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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Honoring Antonio Moreno

Published September 26, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Described as a rival to Rudolph Valentino, the dashing Antonio Moreno acted opposite many of the queens of the silent cinema – Gloria Swanson, Clara Bow and the Gish sisters. Unfortunately, the public wasn’t ready for a Spanish superstar once sound became cinema’s king. But by middle age, this consummate professional had developed a serious career in Hollywood as a character actor. The most important of his roles during that era, nicely, included outings in John Ford’s iconic The Searchers and the classic aqua-terror The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The latter project, of course, has gained him decades of respect and admiration from generations of monster kids. There, still suave and commanding, he plays Carl Maia, the man ultimately responsible for discovering everyone’s favorite Gill-man…a fact that should fill every LGBTQIA genre fan’s heart with glee.

For, as specifically detailed in Clara E. Rodriguez‘s book Heroes, Lovers and Others (The Story of Latinos in Hollywood), outside of the glaring lights of show business, Moreno lived an openly gay existence. While one always wishes, in retrospect, that performers such as Moreno had been able to passionately embrace their true natures, publicly, it is also always an honor to discover them after the fact and celebrate the perspectives of their experience with a modern appreciation. Moreno, as with many of our gay and lesbian forebears, helped pave the way for the (still, unfortunately, tremulous) freedoms that we have today. That he did so while creating works of art with figures like Alfred Hitchcock (Notorious), Cary Grant (Crisis, along with fellow queer icon Ramon Navarro) and Gary Cooper (Dallas) only proves how worthy of recognition, within our community and outside of it, he really is.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Tamara Lindeman

Published September 19, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

As a working actor, Tamara Lindeman faced down various professional challenges. The most problematic, CGI ridden of these had to be the soil bound creatures that she beat back as a tough army officer in the 2009 creature-feature Sand Serpents.

Thankfully, Lindeman has found much more autonomy and a firmer grasp on the beauties and complexities of Mother Earth as the front person-founder of the jazzy modern rock band Weather Station. In fact, her latest release, Ignorance, has already received Best of the Year predictions from distinguished sites like Pitchfork. One of the best numbers included on that soft, often surprisingly subtle work of art is Wear.

As the seasons unfold, be sure to dress yourself up in other sonic beauties Lindeman offers at www.theweatherstation.net, as well.

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

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Forever Carrie

Published September 5, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

The handsome thirty something guy, who I’ve seen out and about as a popular and charismatic force in the gay community for years, boldly and dismissively ignores me when I happily nod a good morning to him at the bike racks out in front of the gym. Instinctively, I know that there could be a multitude of reasons for that rudeness – lack of caffeine, a problematic day that, now that his work out his over with, is weighing heavily before him, a head that is overwhelmingly lost in some ear worm tune that he can’t, frustratingly, eradicate from his consciousness. Or, and most likely of all, he is simply an attitude graffitied queen who perpetually wears his asshole-ness as the flavor du jour. Understandably, all of these options are analytical reflections of him. None of them, I know, personally, should affect me, yet….

….immediately I’m thrust, emotionally, back to those decades disappeared high school days. Those four years spent doused in the perfume of being lacking in what so many of the others around me determined was worthy seem so long ago – and they were – yet they are ever present. 

It is why at 53, horror films still hold such a sway over me. As a young man, dealing with the daily rigors of rejection, I connected fully with the genre’s glorious outsiders – Carrie, Halloween’s Laurie Strode, Friday the 13th Part 3’s Chris…even The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy, my first love, was definitely a stranger in a strange land. Those characters helped me understand that there was power in my otherness. They proved that there were benefits to not being the king of the pride – surviving the night being primary among them.

And over the years, I have done more than just survive the night. I’ve thrived. Yet, a simple gesture can take me back there – to that feeling of not being deserving, of feeling unequal, ashamed. So, on that recent day, as that old familiar awfulness overpowered the pit of my stomach, I defiantly loaded weights off and on the racks and bars…while giving silent thanks to those celluloid entities that I not only recognize myself in, but who also gave and gloriously continue to give me hope. The Carrie’s, the May’s, they are lifesavers and proof why the horror genre, which is often given a less than reputable rap in film society circles, is ever so vital and so, so very important.

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

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Va-Va-Villainess: Melissa Sue Anderson

Published August 29, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

After years of playing the overburdened Mary Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, securing herself a Leading Actress Emmy nomination at the age of 16 along the way, Melissa Sue Anderson, understandably wanted to branch out. With a daring pixie cut, quite the opposite of Mary’s angelic country tresses, Anderson took on the role of Vivian Sotherland, a (very bad) witch in training, in 1981’s truly enjoyable television film Midnight Offerings.

