My newest interview subject, Deborah Dutch, is a talent I’d been hoping to interview for several years. I would see pictures of her shared by Facebook friends, and I was taken by her beauty. Looking at Deborah Dutch’s extensive list of credits, I was impressed by all the films she did and talents she worked with. I was first connected to Deborah by my friend and two-time interview subject Debra Lamb, a long-time friend and collaborator of Ms. Dutch’s. From there, Deborah and I became fast friends, and we had two great, long conversations that form the basis of this interview. I hope you all enjoy getting to know her.
Say hello to Deborah Dutch!
Johnny: I start with my first question: As your IMDB page notes, you started on Broadway. What were your favorite shows that you appeared in?
Deborah: Well, I am actually thrilled you asked that question because that was a very exciting time for me in my life. When I say I was on Broadway, I was on Broadway at the Circle In The Square Theater at 50th and Broadway, and I was in the junior company of the Theater. Young actors auditioned from all over the country and, actually, the world. We did productions on the dark nights of Broadway. It was very exciting because all the critics were there and we were the up-and-rising stars.
I auditioned and was accepted, and it was really quite something. If you didn’t make it, you just were cut right out. It’s very, very strict…I don’t want to say cruel, but that’s where you learned whether you had it or not. If you didn’t have it in New York, they don’t fool around. You’re just out. Some of the people that got cut out realized they didn’t have the talent to stay in it in New York, but others kept going and found their way someplace. I just wanted to lay the groundwork for that New York scene. There were no ifs, and or buts. There was no gray area. You either had talent and were going to be accepted as a New York actor, or you were just out. There were a lot of heartbreaks, a LOT of heartbreaks, but I definitely made it.
One of my favorite Broadway production was The Show-Off by George Kelly. I played the ingenue lead of Amy, and it was amazing, from the costumes to the critics. At the big theater on Broadway, every seat was taken. It was so exciting, and when you say nervous, you were nervous before the curtain went up on Broadway. I mean, there was no question about it, but as a young actress, that was when I called upon my deep breathing and my yoga to come in and center me before I went onstage.
Also during that time frame, this is something that a lot of people don’t know, but my grandmother is kind of well-known, and she was best friends with Agnes Moorehead, who had a beautiful apartment in New York. Actually, I came in on the Upper East Side of New York, even though I played it down, you know, because I always wanted to be a regular struggling actress in New York. My roommate was Agnes Moorehead for a period of time when she was in Gigi. She actually came and saw me in a couple of the productions, as well as my famous actor uncle, Paul Roebling, who starred in a lot of Tennessee Williams plays like The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore. They were a great support because I would have never gone forward with my career if I didn’t have the greenlight from my mentor uncle Paul and, of course, Agnes.
My grammy was very concerned. She asked Agnes if I had the talent. She said, “I don’t want Debbie going forward”, and she didn’t want me to go through all you do in show business because…I don’t know how tough it is now to get started in show business, but I know back then it was extremely tough, I mean, from the audition process up. We had Amy in The Show-Off, and then I got cast as Maria Grekova in a Chekhov play called A Country Scandal. I will say the director is a very well-known director, Barnett Kellman. Nikos Psacharopoulos, who was the executive director of the Williamstown Theatre and the head of the Yale Drama Department, was also in charge of a lot of the productions at Circle In The Square. Barnett Kellman cast me in the Chevhov play, and I won’t say anything more about that because (laughing) I had such a big crush on Barnett, but I’m not getting into any of the torrid love affairs of my career because that’s just something I don’t get into, you know?
Anyway, I was cast as Maria Grekova, and it was an AMAZING production doing Chekhov, absolutely amazing on the Broadway stage, the lights, the cameras. Nikos then directed me as Rosa in The Rose Tattoo, and I have to say that that was the high point of my entire Broadway experience as a young actress. I can remember, in the dress rehearsal, that I saw my mentor in my acting profession, because I always knew that I wanted to be an actress and a movie star since a very young age. Have you ever been to a Broadway theater, Johnny?
Johnny: The closest I ever came was going to Madison Square Garden for a Christmas Carol musical in 1994.
Deborah: Madison Square Garden? Oh, Johnny. You’ve got to go to Broadway. You have to go to those old theaters. I mean, it’s absolutely amazing. This Summer, or whenever you can…Every Summer when I go back home now, I see a Broadway show, something that’s great and hot. You know, I saw Cher last Summer. It was amazing. These theaters…Some of them have been around since the 20s. The architecture is absolutely amazing. The Circle In The Square at 50th and Broadway is relatively new, but it’s huge, immense. I saw my uncle Paul walk in and sit in the back of the room. He came to my dressing room after my performance as Rosa, and he just gave me the biggest hug and said, “Yes, honey. Please go ahead. You have talent”. That was a wonderful performance, so that was absolutely, without me getting teary-eyed right now, the absolute beginning of my professional career as an actress. That was it.
Johnny: Fantastic. To go to my next question: How did your theater background prepare you for the big screen?
Deborah: Well, we kind of covered it in a lot of areas. First of all, you’ve got an audience, a live audience. You don’t have any takes, Take 1, Take 2, Take 3…You have to be on it from before you enter that stage. You have to be totally in character. You have to have everything together, everything! You hear stories about Marlon Brando posting stuff over his head and under the desk. He was a Method Actor like I am, and he wanted to be totally in the moment, which is all very artistic and interesting, but I think he was a little eccentric.
I mean, the school of acting that I come from is also Strasberg/Stanislavski/Uta Hagen, which is all about being real and totally being the character through you. Instead of indicating, which means putting your mind in that situation, it’s your whole self in that situation. You can’t tell the difference between Debbie Dutch and Maria Grekova, except the accent, the Chekhov period piece, et cetera, but my emotions, my actions, are so believable that it makes it real, yet it’s a fantasy. It’s not real. I’m acting. However, you have to be totally prepared. You have to have everything set, and you have a live audience, AND you have critics in the front row in New York.
Critics…I don’t know if you’ve ever been a movie critic or a reviewer of anything, whether theater or comedy shows. With my movie, War Of The Gods, I get reviews, and I bet you’re not like that, but most critics, I’ve noticed psychologically that if they’re not tearing something apart, they don’t feel like they’re doing their job. I never delve deeper into it. I can hear it now. When people read this interview, they’ll say, “That Deborah Dutch, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about”, but I always felt that critics were frustrated actors who were not really able to do it, because acting really is an art and a craft.
It’s not just going on stage and saying lines and looking pretty. I learned that from Agnes Moorehead as a young actress. She sat me down in the chair and laid down some of the rules of Broadway. At the time, we were roommates as well. As mentioned before, I was in the junior company and she was in the theater next door doing Gigi. She told me “A pretty face is a dime a dozen”, and that includes a body. I know one of your questions is about my figure. Yes, it’s sexy, yet a dime a dozen, but talent and craft and commitment is what is going to lead you out from all the rest. That is truly what stepping out on a stage in a theater means.
