Today’s packing day for Anaheim‘s WonderCon, not to be confused with Louisville, Kentucky‘s WonderFest(see above; to further fog your brain, dear reader, I have illustrated this WonderCon Journal entry with a photo of me taken by Charlie McGrady as we took a little time out to hunt for dinosaurs — still legal in Kentucky — during WonderFest — not WonderCon).
My pal Brian Gaughan will be helping this old dude (me) pack up for the show. I think it’s a little nuts scheduling WonderCon on Easter weekend, but I guess the convention took what it could get. Last year’s show broke all WonderCon attendance records.
NOTE: I will only be exhibiting Friday and Saturday. I’ll be packing up on Saturday night so that I can spend Easter with my family — not at a convention, but at home. I’ll be easy to find at the show, as I’m in a great location. My table is right at the entrance, opposite my pal Bob Chapman and his delightful minions at Graphitti Designs.
Since I won’t be staying in Anaheim but returning home each evening, if there is anything special I should bring for you that I might have forgotten, e-mail me and I’ll swing by my studio on the way down to the show and pick it up for you.
Oh, about WonderFest…that’s coming up in May. I do their official T-shirt every year. It’s one of those rare instances when I don’t insist on doing the color for my design. Lee Staton, one of WonderFest’s founding fathers, always does a helluva job on the color (and sometimes, the added design elements) for my shirts. I’m delighted every time I see what Lee has done. I’m sure that this year’s shirt will be no exception. Here’s a preview of this year’s recently completed design (without Lee’s color):
I’ve got a pretty good track record with my WonderFest T-shirt designs; they almost always sell out at the show. I’ve received an amazing response from folks who have seen this design. I hope that’s a positive harbinger of sales to come…
I have a lot of fans in Italy; I get e-fan mail from that country pretty much every week. The Ramones have an even bigger fan base in Italy. Today I answered questions for an Italian Ramones fan site. I thought I’d share this interview here on my Journal page.
Q: You have produced one silkscreen for the Ramones; precisely, Weird Tales of the Ramones in 2005. Are there more works that you have done for the Ramones? (You know! That’s important to know for us collectors! :-))
A: I also created the movie poster for Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, plus I drew over a dozen new caricatures for a planned deluxe CD release of the Rock ‘n’ Roll High School movie soundtrack. The caricatures were of all the musicians and groups who had songs on the film’s soundtrack.
Q: These serigraphs are limited copies, how many prints are there?
A: I don’t recall.
Q: There are also versions in flyer format, these are in limited edition?
A: Are you talking about the postcards? There were lots of those printed as promotional giveaways.
Q: Who commissioned your work?
A:Hugh Brown, a Grammy-winning package designer who worked at Rhino Records at the time.
Q: Tell us about how you chose the subject and what inspired you to create your work
A: Since the title of the box set was Weird Tales of The Ramonesand my cover was for a comic book, I thought it would be appropriate to make the cover look like a rock ‘n’ roll horror comic book. I am known for my zombies (I was the production designer of the cult classic horror film The Return of the Living Dead), so I decided to have a zombie theme on the cover.
Since the band had several drummers, I had the problem of deciding which one to depict. I decided to draw a zombie drummer that represented all of their drummers. The irony is that their history is the opposite of that of Spinal Tap. All of Spinal Tap’s drummers died; the rest of the band is still alive. With The Ramones, all the drummers are alive — the rest of the band members are dead.
Since The Ramones no longer exist, they’re all depicted as zombies. It’s just that the ones who have died are wearing masks of their former selves on the cover.
Q: Was there something of The Ramones world that influenced this particular piece?
A: My cover was influenced by the E.C. horror comic books (i.e., Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear). I imagine The Ramones were E. C. fans but I don’t know for sure, as we never talked about E.C.s when we were together.
Q: You knew the Ramones before your work?
A: Yes; I met them when I was doing their movie poster. My girlfriend at the time, Alison Buckles, who was into the L. A. punk scene from its very beginnings, turned me on to their music. The Ramones and I both liked the same Mexican food joint in Hollywood, so I ran into them a lot there.
Q: What has changed since producing these serigraphs?
A: Most of the band has died. I have had lunch with two of the drummers since Weird Tales of The Ramones came out.
Q: Do you listen to The Ramones?
A: Sometimes; not as much now as in the 1980s.
Q: If so, what your favorite songs?
A: “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School”, “Beat on the Brat”, “Blitzkrieg Bop”, “I Wanna Be Sedated”, “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker”, “California Sun”.
Q: Have you ever meet or seen The Ramones in person?
A: I met them all (when I was creating the Rock ‘n’ Roll High School movie poster) but I’ve never seen them play except on video.
Q: In our collection, among the many posters of the Ramones, there are also works by Arturo Vega, Lindsay Kuhn, Jim Evans aka TAZ, Derek Hess, Shepard Fairey (known for his OBEY and HOPE posters), Matcho Mark, Ben Harris and more…
You can find all our posters here http://www.gabbagabbabook.it/MEMORABILIA/POSTERramones.HTM
Do you know these artists?
A: Jim Evans (Taz) is a very old (early 1970s) friend of mine. He introduced me to underground comix.
Q: Now we’d like you to tell us if you like, in particular, a few posters from our collection and why?
A: I like the Taz posters and Mark Matcho’s work the best. I always love any of the Electric Frankenstein imagery. Why? I nearly always like art and cool lettering much better than photographs.
Q: And if you do not like a particular one, then why?
A: Mostly (there are occasional exceptions), I find posters with just a photo of the band to be boring. Anybody can do that. Plus, I like really well-executed and appropriate hand lettering — not just regular typefaces.
Q: Honestly, what do you think about our book? Please give us feedback!
A: I love books, especially books about music that are well-illustrated. My own new book on music is coming out on May 7. It’s titled Legends of the Blues. It has 100 full color portraits I have painted of my favorite blues musicians born prior to 1930. I also wrote all of the bios.
Q: MANY THANKS FOR YOUR TIME, We will inform you about our project. THANKS AGAIN
A: My pleasure!
Since we’re talking about The Ramones here, please allow me to share two of my favorite Ramones stories. These were told to me by Allan Arkush, the director of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.
Roger Corman had made a successful rock and roll exploitation film in the late 1950s; he figured it was time to produce another. He called his young director Allan Arkush into his office.
“Allan,” began Corman, “I think it’s time to do another teenage music exploitation picture.”
Allan had worked at the Fillmore East prior to becoming a movie director, so he was listening intently, half-sold already.
“What do you think of ‘Disco High School’?”
Allan was appalled.
“‘Disco High School’? Roger, have you ever seen the people that go to discos? They’re not kids! They wear suits! A lot of them are your age! It can’t be ‘Disco High School’…”
Allan leaped up on top of Roger’s desk and began playing Peter Townshend-style air guitar.
“It’s gotta be ‘ROCK ‘N’ ROLL High School’!”
Allan and his passion were very convincing.
“‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School’ it is. Go find me some possible bands for the film.”
Allan pitched the project to two bands. One of them was The Ramones. During Allan’s story pitch to them, The Ramones seemed uninterested and distracted. They didn’t seem to be paying any attention to Allan at all until Arkush got to the end of the movie’s story.
“…and then… you blow up the high school!”
Suddenly, every band member perked right up. In unison, they shouted, “WE’RE IN!”
Allan returned to New World and saw Roger.
“So, tell me about who you found.”
Allan was ready. He had pictures of both bands. He spread out the first group’s photos.
