Theater

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Review: Sweeney Todd

Published December 16, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

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As a cinema buff, I traffic almost solely in divas. Thus, there is nothing like the joy I feel when speeding down the filmography-highway of some long forgotten jazz singer or hungry B-Movie starlet.

Chicago theater has their share of celluloid worthy powerhouses, as well. A majority of them are estimable, of course. But, in my humble opinion, there is only one Caitlin Jackson! Over the past several years, Jackson has majestically brought such ball busting deities as Bette Midler and Sally Bowles to life on various stages throughout our (rarely) fair Windy City. This fall she added Sweeney Todd’s iconic Mrs. Lovett to her repertoire, as well, and her incisive take on the role first made famous by Angela Lansbury has had audiences committing acts of rampant standing applause, willfully and en mass.

That she has brought out the romanticism and sexuality of Lovett so surgically is especially impressive as this version of the show, produced by Kokandy Productions, imaginatively forgoes props and relies heavily on symbolic objects to push the proceedings forward. Derek Van Barham’s direction, meanwhile, emphasizes both the dark comedy of Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics and the ghoulish Gothicism inherent within the play’s themes of slaughter for profit and deep madness.

That troubling midland is felt most keenly in the fine performances of Brittney Brown and Isabel Cecilia Garcia, whose roles are mirrored reflections of each other. On the other end of the spectrum, Ryan Stajmiger brings such sweet beauty to his take on the show’s premium ballad Johanna that he is likely to bring tears to your eyes. He did to mine.

Sweeney Todd runs at The Chopin Theatre until Sunday, December 18th. More information is available at http://www.kokandyproductions.com.

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

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John Schuck: Inside Herman’s Head

Published October 27, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

This past April, I was lucky enough to have a moment to sit down with versatile, journey man actor John Schuck. Schuck was, very happily, in town (at the Navy Pier) for Thank You For Being a Fan, the first (and hopefully not the last) Golden Girls convention. During our quick time together, he shared wonderful memories of his time working with Rock Hudson, ruminated about his fun relationship with Elizabeth Taylor and, forthrightly, detailed his troubled time portraying one of horror’s most iconic characters, Herman Munster, on the syndicated series The Munsters Today.

B: I’m feeling a bit like Julie Andrews this morning, John, so let’s start at the very beginning! How did your journey towards performing start?

JS: Well, I’ve told this story many times before, so forgive me if you’ve already heard it. When I was 5, I knew all the words and music to Oklahoma. We lived near NY, so for my 6th birthday, my parents took me to see it. That night I left wanting to be an actor. (laughing) Well, maybe a cowboy more than anything else then…but an actor, too.

Why limit yourself? Be both!

But from that time on, that’s what I really wanted to do. I had a couple little side steps, but anytime I applied myself, that is where fate and fortune seemed to lead me. So I assume I did the right thing.

I think audiences around the world can, happily, concur with you on that statement. One of your best-known roles, among the many that you’ve done, has been Sgt. Enright on McMillan & Wife. Can you talk a little about your experiences with Rock Hudson on that project?

He was fantastic. He was one of those people without an ego. We were peers from the first day. We spent 6 years laughing a lot – sometimes too much. He was so easy to work with. Like me, he was always looking for something to make him better. So, during that period of time, he went out and did a tour of John Brown’s Body. He did I Do, I Do with Carol Burnett and he came through Chicago with On the Twentieth Century. So, he was taking on major theatrical parts that not only required speaking but singing…and they weren’t always necessarily commercial pieces either. It turns out I had fly here (to Chicago) to do a Mike Douglas Show. Do you remember that?

Of course! I loved those kinds of shows as a star-struck kid!

For those who don’t know, Mike Douglas had a daily talk show – sometimes it was an hour, sometimes it was an hour and a half. They came to Chicago and produced a show, coincidentally enough, at the end of Navy Pier. They were featuring things like log rolling and crazy stuff like that. But that night, I went to see Roy do On the Twentieth Century here in Chicago and that was just a lovely day.

