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Return To The Red Wolf Inn (And Other Unusual Places): Getting To Know Linda Gillen

Linda Gillen, head shot, 1970.

With four decades of experience as a working character actress, based first in New York and then Los Angeles, Linda Gillen has seen a lot and done a lot. Beginning in the mid 1960s, when she cut her acting teeth doing live theater at the Jersey Shore’s Surflight Theater, Gillen has plied her trade steadily over the years. She’s appeared in theatrical productions, motion pictures, and on television. Just a few of the performers she’s shared scenes with are Burt Reynolds, Tom Hanks, Jon Lovitz, Telly Savalas, Beverly D’Angelo, Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams, Julie Newmar, Eve Arden, Susan Dey, Craig Wasson, and Joe Cortese. To those unfamiliar with her work, she has one of those faces that can seem familiar without being immediately identifiable, and she appeared in a number of high profile television commercials in the 1980s.

But there’s another side to Linda’s career, a handful of cult films where she had more substantial roles and was able to reveal herself as the engaging screen presence that she really is. 1970’s The Magic Garden Of Stanley Sweetheart was her first major part, and she appears in a colorful role as a free-spirited young woman who lives a hedonistic lifestyle. The main character, Stanley, was portrayed by a then-unknown Don Johnson, and marks his big screen debut. The film was released by MGM at a time when counterculture films were in vogue and big studios were trying to strike gold by connecting with a contemporary youth market. When it didn’t catch on immediately, MGM quickly turned its back on the movie, and it has never received any kind of presentation on home video in the years since. A true cult item, it currently exists only in bootlegged forms, one of which is derived from a rare television appearance. Pending any kind of home release, this intriguing film has great potential for rediscovery, with its unique late ‘60s vibe and its fascination with frank sexuality, copious drug use, and youthful uncertainty.

More commonly seen is 1972’s The Folks At Red Wolf Inn, also known as Terror House, Terror At Red Wolf Inn, and a number of other retitles. Linda plays a young college student who is lured to a remote seaside manse where an elderly couple offers young women a free vacation, all so they can murder them and use their bodies as meat for them and the other members of their bizarre family of cannibals. Although this film is in desperate need of a quality restoration, it did enjoy several theatrical releases over the years, TV appearances, and manifestations on both VHS and numerous public domain DVDs. The Folks At Red Wolf Inn (or Terror House, as it will be referred to in the remainder of this piece) is a film that succeeds without resorting to excessive gore or any graphic violence, and is anchored by the quirky performances of its cast, including Linda’s sweetly naive turn as a girl who belatedly realizes she’s been far too trusting.

Speaking to her in person, one realizes that Linda truly was playing a character. The sweetness is there, but forget all about the naive part. Gillen’s upbeat tone is informed by cool New York sophistication and lightning fast wit – she recounts an experience where Joan Rivers once tried to make a withering remark about the size of the diamonds in Linda’s ring, saying “I spit on your rocks,” to which Linda coolly replied “Be careful, these rocks spit back.” She is both intelligent and playful in the way she articulates, and has the unique ability to disagree without seeming judgmental in the process. Get her talking about moviemaking in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and you’re in for a real treat. Diabolique reached out to discover more about this intriguing figure and her remembrances from the aforementioned films, as well as her appearance in the controversial, rarely-seen 1980 psychological thriller Windows, which itself is on the verge of rediscovery via an upcoming Scream Factory release. Linda had many memories and insights to share — the first being about her encounter with a Hollywood legend.

Diabolique: So rumor has it Mae West was a fan of Terror House.