“The first band is called Cheap Trick. They play great, high energy pop music and have this terrific, almost cartoonish persona. Look at these guys — they’d be perfect. They want $50,000 to be in the movie.”
“This next band is a kind of punk rock group called The Ramones. They’re asking $25,000 and…”
Last night I fulfilled a long awaited desire: I finally got to see a Michael Nesmith concert.
As anyone in my general age group knows, Michael Nesmith was a member of The Monkees. He always had his own self-composed songs on The Monkees LPs, beginning with the very first one.
His solo career surprised anyone who was paying attention. His debut solo LP was The Wichita Train Whistle Sings. His next three LPs consist of one of the greatest musical trilogies ever put down on to vinyl: Magnetic South, Loose Salute and Nevada Fighter, released as being by Michael Nesmith & The First National Band.
The playing of Nesmith’s pedal steel player, O. J. “Red” Rhodes was nothing short of phenomenal. Michael later produced a Red Rhodes solo LP which is one of my favorite records of all time, Velvet Hammer in a Cowboy Band. Rhodes, in his own way, reminds me of Jimi Hendrix in that in his instrumental passages it feels as if he is not just playing a lead but also taking you on a journey through an aural landscape.
The subsequent Nesmith albums are all of very high quality, each also containing glimpses of Michael’s well-developed sense of humor.
Michael had a few hits from his solo LPs in the United States (i.e., “Joanne”, “Silver Moon”, “Nevada Fighter”, “Rio”) but in the UK he was treated as a musical god.
The problem here was that Michael Nesmith still had the Monkees stigma. It was difficult for so-called serious music critics to take Nesmith seriously because he had been in The Monkees (The Monkees continue to get snubbed every year by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They are rumored to be blackballed each year by Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner).
Because it was discovered that on their early LPs, The Monkees did not play their own instruments. Their backing was provided by session musicians, most notably the group of players known as The Wrecking Crew. This was the amazing combination of players put together by Phil Spector to create his famous Wall of Sound.
The music press and the public were outraged. How dare these four guys pretend to be a group?
What the public didn’t know or realize was that almost none of their favorite bands played on the backing tracks for their own recordings. Members of The Wrecking Crew backed up The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Beach Boys..hell, almost any group that set foot into an L. A. studio to record a single or an album. This didn’t only occur here. The situation was identical in the UK. Most of the members of British bands in the 1960s did not play on their backing tracks. Instead, it was drummers like Bobby Graham and session guitarists like Big Jim Sullivan and Jimmy Page (pre-Led Zeppelin, of course). That was Bobby drumming for Dave Clark; it was Jimmy playing the lead on The Beatles’“And This Bird Can Sing” and Bernard Purdie drumming for The Beatles on their first recordings. That was Eric Clapton‘s guitar gently weeping — not George Harrison‘s.
Fearing a similar backlash, the other groups kept this a secret and distanced themselves from any association whatsoever with The Monkees, even though members of The Monkees had very graciously helped out many of these bands (like Buffalo Springfield, whose Stephen Stills was almost a Monkee). The way The Monkees were treated by the groups they had helped was pretty disgusting.
So, the other day I was reading the Los Angeles Times and came across a short article on Michael Nesmith’s upcoming show at The Canyon club in Agoura, CA (about a 45 minute drive from my home). I bought a standing room only ticket (the tickets with seats were already sold out).
Michael was in fine form. He performed for two hours with a solid backing band. At age 70 Mike looks as if he might be Pete Townshend‘s long lost wise and friendly brother. Nesmith surprised me by setting the scene for each song with a short story about the people who were the subject of each song and their situation at the time. The little vignettes were quite visual in nature as well as illuminating.
He pretty much covered his entire career, beginning with a Monkees song (“Papa Gene’s Blues” from their first LP) and performing a song (or two or three) from most of his solo albums. He also played his first cover hit. It wasn’t Mike covering someone else’s song; it was a song Nesmith wrote that became Linda Ronstadt‘s first hit with The Stone Poneys: “Different Drum”.
I was hoping to run into my pal, Monkees expert Andrew Sandoval, in hopes of getting backstage to get a couple of things signed (including that Red Rhodes LP that Michael produced), but that didn’t happen. I did, however, run into ace publicist Jeff Walker and his lovely photographer wife Kim, who was busy snapping away while Michael sang. Jeff got me that Animal Planet Dragonsposter gig and was close to Nesmith in the 1970s.
Michael Nesmith could still hit the sweet falsettos of “Joanne”. He came off as a truly sensitive artist, wise, gentle and funny, and a real gentleman. That show was the second venue of his national tour, so if you get a chance, by all means see him.
(The most famous) Michael Nesmith Trivia: His mom invented Liquid Paper (aka White-Out). He also was awarded the very first Grammy ever given for Best Music Video. Nesmith produced the movie Repo Man and the music video for the Michael Jackson single “The Way You Make Me Feel”. Michael’s song “Mary Mary” was recorded by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
I’ve got the best handyman. He fixes stuff at my pal Drew Struzan‘s home, too. Repairman to the Stars!
One of the stars he used to regularly do work for was Edna, the daughter of Eddie Cantor. She used to regale him with tales of Old Hollywood whenever he worked at her place. Here’s one he told me a few minutes ago that blew my mind.
One day Edna revealed to him that she was writing her memoirs. She asked if he’d like to read some of what she had written. He (I’m not using his name because he left and don’t know if he’d want to be identified. You’ll realize why at the end of the story) leaped at the chance.
In her youth, Edna was a knockout. At around age 25, she got a call from a girl friend, asking Edna if she’d like to see this hot comedian at a local club. Edna was up for it and they went.
After the show, the girlfriend mentioned the comedian they just saw and asked, “Would you like to go backstage and meet him? He’s a friend of mine.”
Edna thought that might be fun. Backstage, the comedian was very gracious and obviously attracted to Edna.
“Look,” he said. “I’ve got another show to do tonight. Give me your number and I’ll call you after the show and we can get together.”
Edna gave him her number, and then returned home. Sure enough, about two hours later, Edna received a call from him. They agreed that he should come over to her place for drinks.
A knock on the door a while later. Edna answers the door. Instead of politely greeting Edna, the comedian makes a beeline for the wall of Edna’s living room. Hanging on the wall is a huge portrait of Edna’s father, Eddie Cantor.
For the next fifteen minutes, the comedian did the best impression of Eddie Cantor that Edna had ever seen.
“He was astounding. It was like my father had been brought to life!”
Edna had no idea this comedian was such a huge fan of her father’s work, especially since this comedian’s stage show and style of humor had nothing whatsoever in common with Eddie Cantor’s persona and material.
Edna wandered into the kitchen.
“What are you doing?” asked the comedian.
“I’m making myself a drink.”
“A Tom Collins. Would you like one?”
” I don’t drink.”
You could have knocked Edna over with a feather. This comedian’s reputation was just the opposite, a real reputation of self abuse.
“Really. I’ll be happy to make you whatever drink you’d like.”
“Honestly — I don’t drink alcohol. I try to keep my body as pure and clean as possible. Have you got any V-8?”
She fixed him up with some V-8 juice. Not long after he finished the drink, he looked at his watch.
“I’m sorry, Edna. I gotta go.”
They said their goodbyes and he left.
About two hours later, at around four in the morning, Edna’s phone rings. It’s the comedian.
“I think I left my wallet on your kitchen counter. I need it really bad. Could you call a messenger service and have it brought over to me? Just take a hundred bucks out of the wallet for your trouble.”
Edna fetched the wallet.
