I was first introduced to my next interview subject when I visited a Blockbuster video store during a visit to my uncle’s house in 1996. We rented several movies that weekend, and one of them was Amazon Women On The Moon. A wild compilation of sketches, one that stood out was a sketch called “Roast Your Loved One”, where wakes were turned into roasts. The widow of Archie Hahn’s Harvey Pitnik was named Bernice, and she was played by Belinda Balaski. She got some great lines in that sketch. 15 years later, I befriended Belinda Balaski on Facebook and acquired her autograph.
I knew that she had done a lot of work with Joe Dante, a very underrated director, and I saw that she was a gifted painter, too. With such diverse talents, I knew she would make a great interview subject. We spoke in June, and now it’s time for us to Flashback again.
Say hello to Belinda Balaski!
Johnny: What were your pop-cultural likes growing up, like favorite movies and music and TV?
Belinda: Let me think. Favorite films? Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, Bunny Lake Is Missing, David & Lisa, My Sweet Charlie…These were some of my faves. I loved to watch The Twilight Zone, Star Trek and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Other than that, I wasn’t sitting down very long. I was always moving. There are so many great stars I love. That’s kind of a hard road to go down because no matter where you go, there are really great ones.
Johnny: What were your high school days like?
Belinda: Well, I was on a drama scholarship from 7th grade through 12th grade at a private girls’ school, so my high school was my junior high and my high school. It was a wonderful school in La Jolla called The Bishop’s School, and because I was very involved in theater from the time I was quite young, I was able to get a drama scholarship there for the whole seven years I attended, and then on to college I had a drama scholarship. My entire focus in junior high, high school and college was on theater. I was doing three plays my senior year. I was playing Wendy in Peter Pan at the Starlight Opera, a play at the La Jolla Playhouse and The Miracle Worker as Helen Keller at school. I was doing all three shows at the same time, and my mother kept saying, “It’s too much”. I kept saying, “No, I’m ready to do more”. I loved every second of it.
Johnny: Excellent. One of your early TV movies was The Werewolf Of Woodstock. As an actress who came of age in the era of the hippies, do you think that network executives got the milieu right or not?
Belinda: Well, it might have been a statement about not liking rock and roll, but in a sense, all women in the business are victims. We’re either running from this or running from that, or being chased, eaten, raped or killed by something or another. It’s kind of a common denominator. I don’t think it was anything special with me. I think it was just…Pretty much every audition you go on, you’re getting attacked by something or another, so I think it’s just kind of true to the course. Werewolf Of Woodstock was so much fun. Tige Andrews was actually the werewolf in that movie, and Andy Stevens, who is Stella Stevens’ son, and Rob Weaver (Dennis Weaver’s son) were all in it, so it was a really interesting cast. It was a really interesting group of people that were working on that shoot, which made it so so much fun to do. I got to play my Fay Wray part, which I loved, because I always loved that Fay Wray in King Kong falls in love with King Kong and really cares about him. Watching that movie, I was on the living room floor sobbing, saying “No, no, don’t kill him”. I guess there is a part of that that I do tend to fall into, but I think it’s also part of the business, you know? And yes, I do believe I was a perfect example of my era.
Johnny: You played Essie Beaumont in Bobbie Jo And The Outlaw.
Belinda: It was one of my favorite parts and my first film.
Johnny: What was your favorite part of working on that movie?
Belinda: Creating my character. If you’ve ever met Lynda Carter, she is really, absolutely gorgeous…Tall, beautiful, with an incredible body and a face that you just want to fall down for. When I met her, I immediately called Mark Lester and said, “Listen, I just met Lynda, and I have to ask you: Please, can I dye my hair red and have these beveled glasses made and gain 30 pounds?”. He started laughing. I said “I can’t compete with her”. Two beautiful girls are never best friends. There’s always the short, fat one and the tall, skinny one. “I thought to go opposite of her is my best answer to this”. He said, “You can do the glasses and you can dye your hair red, but don’t you gain an ounce”. I said “Okay”, so that’s what I did. I decided to create this character. I was very much a part of that character. The jewelry I wore in that I wore for 20 years before. When I undid Essie and I took off the costume for the last time, I took everything off that day, I took off my bracelets that I’d been wearing for 20 years and I never wore them again. There was so much a part of my life in this character that once I got her on film, I didn’t have to carry it around with me anymore. It’s kind of interesting, yes?