When I came out to L.A, I continued my theater work. It was in my blood, and that’s how this young actress got started in L.A once I left New York. I got into almost every play I could get into, and the theaters out here are very small, with the exceptions of the ones where they bring in Broadway casts. Big or small theater, it doesn’t matter. It’s alive. You have to be so prepared, and have your lines down as part of you. It’s not like, “Oh, I’ve got the lines down”. Everything’s got to be integrated within you, mind, body…I knew at a young age, because my mom had introduced me to yoga as a young girl, to integrate the spiritual aspect as well into your character. In other words, it’s not just existential theater, even though I love Jean-Paul Sartre. I’ve always brought in the spiritual aspect as well, and it has to be integrated. You cannot integrate a character, and your lines and your emotions to delve into, without it.
For example, being able to cry when you’re supposed to cry. Of course, when are you supposed to cry? Well, if you’re in a drama, and you find out that your husband’s just been shot, are you going to stand there and pretend you’re crying? Are you going to say, “Okay, shock goes to different levels and I’m not going to cry?”. No! You’re going to break down and freakin’ cry hysterically. Now, are you going to do it as a fake emotion that’s manufactured and indicated, or are you going to delve within yourself and manifest that within you because you have it in you? That’s called Method Acting, and it doesn’t happen through improvisation.
To go back to Marlon Brando, I won’t put him down. He was a brilliant actor, but in improvisation like that, it’s hit or miss if you do that. When you’re on the stage, you’ve got to have it. Going back to the original question, preparing for film, you have it freakin’ down. That’s why I had the reputation back in the 90s of being “One Take Deb”. That’s why I worked so much. It didn’t matter whether somebody had just been killed by a monster or if I was being killed or if I was being chased by a monster. I had the actual emotion. If you look at Hard To Die again, you’ll see me actually crying real tears, and that’s because of my training in the theater. Working with Jim, you don’t have a second chance most of the time. Occasionally, you might have a second chance, but if you don’t get it, they move on, and you’re either cut from that scene or somebody else is put into that edit because you stunk. You didn’t get it, right? Get it? In other words, theater training made me an absolutely proficient actress before the camera, and of course there’s no nerves. I think that was the next question about being nervous in front of the camera?
Johnny: Yeah, that was the next question.
Deborah: Alright, so we’re answering both questions at once here. That’s basically it. The big screen is nothing. It’s a little camera and a small set, and a lot of times there’s a bunch of crew people on set and all that on there, but that’s not the audience. That’s not critics in there. You know, they’re all doing their own thing and they’re jibber-jabbering, and half of them are telling jokes. When you’re making a movie, not everybody is into the Actors’ Studio presentation of what’s going on. They’re waiting for lunch or telling a dirty joke.
It’s not like that in the theater. You can’t fool around with the director. I don’t care who it is. You can’t fool around. That is your critic and audience right there, but it’s a small arena. It’s not like that big stage with all the people sitting and watching you, the critics in the audience and your mom and your friends. You don’t want to blow it. You don’t have a second take, whereas on the big screen, you do. You have Take 1, 2, 3. I could remember being in the big-budget movies. They would do as many takes as it took, not to make a pun (laughing). Okay, let’s move on to the next one.
As far as Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave is concerned, that was almost a battle for my life. It wasn’t that I was nervous. I got the part because of my eyes. This was before I was in the union. I had an almost mafioso manager named Guy. It was a very interesting entry into Hollywood, but that will be answered in a later question. This manager wasn’t with the Screen Actors Guild or anything, but he was the coolest guy ever, although I do think he had mafia ties, and he had an in with these Korean filmmakers.
Bruce Lee had passed away several years prior, and there was quite a contest in finding the new Bruce Lee. Jun Chong had a multi-discipline martial arts school next to Chuck Norris’ on Wilshire Boulevard. Norris was very well-known at the time, and Jun and Chuck were good friends. Jun was an amazing fighter, unbelievable. I went down there, and although there were several other young actresses at that karate studio to meet Jun, who would be playing the title role in Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave, he didn’t even look at all the other girls who had come in.
Habdong Films was a big company back then doing lots of kung fu movies. I went to a dinner and met everybody from the company at this fancy Korean restaurant in the Wilshire area. I walked through the door and sat down at the table next to Jun, I believe, because he was the only one who spoke English. Everyone else spoke Korean, and I just sort of looked around. I was by myself, and I wasn’t scared at all. I had that New York fearless energy going on. No one was going to stop me, no matter what, and that was the spirit of youth, you know? You just go forward and anything’s possible.
I just sat down and they all looked at me, and continued to do so as they ate and talked in Korean. They had me look with my eyes to one side of the table first. Jun said, “Look over there. Look over there. Look over there. Look over there”. It wasn’t that static, but in a way it was. They wanted to see my eyes moving from one direction to another, and if you look at the movie, everything’s in my eyes when I get scared or when I’m running. I’m not bragging. I got them from my mother. With all gratitude to my mother, she had the most beautiful eyes ever, and I got them. They wanted these green-blue eyes. They were big. I had long lashes, and I had dark hair in those days. That was my natural color. I got the call the next morning from Guy, who said, “They want you to show up at the set tomrrow”.
I was on it for three months. I did my own stunts. I won’t even get into the story of that movie as that’s an interview in itself, but I became a star in South Korea, and the funniest story is that I didn’t even know I was a star. They had come back and asked me to do a five picture deal, and I told Guy, “No. It almost killed me”. If you watch that movie, I do all my own running and kung fu. The hours were crazy. It wasn’t Screen Actors Guild, so they still gave me a turnaround, but it was every single day of this physicality, kung fu and running and screaming and crying all over Southern California. We went everywhere. I’d be driving here, and then end up in a trailer. It was so intense, even for a young actress in her teens, which is what I was. It was really quite something, so I turned the five picture deal down. I was a star in New York, because a friend of mine had seen a billboard of me in Times Square, and he went in to see the movie at a matinee. He said (laughing) every time I ran on screen, there were a bunch of drunks in the audience hooting and hollering. He looked at the billboard and saw the name Deborah Chaplin, as they had changed my name to that. There’s a big, long story behind everything on that movie, but I realized that that’s not what my calling is as an actress.
I turned it down, and that was the end of my relationship with Guy. He wanted to move on because he wanted to make fast money. I mean, I made a lot on that movie, considering what it was like back then, and I would’ve made a lot more if I had done those five pictures, but I would’ve been tied up for at least three years. They probably would’ve cranked those five movies out in three years, but I was ready to move on, and that’s when, shortly afterwards, I got The Amazing Howard Hughes.
Johnny: That was a fascinating story.
Deborah: That doesn’t even scratch the surface, Johnny. When I write my book, the stories are going to be so interesting.
Johnny: Moving along to The Amazing Howard Hughes: As I often ask talents who appear in movies based on books, did you read the book, and if so, did it influence your work on the film?
Deborah: No, I didn’t read the book, even though I was an avid reader, especially of plays and movie scripts. I would go down to the Academy and read old movie scripts. My idols were Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo, so I really got into a lot of the original movie scripts. I hadn’t read The Amazing Howard Hughes, though.
The associate producer was the daughter of one of my grandmother’s friends. My grammy had asked her if there was any way she could help me out. The Amazing Howard Hughes was completely cast, but Herbert Hirschman was a big producer at CBS, where they were doing this movie of the week, and Tommy Lee Jones was the hottest young actor in Hollywood at the time. Everybody wanted a piece of this movie. Well, there was a small, but very significant, role in the film that hadn’t been cast yet. Joyce Selznick was the casting director, and Sudy Dostal was an associate producer, so I went in and I don’t think they auditioned anybody else for this role.
It was a significant role because it was with Tommy Lee Jones and the late Ed Flanders, who played Noah Dietrich, the author of the book. Ed Flanders was the nicest guy. He was like a father on set to me. I went into Herbert’s office, and he was so nice. He had a big office and was the film’s executive producer, I believe. I don’t know if they had just started production or were already well into it. They just wanted to get it started. I walked in and I was just perfect for the part. I was the right age to play this young intern nurse who was taking care of Tommy in the hospital when he had turned into the old Howard Hughes. I had roughly six to ten lines, but it was a whole scene in the film, and just because you don’t say something doesn’t mean (laughing) you’re not acting. That’s an Uta Hagen technique. You sit there and that’s a scene. What’s going on in your mind? What are you thinking? Just because you’re not talking doesn’t mean you’re not acting.
Anyway, I went and did my lines, and he said, “Okay”. I wasn’t in SAG yet, and Herbert didn’t know that. Of course, I was Taft-Hartleyd and paid the entrance fee, but they didn’t even blink an eye, and it was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. In one of our first phone calls, I mentioned showing up to makeup and sitting next to Tommy Lee Jones. They were putting the long nails and long hair on him next to me, the fresh young starlet there. It was so exciting. I remember looking over at Tommy, and I was almost intimidated to ask him anything, but I think I did ask him something like, “Are you preparing for your role?”. He was gruff and wasn’t saying anything. Tommy is a total Method actor, TOTAL, and he was so into his role. He looked at me responded to my question with a simple, “Yeah”. I said, “Oh, okay”, and I just went back and didn’t say anything to him after that.
I think I remember being so excited that I couldn’t stay still in the makeup chair and look at him. It was so exciting. On a different tack, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this before, but the restaurant 21, which was a location for gangsters underground when Prohibition was going on and would later become one of the most exclusive restaurants in New York City, had a table called the Roebling Table. I would go to lunch at 21 with my grammy on a regular basis, and we would sit at our table as all kinds of famous people would be there. The 21 Club was my grandmother’s hangout, and she had a huge dinner party in a private room when The Amazing Howard Hughes debuted over two nights, I believe. I don’t remember exactly how it was first shown, but she had a massive dinner party at 21.
I’m sure this is the first time I’ve shared this with anybody. I can see the maitre’d’s face, and you had to be somebody to be in there. My grandmother had a big screen brought into the 21 Club, and I was in L.A, I believe. I wasn’t at the dinner party, but she had it in New York City the night that I was on television. I didn’t know who she had at this party, but she showed it at 21. “There’s my granddaughter with Tommy Lee Jones!”. She was so proud of me. That was something else. People who know of the 21 Club will appreciate that story as she took the whole private room on the second floor for the screening to show me in the film. I’ll never forget that.
Johnny: That’s a lovely story, and how wonderful that you had that experience. It’s good to have familial support like that.
Deborah: Yeah. She was amazing, absolutely amazing.
Johnny: To go to my next question, you played a few roles in Jokes My Folks Never Told Me, a movie that’s basically an extended collection of dirty jokes. How did you land that movie?
Deborah: I’m trying to recall when that happened in my timeline. I was very aggressive when I came out to L.A, and I would pay attention to casting calls. Jokes My Folks Never Told Me would have to have been before The Amazing Howard Hughes as I wasn’t in the union. Once I got in the union, you couldn’t do any non-union work. I saw an ad saying, “Young Girls Wanted” that was put out by the Woolery Brothers, who had this really cool studio opposite from Charlie Chaplin’s old studio. I can’t remember its’ name, but it was cool. The Woolerys were the nicest guys ever, and I barely had to audition. They just looked at me and I got the part. I don’t even think I said anything.
I had to do a little nudity in it, and I didn’t tell anybody about it. That’s why, years later, I see it showing up and I’m like, “Oh my god!”. In those days, I said I would never do anything nude because I was a New York actress and back then, if you did any nudity, you were crossed off the list as a serious actor. That’s just the way it went, but it was so much fun. I was so innocent and shy, and when you see those clips, my gosh, I looked like a baby on there. They were so funny. It was just so much fun, and I guess it was my first taste of doing nude work because I absolutely loved it (laughing).
It was just so much fun, and the money was great. When I came out to L.A, I let all my family ties go. I wanted to make everything on my own. Even though my grandmother was there to support me, I did everything on my own basically through my whole career. I mean, I had introductions, but you had to cut the mustard, and I wanted to make it on my own. I didn’t want it handed to me on a silver platter. I wanted to please and do it like a regular person, and that’s what I did, so I would find myself looking for a job to pay me, and that made my life so, so interesting.
Johnny: Well, it’s definitely worked out well for you. To go to my next question: You played Miss Dawson in The Man Who Wasn’t There. You’re the second cast member from that movie I’ve interviewed, the first being Lisa Langlois, whom I interviewed via e-mail for my previous writing base, RetroJunk, in 2010. What are your favorite memories of The Man Who Wasn’t There?
Deborah: Well, this is definitely one of the diamonds of my career. I was in a play with Marjorie Lord and Ruta Lee, and once again, Maggie Lord was a friend of my grandmother’s. Grammy said, “You know, I really want to move Debbie along with her career”, and Margie Lord suggested I audition for Milton Katselas, who was the acting coach to the stars in those days. I got into his acting class, and I was working alongside Michelle Pfeiffer. Tom Selleck had just left for Magnum P.I, and I could go on and on about the celebrities in my class, but Bruce Malmuth was a well-known director and producer in that class.
On a side note, one of the things I did to make extra money to survive was work as a private dancer for L.A parties and the like, a move suggested by a London designer named John LeBolt. He had wardrobe from London that was worn by Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Garland, and I wore all these costumes, so I became a fantasygram. At one party I attended as a fantasygram, I came across Bruce Malmuth. I came through the door dressed as a bunny rabbit, as I had played a bunny in this fantasygram, looking cute, and Bruce was intrigued by me, but I didn’t know he was doing The Man Who Wasn’t There at the time. He was in cast mode, and when I had showed up, he’d basically cast the whole thing. Steve Guttenberg and Lisa Langlois and all these people were already cast, but I showed up and I guess he was looking for someone like me to play Miss Dawson, but he was surprised when I showed up in the bunny outfit. This is one of those things about how you make it in show business. There’s no straight-up answer to that. It’s little quirks and turns in who you meet and how and when you meet them. Meeting Bruce in my little bunny outfit at a ritzy party at a house was the beginning of Miss Dawson.