I would have loved to have seen him perform in that.

So, it was a great six years and we stayed very much in-touch for the next couple of years. I did notice the last time that I had lunch with him that he was a little peaked. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what that was about. Then I went off to England to do a play with Charlton Heston, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial on the West End. After 4 or 5 months, Heston was going to leave. The producer came to me and said, “Who do you know that might be good to replace him at the star level?’ I said, “Rock Hudson. He would be wonderful playing this giant man crumbling in front you. That would be fantastic!” The producer went to L.A. and came back the following week. I asked, “Did you see Rock?” He said, “No. He’s dying.” That’s how I found out that he had AIDS, Fortunately, he lived until I got home, so I could say goodbye and all that. He was just a wonderful guy. He did not deserve that ending at all.

I’ve been catching up on old TV shows and films, lately. It is just amazing the amount of talent that was lost to that disease. Behind the scenes, there were multitudes of casualties, as well. The similarities between that era and COViD have brought so many lingering memories amongst so many of us in the LGBTQIA community.

Of course. Except this time there is a commonality. There is no shunning now.

Yeah, it’s not just the other now – drug addicts and queers. Its everyone. Speaking of a great every man, as a way to transition the conversation forward, you played a version of a character that has been embraced, heartily, by the horror community. Can we talk about your Herman Munster in The Munsters Today? He’s such a sweet, kind character.

He was. Of course, I couldn’t do the job that Fred Gwynne did. And our show was not really The Munsters. It was shot in front of an audience. It was in color, and it was set in a different time. …and in many ways, it was the worst job I ever had.

Wow. Interesting.

I couldn’t get out of it! It kept getting renewed.

For three years, right?

I think it was 5!

I noticed there was 70 some episodes.

We did a lot! I also think there might have been 80 some filmed. And out of all those shows there might have been 4 or 5 that I was proud of. So, that was something. But the rest was torture. I loved the cast. I loved the people that I worked with.

Well, there was Lee Meriwether as Lily, of course, who is also such a sweet person.

Yes! But that aside, it was the writing. They wrote it like it was a sitcom, but a sitcom for other characters. So every week there were these battles and conflicts…and I’m an easy going guy. I’m not into that. But I was a warrior. They’ve just aged horribly, as well. So, I vowed I would never do a job again just for the money.

Have you held true to that?

Yes!

Good for you!

Out of your epic career – and let me interrupt myself to say congratulations on that, because show business is such a tough road.

It is! It is tough.

Well, I hope you’re proud of yourself that you stayed true and preserved.

Thank you. You know what instills that?

What?

Its shows like this. The Star Trek conventions, The Hollywood Autograph shows… I’ve had people come all the way from France to meet me and tell me how much I meant to them growing up. It really validates you, extraordinarily. And it’s not like I’m some egocentric running around, thinking that I’m incredibly famous. It just makes you feel worthwhile.

Well, those shows you appeared on really mean something. Even a sore point like The Munsters Today must have affected some sick child, helped get them through their day. That is so valuable to society as a whole. Entertainment does save lives!

Right! In fact, I can’t wait to see this audience. (The Golden Girls) is an all-ages phenomenon! My wife and I sat and watched 3 episodes the other night. We were having a ball. It was a lot better than anything else that was on.

Truly! Of your other projects, is there a role that you feel deserves to be explored more by the public?

No. I always felt that I was given proper attention. (Thinking for a moment.)  I was not prepared when Brewster McCloud, the Robert Altman movie, came out. Brewster was the movie that came directly after his version of MASH, which was huge. I remember the day it came out. I went to a theater in Westwood and sat down. There were maybe 15 people there. That was a bit of a disappointment. It’s now become a cult film, so it’s sort of reversed itself. It’s on television all the time now.

Give it a little time and it’ll come back around.

