doesn’t strike a fourth time for Wilder and Monroe,” said Louella Parsons. But it was okay. Her favorite scene was with Paul Newman. She loved his eyes and he said he liked her laugh. Sometimes, and she didn’t know why, he made her think of Arthur. Still, she thought the reviews were the reason Billy didn’t ask her to do Kiss Me, Stupid, but that was fine. She didn’t want to do that kind of role again anyway.

      Reviews for A Big Hand for the Little Lady were better. She knew full well that Fielder Cook had wanted Joanne Woodward but Warner Brothers wanted Marilyn. And Warner got what it wanted.

      But then they savaged her. Just…savaged her. Too old, they said. Too old to revisit that old blonde bubblehead character in Boy, Did I Get A Wrong Number! She only took it for a chance to work with Bob Hope, who she’d loved on the radio and was always so nice to her at the parties. Maybe the role was beneath her, but “too old”? She was thirty-nine! How could that be “too old”? Maybe that’s what Wyler had meant when he told her she was “wrong” for the part of the girl in The Collector. And she’d campaigned so hard, worked so hard to convince him. But, she was “wrong” and Samantha Eggar was “right”.

      When The Cincinnati Kid finally came out, after the delays and the turmoil, she was exhausted. She was relieved with Peckinpah was fired. What a monster he was! And black and white? That movie needed to be in color. Still even Norman Jewison, blessing that he was, couldn’t take the chill out of the air when McQueen was on set. Christ, he just hated women, didn’t he? Natalie Wood had even told her—“Watch out for him. He’s worse than a wolf. He’s…” she never finished the sentence.

      The thing that clinched it, though—what truly put her over the edge? That script Embassy sent her. The one where they wanted her to play a middle-aged mother seducing her daughter’s boyfriend! No-name actor in the lead, green director. Yeah, okay, Nichols had been nominated for Virginia Woolf, but really, you don’t direct the Burtons, you just aim them! Isn’t that what Parsons said to her? Or was it Arthur…?

      So she “retired”. She couldn’t do it quietly, of course. Life ran the story on the cover, it quoted her—misquoted, actually—when she gave a variation of her “fickle fame” speech. What she’d actually said, this time, was that “she was no longer in love with fame.” Not “in lust”. But coverage is coverage and she was… she was just very, very tired.

      Arthur called her. He was embroiled in some experimental theater of some sort, kept asking her for her take on things. And she’d ask him why he wouldn’t just ask Inge? “She’s your wife, Arthur. Don’t treat her like Daniel,” and she almost regretted saying that. But she forged ahead. “Don’t lock her away like you did him. It wasn’t her fault. Daniel wasn’t your fault, either. God does these things sometimes.”

      Why? He asked her. After a while. “Because God is cruel,” she said, finally. And for the first time, having said it many, many times, she really meant it.

      Arthur encouraged her to write, put some of these thoughts down on paper. Then put them on stage. She smiled at the thought. Then tried it out. It didn’t really go anywhere, but it was nice to just be alone for a while, to sort some of this stuff out.

      She’d heard through friends that Robert Redford had also turned down The Graduate. Good for him. She finally met him through Paul at a party for Butch Cassidy and the … something Kid. She didn’t see it, but Bob was nice. So was Lola. His wife. And Bob didn’t run around.

      Nichols, however, was still driving her crazy. The Graduate had been a hit for him. And maybe he didn’t like being turned down. Or… whatever the reason, she read Carnal Knowledge, to get him off her back. But she wasn’t interested in acting any more. She hadn’t spoken to Paula in… how long? Two years now? Paula had other students. No time for “friends”.

      The script was just so rude. That was the only way she could describe it. But “Bobbie” was such a wonderful character. She saw so much of herself in there—of “Norma Jean” in there. The nudity didn’t bother her. The language—Wilder said she had the mouth of a sailor! Finally, she called Nichols. “You don’t think I’m…” she paused, “Too old?”

      She couldn’t go to the Awards ceremony. She was too sick. The nerves had gotten the best of her again. And the doctors said there was something wrong with her liver. She’d need tests. But she watched on TV, right up until they announced her name as Nominee for Best Supporting Actress in Carnal Knowledge. Then she switched off the television. She didn’t care if she won. She really, really didn’t. Norma Jean didn’t. Marilyn might have. But Norma Jean was happy. What was the saying? “It’s an honor just to be nominated?” Besides, if she heard someone else’s name that night, she’d know just how cruel God was, and he’d been pretty nice to her lately. She listened to the ocean, just outside her window and decided to go to bed early.

