The Pale Men, McQuaid and Fessenden, discuss “The Vampire Party” now available on TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE The Podcast…
Glenn Mcquaid: Can you talk a little bit about the true life inspiration behind The Vampire Party?
Larry Fessenden: In 1997, my old Glass Eye Pix comrade Mike Ellenbogen and I travelled to L.A. to open my film HABIT at the Laemmle Music Hall theater in Los Angeles. Mike and I were self distributing the movie, booking it across the country, designing the ads, raising awareness. Mike had contacted a group called The Vampire Society in LA and sent them the flick. They loved the movie and offered to hold a taste making cocktail party before our fist screening. They even said David Skal might attend. Skal had written the excellent history of horror called The Monster Show (a must-read). When we arrived it became clear this fantastic group all loved horror and had a long association with the Hollywood horror business and all the gossip; they had amazing artifacts and collectibles in that modest Hollywood home (including the Creature From The Black Lagoon one sheet mentioned in the piece). It was a wonderful glimpse at a Hollywood subset and a horror subset too. And many of them were a bit light in the loafers. I was quite non-plussed and tickled by their flamboyance and catty raport but I think Mike was put a bit on edge when he found dozens of postcards of my bare ass on the bathroom wall (well it was the poster after all). Much of “The Vampire Party” recalls the conversation we all had that evening, and the anticipation of whether Skal would arrive was genuine (he didn’t). The most remarkable turn of events was when we performed the radio play based on that evening some two decades later on the night of October 29 2009, none other than our host from the night was in attendance: Mr. David Del Valle! Imagine his utter surprise attending an evening of radio plays and hearing (a somewhat hammier version of) himself depicted in the story unfolding on stage all those years later. It was a real hoot seeing him after the show.
G McQ: I’ve always found location and environment really influential on our work and it’s fun that we tap into our surroundings when on the road..
LF: Yes, when we got the gig in Los Angeles, we decided all the stories should reflect some aspect of the town, so you, me and Clay McLeod Chapman all penned L.A. based stories, and we had the host flipping through the local paper as if to discover some sordid tale before we delved in. One of my favorite things in “The Vampire Party” is the opening, where the two New Yorkers are walking in that neighborhood of LA. I of course can picture it so well.
GMcQ: There’s some wonderful sound design and music going on in The Vampire Party, I have fun memories of Graham Reznick introducing that minimal house beat that really adds tension and helps us spatially as we move throughout the house.
LF: Yes, Graham’s track is key to establishing the slowly mounting dread as Mike, who is stoned, slowly realizes things are not as they seem in the second half of the tale. Our post mixer Eric Romary and I labored to evoke the geometry of the house through various reverbs so you could feel yourself traveling up the stairs and down the hall and from room to room. Another Beyond the Pale ambition you and I share is to see how much visual and spacial information can be conveyed through sound. There is also the falling out of the window in this Tale. When we design and mix those moments I always speak of where the camera is.
GMcQ: Is it fair to say that the Vampire Party taps into straight guys’ discomfort around gay men?
LF: Certainly. The concept of the piece is that the big reveal is not that the fellas are gay, but that they are vampires. I am having fun playing with that notion of closeted identities, and also, I hope, celebrating the gay culture in horror fandom. It’s not just musicals, they’re eeeeevvverrrywhere! I think it is valuable to remind people that monsters and monster movies are an expression of outsiderness that has long had resonance in the gay community. And of course, Mike in the story is intimidated by these revelations.
GMcQ: It’s such a great cast and I think (If I’m remembering correctly) I was doing the foley footsteps up there next to Josh Leonard. I was really impressed with him and everyone on that stage, Josh was so warm and gracious as I stomped around next to him. It’s such a nice surprise to hear Roxanne Benjamin at the end too! What a cast, what a night.
LF: Everyone was fantastic. This was the third play we did that night, it was quite gruelling. Lance as we’ve said elsewhere transforms beautifully from the arch conservative (in your piece “Conviction“) to this silk-voiced wry predator in this one. Josh Leonard is very droll in his role and it lead in some way to my casting him in DEPRAVED some years later. Pat and AJ are so fun and then, we just pulled the always awesome Roxanne Benjamin out of the audience to voice the character Anna from the film SKIN FLICK, my reference to the vampire in HABIT.
Left: Fessenden with the real Mike Ellenbogen stuck in a New York jail cell after we were arrested for postering for HABIT. Self-distribution is no picnic.