“There’s a lot of money in here. You sure you want me to messenger it over? I could bring it to you myself tomorrow.”
“No. I’m with some guys. I really need to pay them some money I owe them. Right now.”
“Okay,” said Edna. “But I don’t want you to ever call me again.”
“You got it.”
Edna called the messenger service. The wallet was picked up and delivered to the comedian. Edna put two and two together, suspecting that the “some guys” were members of the Mob.
About a week or two later, she read that this teetotaling comedian she met had died of an “overdose”.
His name was Lenny Bruce.
Edna’s memoirs were read by only three people. Then she destroyed them. She passed away not long after that.
To a lot of people (my wife included), I’m the luckiest guy they’ve ever met. I can’t disagree very much with that observation, although a lot of that luck was self-generated.
There’s a saying that’s really true: “Fortune favors the prepared mind”. Luck doesn’t do you much good if you don’t know what to do with it or aren’t prepared for it when it lands in your lap. There’s another one that Rick Griffin made into a T-shirt: “Fortune Favors the Brave”. You gotta take chances once in awhile to get some place new in your life.
So, a lot of what to the outsider looks like extraordinary luck on my part is actually the result of combining whatever luck rolls my way with hours and hours of hard work, preparation and belief in myself for that potential moment of opportunity.
There were some great gigs I didn’t get. At the time, I was angry and, sometimes, even a bit bitter. In retrospect, I thank god I didn’t get those jobs because, quite frankly, I wasn’t ready for them. I would have fallen flat on my face. What I am saying here is you can’t let the “ones that got away” get you down. Move on. Get better. Be prepared for the next time.
This “luck” extends to my private life as well. I wouldn’t have had so many adventures and cool tales to tell if I hadn’t first done the job of putting myself out there so that these adventures and situations had the possibility of occurring.
On my first trip to Europe, I arrived with a hundred bucks in my pocket and expected it to last me for a month in England, France and Spain. I also had pre-purchased a EurailPass to cover some of my travel. I had such a great time meeting folks in France (they were so unbelievably friendly and generous to this young American boy) that I ended up not using the pass in France. Instead, I hitchhiked everywhere so that I could meet more French people. One guy who picked me up drove me four hours out of his way to take me to my destination, a distant aunt-of-an-aunt’s (she and her husband didn’t own the place but they ran it) exclusive hotel chalet between two tiny villages (a couple of hundred people in each town) in the middle of France. He wouldn’t even except the gourmet dinner offered to him by my relatives. Off he went!
Most of my best memories are things that I’ve done with my sons. Most of those memories would not exist if I hadn’t taken a month off after Comic-Con each year to take my family on a long vacation to a far flung part of the earth or America.
This travel-and-adventure philosophy comes from two events in my past.
The first was reading Errol Flynn‘s autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways. In that book Flynn expressed his goal of living two lifetimes in one. I decided to up the ante and try for three-in-one.
The second event occurred in Hollywood.
I used to be the biggest movie nut you ever met. I’d see nearly everything, especially if it was horror, science fiction or fantasy. I attended FilmEx, a huge film festival in Los Angeles, every year. I would go to movie marathons, in which you enter the theater early Friday with a sleeping bag, food, drinks and a handful of diet pills and then not emerge until Sunday evening, watching film after film after film the entire time. And then I’d go home and watch a couple more on TV.
OK; you get the picture. I was a little obsessed.
So, it was a sunny day in my then hometown of Hollywood. I was cheerfully walking up the street when a friend of mine, Nordy Roblin, spotted me from his car. He pulled over and shouted, “Hey, Bill! Where are you going?”
I excitedly proclaimed, “I’m on my way to see a new movie!”
Nordy frowned and looked at me like I was the world’s biggest schmuck.
“Going to see a movie?” he smirked. “Wow. Two hours alone in the dark.”
Then he looked right into my eyes.
“You could be having your own adventures instead of watching someone else’s.”
That observation hit me like a ton of bricks. From that point on, I began to schedule annual adventures to exotic places, the great cities of the world and to lands of unspoiled nature. If I couldn’t afford it, I would still figure out a way to make it happen. This all perfectly dovetailed into my determination to pack three lives into one.
That’s my introduction to a new series for my Journal, It’s a Wonderful Life. The title is from one of my ten favorite films (as you might be able to tell, my love for movies did not stop having an effect on my life). These will be sporadic and random, written as they come to me or when I have time.
Inspired by Rutger Hauer character Roy Batty‘s (allegedly improvised) soliloquy at the end of Bladerunner (www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_saUN4j7Gw beginning with “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…”), It’s a Wonderful Life will be a sharing of vignettes covering what I consider some of the the best moments of my life.
Q: Do you look back on those days with affection, being young and somewhat at the heart of the Californian artistic/music scene?
A: I loved those times! Los Angeles was the best place to be in the world back then. We had just about all of the best groups; the ones that didn’t come from L. A. usually ended up recording and playing here. Jeff Beck (back when Rod Stewart was his lead singer) played here a lot because he had a girlfriend here (Mary Hughes, immortalized in his Yardbirds song “Psycho Daisies”). I saw so many great concerts at such ridiculously cheap prices it’s almost embarrassing to tell people what I experienced.
Here’s one example:
At a Shrine Exposition Hall concert in 1968 the opening act was the original Steve Miller Band with Boz Scaggs. They were followed by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. After that group came The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. I haven’t even mentioned the headliner: The Who. Each band played two sets. The Who (who were promoting their brand new — and best, IMHO — LP, The Who Sell Out) smashed their instruments at the end of their second set.
The place was only a third full; you could get as close as you wanted to the stage. I got backstage at this show and met Keith Moon (well, I ran into Keith in the men’s room), Roger Daltrey and Arthur Brown.
The price of admission? $2.50 in advance; $3.00 at the door.
The music scene in the late ‘60s wasn’t that huge; it hadn’t become a “scene” yet, so the only kids who attended the concerts back then were the people who were huge fans of the music. It was easy to get backstage; you could easily meet any pop star you cared to meet. You could bring cameras and tape recorders to shows. That all changed with “stadium rock”.
Q: Or do you feel that the spirit of that age has continued through to today in California?
A: In some ways yes, in some ways no. It’s so much more expensive to experience live music now, certainly if you want to see what are considered the “Classic Rock” bands. I find it enormously ironic that a fan will have to pay huge sums of money to see old geezers (with key band members missing due to deaths) perform their hits now when they could have seen them in their youthful prime for just a few bucks.
My sons love “Classic Rock”. I saw The Who were coming to town, so I thought I’d buy us all tickets for their show. I called the venue and was told that tickets started at $80 each. Started! Those were the bad seats! I started laughing on the phone.
“Eighty bucks? Hey! These guys are old! Their best album came out over twenty years ago! Their brilliant drummer won’t be playing with them because he’s dead (John Entwistle had not yet perished at that time)! I saw these guys debut Tommy for five bucks and I was right against the stage! I had to duck to avoid getting hit by Roger Daltrey’s microphone all through the show!”
I also don’t get sitting politely to enjoy rock ‘n’ roll. That goes against the very essence of what rock ‘n’ roll is all about. Rock should be hot, sweaty, and subversive. You should experience it on your feet, as close to the stage as possible. It should make you want to move or dance — not sit and politely applaud after each number.
I found the best way to enjoy rock is to pay close attention to magazines like Mojo and Q. Watch for great bands on the rise and then try to catch them in a small club before they become big. That’s how I was able to take my youngest son to see the White Stripes in a tiny little club in Pomona. Jack White later said it was their best gig of the tour — and it only cost me fifteen bucks per ticket.