      Marilyn Monroe passed away, in her sleep, on August 5, 1971. Official cause of death was heart-failure, possibly related to her earlier abuse of drugs and alcohol. She left behind her a legacy of both good films and bad and was considered one of the most beautiful women who ever lived. Today, she’s considered a cultural icon, possibly because she died so young at the age of 45.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

RAZOR DAYS Countdown Begins

As of this very moment, 10:30 am on Wednesday, we have less than 48 hours until the start of production on Razor Days, our sixth feature and completely different from anything we’ve done or tried to do before. Straight, vicious drama with elements of horror.

The cast: Amy Lynn Best (and producer), Debbie Rochon, Bette Cassett (ThinkGeek's Zombie Girl), David Marancik (The Sadist), Alyssa Herron (Splatter Movie) and Jeff Monahan (John Sayles' Lone Star). Photographed by Bart Mastronardi (Vindication). Sound by Rich Conant (The Absence of Light). Special Effects by Scott Conner (Grace, The Deadliest Warrior), Jerry Gergely (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5) and Gino Crognale (Predators, The Mist). Assistant Director and Publicity Michael Varrati (Ultra-Violent Magazine, Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation). Produced by Alan Rowe Kelly (I'll Bury You Tomorrow). Executive Producer Bob Kuiper (Sirens of Cinema Magazine). Written and directed by…me.

The first draft of the screenplay was finished back in 2005, but its history extends slightly beyond that.

I was unemployed in 2005, but managing to scrape together a decent almost-living writing for Femme Fatales, Cinefantastique and Draculina. Right before the company's then-owner sold FF and CFQ and screwed all of her writers out of tens of thousands of dollars, collectively, but that’s a different story.

Around this time, Vertigo Comics, thanks to the best-sellers Swamp Thing, Sandman, The Preacher, etc., was at the top of the business and had opened its doors to freelance pitches. I’d written for magazines, movies, radio and newspaper at that point. Ghost-written for novelists here and there. Ghost-edited for many more. But I’d never written for comics and it’s still a dream of mine. And I loved so many of the Vertigo titles—and so many of their authors were personal deities of mine—that I started working on a treatment.

I wanted to do something Hellblazer-ish, something Preacher-ish. Fill an Alan Moore-esque world with Neil Gaiman’s grasp of storytelling and sharpened with Warren Ellis’s gleeful disregard for human safety. I wanted everything to coalesce into something that would blow editor Karen Berger out of her socks.

And it started with a Berni Wrightson cover. Twisted Tales #2 from Pacific Comics. To my knowledge, Berni only did the cover and not the interior. Still, that image haunted and excited me since my then less-distant childhood and opened up a doorway in my head, through which all the other ideas spilled and tripped all over each other.

Razor Days started as an occult mystery about modern-day cannibals—admittedly but only partially inspired by the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and 3—and the question: “What happens ten minutes after those movies end? How does the victim cope with the horror and even start to put his or her life together?” Surrounding the question were hard-boiled detectives, women with survivor’s guilt and weapons-carry permits, and a fallen angel who may or may not have been documenting Earth’s history as it happened.

Pretty crowded, yeah.

I finished the treatment, outline and first issue, sent it off to Karen Berger and never, ever heard from her. Which was not a big surprise.

But the central question kept bothering me. How does someone, in real life, get over something like that?

I’ve always been fascinated by the case of Colleen Stan, who was kidnapped by a wacko named Cameron Hooker, and kept in a coffin-like box under his bed, 23 hours a day, for seven years. When she was finally freed, she went on to testify against Hooker (and his wife) and became an abuse counselor. But how did she recover? That’s the part no one ever tells you. What the hell is the aftermath of something like that?

That’s when I started to streamline Razor Days into a screenplay. I jettisoned all the fantastical elements of the script and focused on the survivors. Three women, each of whom had been the victim of horrible events in their past, and how their paths brought them to each other. And how each one had dealt—and continued to deal—with their traumatic memories.

