Television

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Virginia Mayo

Published June 6, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Perhaps only rivalled, credit-wise, by Yvonne De Carlo, her luscious raven haired cinematic counterpart, the delicious Virginia Mayo spent the moonlight years of her career occupying space in a number of horror projects. Granted, with major roles in projects like Silent Scream, Cellar Dweller, American Gothic and Play Dead (along with her overpowering The Munsters cache), De Carlo was certainly the Queen Bee of the Former Technicolor Starlets set. But Mayo definitely gave her a run for her money. 

While the ’60s and ’70s found Mayo decorating such cinematic fare as Castle of Evil (1966) and Haunted (1977) (with 1990 cheapie Evil Spirits providing her employment during the VHS invasion), she is perhaps at her most effective (and eternally beautiful) as the sympathetic Carrie Crane in The Diary (1971), a second season episode of Rod Serling’s early ’70s spook show Night Gallery. As Crane, a faded, scandal plagued actress, Mayo radiates with a bruised and tender strength of purpose here. Digging her shiny yet well-trod heels into her scenes with Patty Duke’s venomous Holly Schaeffer, a gossip journalist who is out to destroy her, Mayo’s years in the Hollywood trenches are given a resourceful workout during the various character beats in this revenge fueled tale. 

Indeed, Crane’s gifting of a mysterious journal to Schaeffer soon sends that pesky muckracker into a gothic downward spiral full of death and despair – proving what many diva-worshipping fellas already know, that Mayo will forever be a prominent force in every style of cinema – terror fueled and otherwise.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Shark Bait Retro Village: As The World Turns (The Willows)

Published May 9, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

From satanic possessions and trouble making clones to distressed heroines being buried alive, daytime dramas have been utilizing elements from horror (and science fiction) novels and films for decades. During the ’60s and ’70s (and into the ’80s and ’90s), their daily format also bested all suspenseful movie of the week offerings by being able to truly concentrate on in depth plotlines that often took months to unfold. This, ultimately, allowed for layered character development and truly intense homages to other works. As a specific case in point, the classic Procter and Gamble soap As The World Turns, carried out an elaborate reconstruction of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca throughout the many months of 1979.

Here, though, it was Eileen Fulton’s worldly and often notorious villainess Lisa who was offered up as the stand-in for du Maurier’s innocent Mrs. de Winter. Known for her romantic manipulations, often involving the show’s steadfast Dr. Bob, this long running antagonist found herself on the receiving end of some dark and stormy conniving during this gothic adventure which, proudly and lovingly, carried the huge imprint of its source material. 

Finding romance with a seemingly kind, but often volatile author named Bennett (Doug Higgins), Lisa ventured away from Oakdale, the standard suburban setting of the melodrama, and settled into a remote country lodge known as The Willows with her new paramour. But Hester (Ann Stanchfield), Bennett’s demandingly loyal housekeeper, and the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Ruth, Bennett’s adulterous former wife, almost immediately started playing havoc with the new calm in this beloved anti-heroine’s life. Slashed family portraits, hidden hallways and candle drenched evenings soon became the norm for her – and as marriage bells started to knoll for this hopeful yet mismatched twosome, acquaintances, including one of Bennett’s publishing buddies, began to meet their bloody ends. 

With the serial’s writing staff smartly playing up the fact that either suspected party – Bennett, a man capable of blind rages and compulsive jealousies, and Hester, a woman radiating with a quiet and shrewd devotion to her handsome employer – could be the one responsible for trying to secretly dispatch with one of its most popular creations, Fulton was able to add softer layers to her often acerbic character. Radiating with curiosity, fear and sorrow, she encapsulated why audiences developed such a strong attachment to her nuanced dramatis personae, a situation that continued until the show’s sad ending in September of 2010. 

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Va-Va-Villainess: Agnes Moorehead

Published April 4, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Noted for her acerbic antagonism as Endora on Bewitched, arguably her most famous role, the significant, always striking Agnes Moorehead resonated with a much more slithery, maliciously evil context in the noted 1947 film noir Dark Passage. Indeed, Madge Rapf, the character portrayed by Moorehead, undermines and manipulates the lives of Humphrey Bogart’s maligned Vincent and Lauren Bacall’s overly supportive Irene with such devious finesse that, even at the film’s semi-happy fade-out, their lives have been irreparably altered by her sadistic manipulations.

In fact, with the strategic aid of Bernard Newman’s glorious costumes, Moorehead’s Rapf may be one of celluloid’s most notoriously nasty characters. And while some casual fans may be surprised at the ferocious energy that she ultimately exhibits here, she is definitely this film’s most uninhibited pleasure.

