We walked in the field behind our house. It was a shortcut to the dead-end blacktop street. The weeds were up to my shoulders, but you rose above them. That whole washed out summer we would play soccer down at the park, run threw the weeds, and kick around in the stream. That stream gave me nightmares. It force fed me ugly images of faces just below its surface. In my sleep you were never around. It was only me, and the ones that slipped under as they floated by and disappeared into the cloudy distance.
I wasn't helpless as much as I was shocked, and scared to learn who might be next. I was scared that it would be you, but it never was.
Some people obsess about their weight, some check their bank balance five times a day, others have no choice but to count the number of steps it take to get from one spot to another, and then there is Joe. Joe loves china balls. You know them, those thin paper and wood lighting fixtures that Pier-One founded their success on. They arrive flat, and with the help of a flimsy wire structure become round and ready to be hung. Joe not only uses them to light his home, but also uses them for clothing, as seen in the photo above. Take pity on Joe, he can't help it.
Click to view in a larger size.
Ok - the floors are almost done. In the meantime here is another altered newsletter. I was working at the Slumberland headquarters (I know, your jealous) and they had this sad newsletter in their office. It was made for the employees as a sort of corporate cheerleading about themselves. I took one home on the first night, altered only the answers and photo, and made enough copies to put back all over the office the next day.
That is Joe S. in the picture, by the way.
If anyone reads this, I will not be posting for a few days. I will instead be devoting day and night to sanding my floors. It really is fun, come and find out! You too can use a ladder to climb in and out of your own bathroom from outside!
Here is the first known picture of me working on a feature. It is the summer of 1991, location is Gulfport, Mississippi.
So what happens next is that we raise that money with the help of on of Jeff's buddies, Eric Norberg. We decide to shoot it in Gulfport, because Jeff's wife, Sabrina, is from the area and someone has a connection to a rental house there, where the DP is willing to do it cheap.
It is a crazy summer. I begin as the make-up F/X guy and as things progressed I also become a grip, a casting agent, and finally towards the
end, an associate producer.
As often happens on projects like this one, we run over budget and behind schedule. We were supposed to be finished in time for me to head to college, but that was not the case. To the objections of the director I packed it up and left the project incomplete.
I felt that I gave much of myself to GraveYard Tales, but I learned a lot as well. Jeff and I didn't talk much after that, I was busy with school and he with finishing up the project. To tell you the truth, I don't know if it was ever finished, or what became of the movie, or Jeff. As is the case with many of my lost friends, his name is a common one, which makes it hard to track him down. I do wonder from time to time.
(Make-Up done by yours truly, but it was 15 years ago so give me a break!)
Where were we? Two posts ago I was writing about the store that I worked in during high school. Scroll down to check it out, otherwise this might not make sense.
So one day, while working at Steins a guy, named Jeff Smith, came in asking about doing gore make-up. He had gone through college and majored in accounting and after a few years of working at a boring office, decided that he needed to try and live out his dream of making movies. I showed him some tricks, and by the end of our conversation he asked if I knew anyone who might want to work on a horror movie. At that point Evil Dead 2 was one of my all time favorite films so I quickly replied, "Yes, Me!".
We began working on projects together. It was a good match, because he liked to write and direct and I liked to shoot and edit. We had all the equipment that we needed from the high-school so things started to happen. Jeff somehow got hooked up with another high-school kid named Alex who was a hugh horror fan. Not only a horror fan, but his wealthy family allowed him to travel to horror conventions where he would buy film props and memorabilia. The first time that I went to meet him in his parents brownstone in Old-town was taken aback. I walked into a beautiful hundred year old house loaded with amazing antique furniture. But when Alex opened his bedroom door it was like a world class museum of slasher films. Floor to ceiling posters, props, books, and movies. In fact, he had barrels hanging from his ceiling that were used in some Toxic Avenger movie, he had a face hugger from the 1st ALIENS film. These are just 2 of the hundreds of things that were all over that room.
So we proceeded to shoot a trailer for the horror film, GraveYard Tales, that we all wanted to make. We used many of the props that Alex had, and although we shot it on film, it was transferred and I edited it at school. At that time all our school projects were put onto a local TV cable access show without any censorship.
The day after our trailer was shown, my teacher Phil called me into his office. "Sit down, Wilson and read this" It was a letter from the cable TV station saying that our participation in broadcasting to the station was to be cut off. They not only aired the trailer without looking at it, but got some complaints about it. At first I was worried, but Phil was calm and said that he thought it was rather funny and didn't really mind all that much.
In high school I took a voc-tech class on Video Production. I learned more from my teacher Phil Harris in that class then I would for many years to come.
Each October Phil would also work for a local costume/magic/dance supply store called Steins Theatrical & Dance Supplies, located in the Clarendon section of Arlington, Va. Knowing that I was somewhat responsible, Phil asked me if I wanted to help him at the shop one October.
I was amazed. The place was a zoo and I was in heaven. There were lines out the door, all people waiting to get made-up with mostly gore f/x make-up. People wanted to look frightening. Everything from a bloody slashed neck to an eyeball popping out of its socket, devils and zombies, angles and killers.
That was all it took, I started working at Steins part-time. Looking back, it really was a dream job. It had fun, odd employees. There was Jim, who was way too into medieval reenactments, and Mandy; the manager and wife of the owner who had a look similar to Tammy Faye Baker. Then there was Cyrel who never left the dark basement (unless it was lunchtime, where each day she would walk over to a little fast food stand across the way), always sewing and keeping the costumes in decent shape.
Then there was the building itself. It was a fabulous 1940's building, with a huge winding staircase that seemed to take forever to walk up. There were the back-rooms full of old stock, weird and creepy things spilling out of various boxes. It really was a similar mixture of customers as well. Strippers getting pasties and liquid latex, Moms buying their girls ballet shoes, party goers, scenesters and such.
To be continued..like it or not.
It's about time...for being outside with no jacket, for forgetting some of the nasty things that happen, for hoping that it all works out for the best, for understanding what is going on around me, for reconnecting with all the old friends that are as bad that I am at keeping in touch, for keeping ahead of the crowd, for being early, for having more at the end of the month, for feeling that I am doing all that I can, for not disappointing anyone, for this and that, and another thing.
I have a nice lump on the top of my head. Today I ran into the garage door that wasn't all the way open. Why wasn't it open? Well, it wasn't open because when I started working in the garage this morning (spring clean-up 06') it was rather chilly out so I thought that I'd leave it only partially open in order to cut down on the breeze. Later in the afternoon when I had finished the garage and had moved out to the yard (for garden clean-up 06') I had forgotten that it wasn't all the way open, and because I was looking down at the buckets that I was carrying, BAM; down to the ground. That's right, I was knocked onto my back.
I guess the first thing that I thought about, well after remembering that the door wasn't all the way open, was, "Wow, that was loud. I wonder if the neighbors heard/or saw that?". Next, as I lay there, I began to wonder how long it had been since I did something so stupid. I am sure that there have been things more recently but what came to mind was something that happened a few summers ago, in the same garage.
I like old cars, and especially old VW's. My first and what will probably be my last old car is a 1969 VW Squareback. It was my Grandmothers' car so the memories go way back to being driven around in it by her on the roller-coaster hills of the Blue Ridge mountains. Dolly is the name that my Grandmother gave to the VW and what name she is referred to by those who know. A few summers ago I put a larger motor in Dolly. A type 4 motor to be exact. It was the middle of summer and very hot. I would work well into the night, installing the engine, adjusting and measuring, and taking it out again in order to get everything just right. I think that I put it in and took it out at least seven times, all with only the help of jacks and various blocks of wood. I had one fan sitting on the floor, just on the other side of Dolly, blowing slightly cooler feeling air under the car and onto me as I worked underneath her. The fan had another benefit, to help keep the mosquitoes at bay. This fan was one that I picked up while working on a film many years ago. I think that it was Mallrats to be exact. We were shooting at some location that was also a working yard sale. I found one of those cool looking fans from the 40's, you know, the heavy black ones with a very thin, but very stylishly designed cage able to barely protect anything from touching the blades while they spin around at 500 RPM?
As happens late at night, I was in a hurry and not paying attention as I got out from under and quickly ran around the car single-mindedly with the purpose of grabbing a 13mm open-end wrench. What happened next was the sound of my knee making direct contact with the fan blades and the sound of me again hitting the garage floor.
My garage can be a dangerous place.
