Wow, what a crazy dream! (Damn those 2AM White Castles…) Abandoned subways. Empty streets in the heart of Manhattan. People walking around in masks with paranoid looks in their eyes. Bloody fights over that last roll of toilet paper. KILLER HORNETS! Wait…
(THIS IS NOT A DREAM. THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!!!)
But at least during the self-quarantine, we get to binge watch all our favorite horror movies, from 1959’s The Bat (Who knew that movie would be so prophetic in 2020…) all the way to Amityville Island (Yes, there IS such a film…). This edition of Quarantine Quartet focuses on four men who know more than a thing or two about monster movies, slasher films, thrillers, and everything in between. They have either starred in them, made them, speak about them on TV, or a combination of the above. Jay Michaels, Tom Ryan, Stan the Mechanic, and Joe Zaso spoke to me about life in lockdown!
JR: Hi, Jay! Thank you for speaking with me! So, you’re always such a busy guy. What was your last big event before the lockdown?
JM: I was sitting in the audience enjoying an amazing performance of Mary Elizabeth Micari at Pangea. She had opened her musical series, Granny’s Blu-Mers, which I produced with her. Our intent was to have it run intermittently for 3 months. We noticed that members of her usual audience base didn’t come, claiming they were concerned about something they read that was happening in China. Long story short: Mary, quite astutely, decided to postpone the rest of her run. That was definitely a bullet we dodged. We’re working on an online version of the show now.
JR: I’m sorry that the run was postponed. I am happy, however, that I managed to see Mary’s show before the lockdown. You’ve always been involved with so many different endeavors. How have you been channeling your creative energies during the lockdown?
JM: I’m traveling two roads. My PR/Promotions Firm Jay Michaels Arts & Entertainment is helping my clients stay relevant during this time. Face to Face Films is starting a Zoom reading series, as has playwright Doug DeVita; Ripple Effect Artists is presenting a radio play and a new indie film; spit&vigor have combined two mediums by presenting Zoom readings of sitcom scripts and films; Infinite Variety Productions will be playing Nellie and the Women of Blackwell online. Hip Hop artist Justice is premiering the pilot of her impending TV series; and authors Jan Ewing, Tony Anthony, Susan Merson, and Patrick Hickey are showing their literary works online. And I’m working with Carrie Adele Isaacman and Ashley Griffin on two separate productions of Hamlet. I have interviewed all these artists on my podcast PassionPit as well as heroes like you, Jed! Even the historic Lambs organization is conducting Zoom interviews with the greats of Broadway, film, and TV.
However, the elephant in the room– well, more like the zombie in the room– is that I am spreading the word about the leading independent horror film Channel, Terror TV. They have an extensive catalog of classic independent horror films as well as an endless array of new ones. I’ve taken this opportunity to watch the movies along with two of my colleagues to supply reviews. Really great, really scary stuff! I also run the channel’s podcast. They were also a sponsor of the First Virtual Horror Convention, Phan-Con, presented by two of the stars of the Phantasm Film Franchise, Gigi & Reggie Bannister.
JR: That all sounds positively… THRILLING! What’s the first thing you are gonna do when the lockdown is over?
JM: I’m a really solitary guy when you get right down to it. I enjoy my private time immensely. But this is ridiculous! I know it will be a while, and I understand that and obey all laws regarding. I know it sounds funny, but I would just like to go shopping. Mary wants to go out in nature, and so do I; we both want to see people, but … I want to buy a shirt!
JR: I haven’t set foot inside a shopping mall since I saw Dawn of the Dead! (Laughs) While we are on the subject, what are some of your new favorite horror movies that you discovered recently?