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Horror Hall of Fame:

With credits like The Bat, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Night Gallery and Dear Dead Delilah, this one of a kind performer has irrevocably earned her stripes as a dignified goddess of terror, as well.


Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Hopelessly Devoted To: James Mitchell

Published March 14, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan


Not only did the handsomely eclectic James Mitchell enact one of soap opera’s most hiss worthy villains for decades, but this lucky performer was also one of the cast of thousands, as that film’s tag line so boldly highlighted, to appear in the 1943 version of Phantom of the Opera


Granted, in Phantom, the always attention stealing Mitchell appears for mere moments as a reporter logging the details of the catastrophes that have haunted a local music hall. Thankfully, his turn as the diabolical Palmer Cortlandt on All My Children was a bit more substantial. There, his character continually made life hell for his often revolving spouses and judiciously tender offspring – all storyline subtext that Mitchell fully embraced, resulting in 7 Emmy nominations for the dedicated actor. 

Mitchell, who seemingly never hid his devotion to costume designer Albert Wolksy, his romantic partner for 39 years, also held dear his substantial pedigree as a theatrical artist. Humbly describing himself as an actor with strong movement skills, he actually was one of the Broadway stage’s most powerfully athletic dancers. Those who saw him perform never forgot it and his close collaborators included such mavericks as Agnes DeMille, Jerome Robbins and Gower Champion.

With DeMille, he famously essayed Dream Curly in the ballet sequence of 1955’s Oklahoma, where one of his partners was the beefy, animated character actor Rod Steiger. 

Thankfully, just like in that particular scenario, Mitchell always seemed to come off as unique and individualistic. So, while his one Gothic credit might only encompass a couple of minutes of screen time, the breadth of his career definitely speaks to the multiple achievements that one of our queer brothers could make – justifiably earning him a place in every gay horror lover’s heart forever. 

Until the next time, SWEET love and PINK Grue, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Shark Bait Retro Village: Crawlspace

Published February 28, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

“You took him to your bosom in some crazy menopausal fantasy!” – Arthur Kennedy (Albert Graves), Crawlspace

Years after dealing with the suave menace of Joseph Cotton’s worldly Uncle Charlie in Alfred Hitchcock’s acclaimed thriller Shadow of a Doubt, the underrated Teresa Wright encountered another malevolent presence in the 1972 Movie-of-the-Week Crawlspace

Here, the evil finds its walking form in Tom Happer’s destructively childlike Richard Atlee. Discovered hiding in the titular crawlspace of the home of Wright’s Alice Graves, Atlee soon provides the childless woman with a much wanted maternal outlet. The youth is similarly embraced by her husband, played by the compassionate Arthur Kennedy, and before long the trio starts to tentatively form a loving, if slightly awkward, family unit. 

But Atlee’s infantile anger issues ultimately reach an uncontrollable level when some bullying locals don’t take kindly to his odd demeanor and try to run him out of town. As things unravel, Wright’s expressive face and eyes tell a full story – one of sorrow and lost dreams…and one full of anger and fear once things begin to cataclysmically unravel.

Although, it is often noted on database lists as one of the top early ‘70s television terror efforts, Crawlspace is ultimately more of a dramatic study of intolerance – with the uncompromising townsfolk here most probably drawing comparisons to the unrelenting MAGA rioters for contemporary viewers. 

Golden age movie fans may also want to look for this occasionally twisted exploration of loneliness, currently available on a number of free streaming services, for Wright’s truly sympathetic portrayal, as well. 

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Linda Purl

Published February 22, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

One perk of being a freelance entertainment writer is being able to spend a moment or two with performers who have meant something to you over the years. Illustrating this concept, I grew up watching actress Linda Purl on various movies of the week and television shows. As with many of the artists that I followed in my small-town youth, she personified hope. She was living proof that creative worlds existed far outside the seemingly narrow confines of my very sheltered, seemingly unworldly circumstances. Nicely, during my stint as the Midwest online theater editor for Sheridan Road Magazine, I was able to briefly interview Purl.

Of course, one of the negatives of journalism is that, over the years, certain online pieces are archived or erased completely from existence. This was the case with my mini-chat with Purl. But with another birthday approaching and the isolation of COVID still maintaining a strangle hold on most socialization efforts, my nostalgia has, unsurprisingly, been in full bloom. Thus, I have decided to revive that long ago conversation here.

