“I’m not an actor, but I play one on television.” That’s the thought speeding through my mind as I stood in an empty lot near an Outback Restaurant, dressed in a silver spacesuit, pretending to be a marooned astronaut. It was ninety-some degrees out. I was sweating, as were my co-stars, Amy Lynn Best, Charlie Fleming and Georgeann Scrabo. We were acting in a scene for a movie called “Dr. Horror’s Erotic House of Idiots” for our director, Paul Scrabo, who was directing us from a few feet away – more comfortably dressed, but sweating just the same. This is an example of no-budget filmmaking at its finest.
I met Paul Scrabo by accident. A thousand years ago, I was the temporary master for Debbie Rochon’s website. She had just shot an episode of an online stream and cable-access show called “The Front Row”, hosted by a charismatic man named Rich Scrivani. “The Front Row” was an interview show that focused on low-budget and indie filmmakers and personalities. Past guests included Kevin McCarthy (“Invasion of the Body Snatchers”) and Kevin J. Lindenmuth (the “Alien Agenda” series). As I was adding a link to the official “Front Row” site from Debbie’s, I saw a tiny little hyperlink at the bottom of “The Front Row” page that had been specifically for Debbie’s attention. Clicking it, I discovered Paul Scrabo. An NBC editor, Scrabo was the producer of the series in his spare time and he had built a secret page of pictures of himself, Rich and Debbie, taken on the set of the show – a gift to her as thanks for taking time out to appear on his humble web show.
He had also included his email address at the very bottom of the page. I couldn’t resist writing to him.
To my surprise, not only did Paul write back, but did not take me to task for invading the privacy of the page. He was actually grateful that I had taken the time to add the link – I had also given the show a small write up on my personal site, www.hollywoodisburning.com. For the next year, or so, I reviewed the sporadic “Front Row” episodes, exchanged pleasantries with Paul and soon a friendship was built. He became a big supporter of my as-yet unfinished film, “The Resurrection Game”, and was the first one to ever review the woeful workprint.
Before long, he informed me that he was starting his own production, with Debbie as the star – a loveletter to b-movies called “Dr. Horror’s House of Idiots”. He was writing the script with Brinke Stevens – one of the original Scream Queens – intending it to be a send-up of not only modern b-movies, but classic AIP anthology movies like “The Vault of Horror”, as well as a parody of “erotic” movies that seem to litter the shelves. Thus, the word “erotic” was inserted into the title.
The plot of “Dr. Horror’s” involved Frank, a former horror screenwriter (Michael R. Thomas), who is somehow talked into posing as a famous sex-therapist by the real doctor’s gardener (played by little-to-no-talent actor and Ed Wood co-conspirator, Conrad Brooks). When three patients show up, Frank launches into his best Sigmund Freud accent and proceeds to diagnose their sexual dilemmas the only way he can – by placing their problems into a horror context, thereby allowing for a zombie story, a wolfman story and a story involving undersexed female aliens. With room in between for additional parodies. Thus allowing for the maximum number of cameos possible in a low-budget movie.
It was a family affair. As Paul labored over the script, writing in scenes as they occurred to him, Georgeann would create the costumes and build the sets. He called in favors from friends he’d made over the years. Originally, the role of “Frank” had been written for horror-host Zacherly “The Cool Ghoul”. The aging actor declined, but agreed to make a cameo in the film – in a musical number of all things! Michael R. Thomas is best known for his small roles in a variety of Seduction Cinema movies – most notably “Smirnoff the Wizard” in “Lord of the G-Strings”. He’s a gifted make-up artist, working primarily on “Saturday Night Live”, and provided the service for the film. Brinke has a small and hilarious cameo in the film, and also co-wrote the final episode of the story.
The bulk of “Dr. Horror’s” was shot during the week of September 11, 2001 – an irony that was lost on no one. While the world was collapsing around them, Debbie, Conrad Brooks, Trent Haaga, Zacherly, Nathan Sears and Paul were concentrating on keeping their spirits up to film a goofy comedy.
As Paul would finish segments, he’d send me tapes in the mail, allowing me the opportunity to watch the film grow. When editing opportunities were slow in coming, I’d get snippets of scripts, requests for opinions on the abilities of this or that actress. Early on, I’d recommended Jasi Cotton Lanier (“Were-Grrl”) for her stunt abilities. Paul hired her and her friend Marina Morgan to play a pair of goofy neighbor girls that people mistake for lesbians. They also pop up in the alien sequence.
But it was to my complete astonishment that Paul approached me to be in the movie. I knew he wanted to put Amy in a role – so supportive he was of her performance in “The Resurrection Game” – and he was interested in having our co-producer/co-star Bill Homan appear in the film, but for some reason, he wanted me too. I have a role – actually multiple roles – in “The Resurrection Game” as well (the director’s cameo obligation), but you can hardly call what I do in the film “acting”. I’d done some – okay, we’ll call it acting for the sake of argument – on stage in high school and college, but again, nothing of award-winning quality. But Paul saw something of value in my performance – or perhaps, just wanted to see me sweat.
Get the rest of the story in part two of THE GEEKS SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH: ON THE SET OF “DR. HORROR’S EROTIC HOUSE OF IDIOTS”>>>