Monday, November 12, 2018

TCCDM Pulls One Out

"Tarzana Kid" - John Sebastian (1974)

John Sebastian was the cool hippie that, had I lived in the Woodstock days of yore, I would have most tried to emulate.  He was very cool.  Very relaxed.  As if wherever he was...was exactly where he needed to be.  The friend you'd want around if you were tripping south.  And I'd borrow his warm, effortless timbre, as well, now that I'm rollin'.

"Tarzana Kid" (back)

Reprise label (promo)

"Stories We Could Tell" - John Sebastian / "Tarzana Kid" (1974)

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Saturday, November 3, 2018

Interview -- Alison Arngrim (Actress, Author, Comedian)


“Who's going
to do the
cooking?”
~ Nellie Oleson ~




I grew up on “Little House On The Prairie.”  "Little House" was my safe place.  My calm against storms.  I've watched every episode multiple, multiple times.  And still, if I accidentally stumble upon the show when surfing the numbers, I'm quite content to just set my remote down and watch.  I loved all the characters from that show.  All of them.  Yeah, even the snotty and snooty Nellie Oleson.  She was wickedly mean and spoiled to the curd, and I loved her.  Oh, not right away.  Growing up, I despised her like everyone else.  "But just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." (me doing Van Zandt doing Pacino, but whatever.)  Nellie Oleson, as played by Alison Arngrim was just a whole lot of fun to watch.

And think about this a minute.  While the other kids from the show were getting fan letters and gifts, Alison was actually receiving hate mail.  She was only fifteen years old for crying out loud!  Alison Arngrim was really, really good at her job.  And since I never tire from revisiting the many seasons of "Little House" with two nieces sharing a beanbag in front of the tv now, I find myself laughing and nodding in appreciation as they both groan and mildly curse at that mean Nellie Oleson.  It's the cycle of life.

And the connection betwixt the two isn't breaking any time soon.  Not only has Alison totally accepted and embraced those Nellie days, but she's turned them into a best-selling autobiography and a successful one-woman show.  And that kicks some major prairie ass.  Good for her!

Fans of “Little House” will no doubt recognize the familiar Nellie conundrum, “Who's...going...to do...the...cooking?”...(a phrase me and my extended family have long-since adopted and shout whenever opportunity knocks!).  And now, nearly 40 years removed from the show that has become TV chicken soup for so many of us, we're finding that the wonderful Alison Arngrim has been cooking everything up just fine.  Go get you some.



Alison Arngrim Interview -- November 2018

Alison Arngrim

Casey Chambers:  You're always gonna be remembered as that wonderfully mean and spoiled Nellie Oleson from the family TV series, "Little House On The Prairie."  But rather than distance yourself from that character, you've totally embraced her.  Better still, you have created a successful one-woman show based on those TV days.  And it seems to have hit the sweet spot with the fans.  How did this all get started?

Alison Arngrim:  Yes. Yes, it has.  Well, I started doing standup when I was 15 years old and had been doing that for years. But then about 2002, I started doing a one-woman show called "Confessions Of A Prairie Bitch."  All true stories. And along with the added video and photos I share, it just turned into this multimedia extravaganza.

I began doing my show in New York and L.A. and then all around the U.S.  And I had become very popular in France. (laughs)  "Little House On The Prairie" is very big in France.  It's showing in over 140 countries, but it's just huge in France.

I was invited to come do a talk show over there and I met this guy and he said, 'Ya know, we could do your one-woman show in French.  We could do a thing where I introduce you and we'd have to change some of the things.  And then, of course, you would have to speak in French...'  I said, 'But, I don't speak French!' (laughs)

But he writes this whole show, this whole French extravaganza based on my American show, so I had to go back to school and learn French.  And it turned into a hit.  I have performed the show all across the US....and now in Canada and France, Belgium and Switzerland. So it's just bananas.

Casey Chambers:  That's crazy-good.  It's like all the fans who enjoyed despising your conniving ways and cheering for your comeuppance on the tv show...are now wanting to welcome you back from "the dark side." (laughs)

Alison Arngrim:  (laughs) Yeah, yeah, yeah. People really like it.  And the fans of "Little House" and Nellie Oleson are constantly asking me questions.  I talk about all the goings-on while doing "Little House" of course, but I also have a question and answer segment in the show.  Y'know, an "Ask Alison Anything" segment.  And people can fill out little cards and get all their questions answered.  That's one of my favorite parts of the show.


Casey Chambers:  How did you get the part of Nellie Oleson on "Little House On The Prairie?" What do you remember about the audition?

Alison Arngrim:  Well, it was so crazy, because I had not read any of the books. I didn't even know there was a Nellie Oleson.  I was totally clueless.  But after I went on the first audition, they kept calling me back.  I'd actually read for the part of Laura.  And then I read for the part of Mary...which was like the search for the Scarlet O'Hara of eight-year-olds. (laughs)  I kept coming back to these auditions and they finally called me back to read for Nellie Oleson.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  I was sitting there with my dad and I turned to him and said, 'This is not a normal part.'  He said, 'What do you mean?'  I said, 'Well, this girl's a total bitch.'  And my dad was just cracking up.  He told me, 'Don't change a thing.  You go in and you read it like that.  Don't rehearse it anymore.  Don't read it again.'  So I went in...and it was Michael Landon and Kent McCray...and I read it for them.  They went nuts. They started laughing hysterically.