Q: Is the current scene equally as interesting to you?
A: Without record stores (there’s less than a handful left spread across the Los Angeles area), I find it much more difficult to find new music. I have had to turn to the internet to keep up with new releases by old bands, many of which are imports. Once a month, however, I do have a good source and big selection of bootlegs at a local swap meet. I like that they’re on CD as far as the sound quality goes, but I do prefer the larger LP size covers to the tiny CD covers. A lot of the packaging of bootleg CDs has become very creative and professional (there are some beautiful box sets). I like to think that TMOQ led the way in that respect. My sons have turned me on to a lot of great new music, especially when they were in college.
Q: To have achieved the success you have right through to today I would assume you are a pretty driven person who would continue to find positives?
A: I am one of the most optimistic people you will ever meet. I also have an incredibly strong work ethic and am devoted to a constant pursuit of excellence. Although I consider myself a pretty Old School artist (not too many digital skills), I keep trying to learn new things each day; I keep pushing myself. So, driven? Yes.
Q: I remember some years ago you told me that you met the Pink Floyd (this interview was for a Pink Floyd website) in Los Angeles on their first US tour, and that you introduced Roger Waters to some local err…Talent.
A: That was a great Shrine show. The headliner was the Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood and Mickey Waller.
The middle group was Blue Cheer. The opening group was billed on the poster thus: “Introducing Pink Floyd”. I already owned Floyd’s first LP. I especially loved Syd Barrett’s songs. Their second LP had just been released and Syd was no longer in the band. This was Pink Floyd’s first show in the United States. I got backstage and met all three groups in their respective dressing rooms.
Pink Floyd were very friendly. I had my Polaroid camera with me and took some shots of the band. That camera blew their minds. They had never seen a camera that could give you a photograph minutes after taking a picture.
I asked about Syd and David Gilmour’s eyes began to well up with tears. I could see instantly that Syd’s departure was still a very sensitive subject (and would remain so for years).
I really hit it off with Roger Waters. There was this little doe-eyed maybe-groupie hanging out inside their dressing room. I could see Roger was lonely and attracted to her. I began acting as Roger’s wing man, trying to subtly extol the virtues and glories of a magical night spent with Roger. It seemed to be going pretty well with those two by the time I left the dressing room. Glad to help out!
The next night I went to see a new film. The new movie was very popular, so there was a line to get in. As I was walking to find my place at the end of the line, someone shouted “Bill!” It was Roger Waters. In unison, the other band members said, “The Polaroid guy!” and insisted I get in line with them. Great guys!
Q: What did you think of them back then, as people and as a live band? ‘Cos it was a real transition period for them back then and I’m certain you must have seen hundreds of bands at that time to compare them to, your views would be really valid….. and there aren’t too many eye witness accounts out there…and few who met them..
A: I was originally turned on to Pink Floyd by a bass player I knew. We kept running into each other and playing with each other at auditions (I was a drummer at the time). He raved about their music, so I took a chance and bought Piper At The Gates of Dawn. I loved it! “See Emily Play” is still one of my favorite songs (I know it wasn’t on the UK LP, but it was on the American version of that album).
Pink Floyd, even without Syd, put on a helluva show. The music was very psychedelic. Roger had become the front man. He performed most of the vocals and did lots of interesting trippy sounds with his voice, like singing and making sounds while inhaling rather than exhaling. A Saucerful of Secrets and the live half of Ummagumma are pretty representative of what they were doing on stage back then. I loved their music already but I became a big fan and collector of their work after seeing them live, although I never saw them again after that weekend.
Q: Did you take photos of them that night?
Q: Do you still have them?
A: Yes! One’s good. The other of them playing is pretty crappy.
Q: If you do could we (please!) have a scan of one to accompany this interview?
A: Certainly; see attachments.
Q: Obviously over the years you have carved out a very successful career as an artist (no mean feat!)…. Do you still get approached much by bootleg freaks (like me!) who want to talk about the old stuff you did?
A: There was a lull, but then nostalgia began rearing its head. I get asked about that part of my history on a regular basis now. Fans really want to see a book collecting all of my covers. I’m working on it. It’s my most requested book.
Q: Finally… And perhaps most controversially… As an artist in this day and age, your work is easy to find and copy…. And of course (like everyone else on the planet) you like to be paid for the work you do and have done…
A: Yes, I do. I make 20% of my annual income from licensing images from my past body of work.
Q: This of course flies in the face of the TMOQ days when the artists on the boots weren’t paid for their work….
A: Actually, royalties were set aside by TMOQ for every artist whose recordings they released. Some collected, others didn’t feel it was worth the effort. You have to realize these were pretty small press runs, so the royalties didn’t amount to all that much.
Q: How do you feel about that these days?
A: It could be (and has been) argued that making and selling bootleg albums is illegal. But drawing and painting covers for albums (even if the LPs themselves are illegal) has never been illegal. I never broke the law.
The bootleg LPs were going to come out whether I did covers for them or not. So, would you rather have an LP with a shitty cover done by the bootleggers (the norm until I came along) or one with a decent cover by a guy who really loves that band and their music?
Q: Of course your work from those days is so iconic to bootleg collectors and makers, that your artwork from those days is constantly being ‘recycled’ by modern bootleggers… No doubt without any renumeration to you. What are your feelings on this subject?
A: They should contact me and cut a deal. I’m pretty easy to find. The Italian company, Great Dane Records, did that. I got paid in bootleg CDs. At the very least, I should get a free copy of the CD that contains my art from the people who stole it, don’t you think?
Q: Is it OK for modern bootleggers to continue to use your work, and also sell T-shirts and mugs with the pig logo, or does it bug you?
A: It’s illegal and I doggedly pursue every single infringement that is brought to my attention. I make them pay or I shut them down. You really don’t want to see that side of me. I have to do that, or I lose my copyrights. Legally, I can’t pick and choose, and only go after “Deep Pockets” offenders. By law, I have to go after each and every violation.
Q: Thanks so much for your time Bill….. best wishes from all your fans at the bootleg guide.
Q: Did the bootleg artwork ever lead to any more ‘official’ commercial work?
A: Not directly. Through creating the covers I was building up my chops as an artist, though, so that when I did get my first “legitimate” cover gig , I was all ready to do good, solid professional work. My pals at Rhino Records followed what I was doing, so when their company started up, they immediately gave me a call.
The bootleg work also led to my becoming the art director for BOMP! magazine.
I eventually created a lot of “legitimate” covers, mostly for Columbia.
It became well known that upon John Entwistle first seeing a copy of Who’s Zoo, he began to realize just how much rare and unreleased Who stuff there was out there. It inspired him to compile and officially release Odds and Sods.
For the expanded CD release of Odds and Sods, I was contacted by The Who. They asked my permission to use my Radio London cover as the picture disc image for Odds and Sods. I enthusiastically allowed them to do just that.
I ran into David Skye, a fan of my bootleg covers, at the Pasadena Record Swap Meet. David made an interesting proposal to me. He was a huge bootleg collector. His idea was to compile multi-disc sets that would collect the very best bootleg recordings and then release them legitimately with the cooperation of the respective bands. The bands would get royalties for the CDs and not have to do any work, other than approving the content and covers. David asked me if I would like to do the covers. I thought it was a great idea. The “official bootlegs” were initially released by Shout! Factory. I did covers for Todd Rundgren, The Nice, Emerson Lake & Palmer and Iggy Pop.