With a glint in her eye and venom dripping from her voice, Anderson obviously reveled in playing a person who was happy to torture her romantic rival – here another (shiningly nice) witch in training, played, in perfect stunt casting style, by The Waltons’ Mary McDonough.

In Hooray for Homicide, a first season episode of Murder, She Wrote, Anderson also explored darker worlds as starlet Eve Crystal. Here, though, her crimes are almost accidental. Thus, all of Anderson/Crystal’s manipulations and cover-ups are born out of soft sorrow and regret – a situation that Anderson displays at the episode’s denouement with a downcast tone in her voice and teary sorrow in her eyes.

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Horror Hall of Fame:

Of course, true terror stalwarts know that Anderson’s most famous attempt at ripping off those calico dresses occurred with Happy Birthday to Me, the now classic 1981 slasher film. The film’s iconic tagline boasted of a celluloid delight that featured “six of the most bizarre murders that you will ever see,” but fans of women in horror will always appreciate Anderson’s quietly mysterious performance. Although, ultimately a red herring, here she makes you believe that her character just might be responsible for all the bloodshed at hand – a nice feat of acting prowess, indeed.

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and she didn’t even notice the shirt! As a kid I had a wall covered with the posters of the actors that I dreamed of working with one day. Melissa Sue Anderson was one of them. While on a 2010 book store tour for her memoir, Anderson would ask for audience members to read with her. While not exactly primetime television…I guess that I can check that hope off of the bucket list…

Buddy Cole’s Gift

Published August 22, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Talking with a reporter for The Buffalo News last summer, I found myself navigating through some of the murkier dynamics of sexual abuse. I was 16 the first time an official from the Catholic Church touched me (This, of course, was after years of verbal grooming). That was the age when my hormones, like those of many other young men, were starting to blaze into perpetual existence. I remember watching, sometimes in sad disbelief. as the boys and the girls in my high school found their way to each other, often times in the most unlikely couplings. This left me eagerly vulnerable to any homosexual advances – even the passionately unwanted ones. Therefore, it felt like I was lifting a murkily illuminated rock off of one of my darkest secrets when I revealed during that conversation that, on occasion, I relented without protest and sometimes with the barest whiff of desire when one of those often corpulent officers of Christ beckoned to me, lustily. To my surprise, the journalist, who had been covering this type of subject matter for decades. seemed unfazed by this admission. “Even the youngest and straightest of male victims have often admitted to feeling pleasure of some sort during these encounters,” he admitted. “It’s one of the many realities that makes the whole issue so insidious.”

As influenced as we are by cultural suggestion, it seems that the dearth of this kind of complex representation in film might also contribute to our silence on such an emotionally complicated issue, as well. In fact, the only film that I have ever seen approach this psychological tragedy is 2000’s back woods gothic genre-piece The Gift. Written by Billy Bob Thornton & Tom Epperson, one of the plot points of Sam Raimi’s acclaimed film deals with the relationship of a small town psychic (Cate Blanchett’s sensitively rendered Annie Wilson) and one of her supremely damaged clients, a young garage mechanic (Giovanni Ribisi’s Buddy Cole).

Obsessed with his father and mentally unraveling, it is pretty obvious from the outset that Cole, as emphatically and almost beyond realistically played by Ribisi, has been sexually abused by his paterfamilias. But taking the circumstances to an interesting extreme, Thornton and Epperson reveal just how deviant the effects of this violation can be. Desperate and at the end of a rapidly eroding grip on his violent tendencies, Buddy finally confesses to Annie, “I’ve been thinking about my daddy and I’ve been touching myself. Why do I do that?” Naturally with the set-up of Cole’s fist pounding, explosive personality, when the truth ultimately reveals itself to him, it is met with a fiery, understandably criminal retribution.

Despite this distinctly celluloid resolution, as most real life victims actually take to therapy or the courtroom to deal with their damaged upbringings, the creatives here still need to be applauded. By digging deep into a seemingly never before acknowledged aspect of abuse – the recipient’s own conflicted carnality – they offer a representation that is meaningful to the many, including myself, who deal with the repercussions of such abuses on a daily basis.

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

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Anne Nagel

Published August 15, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Even with almost 100 credits to her name, actress Anne Nagel (1915-1966) may be best known to many Hollywood memorabilia seekers for her often chaotic personal life. Dying at age 50 from cancer, Nagel’s career path was waylaid by the suicide of actor Ross Alexander, her first husband, newsworthy lawsuits and rumored bouts with alcoholism.