It was a scene from the first episode I did, "Country Girls." And what got them, I believe...there was a school essay I had to read about my house and my home, except that all Nellie talks about is how much everything costs.  'My home is the best home in all of Walnut Grove.'  And it's hilarious. It was that part. And that's what was killing them and they said to do it again. And I asked, 'What part do you want me to change?' And they said, 'Nothing.  Just read the thing about the house again.' (laughs)  And that was it. I was hired on the spot.

And I think it was because...I don't know that all the other 11-year-old kids necessarily got the joke.  Yes, Nellie was bragging and mean, but she was also not as fabulous as she thought she was and was making a fool of herself.  I'm not sure everybody got that and I kind of did.

Nellie's Essay - LHotP / "Country Girls" (1974)


Casey Chambers:  Little things becoming big things.  That's pretty cool.  Who were some of the directors you worked with on the series?

Alison Arngrim:  Well, Michael Landon directed most of the episodes and he was my favorite.  We also had Bill Claxton and he directed some of my favorite episodes.  And I also really liked Victor French.  But I mean Michael...Michael was the best. Michael would let you try stuff.  Whatever you'd want to do.  He'd say, "Try it once."  And then he'd go, 'Yeah, do that.'  But Victor French was marvelous, too.  He played Mr. Edwards on the show.  One of the episodes he directed was..."The Talking Machine"...which was a particularly good episode for me.

Casey Chambers:  Sure, that was the one where Nellie and Laura both go after the science nerd in their class and you stab Laura in the back.

Alison Arngrim:  Yes! Yes!  And I managed to get my hands on an 1800s gramophone and of course, I use it to record Laura and embarrass her.  Typically. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  I'd like to cherrypick a couple of my favorite episodes...the first being, "The Camp Out."  The Ingalls and Olesons go camping together and Nellie, among other things, falls into the river.

Alison Arngrim:  Oh, that's a great one!  Well, that was the Stanislaus River up in northern California, up near Sacramento and we actually went there. We shot everything mostly in L.A. and everything was indoors.  Unless it was in Simi Valley, which is just outside of L.A.  But once in a while, we'd go on location. Like once a year, we'd go up north.  They had a train up near Sonora.  And they had a river.  So we went up there.

They had stunt girls doing some of it, but they wanted close-ups of me and Melissa (Gilbert) in the actual river.  Initially, they were going to have us on a log, and they built a fake log...but it didn't work.  When they tested it out, it rolled over on the two stuntmen and almost killed them.  They almost drowned.  So they said, 'Well, we won't be using that!'  So they started doing this and doing that and said, 'Okay, we're going to do this, We're gonna have a hunk of leaves on like an inflatable...raft thing.'  It was like a life preserver with bushes and stuff all over it.

And Melissa and I still had to go out into the river.  The water is so cold up there, even experienced swimmers will have their chest seize up and won't be able to swim.  So they had to fit us in wetsuits under our 1800s clothes. We were in that river all day and it was actually dangerous.  They had stuntmen there and the crew told us, 'If you lose your footing and lose grip on this thing while you're in the river, we have guys in the bushes to catch you and if you miss them, there's another group of guys.  If you miss them...grab the rope.'  We asked, 'What happens if we miss the rope? They said, 'We pick up your bodies in the next town!'  So it really was physically dangerous.  For the water hitting us in the face, they used a fire hose. (laughs)  They actually had a fire hose spraying water in my face.  They did give us both stuntman patches.

Nellie & Laura and the River - LHotP / "The Camp-Out" (1975)


The hardest part for us though...we were in wetsuits all day and when we said we needed to go to the bathroom, they were like, 'It's too far.'  Because we would have to go all the way back to the dressing room.  That would mean they would have to put us in a car and drive us all the way back to the dressing rooms, get us out of our wet clothes, get us out of our wetsuits, we'd go to the bathroom (laughs) put our wetsuits back on, put our clothes back on and then they'd have to drive us back.  So they said, 'Yeah, you're going to have to wait till lunch.'  And we're like, "Ooo-kay, how long is that?!'   Eventually I'm standing there thinking, 'God, I really need to go.' and I turn around and Melissa Gilbert is looking at me with this grin on her face. And I said, 'Tell me you did not just do what I think you did!' And she said, 'Do it. It'll keep you warm.'  And we peed in our wetsuits! (laughs)  The wardrobe people were not happy with us.  But then you do what you gotta do. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Do they have a special patch for doing that? (laughs)

Alison Arngrim:  Right?! (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Now your parents on the show were played by Richard Bull and Katherine MacGregor. What were they like to work with?

Alison Arngrim:  Incredible people.  Richard Bull just passed away a few years ago.  Richard was voted most like his character.  He really was very much like Mr. Oleson. Very calm and sensible. The voice of reason on the set. Such a kind man. And a brilliant actor. I mean, he had played heavies and villains and things. He was a graduate of the Goodman School in Chicago. A brilliant stage actor and he continued to work very late in life.  Really incredible stuff.

And then Katherine... Katherine MacGregor's in the motion picture home...the retirement home out here in L.A.  And you know, she's very, very, very old, but she's still kicking.  And I mean, she's brilliant.  She's not mean like Mrs. Oleson, but she's crazy like Mrs. Oleson. (laughs)  Very eccentric woman. Unbelievably huge personality.  The two of them together had such chemistry.   They were...they were like another set of parents.  They felt very parental toward me and were always...well, Katherine would boss ya around and give ya advice and Richard was very protective.  And it was fascinating to watch them because clearly, they were highly trained actors and the two of them were also very close friends.  Sometimes when you'd hear them arguing off camera, you'd think it was Nels and Harriet the way they went on.  I mean it was really like having an additional set of parents. It was incredible.