I only ran into one major problem on that project. I’m a huge fan of The Nice. I did a cover featuring Azrael, the Angel of Death, on the cover, as The Nice had released two different songs about Azrael. Keith Emerson called up.
“I LOVE the cover,” he said. “And we can’t use it.”
“The drummer just died. If his widow saw the Angel of Death on the cover she would freak.”
So, I created a new cover for The Nice collection, illustrating “Flower King of Flies” instead. The rejected cover was printed in the art book, Flesk Prime.
It turns out that Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens is a fan of my boot and comix covers. He phoned me up and asked me to do two bootleg-style CD covers for The Smithereens, which I did.
Pat’s a great guy; we’ve got lots in common.
Q: Do you have any personal favourites from the covers you did?
A: The Rolling Stones: All Meat Music, Welcome to New York, Summer Re-runs, Bright Lights Big City, Cops and Robbers; The Who: Who’s Zoo, Tales From The Who; The Yardbirds: More Golden Eggs; Bob Dylan: Melbourne Australia(my first color bootleg cover); Paul McCartney & Wings: Great Dane; Led Zeppelin: Burn Like a Candle.
When Who’s Zoo came out, I delivered a copy to Greg Shaw, who had furnished us with some of the rare Who singles included on the LP. Upon seeing the LP for the first time, Greg whooped, “It looks like a REAL RECORD!”
Tales From The Who was the first quadraphonic bootleg. My cover was an homage to the great old E.C. horror comics of the 1950s, like Tales From the Crypt.
I’m also really proud of The Yardbirds LP More Golden Eggs, not just because I think it’s one of my best covers, but because it was the very first semi-legitmate bootleg release. During the production of the LP I discovered that Yardbirds lead singer Keith Relf was living nearby (he was putting together Armageddon). We called him up. In exchange for our coming over and taping an interview with Keith as he listened to and commented on our record, we would pay his rent for that month. He agreed. “Ken” (identified as “Baby Ray” in the interview, from Frank Zappa’s “Baby Ray and the Ferns”) and I interviewed him. We took photos and got his autograph, all of which were used in the bootleg, which included a five-page insert of the complete interview.
Airbrush illustration was all the rage in Los Angeles at the time, but I couldn’t afford one. What looks like airbrush on the Dylan Melbourne, Australia cover was actually done with spray cans of enamel paint. Pretty primitive!
The Great Dane cover was the first commercial illustration I ever did using an airbrush.
Q: All of the pig caricatures were fantastic! And seemed just so perfect for bootleg art! The perfect combination of humour, subversion and as Zappa used to say.. Conceptual Continuity….. and on the same subject, Dub & Ken had already been using the ‘farm pig’ logo on their stickers before they hired you but whose idea was it to carry this theme further into the caricatures… yours or theirs?
A: The pig thing was fun. It started a weird rumor in the Hollywood music scene, though, that I was into having sex with pigs. Little minds with too much time, I guess.
The pig thing all began because at that point in time I felt that rock ‘n’ roll was taking itself much too seriously. It was getting pretty pretentious (it was the peak of the Prog Rock era). I thought I’d puncture those ego balloons with a few well-placed pig caricatures (because the symbol of TMOQ was a dictionary image of a pig). It was meant to be subversive. It was done with the hope that pop stars might reexamine themselves a bit and re-find a way to laugh at themselves and not take themselves so seriously.
I promised Ollie of Record Paradise, though, that I would never draw Mick Jagger as a pig. She loved Mick, who used to visit the shop whenever he was in L. A. When he came by, Ollie would load him up with our bootlegs. I did a lot of drawings of Mick (the TMOQ guys were huge Stones fans) but I kept that promise of never drawing him as a pig.
I felt bad about drawing Yoko Ono as a pig (Get Back Sessions II); she was already getting more than her share of shit from Beatles fans.
I heard later that she loved my notorious BeatleSongs cover, the one that featured Mark Chapman on the cover, the cover that got me and Rhino Records all of those death threats.
Q: What bands were you really into at that time ?… from what I’ve gathered from your website your taste in music is pretty wide…
A: It’s very wide. The only music genre I really can’t stand is rap music. I hate songs whose lyrics are made to be more important than the music. For that reason, it took me a very long time to get into Bob Dylan — and most folk music, for that matter (there are many exceptions, of course, Joni Mitchell being one of them). Lyric-heavy songs (like the crap in the musical version of Les Miserables) leave me cold because of their emphasis on “the words”. I don’t need to hear or try to understand lyrics to enjoy and appreciate Beethoven.
I really don’t give a shit about lyrics. I can appreciate them when they’re good, like the Rolling Stones’ lyrics, but knowing them is not necessary for me to enjoy the Stones’ music. That those bad boys have good lyrics is just more frosting on a cake that’s already rich enough for me. I never even knew the Stones had great lyrics until “Ken” pointed them out to me. I was more intrigued by their overall sound. I think the Stones were, too; they always buried Mick’s vocals in the mix.
The genre I love the most is blues. That’s my desert island music.
I just completed a book on the blues, Legends of the Blues. It contains 100 color portraits of my favorite blues musicians born prior to 1930. I also wrote each of the bios. The next volume will be Legends of the British Blues. It’s already half-finished.
But to directly answer your question, my favorite bands back then were The Yardbirds, The Who, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Humble Pie, Jeff Beck, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, The Nice, and The Kinks. I was a total Anglophile. And I loved the Beach Boys. I also never missed a Boz Scaggs show.
Q: Do you have many boots in your own collection these days ?
A: Not compared to my friend Ross Halfin! Each time he goes to Japan with Jimmy Page (Ross is Jimmy’s official photographer), he comes back with literally hundreds of boots.
I think I have what you would call a decent bootleg collection: about 100 (or fewer) LPs and about 200 (or fewer) CDs. Nothing extraordinary, although I do own some highly sought after boots, like Bob Dylan’s Ten of Swords box set.
I purchased my first bootleg record album, Bob Dylan’s Great White Wonder, at Peaches Records, a large legitimate record store on Hollywood Boulevard.
I bought my second bootleg, the Rolling Stones’ LIVEr Than You’ll Ever Be at the same shop (Trivia note: LIVEr Than You’ll Ever Be was originally remastered by David Axelrod).
Both had similar covers: completely white with the title of the LP rubberstamped on the blank cover in blue.
Q: I thought we’d finally managed to get all your bootleg covers up on the site, but according to your website there were 45 created by you and we’ve only got 37 (plus the generic ‘Pigs in the bootleg warehouse’ one which is going up shortly)….have we missed any?
A: You probably missed the non-rock bootlegs. As big a market as there is for rock bootlegs, it’s dwarfed by the ferocious demand for bootleg movie soundtracks.
Here is what you may have overlooked: PIG’S EYE (TMQ Budget Label) The Rolling Stones – Honolulu The Who – Rock and Roll Who-Chee-Koo!
SOUND STAGE RECORDINGS/SCARCE RARITIES PRODUCTIONS Annie Get Your Gun soundtrack (Judy Garland version)
Various (Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, etc.)- Dick Tracy in B flat Raintree County soundtrack Ethel Merman – Something for The Boys
Gloria DeHaven, Van Johnson, June Allyson – Two Girls and a Sailor
Miklos Rozsa – The Film World of Miklos Rozsa
Vedette Records logo design
Plus: Standard covers for Dick Haymes, Betty Hutton, Gloria DeHaven
LONG LIVE THE SMOKING PIG
Led Zeppelin – Burn Like A Candle
I just completed an interview on my involvement with the bootleg record album company, Trademark of Quality. I thought it would be good to share here.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term “bootleg” as it applies to music, bootleg records were fan-produced LPs whose content came from live audience concert tapes (occasionally soundboard tapes), unreleased studio recordings or other rarities (radio and TV performances, obscure single B-sides, etc.). Bootlegs should be differentiated from pirate records (counterfeit productions of legitimate studio releases). A lot of pirating was financed by the Mafia and then distributed and sold through large department store chains. I’ve used the past tense in this paragraph because bootleg LPs are no longer produced; these days everything is on CD.