That’s the story I wanted to tell. And the questions I wanted to try and answer.

And in less than 48 hours, that’s the story we’ll start to tell. The answers might not come so easily.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Key to Earthly Nirvana

Attention men and women everywhere - since "abortion" is currently the new emotional buzzword (until we all remember how much we all hate Mexicans), and it's an inflamatory subject for both sides, may I make this proposal: take extra steps not to get pregnant. In fact, even if you WANT to have a baby, don't do it. The only way we can rid the planet of the scourge that is humanity is by not producing more of the awful beings. Let the human race go peacefully extinct. Once the poor and middle class stop all reproducing, and our top 1% is the only percentage of human beings, fighting over scraps, maybe they'll think twice about starting again.

After the extinction of the human race, we will not have to worry about who is "right" or "wrong" when it comes to the environment, energy, global warming, global weirding, women's rights, minority rights, human rights, morality, reality TV, Liberals, Conservatives, Independents or Sarah Palin. Certainly there will be far less chatter on whose YouTube video "sux" more.

Please, humans, stop bearing children. It's the only way we're going to learn - kill everyone once and they'll never do it again.

Superman: we are not a race worth saving. Please move along.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Like Brett Favre, KISS and Cher, the Low Budget Pictures consortium has announced their retirement. The brainchild of one Chris Seaver (as if there were more than one), who, at the tender age of 12, conceived, shot and completed four movies in one afternoon. Twenty years later he and his loyal compatriots have a completed catalog equal to Bollywood’s annual releasing schedule.

Seaver and the gang leave behind a legacy that will not be matched in our lifetime. Among their titles include Anal Paprika, Filthy McNasty, Terror at Bloodfart Lake, Carnage for the Destroyer, Wet Heat, Mulva: Zombie Asskicker, Mulva 2: Kill Teenape, Quest for the Egg Salad, The Destruction Kings and Heather and Puggly Cockblock the Apocalypse.

They have brought to life such characters as the titular “Teen-Ape”, the time-traveling misogynist semi-simian and heart-throb; Mulva, the titular chocolate-addicted scourge of the underworld; the dentally-challenged uber-lesbian Puggly and her sister, the intestinally-challenged Heather; the pigmentally-challenged Mr. Bonejack; and, of course, the enigmatic Stamos Configuration.

It is not hyperbole to say that no other independent film company has crafted such an elaborate world or as definitive a style as Seaver and LBP. With a character roster larger than that of The Simpsons or South Park, portrayed by Seaver, Meredith Host, the adjective-defying Indovina Brothers (and the Indovina Sister), Casey Bowker, Jesse Ames, Josh Suire, Matt and Emily Meister, Jason McCall, Lauren P. Seavage, Shawn Green, A.J. Stabone, Noel Williams and special guest stars including the likes of Billy Garberina (Feeding the Masses), Trent Haaga (Terror Firmer), Doug Sakmann (The Re-Penetrator), Henrique Couto (Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation), Andy Copp (The Atrocity Circle), Troma President Lloyd Kaufman and the Undisputed Queen of Independent Cinema Debbie Rochon, the LBP gang have battled sex-crazed demons, pretentious vampires, transvestite crime lords, Satan, rednecks, nerds, geeks, fools, tools, and John Hughes stereotypes with irreverence, scatology and aplomb.

Their movies have played far and wide, on screens in theaters and on TVs in hotel rooms. Fan favorites, convention favorites, VIPs and personas-non-grata. Controversial, satirical, psychotic, tasteless, brilliant, ludicrous, energetic—often in one single shot—the independent film world will not see their likes again.

Personal anecdote: It was always my dream to appear in a Low Budget Pictures’ movie.

…No, wait, not “dream”… that other thing… “dread”.

It has always been my dread to appear in a Low Budget Pictures film. And that dread/dream was fulfilled a few years ago when I was asked to portray the character “Brick Stackmeat” (or was it “Stack Brickmeat”?) in a movie that…well, never saw the light of day. But that’s okay, because by the end of the shoot, four more movies had been conceived by the feverish mind of Chris Seaver including the very-near-mystical-experience Deathbone

But we have come here to bury LBP not praise them (strike that, reverse it). So it is with heavy heart and dangling fortitude that I invite everyone within the sound of my typing to the afore-titled: LBP's 20th Anniversary Farewell Throw Down/ 35mm film and Video fest!