Nels Oleson (Richard Bull) and Harriet Oleson (Katherine MacGregor)

Casey Chambers:  Let's jump to your classic "Bunny" episode.  Your crazy character fakes an injury to get waited on hand and foot, then dances a jig when everyone leaves her room!  You're the devil!  You also get shoved down the hill in a wheelchair.  This is absolute "Nellie" gold.

Alison Arngrim:  Everyone's favorite.  My favorite.  And everywhere I go in the world, people tell me they love that episode.

Casey Chambers:  Did you do some of your own stunts in that one, too?

Alison Arngrim:  I think for part of it.  It was very clever.  I mean nowadays, God, they probably would have CGI'd the whole thing. (laughs)  But back then, with primitive methods...trying to make it look real...they had me in a chair that literally had a steel cable so I could start to go down the hill and it could be stopped.  And then they had a well-trained stunt woman, go down the hill and do that somersault in mid-air.  I do a lot of things, but I don't do major somersaults. (laughs)  She did the somersault into the water and they had me coming up spitting out the water.

But they still needed another shot. They said, 'We want to see you in the chair going down the hill, but it's too dangerous to push you down this hill.'  So they took me, the chair and the whole setup to this other hill that was not quite as steep, but it was loooonger. (laughs)  It was a longer, slower climb. And they put me in the chair and set up the camera on a dolly and said, 'Okay, go!'

Nellie Takes A Ride - LHotP / "Bunny" (1976)


Now, although, yes, it wasn't as steep as that other hill, remember, there is still no safety equipment. There are no brakes on the wheelchair. There is no seat belt. I'm in my nightgown, underwear, and bedroom slippers. There's no safety equipment of any kind.  No padding.  And...I had a real broken arm!

When we shot that episode, it was already in the script that I pretend to be paralyzed...but they wrote in the part about Nellie having a broken arm.  I, like the idiot that I am, went skateboarding shortly before this and managed to fracture my wrist.  So I'm bouncing, around, totally unstrapped in this chair.  It's going down a hill, hitting rocks...and me with a real broken arm.  So it was actually quite terrifying.

Casey Chambers:  You're Batman! (laughs)

Alison Arngrim:  I mean (laughs), yes, it was a slightly less detail, but I was like...guys this actually isn't... this isn't that safe! (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  No shiat!  One more episode, and again my whole family was practically raised on "Little House"...your character who hates to cook and doesn't want to learn how to cook...gets her very own restaurant. And then wedding bells...

Alison Arngrim:  That was the craziest thing.  When we were hanging out in makeup, Michael liked running in and out giving us plotlines.  He would always do this.  He'd be in the middle of writing next week's show sometimes and just come in and start announcing things.

Anyway, he was doing that when he ran into makeup and says, 'You're getting married.'   And then runs out of the room.  And I'm like...what?  Then a little while later he comes back and goes, 'Okay! This is hysterical! Okay, there's this guy, this little short guy, and he's Jewish. He's Jewish and he won't take any crap off anyone and he's great. And he tells Mrs. Oleson where she can stick it! And it's incredible!'  And he keeps running in and out telling us scenes.  Just laughing hysterically and running away.  And I'm like, 'What in the hell is going on?'

Finally, I followed him and he's sitting there in his dressing room with a pencil and a yellow legal pad writing.  And I said, 'You're writing these right now, aren't you?  Don't we film this in like two weeks?'  And he said, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, don't worry, it'll be done.' (laughs)  A typical Michael Landon moment.  He just thought it was the funniest thing.  He talked about it later on "The Tonight Show" how he based it kind of on his parents.

Michael Landon's mother was not very nice to him.  His mom was very tall and blonde and rather imposing and was just kind of mean.  And his dad was short and Jewish and was always being henpecked and harassed by his crazy mother.  And so he came up with this idea.  What if...he'd always wanted his father to finally stand up to her and he never did.  So he wrote this character named Percival.  A short Jewish man who tells Nellie to just stop it.  It was sort of his own personal therapy... creating this whole character.  And it was brilliant.  It was totally Michael-like...how he worked out his personal issues.

Casey Chambers:  I never thought of it that way.  And not only does Percival tell Nellie to quit her shit, he also pours a bowl of raws eggs on her head. (laughs)

Alison Arngrim:  Yeah, on "Little House," my character got to do things you just don't normally do on other shows.  Eggs over the head. Falling in rivers. Going down a hill in a little wheelchair.  Just, y'know...who does this? (laughs)  But that was just so Michael.  Let's pour a whole bucket of raw eggs over her head.  And it was hilarious!

Nellie Gets The Eggs scene - LHotP / "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not" (1980)


When we shot it, it was over two days because we shot the first scene where he pours the eggs over my head at MGM Studios and then the next day we're outside in Simi...where I go running to the Oleson's screaming at Nels and Harriet that Percival poured eggs all over my head.  And I am just covered in egg.

And since we shot that part on a different day, they kept the wig with all the drying egg on it. When it was time to shoot again, they put the dirty wig on my head and put fresh eggshells on it and sat there whipping up egg yolk to recreate the egg running down my face. I mean, it was disgusting.

Casey Chambers:  You came out with a book about your life and times spent on "Little House On The Prairie."  It's a really good read with plenty of funny stories and surprises.  But at the same time, you share some sad and tragic moments, as well.  Fans of the show will fall in love with you.  And the book's become quite a successful page-flip.