Linda Gillen: Yes! It was very strange. Allen Actor [screenwriter of Terror House] called me one day, and he said “You’re not gonna believe who’s a big fan of Terror House — Mae West!”. I think she was shopping for a director for Sextette (1978), and she was considering Bud Townsend [director of Terror House]. So Allen Actor said “She’s having a screening, do you want to meet her?” I said to my then-husband “Mae West!! We gotta go!” I called up a friend of mine, Jeannie Berlin, and we all got in the car and went down to USC for the screening. She came out of this limousine, and there were two buff guys wearing pink foundation on either side of her. They got her out of the car, and she had a mantilla on top of her head, this gold veil coming down in front of her. I guess it gave her height, because she was very tiny. She had this white brocade jacket with a mandarin collar, and it went all the way to the ground and I never saw her feet. She was just gliding across the ground, like a hoverboard. They put her in the seat and we watched the movie, and when it was over, one of her guys ran out to the car and came back with some photographs and she started to sign them. Jeannie and I kept taking them. Jeannie got three and I got three. It was only me, my ex-husband, Jeannie, Allen Actor and probably Allen’s girlfriend at the time, Bud Townsend and his wife, and that was about all who were in the screening room.

Diabolique: Did you grow up in New York?

Linda Gillen: Yeah, Washington Heights. We had great theaters, big movie palaces. My parents would go to the Jersey Shore in the summer, and there was a non-equity theater there, it was called Surflight Theater. I just loved it. I mean, it was all these crazy freaks living there, and they would do musicals. The guy who ran it, his name was Joe Hayes, and his job from September until May was going to Catholic schools and putting on musicals. Then in the summer, he had this garage in Beach Haven, New Jersey. It was non-union, it was exploitative, and I didn’t know anything about anything, so it was just ripe for me. I hated going to the beach, so I would go there and watch them rehearse in the daytime, and I just said “Can I be in it, too?” I had to be an apprentice first, and I had to clean out toilets and dressing rooms and all that crap. I came back the next year because it was better than doing nothing for the summer. It was really slave labor but I didn’t care. I loved it, it was wonderful. It was show business, and I was in it! (laughs)

I got a job in a theater out in the Hamptons, I did Gypsy and Once Upon A Mattress out there. Marcia Lewis was there, and Jonathan Tunick was the orchestra leader. It was great, I really miss that time, when you’d play three or four characters and change wigs and outfits. It prepared me, I was still not even 18 years old. I met a manager in one of those show business papers, and she sent me out on things and I got a Great Shakes commercial, that got me my union card. Then I did Up The Down Staircase (1967).

Diabolique: And then you appeared briefly in The Producers (1967).

Linda Gillen: That was the summer of 1967, I had just graduated high school the night before. I got the job because I went up to my agent’s to get a check, I was painting my first apartment. There was this woman who came out and she said “I’m casting this movie, and you’d be perfect for it!”, and it was The Producers. I play the saxophone, although there’s no saxophone in the soundtrack. (laughs)

Diabolique: I noticed that!

Linda Gillen: There was another movie I did, but you can’t even see me, it was Where Were You When The Lights Went Out (1968), but I really didn’t do anything, it was just a lot of walking around, really a glorified extra. I didn’t even get to meet Doris Day! Then I went to California and did The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart, after being there for a year.

Diabolique: How did you get the part?

Linda Gillen: I wasn’t doing well in California, I had been there for a year and I wasn’t getting anything. I got a television show with Michael Douglas where I did basically nothing. My agent wasn’t too pleased that things weren’t happening. She set me up for a television series called Then Came Bronson with Michael Parks and Jack Klugman, and I was supposed to be a camp counselor. I knew about Stanley Sweetheart, and I knew they were casting it, but my agent said “No, no, you’re not right for it.” But I had this appointment at MGM in Culver City. So the night before, I was talking to my friend Danny–I lived in Laurel Canyon, and Danny lived down the road in this house with Jobriath.

Diabolique: The glam rock musician?