I also did another movie called Hammersmith is Out. It starred Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Beau Bridges, George Raft, Leon Askin, me… I had this love scene on a bed with Elizabeth. (Shaking his head in disbelief.) There I was, right?!? Peter Ustinov directed it. Although, when I say he directed it…He was behind the camera. (Laughing.) But you’d get ready to do a scene and he was doing an imitation of a 1952 Chevy having a nervous breakdown.

Oh, no!

But, anyhow, he was great. And I thought just on sheer star power alone, people were going to go see it. It didn’t happen!

You’ve got to hand it to Elizabeth Taylor, too.  She did some really strange stuff in the ‘70’s – Boom, The Driver’s Seat

Boom! Oh, I forgot about that!

Just some strange, strange stuff.

Yes! Yes! Well, I got a friendship out of Hammersmith with her. So, that was great! I was at a dinner at their house. I arrived. Richard served me a cocktail. Then Elizabeth made an appearance. She said, “Would you like to come into the dining room? Dinner is ready!” We go into this rather large room with this very long table there. The three of us sat at one end. There was a line of chairs along the length of the table, up against the wall. That’s where the kids and the servants sat. They all sat independently, in order to be seen and not heard. My back was to them. On the walls, there were 7 or 8 paintings by Manet and Monet. By this time, Richard was in his cups…he was high and he began to get hostile with Elizabeth. He, first of all, started bitching about the quality of the paintings. These are not the good paintings! Then he started complaining about his birthday present. It had been a rather expensive golf cart which she had bought to be used on their yacht. He was upset because he had asked for a real car. Finally, she turned to me and said, “Is this not the silliest thing that you’ve ever heard? It’s ridiculous to have a yacht…and then to have a car on the yacht!?!” She just kind of fluffed it off. Oh, ha, ha, ha! She was like that. & when Roy got sick, man, she was there in a nanosecond! She repeated the same thing that she had done with Montgomery Clift. A fascinating woman. I loved her. She was great. The last years of her life were not the best either. It was sad. She and Martha Raye, so many others. I don’t know what happens.

You just never know, right? You’ve got to embrace every moment.

True.

Just like I am embracing this one! I know you’ve got to get going soon, so I just want thank you so much for your time. It’s been such a pleasure.

(Humbly.) Well, thank you for letting me babble on.

It was such a pleasure.

It was a pleasure. And I’m here all weekend, so if you need anything else from me – any clarifications or what have you, please let me know.

Will do! Enjoy yourself!

I will!

Be sure to keep on eye out for Schuck’s future work – he, frequently, travels across the country in stage projects…and check out the Thank You for Being a Fan website for information on future events: https://thankyouforbeingafan.com/.

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

http://www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan

Va-Va-Villainess: Ann Williams

Published October 20, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Often operating with a silken haughtiness, the late, lamented Ann Williams imbued The Edge of Night’s conniving Margo Huntington with a convincing maternal instinct, as well. This quality definitely humanized the character as she, impulsively, tried to broker a baby for her temporarily barren daughter or manipulated an old acquaintance into hindering her son-in-law’s chances at receiving a job located far away from her watchful grasp.

Of course, like many a glamorous shrew before her, Huntington also was the paramour of a handsome, yet deceitful younger man named Elliot. Suavely played by Lee Godart, Elliot was also, unsurprisingly, the ticket to her downfall – if in a roundabout way. After their disastrous union ended in a hostile separation, Dorn took up with a possessive movie goddess named Nola Madison (Kim Hunter). Eventually, Madison, in a fit of jealous pique, bludgeoned Margo to death, unleashing one of the show’s most popular mysteries of the late ‘70s. (Margo’s angry son-in-law, played by the popular Tony Craig, would be convicted of the misdeed, at least initially.) 

Interestingly, this was not the first time that Williams, who had decades of experience in daytime, met her end onscreen. Eunice, the popular character that she played for 10 years on the legendary Search for Tomorrow, was eliminated in the mid-70s by Morgan Fairchild’s increasingly unbalanced Jennifer. (This move allowed Fairchild some career latitude and supposedly gave the show’s matriarch, Mary Stuart, a sense of relief, as well. Williams’ popularity was rivaling her own.)