Alison Arngrim:  Indeed, thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I wrote this book... "Confessions Of A Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson And Learned To Love Being Hated." It came out in 2010 and later it was released in paperback.  Then I made a deal to have it published in French.  So now it's available in Kindle, hardcover, paperback and in French.  Just this year, I did the audio version, so now people can listen to me reading the book to them in their car if they want.  And it's been quite the hit.  Y'know, with celebrity memoirs, usually, it's like a three-month thing.  The book comes out, for three months it's the hot thing and then they move on to someone else's book.  But I go on Amazon and people are still leaving reviews saying they got this book as a gift last week.  People are reading it now and are just getting so much out of it.  So I'm really pleased.


Casey Chambers:  Making the New York Times Bestseller list ain't too shab either.

Alison Arngrim:  Oh, yes it did for three weeks.  Three weeks!

Casey Chambers:  Well a big congrats on that!  Before we sign off, would you mind sharing a little bit of the music you particularly dig?

Alison Arngrim:  I'm definitely a classic rock type person. I'm 56 years old.  So I grew up on David Bowie and Rod Stewart. The Rolling Stones and all that. And the glam rock era.  And then as a teenager, I very much liked punk.  I was into the Sex Pistols and The Clash.  I went to see The Clash and The Jam and Sham 69 and Wreckless Eric and all the Stiff Records people and all the British bands.

"Sonic Reducer" - Dead Boys / Live at CBGBs


And I was also very much into Elvis Costello and all of the new wave and punk stuff.  I really enjoyed that stuff. And, oh God, The Dead Boys and The Zippers and The Plugs and all the L.A. punk bands of the seventies.

Casey Chambers:  I think I just heard a bunch of new fans drop their pizza slice and start lining up to learn a bit more about our Alison.

Alison Arngrim:  I did all that stuff, but I'm very much a kid of the classic rock era.  My husband, Bob Schoonover, plays guitar in a band called Catahoula.  I always thought if Fleetwood Mac and Heart went to Mardi Gras together, this is what they would sound like.  But yes, I actually married a guy who's a guitar player in a band and it's kind of amazing.  They're playing clubs in L.A.  All original songs.  Plus they have a monthly gig at the Viva Cantina in Burbank where lots of blues and rock is played.

Casey Chambers:  All right!  I'll be sure to add a link for readers to check out.

Alison Arngrim:   Oh, well thank you.  Now here's a quick story.  My husband actually grew up in the same town...at the same time as the guys from Devo.  He was dating a girl who was hanging out in Mark Mothersbaugh's basement, so he saw them when they were playing and working on the early stuff.  But the funniest part was...his mom was friends with Mark Mothersbaugh's mom.  This is when they were teenagers. And Bob's mother used to nag him and say, 'Why don't you play your guitar in church like that nice Mothersbaugh boy?'  Because Mrs. Mothersbaugh was always bragging about how her son would play for the church.  And so years later when Devo had their album out, Bob brought an album to his mother, said, 'This is the nice boy from church you were going on about.' (laughs) So hilarious.  But yeah, I'm very much a kid of the rock.

Casey Chambers:  That's very cool.  Small world, big place.  Alison, thanks for hanging with me this morning.  "Little House" has always been 'cinnamon chicken' for my whole family and it's been a pleasure.  Much appreciated.

Alison Arngrim:  Alright. Thank you. Thank you very much.

"Alison" - Elvis Costello / Woodstock '99


Official Alison Arngrim Website
Official Catahoula Website

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Monday, October 29, 2018

Horse Head Has Another Idea: 8 Halloween Songs by Chicago



CHICAGO "HALLOWEEN" SONGS 2018

Time on my hand, I thought I would dig around a bit and try to find a few forgotten songs for Halloween.  And I found a few!  Here are 8 really scary Halloween songs from the classic rock band...Chicago.
From their latest album - "Chicago 666," of course.

  1. "Feelin' Stranger Every Day"
  2. "(I've Been) Searchin' So Long (to find an ax-sharpener)"
  3. "Saturday in the Morgue"
  4. "25 or 6 to Life"
  5. "Color My Knife Wounds"
  6. "Just You 'n' Me and Plastic Wrap"
  7. "Hard Elbow To Break"
  8. "Does Anybody Really Know What Crime It Is?"
"HAPPY   HALLOWEEN   EVERYBODY!"

"Feelin' Stronger Every Day" - Chicago / "Chicago In The Rockies" (1973)

Good stuff.

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Horse Head Dig and Flip: "Strip" by Thomas Perry (2010)

"Strip"...by Thomas Perry (2010)
344 pages


NO SPOILERS:
This Thomas Perry novel was just a late summer toss read.  Nothing deep.  A story to chew on while waiting for the leaves of autumn to begin changing their clothes.  Just a quick in-and-out.

The story revolves around an aging mob boss who learns his strip clubs are getting robbed and the new guy in town he mistakenly fingers for the job. A guy who just wants to eat his sandwich in peace. A guy you shouldn't poke with a stick.

There are a few other characters thrown into the mix, each of variable shades of badness and stupid, and to be honest, I found these misfits a lot more interesting.  However, Perry does write some pretty good parlay betwixt them all and throws in a good twist or two to twerk the story along.

But at the end of the day, it was really hard to find someone to toss my keys to and drive.  Plus, the story took a couple of louies where I would've preferred the writer feint in another direction. But that one, my friends, is on me.

So what does this all mean?  It means I wasn't too much concerned about who came out on top.  Still, the pages turn fast and though "Strip" didn't quite hit the proverbial sweet spot, it was entertaining enough that I didn't regret it.