Linda Gillen: Yes! But he hadn’t gone into his space alien phase yet, he was still in his hippie stage, he was doing Hair. I went over that night and Danny and Jobriath were really stoned, and I said “I’m going up for the part of a camp counselor, but there’s a part in this movie Stanley Sweetheart, and it’s a real nice girl from the midwest who’s a college student–you know, Cathy, the main part. And they were putting together my outfit, this crazy polyester dress and these beads and feathers, I looked like a Christmas tree. I went on the audition for the Michael Parks thing, and I knew they had another bungalow on the lot, so…I went into the bathroom and changed into this outfit and went over. I said “Hi, I have a three o’clock appointment” and they said “Your name’s not on the list.” And I said “That’s strange, the guard at the gate had my name on the list…” and she said “Oh, okay!” So I waited and I went in and I met the director (Leonard Horn), “Very nice to meet you, blah blah blah…” and I never heard another word. My agent didn’t even want to represent me anymore because I wasn’t getting any work, and I had to figure out what to do next. Then Joe D’Agosta, he was a casting director who was living in the same complex where I was living, he came down and he said “I got a call from a New York director asking have you ever heard of an actress name Linda Gillen, and I said ‘Know her? I live with her!'”

Years later, I was doing Laverne & Shirley, and Penny Marshall and I become friends, and she said to me “You know, it’s funny how fate works. My brother [Garry Marshall] could not get through to Jack Klugman to pitch The Odd Couple, and I got a part on Then Came Bronson as a camp counselor, and my brother said if I could pitch The Odd Couple to Jack Klugman, I’d have a part on his show!” So Penny got the camp counselor part I auditioned for, and the rest is television history.

And I got Stanley Sweetheart. I was the first one cast, according to Leonard. I tested in California with Ben Murphy, a young good-looking guy, and then they flew me to New York and Kate Heflin had the part of Cathy. It was Katie and me, and they still hadn’t found the guys. Marty Poll [producer on Stanley Sweetheart] went back to California, where Don Johnson was doing the play Fortune in Men’s Eyes with Sal Mineo.

Diabolique: And Michael Greer.

Linda Gillen: Yeah, Michael and Don were in it, so Marty hired them both. They still didn’t have a Fran, and Holly Near was Michael’s friend, so she did it. And then Jolie Jones, Quincy Jones’s daughter, signed on to play my roommate, but it didn’t work out with Jolie. I think Victoria Racimo was [originally] an extra in the film, I don’t remember, but they plucked her out of the crowd and she did it. It didn’t work out with Katie, and Katie and Bob [Robert Westbrook], the guy who wrote it, were already an item, so Bob said “The hell with it” and they got on a boat and went to Italy or Greece or something. I went down to the boat to see them off, and I met his mother, Sheilah Graham, and that was great. Michael Greer and I both went down to the bon voyage party! And then Diane Hull did the part of Cathy.

Diabolique: I heard that Joe Dallesandro was attached at some point.

Linda Gillen: Never. Never, never. Andy Warhol was supposed to play my psychiatrist, but we never shot the scene, it never happened. I remember it was a Friday night, it was in the summer, and everyone was like “Oh, Andy Warhol’s gonna be here tonight!” Candy Darling was in it for a minute. I liked her! If you were around her, you thought you were around Kim Novak or something. I didn’t see her for a long time after that, but after shooting Terror House, I was still living with Bud Townsend and his wife, we called her Bubbie. It was Thanksgiving and he and Bubbie had gone skiing, and I was invited to a party in Hollywood. I went into Hughes Market on Highland to get some cat food. There was this apparition in silver lame walking up and down the aisles with like, handlers or something–this is early ’70s–and I looked and it was Candy Darling! I said “Oh my God, CANDY, what are you doing here?” and she said “Ohhhh, you’re an MGM star!” She said it was Thanksgiving and she had nowhere to go, so I took her with me to this Thanksgiving potluck party in Hollywood, with Ted Harris, and Fox Harris, but they weren’t related….I miss Fox Harris a lot, did you see Repo Man (1984)? He was the guy with the strange glasses. He did all of Alex Cox’s movies. When he went on the audition for Repo Man he told Alex Cox “Of course I can drive”, he never did. They put him in the car and he crashed it, so they had to drag the car for the rest of the movie. But that Thanksgiving dinner with Candy and Fox and all the other freaks from New York, that was a great night.

