Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A decade ago...

I was in California.  All rather surreal in it's own way.  My first (and thus far, last) ever trip to the Sunshine state.  During this time, Mike and I covered three of the major cities (by freeway, trawling along for hours at 55 mph) listening to 'Moods' (though mostly I remember "The Return to Innocence" by Enigma), and to the soundtrack to 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' whilst mooching down the 5 highway, in a large Pontiac like affair.  The company we worked for had refused to pay for an airfare from Los Angeles and San Francisco, or San Francisco and San Diego so we had to drive to both these cities and back again, In the end Mike and I covered a wide scope of Californ I.A. in a relatively short period of time, and managed to interview a large quota of people who ended up on various DVDs.

During this time we interviewed two porn stars, one gay and one straight, viz. Jeff Stryker and Robert Kerman (aka. Robert Bolla), both of who had made attempts to appear in "legitimate" movies during the 80s in Italy and had been cast in the lead of a zombie film and cannibal movie respectively.  We met two real estate agents, who had both once been actors but now worked as real estate agents in Los Angeles:  John Steiner (who appeared in so much) and Adrienne LaRussa, a delightful New Yorker of Sicilian decent who appeared as the eponymous heroine in one of Lucio Fulci's best films, the pseudo-biographical 'Beatrice Cenci.'  Both told fantastic stories of their adventures in the Italian film industry.  We also met three people who are sadly not with us any more.  First of all there was David Hess, who for most horror fans needs no introduction as he appeared as one of the most infamous "bad guys" on screen, as Krug in Wes Craven's (future director of A Nightmare on Elm Street) Last House on the Left.  Mike and I spent a weekend in San Francisco, and managed to spend pretty much an entire weekend with David and his family, which was enlightening and great fun.  David was a cultured, interesting fellow and could wax lyrical about life and his experiences as well as archaeology and music, which showed him to be a truly fascinating person once you scratched beneath the surface.  He will be greatly missed.  We also met Candice Daly, a very pretty blonde somewhat washed up soap opera actress who had appeared alongside Jeff Stryker in the aforementioned zombie flick.  And finally we met the great Carlo Rambaldi.  Rambaldi and I conversed in Italian which was rather surreal as Mike and I were in Los Angeles and my mind was attuned to thinking in English and suddenly I was thrown into speaking Italian again.  Nonetheless, Rambaldi was an absolute delight, talking about his career, sharing his props and discussing his experiences on the various films he worked on.  Mike soared into new fits of ecstasy when he got to see the model of the alien used in Alien.  We also learned the idea behind the face of ET, got to handle some of the bats from the film "A Lizard in a Woman's Skin" which was why we were meeting Rambaldi, and saw the slightly moth eaten alien from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

We also got to meet Deran Serafian, now a successful director, and the delectable Beatrice Ring and to record a really excellent and fun audio commentary for a rather dire film called Zombie 3 which they had made in 1987 in the Philippines.  Sadly, the DVD, when finally released, was issued in two versions and the one with the audio commentary (in indistinguishable packaging from the one without) is the more difficult one to find.  But it was a wonderful afternoon spent in San Diego, and after that Beatrice and I struck up a friendship which has lasted to this day.  It was also during this time that I spoke to Margaret Lee for the very first time after exchanging email correspondence over a year, however we were not to meet on that occasion.

This wonderful adventure however was a mixed blessing.  When I departed from London, I had less than £5 left on my overdraft as the company I was working for had not paid Mike nor I in a couple of months and so, not unsurprisingly, my resources had run dry.  After a couple of days nagging the morons in New York, they finally transferred the money which we were owed from June and July into our accounts.  It was literally like squeezing blood from a stone at the best of times.  As an afterthought to this, when Mike and I asked for our money for August, once again much humming and ha-ing took place in New York, which was truly ridiculous.  The money from June and July was owed to us (and given that we had been to France in July), it seemed ridiculous that there should be such an issue with the money for August.  But, nonetheless, John was unsure whether we had worked hard enough in August to justify another payment, even though we had interviewed the lead actors for four different films in the space of eight or so days, and had an exclusive interview with Carlo Rambaldi (!!).  John's avaricious nature truly showed itself during that time, concluding with staying in a truly grotty motel "Motel 6" next to LAX airport which had a loo that boomed for twenty minutes every time someone flushed it and a leaking ceiling.

Finally, it was a time that was rather heartfelt and emotional for me.  Three weeks before I went, my father had been complaining of not being able to swallow terribly well.  On one of those mornings in Los Angeles, at 6am (owing to the time difference between California and Europe) I telephoned home for news.  My father had been diagnosed with cancer, and they had found a cancer the size of an orange inside him.  After hearing my news, and although Mike suggested we take the trip easy, I was determined that we should meet lots of people in that time. My way of dealing with this awful news was to tell everyone I/we met this in passing, to which, most everyone was very friendly, supportive, empathetic, sympathetic and understanding. 

In the end, after much treatment, my father underwent the operation the following year and to his credit, he is still alive and with us.  This might seem a somewhat bleak coda to end a reminiscence of my journey to California but it should not be seen as such.  It is to emphasize hope, for my father survived cancer, and cancer of the oesophagus as well, and is still very much with us.

'Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be Blest'
 (Alexander Pope)


  1. Cerdo - are you the Kit Gavin I've just been reading an interview with at Guardian Online? If so, your dream sequence in the white church seems fascinating...


  2. Indeed Chris, we are one and the same person!