Held this coming weekend (okay, tomorrow), February 12, 2011, in the gorgeous Palace Theater in even-more gorgeous Syracuse, NY, join the likes of which you’ve never seen the like and witness pure LBP splendor (Splenda will also be provided) during this all-day, all-night and part-of-the-next-morning extravaganza. Films include:

* LBP’s Teenape Goes To Camp
* LBP’s Geek War
* AND the premiere of the TROMA/LBP Rough Cut of Teenape Vs The Monster Nazi Apocalypse starring Debbie Rochon—never before screened and unlikely ever to be screened again!

And if that weren’t enough there’s also:

* JR Bookwalter’s 80’s Zombie Classic The Dead Next Door featuring the
voice of Bruce Campbell and produced by Sam Raimi!
* 35MM 80’s action cheese fest Never Too Young To Die starring John Stamos and Gene Simmons
* 35MM 80’s slasher gem Blood Rage
* and the very special showing of “remember when Mel wasn’t a douschebag” The Road Warrior!

The evening will be hosted by a variety of famous people but more importantly Amy Lynn Best and myself, joining the fun, doing the frug, dealing the drugs, bringing in the noize and neglecting the funk.

Tickets at the door are just $15 (just less than $2 per movie, for pete’s sake!). The fun starts at 4pm, ends a little after, picks up again immediately and lasts a lifetime.

When asked “Where were you when LBP called it a day?” don’t be that guy who has to say “Drunk, crying and alone and covered in sperm”. There’s absolutely no reason for you to be alone.

Click HERE, read more, rinse, repeat and see you tomorrow. 

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Down With Fetuses!

Not sure if you’ve seen THIS, THIS or THIS yet, but in their constant campaign to protect the fetuses, the GOP wants to redefine rape. They are doing this so that taxpayer money will not go towards healthcare funding for abortions. Only in the cases of “incest involving a minor” or “forcible rape”.

Forcible rape.

Under the John Boehner’s H.R. 3: The "No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act", date rape, rape while drugged or intoxicated, or just good old-fashioned coercion, would no longer fall under the definition of “rape” with its proposed Republican-sponsored modifier.

Keep in mind—always keep in mind—that these are older, wealthy white guys bringing this to the table. Men. Men who will never have to face the choice whether or not they will have an abortion, so neither should any lowly woman.

“There are alternatives,” say the Pro-Life Coalition. “Adoption, for instance.”

“Fine,” say I, speaking for those who do not seek this procedure as birth control, but those who are in dire straits or even those just wanting to make the responsible choice of not bringing another oxygen-breather into the world. “Would you, oh high-and-mighty rich white person, be willing to fund this young woman’s pregnancy to term and help her find a suitable adoptive family? One that isn’t, of course, comprised of a homosexual couple, god forbid, and hopefully not a mixed-race couple even though that’s not so bad any more.”

“Well, no,” say they. “It’s not my responsibility.”

“Wait,” I reply, “I can’t hear you when you’re so far up on your own personal pedestal. Are you also telling me that if the mother can’t afford health care that nothing should be done? She should risk her life for that of the child’s?”

“Absolutely—wait—that is… look at this photo of this aborted child!”

“And what about after the child is born? Will you vote for state or federal healthcare for this child? To keep it alive outside the womb?”

“Well… well… once it’s born, of course…”

“It’s on its own.”

“Well, yes. Will you please think of the children? The innocent child that did nothing to deserve…” so recycleth the argument.

So, if a woman is caught alone with a male friend who forces himself upon her and she does not struggle for whatever reason (and, statistically, rape victims are emotionally traumatized before the actual penetration, reducing their ability to defend themselves), if a girl over the age of 18 finds herself in a deplorable situation with a relative, or is drugged by some ethically-devoid parasite or even in the case of just “too intoxicated to say no”, these situations, say Rich White Men, are not rape.

Are. Not. Rape.

Say Rich White Men.

As someone who had to pass a Planned Parenthood clinic every day on his way to class, I wound up as an accidental escort to many frightened, harassed young women who had to fight through protestors who sought to deny her entry to the building whether she was there for an abortion or an annual exam. I walked so many girls and women up those steps the clinical staff started to eye me as a suspected white slaver. I don’t know the circumstances that led these girls there. It was none of my business.