Sadly, Williams, whose Broadway credits included a supporting stint opposite Lauren Bacall in the musical Applause, lost her real-life battle with cancer in 1985 at the incredibly young age of 50. Her 4 children have written a beautiful account of that time entitled The Kids Are Alright, a memoir that highlights the distinguished actress’ sense of humor and resilience in the face of uncertainty. Their memories about her soap stints, which also included runs on The Doctors and Loving, also leave readers with the correct impression that Williams was a prime example of the sophisticated thespians that populated New York City’s casting halls & premium television studios in that almost hallowed period of time. 

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Horror Hall of Fame:

According to IMDB, Williams starred in an episode of 1961’s Great Ghost Stories, a television show. The entry, entitled A Phantom of Detail, is described, plot line-wise, as being about the adventures that ensue when the protagonist discovers that his friend’s fiancé is a ghost. An all-too-common occurrence, right?!?

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

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The Night Jeff Stryker Saw Me!

Published August 2, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Suyuan (to June Woo): You have a style no one else can teach…I see you. – The Joy Luck Club

Its 21 years later and I still haven’t forgiven Jeff Stryker. Just to be clear, he didn’t break my heart or leave me hanging with the check after a 5-Star dinner. He didn’t take photos and expose my toothpaste scarred, stubble strewn bathroom sink to a mixed bag of friends and family. But as a lifelong horror fan, what he did may have even been worse. He never let me know that in 1989, under his birth name of Chuck Peyton, he starred in Zombie 4: After Death, a Euro terror epic directed by none other than Troll 2‘s insanely energetic Claudio Fragasso.

But, perhaps, all should finally be washed under that wispy bridge of time and firmly forgotten. He did give me my The Joy Luck Club moment, after all. 

To backtrack, in the spring of 2001 some mutual acquaintances contacted me about helping him place his play Jeff Stryker Does Hard Time in Chicago. After some minor false starts, a venue was secured, and I was hired to production manage-direct the project. It seemed like kismet. What could be cooler for an exploitation flick junkie than doing a male version of a Women in Prison flick featuring the very person whose picture will be placed next to the sticky pronouncement of Gay Porn God once the sands of oblivion have finally blown their last streak against the fading skies?!? Granted, there were some missteps along the way. Attuned to simpler camera techniques, he vetoed 90% of the blocking I came up with — and when he left the final dress rehearsal, mid-run, to attend to some minor business, I saw my 10 hard won years of theatrical career climbing blown to smithereens, and I had a loudly frantic meltdown in front of him and the entire cast and crew. (My own apology is firmly placed here, fellas. Read it and please don’t weep!)

But, overall, it was a fun adventure and, as most creative projects, seemingly over and done within the blink of an eye. Still reeling a bit from my miserably unreturned crush on the cute, wavy-haired actor who played the production’s bad boy protagonist, I met up with Stryker a few days after we struck set to say our goodbyes. There, next to the dryer in the laundry room area of the B and B that he was staying in, he turned to me, mid-conversation, looked me straight in the eyes and earnestly proclaimed, “You are just so sweet!” After taking a step back, I casually thanked him. Or, at least, I hoped that was how I appeared. For beneath that calm response, lurked a valley of stunned surprise. For just like that mother and daughter scene in the above-mentioned chick flick, I had always longed for someone to see me for who I really was – to recognize the lovely soul that beat beneath all the swirling insecurity and falsely projected bravado that propelled me, haphazardly yet hopefully, through my days. And here, mystically rising from the sheets of budget fabric softener, it was. This man who starred, with torso thrusting glory, in projects such as Powertool, Strykin’ It Deep and Bigger Than Life actually got me. He saw that beneath the yearning struggle and the occasional flare-ups of spite and frustration, lurked a good soul. He somehow saw what made me special…and while, decades later, I still haven’t quite distilled just what that might be, I know it is there thanks to him.