This feels especially appropriate as Purl has given strong performances in two of my favored terror efforts. The clipped strength she provides as Nurse Sheila Monroe in the 1982 slasher effort Visiting Hours nicely balances out the misogynistically violent actions of Michael Ironside’s villain with a powerful feministic glow. Interestingly, she, herself, provided a sense of delicious glee, ten years later, in a role that completely reversed the more honorable characteristics of Monroe. As Norma in Body Language, she archly presents that character’s over-the-top psychotic energy, seducing and bludgeoning her victims with succinct forthrightness.

As a lover of the arts, I probably admire this fine performer’s dedication to traditional thespianism the most, though. Therefore, I am glad to present this exploration of her show business roots from the fall of 2012, here, in its (short but sweet) entirety.

From Sheridan Road Magazine – 10/2012.

“Meanwhile, the news of the Goodman Theatre’s (www.goodmantheatre.org) upcoming production of Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth, starring Diane Lane, is proving to be one of Chicago’s hottest tickets of the fall theatre season. Williams, best known for uncovering the emotional ravages of the heart, dealt with class issues in his prime works, as well. Sheridan Road was lucky enough to catch up with deservedly popular actress Linda Purl at the Hollywood Show (www.hollywoodshow.com) in Rosemont, this past weekend. The amazingly eclectic Purl, currently enjoying success with her versatile roles on The Office and True Blood, revealed she is a theater artist, at heart, in our brief conversation. The generous singer-actress also, mentions a very personal connection with Williams, one of history’s greatest playwrights.

Sheridan Road: It’s very apparent from your detailed, layered work on camera that the theater is very close to your heart.

Linda Purl: True. I grew up in Japan and my parents and I attended a lot of theatre. We would perform summer stock in the living room together – that was our family glue.

SR: That’s an amazing memory. Is there a particular play that you’ve done that stands out as a favorite?

LP: I have two. (Thinking a moment. Then, happily -) No. Three! There’s a beautiful play called the Baby Dance. We performed it in LA at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut. We, eventually, got it to Off-Broadway.  Then there’s The Road to Mecca – with Julie Harris! – Which speaks for itself. Then – playing Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.

SR: Tennessee Williams’ master work!

LP: I knew him. Tennessee Williams had lived with us, briefly, when I was a child. – It’s a perfect play, as close to doing opera as you can get with a drama.

SR: Were the emotional places that Blanche descends into challenging for you as an actress?

LP: The play supports you fully on your journey. But, it’s daunting – you have to dig down deep.

SR: How long did you perform the role?

LP: Three months…I wasn’t ready for it to close.

SR: That’s understandable. Anyone who was lucky enough to witness your perfect, tender take on the ballad “This Time Tomorrow” from Tom Sawyer on Broadway knows you are a cabaret artist of note. I understand that you have a new show opening this fall.

LP: Yes, Midnight Caravans…Travels Through the Great New York Nightclubs will open at Feinstein’s in New York City on September 30th. We have Tedd Firth, a brilliant young musical director, and Desi Arnaz, Jr, is flying into do percussion. He is just so talented, so gifted and I am so grateful that he willing to be a part of this project with me. The first night, a portion of the proceeds will go the Actors Fund, a charity that is very close to my heart, as well.

SR: A perfect example of how art can entertain and benefit society, as well. You have such a vast body of work – from mini-series to comedies to drama – and every person probably has their personal favorite. Is there a television or film project that is close your heart?

LP; I loved doing Like Normal People.

SR: The television film with Shaun Cassidy! You’re amazing in that. It’s, also, a project about the social injustice of the handicapped that everyone should check it out, if they haven’t!”

Fortunately, while it is too late to attend that version of Midnight Caravans, Purl does offer up a recorded tribute to that show at Linda Purl – An American Actress & Singer. You can sign up there to receive notifications of all her future projects, as well.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Hopelessly Devoted to: Larry Kert

Published February 6, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

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The irreplaceably talented Larry Kert definitely knew the glaring disparities involved with a career in show business. Exploding into the pubic consciousness as Tony in the original Broadway production of West Side Story, he ultimately found that role would be the one that he was best known for despite decades of fine portrayals and other significant career highs.

Truly eclectic, he counterbalanced the glaring romanticism of his most famous work as the heavy drinking, casually seductive acrobat George in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, an enjoyable 1962 horror outing from Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Written by terror wunderkind Robert Bloch and featuring a notorious shock ending, this outing has a lot in common with such carnival themed shockers as Circus of Horrors and Berserk.

Paired with the voluptuous Diana Dors, who also played a similar role in the previously mentioned Berserk, Kert radiates with a subtle cockiness and bravado here. But as he discovers that Dors’ schemes contain an inherently murderous malice, this musically toned pro shows his character’s true humanity and concern, creating a complex portrait of a tortured soul.

While winning further acclaim for his work in such theater projects as Cabaret and Company, replacing both male leads in their initial runs to great renown, Kert was also spoken about highly by colleagues who admired his courage in being openly gay in a period of time when that was considered unacceptable. Although, it has been noted that he was called out by some closeted gay creatives for being too carefree and obvious about his orientation, a double-edged sword that he seemingly rode with great finesse and steely resolve.

Sadly, this strong willed and courageous performer lost his life to AIDS at the age of 60 in 1991. His memory, though, lives on through all the proud gay horror fans who appreciate his small contribution to the art of fear and the even bigger ones he made to our visibility in the fields of creativity and beyond.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Thelma Carpenter

Published January 29, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Broadway. Hollywood. The Apollo. Radio. From the recording studio to smoky night clubs, the diminutive, nearly indestructible Thelma Carpenter made her mark with sophisticated ease. Of special note, her 1963 album Thinking of You Tonight not only appealed to discerning jazz and sophisticated pop aficionados, but to directors like Bob Fosse and Sidney Lumet. These mavericks cast her in shows like Pippin and films like The Wiz, where her appearance as Miss One earned her a true-blue regent of fans.

Euro dynamo Jeannot Szwarz (Jaws 2, Supergirl, Night Gallery) also recognized her uniqueness by utilizing her talents as one of the mysterious Poole Sisters in 1973’s Rosemary’s Baby inspired The Devil’s Daughter. Paired with the equally interesting Lucille Benson (Private Parts, Halloween 2), Carpenter brings a unique and calming menace to her role as a friendly spinster who seems just a little too interested in the origins of Diane Show, an innocent career woman played by Belinda J. Montgomery.

Acting much like the clan of witches that terrorized Mia Farrow’s Rosemary Woodhouse in the Polanski classic, Carpenter and Benson are joined here by such show biz notables as Shelley Winters, Joseph Cotten, Dark Shadows‘ eternal Jonathan Frid and Abe Vigoda in making sure that Montgomery submits to her reluctant character’s predetermined satanic fate. Nicely acting off each other’s unique energy, this duo also invests their interactions with a quirky sense of humor, as well.

Indeed, Carpenter’s quiet weirdness ultimately causes Show/Montgomery to claim, as she herself so authoritatively did in the golden age of television, that You’re Driving Me Crazy!

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Lee Ann Womack

Published December 20, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

In one of the most memorable scenes from American Horror Story: Hotel, Kathy Bates’ morose Iris shows Dennis O’Hare’s irreplaceable Elizabeth Taylor a sentimental video that she has made to document her lifetime. Naturally, I Hope You Dance, country goddess Lee Ann Womack’s (most famous) wishful tune is the music she chooses to underscore her personalized tribute.

Of course, country fans in the know often prefer the velvet stung, more adult side of Womack’s artistry.

The sassier nature of some of her tunes, meanwhile, sits better with others.

But wherever you stand, Womack is always smokin’, creatively, and currently bringing it home at https://leeannwomack.com/.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Va-Va-Villainess: Janis Paige

Published December 12, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Whether it’s a glossy MGM musical like Silk Stockings or a detective show where she plays a bedraggled housing project alcoholic, the divine Janis Paige always gives her all. This eclectic nature has brought her to Broadway, where she was in the original cast of the beloved Pajama Game, variety shows, where she excelled in dozens of intricately choreographed production numbers, and eventually to the ecstatic criminal bounties of Charlie’s Angels.

Here as part of the ensemble of the third season Angels Ahoy episode, Paige vibrantly enacts Joan Sayers, a personable widow who catches the eye of David Doyle. Doyle, as series’ regular Bosley, is busy helping his beautiful cohorts investigate a shipboard murder, but he gladly takes a little time out for romance with this beautiful stranger.

Of course, warning signals go off for audience members when it is casually revealed that Sayers has buried four husbands. Indeed, a late-night costume party ultimately reveals that this friendly cruise goer is the most accomplished of black widow murderers. Ever the pro though, Paige believably connects with Doyle’s congenial creation here and the sorrow she feels upon the revelation of her dirty (and very dangerous) secret allows a bit of sympathy to register on her behalf.

Nicely, decades after this episode first aired, Paige is still allowing her charms to be appreciated by the world. At 98, she performs occasionally at cabarets across the country and has recently released her very highly praised memoir, Reading Between the Lines.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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