JM: Terror TV has some really unique entries. My Guardian Angel is this atmospheric piece about twins with unearthly powers. It comes as close to the great Hammer Films as I’ve seen. Clinton Road, which is a dramatization of a true story about a haunted piece of highway in New Jersey, had some interesting effects. Terror Talk, the channel’s talk show, turned out to be an enthralling event. And then I delved into their classics: It was amazing to me how Nosferatu looks like a parable of today, as they call the vampire a plague as they assumed it was brought on by rats… and how the scene, simply, of people running into their homes with handkerchiefs over their face, locking the doors, looked chillingly reminiscent of today. There was another, Spider Baby. This film was truly the forerunner of so many films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It starred Lon Chaney Jr. and, to my astonishment, Sid Haig. And don’t get me started on the Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price and Horror Express with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Absolute feasts! All of these are on Terror TV, so I didn’t have to go looking for them.
So… by day I am extolling the virtues of indie theater and by night I am howling the hedonistic pleasures of indie horror filmmakers!
JR: Damn, you’re busier than ever! You may need to have an identical twin to help you out. Uhm, maybe not… Margot Kidder didn’t have much luck with that in Sisters! Thanks for speaking with me, Jay!
Jay Michaels is host of Terror Talk, the first original program of Terror TV, a channel dedicated to presenting indie horror, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery and suspense. The channel features cutting edge works by emerging filmmakers as well as classics featuring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Lon Chaney, Sid Haig and William Castle. Terror Talk has begun airing monthly 60-minute specials featuring a variety of guests – known for their work in the macabre media – discussing the genre’s reaction to everything from how fandom has changed to violence and sexual content in film to how the industry has affected world affairs – then and now.
Director/producer/actor/writer/musician Tom Ryan is a New Jersey native… and damn proud of it! Ryan created an independent production company named “Theatre of Terror” along with a handful of childhood friends that shared his taste for the macabre. Their first short film, Day 9, was launched in January of 2013. Since then, Ryan has directed nine films, serving as writer of eight of them and as producer of six of them. He is also an actor. Ryan’s films have won many awards at film festivals: for Ryan himself, for his fellow actors, and for the films themselves– with one film even winning for the soundtrack. Theatre of Terror, the movie, is Ryan’s anthology of four short horror films (The Gift, The Bookworm, Abducted, and Endangered), tied together with a story about a naïve young woman named Amber who visits a seemingly abandoned movie house– with truly haunting results. Trivia: Only three things in horror movies REALLY s
care the shit out of trigger me: dolls, shapeshifting, and aliens. Theatre of Terror had ALL OF THEM. Thanks a LOT, Tom… Fortunately, I’m NOT afraid of werewolves. Another of Ryan’s great passions is music. He’s been performing in bands since the age of 17 and is the lead singer and bass player for the band Vlad the Inhaler.
Tom Ryan made this exclusive video for Lavender After Dark speaking about life in lockdown…
Check out the trailer for Theatre of Terror’s upcoming film Soothsayer… and stay posted about the next Theatre of Terror anthology…
Check out the Theatre of Terror’s website at http://www.TheatreofTerror.net.
STAN THE MECHANIC
JR: Hello, Stan! Forgive me for being a little bit nervous, but that giant wrench… So, what was the last social (or anti-social…) gathering or event you attended before social isolation took over?
STM: Aww Jed you know Stan’s a man about town. When I’m not greasing someone’s axle or conjuring the dark forces I can usually be found tossing some back with the Bears of New York City.
Before we had to go into isolation, the last event I attended was Final Exam Trivia at Rockbar. It’s a monthly horror trivia night hosted by Ted Geoghegan (director of We Are Still Here) and Michael Gingold (from Fangoria and Rue Morgue magazines). I consider myself to be a horror expert but these guys give me a run for my money.
I also want to set the record straight if I can. As the world’s only Satanic Mechanic, a lot of people are assuming the Dark Lord and I had something to do with this pandemic. That’s not our bag bro- we aint that evil! I mean gratuitous nudity and good natured violence, sure! This pandemic is all on yous humans though, ya jerks.
JR: I know! Humanity is simply going to the devil. I’m sure YOU don’t mind… So… How are you staying busy during the pandemic? What horror movies are you watching or rediscovering?