Johnny: Definitely. Speaking of which, if Kino Lorber Studio Classics were to reissue Bobbie Jo And The Outlaw on Blu-Ray, would you participate in the extras?
Belinda: Absolutely without fail. Wait, as an extra? No way! It’s one of my favorite films that I ever did, but not as an extra, perhaps as a real part. Everybody’s in out movie. Marjoe Gortner, whom I love. I think he’s just seriously an incredible human being. Jim Gammon is in it. Virgil Frye is in it. Peggy Stewart plays Lynda Carter’s mother. She played my mother in Picnic which I did with Nick Nolte at the old Met Theatre, and Jim Gammon directed! Everybody on the planet is BJ&O, which makes it a juicy little film. I hope and pray it comes out on Blu-Ray.
Johnny: I’ll suggest it on their Facebook page.
Belinda: Is it Shout! Factory that would do it?
Johnny: The only reason why I thought Kino Lorber Studio Classics would do it is because MGM currently owns the rights to it via their purchase of the Orion Pictures library, who had purchased American International Pictures. They released it as a Made On Demand title.
Belinda: I just did the Food Of The Gods Blu-Ray for Shout! Factory, and it was a double feature with Marjoe. I don’t know if it was connected or not to AIP. I had only done Bobbie Jo, and then they brought me in for Food Of The Gods, but Marjoe had a two-picture deal with AIP. I really hope they do a Blu-Ray of BJ&O.
Johnny: Speaking of Food Of The Gods, your co-stars included Ralph Meeker and Ida Lupino. Since you had only been acting for a few years, what was the best advice they gave to you for your acting career?
Belinda: Well, to be honest, they didn’t really give me any advice. Ida Lupino was having a hard time being on this teeny-tiny island. My favorite memories of Food Of The Gods are when we first got there. We would have meetings in this kind of common house where we would all gather and have dinner. Ida would sit on top of this grand piano and Ralph Meeker would play. Ida would sing, and it was like slipping back 30 years in time. It was just magnificent and wonderful, but after about four or five days, Ida, who was the only person who was supposed to live through the movie, arrived one morning (I happened to be there when she said this) and said “Bert, I have written my own death scene, and if you don’t shoot it, I’m leaving anyway. I’m leaving on the 4:00 ferry”. Bert really had no choice except to shoot this death scene for Ida, which was never intended in the original script and of course not in the original HG Wells novel. There were a lot of surprises on that set. First of all, he chose Bowen Island off of Vancouver because it had this sort of overcast, grey look, and that’s what he wanted for the film. We go there, and within two or three days, it began to snow! When you’re sitting in the middle of saltwater, it usually doesn’t snow, and suddenly this green-gray island turned into a white Christmas look that didn’t match any of his other exteriors. We started doing our interior shots and trying to get all of that wrapped up while waiting for the snow to melt, but it kept snowing. Bert is out there after a week of snow, realizing there’s no reprieve here, with torches blasting the snow off so we could finish shooting. We had a lot of unexpected problems up there, but altogether, I think it came off pretty well, and it was a fun movie to do. Again there was Marjoe, and Pamela Franklin who is an absolute doll. Bert and I are dear friends. His youngest daughter Christina is in her 20s, he’s now in his 90s, and she’s been helping me. I shot 30 Years Of Rock And Roll back in the day, and she’s been helping me digitize my slides so I can put a book together. I’m very close to their family.
Johnny: Cannonball was your first film for New World Pictures. What would you say was the biggest difference between New World Pictures and American International Pictures?
Belinda: A whole perspective on how you look at something. Roger (Corman), I believe is like the single person in this business who started so many geniuses. He was the “father seed” of so many actors, producers, directors and people in this business, whereas AIP had kind of a more clinical hand on it. They were worried about the money, they were worried about the snow, they were worried about this and that. It was just a completely different kind of feeling. Of course, they were under a very strict budget, too, and the snow and the changes that happened up there messed us all up. Working on Cannonball with Paul Bartel was so much fun, and Tak (Fujimoto) shot it. Tak is one of the greatest cinematographers there is, and it was just a fabulous group of fun-loving people. Mary Woronov was there. Bill McKinney, the Carradines Everyone was there. It was just a great, amazing group of people. Veronica Hamel and everyone on that set was just there to have fun, and get the job done, of course, but it was just a completelt different feel.
Johnny: Were you or any of the Cannonball cast members offered the chance to appear in the Cannonball Run movies?
Belinda: No. Completely different budget, completely different people…They wanted names, they didn’t want actors. They wanted celebrities. Completely different ballgame, sort of like the remake of Piranha. They wanted certain things out of that, like more T&A. They easily could’ve asked several of us to be in that, but that wasn’t their point or intention.
Johnny: Speaking of Piranha, that was the first time you worked with Joe Dante, for whom you would become one of his most reliable players. What was your first impression of him when you met?
Belinda: Okay, that’s a really interesting story. When I met Joe, I had not realized that Joe already knew me. I had done a film called Black Eye with Jack Arnold, and his daughter Susie Arnold was in it. She and I met on that set and became friends. Later, she was casting Piranha, and she called me in, telling me Joe Dante wanted to meet me. I had not ever heard of Joe. No one had that I know of. I went mainly because of Susie. I walk into this room and I met this man and he said, “We did a picture together”. I stood there going, “What? We did a picture together”. You’re on the spot in that moment. “Who is this person and how do I know them?”. All of a sudden, I looked at him and said, “Oh my God, you were that greasy little mechanic in Cannonball”, and he said, “Yes, I was”. I said, “You were so wonderful in it”. That was it. We became fast friends and fans of each other from that point on. What I didn’t know, Johnny, was that even though Bobbie Jo was not a New World picture, Tina Hirsch was cutting it and she did not have a place to edit, so she called Roger and asked if she could use the editing base at New World, and he said, “Of course! Come over”. That’s the complete difference with Roger and most people in this biz. He’s just so giving and generous and wonderful. Tina went over there to cut the film, and ended up sitting at an editing bay right next to a guy called Joe Dante, who was sitting there editing Hollywood Boulevard, HIS first film. They were sitting together, so she would say “What do you think of this cut?” and he’d say “What do you think of this cut?”. So he got to know me by watching her and helping her cut her film, while she was helping him cut his film Hollywood Boulevard. He knew more about me than I did by the time he met me.
Johnny: Well, connections pay off.
Belinda: You don’t realize, but later you do, that it’s a very small circle. At the time, you just don’t know that these things are going on.
Johnny: The Howling is classified as horror, but looking at some original reviews, some viewed it as a knowing satire as well. Do you feel that horror-comedy would be a better IMDB description for The Howling than just horror?
Belinda: Oh, absolutely. All of Joe’s movies have to fall into that category. I just went and saw a screening for Burying The Ex, a film he did a few years ago that’s had a hard time coming out. I have to admit Joe is really funny, and people think of him as a horror director, but the guy is seriously a comedian. I mean, he has a lot of tongue-in-cheek political humor and a lot of film buff humor. I had not seen Piranha since a screening thirty years ago, and recently in the Valley, these people created Jump Cut Cafe, a cafe where they run 16mm prints that they’ve been collecting and buying over the years. They ran a 16mm print of Piranha, and they asked me to come and Q&A it. I said, “God, I haven’t seen it in 30 years”, and said, “Okay, I’ll go”. The reason I didn’t want to see it again was because, when I saw it the first time at a screening, it was a rollercoaster audience. They were laughing, they were screaming. They were laughing, they were screaming. It was so fun and so unbelievably real that I thought I could never watch this picture at home alone, it would never be the same. So here I am at Jump Cut Cafe, watching it with a bunch of film buffs, and it was the same rollercoaster. All that humor held up 30 years later. It’s so pertinent, what Joe says in that movie, and of course John Sayles…Is so right on. His political humor is still chiming through. If you watch it again, there isn’t a beat in there that’s dated. It’s still current stuff and it’s so funny. I can’t believe how funny it is. By the way, did you ever see Amazon Women On The Moon?
Johnny: I’ll be asking questions about that.
Belinda: Okay, good.
Johnny: In your opinion, what did The Howling have that its’ sequels did not?
Belinda: Joe Dante, John Sayles, John Hora, a cast and Rob Bottin. That’s my answer. There is no other answer.
Johnny: You appeared as Mrs. Joe Harris in “Gremlins” and as the Movie Theater Mom in “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”. Which do you think was the better movie?
Belinda: Well, Gremlins was such a shock to everybody when it came out that the only thing you could do with a sequel was make fun of it, you know? Again, that’s what’s so brilliant about Joe. Think about most sequels. They don’t make fun of their own film, and he just has that tongue-in-cheek humor. Gremlins 2 is a very funny put-on of Gremlins. When Joe called me and said I was going to be in Gremlins, I said okay, and the night before we were supposed to shoot, I called him up saying “Joe, it’s 8:30 at night”. He said “Yeah”, and I said “I don’t have a script and I’m supposed to start tomorrow”. He said “A what?”. I said “A script!”. No one’s delivered a script. He says “I don’t have one, either. Just come in and ad-lib”. I said “Wait a minute, what’s the movie about?” and he said “It’s about gremlins”. I’m like “What are gremlins?”, and he’s like “I don’t know. Just come in and have fun”. That’s the way it was, and so I wrote that scene. I panicked because I knew I was going to be working with Polly Holliday, which is like trying to ad-lib with Carol Burnett. Films don’t go away…You just can’t come in and ad-lib and not do a good job. So I wrote 40 different scenes that night, and I bought this wad of paper to Joe in the morning. saying “Could you just look these over and see if I’m on the right track?”. He came back to my trailer 20 minutes later and he said “The first scene you wrote is perfect”. He said “Bring it to Polly Holliday and let her create her lines”, and so I did.
Johnny: Very creative stuff.
Belinda: Well, I had written a scene in Piranha when we were on location and Paul Bartel and I were there in San Marcos. We kept looking at Joe, going “Joe, we don’t have a scene. We just came from doing Cannonball and we don’t have a scene together”. We kept bugging him with “Joe, I want to do a scene with Paul”. He said “Joe, I want to do a scene with Belinda”. We’re like “Come on. Create a scene for us”. He went “Okay, fine. Just write one”. I went into my room that night and wrote that moonlight scene in Piranha where Melody Thomas Scott and I are sitting on the edge of the water, and Paul Bartel comes out and we’re ready to go for a skinny dip. Michael Katz, who was the lighting designer, put up that big full moon for me, and it was so much fun. Joe shot it and he loved the scene, and to me, that scene is the turning point in the movie. It’s the “dada da da” scene where everything starts to change. Joe allowed such creative interaction. He was so open, much like Roger was, and so he allowed these things to happen…Things that most directors would not allow because they don’t have the time, the budget or whatever. He was completely wide open, and all of us were working together to make the movie better. I think that’s what’s so brilliant and wonderful about it. It certainly wasn’t money. We didn’t have any budgets.
Johnny: I first saw you as Bernice Pitnik in 1987’s Amazon Women On The Moon.
Belinda: That’s the first time you ever saw me?
Johnny: Yeah. I was 13 years old. I was visiting my Uncle Eddie for a couple of days and we rented some movies from a local Blockbuster. Amazon Women On The Moon was one of the ones we rented, and that was my first exposure to your work.
Belinda: That is so interesting. I love that that was the first thing you saw me in. They finally let me do comedy. I was so thankful.
Johnny: The segment “Roast Your Loved One” was hilarious. What was it like to work with comedians like Henny Youngman, Slappy White and Rip Taylor?
Belinda: Absolutely horrifying and terrifying. I was soaking wet from the top of that ridiculous hat down to the bottom of my little heels. I was so nervous. Joe was shooting with five cameras with a live audience sitting there, and I am going to go up there with these comedians who didn’t stop, not one of them. They were going, going, going from the minute they arrived on set, and I was shaking. I was so scared. Steve Allen introduces me and my opening line was “Thank you, Steve”, and I’m supposed to go on. I thought “Okay, I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to get their attention”. None of them would stop. They just kept throwing jokes out, and I thought “How am I even going to get them to focus on me?”. I thought “Okay, I’ll come in and do this, but I don’t know if Joe is going to yell ‘Cut'”. I took a deep breath and I go up there, and instead of saying “Thank you, Steve”, I said “Thank you, Merv”. At that point, Steve Allen goes to sit down, and then he realized that I called him Merv instead of Steve, and he does this double-take that is so funny. Those guys were glued to me after that. They did not know what was going to come out of my mouth, and I only had two jokes. These two writers are standing with Joe, and they were literally writing jokes on cards and having this kid run up and crawl across the stage and hand them to me. When you see me looking down, I’m getting another card from the kid who crawled across the stage, not even knowing what the joke was, not even knowing what I was going to say. It was all live, and the fact that Joe didn’t call “Cut” when I said “Thank you, Merv”…I thought “If he calls ‘Cut’, I’m going to be so embarrassed with five cameras rolling and they think I don’t know this guy’s name”. He didn’t. He trusted me and he went with it.
Johnny: That was excellent stuff. Since the writers of Amazon Women On The Moon also worked on some of the Dean Martin roasts, did they offer you or the other actors any material that was too raunchy for the Martin programs?
Belinda: Well, listen. You had a few comics up there that do only raunchy, so no, they never offered me anything like that. I’m supposed to be the innocent one that knows nothing but takes over the roast. Because they were throwing those other jokes up there, they decided to put that thing up that said “Pitnik Roast Held Over Two Weeks”. That wasn’t part of the original script. I’ve been teaching for 30 years, and I tell my kids “You need to be a creative energy on the set. You need to think about the project, not yourself. Think about the character, not yourself. Be a part of this whole project to bring it to life. Do the best job you can to make the most sense. When your intentions are in the right place, then people are willing to listen to your creative ideas”.
Johnny: You played Dr. Stephanie Ambrose on several episodes of Falcon Crest. What was your favorite part of working on that show?
Belinda: Well, it was the first series I was asked back to several times, so I was very, very happy about it. I do feel that soaps were not the right thing for me, but I love that whenever I was cast in these soaps, I was always cast as the child psychologist or the child expert. I always had this sort of higher view on things, which I actually like because I never got to do that in my films.
Johnny: Was Dr. Ambrose a short-term character, or were you offered more than the three episodes you appeared in?
Belinda: I was only offered one, but they kept bringing me back, so you never know what goes on behind those closed doors. I was not privy to any of the decisions. I just got a call from my agent saying “They want you to come back”.
Johnny: You played Stan’s Mom in Matinee. This is kind of similar to my questions about The Werewolf Of Woodstock. As you were a teenager during the time period Matinee was set in, how true would you say the movie was to your experiences as a teenager?
Belinda: Well, yes, I was probably Stan’s age when all of that was happening. I was so oblivious to it because we were coming out of the 50s and the entire nation was rather oblivious. I mean peoplel kept things from from each other, like you don’t tell the neighbors your child’s going to a psychologist. Society was coming out of that veiled reality of the 50s and people talked in hushed tones about things like that. My father was a jockey. My mother was a singer. They were out every night, and this was not a part of our reality that I was aware of. I sort of knew what was going on, but I didn’t really get the full impact of it until many years later. For a little side-story, my great-great-grandfather’s name was Velasquez, and he came from Cuba when he was 14 years old. They were so worried about what was going on in Cuba in the late 1800s that they sent him to America, and he landed in New Orleans when he was 14 years old. They asked him his name and he said Velasquez, but they wrote down Balaski. I hear a lot of Polish jokes, but really, I’m part Cuban. My great-great-grandfather had a little pouch around his waist that had the papers of land our family owned in Cuba. Later in life, when my father and uncle found these papers, like in the 50s, they sent two attorneys down to Cuba to find out about this property that our family owned, only to determine that it was what’s now called downtown Havana. These two attorneys that were sent down? They never came back and they were never heard from again. About a month later, they sent two detectives down to try and find the attorneys, and THEY never came back and were never seen or heard from again. My Dad dropped it. He dropped the whole thing, but there’s a part of me that’s Cuban, and there’s a whole world there that is something I hope to one day see open up. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to. I have a completely different take on Cuba, and I’m really happy to see sanctions lifting and things changing and, hopefully, freedom for those people, because that is one beautiful island that I’d like to visit.
Johnny: Absolutely. I see on your Facebook page that you’ve taken up painting. What does painting do for you that acting doesn’t?
Belinda: First of all, I don’t need anyone’s approval. I can just sit and paint. I don’t have to be cast by someone to paint. I can just do it on my own any time I want. You can’t really hang out in your backyard and act. You need other people. However, when I was very little, my mother would come in to make sure our covers were on us late at night after we’d gone to bed, and I was never in my bed. I was always in the closet with the light on, drawing. My mother would find me in the closet and she’d say “What are you doing?”. I’d say “Drawing”. She’d say “What are you drawing?” and I said “Hightning bugs”. I was constantly drawing as a child, so really, drawing was my first kind of creative outlet. Later, when I turned about 5, I heard this voice in the hallway. As a child, I thought it was God, and he said that my life was going to be about communication and I was going to be an actress. I said “Oh, okay”, and then I just went about doing that because that’s what I thought God said. I don’t know what that voice was, Johnny, but I spent most of my life following that voice. I would write these little plays and I cast all the kids in the neighborhood, and invite the parents to pay a nickel or a dime to come see them. Now, later in life, I am just really into painting. I love doing it because it involves no one but me. I’m just so sick of auditions and that whole reality that it’s nice to just be able to walk outside and paint. I’ve always been a photographer, so my entire life, I’ve taken photographs: Half the pictures I took in my life, I took so I could later paint them. That’s what I’m starting to do. I’m pulling my own slides out, and I’m starting to paint from them.
Johnny: What painting that you’ve done are you most proud of?
Belinda: I just finished an oil painting of an ocean that I am really happy with. I’m very critical of myself and I always feel like I’m not quite there. It’s something I started a few years ago and I feel like I’m not quite there and I have so much more to learn, but I’m happy with some like my jockey painting that I did, a seahorse I just finished…Things that are difficult for me, but I do in my classes. I take these free classes at Emeritus College. It’s free to seniors, believe it or not, and they have the best art teachers. I have found this jewel that is like a muse for me. One class I go in, she has stuff set up and we paint. Another class I go in, we paint whatever we want. I’m taking four classes, so I’m going in a lot of different directions. Where I’m going, I don’t know. I’m still in such a place of discovery. One minute, I think “Oh, I know how to do this!”, and then two seconds later I go “I don’t even know how to start!”. It’s one of those things I guess you always feel as an actor, too. You’re only as creative as you are in the moment, especially if you’re on film. It’s not like you can do it again tomorrow. You have to do it now. With art, I’m able to do it again and again and try it the next day or play around with it. Paint a little and then, two days later, change it. A little bit different.
Johnny: Well, what I’ve seen of your work on Facebook is very amazing stuff.
Belinda: Oh, you’re so sweet. Thank you. I really appreciate that. At first I was really scared to put anything out there, but then my ex uploaded all my art to a website. One day I came home from teaching, and he had all my paintings up on this art website, and I completely came unglued. I said “You don’t understand. I have been judged by people my whole life. I just want to paint. I don’t want anybody to see it. I don’t want to be judged”. The feedback that I’ve gotten, though, has been so good and encouraging, I guess I should just shut up. It’s surprising to me, and quite wonderfully so.
Johnny: What would you say has been the biggest change in the entertainment industry between the 1970s and 2015?
Belinda: It boils down to three letters: CGI, and the mentality that goes with it.
Johnny: I know that Rick Baker has recently announced his retirement.
Belinda: That broke my heart. I saw him at a screening the other night. I said “I just read you’re retiring”, and he just looked at me and I said “No, I totally get it, but it just breaks my heart”. He, Dick Smith and Rob Bottin are the top of the line, as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to special effects, and CGI just leaves me cold.
