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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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Freda Payne

Published October 9, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Surely inspiring the romantic fantasies of many a young lad throughout the ‘70s, the divine Freda Payne was just as dream worthy in the late ‘90s. That was when the singer-actress played the very kittenish Gran, a voodoo practicing conjurer, in Ragdoll, one of Full Moon’s popular puppet-based terror epics.  Ever dedicated, Payne even composed & sang the film’s fun theme song.

Of course, Payne, whose 1971 album Contact featured a gorgeous gatefold poster of her at her slinky dress wearing prime, is best known for the smash hit Band of Gold. She reprised this 1970 stomper, sixteen years later, as a fun duet with the equally chart worthy Belinda Carlisle. 

Unsurprisingly unstoppable, the still popular Payne is, happily, continuing to give her very glittery best at https://www.fredapayne.com

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

http://www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan

Sapphic Angels

Published September 28, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

The Angels in Chains episode of the eternally fresh Charlie’s Angels gave mid-70s television viewers a mild taste of lesbian subculture.  There the energy was all jail-yard female power plays & aggressive correction officers, one even emphatically played by cult goddess Mary Woronov, the cinema’s supreme manipulator of androgynous tension! Two years later, the production team upped the femme-on-femme ante even more. Drenched in pink, Angels in Springtime, which takes place at the beginning of this glamorous detective outing’s third season, is perhaps the most Sapphic entry in that original Angels oeuvre. 

Taking place at an exclusive health spa for well-to-do women and guest starring the magnificent Mercedes McCambridge during her coarsest prison matron years, this episode finds the plucky trio menaced not only by McCambridge’s ego-soaked Norma, an ex-actress, but by a needle wielding psychiatrist (Joan Hotchkis) & a sumo wrestling masseuse (Nancy Parsons), as well. That the psychiatrist’s interest in the romantic adventures of Jaclyn Smith’s Kelly seems more profound than just the plot line’s blackmail purposes Is due, almost exclusively, to the silkily seductive way that Hotchkis operates as an actress. The way she expresses the character’s interest in Smith, posing as a well-to-do mistress here, definitely seems more than just casually criminal. Meanwhile, Parsons’ Zora might try to kill Cheryl Ladd’s perkily masquerading Chris through wet towel mummification…but this is seemingly only because she didn’t have a sweaty dildo and a gag ball nearby to help her perform that duty instead.

Of course, McCambridge, the diabolical heart of the episode, is definitely frightening the horses here, as well. Despite her character’s humorous mention of many ex-husbands, you know what two options she would choose in the kill-fuck-marry categories when dealing with any of Charlie’s finest, frilliest best. 

Indeed, from a casting standpoint alone, it could easily be surmised that one of the show’s producers was a closeted, gay movie buff. Joining McCambridge & Parsons, best known for her dementedly villainous actions in (cult classic) Motel Hell, are film noir diva Marie Windsor and future horror queen Bobbie Bresee (Mausoleum, Evil Spawn). That Windsor, regally hoisting a cigarette holder as a prop, plays Eve La Deux, a board treading rival of McCambridge’s, is almost worth the price of admission alone for the show’s many queer fans. Her dramatic performance in the opening scene is, indeed, the starting point of an evening filled with both subtle and emphatic alternative delights.

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

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Dagger Cast: Jaime Adrian

Published September 21, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Madonna was Into the Groove. Ariana Grande, meanwhile, was only Into You…while The Psychedelic Furs were, dramatically, Into You Like A Train. Now Dagger Cast, happily, gets Into the Mix with amazing gay dance music artist Jaime Adrian. Jaime’s latest song What Were You Drinking? has reached close to 80,000 streams…but more importantly, on this latest episode, Jaime focuses on the screams! He fills listeners in on his favorite horror film queens (including Buffy) & describes how a childhood with a genre loving father has shaped his world. So, save up all your tears for Charisma and dive into the show at:

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

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In Memoriam: Robyn Griggs & Anne Heche

Published September 16, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Dying, tragically, within days of each other, former Another World actresses Anne Heche (May 25, 1969 – August 11, 2022) & Robyn Griggs (April 30, 1973 – August 13, 2022) both had strong connections to the world of horror, as well. 

10 years after her popular reign as Maggie Corey on the lauded soap ended, Griggs began appearing in a bevy of zero budget, indie terror epics with titles like Severe Injuries, Slashers Gone Wild!, Demon Divas and the Lanes Of Damnation and Hellweek. Often cast as a villainess, her enthusiasm and love for the genre definitely bled thorough in her performances. Of special note, she gives a delightfully spastic turn as a member of a murderous tribe of ne’er do wells in Hellweek. But Severe Injuries, a feministic take on traditional slasher tropes by Amy Lynn Best and Mike Watt of Happy Cloud Pictures, may just be the best of her many scare-based offerings. She also was the force behind her own homegrown horror convention, further proof that her death at 49 from an aggressive form of cancer was a huge loss to the world of genre cinema. 