STM: Well since my shop is closed down I’ve had a lot of time to devise new ways to f*#k with my playthings. The boss man sends me naughty boys and girls as part of their eternal punishment to do grunt work in my body shop. Oh I have such sights to show them when we reopen!
But besides that I have caught up on a lot of horror viewing- here are a few of my favorites:
Knife+Heart on HereTV – a masked killer stalks the cast and crew on a gay porn set . I mean what more do ya need. It really cranked my wrench.
Terrifier on Netflix- for the gore lovers out there, follow the adventures of Art the Clown as he goes on a Halloween night killing spree . Some of the coolest practical gore effects I have seen in a long time.
Slaughter High on Tubi- an 80s low budget cult classic focusing on a victim’s revenge against his high school tormentors
The Car on Vudu- A car goes on a murderous rampage in a small town- good stuff! This beaut has been in the my shop. It was an honor to have my head under his hood. Woof!
Day of the Dead on Tubi- because who doesn’t love a good zombie flick?! Plus how can you not love “Bub” the zombie. He’s dreamy in that nightmarish undead way I so enjoy!
JR: Indeed… but I wouldn’t even know the term for someone who is sexually attracted to zombies. You may need to invent one! Lastly, what is the first thing you are going to do when this pandemic is over?
STM: I am going to grab my playthings and head back to the workshop to begin filming season one of Stan the Mechanic!! HereTV has given us access to their horror library and I am going to be putting my unique devilish/ New York spin on a selection of their LGBT horror movies! Its sure to be a fun/ silly/ insightful and sexy good time! Badda bing!
JR: Yeah, that sounds like one HELL of a good time… Sorry, Dad joke…
John Hernandez, the alter ego of Stan The Mechanic, is an actor, writer and comedian born and raised in New York City. As a long time horror fan, he is thrilled to bring his character Stan the Mechanic to life for the Here TV audience. As an out and proud gay man, John identifies as a Bear and is truly honored to help give visibility to the LGBTQ+ community and people of size in the horror genre. He is looking forward to a spooky good time with all of you in the Fall of 2020 when the show premieres. In the meantime, keep up with him @theboogeybear on Instagram and Twitter to follow all his horrifying adventures! For status updates on the show please join him on Facebook and also visit his official site here. (Photos of Stan by Catalin Stelian-Shanks. Poster by Syluss AJ Afano.)
JR: Hi, Joe! Thanks for speaking with me. You’re a well-known man around town. What was the last social gathering or event you attended before the “social isolation” took over?
JZ: Officially, I had a belated St. Joseph’s Day Dinner with my Mom. Before that, it was probably Final Exam Horror Trivia at Rockbar.
JR: Gotcha! How are you staying busy during the pandemic?
JZ: Working from home, working out, cooking, TV binge-watching (I got re-acquainted with Hot in Cleveland and Grace and Frankie, in particular.) and re-connecting with old friends. Check out my makeshift work-out supplies from ACE Hardware:
JR: I’m impressed! So, we are all getting pretty restless! What is the first thing you are going to do when the pandemic is over?
JZ: Get a tan and then hug someone hard!
JR: In which order? (Laughs) Well, I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding someone to help you break the “social distancing” rules! Thank you for speaking with me, Joe.
Joe Zaso is an actor, model, filmmaker, producer, chef, and author. He’s also… a horror movie expert! Zaso’s list of horror film acting credits include Virus X, Braincell, Beast, Darkness Surrounds Roberta, Nikos the Impaler, 5 Dead on the Crimson Canvas, and Jack Attack (which he also produced). He is the creator of Café Himbo, which brings together cooking, comedy, and cult movie personalities. Joe has created a Café Himbo webseries and has written SEVEN cookbooks featuring recipes from all his fellow celebrity friends, the seventh one named Quarantine Cuisine. It comes out May 15th. You can watch episodes of Café Himbo, see Zaso’s movie trailers, buy his books, and see lots of amazing photos at http://www.JoeZaso.net.
(Bloody frame PNG used with permission.)