So, maybe I can actually let go of the disappointment of not having had a conversation about his undead adventures filming with a gonzo Italian maverick in the steamy Philippines. After all, the gift he gave me was actually so much greater. 

Note: Severin Films has released a deluxe version of Zombie 4 with a CD soundtrack and fun interview with Jeff.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Jack Cassidy

Published June 1, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

One of show business’ most interesting figures, matinee idol handsome Jack Cassidy was an award-winning actor of stage and screen. Known, widely, to the public as the devoted husband of the Oscar winning Shirley Jones, in private, Cassidy was a sexual provocateur who also enjoyed multiple affairs with men. This is primarily worth noting as Cassidy seemed to genuinely embrace his fluidities (n a world which still often misunderstands such subtleties) and seemed to have the understanding and support of those around him, as well.

Most importantly, for old school horror devotees, Cassidy put in a stunningly sensitive dual role performance in the 1974 television film The Phantom of Hollywood. This low budget Phantom of the Opera take-off, highlighting the grim fade-out of the old studio system, is definitely made all the richer for his layered work as a John Barrymore style performer turned shadowy monster due to an unfortunate accident.

Unfortunately, Cassidy tragically died at the too young age of 49, leaving many in his world to feel the emotions that he so, lovingly and longingly, puts into this Lerner and Loewe ballad from Brigadoon:

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

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Great Performances in Horror: Helen Hayes

Published April 12, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Helen Hayes’ wounded eyes resonate with such sadness on the Alter-Ego episode of Ghost Story, an early ‘70s horror anthology series, that she proves, without a doubt, that anyone at any age can experience the damaging effects of bullying.

Here, as the kindly Miss Gilden, a respected grade schoolteacher on the eve of her retirement, Hayes finds herself a victim of the demented antics of the evil doppelganger of one of her favorite students. As the child systematically destroys her reputation and turns all her beloved charges against her, Hayes vibrates with a haunted sorrow that provides the program’s emotionally connective glue. Nicely, a penultimate twist provides her character with a little affirmative revenge, producing a satisfying and contented sigh from all viewers.

That Hayes, an Academy Award winner and one of the most respected theater artists of her generation, applied such heart and depth to a one-off genre television appearance proves what a complete and dedicated performer that she was. Others can surely learn from her humility and grace.

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

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Praising William Norris

Published December 24, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Known to decades of Chicago children as the ultimate Scrooge, due to his longstanding run in The Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol, actor William Norris was a Midwest theatre mainstay. 

The openly gay performer also maintains a special place in horror film history. One of (terror legend) Stuart Gordon’s prime collaborators during his board bouncing days with the Organic Theater Company, Norris co-wrote the much sequel-ized contemporary terror classic Reanimator and made an authoritative supporting appearance, as the power bowing Dr. Huesos, in Full Moon’s extreme take on The Pit and the Pendulum, as well. 

Sadly, Norris, who helped train a multitude of stage actors with his honest and forthright teaching skills, died this past November due to lingering heart problems.  But his significant graveside legacy will be felt, forevermore. In particular, the LGBTQIA community will appreciate, beyond measure, the queer influence that he brought to one of the greatest cult horror offerings of all time.

Shine on, you rascally creator!