The bootleg LP heyday took place in the mid-1970s.
Q: When you first got into doing the artwork for TMOQ how old were you?
A: I was 24 years old.
Q: What were you doing artistically at the time ?
A: At that time I was taking just about any job that came my way. Most of my work then was in advertising. I worked on the first national advertising for Taco Bell, designing and illustrating posters to convince white people that Mexican food was clean and safe to eat. I also worked on the very first advertising and parts catalogues for Toyota in the United States. I was an assistant to Russ Manning on the Tarzan of the Apes Sunday and daily newspaper strips, and an assistant to Harvey Kurtzman and Willy Elder on “Little Annie Fanny” for Playboy. I was creating my own comics for Cycle-toons and Car-toons at this time, drawing the stories and features in a variety of art styles. I was also drawing underground comix — mostly covers.
Q: How did you get to meet Dub & Ken?
A: I met “Ken” at Record Paradise in Hollywood in 1973. That record shop was one of the few places in L. A. that carried import LPs. They also openly sold bootlegs. I had recently attended a great concert (Led Zeppelin, as I recall) and was looking forward to purchasing the bootleg LP of it that was sure to be produced. There it was in the “L” bin! I grabbed it and held it up.
“Oh man,” I said out loud, “this cover sucks. I wish someone would get me to do these covers.”
A guy tapped on my shoulder and whispered.
“You wanna do bootleg record covers?”
“Selma and Las Palmas, this Friday night, eight o’clock. Be there.”
I agreed. That guy was “Ken”.
The intersection of Selma and Las Palmas at that time was one of the seedier Hollywood neighborhoods. Promptly at eight an old black 40’s coupe with smoked windows pulled up to the corner and stopped. The passenger window opened a crack. A paper sheet came out of it. I took the sheet and read it. It said, “Winter Tour” and had a list of Rolling Stones songs.
A voice inside the car said, “Next Friday, same time.”
The window rolled up.
Then the window rolled back down a tiny bit.
I drove back to my apartment and began work on the cover. I re-titled it “All Meat Music” and designed the cover as a tribute to Robert Crumb’s Cheap Thrillscover for Big Brother & The Holding Company. Each song got a picture and each of the five Stones were featured in song illustrations.
The following Friday I was back at Selma and Las Palmas at the appointed time. Alone. The same coupe drove up and stopped. The passenger window cracked a bit. I put the cover in the provided slot, like mailing a letter. A fifty-dollar bill came out in response, as if the car was some kind of bizarre ATM machine. Then the coupe drove away.
Rolling Stones – Winter Tour (a.k.a. All Meat Music) came out within two weeks of the concert. The cover made it stand out and it sold very well. TMQ commissioned more covers.
Eventually, I gained the trust of the bootleggers and I worked with “Ken” and Dub face to face, though never knowing their real names. We saw each other regularly — usually, at Record Paradise. We were all friends with the shop’s owners, Roger and Ollie. It was a cool place to hang out.
Q: What were they like as individuals, bearing in mind the split between them after a few years was reportedly due to disagreements about quality (Dub) over quantity (Ken)….
A: I became closest to “Ken”. He kind of “collected” people. That is, he found the oddities of the human race and our species’ quirkier individuals fascinating and amusing. He made them a part of his pretty private social life. “Ken” taught me to be more tolerant and accepting of the stranger qualities of people. I don’t think I ever met a bigger Stones fan, either. I was amazed to discover that this huge music fan ONLY owned and collected records by the Rolling Stones — nothing else! He used to have a direct line to getting import UK singles. He had a guy buy and send him whatever was on the English charts. “Ken” ended up selling all those great records after he decided to only own Stones records. I got about a hundred of them. I think Greg Shaw bought the rest.
“Ken” was one of the most private people I’ve ever met. As close as we were (and we were pretty damn close), I didn’t find out he was married to his second wife until about two years after the fact. His first wife was the sister of Dub’s girlfriend. Both gals were incredibly gorgeous.
Dub saw himself as a composer and artist and was another huge music fan. His tastes were more diverse than that of “Ken”. Dub really liked a lot of the modern classical composers, like Edgard Varese. Dub had a pretty solid knowledge of classical music. He knew what was well performed and recorded and what was not. When CDs first came into existence, he sold them out of his girlfriend’s house (she was a top fashion designer). About 85% of my initial CD collection came from Dub.
Both guys were sharp businessmen and pretty tight with their dough.
Q: Can you remember where in California they were based back then?
A: The Los Angeles area.
Q: Did you get the choice of which covers you did at all, or were you given the artist, album name, song titles etc. up front ?
A: I was given everything up front. I never passed on doing a cover. We shared similar tastes, so I was never asked to do a cover for a group I didn’t like. Since I was only being paid $50 per cover I was given complete freedom to do whatever I wanted for the cover. I often changed to title of the LP to go with the art, which sometimes drove Dub nuts.
At first, after All Meat Music, I used to knock them out because I was only being paid fifty bucks per cover. Then, I asked myself, “If you’re not doing them for the money, then why are you doing them?”
I took a completely new attitude and approach and decided that, regardless of what I was being paid, I was going to do my best work. I also decided to hold Trademark of Quality to their name, and continually push for higher and higher quality bootleg LPs and packaging.
Q: And on a similar theme, were you given complete artistic freedom on each cover or did they ever brief you on what they wanted ?
A: They never told me what to do. The cover content and style was always up to me, as long as I included all the pertinent information like band name and track listing.
Q: Was it the first paid (art) work you did?
A: I got my first paying art job while I was in high school. I drew political cartoons for the Conejo Vally News-Chronicle, the local newspaper in Thousand Oaks. My first national exposure came when I did the covers and illustrations to the first four issues of the horror pulp magazine Coven 13. The first issue was in 1968, while I was in my second year at art school. I attended the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts; we referred to the school by its old name: the Chouinard Art Institute). The Illustration Department had a great policy. If you got any real jobs in the outside world, you could substitute them in lieu of your homework. By my last year and a half nearly everything I was turning in was professional work. It made the transition from Academia to the real world absolutely seamless.
Q: Can you remember what they used to pay for a boot cover? (As Monty Python said…. “If it’s not a personal question” !!!)…
A: I got $50 per bootleg cover, bumped up to $100 each for the color covers (I pushed TMOQ to start printing the front covers in color). Crappy pay even back then but it was big time fun. Plus, my rent was only about $90 per month during that period.
Q: Was it just Dub & Ken that you knew from that world or did you also get to meet Kurt Gleimser (your drawing of Mick Jagger was used on the K&S version of ‘Burning At The Hollywood Paladium’), John Wizardo, Andrea Waters, the Rubber Dubber guy or any of the other bootleg producers from that era?
A: I met a few of the other bootleggers, usually at the Hollywood Record Swap Meet in the Capitol Records parking lot. For the most part they were pretty sleazy and seemed untrustworthy. This intuitive feeling was borne out when the other bootleggers started stealing TMOQ’s recordings and putting them out on their own labels. Meeting them made me glad I was working with “Ken” and Dub. I don’t think I ever met the Rubber Dubber — but I bought his records. I don’t think I ever heard of Kurt.