Above is a very poor quality picture of me on top of Dolly in NYC at least 11 years ago, while visiting my friend Tim Spence.I think it was in Williamsburg, most likely either just before or just after eating the best pizza in the world at Grimaldi's.
The train was still trembling when I awoke and was quickly disappointed that I was still here, still smashed beside an obnoxious teen with distorted headphones on one side and yet another sweaty guy who couldn't seem to find anyone who wanted to talk, on the other. That fact is why I closed my eyes in the first place. Solitary confinement would be a very welcomed alternative at this point, if for nothing else but to allow me to linger with my fleeting memories a few moments longer.
I had been taken from this harsh and musty train car and thrown lovingly back to a previous year, a time back during high school. I was closely watching my first girlfriend, Sheila, putting her suitcase, sack of audio tapes, and camera into her sickly-yellow car, a tiny Datsan. The car that would later be involved in a fatal accident, Pictures of the scene showed the bumper of the car, like a lip, folded up and tucked closely up to the rear seat, tires splayed outward as if in a gesture of defeat leaving not an inch for a hunan body to either escape or to reside in.
We were to be on our way, out to her Fathers' house in the deep woods of Culpepper. I never felt comfortable at his house, with Sheila's stepmother Bernette always fussing and constantly running at the mouth knowing no silence or self-censorship. They were chain smokers as well, which drove us, along with my feelings at the time for Sheila, to either stay locked away in her bedroom or else to explore the woods around her father's house. Impregnated with the smell of cigarette smoke we would always spring outside, regardless of the temperature, in hopes of extending our time alone together, and escaping to a more comfortable space.
Perhaps in fear for what might happen to his life, I never saw Sheila's Dad leave his house. Any changes could have killed him, or so it seemed to me then.
He would always make slightly crude jokes when we would arrive back into his dusty, cramped dwelling implying that we had partaken in actions that we had not yet totally enjoyed. It always felt dangerous to return for some reason, as if something inside of me was always on guard, and never able to relax, or as if I was stumbling into some sacred system that I was not only unaware of but that my presence there may have been making their ground unholy.
Despite all my uneasiness, what over-ruled it all, was my newly discovered emotions and the surging of chemicals. My recent discoveries would have allowed me to follow Sheila anywhere. It didn't hurt that she was a few years older than me, and because of that a little more dangerous in my mind. I was with her now, and with her slightly unconventional, quirky ways. I was, at that point, simply happy.
We were together, until the train shifted and I was violently taken away from Sheila once again. Once again I was alone, packed together with strangers.
February 22, 2000 at the Electric Fetus. Frank Black was playing an acoustic in-store pre-show and I showed up early, camera in hand. After finding out where he was to play, I conned the staff into letting me adjust some lights in order to get enough exposure for a photo. I was shooting 3200 speed film, which is great in low light, but the area that he was to be in was way too dark. So I adjusted three of their track lights into the chosen spot and killed some time looking through the cd's. The crowd was smaller than I expected, considering his talent, musical history, and the strength of his latest solo release. As he blasted through his first couple of songs I blasted away at my film, trying not to be the obnoxious camera guy. Seconds after this shot was taken, he looked over at one of the employees and said, "Is there any way we can get these lights off, they are right in my face?". That's ok, I had gotten my shot and so I just enjoyed the rest of the show.
Let's end the rumors right now. I am not Paris Themmen, who played Mike Teevee in the 1971 film (If in fact there was a 2005 re-make I will not acknowledge it) Willy Wonka. Yes, that is me in the untouched photo with Kurtis Blow, but the picture above was taken about the time that I was born. Click Me to learn more.
I recently had the fortunate opportunity to study one of the first Mega-Rap stars, Kurtis Blow. Who is the real Kurtis Blow you ask? Well, that is what I wondered as I pulled on my safety suit and ventured into his protective bubble. I can remember such super rap hits as "Basketball", " 8 Million Stories ", "If I Ruled the World" and "I'm Chillin'" from my foggy teenage years many years ago in Virgina. My best friend at the time, William Everett Brown (where are you now Sleepy?) had a few of his tapes and we would play them in his 1964 Caddy Hearse on the way to school. Curtis wasn't impressed when I told him this and asked me to please leave, as he took back the unopened bottled water that was so quickly offered to me as a kind gesture when I first arrived. Oh well, guess we will never know the real Kurtis after all.