But back to Stanley Sweetheart, I thought I was gonna play Cathy, but Leonard never wanted me for Cathy. I never even read anything when I met Leonard, I just met him in the office and we spoke. I never read the script until I got there!

Diabolique: When you finally read it, what did you think of your character? Was she like you?

Linda Gillen: Not at all! In all the commercials I was always the nice, normal girl who drinks the milkshakes, or whatever they needed, and when I read it I thought “Oh my God, she’s bisexual, she takes lots of drugs, wow!” That’s what acting is, you get to be these people, because I could never be that in my own life. So, I did the part. I’ve been a member of the Actor’s Studio since 1976, and I bet they would yell at me and talk about the character’s inner life, but you know…I just showed up and read the lines. That’s an honest answer! There wasn’t any preconceived notion. I shouldn’t talk about acting skills or levels, I mean I do know a little about acting now, but …

Diabolique: You studied with Lee Strasberg, though.

Linda Gillen: I did, believe it or not. And he made me a member of the Actor’s Studio!

Diabolique: But that was after Stanley Sweetheart?

Linda Gillen: Yes, I didn’t become a member of the Actor’s Studio until 1976. I was studying with Lee around the time of Alambrista! (1977). But after Stanley Sweetheart, I did a movie with Tim Buckley and O.J. Simpson and Jeannie Berlin — it was called Why? (1973). We shot that movie from January until right before Memorial Day, it was five days a week. We improvised it, and it was every single day being a spoiled rich kid dying pregnant junkie. It was getting so I was having morning sickness and I wasn’t even really pregnant. It was rough! I had to get into the psychological aspects of the character, and when it was over, I just wanted to take the money that I had and go to Europe, to see what Europe was like. It didn’t happen then, but when we finished shooting, the producer, Bobby Cohen, whose uncle was Harry Cohen, he said “I have a friend who’s doing a movie, and they need someone like you.” I went to the movies that night, and as I was walking out, these two guys came up to me and said “You’re right for this movie, a friend of ours is doing it. Give us your number!” And I said “No, you give me YOUR number!” So I gave it to my agent and my agent took care of that, and it was Terror House.

Bud’s youngest daughter, Jenny, was there at the audition — she was my double in the swimming scene where Regina swims out to the boat to escape, that was Bud’s daughter, Jenny Townsend — Jenny was sitting there on the floor, and she said “Daddy, this girl really is Regina, but she’s not fat enough.”

I got the part. I asked how long it was going to take to shoot the movie and they said about two weeks, which was not true — the shoot was in August and September of 1971, plus one day of looping in December. And I said “Do I have to be naked in this, or have sex with anybody?” And they said “No!” But I had been doing Why? for all those months, which was total insanity. So I said “Fine, I’ll do it, but I spent so much time getting into character for this other thing, I can’t handle it anymore, can I just come to the set and you tell me what I have to say, and I’ll say it?” And Bud said “If that’s what you want to do, fine.” So I never read the script.

I also told them I didn’t want to eat any meat, so Macready’s wife at the time, Pam, was making all these crazy vegetarian things for me. I drove a hard bargain! (laughs)

Diabolique: The house used for the exteriors of the Red Wolf Inn is actually the Piru Mansion in Piru, California. Were any of the interiors actually shot there as well?

Linda Gillen: The living room and the dining room were used, and some of the grounds, like where Margaret Avery is sniffing a flower? That was on the grounds. The bedroom upstairs was [another location], we were in the desert. The kitchen and the walk-in locker were sets on a soundstage in Hollywood, by a taco stand on La Brea Avenue. That was the last week of shooting, we did all that last. So those were the three locations for the house. [Terror House producer] Michael Macready’s family had lots of property in Santa Barbara, and that’s why we could shoot up there and no one ever bothered us, cause they knew everybody, and they’d get all the locations. Plus [we shot at] UC Santa Barbara, Isla Vista, where students burnt down a Bank of America.