The following week, I was doing a scene in acting class and. of course, Bruce was there. He was doing the final casting for the entire film, sitting in the class that night to watch the scenes to determine his last cast members. I forgot the specific scene, but I was up there doing a song and dance, singing Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical”, and when you aced a scene with Milton Katselas, let’s just say you were riding to stardom…Until you did the next scene (laughing). With this scene, I got a rave review from Milton, and Bruce was sitting in class, and that was it.
Back in those days, acting class went on until one or two in the morning, and you went with it as everybody was becoming stars out of that class. I got a call from my agent and she said, “You’re booked…Two weeks on the Paramount movie The Man Who Wasn’t There”. I said, “What? I didn’t even audition”. She said, “Well, you’re booked, and I’m negotiating the deal right now”. I found out later that Bruce was the director. I showed up on set, and I was in it for about five days, although they book you for two weeks because you’re on hold and then you go back. I was in the Attorney General’s office scenes and a few others.
I remember Bruce being under the desk in one of my scenes, and he was totally Quentin Tarantino…I mean, before Quentin Tarantino came to fame. He was underneath the desk, trying to get me excited or something, as Steve’s character turns invisible in front of me, and the vial goes across as they’re trying to find who The Invisible Man is and where all the stuff has gone. When you see that scene, it’s absolutely astounding, and that was Bruce underneath the desk getting me worked up over that. I also remember hanging out with Steve Guttenberg and Jeffrey Tambor, just talking about life and acting and all this stuff, and Steve Guttenberg was as hot as could be as he was just off Diner, which was a huge hit. I remember going to the premiere at the Bruin Theatre in Westwood and seeing myself on the big screen as Debbie Dawson. It was one of the most exciting, so exciting, moments of my life.
One of the best things about that film is that I went into Golden Time when you see the shot of me moving my head as the vial goes across the set. It was one of the first movies, if not the first. to use bluescreen. Back then, you were shooting in 35MM. It wasn’t on videotape. I was acting in front of a bluescreen and everything was wired up. When I showed up that day, instead of a typical eight-hour shoot, it went to eighteen hours, and I made $1000 in three minutes. That’s not for the whole day…It’s three minutes. I don’t know how much I made that day, but that was a large amount of money in a small amount of time, and back then, that was big money. We had gone into Golden Time because they had to get the bluescreen working, and it was total pioneer time with the special effects. It was the beginning of bluescreen, which has since become greenscreen. I just couldn’t believe that paycheck, and that’s one of the big differences between making low-budget movies and A-budget studio pictures (laughing). I couldn’t believe it. I was standing there so excited about going into Golden Time, but I still didn’t mess up anything to get more time. I would’ve been in big trouble if I did. That was one of my highest points. It was amazing.
Johnny: That’s another great story. I’m glad you had such a great experience with that. Another movie where you mentioned you had a good experience was Protocol, where you acted alongside Goldie Hawn in a screenplay by the late, great Buck Henry. What do you recall the most about working with Hawn and Henry?
Deborah: Protocol was an amazing experience. I spent two weeks and was on set every day. I played a Safari Girl, and I got the part in another interesting situation. Once again, my grandmother had come in. I was at a party at an uncle’s house. He was an Astrologer To The Stars. He would always throw Leo parties for my grandmother, and she would fly out to attend those and, of course, check up on me. At one of the Leo parties, I met Lewis Rachmil and his wife Helen, and Helen became one of Grammy’s friends out here. Lewis was a huge producer over at Warner Brothers, and little did my grandmother know that he was one of the producers of Protocol. I wasn’t completely unaware of this, but a lot of this I didn’t know about.
My grandmother called Mr. Rachmil to see if there were any ins for me at Warner Brothers. Mr. Rachmil had sent a letter over to Marion Dougherty, who was the head of casting for most everything at Warner Brothers, and was definitely the casting director for Protocol. Goldie Hawn put a lot of money alongside Warner Brothers into Protocol, and if you see the film, it’s a very big budget movie. They filmed in Tunisia, and that was big-budget in those days. When it came to this movie, it’s a very interesting sign of how people get to where they go in this town with their careers. Lewis Rachmil sent not a note, but a letter, to Marion Dougherty, and Lewis wasn’t a hands-on producer like Herbert Hirschman, except at the last minute. I don’t think Lewis even went to Warner Brothers to see any casting for Protocol. but with this letter to Marion, he said, “A friend of mine’s granddaughter is starting out her acting career. She’s very talented. Please give her your attention if there’s any available parts in Protocol”. This is a running theme for me with big-time movies. It was always towards the end when they couldn’t find anybody they wanted, and in these cases, it was like destiny.
There was one Safari Girl left in Protocol because they had done a HUGE casting call for girls at the Safari Club, huge because you had to be a dancer AND an actor. In addition, as it was a Goldie Hawn picture, although they went to some lesser agencies, they worked primarily with big ones for casting, CAA, William Morris and so on. They got whoever was young and hot at the time, and pulled them down to audition for the dancing parts and everything else. I didn’t have to do any of that. I got called in to see Marion Dougherty. I sat down in front of her, she took one look at me, and then she said, “You’re a Safari Girl”. I said, “Oh, I’m so excited!”. I went out screaming, and as I was at the door, she said, “I just wanted you to see this letter that Mr. Lewis Rachmil had sent to me”. He had just passed away the day prior to my interview. Isn’t that interesting? I just got chills. It was almost like Mr. Rachmil was talking from the other side to Marion Dougherty, saying, “If you have any parts for Debbie, that would be fantastic”.
Herbert Ross was the director, and he was married to Nora Kaye, a famous dancer. When you talk about directors, Herbert Ross was absolutely the toughest director, next to Nikos Psacharopoulous and Milton Katselas, that I ever worked with, but it was one of the most amazing experiences. If you were to Google stories about Herbert Ross, people were terrified to act in front of him, but on Protocol, I remember Goldie being the sweetest, kindest, most professional actress I’d worked with in my life. She’s number one. She would have her mother come down to set almost every day. and every day she had an aerobics class. I also hung out with Buck Henry. He was the coolest guy in the world. We hung out and told jokes, and he told me about his career.
The cast was loaded with stars, and I made friends that I’ve kept with me through the years. They were all just wonderful. I met Lorraine Fields, a noted dancer and choreographer, who played the Emu Safari Girl, which I find funny as now they have that Liberty commercial with the emu. When that plays, I always think of Lorraine in the emu outfit, while I was the leopard. It was the cutest little thing you ever saw, and it was so exciting. As I said, Herbert Ross was such a tough director, but he moved me to the top of the Safari Girls because he liked me so much. Lorraine always had her part, but the other girl was supposed to be the lead Safari Girl, but she was put in the background, and I was always put in the front of the shot. I was given lines and everything else.
Protocol had come about when I had started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. i was introduced to that Buddhist chant by Herbie Hancock, who had just won a Grammy. He said, “If you want to make it in the movies, chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo”. When I started chanting, I got The Man Who Wasn’t There and all these big A-pictures. I was really breaking through, and a friend told Lorraine about chanting. She said, “Oh, I’ve been chanting for 8 years”. I made so much money on Protocol that I bought myself a brand new Mustang convertible. It was very lucrative. I had my own trailer when I showed up on set at Warner Brothers every day. It was so exciting.
Johnny: Very cool. To move along to my next question: You worked alongside Pamela Sue Martin in her movie Torchlight. Although yours’ was a small role, did you pitch Pamela any ideas for your character in the film?
Deborah: This is another absolutely Hollywood story that you can’t make up. As my grandmother would say, “I’m not writing my book. Nobody would believe the truth”. They were looking for a pick-up girl for Ian MacShane, who, at the time, was as committed as Tommy Lee Jones, although not as famous. He was a rising star, and let me tell you. Back when Torchlight was done, he was hot as hell. He was out of London, and everybody wanted to play his girlfriend.
I’ve talked about this before, but today, it’s really coming under the magnifying glass. They were in production on Torchlight, they needed a young starlet to play Ian MacShane’s girlfriend, and they didn’t have her. They opened up auditions, and every young starlet in town auditioned to get this part. I showed up in a cute little minidress with a snap-on patent leather belt. I went in to audition, and was reading the lines because I had a whole scene, and I also had to do an improv. Pamela’s billionaire husband, Manuel Rojas, was the executive producer, and it was private money, so there was lots of improvisation. They wanted to make sure that they had the right person for the part, so they wanted me to improv, and no matter what I did, (laughing) my belt would pop. I was skinny as a rail, and I’m still thin, but back then, everything was a little smaller by maybe an inch or two. The belt wasn’t popping because I had stock on me…It had just weakened somehow. Everybody kept laughing when it did, and I would do a little improv and put it right into the scene. That’s Method Acting, putting it right into the scene. I walked out of that office, and I didn’t even get out the door before my agent called me and said, “You’re booked”.
The assistant director, Michael Schroeder, fell in love with me, and I don’t mean romantically. He just thought I was the cutest thing, and they wanted that in that part. They just wanted a cute, offbeat, different young starlet to be in there, instead of a run-of-the-mill addict character as I was playing a coke hoe. I just loved my outfit, and it was such an amazing experience. They had a big wrap party, and Manuel Rojas’ best friend Antonio ran Antonio’s on Melrose, a great Mexican restaurant. We did the wrap party there, and all the cast was there, Pamela, Ian, Steve Railsback, paparazzi…It was so exciting. To this day, I still go to Antonio’s. He’s still around, and I say to him, “I’ve been coming to your place ever since the Torchlight premiere”. If you ever come to L.A, you’ve got to go to Antonio’s on Melrose. It’s a very well-known restaurant that’s seen many celebrities in both rock-and-roll and movies. If you watch my scene in Torchlight, you’ll see it’s an absolutely crucial scene, and they added it, as it was already in production when I got the part. They had to add that scene as a segue to make the story make sense. That’s one of the cool things about making movies out here, you know? You’ll be in production, and then you’ll realize, “Oh my god. We need to add this”. They’ll write something in right there and do a casting call, and if the timing’s right, bam!
Not only was the timing right for me, but that belt that kept snapping got me the part. It set me aside from all the other actresses that came in and just went, “Oh, I want the part! I want the part!”. As a young actress, you cannot go through that door needy. It just takes away all the allure of you as an actress. You have to have allure to get a part, and allure is the X factor that makes people say, “Oh, I’ll see her again! She’s got something. I don’t know what it is, but I can see her in that part”. You wouldn’t be in the door if you weren’t physically fit for the part. You’re already narrowed down to that. You’re not going to be called in for a character who’s not what you look like. That’s one of the first rules of show business. You look in the mirror and you say, “What can I sell myself as?”. Show business is a BUSINESS, and it’s about selling yourself (laughing). Alright, next question.
Johnny: Alright. You appeared in Playboy in a pictorial called Dutch Treat. What was your favorite part of posing for Playboy?
Deborah: Okay, this was really an amazing experience. It’s a really cool story. I used to appear on The Young And The Restless, but I can’t find the episodes as it was so long ago. I would show up at the studio, and the guard was so nice when I would show up. They were only little spots, not big roles, but I got them from doing theater in town. I always come back to theater. You don’t always get big film roles. There are long dry periods when you aren’t working. That’s why I always taught yoga and danced and did things to make money.
Going back to The Young And The Restless, the guard’s name was Mark Leivdal, and one day when I was coming into the studio, he said, “Debbie, I’ve got an offer for you. I photograph for Playboy from time to time”. Playboy had a lot of photographers, and Mark was one of them. He was especially the photographer for young starlets, up and rising. The section was called The Grapevine, and they would do a whole little story on the starlets, but you had to be chosen and you had to have an angle. Mark told me that, and I said, “Mark, I don’t do nudity”. He said, “Don’t worry. It will be very tasteful. We won’t show anything, but we will suggest it”. At this point, I was doing under-fives for The Young And The Restless and General Hospital while trying to get back to the big parts. That’s just the way it was, you know?
Playboy was very hot back then, and I had already been to the Mansion several times, so I knew Hef and I knew the scene over there, and I guess that was another connection between Mark and me. I don’t know if he knew me from parties there, but I went to his studio, and we had so much fun. We shot all kinds of stuff, and this was back in the day when they didn’t have fancy-schmancy lighting and computer effects and Photoshop. It was just natural, yet creative. I remember laying on this big surface of aluminum foil and taking some of the most gorgeous photos. He submitted them to Playboy, and I don’t think they even hesitated as Mark was good at spotting hot, new young girls to present to The Grapevine in Playboy Magazine. I was in the issue with Shannon Tweed, and that was exciting. I was on all the newsstands, and they did a beautiful story on me. I still have a copy somewhere, and I know it’s a collector’s item. Mark shot me, and then I did a couple of other things for Playboy. I even did videos for them, and that was my first real introduction to Jim Wynorski.
Johnny: Since you mention Jim Wynorski, he’s a director who knows how to both have fun and get things done. What was your first collaboration like?
Deborah: I met Jim at one of my girlfriend’s parties, and she had just come back from Korea, starring in one of Jim’s first films. Jim, of course, came immediately up to me because he’s so friendly and wonderful and nice, and then when he found out I was an actress, he said, “Oh, I’d love to use you in one of my movies”. I said to him, “I don’t do nudity”, because I knew that you had to go topless in a Jim Wynorski film, or you didn’t go in it. Jim had his offices at Roger Corman’s studios, and he was hot as can be. He had a greenlight to do any project he wanted, and if he wanted to use you, that’s it. I told Jim of my reluctance to do nudity, but I didn’t tell him about Jokes My Folks Never Told Me, and this was right before I appeared in Playboy.
Once I did Playboy, I either ran into Jim, or called him up on the phone, and said to him, “Hey, things have changed a bit in my life”. The A movies were taking a whole other direction where I wasn’t getting these cool parts anymore. I was working in small parts on soap operas, so things were really changing, but the B-movies were opening up into a whole new world. The sky was the limit as far as an actress was concerned. I talked to Jim and mentioned that I was in Playboy, and I think he got a copy, checked me out and said, “Okay, Deb. I’ll keep it in mind”. He was doing The Haunting Of Morella with Nicole Eggert, Gail Harris, David McCallum and the late, great Lana Clarkson. It was a great movie, and Jim was in production on it, one of the bigger-budget Roger Corman films. Everything was already cast and shooting.
I had told Jim a week prior, I think, “If you’re doing a movie and need anybody, I was just in Playboy, so I don’t mind going topless”. I don’t think he said anything else at that point. What happened next is a true fact. I was at my beautiful apartment in Beverly Hills, one of those old apartments, and I was just about ready to get going with my day. I always had a million things to do, and I was very gung-ho as far as making my career a success. You have to be when you’re young…Otherwise, you’ll never make it. On this day (laughing), I got a phone call from Jim. He went, “Can you get down here?”. I said, “Where?”. I think I was going down to Venice. He said, “Can you get down here in an hour?”. I said, “What do you mean?”. He said, “I want to cast you in the part of the Serving Girl. It’s a bit part, but an essential part”. He said, “You have to be nude”, and I said, “Uh, okay”. It’s a funny little thing. I said, “I haven’t even washed my hair yet”, and he said, “Don’t worry about it. You’re going to be in the bathtub. Just get down here”. I threw some stuff in my bag and rushed down to Venice, and the rest is history.
He put me through the whole movie, and on The Haunting Of Morella, Jim and I became not only best friends, but frequent collaborators. He hired me for almost every movie he did in the 90s after that. It was the most wonderful experience. What had happened was that the actress who was going to play the Serving Girl never showed up, and that was that. Once again, I got the part at the last minute. It’s very interesting, as I do this interview, that some of my most memorable roles were total last-minute castings. I mean, the girl that had the part didn’t show up, and so Jim called me on the phone and said, “Get down here!”.
When I got there, it was freakin’ freezing cold in the old-fashioned tub, and then when I came out of the tub, I had to lay in a pool of “blood” for at least an hour. They tried to make it as fast as possible because that’s the way Jim works, but he’s very compassionate. I mean, he saw that I was naked, laying on my stomach in a pool of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, in a cold cement castle, and I tread on just like a soldier. That’s the way I am on set. I’ll do anything, and I still do, from doing all my own stunts in Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave to being killed in a car stunt to Dinosaur Island, where I worked in 104 degree heat and Griffin Drew passed out right in front of me. There are circumstances in these movies where people watch them and say, “Oh, isn’t that fun? Isn’t that cool?”. You have no idea. Some people who watch movies have no clue how difficult making one is.
If you complain in any way ot act like a prima donna, saying, “I can’t do this” or “I’m not going to do this”, you’ll never get hired in B-movies, or even A-movies. I won’t mention their names, but there are a couple of actresses who were doing great in A movies, but once they acted as prima donnas, they never worked again. I’m not talking about divas. That’s something else entirely. A prima donna comes into the room too good to do certain things, or what’s required. If it gets too tough, they complain or walk off the set. They’re done and they won’t ever work. Going back to the Haunting Of Morella, I was laying in the pool of “blood”, and my body was almost shaking, shivering, but they got the shot. When you see that shot of me on my stomach in a pool of blood after having my throat slit, I looked dead, but I was shaking. My teeth were chattering.
Johnny: That’s definitely proof of how committed you are to your acting, and I think that’s why you have the acclaim that you do.
Deborah: Well, I’ll tell you: That movie completely solidified my relationship with Jim Wynorski because I would get a call from him, and he’d said, “Deb, you’re fantastic in this. I’m going to put you in the flames later on. I’m expanding your part”. When you see that movie, you’ll see me appear in flames, and he added that because he thought I was so great in that part. I did give it my all, and when you see me scream, Sorority Girls And The Creature From Hell made me a scream queen, but The Haunting Of Morella was the start. I loved watching David McCallum acting on set, and I hung out with Lana Clarkson because we had a lot of friends in common. We used to hang out at the House Of Blues, and we were going to the Playboy Mansion. We ran in a fast lane there.
Johnny: I was just going to say about Lana Clarkson that I’m really sad that she met the fate she did. I would’ve loved to have interviewed her. I mean, whenever the radio starts playing Christmas music, it pisses me off that they play Phil Spector’s stuff because I think of what he did to her, and I think they shouldn’t play his music during the Christmas season. On a lighter note, you did mentioned Sorority Girls And The Creature From Hell, where the role of Mary Ann was written for you. What was it like to have a role written with you in mind, as opposed to having to audition for one?
Deborah: Well, this is an interesting story. Before the horror movies started, during the Playboy times, one of my loves was Sonny Landham. He had come off 48 HRS and was going onto Predator, while I auditioned for, and got, a part on Miami Vice. With Sonny’s assistance, I got a role in Action Jackson. After that, with help from my grandmother one last time through a dinner party, I got cast in the Al Pacino movie Sea Of Love. My grandmother introduced me to a big Broadway producer, but I wasn’t interested in Broadway at the time. I was in L.A and interested in film acting, and this producer said, “I’m going to introduce you to Martin Bregman”.
I went in to meet Marty, who produced all of Pacino’s movies, and he wanted me to audition for Gina The Balloon Girl in Sea Of Love, leading me to get the part. It was totally the A list apex of my career, flying first class to NYC, being interviewed by Top movie mags & breaking through to that next level as a SAG professional Actress, but also the A list heartbreak. The week I was scheduled to shoot, the Director was fired & I was replaced, a political decision. I don’t like to remember this devastation, a part of my destiny, but it opened the golden door to starring in Sorority Girls And The Creature From Hell, & the rest is scream queen history. Before that, though, coming off Sea Of Love, I got The Haunting Of Morella, and then I decided to go back into a workshop, this time with Sanford Meisner. It wasn’t an acting class, but more of a theater company here in L.A, and Sandy Meisner was also a New York Method Actor. Similar to the story of Bruce Malmuth and Milton Katselas, I met a wonderful director and actor, John McBrearty, and he had his movie script, Sorority Girls And The Creature From Hell.
We worked in this workshop together, and he basically said, “Deb, I want you to play the lead in Sorority Girls”. It was a friend-actor relationship in a fantastic theater workshop. I’m not talking about these acting classes that crop up. “Oh, go to this acting coach”. We’re talking about serious theater and film workshops with committed, dedicated, talented actors. I’m not saying that other workshops were fly-by-night places, but these acting workshops I participated in were top-level. John McBrearty told me he had this script that was all Screen Actors’ Guild, and he just came up to me and said, “Debbie, I have the part for you. Everything’s going to be laid out here. We’re going to go up to Mount Baldy. I have everything set. Here are your lines”. When you see that movie, it made me a scream queen, and it was so tough. My god.
I remember being in my little shorts and little top up there on Mount Baldy, and we were supposed to wrap up shooting in September as it was meant to be a late Summer/early Fall shoot. Instead, we shot through the first week of October, and on the day we left, it snowed. It was so freakin’ cold when you see those final scenes. It was a big deal as it was a hit that played every Saturday night for several years on USA Up All Night. Speaking of which, I appeared with Rhonda Shear on an episode of that in a lingerie slumber party with her and some other girls. Sorority Girls was on television, and I was in TV Guide. Everything came from Sorority Girls. It was a big hit, and after that film and Hard To Die, the Scream Queen people contacted me, and the rest is 90s Scream Queen history.
Johnny: You do mention Hard To Die, and in that movie, you played the character of Jackie. As Hard To Die is a favorite of any B-movie aficionado, what made it stand out for you?
Deborah: That Jim picked out the part especially for me. That stands out more than anything. One night we were hanging out, and he said, “Deb, I have this role for you. Nobody else can play it but you”. I said, “Really? I’m so excited!”. This was right during the time when I was looking for something good. Every day we went down to shoot, and once again, I had to do all my own stunts. All the girls had to. I was so bruised up that day on the stairwell, and Roger Corman was down there at 6:30 AM. We had to turn around so fast because Jim works fast, boom, boom, boom! I had to run up the stairwell with my spiked heels and push Peter Spellos, who played Orville, down in my little lingerie. I had bruises all over my legs and tried to avoid them being seen, but in one of the shots, you can see them. It worked great because I had just pushed Orville down the stairs.
Roger Corman was standing there in a suit at 6:30 AM to make sure everything was on schedule, and it was. Everybody was doing their job, and it was so great to meet Roger on the set. Returning to doing my own stunts, the stunt coordinator showed me how to do the scene I was discussing, but I had the training from the Bruce Lee movie, so that worked in my favor. That was amazing, and the thing that stands out the most for me in Hard To Die? I would have to say my death scene and the shower scene.
With the shower scene, we were lined up, and it was a joke in the 90s. You couldn’t be in one of Jim’s movies unless you popped your top, took a shower and soaped it up. True to form, that’s what we did, and each one of us girls had our shot. I remember we were all standing there and laughing about it. We all thought it was funny, and when you see the shower scene, I got my hair completely wet, as did Bridget Carney. Over the boobs, make sure you get a lot of suds, (laughing) and then pull up your leg, which I also did recently in a newer project, Len Kabaninski’s Hellcat’s Revenge II. I learned well from Jim how to do a shower scene and have the audience go, “Oooh, WOW-WOW! That’s sexy! That’s hot”. You’ve got to do a shower scene a special way in a B-movie…Otherwise, it’s just a shower scene. Len’s movie is definitely more realistic, but when you see the shower scene in Hellcat’s Revenge, and then you look at my shower scene in Hard To Die, you’re going to see that they’re very similar in spite of the years of difference between the two films. When it moves up and down over my legs and over my boobs, I look up to the ceiling as I do my neck (laughing), and I show my toes for the foot fetish people. With B-movies, there’s a certain art to it when you take a shower, so it’s really fun.
When it comes to my death scene, we had squibs, and with Jim, if you don’t hit your marks, know your lines and get it on the first take, especially with squibs, you’re done. When you see my death scene, you’ll see machine guns going all around the room, and I clasp at my chest and fall on the floor. It had to be on the count of the machine gun. When you’re doing it, it’s not a machine gun with real bullets. They’re blanks, so as it went around, I had to count the number of shots, and I had to put my hand on my chest at the exact shot, fall back and then fall on the floor. I had to do it exactly right, and so the first time we did it, he said, “No, Debbie! You missed it, you missed it!”. They didn’t explode the blood as it was a rehearsal, but he said, “You’ve got to get it this time!”.
It went around the room again, and I’m counting the number of shots in my head if you look at that scene. I wasn’t scared to death, but I was using fear because I was about to be killed and I knew it was in the role, so I was scared anyway. When the machine gun came around, I banged my chest, fell back and screamed, fell on my tush, and my legs popped up into the air. The machine gun kept going, and Jim went, “CUT!”. Everybody laughed hysterically, and it was one of the funniest death scenes besides Sorority Girls And The Creature From Hell, when I kicked the head (laughing). My death scene in Hard To Die had to be one of the funniest death scenes I ever filmed in my entire career. When Jim said cut, the whole place rolled with laughter. When you see that scene and my little legs pop up in the air (laughing), it’s so funny, but it is a horror comedy.
The whole thing is funny, whether it’s Orville or Karen Mayo-Chandler’s character taking an Exorcist turn, but my death scene is hilarious. That has to be the number one thing I remember from Hard To Die, besides Roger Corman being there at 6:30 AM after I was absolutely exhausted from running up and down the stairs and doing kung-fu kicks and punches, bruises on me in stiletto heels and lingerie (laughing). It was fabulous. I loved every minute of it.
Johnny: Fantastic. To go to my next question: You’re the third cast member from DInosaur Island that I’ve interviewed after Becky LeBeau and Antonia Dorian, so what was your favorite part of working on that movie?
Deborah: Everything was my favorite part because it was like Old Home Week as we were all coming off other projects. There was Michelle Bauer and Antonia Dorian, whom I attended a few parties with, and Nikki Fritz, who just passed away. I was so close with Nikki. I got her a part in Caged Women II, and that’s another movie you should check out. We were all there, and it was just the funnest shoot ever.
We shot on David Carradine’s ranch, and I used to go into David’s house and talk to him during the breaks. I had met him a couple of times at Ma Maison and a couple of Hollywood events, but I loved hanging out with him as I remembered watching him play Grasshopper on Kung Fu growing up. He was the nicest guy ever. It’s hard to describe what his ranch looked like as there were so many people and cars, but it was a really amazing place where we were filming. I remember being there with Michelle as we were putting on each other’s costumes, the little dinosaur outfits, and as with Protocol, I was wearing leopard again.
I loved working with Ross Hagen and Richard Gabai, and Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski as directors. It was the funnest experience, and then when the dinosaur came, oh my gosh, did we have fun with that dinosaur! It was very hot, as I mentioned earlier. David Carradine’s ranch was out in Sunland, California, and it was very dry, dusty and mountainous. I remember being there for about a week, and the whole thing was wonderful, but the main thing I remember was being with everybody again.
Johnny: It’s always good to work with your friends. To go to my next question: You took your first producer credit on 1993’s Death Dancers. How did taking a producer credit prepare you for your later film work?
Deborah: Basically, that associate producer credit was to give me protection. I didn’t do much on the producing side, but I starred in that movie, and to this day it’s the most prominent movie, as far as I’m concerned, in my entire repetoire of films. I pulled out every stop in my acting, and I was on the set every day. The part was absolutely, psychologically challenging on every level, physically, mentally, sexually…It had every aspect of what I love to play in a character, and I presented it in that movie. I got the part basically because I knew the producer, and once again it’s who you know in this town, but you have to cut the mustard. The producer was a friend of mine, and she recommended me to the executive producer, who was the big money man. He took just one look at me, and that was that.