"Rip Off" -  T. Rex / "Electric Warrior" (1971)


Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Monday, October 1, 2018

Interview -- Michael Berryman (Horror Film and Television Actor)

"We did a kind of 
Simon & Garfunkel thing for a couple of years."
~ Michael Berryman ~


Names can be hard to remember, but a face one never forgets.  Michael Berryman gives good face.  And he knows it.

He has appeared in over 100 films and television ranging from cult horror frights and Oscar-winning dramas to even adding a touch of strange to Eminem videos.  Michael Berryman is one of a handful of actors that always give the audience a delight simply by letting the camera catch his beautifully different, wonderfully unique features.

For over 40 years, Michael Berryman has been thrilling audiences on the screen with his evil, insane ways. So synonymous has he become with the horror genre, that Berryman is often asked to cameo simply tongue-in-cheek!  It works either way.  Audiences love him.
As I said, Michael Berryman gives good face.  Go get you some.


Michael Berryman Interview -- October 2018
Michael Berryman

Casey Chambers:  Early in your career, you found yourself cast in the hugely successful film, "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." (1975)  As a young actor just starting out in the business, what were some of the things you learned while making that film?

Michael Berryman:  When I went to work for George Pal, I did my first movie, "Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze." (1975)  George gave me a guarantee on my contract for two days.  That was important because that allowed me to join the Screen Actors Guild.  When you're working on a union project, day one you're allowed to work without being a member of the union.  But on day two, you have to join the union.

So, George was kind enough to understand that and that's how I got into the Screen Actors Guild.  I didn't really think there would be any more work for me after that, but George Pal had a casting director who was casting for "...Cuckoo's Nest."  I was planning to homestead in Alaska, so I did not have an agent yet.  But I went to Culver Studios and met the casting director and saw Michael Douglas and his brother Joel.  And I said, 'Yeah, I'm on board with this!'

I found an agent, a dear friend of mine who was a Disney contract player...Anthony Caruso.  He actually was on a "Star Trek" episode. ("A Piece Of The Action")  It was the one where they visit an earthlike planet that had been receiving old television programs and was living the gangster life.  He was the one who wanted the "fancy heaters." (laughs)

Anyway, I wound up flying to Salem, Oregon and we had two weeks of rehearsals at the Oregon State Hospital.  Six days a week.  It was the actual hospital.  We'd spend about an hour of each day with real patients to get the gist of what it was like to be in there.  And we went over the blocking with the cameras for all the major scenes and there was a lot of rehearsals.

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (neat deleted scenes - 1975)


It was absolutely monumental.  It had such a profound effect on me.  I had no speaking lines, but I got to learn a lot about making films.  I asked our director Milos (Forman), 'What do I need to know to be an asset to this production?'  He actually placed me in front of a Panavision camera and he said...while puffing on his pipe which he always had (laughs)...he said, 'I want you to look at the lens.'  So I'm standing in front of the lens and he says, 'I want you to have a love affair with the glass.'  And I never forgot that.

A couple of days later, the cinematographer handed me a book on cinematography.  And every chance I had, I'd ask questions.  I'd look through the cameras and learn what the dials do, and all various other things.  It helped me tremendously down the line.  Understanding how the camera works and how a film actor should understand what it is they're trying to capture.  Between close-ups, wide shots, panning, etc.  I was pretty young, and here I was with Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas and all these other people who had been doing this for a long time.  I learned a lot.  I was there for 127 days.

Ellis (Michael Berryman)
Late night hospital party.

Casey Chambers:  Were you familiar with Ken Kesey's novel at the time?

Michael Berryman:  Oh yes, and I have read the book numerous times.  Actually, before I left for Oregon, I attended a theatrical performance at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California.  Chief Bromden was being portrayed by Woody Strode.  And William Devane was playing McMurphy.

Casey Chambers:  Oh, how cool.

Michael Berryman:  Yeah, and the stage production was very interesting, too, because they kept the story in Ken Kesey's vision.  The room would be very dark and they would project on the back screen behind the actors, the hallucinations that the Chief would have...with a voiceover commentary.  I heard from Michael that his father, Kirk Douglas, had been trying for years to get the film made, but nobody wanted to do a film that dealt with mental illness.

Another problem was Kesey's screenplay being like, 300 pages long.  It was not structured in a manner where you could shoot the script for a movie.  And he was also very upset that the movie was going to be shot through Jack Nicholson's character and not from the perspective of the big Chief.  So they eventually, I guess, bought him out and bought the rights to make the film.

Casey Chambers:  The casting was perfect. The movie went on to win five major Oscars.  And you got to share in a tasty slice of film history pie.  How cool is that!
And then right after that, you scored another coup by starring in the Wes Craven cult classic..."The Hills Have Eyes." (1977)  And even 40 years later, the movie still has bite.  When did you first hook up with Wes Craven?  That was the first movie you made with him, right?


Michael Berryman:  Yes, it was.  I received a phone call from my agent to meet with Peter Locke, Barry Caan, and Wes Craven.  And at that meeting, we talked about the story and got a good rundown on what the film would be about and where we would be filming.  I had spent a lot of time east of Los Angeles near a mountain called Big Bear in the San Bernadino Mountains.  I lived there for a long time and used to go down to the high desert and go four-wheeling and camping with my brothers and friends.  I did that for years.  So I was very familiar with the Vacaville area where we filmed "The Hills..."  I was looking for work.  Any kind of work. So I figured, 'okay, let's do this.' 

We didn't have a big budget.  I think we had a little mini Winnebago, and then we had a trailer and a station wagon.  And everybody drove their own cars out to the hotel.  Then we'd all just drive out to the middle of nowhere and start rolling film.  I think we were filming in Super 16.

Casey Chambers:  Completely different environment, no doubt.

Michael Berryman:  Oh yeah.  Well, it was funny. The 'Hill family'...which was me, Mars, Ruby, and Jimmy Whitworth...we were kind of enjoying the rough and tumble grittiness of it all.  But then the 'Whitebread family' as I called them (laughs)...which was Suze Lanier and Dee Wallace and Bobby and the rest...they were all L.A. people.  They did a lot of television.  They hadn't done a lot of features that I can recall and so there really did become two different camps so to speak.

And so when they would complain and moan about how they were getting all dirty and whatever, we would mess with them.  Somewhat in character. (laughs)  It was interesting to watch the transformation which was part of the theme of Wes' writing.  That in the right circumstances, the quote "civilized person" can become savage and revert to survival mode.  It was a pretty valid concept.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977) - Trailer


I'm just about done with my autobiography.  I still have to find a publisher, but I was recalling some of the funny moments in "The Hills Have Eyes."  There's a scene when the dog bites my ankle and I'm hopping on one foot. (laughs)  If you look in the sand, you can actually see a line where someone took a stick to mark where I was supposed to fall.  And the camera was set to catch me at the end of my fall on that spot. You can actually see it. (laughs)  Another really funny part for me was when Mars gets hit in the head with that prop rock. (laughs)  It just makes me laugh.  It's such a good hit to the head. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  "Hey, that wasn't a prop rock!  Who switched the rocks?" (laughs)

Michael Berryman:  (laughs) There's just certain things like that that are just kind of fun.  Another one of my favorite scenes is when Grandpa Fred is talking to Big Bob and he goes, 'so I took a tire iron and split his face wide open.'  And Big Bob goes, 'Well, how bad was it?'  Well, that scene just makes me laugh and I told Wes...I said, 'You might want to change that.  It sets it up for a laugh instead of being terrifying.'  And Wes says, 'Well, wait a minute.  What happens next?'  And I go, 'Oh yeah!  Yeah, that kind of sets you up for the smash through the window.'  And it really is a great pullback when he gets attacked by Papa Jupiter.  And they overcrank the film so it plays very dreamy.  There's almost no blood and guts.  But it's a terrifying movie.  It really holds up.

Casey Chambers:  "The Hills Have Eyes" is a lot of fun.  Now you've also appeared in numerous TV shows.  So I'm gonna cherrypick one that I especially enjoyed while I was growing up.  You were surprisingly in a couple of my favorite episodes of "Highway To Heaven."

Michael Berryman:  Yes, I played the devil in two Halloween episodes of "Highway To Heaven."  Michael (Landon) had actually said to me, 'Hey Michael, you obviously had skull surgery.  You look a little different.'  I had met some other actors that had worked with Michael.  And he did hire people with disabilities.  He was one of the first that I'm aware of in the television industry to do that.  Which is high marks.  And he asked me to work on a "Highway To Heaven" episode. ("The Devil and Jonathan Smith" S2/E5 - 1985)

Scenes from "The Devil & Jonathan Smith" (Music courtesy of Breaking Benjamin)



So I had studied, studied, studied.  I knew everybody's lines.  And I'm doing this scene with Anthony Zerbe and Michael Landon and Victor French.  And in my head, I'm saying to myself, 'okay Michael's going to say this.  You say that.  And then Victor will say this.  Zerbe will say that.'  And I'm timing my delivery.  Waiting my turn.  And then my mind went blank. (laughs)  And Michael waited about five seconds, and he could tell that, y'know ...oops!  And he goes, 'Cut!'  And the second he said 'cut,' the script lady had this big script book in front of my face with a ruler underneath my first line.  And when she presented it to me, she said the prefatory line.  The line before my first speak.  And I go, 'Oh yeah, that's it.'  She looked at me and I go, 'I'm good.'  Michael looked at me and says, 'We good?'  I said, 'I'm good.'  Michael says, 'Okay.  Going again.  Action!'  And bingo!  I nailed it.  Michael says, 'Okay, moving on.'  And we all moved on to the next take.

But while I'm walking across the room to set up for the next shot, Michael came over and put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Don't worry about it.  We all forget our lines once in a while.  You're doing great work.  I only hire the best people.  And that's why I hired you.'  But what he really meant was...don't let it happen again.  Then he reflected about how most of the people in his crew were people who had worked with him on "Bonanza" and "Little House On The Prairie."  So he knew what he was doing and was everything you would expect him to be and more.  Later on, he came over and had lunch with me.  He said, 'Remember what I said earlier?'  I said, 'Sure, Michael.'  And he says, 'Well, by the way, you're really doing a great job.  I'm really glad you're on board.'  And then later, he asked me back to do another episode. ("I Was A Middle Aged Werewolf" S4/E5 - 1987)


Michael Berryman with 
Michael Landon and Anthony Zerbe

Now, I'll go back in time a little bit to when he actually made a movie of the week. ("The Loneliest Runner" - 1976)  It portrayed his childhood, which was pretty darn...some people would say embarrassing or very revealing.  He was a bedwetter.  And he was a long distance runner.  That was his way to cope with his embarrassment or whatever issues that he had in his head.  When you're a long distance runner...and I ran cross-country in high school and college...you get these endorphins.  And when you're running, your mind and your body eventually come together and you kind of find a tranquil space.  So that was pretty interesting to me.

But Michael became a long distance runner so he could run from school to his home before the school bus arrived and remove the sheets that his mother would hang out in front of the house to let the whole neighborhood know that she was upset.  Instead of just drying them in the dryer, she would do that to embarrass him.  That's actually a true story.  So we shared a lot.  And that's kind of my trip around the block in regards to Michael Landon.  Miss you brother.  God bless you.  What a wonderful, wonderful guy.

Casey Chambers:  I'm a Landon fan, too.  And that's a great story.  We talk a lot about music here at The College Crowd Digs Me.  What kind of music trips your flip?  Any favorite bands or songwriters?

Michael Berryman:  Oh absolutely.  See, I graduated from high school in 1966.  I was at The Troubador which is a very famous club in Los Angeles, and I had a friend that played really great guitar.  A Martin guitar.  Well I couldn't play instruments too well, my fingers are kind of messed up, but I could sing well and I write good lyrics.  We did a kind of Simon & Garfunkel thing for a couple of years.  Just local.  Never went anywhere.  But...we went to a lot of great concerts.

So one afternoon, I caught wind that Joni Mitchell was doing the soundcheck at The Troubador.  So we hopped on the blue bus...the Santa Monica bus...and went up Santa Monica Boulevard.

Casey Chambers:  Alright!  Blue bus. Yellow taxi, I'm there! (laughs)

Michael Berryman:  Yeah! (laughs)  And we caught her doing the soundcheck.  Of course, we knew every one of her songs.  We got to talk to her.  She was super nice.  I think she's one of the goddesses of the "Ladies of the Canyon," so to speak.

"Ladies of the Canyon" - Joni Mitchell / "Ladies of the Canyon" (1970)


Okay, I'll just go through the list.  Joni Mitchell.  Crosby Stills and Nash.  Graham Nash, who is still playing by the way and some of his new albums are just remarkable.  Buffy Saint-Marie.  The Byrds.  Eric Burdon and The Animals.  Stephen Stills is just tremendous.  I also like Judy Collins.  Oh gosh, there's just so many.  The Hollies.  So many artists from the '60s and '70s...they would join other bands, so there was such a mix and match of musicians. Buffalo Springfield.  All of the music was tremendous.  Wonderful, wonderful music.

And I like Sting, too.  Aaron Neville.  Queen Latifah.  Yeah, I'm pretty eclectic.  But the bottom line is...I really appreciate good music that takes me someplace.  Oh, I like The Moody Blues. (laughs)  There's so many.  John Mayall and The Blues Breakers are tremendous.  And I  have to mention one of the best guitarists ever...Stevie Ray Vaughn, of course.

Casey Chambers:   Good stuff.  Makes me want to pull a record from the crate right now.  Thanks for sharing a few of the artists that turn you on.  And thanks for sharing a little piece from your wonderfully eclectic career, as well.  You always make movies and television better, Mr. Berryman.  Thanks again for taking a timeout to speak with me today.  We'll be looking for your autobiography. Please let us know when it drops.

Michael Berryman:  My pleasure.  Thank you.  And I want to throw a nice shout out to all your readers.  And remember next time somebody cuts you off, instead of flipping them off, just realize that...'eh, maybe they're having a bad day.'  But, I'll leave you with something my grandmother taught me years ago.  "It's good to be lazy.   Because it takes 27 muscles to frown and it only takes three to smile."  So have a great day, and have a good life.

Good stuff.


Here's a nice one to add to your collection.
Wes Craven's..."The Hills Have Eyes" on Blu-ray in a textured sleeve w/ 40-page booklet, fold-out poster, 6 postcards, loaded w/ bonus features.  A really nice package from Arrow Video.

Casey Chambers
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Monday, September 17, 2018

Horse Head Dig and Flip: "The Martian" by Andy Weir (2014)

"The Martian"...by Andy Weir (2014)
369 pages

NO SPOILERS:
I knew I would get around to reading this book eventually,  so I've avoided the movie and trailers as best I could.  (I love movies, but hey, I'm a book man. 'Whadyagonnado?')

Anyway, about "The Martian."  Come to find out, maybe a Bunsen burner chemistry class or two...or three might pay off in spades.  Add a solid math background to help work the numbers out and a talent for “thinking outside the box" and you just might get back to Earth in time to watch the next season of "Game of Thrones." 

Now let's be honest.  With all of the above in your wheelhouse and an unlimited supply of Ramen Noodle Soup, you'd still find yourself doing a whole lot of finger-crossing.  And we're right there with him the whole time.  Astronaut Mark Watney.

When a mission goes unexpectedly bad for the Mars expedition team, Watney finds himself alone, mistakenly left behind for dead.  To survive, he must figure out a way to keep himself alive for as long as it might take for a rescue team to make a return trip to get him.  Here's the real drain-suck.  They don't know he's alive.

Andy Weir has chosen to let his protagonist narrate the story in a journal-like style allowing the reader to really get inside his head.  The way his mind works. The way his emotions roller-coaster.  His daily and weekly rehash of plans and complaints and snafus and sense of humor.  And we quickly learn that our boy..."is wicked smart."
But not in that pissy, obnoxious way.

Had the author gone that direction, I would've bailed 50 pages in.  No, our lone survivor is, more or less, just a regular guy who'd probably owe somebody $20 bucks on the Chiefs/Steelers game...but you know he's good for it.  That and he just happens to be a freakin' astronaut.

"The Martian" is a very enjoyable and unique read. Even the pieces of technical mumbo-jumbo begin to make sense. (And there is a little bit, but not in that shitty acronym-crazy Tom Clancy way.  So have no fear.)  This novel is doable.  By the way, you'll probably think about this book the next time you order a baked potato.

"Major Tom (Coming Home)" - Peter Schilling / "Error in the System" (1983)


Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Friday, September 14, 2018

Horse Head Has An Idea...