I was living in Malibu with a roommate at the time, but she was getting married, so I moved into Hollywood, and I was living with Joy Bang…

Diabolique: From Messiah of Evil (1973)!

Linda Gillen: That was the movie Willard and Gloria wanted ME to do!

Diabolique: You got offered Messiah of Evil?

Linda Gillen: Yes! I had auditioned for Gloria and Willard Hyuck, they wanted me to be in it, and it was that part that Joy did. They told me they wanted it to be like Performance, they kept telling me–that French girl who was in Performance who kind of looked like a boy? But I got offered Terror House, and it looked like a better film. I told Joy, “You should go see these people, you should do it,” and she ended up doing it. Then she and this guy Andy Meyer went to the Philippines, AIP gave them money if they would go and make this movie in the Philippines about snakes…

Diabolique: Night of the Cobra Woman (1972)!

Linda Gillen: Was she the Cobra Woman?

Diabolique: No, that was Marlene Clark.

Linda Gillen: When they came back I asked when it was like, and she said “It was like Suddenly Last Summer“! (laughs) But I never saw Night of the Cobra Woman, and I never saw Andy again, and when I moved to Culver City, I never saw Joy again.

But then Terror House came along, and I was in the middle of this housing crisis. So Bud Townsend said, well you’re gonna be in Santa Barbara in two weeks, why don’t you stay at our house in Culver City? They had an extra bedroom in the back. I thought they were being paternal and it was like being a family, and I thought “Oh, how kind!”, because I was moving around all the time. Years later I realized they just wanted to make sure they could find me when they were shooting the film!

We were just always working, always finding another shot and always doing things. Mike Macready’s wife Pam was pregnant, and she was always cooking for everybody, all the time. And it was hot, and it was sticky, and she’d always be somewhere cooking a pot of chilli, or spaghetti. It was just another job, it wasn’t really glamorous or anything.

Diabolique: I love the scenes with Archie, the dog.

Linda Gillen: That dog was so sweet! It was the nicest dog ever, but the guy who had it had this special thing that he put under the dog’s gums so the teeth would show. He put like, grease on my neck or cooking fat, so the dog would jump on top of me and lick my neck.

Diabolique: You’re a good screamer! Or were your screams dubbed?

Linda Gillen: No, that was me. We went to a sound studio for one day and did the screaming. I remember doing the stuff in the greenhouse, Bud kept saying “No no no, do it like you’re really being punched in the stomach”, that “HUH!” sound I make.

Diabolique: What are the memories that you have of Arthur Space and Mary Jackson?

Linda Gillen: I remember Bud and Bubbie were casting for the women, to play the grandmother. They’d come back every night and say that most of the women who auditioned for the role wore straw hats, and lacy things, and acted like caricatures of old people. They said there was an actress named Mary Jackson from New York, who wasn’t really from New York, and she was a real person. So they hired her. And with Arthur, when I saw him on the set I thought “Oh my God”, he was from all those movies I would watch on television as a kid! We were on location and Arthur would talk to me about how much he hated going back home to his life in Hollywood, so he just offered to stay forever on the film. He didn’t have that many scenes, but Macready was happy that he offered to stay and work for free, so they kept him on to do more scenes! He didn’t want to go home to his wife, he would come home and he could just tell by the energy in the house if she was in there or not. (laughs) That’s all I ever spoke to Arthur about, was how unhappily married he was. And Mary didn’t think anybody on the set liked her. But I liked Mary and Arthur, although I didn’t really hang out with them, they were the “older” people on the set.

Diabolique: Where did John Nielson come from?

