What do you remember about Charles Kissinger?
Charlie was a remarkable person. He was just an absolute joy to be around. He was always full of laughs. I don't think Charlie was really happy deep down inside, but he certainly didn't show it. When I met Charlie he was the host of a local late-night fright TV show. Charlie would come on dressed up like some weird creature, and he'd go through his bit. In real life, he was a true comedian. I think Charlie was introduced to Billy through a great woman named Lois Hainie.
A lot of the people who worked on the movies were friends of Billy's. To be frank, they were mostly well-off, east end, high society type people who didn't have anything else to do. So it would be like, "HEY! BILLY'S GONNA MAKE ANOTHER MOVIE!! LET'S ALL HELP BILLY MAKE A MOVIE!" They were very lovely people.
Billy's secretary, Claire Pearce, was also a wonderful lady. Claire was the wife of Dr. Charles Pearce, who invested in Asylum Of Satan. She certainly didn't need the money, but she was Billy's secretary because it was a lot of fun and she liked Billy. Claire passed away a few years ago due to cancer. She was a remarkable woman - a nicer lady you couldn't meet. She was a big help to Billy. Claire took care of Billy. She handled all of his bills. He didn't even carry a credit card most of the time. He only carried a little cash. He didn't have time for writing out his bills or other "red tape", so Claire handled all of his personal finances. She was very protective of Billy.
What do you know about Girdler's involvement in the film Dr. Gore?
Dr. Gore was made right around the same time as Asylum Of Satan. It's the re-titling of the picture The Body Shop. Billy did some music on Body Shop. The film was made by another dear friend of mine from North Carolina named Pat Patterson, who worked on Herschell Gordon Lewis' 2000 Maniacs and Blood Feast. Pat was the makeup artist - he was the "blood man" for all of those pictures. He used mortician's wax, and his own special formula of fake blood which he's somewhat famous for. He was another movie dreamer like Billy, and he set up his own studio in Charlotte, North Carolina back in the mid seventies that put out Body Shop. It's a story about this guy whose wife dies from some terrible disease. He's so lonely he goes around killing women to make "the perfect woman" out of their parts. Like, he finds a woman with the perfect hands, so he kills her and cuts off their hands. He makes a composite a la Frankenstein. It was a low budget wonder.
(Click Here to see some Pat Patterson Meathook gore. Mpeg movie: 384 KB)
When we made Three On A Meathook, which involved some gore, we turned to the services of Pat to do blood work. I knew Pat from previous work we'd done in Atlanta. Most of the gore in Three on a Meathook was eventually cut out to get an R rating. Nowadays, it would be rated G.
Girdler mentioned in an interview that the local response to Asylum was harsh. How did that affect the making of his next film?
I think Billy's ego was bruised from the bad reviews, of course, because nobody wants to read from a local newspaper critic that their film was the worst thing he's ever seen. Whatever Billy's feelings were on the inside, he never allowed it to come out. He'd always say, "You win a few, you lose a few."
Asylum Of Satan was mostly financed by a gentleman who owned a chain of movie theaters in the area, and he put about $70, 000 into the film. Three On A Meathook was an in-house job. It didn't have investors like Asylum did. The effect from the response to Asylum was that we didn't go out seeking investors. The money for Three On A Meathook was put up by Joe, myself, and John Asman.
Joe Schulten tried to tell him once, he said, "Billy, you write just awful scripts! You ought to get someone else to write the script, and just direct the movie." Billy would say, "Aw, no, Joe. I'm just making a few mistakes. It's going to get better as time goes on." Billy wouldn't have anybody write his scripts for him - at least with the early films. When Grizzly came along, of course, the script was written by Harvey Flaxman. However, Billy always got his two-cents in. After all, Harvey wasn't the best writer in the world, either.
Before we went down to Georgia to do the filming for Grizzly, Billy was with a girl whom he subsequently married named Avis. Billy lived with Avis up by Rock Creek riding stables (Avis has since become a renowned horse photographer). They were living in an apartment close to the barn - near the caretaker's quarters. Anyway, one night all the local principals -- like me, Charlie Kissinger and Pat Kelly -- we all piled up there for a going away party. I remember Billy and I sat down with the script, and began rewriting it. Obviously (laughs), we didn't improve it that much. It's a terrible script, but it wasn't meant to be an Academy Award winner, either. There are a lot of worse movies out there, I think.