HERE'S AN IDEA

"Evil Roy Slade" (1972)...is a made-for-television comedy Western filled with silly one-liners and sight gags that predates "Blazing Saddles" by two years. And though not nearly as good, "Evil Roy Slade" has still become somewhat of a campy cult classic.

John Astin plays the main character, Slade..."Sneaking, Lying, Arrogant, Dirty and Evil"...abandoned at birth and raised by vultures. And he valiantly tries to change his “evil” ways when he falls for a pretty customer while robbing a bank.

"Evil Roy Slade" (1972)


Evil Roy mugs the camera more than Gomez from "The Addams Family." But that's okay.  There are plenty of other comedy actors cracking-wise and mostly giving Astin a good run for his mugging money.  There is also a young Larry Hankin as one of Slade's henchmen who simply makes every scene better just being in it.  (See Larry Hankin interview)

For rock fans, the birth of what would later become the classic Loggins & Messina's, “Angry Eyes” can be heard around the 10-minute mark. Jim Messina was asked to contribute a short guitar lick in a scene that hinted at trouble ahead.  It's definitely brief, but I love learning RnR history minutiae like this.  Cool as fark!  (See Jim Messina interview)

"Angry Eyes" - Loggins and Messina / self-titled (1972)


Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Horse Head Vinyl...Dig and Spin: "Taj Mahal" - Taj Mahal (1968)

Taj Mahal  -----  "Taj Mahal" (1968)
Electric blues, Chicago blues
Debut album. 
On Columbia (early 70s Rei)
8 tracks

Horse Head Vinyl..."Dig and Spin"

Let's face it.  Performing on the infamous "Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus" (1968) didn't hurt none.  And brought some fiery "oomph" to plenty of new ears once the show was finally released.  That's where I first got on the train.

So when I finally stumbled upon Taj Mahal's self-titled debut album earlier this spring, I was reminded of that show and threw down my money.

I'm well aware expectations can throw a listener a nasty curve sometimes, but that was not the case here. Taj Mahal hit that comfortable sweet spot and has become one of my go-to albums when I need a blues-rock fix.

"Taj Mahal" - Taj Mahal (back cover)

Taj sings with joy while working the harp and making his guitar slide on ice. And I'm becoming a bigger fan of Jessie Edwin Davis all the time. He provides lead guitar work. Ry Cooder is everywhere and that's always a good thing. This album feels like they took their shoes off.  Very, very comfortable. Glad I jumped.

Columbia label

FOR CHERRY PICKERS:
"Leaving Trunk"...tasty harmonica and guitar, sure...but man those vocals. Just killer!
"Diving Duck Blues"...Familiar poppin' blues.
"EZ Rider"..."You know, I ain't good-looking, but don't let that deceive you."  Great line and song.

TRACKLIST
A1. "Leaving Trunk" - 4:51
A2. "Statesboro Blues" - 2:59
A3. "Checkin' Up on My Baby" - 4:55
A4. "Everybody's Got to Change Sometime" - 2:57
A5. "EZ Rider" - 3:04
B1. "Dust My Broom" - 2:39
B2. "Diving Duck Blues" - 2:42
B3. "The Celebrated Walkin' Blues" - 8:52

"Leaving Trunk" - Taj Mahal / Self-titled (1968)


PERSONNEL:

  • Taj Mahal - vocals, guitar, harp, slide, arranger
  • Jessie Edwin Davis - lead guitar
  • Ryland P. Cooder - rhythm guitar, mandolin
  • Bill Boatman - rhythm guitar
  • James Thomas - bass
  • Gary Gilmore - bass
  • Sanford Konikoff - drums
  • Charles Blackwell - drums
(btw...my copy is the one that has colorful birds and butterflies scattered about.  I believe original copies have Taj in the front yard jammin' all by his lonesome.)

Rescued from garageman - $15.

Good stuff.


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Friday, August 31, 2018

Horse Head Dig and Flip: "I Robot" by Isaac Asimov (1950)

"I, Robot"... by Isaac Asimov (1950)
192 pages

NO SPOILERS:
"I, Robot" is a wickedly smart and entertaining collection of stories that revolve around Asimov's famously clever, "Three Laws of Robotics." (Google it.)
And though it is not a complete novel...(I always assumed it was)...the shorter stories are so tightly woven around that robot premise...it makes very little difference.

The scope of Asimov's robotic worlds are infinite and I found myself smiling and nodding my head with respect while turning pages.  For a story written nearly 70 years ago...the prophetic importance will still give you chills.

I may be late to the party, but I'll certainly help the host clean up.  This is a most enjoyable read.
Pick up Isaac Asimov's, "I Robot" and be surprised!

"The Voice" - Alan Parsons Project / "I Robot" (1977)


Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Horse Head Has An Idea...

HERE'S AN IDEA

"Rituals" (1977) has often been compared to the classic film, “Deliverance”...and while there are a few similarities..."Deliverance," this one ain't.  Still, it's a fun watch.

A group of guys take a vacation together for a little male-bonding adventure.  This time...getting dropped off in the middle of the boonies for a 5-day camping trip.  As you would expect, there are arguments, injuries, treacherous rapids and, of course, someone in the woods trying to scare them...or worse.

"Rituals" (1977)


It's strange to see a young Hal Holbrook flexing his chops in this film, 'cause my eyes keep flashing...'Mark Twain in the membrane.'  But once I shook that image from my head, it was all good.  “Rituals” has almost become the red-headed stepchild in the ‘predator-in-the-woods’ cash cow genre.  But it's still a pretty good movie to take for a ride.

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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