Q: Did anyone else approach you to do work for them?
I think the other bootleggers were too intimidated by “Ken” and Dub to ask me to do covers for them. It was probably perceived of as a “turf” thing.
Apparently, a film I wrote, The Warrior and the Sorceress, has surprisingly (to me, anyway) gained in popularity to the point where it is now considered a cult classic! I recently was interviewed at length for an Italian publication about my participation in the film.
I wrote a pretty substantial blog on this subject several years ago. Using parts of my recent interview, here’s an expanded version of my old entry.
(“FB” refers to Francesco Borseti, my interviewer)
FB: It seems that The Warrior and the Sorceress was your first produced screenplay.
WS: That’s true.
FB: According to some sources you wrote the outline (uncredited) of Galaxy of Terror.
WS: That’s true as well, although I am credited in the packaging of the latest DVD of that film. I also did a rewrite of the Jim Danforth movie, Timegate.
If I had known what was going on with Timegate, I never would have done it. Timegate’s creator, stop motion wizard Jim Danforth, was a friend of mine.
John Broderick, the director of The Warrior and the Sorceress, lied to me and told me Jim was off the picture. I should have checked with Jim, as when I rewrote his film, I had no idea Jim was still involved. Jim thought I had stabbed him in the back. Later, when I found out what John was trying to pull, I called Jim and explained to him what had happened. Knowing Broderick, Danforth totally understood how I’d been duped. Happily, we’re still good friends.
The screenplay that got me into the Writers Guild of America was the one I wrote for Jim and Lisa Henson, a dinosaur movie that, unfortunately, didn’t get made — although some might say it got made as The Land Before Time, as the two screenplays were similar.
I know, however, that The Land Before Time was based upon (some might say “stolen from”) my award-winning children’s book, The Little Blue Brontosaurus.
I also wrote the Where Is Thy Sting? episode of the animated Godzilla TV series, plus several unmade feature film scripts (including a sequel to The Return of the Living Dead and a Conan film based upon his exploits as a pirate) and TV show presentations.
FB: Roger Corman made Sorceress in 1982 (director Jack Hill), his first “Sword & Sorcery” picture.
Then he sold New World and went to form his new company, New Horizon. Deathstalker was another sword & sorcery film, and it was the first of a long series of pictures of the same genre made in Argentina.
John C Broderick returned to direct after several years (Bad Georgia Road, 1977).
What was the origin of The Warrior and the Sorceress? How did you get involved with it?
WS: In 1977 I got a call from actress Carol Lynley’s former boyfriend, John Broderick. I was living in Hollywood at the time up on Beachwood Drive. I was doing a lot of movie posters and “presentation art” back then. Presentation art is a picture or series of pictures created to help sell a film project. Most producers or studios won’t read screenplays, but they’ll look at pictures. The pictures often took the form of (fake) movie posters. The art not only told what the film was about but also reflected a way in which the film could be sold.
John called me to create presentation art for a sword and sorcery film project based upon (or stolen from) the John Norman Gor novels, softcore bondage porn disguised as sword and sorcery.
He asked me if I was familiar with “Gor” and “sword and sorcery” novels. Over the phone I thought he was referring to “gore” and I said “Yes!” (I actually had read a couple of the Gor novels but didn’t think much of them).
At the time I was a big sword and sorcery fan (I’m referring to the books; that film genre had yet to be invented). I was well-read in that genre, being especially enthusiastic about Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories (I eventually worked as a key designer on both Conan movies and the related Red Sonja film as well).
We had the first of a series of meetings at Farmer’s Market, the Los Angeles market where food photographers buy their fruits and vegetables, as they are famed for having the best and most beautiful produce in the city. It’s also a show biz hangout.
About half an hour into our meeting I figured out that I had confused “Gor” with its homonym “gore” but I didn’t confess my error. John liked my picture ideas, character ideas and my thoughts about the movie, so much so that he proposed I write the screenplay. He would direct.
John recommended I watch Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo for inspiration.
I’ll always be thankful to Broderick for turning me on to Kurosawa; I became a huge fan and eventually saw every film Kurosawa ever made. I had never written a screenplay before, so I took story notes while watching Yojimbo. I then wrote the first draft of our film, using the structural bones of Yojimbo, but setting it in another world. I figured that if I did that, my screenplay would be the proper length. Then, I went back and did a complete rewrite, changing everything in the story that was similar to Yojimbo (I didn’t want to plagiarize the Kurosawa film). I didn’t type (I still type with just one finger), so I wrote out my screenplay, and subsequent drafts, entirely in longhand. I titled the movie Kain of Dark Planet.
By the time I figured out that John had meant “Gor” (not “gore”), it didn’t matter, as John was very happy with my story and we were on our way.
During this time period John and I became pretty good friends. One day he told me he was going to introduce me to “an old time producer”. He drove me over to a small nearby office where I met Harry Rybnick, whose company Jewell Enterprises, Inc. was responsible for buying the rights for and adapting the first Godzilla film for American audiences.
FB: According to the film credits you co-wrote The Warrior and the Sorceress along with the director John C Broderick.
WS: Actually, John did not do any of the writing until he made a lot of changes just prior to shooting. Each time I finished what I thought was a perfect screenplay, John and I would meet in L. A.’s Farmer’s Market. John combed through each version and requested dozens and dozens of major changes, necessitating a full rewrite each time. I would note everything he didn’t like or wanted changed, then I would do another rewrite. The rewrites were painful. With each one (and there were at least eight) I felt as if I was psychologically flaying my own flesh from my body. It was really, really hard to go back to Square One each time and do a complete rewrite. But I did so without complaint.
FB: My guess is that you were hired to write a script of that specific genre (as well as Ed Naha, hired to write Wizards of the Lost Kingdom).
WS: That’s right. John could see from our conversations that I was intimately familiar with this new movie genre, sword and sorcery. That’s part of what made me so effective as a designer on the Conan films.
FB: I’m interested to know whatever you can recall about the process of writing: who came up with the idea; your contribution and goals to the story, the characters and the film’s general tone…
WS: John came to me with a genre in mind: sexy sword and sorcery. I came up with the story, including all the characters, their names, and the creatures, and then wrote the entire screenplay. Like I said, I didn’t want to plagiarize Yojimbo. I yearned to write a sword and sorcery film of which I could be proud. I wanted everything in my movie to be surprising, original and true to the nature of this genre I so loved: sword and sorcery. I endeavored to push the envelope, film-wise, and come up with things no one had ever seen in a movie.
One thing I was insistent upon was that it be strongly implied that Bal Caz had a sexual relationship with his reptilian pet (who was also his confidant and court advisor), Poog.
John HATED that idea; it turned his stomach. John couldn’t get past his own revulsion to bestiality to the point where he could see how well this worked in the film and how unique the relationship was. That’s exactly why I wanted that relationship to be in the film: it was shocking, lurid and unusual — and had nothing to do with Yojimbo. I’m glad he kept my multi-breasted wasp woman in the film, though.
Once John had approved my screenplay, I began creating the presentation art to sell the project. I painted several pictures depicting key scenes in the film, plus a faux movie poster of our project, which was now entitled Kain of Dark Planet.
During my writing period on the movie John and I discussed casting. John pushed for his good friend Gary Lockwood (or “Foxy Locksy”, as John called him) to have the lead role.