It’s not anyone else’s business either.

It’s especially not the business of Rich White Men who merely want to pat themselves on the back—“Another abortion prevented, Bob!”

And here’s where my own self-control vanishes in a wash of red-hot rage. I am now beyond reason.

So you know what, as a member of the Pro-Death movement, let me say this to you white, privileged motherfuckers whose daughters apparently have their vaginas locked in a safety deposit box until marriage: to those who STILL think rape equals "she had it coming", howzabout this:

The fetus had it coming!

Okay? It knew as soon as it got into that womb that it wasn't wanted there. It was asking to be aborted. It's in there naked, for Christ’s sake! Let's not forget that the little prick just lies around in there all day long, leeching off its host—er, mother. Not contributing, just sucking away her nutrients.

You feed it and give it vitamins and what does it do? Makes the mother sick morning after morning like the ungrateful little parasite that it is. Pregnancy is nothing but an organic welfare system. Fetuses are lazy and want only the redistribution of resources.
Now you Rich White Guys aren’t in favor of the ultimate socialism, are you?

Let us rise up against the pre-aborted classes, the lowest leeches of society! Why should they be given health and comfort without working for it? Who do these little aliens think they are?

And if they got there by rape, forcible or not, that isn’t legal transportation under any interpretation of the Constitution. Enough, say I. Down with fetuses. Remove the word “rape” entirely and let’s see these little fuckers for what they are:  Illegal immigrants on the molecular level, draining our valuable taxpayers of their wealth!

Let’s stop screwing around, America. We’re at war with the babies. And only the Rich White Men can protect us.

Friday, January 28, 2011

THINGS I LOVE: Richard Moore's "Boneyard"

Anyone unfamiliar with Richard Moore’s work to date is truly missing out. His latest series, Boneyard, is a rich blend of classic horror movies and off-beat humor. Moore has a flair for visual story-telling, and his artwork shows a unique gift for comic timing, as the first issue illustrates with a three-panel gag about a vampire, a frightened human, and a phone book mistaken for a bible.

Boneyard was just perfect for me,” Moore says. “I’m a big fan of old horror movies. I also like doing humor, and I wanted to draw something that had an almost cartoony look to it, and it just came together and almost wrote itself. I just sent number three into NBM Publishing. The first story arc is going to be about four issues but it’s an on-going series.”

In addition to the whacked-out humor, Boneyard boasts one of the larger casts of recurring characters to be seen in an independent series. “I think people will be surprised after the first four issue story-arc [which characters will be focused on]. Abbey has been the break-out character for obvious reasons, but as far break-out potential for the character itself, as opposed to the way the character looks, I think that Glump probably will be. He’s the fat little demon. He doesn’t have a lot to do in the first four-issue story arc, but after that he’s going to carry a lot of the humor. Abbey has been in three projects that I worked on before. She was just a character I’d always liked, and when Boneyard came up, I just had to put her in there. She got a little more refined here, I gave her a bit more background. Some of the others, Nessie the swamp creature, has appeared in various incarnations in things I’d done before. Same thing with some of the other ones. And faces that I’d sketched before and liked found their way into Boneyard.” –Excerpt from unpublished interview from Moore by moi.

Of the many, many things that I like, Richard Moore’s Boneyard is at the very top of the list. Introduced to me by the incomparable Charlie and Shelli Fleming, the series led me to seeking out Moore and interviewing him for a number of publications, including the ground-breaking, world-renowned and orgasm-inducing Femme Fatales Issue #95 - Vol 11 #3 (2002). --->

Boneyard is about the unassuming Steve Paris who inherits a haunted cemetery populated by all sorts of wonderfully creepy characters. In addition to his prowess at drawing sexy sea monsters, Moore has a fantastic sense of visual comic timing, as can be witnessed in the very first issue, when Paris attempts to ward off Abbey with what he thinks is a Bible, grabbing it up without looking. It’s genius.

Sadly and tragically, Moore put an end—or, as he puts it, a “hiatus”—to Boneyard with issue #28, wrapping up a storyline but leaving so much unanswered. The issues have been collected into easy-to-handle and transport trade paperbacks, both in black and white and color, and are available here.