Linda Gillen: I was the one who found him. They had been auditioning [for the role of Baby John]…Bruno Kirby auditioned, and Richard Dreyfus, and David Soul. Yes! David Soul didn’t want to leave the audition, he kept saying “Wait, wait, I can do it better!” I was gonna do a movie after Terror House that never happened, and I was at the director’s house one night having dinner, and he had a stack of 8x10s, and he said “All William Morris does is send me pretty boys.” And it was John’s photograph, and I thought “Ya know, John in a strange way looks like Bud”, cause Bud was very handsome. And I said “If you don’t want this guy, can I have the picture?” So I took it back to Bud and Bubbie, and I said “How about this guy?” They called him and he came in, and he got the part. He was really good, and he was such a nice guy. I looked him up a few years ago and I found out he had died.

Diabolique: That scene between you and him on the beach, that is just amazing. It’s got almost no dialogue, all this fantastic nonverbal interaction between the two of you.

Linda Gillen: But remember I never read the script, so I had no idea what was going on, quite frankly. When we shot that scene, I got to work that morning and Bubbie handed me a bikini, which I’ve never worn in my life. And I said “What is this for?” And she said “It’s for you, you have to wear it.” I just knew he said this line, I said that line….I would memorize it in sequence.

At one point, when we were shooting the last scene where the credits come up and I’m singing White Cliffs of Dover, I remember saying to Bud “I thought I got killed, what is this scene? Aren’t I dead?” And he said “No, no, no! You shouldn’t tell anybody you didn’t read the script!” But it was my idea of “in-the-moment” acting! I look back on it now and I’m very grateful I was given all those opportunities to experiment. Now, people over-prepare and over-cultivate themselves to where it’s not even spontaneous. It’s all very self-conscious. It just isn’t fun. But when I did Terror House, that was fun.

Diabolique: So, about Windows….

Linda Gillen: (laughs) Yes?

Diabolique: You apparently had a bigger part, but then that changed?

Linda Gillen: It did. I was living in Los Angeles, and I had to go to Boston. I did an episode of Laverne & Shirley where I played a character with Down Syndrome, and I was getting an award for my performance from the NARC. I stopped off in New York to visit my parents, and I went to my agent’s office to return luggage I had borrowed. They said “Oh, they’re casting this movie right now, it’s right down the street, why don’t you go and audition for it?” So I’m in the waiting room and I don’t know anything about this film, all I know is that Gordon Willis is directing and he’s the cinematographer from The Godfather (1972). Now, when I did Alambrista!, which was about exploiting labor, it had the special distinction of not paying its actors, and I had a problem with that. I kept being told that it was a great showcase, everybody else is working for free, and I said not me. I had a contract, and we’re only talking about Union scale, not big bucks here. But they didn’t pay it. When I finally did get the money, I went to open an unemployment claim and Alambrista! hadn’t been reported as earnings, even though they’d taken unemployment and Screen Actors Guild pension and health out of my paycheck, it hadn’t been reported. So that turned into a very big fight for me, and my costars did not want to get involved. It hurt me, because people had said I agreed to work for free and then changed my mind, which was never true — I still have the original contract!

But anyhow, there I am sitting in the Gulf & Western building in Central Park South, waiting for this audition, and the secretary announced me, and Gordon came out and looked at me, and was like “No, no, no….” Then this woman came out and said “Oh, I finally get to meet the troublemaker. I did the bookkeeping on Alambrista!.” And I said “Well that was some very creative bookkeeping, wasn’t it?” and we got into this big screaming match. So then Gordon said “Send her right in!”, and he said “What was that about?” So I told him, and he said “When I saw you I thought you were a California actress, but you’re perfect, this is a tough New York cop.” So I got the role!