After appearing at a lot of conventions together I eventually became closely acquainted with Lockwood. Gary is a great guy full of terrifically entertaining show biz tales.
John’s other choice (and my first choice) for the role of Kain was David Carradine.
I liked David’s look and presence on the screen, plus he was a damn good actor. Ironically, I have never watched a single episode of his TV show Kung Fu, in which he played a character coincidentally named Caine (more serendipitous homonym mischief).
John took my script and paintings and pitched the film to Roger Corman at New World. John was peeved that Roger did what Roger usually did: he proudly presented John Broderick to his New World staff as this “incredible new talent” who was going make “great movies for us here at New World”. John told me, “I was annoyed. I had heard that Corman speech many times before. He treated me like I was some new kid to The Biz.”
John told me he had passed on Roger’s offer and was going to try to sell it elsewhere.
Time passed, and I forgot about Kain of Dark Planet as other work demanded my attention. I was in the heyday of my movie poster period. I ended up working on over 120 movie advertising campaigns, three of which were movie posters for Roger Corman (Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, Up From the Depths and The Lady in Red).
I became friends with New World’s advertising art director. Chatting on the phone one day I asked what was new over in Roger Corman Land.
“Roger is producing a film in Argentina called Kain of Dark Planet.”
“Kain of Dark Planet. John Broderick is the director.”
“Kain of Dark Planet? John Broderick? Do you happen to have a copy of the script?”
“Sure do; it’s right here.”
“Can you read the title page to me?”
“Kain of Dark Planet by John Broderick…”
“No ‘and’ — just ‘Story and Screenplay by John Broderick. Roger just shot a film down in Argentina. Rather than let the sets go to waste, Roger told John to go down there and shoot Kain of Dark Planet re-using Roger’s old sets. Roger gave him a budget of $80,000.”
FB: Do you recall the process to raise money to make The Warrior and the Sorceress?
WS: I wasn’t there during the meeting, but John pitched it to Corman with my script and my paintings. $80,000 wasn’t much dough to make a film like that; I believe Roger and his company provided the entire amount — and the Argentinian sets.
FB: As well as Deathstalker, it was a co-production with Argentina.
WS: If that’s true, then someone in Argentina may have put up half the money for the film.
FB: John C Broderick figures as the main producer, along with Frank Isaac (specialized in sword & sorcery films). The co-producers were the Argentinians Alejandro Sessa and Hector Olivera.
WS: Perhaps Alejandro and Hector put up half the budget. I’m just speculating…
FB: My understanding is that The Warrior and the Sorceress was shot a few months after Wizards of the Lost Kingdom.
WS: That must be where we got our sets.
Anyway, I immediately called my attorney, Henry Holmes. Henry got on the phone with Roger. Roger, of course, knew nothing of John’s subterfuge.
I got a panicked call from Argentina. It was John. He was very, very upset. In fact, he sounded pretty fried.
“Bill! What in the hell is going on?” he shouted. “What are you doing?!”
“What am I doing? You stole my screenplay!”
“We wrote it together!”
“I wrote; you critiqued. But I shared the credit with you in gratitude for what I learned from you. And then you sold it — but not before you took my name off of it — and you never paid me.”
“I’m trying to make our movie! Why are you making trouble?”
‘John,” I replied. “Why did you take my name off the script?”
Then John told me a whopper to justify his actions that I’ll never forget.
“It’s easier to sell a screenplay if there’s only one name on it.”
John never apologized. Instead, he complained that as soon as Roger Corman found out what had happened, Roger, honorable man that he is, paid me for the screenplay out of Broderick’s directing fee and changed the screen credit. John was furious (which I found hilarious)!
I was supposed to get a solo “Story and Screenplay by” credit but when the movie eventually came out John and I ended up with a shared story/screenplay credit, plus an “Original Art by William Stout” credit for my pre-production presentation art.
I saw the film at one of my favorite grindhouses: the World Theater. “Three films for 99¢” in a theater that smelled like the inside of an old shoe. The World’s usher staff wore concealed, fully loaded shoulder pistols under their coats.
The film rolled. I was shocked. John Broderick had changed all of the dialogue I had sweated over. It turned out that John was really crazy about Yojimbo, so much so that John took what I had written and changed it all back to mirror every single plot point in Yojimbo. When I saw the movie, I was mortified. It was total, unabashed plagiarism — and my name was on it!
I was pleased and thrilled, though, that David Carradine, my first choice for the lead, was cast as Kain. I knew he’d be great.
David and I were guests at a science fiction convention. After the show, we shared the same limo back to the airport. I asked him about John and his experience on The Warrior and the Sorceress.
David told me that John was pretty stressed out during the making of the film. That’s understandable, considering how little money he had to make the movie. John was very, very anxious — and the film was still in pre-production, what is typically the “honeymoon” period of moviemaking. Shortly after arriving in Argentina, Carradine saw John cave in to a demand from one of the producers.
“John, I just saw you make your first compromise — and we haven’t even begun shooting yet. If you’re beginning to sell out your vision this early in the game, how many more compromises are you going to make? What kind of film do you think you’ll end up with if you keep doing that?”
John thought about what David had just said to him and decided he would fight the compromise and get much tougher about sticking to his guns.
Anthony De Longis was cast in the film as Kief.
I later worked with him on Masters of the Universe. He appeared in Masters as a character I designed named Blade.
He also trained the other actors in their sword work for Masters, as he did in The Warrior and the Sorceress.
FB: Do you know how (approximately) The Warrior and the Sorceress went at the boxoffice and the foreign sales? I’m aware that it was sold in many countries, also in Italy.
WS: The domestic (US) gross was $2,886,225. I couldn’t find anything and never heard anything on the film’s foreign sales amounts.
I’m sorry that John did what he did. I could have been a huge help to him on the movie. At that time, I was close friends with all the greatest make-up and effects people (like Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Steve Czerkas, Jim Danforth and Ray Harryhausen) in the business (the Film Biz was much smaller back then). We could have had some amazing creatures!
John did show me some of the show biz ropes. It was trial by fire, but I did learn a lot about screenwriting and moviemaking from John.
I guess it came down to ego on John’s part. Perhaps he saw himself as an auteur. It’s sad. He only directed one more film (1998’s A Bedfull of Foreigners, starring himself and Gary Lockwood) after The Warrior and the Sorceress before he died in 2001.
FB: I always ask this question, for “historical” reasons…Do you recall if The Warrior and the Sorceress had different titles at its inception or during the shooting?
WS: Before its release, Roger Corman had changed the title of the movie from Kain of Dark Planet to The Warrior and the Sorceress.
I was mystified by the change.
“But Roger — there’s no sorceress in the movie!”
“That’s okay, Bill. The object of the title of a film is to get butts into seats. Once they’ve paid their money and their butts are in those seats, it doesn’t matter if the film’s got a sorceress or not. Plus, that title means we can put a scantily clad sorceress on the movie’s poster.”
And that’s the tale of my introduction to the business of making movies.
As promised yesterday, here’s the splash page to my story for the revivified comic book classic, Alien Worlds. Bruce Jones, the comic’s original creator, is the writer-editor. RAW Studios (the brainchild of Thomas Jane and Tim Bradstreet) is the publisher.
I have great fondness for Alien Worlds, as one cover (the T. rex and the Girl) put me on the auction records map as a collectible artists when the original fetched a record price at a Christie’s auction. The other cover (an astronaut sinking into the ground, surrounded by nasty little creatures) inadvertently launched my film career.
No street date yet. I should have the cover finished today.