Johnny: I think that CGI and practical effects can work together well. I mean, I think that Baker did a great job with Men In Black…
Belinda: And King Kong. That was absolutely brilliant, truly, but the actor was brilliant, too. Andy Serkis is surely a genius. So brilliant as Gollum in The Hobbit, I remember calling the Academy (as a nominating member) and asking who played that part so I could nominate him that year for an Academy Award! He was my first pic that year!
Johnny: I have to say that if CGI does become the prominent thing, I’m definitely going to miss the make-up work, and I just have this feeling that all subsequent nominations for Best Achievement In Make-Up And Hairstyling at the Oscars are just going to go to historical epics and not genre films like they used to.
Belinda: Sad, isn’t it? Very sad, though I do love historical epics.
Johnny: And now I come to my final question. This is the one I end every interview with, and it’s this: If you could go back to your youth with the knowledge that you have now, would you do anything differently?
Belinda: Oh, yes. There are a couple of things that I would definitely do differently. For instance, I had met George Lucas and Brian DePalma on a double interview before anybody knew who they were. My agent said “There are a couple of young directors who want to meet with you, and they’re both looking for a girl around 18. They both like you and want to meet you”. So I go to this interview to meet a man named George Lucas and a man named Brian DePalma. I’m sitting there, and they’re looking at my book, and we’re talking about how I’d just finished Food Of The Gods. I was getting tired of screaming and running. George Lucas looked at me and said “Oh my God, you winked at me”. I looked at him and said “What?”. He said “You just winked at me”. I said “No, I did not wink at you. What are you talking about?”. He said “I saw you just wink at me. Brian, did I see her just wink at me?”. I said, “Oh my God, I did not wink at you”. He said “I saw you”. I said “That’s it. You guys want to play. I want to work”. I slammed my book shut and walked out the door, and the movies that came out of that interview were Carrie and Star Wars.
Belinda: Right…OHHHHHH! I have moments, yes, that I wish I could redo, but when I stop to think about it, that was so Princess Leia to huff out of the room. George didn’t cast me, though, but Carrie Fisher was wonderful in it. What can I say? I had a moment with Bob Rafelson. I don’t remember exactly what the movie was, maybe Five Easy Pieces, but when I met him, he said “Tell me about yourself”. I literally sat there and said “Well, I feel like I’m almost ready. I’m really learning a lot and I feel like I’m almost ready”. Oh my God, You don’t say you’re “almost ready” to someone, but you walk in the door and the experience is not behind you, and I was really honest, but I lost some things I would really like to have done.
Johnny: Well, I think you’ve carved out a fine career regardless, and I have to say that it’s been an honor to speak to you.
Belinda: You’re so sweet. I really appreciate it. I do have to say I find it really amazing, though I do feel blessed that I was in these films with Joe. I think the guy is an absolute genius, but I wonder…I go to these conventions. I’ve worked with Cloris Leachman a couple of times, Charlton Heston, Peter Strauss, Michael York…All these amazing people, but nobody knows anything about that. They seem to only know about Joe’s films, and I wonder why these TV shows come and go so fast. I think I’ve done all this great work, but I’m only really acknowledged for this other work. It never ceases to surprise me. I was on a Femme Fatale panel with Dee Wallace and Margot Kidder and Kelli Maroney and a couple of other people, and on that panel each person was asked a question. My question when they got to me was “When did you know that The Howling and Piranha and these other films had become classics, and that you were a star?”. I looked out at this audience full of people in their 20s and 30s, and only one word came out of my mouth. I said “Facebook?” and the whole room just dropped. It’s true. Who knew I’d made it before that, and how would you know?
Johnny: Once more, I have to say it’s been an honor to speak to you, and I know you have things to do today.
Belinda: I have yoga. It’s the only thing that keeps me going, so I have to get off of here, and thank you, Johnny. I look forward to reading it.
Johnny: Likewise, and I hope you have a wonderful day.
Belinda: Thank you so much. You, too.
Johnny: I’ll speak to you on Facebook.
Belinda: Perfect. You take care, and thank you.
Johnny: You, too. See you.
Who will I flash back with next? Stay tuned.