Thankfully, old school horror lovers have different specifications for notoriety, becoming enamored with Nagel’s multiple charms through her sunny appearances in a number of beloved, low budget fright flicks. Shining brightly as June Lawrence in Man Made Monster (above), Lenora in The Mad Monster and Mrs. William Saunders in The Mad Doctor of Market Street, she was perhaps given the most to do as doomed gangster’s moll and nightclub performer Sunny Rogers in 1940’s Black Friday.

This flick, which features both Universal genre icons Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, allows Nagel to play with a full palette of colors. Her character here is both manipulative and sympathetic, radiating with a true sense of bewilderment when her gangster lover reemerges from the dead in the form of a sympathetic college professor, courtesy of deranged doctor Karloff’s reliably bloodless brain surgery skills.

Nicely, as with her other projects, Nagel also embosses the proceedings with a true sense of glamour – providing a nice contrast to the soft innocence projected by Anne Gwynne, the film’s other female co-star.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Meat Loaf

Published August 8, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

How I have never written about Meat Loaf in the years that I have been doing this column is a mystery to me. Always theatrical, Mr. Aday won the hearts of horror maniacs decades ago with his dementedly magnetic take on The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s motorcycle riding, saxophone stroking Eddie. His subsequent genre offerings also include such popular projects as Masters of Horror and the musical-slasher hybrid Stage Fright.

More than anything, though, this pure example of board striding bravado has taken the hearts of outsiders everywhere by storm simply by the mere fact of his stratospheric existence. The beautifully physical opposite of most centerfold worthy rock gods, his meteoric rise in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s proved that talent and enthusiasm could win out in the often perilous, completely unfair world of main stream (unforward thinking) show business.

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

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….KP and I “Meet” Loaf –

Va-Va-Villainess: Carol Veazie

Published July 11, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Carol Veazie (1895-1984) was one of those formidable character actresses who enlivened the proceedings of many celluloid outings – often in smaller roles. Thankfully, television was a bit kinder to her, allowing her to shine on such classic programs as McHale’s Navy and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. In particular, the producers of The Loretta Young Show seemed to recognize her magnificent presence and, in appreciation thereof, gave her a role to match her talents in a 4th season episode of the popular anthology series called Wedding Day.

Here, as the regal Jessica Vail, Veazie is given many colors to play. As the prime confident to Young’s aristocratic Muriel, this established performer initially radiates with compassion and concern as her young charge seems to be losing her grip on reality. But, as Muriel struggles to come to terms with the supposed death of her fiancée, Veazie begins to let sharper, darker hues characterize her work here.

Indeed, by the end of the episode, Jessica has turned on Muriel with a diabolic fervor and our featured performer almost gleefully relishes all the opportunities she has to play a woman driven to desperate circumstances by uncontrollable greed and a vengeful mindset.

Of course, Veazie, who had already made an appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (below), was no stranger to gothic enterprises. Nicely, she ultimately rounded her career out by appearing on an episode of Kolcahak: The Night Stalker, as well.

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

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Patsy Kelly

Published July 4, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Her teaming with the stunningly tragic Thelma Todd in a series of comedy shorts in the ’30s brought the zaftig Patsy Kelly fame and critical renown for her clowning abilities. But by the ’40s, her career had dried up. Hollywood was not ready to accept Kelly’s refusal to hide her lesbianism or to even downplay her preferences to the masses.

Unfortunately, this proud, unwavering stance forced her to live through some lean years. A friendship with the iconic Tallulah Bankhead (Die, Die, My Darling) carried her through the ’50s and ’60s. (Kelly worked both as a real life and on stage companion to that mercurial talent.) Thankfully, by the early ’70s (with many of the Tinsel Town executives who shunned her either forgotten or dead), Kelly found latter day success in a number of Broadway vehicles. These turns eventually found her gainful employment – of all places – in two Disney flicks, including Freaky Friday (with future notable Sapphic, Jodie Foster).

Thankfully, in 1968, this unforgettable performer (who also provided ample buffoonery to 1939’s The Gorilla with Bela Lugosi), also made a pit stop in Classic Terror Town with her affably odd performance of Laura-Louise in Rosemary’s Baby. Playing a character who is overly devoted to Rosemary’s demonic offspring, Kelly resonates most in her final moments of the film. But any time she is onscreen here, particularly when she is sharing space with fellow golden oldie Ruth Gordon, is a fine one – making this often overlooked entertainer, a true unsung heroine of horror!

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

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