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

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Horror Mash-Up: West Side Waltz

Published October 5, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

I’ve always considered this site to be an homage to the interests of the gay men who came up in the generations before me. By doing this, my work here also almost functions as an apology of sorts. I can’t tell you the number of times that I rolled my eyes, during my rebellious college years, while some martini sipping elder gushed to me about the wonders of Connie Francis’ phrasing or the dynamic flare in Joan Crawford’s eyes while playing one of the many ambitious, conflicted women that she excelled in bringing to celluloid reality. Clutching my Patti Smith t-shirts to me like rosary beads, I vowed I would never be that kind of a gay man. But as the decades swirled past, I found myself drawn to the moody gothic antics of Bette Davis and Linda Darnell in films like Deception and This is My Love – often more so than with any of the contemporary, gut spewing epics that burst across the film festival screens at events that I attended with like-minded friends. Thus, one of the main focuses of this blog was to highlight the oddly spooky credits of those established queens of cinema. Now, I find, even when watching something a bit more mundane, I am, internally, cataloging the terror credits of the participants. (You might even find this game could come in handy whenever your significant other forces you to sit through another rom-com or slow moving domestic drama.)

Therefore, I was surprisingly delighted this past Sunday afternoon. After throwing in a dollar copy of the 1995 television film The West Side Waltz, the cinematic treatment of a popular play about two middle-aged spinster types finding renewed life due to their involvement with a hearty homeless woman and a young Bronx vamp, I realized that all the headlining divas (Kathy Bates, Jennifer Grey, Shirley MacLaine and Liza Minnelli) had some connection to the worlds of horror. Grandest of them all, perhaps, is Bates, who won the Academy Award for her enthusiastic performance as Annie Wilkes in Misery. Meanwhile, fellow Oscar winner MacLaine starred in 1972’s authentically effective The Possession of Joel Delaney, a film that might have cost her the lead in The Exorcist due to the similarity of the two projects. Less distinguished than those projects, perhaps, was Grey’s leading turn in Ritual, a still fun film that mixes the steamy, old school jungle melodrama of I Walked with a Zombie with another mighty performance from the legendary Tim Curry. Minnelli’s connections to the field, meanwhile, are more musically related. Famously, she sang back-up for shock rock legend Alice Cooper on his Muscle of Love effort while offering up a totally recognizable solo on the track Mama from My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade – proof of the power of her own Oscar winning status.

Meanwhile, true crime aficionados may find a connection with this particular title, as well. Co-star Robert Pastorelli, who brings the same kind of goofy energy here as he did with his popular long term role on the original Murphy Brown, was highlighted as a prime suspect in the suspicious (real life) gunshot death of his girlfriend in 1999. The reopening of the case in 2002 is rumored to be a possible reason why Pastorelli was found dead of a morphine overdose that year. Hmm…you just never know what you might find within the confines of a filmic adaptation of a Broadway play, right?!

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

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Va-Va-Villainess: Dolores Gray

Published June 13, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

The sultry Dolores Gray (1922-2002) had a unique career. She will probably go down in history as the only actress to win a Tony Award for a show that lasted only 6 performances (1954’s Carnival in Flanders). She also lit up the MGM Studios in the mid-fifties with her personal brand of glossy sophistication, but, ultimately, only had major roles in four films.

Thankfully, those celluloid adventures offered her the chance to often play game seductresses and extremely glamourous, catty rivals to her (generally more innocent and trustworthy) female co-stars.

She, perhaps, made her most significant performing mark as the vindictive, backstabbing Sylvia Fowler in 1956’S The Opposite Sex, a remake of Clare Booth Luce’s zing worthy The Women. This project found her going arched eyebrow to arched eyebrow (with some exuberant fisticuffs thrown in for good measure) with such cinematic notables as June Allyson, Ann Sheridan and Ann Miller.

Her most popular public offering, though, was perhaps 1957’s Designing Woman, directed by the diva loving Vincente Minnelli. Here, as theater starlet Lori Shannon, Gray provided competition for Lauren Bacall’s sensitive fashionista Marilla. While her character is more of a victim of circumstance here than in the previous effort, Gray still puts in a good show as a majorly distracting influence upon the whirlwind romance and marriage of Bacall’s fashion queen and Gregory Peck’s beleaguered sports writer, Mike Hagen.

While Gray was quoted, by certain sources, as wishing that she had a more extensive filmography, one cannot deny the quality of the cool charm that she provided in the credits that she did have.

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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