Now be off with you.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

THINGS I LOVE: The New Adventures of Queen Victoria

I tripped over The New Adventures of Queen Victoria accidentally one day, perusing and praying for death. Or, you know, something else to do. Created by Pab Sungenis, TNQoQV is a surreal and extremely funny cut-out strip about the former Regent and her extended family.

The style is reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python cartoons in that Sungenis uses photographs and familiar cutouts for his characters, then writes magnificently bizarre things for them to say. Often, the strip is topical. This week’s strip, for instance, posits that Alfred Hitchcock created the addictive online game Angry Birds.

My favorite strip ends with the punchline, “Mum, does Canada go in the dishwasher?”

Another series involves the Queen’s purchase of Norway and where to put it once it arrives.

I love that. Love. It.

Sungenis produces the daily strip for an online syndicate and it was recently picked up by Yahoo! Comics. So there’s no excuse for you to not read it, love it, and touch it inappropriately afterwards. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


So someone took the Human Torch down and passed him around, or something. The result is: he’s dead. Like Captain America, Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Angel, Kraven the Hunter and endless more before him, The Human Torch is as dead as can be legally allowed by the Comics Code (also dead. Thanks Archie Comics).

Those responsible for Johnny Storm’s murder are writer Jonathan Hickman and his accomplice, artist Steve Epting. Seems as though there’s this cosmic battle raging throughout The Fantastic Four series, all culminating with a spectacular, huge, heroic (no idea, I haven’t seen the book) sacrifice on the part of ol’ Torchy.

Now, none of this is news. Comic books, like soap operas, love to kill off major characters, often to bring them back a few issues or, sometimes, years later to the delight of dozens and the ire of dozens more. Heck, the “original” Human Torch was an android created to fight Nazis long before Johnny was a gleam in Stan Lee’s and Jack Kirby’s eyes, so there’s not even much to mourn here. It’s just par for the course.

But, to quote

“According to new Marvel owners, the Walt Disney Company, the character is a 'bad influence' on young kids who may want to emulate and possibly 'immolate' themselves as the burning superhero.”

Some of you may be old enough to remember this tired schtick dragged out to explain why the happy-fun calculator H.E.R.B.I.E. had replaced Torchy on the ‘78 Fantastic Four animated series. It was also trotted along to explain the presence of “Firestar” during the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends hour. According to my buddies who actually worked or work for Marvel, this is not a true concern now, nor was it then. The truth is far more boring in that the character had been separately licensed to Universal Studios for a proposed television movie, precluding his involvement in both Four and being an Amazing Friend. Still, the “immolation” concern persists as one of those four-color urban legends that the hysterical like to point to whenever they think of The Human Torch.

But let’s posit for a moment that Marvel/Disney really did think kids would try to imitate Johnny’s powers. Let’s think back to when we were all kids, shall we? I recall that the one of the first words my sister and I were taught as toddlers was "Hot"! It’s certainly part of my two-year-old niece’s vocabulary. She’ll even point accusingly at red pot holders as “hot”, just to reassure us that she knows that she shouldn’t touch something that could possibly remove her fingerprints in 2nd- or 3rd-degree ouchy.

Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but "Immolation" was never a part of playtime when I was a kid. Maybe some of us were dumb enough to leap off the roof in the mistaken belief that we were somehow more aerodynamically sound with a towel tied around our necks, but never did we go "You know what'd be cool? Burning to death like the Human Torch! Go get your dad's napalm!"

Because what we lacked in XBOX systems or flame throwers, we made up for with imagination. If one of us played the role of The Human Torch, we’d yell Flame On!, point our hands at whatever it was we wanted to enflame and make a whoosh noise. The more talented of us could even add crackling noises over the whoosh to simulate the burning. Not once did we apply flame to skin to enhance play. Maybe we weren’t yet allowed pointy scissors, but we knew enough not to play with matches. That was pre-teen funtime.

If your kid buys a Fantastic Four comic book then sets himself on fire, I'd either question the writing or his religious or political leanings—obviously, he's protesting something. And if he plays with fire more than once, he's either a budding serial killer or it's evidence of unstoppable natural selection.

Anyway, Rest In Peace, Johnny. We’ll see you in a couple of years when the franchise gets its reboot. 

 They look so happy, rushing off into oblivion like that.