The projects of Heche, who passed away after a tragic car crash, definitely had a higher mainstream pedigree. But her major terror credit, an almost frame for frame remake of the classic Psycho (1999), was a controversial offering that was, overwhelmingly, ripped apart by critics, who found its existence unnecessary. Still, the film’s queer influence can be highly felt. Gay director Gus Van Sant definitely invests understanding in the film’s outsider themes while giving us the ass shot that John Gavin never would have allowed by recasting his role with the gamely beautiful Viggo Mortensen. His encouraging Julianne Moore (in the Vera Miles role) to dive into her role with a no bullshit Sapphic energy also stands proud while Heche’s wispy beauty here makes one feel the intense attraction that Ellen DeGeneres, who she was involved with at the time, must have felt for her. Counting 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer & 2013’s Nothing Left to Fear among her other genre credits, Heche left behind not only a legacy of great acting work but an advocacy for the LGBTQIA community that has too long been under appreciated. Proclaiming the truth about her three-year love affair with DeGeneres definitely hurt her career and the stony backs that greeted her upon the dissolution of that romance were truly unnecessary- especially for a woman who helped narrow the scope of the public’s prejudices and broaden their overwhelming personal limitations. 

Indeed, both Griggs and Heche have left this coil far too soon. May their AW peers, including such profound talents as Constance Ford, David Oliver, Philece Sampler & Charles Keating, rise among them to assist them to their new planes of existence.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Karla DeVito

Published September 7, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

The revelation of hidden truths often has a macabre connotation for those of us who grew up Catholic. But the exposure of our deepest desires can also have dark implications across the board – especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Case in point, the divine Karla DeVito definitely brings out her finest candle dripping Gothicism in the music video for Midnight Confession.

In addition to her passionate take on this classic rock song, DeVito’s credits include Broadway (The Pirates of Penzance) and film (Modern Love). Of course, genre fused rock ‘n roll mavericks probably know her best from her touring duties with Bat Out Of Hell era Meat Loaf. True lovers of ’80s pop, though, surely cherish her the most for her excellent underrated LPS, Is This A Cool World or What? and Wake ‘Em Up in Tokyo.

Nicely, DeVito is still working towards her eternal prime, duetting with both Robby Benson, her husband, and fellow Steinman protegee Ellen Foley. These recent releases are currently available for viewing at https://karladevito.com/.

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

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Shark Bait Retro Village: Tainted Blood

Published August 31, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

After facing down mighty dinos (One Million Years B.C.), a dementedly determined Richard Benjamin (The Last of Sheila) and a Sapphic leaning go-go dancer (Flare Up), the beautiful Raquel Welch had definitely proved her resilience. These encounters also enabled her to be more than ready to figure out which young woman suffered from Tainted Blood, in the 1993 USA Network television film of the same name.

Naturally, as investigative reporter Elizabeth Hayes, Welch strikes all the right inquisitive poses as she races against time to figure out whether it is the awkward Lissa (Natasha Gregson Wagner) or the confident, mildly rebellious Tori (Kerri Green) who is the carrier of homicidal hemoglobin and a danger not only to her family but the world at large.

Nicely, Welch is not the only mature diva on display here, circumstances that perfectly level out the exuberant, girlish focus of Green and Wagner. Nighttime soap opera heroine Joan Van Ark blissfully launches into her role of Lissa’s flirtatiously drunk adopted mother, soddenly chewing scenery and very obviously having the time of her life. Alley Mills, best known of late as the quirkily vengeful Pam on The Bold and the Beautiful, meanwhile provides the opposite energy as the caring and attentive Mrs. Patterson, Tori’s chosen guardian. 

Screenwriter Kathleen Rowell also adds a little depth to this ludicrous yet still somehow predictable programmer. She ultimately does a great job of casting suspicion on both of the suspects and, even after things are happily resolved, allows concern to still reside in the viewer’s mind that the survivors of this femme powered onslaught might still be in danger. 

Penny pinchers well also be happy to note that this vehicle is available to watch for free on YouTube and (perhaps) other streaming services, as well.

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

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Dollar Deals!

Published August 24, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

True chemistry in creative projects is hard to find. I’m so thankful that I have that zap-pow rhythm with my bestie gal pal Kirsten (AKA Lookitchooz). Kirsten has been fueling the world with her positivity and knack for finding a good deal with her brand-new YouTube channel for a few months now. I was super glad to join her for this energetic $1 McDeals Day reveal video. I think it’s really cute and filled with our love for each other & for finding a cute, mismatched mug or a mysterious, unlabeled buy. Check out the video at

https://youtu.be/7DLFJL5hVqQ

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

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Hopelessly Devoted to: Marsha Hunt

Published August 24, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Standing true to herself even in the face of hysterical Red Scare blacklisting and multiple physical threats due to her latter-day work with the United Nations, the unstoppable Marsha Hunt often played characters who took no guff from the underside of humanity, as well.

Case in point, as Kate Hazelton in the 1957 B-budget horror Back from the Dead, Hunt displays an unwavering attitude when her character’s sister (the glorious Peggie Castle) is suddenly possessed by the deceased wife of her new husband. As Mandy (Castle) begins acting stranger and stranger, seducing her neighbors and even getting violent with her sibling, Hunt imparts a steadfastness to her characterization, reveling in a sophisticated loyalty and honest sense of determination. 

Of course, even when playing the sacrificial lamb opposite the noble Greer Garson (Blossoms in the Dust) or losing out romantically to the man-stealing Susan Hayward (Smash-Up), Hunt’s performances always had a sense of purpose about them. This attribute makes her not only one of celluloid’s most vibrant figures but one of its most resilient, as well.

Nicely, her incredible life has been lovingly documented in Roger Memos’ powerful cinematic memoir Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity, easily available on a variety of streaming services.

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

http://www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan