Jim Towns [Interview]

headshotEver once in a great while, I tend to come across an individual in the independent film world that strikes me as absolutely amazing, and I become amazed that their talents are only now beginning to become acknowledged.  And they each seem to have one common aspect with one another:  Drive!  Regular readers may remember folks like Jacob Vaughan or Dan Dobi or Christian Grillo, etc., who we interview some time ago.  Well, now I have a really damn great filmmaker in our digital pages.  Introducing (although I shouldn’t have to), the great Jim Towns.

I recently discovered Mr. Towns when I got word that his latest film, House of Bad, had completely sold out on Amazon, and I was instantly intrigued.  I have spoken with several different folks from the indie horror world, and I knew this was quite the feet that should not be ignored.  I became instantly intrigued and decided I just had to investigate further.  And that is even before I watched House of Bad, and instantly understood the mass appeal.  It is an amazing film with the perfect blend of tension and terror.  It is a beautifully crafted indie horror masterpiece.  So, I thought it would be great to steal a few words from Jim Towns to tell us a bit more about House of Bad, his introduction to the film world, and……working on the TV show Reba.  Yep, Reba.  Enjoy!

 

When did you first realize you wanted to work in the world of film?

I came up through illustration, painting and comics, actually. That’s what I majored in in college. But growing up I’d always shot films with my friends and that cinematic style always influenced me in my artwork. It wasn’t until about 1999 when digital video and non-linear editing systems really came on that I started seeing the possibilities for taking the stories I was trying to tell on paper and making them come to life. One of the first digital films my friend Mike McKown and I created was a short called The Sleep of Reason, about a man in a turn-of-the-century insane asylum who’s in love with the nurse giving him electro shock treatment. It’s up on Youtube. I’d done it as a short black and white comic in college, but what I found was I could imbue the story with so many more subtleties in this new medium- for me, there was really no going back.

Has directing always been your number one goal when it comes to being a part of the world of film?

Pretty much. I enjoy screenwriting and have written a few films for other directors, but I enjoy taking on the challenge of taking something from the page that I wrote months or even years ago and making it come to life. Writing is a very solitary exercise, which can be nice, but I’ve always enjoyed the camaraderie that happens on set when you have a gang of folks all busting their humps to get all the day’s shots done before wrap. It’s hard but when you work with good people like I do, that challenge can be a lot of fun.

How did you come up with the concept for House of Bad?  What was your “inspiration” per say?

I’d had the idea of these three women stuck in a room (originally it was a motel room) with a suitcase full of stolen drugs for a long time. From back when I was doing comics and illustration. So it was originally going to be a graphic novel. Then when I started getting into film I was doing a lot of more artistic/experimental work, and I had the idea to put it on as a black box theater play, and then film it. Ultimately the cinematic nature of the story asserted itself, and in 2011 when I was looking for a straight-up bare bones thriller to shoot, there it was waiting for me. The idea of marrying the supernatural horror of the house with the real-world terror of the girls being hunted by the drug dealer they stole from emerged around that time, and from there the story all fell into place.

jim 2012 medExactly how excited were you to learn that Amazon had completely sold of copies of House of Bad?  Were you surprised at all? 

The release was kind of exciting and frustrating and mind-blowing all at once. I’ve never had a film come out on this level, with this much press and critical acclaim and all. The ramp up was really intense- that whole month of November I was doing tons of web interviews and radio and we were promoting online like crazy, so it was all a bit of a blur, but an amazing blur. I think Amazon wasn’t quite ready for how big the demand was going to be, and we were sold out by like 4PM the day of the release. Crazy. Then they restocked and we sold out again the next week. Our awesome PR chief Clint Morris and my producers Scott and Dorota and I were constantly communicating with a lot of fans online asking for their patience until all the backordered copies finally shipped, but they did and hopefully everyone thought it was worth the wait.

It’s an incredible compliment to have that kind of demand for something you’ve created, and I’m really appreciative to my producers, our distributor Osiris, October Coast PR, and the cast and crew for all pitching in to help get us to this point.

I noticed through some research (on IMDB, so it could be wrong) that you worked as a Production Assistant on the hit television show Reba.  That is quite a different setting from the terror filled movies you create in your own time!  But tell us if you will, are there any similarities to working on a family friendly show featuring a country music sensation and working on an independent horror film?  And besides the obvious things like budgets and special effects, what is so drastically different between the two?

Reba was my first real gig when I moved out to LA in 2005 with everything I could fit in the back of my Saturn. I was lucky to get the job, and luckier still that my first experience on a studio production was with the nicest production company and crew working in TV. In my experience that kind of attitude always comes straight down from the top. I’m not a huge country fan, but I knew who Reba was of course (one of our first conversations was about one of my favorite films, Tremors). It was intimidating at first, but Reba’s an incredible blend of talent and instinct and class, mixed with humility, courtesy, an incredible work ethic and an unrelenting drive to be the absolute best she can be. I’ve since worked with more than a few people that are labeled “superstars”, but let me tell you, that woman owns the title. What I learned from Reba is, when you’re the head of whatever you’re making, be it a sitcom or a film or whatever, if you really want to inspire everyone you have to set the example as far as your work ethic goes, which is what she always did. I really hope I’ll get to work with her again in some capacity someday.

As far as being different- I mean really, whatever format you’re doing- a 30 minute TV comedy or a 90 minute horror film- it’s really just all about actors saying lines and recording them on some form of media until you can put it together to make a complete story. At its most basic level that’s all we do… so the difference is maybe less than some people might think. Of course a studio-budgeted sitcom works on a much bigger scale than a small indie horror film. There are a lot more assets and luxuries- which are nice of course- but along with all those come a lot more people to please: producers to listen to, stars to manage, network executives to deal with. It’s not exactly a streamlined process. At the moment I’m pitching a ½ hour zombie sitcom around, so I very well may find myself in a similar position someday soon, but for right now I enjoy the fluidity of working small and fast, lean and mean.

Can you tell us anything about your upcoming project 13 Girls?

 13 Girls is on track to hopefully film this summer. It’s about a troubled female detective who is assigned to investigate the group suicide of a graduating class at an all-girls Catholic high school. As she delves deeper into the mystery, she discovers a demonic force at work behind the scenes, and is forced to face her own dark past in order to confront the evil and protect her world. The film stars Sadie Katz from House of Bad, who’s fantastic of course, on and off set, as well as some cool genre actors folks may know, like Daniel Roebuck and P.J. Soles. It’s a real step up in scale from House of Bad, and I think people are gonna dig it.

What else does the future hold for Jim Towns?  Any other projects you are working on that you can tell us about?

We’re in the early stages on a film I wrote which was originally called A Man with a Gun, but is now titled 2 Hell and Back. It’s set in the American Dustbowl era, and is about a retired gunman who makes a deal with the devil after his wife and son are killed. It’s got tons of action and horror and martial arts, so it should be a real cool film. So far we’ve attached Tony Todd and Dani Lennon to star in it, and right now we’re looking at locations to shoot as diverse as New Mexico, Spain, Canada and Australia.

If you could tell (or re-tell) the story of any famous serial killer, psychopath, murderer, etc. in history what would it be?  Why?

Hmm… that’s tough. I’m actually not that huge into the whole serial killer/true crime thing. It’s pretty done. I really liked Caleb Carr’s books The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness, which both have a loose base in historical fact. Those would be fun to try to adapt into films, I think. I’ve also worked up what I think is a pretty unique take on Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, which might make it a little more cinematically dynamic than what’s been done to date. Hopefully that may happen someday.

jim san pedro 1 medWhat was the last thing that made you smile?

My wife and I recently adopted an alley cat who used to hang out around our place, and now he’s pretty comfortable around us. Sometimes I leave my door open when I write, and he’ll wander in and hang out. He’s pretty good at letting me bounce ideas off him. Every writer should have a trusty assistant like that.

 

Pick up your own copy of House of Bad, which is once again available at Amazon.com

Jade Sylvan [Artist]

Jade Sylvan2I want to be frank right from the start with this post.  This is indeed a feature on the amazingly talented author/actress/all sorts of cool things Jade Sylvan and her upcoming tour of the Great Northwest.  I will definitely get to that as I really want all of you to know about it, and everyone I know in the area to attend and/or listen to the events she will be attending.  But, there is another story that I really want to tell.  It is the tale of how I have come to “know” Jade, which is really a tale of how wonderful the internet can be, despite it’s sometimes well deserved ill reputation, and how the marketing and networking effects of this modern technology can lead to discovering some brilliant works and developing grand friendships.

I have been trying to mentally sketch exactly just how far back I should go in this tale, and it I believe I have found the majestic culprit.  That being said, I really don’t know how exactly I came in contact with the first person, but it is a good enough place to start I believe.  In fact the original culprit may very well be a little social media enterprise that once ruled the kingdom of the inter webs known as MySpace.  But, in an effort to make this a more human interaction amongst the galaxies of satellites and laser beams that consist of a millennia’s worth of information, I will name some names.  Not to sound to cliché, but “it all started with…..” current Y La Bamba bassist and vocalist Ben Meyercord.  I discovered Ben way back in 2008 when I started to realize that it was quite possible to continue to hear music from my homeland, the Northwest, even though I was stranded out in the prairie of South Dakota.  Listening to his then solo project simply titled Meyercord, I then discovered that Ben had been doing some writing for a little Seattle-based blog entitled Fensepost, ran by indie music know it all Andrew Fenstermaker.  I began to check the twice daily posts Andy or Ben put up and loving each one more than the next.  And that is when I thought, I wonder if I could do this?  And sure enough, there was an advertisement in the About Fensepost section stating that Andy was looking for some help in the writing department.  I have harbored dreams of writing for a living, or at least in a public setting of some sort, since I was a small child.  And I loved independent music.  So why not give a shot at writing about it?  And the rest, as they say, is the history of how I became a blogger.

For 4 years or so I had the joy and honor of writing for Fensepost.  And in this time I would bear witness to some pretty amazing music.  And it was through Fensepost that I was introduced to the delightful Janelle Rogers.  Janelle is the leading lady behind one of my favorite publicity companies, Green Light Go!  I had written on a few occasions about one of her clients, Shawn Fogel a.k.a. Golden Bloom (now a full band!) who I absolutely adored.  And when I learned that Shawn had started a ukelele based tribute band to Neutral Milk Hotel, cleverly titled Neutral Uke Hotel, I was obviously intrigued!  Whilst covering their uke version of “King of Carrot Flowers”, I then became intrigued by the man in the background with the delightful mustache.  A bit of research lead me to discover that this man was also a client of Janelle Rogers.  This man was none other than Michael J. Epstein.  I then began listening intently to a little band from Massachusetts known as The Michael J. Epstein Library and was hooked.  MJE Library would then lead me to one of his other (he has many) projects with the great Sophia Cacciola, Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, and I instantly became a huge fanboy for everything Mike and Sophia were involved with, which stands to this very day!

from the film TEN.

from the film TEN.

For loyal TWS readers, most of these names should be new.  I have continuously covered the for mentioned artists on several occasions, and they have even been kind enough to contribute so some of our year-end lists, and as Guest Wreckers.  And one of the projects we have covered quite extensively is the film TEN, an amazing little horror film directed by Epstein and Cacciola, and features so many amazing talents such another TWS regular Catherine Capozzi, and, finally………….Jade Sylvan!

Phew!  So there you have it.  A 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon explanation that could have been summed up better, I know.  But, here we are!  Jade Sylvan not only starred in TEN, but was responsible for the wonderful novelization of the film.  This was when I came to find that Jade Sylvan was not only a talented actress and former model, she is a brilliant writer as well.  She recently released her autobiographical novel Kissing Oscar Wilde as well, which is really why I wanted to tell you fine folks a bit about her.  I have yet to check out KOW, but it has been on my reading list since I learned of its inception.  But, I have completed the novelization of the film TEN, and it is unlike any novelization I have ever read.  Sylvan’s smooth prose and narrative is as beautiful and natural as a kitten with an uncoiled ball of yarn, even when she is described dramatic scenes of death and turmoil as she does in TEN.  Being ever so lucky enough to get a glimpse at TEN before its official release this weekend at both the Brooklyn Girl Film Festival and Boston Underground Film Festival, I was pleased to find that I was still fascinated with TEN as though it were an all new story.  Sylvan has a style that is either truly unique, or on par with some of the finest writers in recent history, that should be left to the reader to decide I imagine.

So when I completed TEN, I set out to do a book review, but then came to realize that something else wonderful was going to happen.  Jade Sylvan has plans to do a reading tour in support of Kissing Oscar Wilde.  And even better than that, it’s in the Great Northwest!!!  This will probably be the only time I will say this, but:  “I wish was in Spokane, Washington instead of southern Spain right now!”.  That being said, the cherry on top of it all is that Jade has actually made plans to perform not only in Spokane (nobody does that anymore, it seems!) but the awesome Broken Mic show at my favorite spot in my former city, Baby Bar (or Neato Burrito, if you want to be technical for the Spokanites).  So when she threw out that she could use some help paying for this tour, I practically lunged myself into the internet to support her Indiegogo campaign, essentially just pre-order the copy of Kissing Oscar Wilde I already had every intention of being, but now I get a personalized filthy drawing as well!  I also felt it would be great if my old pal Bob Rice might have her on his amazing weekly show on 88.1 KYRS Thin Air Community Radio known as Crossroads.  And she shall!  Check HERE for details, make plans to listen on line, and come right back here.  Beyond Spokane, Jade can also be spotted in cities like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, and more.  For a full list of appearances, check out her website, but again come right back for I am not done with you yet.

Kissing Oscar Wilde by Jade Sylvan

Kissing Oscar Wilde by Jade Sylvan

If I haven’t made myself clear, which I am often prone to do so, my discovery of Jade Sylvan is owed to a long line of coincidences and chance (digital) encounters.  I have never met Janelle Rogers, Michael J. Epstein, Sophia Cacciola, or Jade Sylvan in person.  And I have had only brief, although enjoyable, encounters with Andrew Fenstermaker and Ben Meyercord.  Yet, these are the people who have shown me so much love, support, and more importantly, their talents to not just me, but to the world.  And this my friends, is how the internet can be so much more than a den of identity theft and malicious code.  Or even more than hateful comment threads and cat videos.  If the fine people spinning around on the world wide web would simply stop and realize exactly what is at their disposal and just how great it can be to discover wonderful independent artists like Jade Sylvan, just imagine how much better the world could be?  Imagine using the most powerful tool in human history to build a solid foundation of love and support for one another, all the while discovering such beautiful art?  I know it sounds ridiculous, because sadly human nature doesn’t work that way.  Sometimes we all just seem to be nothing more than a series metaphors and practical jokes.  Day in and day out, we are little girls in hiding in attics with the belief that “people are actually good inside”, only be captured, beaten, and burned.

Wow, that seems like kind of a bummer way to finish, but so be it.  Just make sure you find your way to see Jade Sylvan spit some wonderful poetry and prose in my favorite regions of the world!  Let’s show this east coast lady that we have so much more to offer than Starbucks and rain and weird Gus Van Sant movies (and by weird I mean great!).  Please show some love and support for Jade as she ventures her way to my homeland, because I want to make sure she will ever want to come back when I might be around!

 

Jade Sylvan4Note:  As of this being published, there are approximately 20 hours left for Jade’s Indiegogo campaign.  So, if you want to pick up some really cool swag while helping Jade pay for this venture, you still have time!  If you are reading this after March 28th, well, go to her website and buy some stuff, including her book Kissing Oscar Wilde.  Cheers!

Joyland by Stephen King [Book]

Joyland by Stephen KingAfter realizing his romantic life is not going in the direction he’d hoped, Devin Jones decides to take a summer job at an amusement park. There he makes friends with Tom Kennedy and Erin Cook, also summer hires at Joyland, which years before had been the scene of the murder of a young woman named Linda Gray whose ghost is said to be seen at the Horror House. He also befriends a young boy, named Mike Ross and his mother, Annie. Their lives all become entwined when Devin decides to investigate the mystery of Linda Gray’s unsolved murder by the “Carny Killer.”

STEPHENKING.COM

 

 

I just need to say first off, that Joyland shouldn’t really be classified as a “thriller” or “suspense” novel.  This is simply because there was absolutely nothing thrilling or suspenseful about it.  The books acts mainly as a sort of How To guide to working at a third rate amusement park during the 1970’s.  I also have to say that this is probably the worst book by Stephen King I have ever read.  But, as I have said before about the likes of Palahniuk, it was still pretty good (remember the sex pizza reference?  yeah, it’s like that).  It’s not that book is bad, just a sort of jumbled mindfuck that seems to take the easy way out at so many moments.

The novel’s main focus is advertised as being about a ghost of girl that was murdered and now haunts a (Surprise!) haunted house ride at this busted ass amusement park these days.  Yet, the damn ghost was hardly explained in the first act of the book, mentioned even less in the second, and had it’s story concluded in a bullshit manner in the third.  Oh, okay, so the boy can read minds, so that obviously means he can be the one to set the ghost free?  Sure, whatever, let’s get back to the kid losing his virginity.  That is my only real gripe is that this was suppose to be a suspense novel.  Which I really shouldn’t mind because I generally don’t like suspense or thriller or horror as genres for reading, although I seem to have dug into more of them lately.  I also feel the same for books centered around cops, with the exception of the Fletch series and Bukowski’s last novel Pulp.  But, Stephen King is, well, the Stephen King of horror and suspense.  Although he is also the genius behind such wonderful stories that are only mentally horrifying like The Green Mile and Rita Haworth and the Shawshank Redemption (these are prison based books, prison guards don’t count as cops), and he seemed to have sort of mashed together these two styles of writing.  Which is shame because it is suppose to be a book about a goddamn ghost!

Stephen KingBut, although the book is only 15% ghosts and 85% coming of age in the 70’s, the best parts where the unnecessary ones.  And much like all of Stephen King’s work, it is so damn easy to become mentally invested in the well being of the characters.  I found myself wishing nothing but the best for the main character, and absolutely horrified when I discovered that is own hero was actually the legendary woman slayer who killed the girl 4 years earlier inside the Haunted House ride.  I was actually furious at this fact.  The dude I thought could have only been played by Matthew McConaughey if a film adaptation where to be made (the lead would go to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in case you were wondering, but in the era of Brick, not that piece of shit Looper), was the bad guy?  Leave it to King to perfectly ruin our interpretations of heroes and assholes.  So in this respect, King did alright.  King can write the shit out of a character, this is just a fact.  Hell, it is a widely know fact that he wrote some many books under the influence of drugs and alcohol that he doesn’t even remember writing them.  Yet is is still impeccable at character development, and in the case of those few novels, able to scare the shit out of you.  Now that’s punk rock, if you ask me.

Go ahead and read this book.  I definitely recommend the audiobook.  Michael Kelly does a bang up job on this one.  Just take heed that you shouldn’t really be looking to get yourself scared, it’s not going to happen.  And understand that this may very well be the most forgettable works by the legendary Stephen King you will ever read.  And that even at King’s worst, he’s still probably a better writer than you.  Enjoy!

Note: 2014 is the first year for book reviews at Trainwreck’d Society.  We will be making a valiant effort to read and review at least 100 books.  This is review #12.  Be sure to stay in touch and be on the lookout for further reviews throughout 2014.  Be sure to let us know if we are falling behind.  For a complete list of book reviews, click HERE.  Enjoy!

Tacocat: NVM [Album]

Tacocat NVM LargeI’m not much for loudness.  I have to admit this right off before even beginning to speak of Tacocat’s last album, NVM.  I am more prone to listen to calming indie folk over loud pop-punk clatter.  But, there are always exceptions.  Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children Macnuggits are one of them.  And yet an even further stretch from my regular listening is the female fronted (and 3/4 total having vaginas) and absolutely brilliant Tacocat.  In the vain of Hot Pants Romance and so many other brilliant pop punkster, this is band that anybody can love, no matter how scared we are of the powers of the loud.

NVM takes all of one large cup of coffee to listen too.  Each track is fast paced and packed with excitement.  And underneath the happy go lucky attitudes, there is a plethora of great stories to be told.  Dancing with rainbows, surfing, snow days.  Just as Tacocat is in sound, these songs are all about fun!  Even when the subject matter may be horrifying, it still makes me smile!  How can you not smile whilst hearing what sounds like The Go Go’s dropped acid and drank 14 Red Bulls with no regard for their never going to die existence.

And as I mentioned in last year’s 12 For ’12, Tacocat is one of the funnest acts to see live.  I would give my favorite child’s soul to catch them playing these new songs live.  They’ve been around the country lately, including some stints at SXSW.  And they are soon to be making their way back to their homeland of Seattle, Washington soon.  But, not just yet!  I recommend you put on your finest dancing shoes and see these cats (all pun intended) live and in person!  You’d be a real schmuck if you were to miss seeing Tacocat live!

Remaining Tour Dates:

03.25.14 – Washington, DC – Velvet Lounge
03.26.14 – Baltimore, MD – The Metro Gallery
03.27.14 – New Brunswick, NJ – House Party
03.28.14 – Philadelphia, PA – Golden Tea House
03.29.14 – Brooklyn, NY – Death By Audio
03.30.14 – Boston, MA – House Party
03.31.14 – New York, NY – Hunter College
04.01.14 – Pittsburgh, PA – Mr. Roboto Project
04.02.14 – Columbus, OH – Carabar
04.03.14 – Detroit, MI – Elijah’s
04.04.14 – Milwaukee, WI – Center St. Free Space
04.05.14 – Madison, WI – Rathskellar, University of Wisconsin Madison campus
04.06.14 – Chicago, IL – The Township
04.07.14 – Omaha, NE – Middle Haus
04.09.14 – Denver, CO – Rhinoceropolis
04.10.14 – Salt Lake, UT – Diabolical Records
04.11.14 – Boise, ID – The Crux
04.12.14 – Seattle, WA – ‘Mo-Wave

 

Find out more about this amazing band at their website.  You can also check out a band feature we did here at Trainwreck’d Society back in 2011.

Blaze by Richard Bachman [Book]

Blaze by Richard BachmanOnce upon a time, a fellow named Richard Bachman wrote Blaze on an Olivetti typewriter, then turned the machine over to Stephen King, who used it to write Carrie. Bachman died in 1985 (“cancer of the pseudonym”), but this last gripping Bachman novel resurfaced after being hidden away for decades an unforgettable crime story tinged with sadness and suspense. Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., was always a small-time delinquent. None too bright either, thanks to the beatings he got as a kid. Then Blaze met George Rackley, a seasoned pro with a hundred cons and one big idea. The kidnapping should go off without a hitch, with George as the brains behind their dangerous scheme. But there’s only one problem: by the time the deal goes down, Blaze’s partner in crime is dead. Or is he? – GOODREADS.COM

I can’t tell you rightfully how long it has been since I read a book from Stephen King.  I can tell you that I spent a whole lot of time between the ages of 8-18 living in the worlds he created.  Whether it was digging into his books, or watching the many film adaptations, he was a huge inspiration to me.  I can remember watching Maximum Overdrive or The Shining with my Grandma in the late hours, loving the sensational amount of fear I was feeling.  I remember reading his short story Apt Pupil in my sophomore year of high school during Sustained Silent Reading time and becoming so damn entranced that I hadn’t noticed that the bell had rung, and I was going to miss my next class.  Funny how the god damn teacher didn’t say a word, but that’s probably a whole other story.

There is a reason Stephen King might very well be the most famous writer in modern American history.  He is a writer that anybody can get into, and almost everybody has.  He released work as feverishly as Woody Allen makes films, and he has a natural ability to be able to turn everything he sees into a story.  And he has been doing it for over 40 years.  One thing I could never understand, because I never really cared to Google it anyway, is why a man with the name Stephen King would use a pseudonym like Richard Bachman.  Your name has King in it!  King!  This should be wore like a god damned badge of honor, not as a hidden little secret from the world.  But no matter, a guy with such immense talent as this can call himself Archibald Big Nuts Johnson III and it will still create some amazing work.

The story behind Blaze is that it was written in the early 70’s by “Richard Bachman”, and found by Stephen King about 30 years later.  King updated and touched up the book a bit, and finally released this treasure to the world.  I have heard a lot of talk about Stephen King simply slinging out bullshit just because he knows it will sell if it has his name on it.  Sort of like Quentin Tarantino does on shitty kung fu movies, except King puts more effort into his work rather than just throwing money at the RZA and says Go!  And as I mentioned earlier, I haven’t read much of King since high school (holy shit that was a long time ago!) so I don’t really know what he is up to these days.  Blaze is obviously a 40 year old novel written in a very different time, only slightly reinvented.  And unlike to so many “never before seen” type of works we see being reinvented by wealthy writers lately, this is a fucking brilliant piece of literature.

Richard BachmanIn the books introduction, written by Stephen King, it is clearly stated that this was an early piece of work for him, and that it is highly influenced by John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.  This was a very wonderful revelation to come to know before reading the book.  This is because anybody who went to junior high school will instantly understand the reference, even if King had said nothing at all.  Blaze is obviously Lenny.  And hell, the George character in this book is incredibly similar to the George character in Of Mice and Men.  Instead of a “wabbit”, this book has an actual baby named Joe.  And the same sentiments towards this big Oaf become amazingly clear, and you find yourself rooting for the “bad guy”.  Yes, the similarities are obvious and clear.  Yet the story has an original freshness that is undeniable.  I think it is just a sort of American spirit that many of us have.  We want to root for the little guy (or the giant dope) and see them prosper, although we know in the end that many books are a reflection of the real world, and it probably isn’t going to work out in the end.  Yet we routinely show our inner support for a book’s antagonist even though we know we will only be let down.  And Blaze is a good one for this type of set up.  I was sure this silly fuck head was going to get away with it, right up until the very end.

I was honestly surprised at how much I got into this story.  There is nothing starkly complex about it, which I can appreciate.  Aside from our beloved Oaf hearing the voice of his recently deceased friend, there is no sense of science fiction in this work, which is how I have always preferred King’s work.  There really is nothing to take away from this book that we haven’t already taken from other stories.  I am not ashamed to say that I am cashing this book in as just another beautiful number to the already astonishingly impressive library of Stephen King.

Note: 2014 is the first year for book reviews at Trainwreck’d Society.  We will be making a valiant effort to read and review at least 100 books.  This is review #11.  Be sure to stay in touch and be on the lookout for further reviews throughout 2014.  Be sure to let us know if we are falling behind.  For a complete list of book reviews, click HERE.  Enjoy!

Daniel Pintauro [Interview]

Daniel PintauroTrainwreck’d Society is no stranger to interviewing actors who grew up in the spotlight, and often on television shows that required said actor have whole other family to perform with for several years.  And today we have another fine actor who did just that!  Daniel Pintauro has basically moved on from the world of acting lately, but he definitely will never be forgotten in the world of television history.  Daniel “Danny” Pintauro will always be remember as little Jonathan Bower, the toe-head and lovable son of Judith Light’s character Angela Bower on the brilliant sitcom that spanned 8 wonderful years, Who’s The Boss?  

And much like a Christine Lakin or a Karyn Parsons, who we have spoken with in the past, Mr. Pintauro has managed to live a very respectful life after his years as a childhood star, beating the odds and stereotypes that the media beset upon young Hollywood.  Even more so though, Daniel is a true inspiration.  Most young people today may not realize it, but a certain part of his lifestyle used to be a metaphorical pill to swallow in the 80’s and 90’s.  You see, Mr. Pintauro is gay.  (Pause for gasp coming all the way back from 1999)  Yes, this day and age, the most common answer (or at least it SHOULD be) will probably be “Yeah, who gives a shit?”.  Which is a good thing.  And of course I am not saying that the unnecessary bigotry and hatred doesn’t still exist in this country, it’s simply stymied a bit in the last 15 years or so.  And the only reason I even mention these facts about Daniel is to point out that he was one of the first celebrities who decided to “out” himself, in the days before people started getting some damn sense at decided to stop being such assholes.

I could go on and on about why I think Mr. Pintauro is such a brave and brilliant man, but I think it would be better to let the man tell you himself.  So, we are so happy that Daniel has agreed to answer a few questions for you fine readers.  Enjoy!

After spending 8 years of your life with a television family on Who’s The Boss?, did you all manage to create a real bond similar to a real family?  Are you still in touch with any of them? 

I’m still in touch with Tony [Danza]. My fiance and I sent him an invitation to our wedding which he was excited to receive. During the filming, yes, we did take on the role of family… and not just the cast. The crew who worked on the show all those years also became a part of my extended family. The bond that is the closest is between the cast, partly because we’re actors creating a familial bond in character – that inevitably blends into our personal feelings as well. For a few years after the show ended we did continue our relationships. I would call it an extended family relationship. You don’t speak to them all the time, but you call on holidays and enjoy seeing them at family gatherings. Now, with nearly 30 years having passed, I know that if I were to see any of them, we would smile, hug and reminisce.

What is your earliest memory of acting that you can even remotely remember?  Is it memorable to you in some way? 

I think my earliest memory is very likely having filmed a commercial for a toy called Clip Clop, the Wonder Horse, or something similar. It was an amazing rocking horse toy that was able to whinny and make noises while you rode it. I remember filming because I was having so much fun riding the horse, I rode it too hard and bonked my nose on the plastic mane.

Daniel Pintauro2What do you believe to be the deciding factors that made you NOT go absolutely insane from being a child star? 

Believe me, I’ve had some insane moments. I’ve had lots of down moments… tons of confusion about life and direction confusion. I’ve had very low moments that most people don’t really know about. That’s what being a child celebrity does. I truly think the deciding factor though in my lack of total demise into drugs and who knows what else was my education. My parents were starting to see the effects on child stars when I started 7th grade, so they went to the producers of “Who’s The Boss?,” and told them either to let me go to an actual school or that I wasn’t coming back to the show. Typically a TV kid has a set tutor and picks up schoolwork from a school they don’t actually attend. I did the opposite. I went to school every day, then to work in the afternoon, where I worked with the tutor on my homework. That led me directly to wanting to go to college, to Stanford. All of that forced me to not spend my days wondering when the next acting gig was going to come.

In an interview you did with Metro Magazine in 1999 you were asked What can we do to get Hollywood to finally say, “Look, it’s okay to be gay and it won’t harm your career?”.  Your answer was simple: Time.  Well given that said interview was 15 years ago, do you think it has gotten any better in Hollywood?

YES. Completely. I mean, not just in Hollywood but the whole country is going through a ‘gay renaissance,’ of sorts. Other people are finding out that we are not scary or crazy. Its become the thing to stand behind, if one has any modicum of intelligence and concern for equal rights. I think I came out before Ellen and Rosie. I was one of the first, not the most famous, of course, but one of the first. At that time, the idea of a state allowing same-sex marriage was laughable. How many states…now?

What would you consider to be the hardest part for you when you decided to come out, although I understand the National Inquirer didn’t give you much of an option?  Do you still feel any sort of struggle to simply be who you are, and love whoever you please?

Yeah, it was not my choice. But Judith Light told me that I should speak to the Enquirer reporter who called me because ‘They can say what they want but they cannot misquote you.’ Turned out they wrote an unbelievably kind story! The hardest part by far was after college when I decided to pursue acting again only to find that my having come out was going to hinder the success of that career exponentially. This was 10 years ago when actors like Neil Patrick Harris weren’t coming out all the time and still having careers playing straight characters. This was when the only role I could potentially get was the queer friend or neighbor. Neither of which had more than a few lines in anything. [laughs] That was devastating because no matter how good an actor or how much I wanted it, I had a long list of items stacked against me, ultimately ruining my interest in being an actor altogether.

You seem to have chosen to move out of the spotlight not long after Who’s The Boss? ended.  Was there anything particular that prompted your departure, and brought on your on again off again relationship with the world of acting?

Stanford, as I mentioned above. Moving to New York City to be a theater actor, for sure. And lots of personal time trying to figure out who I was, and believe it or not, all of those things stacked against me, prevented me from making a splash again as an actor, to the point where eventually, after many, many tries, I gave up on acting altogether.

danny_pintauro_1187750871What are your plans for the future?  Any chance of seeing you on the silver screen any time soon?

No. No screentime any time soon. My fiance and I would like to eventually open up a Bed & Breakfast somewhere in Northern California wine country. He would like us to do a reality show about the endeavor, but I think it would ruin the passion I have for the project. He says that I should try acting again, here and there, but knows I have no interest. I mean, if someone were to offer me something and my availability allowed for it, I would say SURE! But am I ever going to pursue a career as actor? No.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

An hourly employee jokingly told me that my work outfit, though cute, reminded her of the outfit she puts her 7-year-old in on Easter Sunday. I laughed.

The Renault Tapes Vol. 1 [Exclusive!]

RenaultAs some of you know, I recently moved to southern Spain.  It has been a great transition, and I am finding pros and cons to European lifestyles versus American lifestyles.  Pros and cons may not be the best choice of words, but it’s all I can think of right now.  In fact, all of the cons could probably be resolved if my Spanish were better than it is.  Sure they tax and fee the shit out of everything around here, but the States have that problem as well.  They have to pay for things like somehow as well.  On the other hand, traffic circles are an absolute delight!  Step your game up America, lose the damn stoplights!

Another wonderful thing about Europe that I absolutely adore is their consistent use of very small cars.  I’m not sure if it is the smaller, older roads or the fact that, much like their meals, Europeans don’t seem to have a “bigger is better” attitude.  I have seen large families, mine included, pile of tiny little Renaults and Peugeot with ease.  Whereas in the states, having one two kids seems to make people feel as though a giant gas guzzling Yukon is a necessity.  I am guilty of this as well.  But around here, that big ass Yukon is going to do nothing but give you a headache.  The roads are crazy narrow, and your never going to find a place to park that big beast.  You’d better enjoy those flip down DVD players, because you are going to be watching The Smurfs 2 about a dozen times before you find a place to park on these streets.

And with that, I joined the European ways and means.  I recently purchase a 2000 Renault Clio.  And it is freaking adorable.  It is a pretty common car, much like a Honda Accord in any lower middle class town in the U.S (I had one of those too).  I really only drive this car in short doses.  Twenty bucks in gas will last me a whole month, which is amazing to do these days.  And it has one other great amenity – a cassette tape deck.  I was not deterred by the tape deck, not even from the first time I saw these wonderful little car.  I thought of it as an adventure.  I knew I still had cassette tapes, and thought of this as a chance to bring those old things out again.  I’ve always kept a tape deck in my home, as I refuse to completely let go of this great and practically extinct technology.

And with that, I have been enjoying this profound change.  In an age when we can manage to listen to whatever we want at any given moment, it is strange to know that if I really didn’t want to listen to the song that is currently playing, it will take longer than a half a second and a few thumb taps or pushing a button on my steering wheel to change the song.  And this has led me to digging deeper into a Side 2 of a cassette tape than I ever did in the past.  Other great thing about this new found way of living, is that all of these cassette tapes tell a story.  The “newest” cassette tape in this collection is 15 years old, so there is obviously going to be some history involved in holding on to anything so long.

So, I thought it would be fun to share a few of the cassette tapes I have been digging into since I was united with my amazing new (to me) car, and see what tales they have to tell.  Let us begin.

IMG_3162Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks

I am certain that I will never forget this one, although I am not certain how I came across it.  Aside from being just an amazing collection of songs in general, this actual cassette tape has some great history, which actually has to do with another car.  It was my first car, a 1987 Honda Accord.  I adored that car as well.  It wasn’t the coolest car in town, as I said before it was pretty common.  But it was mine!  I was 16 years old with a car and a job!  And coincidently I also had a girlfriend that lived about 20-30 miles away in a different hick town.  I will never forget listening “Tangled Up In Blue” and “Shelter From the Storm” while driving the 20-30 miles just for 10-20 minute make out and heavy petting sessions.  I have much fonder memories in this car, but that is a whole other story.  I simply remember that first week of getting the car, and making those trips with Bobby singing in my ear even though I was strictly forbidden to drive so far away from home.  I was such a rebellious little shit.  Sorry Mom!

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Mr. Big – Lean Into It

No matter your thoughts on a band like Mr. Big, this is a very important one to me.  This one was given to me with love, and few other Meat Loaf and Whitesnake tapes, by my dearly recently departed grandmother.  She was one of the most amazing women in the world.  She was kind, sweet, loving….. and had a crazy taste in music.  Sure, she enjoyed some of the typical old lady music like Elvis or Liberace. But, she love to rock out.  I will always remember and treasure the times we spent in her car listening to Meat Loaf, Nirvana, and Whitesnake.  To this day, when I look at the McDonalds in my hometown and think of the times we spent in the parking lot throwing french fries out the window to the birds, I can’t help but smile.  Sure Mr. Big sucks, but with memories like this, “To Be With You” is always going a classic.

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George Carlin – A Place For My Stuff

I honestly have no idea how I came across this one.  But, I am damn happy that I did.  George Carlin was one of the funniest people on the planet.  His raunchy sense of humor is just as compelling and hilarious today as it was 40 years ago.  I will always remember those awesome times spent with my Dad listening to Carlin’s stand up at a young age, and being absolutely awed by such vulgar language, and hilarious tales.  His profiles of things in life that should be common sense to most people, but sadly isn’t, was a philosophy in itself.

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Soul For Real – Candy Rain

This one actually isn’t mine.  This one belonged to my wife, who probably has no idea where she got it, or gives a damn about any memories it may hold.  This is because she is not a weirdo like me who could probably make my own mix tape of the background to my life.  I did, however, have this album on CD, way back in 1994.  I was 9 years old, and completely obsessed with the popular R&B of the time.  This was one of the first albums I ever received.  I remember opening it on Christmas Eve, as well as the amazingly technologically advanced 5 disc CD Player that was the size of an average record player.  I was a huge fan of the likes of Soul 4 Real, Boyz II Men, All-4-One, Michael Jackson, Brandy, so on, and so on.  This album actually sucks a lot of butt, but it still reminds of me of all those time belting out “I’ll Make Love To You” in my room alone, not knowing what the hell all of these songs were talking about.

IMG_3169The Gadjits – Outsider/Bad Gadjit sampler

Oh sweet shit of christ, this one.  I only recently re-discovered this one.  My father actually mailed it to me when he found it in a old CD/Cassette player he hadn’t used in years.  I got this little free demo cassette tape when I was 14 at the very first concert I ever attended (semi) alone.  The Gadjits were a short lived ska-punk band from Kansas City that you have every right to have never heard of.  They were great though, and in this instance they were opening for the great and legendary Reel Big Fish.  It was an amazing that I will never forget.  I remember The Gadjits sitting in the lobby of The Met (now The Bing Crosby Theater) in Spokane and I couldn’t believe that people were walking right passed them like they were nothing.  They had just performed in front of hundreds of people, and nobody seemed to care!  I took my chance to talk to a real rockstar and picked up this sampling of their yet to be released album Wish We Never Met.  And thus, the birth of my hipster self was born.  I remember taking this cassette back to my hometown filled with a bunch of friends with little to no internet who had never heard of these guys, and I thought I was so damn cool.  Eventually the dawn of mass information, and the end of ska-punks thriving popularity came and I just moved on.  It is ironic though that the first “demo” I ever received still manages to be in my possession, even after hundreds of others have come and gone, lost to pawn shops across the state of Washington most likely.  Another fun fact about the show in which I picked this thing up, can be found in my post, Sophia Meets Mr. Marshmallow Man -or- An Afternoon with Newt Gingrich.

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Kenny Rogers – Eyes That See In The Dark

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Wille Nelson – Yours Always

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Loretta Lynn – I Remember Patsy

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Loretta & Conway – Loretta & Conway

I group these four together because they all symbolize the same thing.  Not just a thing, a person.  And not just a person, another truly wonderful human being.  These four cassette tapes belonged to my wife’s departed grandmother, who was like a grandmother to me as well.  Hell, her whole persona was that of an amazing grandmother, and all around beautiful person.  When she passed away, and the dividing of her possessions had to be done, I was passed along these fine cassettes that nobody else was going to want.  But, I was happy to hold on to them.  There was silverware, jewelry, what have you to be divide up evenly of course, but I wanted to hold on to the music.  As I mentioned before, music is a very important part of my life.  When I hear Willie Nelson’s “City of New Orleans” coming through the stereo from this tape, I’m not just hearing an old crybaby hillbilly doing his thing, I am hearing memories.  I try to imagine what exactly Grandma was doing when she was listening to this music.  I also thing of my wife’s also departed grandfather, her husband, who was a saint as well.  I imagine the two of them in their RV, fleeing to Arizona to escape the frigid temperatures up north, hands locked together, whistling, and staring at the open road.  And all the while, Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty or teaming up on “You Know I Wouldn’t Lie”.  And that is just perfect to me.

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Toto – Rockmaker

There really isn’t much to say about this one.  I just love me some motherfuckin’ Toto!

If you feel so obliged, leave some comments telling us some of your experiences with cassette tapes.  Do you still use them?  What are some memories you have from the day and age of this brilliant technological advancement?

P.S.  Toto disses will be removed.  Toto was great and you know it.