Gordon hired me for the film, but he didn’t give me the script. I was in no position to say no, I was happy to keep getting work because I had just gotten a loft in the city, right before Soho became Soho, it was this raw space loft that I had to fix up myself. Now it’s worth millions, I’m sure, but it wasn’t back then, it was a nightmare. He gave me the script when I came to rehearsal, the first table read. It was Joe Cortese, who was a guy I’d done a TV movie with before, and Talia Shire, and Elizabeth Ashley, and a bunch of other New York actors. We were in the basement of Radio City Music Hall, and it was Christmas time–I remember because there was a camel walking around backstage. Anyhow, they gave us the script and I started reading it, and I thought “What the fuck? What is…are they serious? Oh my God!” But I was looking at renovating a loft at the time, and we had to get a stove, a refrigerator, what am I gonna do? I took the job.

We started shooting initially in Brooklyn Heights, in January when it was freezing. It took almost a week to shoot this scene of me and Joe getting out of the cop car and walking up the stairs. We had a 4:30 or 5 o’clock call in the morning, we would get to the set, get through makeup and hair, and Gordon didn’t like the clouds. So we never shot, he’d say “Let’s try this tomorrow morning.” It was a week of going to Brooklyn Heights to shoot this scene, and when I finally saw the scene in the film, it was so quick. I think I was only hired for two or three weeks, I don’t remember, but the first week got eaten up waiting for the clouds, and the second week I wasn’t doing anything, I was knitting. The producer would come on the set and get really upset because the sweater kept getting bigger, he said “She’s putting in sleeves now!” We weren’t shooting anything. During that period while I was freezing to death in the loft, I got this call from Bob Mandel in California, and he said “I saw Alambrista! and I’d like you to be in my movie [Nights at O’Rear’s (1980)].” And I thought “Wow, I can get out of this film,” and Gordon said “Well, we were going to change your part into a man anyway.” There was a male detective that got the rest of my part. But what I remember of the film is being able to get out of it, and being able to buy a big hot water heater.

I liked Talia Shire, it was her involvement in Windows that got it done. She was hot right then, from Rocky (1976). Elizabeth Ashley was a lot of fun, she had just written a book, Actress: Postcards From The Road. I loved it, it was a great book, I even gave it to Marianna Hill, and she thought it was genius, too. When I met Elizabeth Ashley on the set, I said “I read your book, I loved it”, and we became friends. I loved her, she was wonderful.

Diabolique: You worked with her again.

Linda Gillen: Oh, that was on Paternity. But I didn’t see her [during filming]– it’s interesting, I never think about acting stuff but I’ve done a lot of films!

When I went to the screening of Windows, it was at MGM on a Sunday night, and I went by myself. I always sit in the back of the theater, and there were all these other New York actors from the film, and they were all waving and smiling up at the front. I was in the back row, and I was watching the actors sink lower and lower in their chair, and when the film was over, I was the only one left in the room. I went downstairs and was waiting for the subway to get back downtown, and I remember the guy who played the husband was in tears. I mean, it is hard to be an actor. Apparently he’d been telling everyone “Oh, I’ve got this movie coming out…” but I knew it wasn’t going to go anywhere, just like I knew Stanley Sweetheart wasn’t going to go anywhere, when Don Johnson came on and Katie Heflin was axed from it. I just figured “Oh well, I’m young, I have the rest of my career ahead of me,” but I didn’t know you paid a price for being in a bad movie. You just become invisible. I didn’t really mind, because I never went into it to be a big movie star.

An actress’ career is different than a guy’s. When I started seeing my female friends mutilating themselves and changing everything, I just thought, nah. I’m not doing that so I can be the neighbor in a robe who tells the police “They went that way!” I’m 68 and I have gray hair. In fact, I work with young kids and I ask them what they want, and their first goal is to walk the red carpet. And they’re very serious! They want to be Kardashians or something. It doesn’t work for me. Fame is a byproduct, not an end goal.

About Bill Van Ryn

Bill Van Ryn is editor of fanzine Drive-In Asylum, and maintains film blog Groovy Doom. Via the Groovy Doom Facebook page, he curates vintage newsprint images of horror, cult and exploitation film advertisements. Bill has also written features for website That's Not Current. This is his first piece for Diabolique.

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