I got the part, and it’s an amazing script. It doesn’t make any sense to anybody, but it doesn’t matter. You just watch it and you’re mesmerized from the beginning to the end. I just had the most incredible experience, and I always thought it was so funny because of my spiritual path. I believe in karma, and as I was pretty young, I was concerned about playing a woman who started out innocent and pure, but then turned into an evil murderess. I asked one of my spiritual advisors, “Is this going to create bad karma for me, playing a character who’s a seductive murderess?”. I have a problem with men who abuse women, and that becomes clear in the story. My spiritual advisor said, “Of course not. You’re an actress”. That’s right. As Milton said, everybody has the nun in them, the whore in them…You’ve got to play everything.
I then went to my grandmother, who was still living at the time. I went to her for advice on almost everything and I asked her, “Grammy, what would you do? Do you think it’s okay? Should I take this part? It’s an awesome part. It’s a lead role. I’m making a lot of money, and it’s going to go places, but I’m playing a woman who finds men who abuse women, has sex with the men, and then murders them in various ways. That’s not cool, is it?”. She said, “Well, dear, they probably deserve it”. (Laughing) We both started laughing, and I said, “Alright, Grammy. That makes a lot of sense. I’m doing it”. This was before I decided to do the film as I was kind of concerned about getting bad karma from playing such a ruthless, brutal black widow. Isn’t that funny, Johnny?
Johnny: It absolutely is.
Deborah: Going back to the associate producer title, I realized all the responsibilities of it, even though I just starred in the movie and that’s where my focus was. It trained me to see detail, especially as my girlfriend was the executive producer. and I saw the stuff she had to do to make the movie happen, from finding locations to casting to catering. All that stuff is part of making a movie, so it totally prepared me for producing my own films, which I’ve done with the Hollywood Warrioress.
Johnny: We’ll get to the Hollywood Warrioress, but I have to ask: What’s your take on the coronavirus?
Deborah: To talk about that, I have faith that things will get better. They’ve made movies about this, and it’s happening now. What do you do? I think what’s happening now in the world is fantastic, how we’re all banding together to fight this invisible virus. When this is contained and managed, and we get a vaccine and medication for those infected, that’s going to be it. Everything is going to go back to normal.
Johnny: On a similar note, with the convention scene on a break at the moment, what have your fan interactions, outside of conventions, been like?
Deborah: You’ll get a lot of people who won’t renumerate you for your time. They ask for free autographs and free pictures, and I give out a lot of that, but I do ask them to send out an SASE before I send it back to them. There are sites all over the Internet selling my shit. I’ve given them no authorization. I don’t even know where they got my pictures, whether they’re from movie sites or not, and they’re selling them with my address attached. Every week, I get multiple messages from all over the world. They’ll send messages talking about how they’ve been fans of my work for a long time, and they’ll ask if I can sign these pictures, and they’re pictures I never saw before. This has been going on for years, and there’s no way I can stop them. I used to have control over all my photos, and things like lip prints and even nipple prints, and I used to get a percentage of it. I was on the cover of Scream Queens several times, and I appeared in spin-off magazines like Scream Beat and Celebrity Sleuth. I was under contract to the parent company, Scream Queens Illustrated, so I got all these gigs alongside the big name scream queens of the 90s like Brinke Stevens and Linnea Quigley and Michelle Bauer, and we made a heck of a lot of money. My percentage went directly to me because it was my face, my body and my signature. That’s what we sold. They manufactured coffee mugs and shirts, and I would spend hours signing everything, including the magazines I was on the cover or featured in the layouts of, magazines the whole world over. I would autograph it, send a little note, mail it out, and they would send a check in the mail. That doesn’t happen anymore.
There are people who know about the scream queen industry, who’s famous and who sells, and they get photos of them, and then they set up their own private sites disguised as companies. I try and track them down. As a matter of fact, when I started getting these photos I didn’t sell, I was wondering, “Where did they get these photos? From trading cards? I don’t sell them. I have the original negatives. This is piracy”. I gave nobody consent to make money off of me that I didn’t freakin’ know, and these poor, unassuming fans are sending pictures of me, thinking I’m making money off of them. They’re saying, “Oh, I have a nude of Debbie, and I was told to send it to her to get it autographed”. They’re not even thinking I’m not getting money out of it. It started out about ten years ago, and it’s still going on. I have a few I’ll be getting to soon here as I’m in isolation. There are two or three envelopes here with fan mail and pictures to sign and send back to them as we speak. I have no idea where they got the pictures, who sold them to them, where they bought them from, where they came from and how they got them, and nobody cares.
The fans assume I’m already in with their purchase, so it’s all part of the interaction. When it started about ten years ago, I sent back pictures and asked, “Please, will you let me know where you got this picture?”. I got a couple of replies back, but when I tried to find where that site was, they said it was under my name. There’s also eBay, where you can purchase things of all sorts, even unofficial material, as opposed to Amazon, which only sells things I officially distribute, like The Hollywood Warrioress. On a side note, a lot of scream queens aren’t doing these wide-ranging interviews anymore as it takes a lot out of them, and I’m sure they also deal with people bootlegging their material, although they have lawyers to help them. To get back to my own material, I have a feeling that a lot of fans got this stuff on eBay, or they’ll Google scream queens and up will pop five or six of us. The sites will say, “Here are the photos we have on each one of them. If you want to purchase it, use PayPal, and we’ll provide the address where you can get it signed for free”. This is what’s happening with the marketing of me. I’m not going to speak for anybody else, but I do know that the marketing for me, which you’ll be part of as you’re my latest interview, which a lot of fans will read when I link it on my social media, means that I’ll be getting a lot of publicity and a lot more action from the fans.
For example, there was this picture I posted last night that was worked on by a fan of five years, a relatively new fan, as opposed to my 90s fans, of whom I have a whole slew. They are so loyal to the scream queens in the horror genre. I’ve never seen anything in show business like this because, in show business, you’re hot and then you’re not, and then you’re yesterday’s news, yesterday’s It Girl, but not in horror. They follow you forEVER, and they’re loyal. I could show up at Chiller Theatre now, and there will be new, young horror fans. For example, with Meathook Massacre 6, I had a co-starring role, and I got singled out in a review with a rave about my performance. I’m really creating the best acting work I’ve ever done at this point in my life, which is the way it should be as an artist.
Instead of going downhill and doing the same stuff you did 25 or 30 years ago, you’re always creating new, more exciting, more passionate, more meaningful and more profound performances. It’s definitely more impactful on the audience than ever because you’ve lived more life, and you’re channeling your life experience into your work, into your art, which is what I’m doing. That’s why I’m looking forward, once this all blows over, into my next role in The Vampire Santa. It’s going to blow people away. When I rise from a pile of ash in my Michael Kors knee-high boots with a gorgeous, jeweled, handcrafted necklace, people are going to drop their jaws. That’s what I want, and I know that’s what producer and writer Sal Lizard wants for this movie. You don’t want what you’ve done a million times before. Returning to the matter of fan interaction, a fan whom I gave my phone number to at a convention gave me a call yesterday to check up on me, and it was the sweetest thing. He’s a very dear fan. We actually exchange Christmas cards ever since I met him 20 years ago at a Chiller Theatre convention. He called to check up on me and see how I was doing. I’ve been getting a lot of calls like that, and it’s so wonderful. With this particular fan, I asked him, “Adam, have you seen my movie yet?”.
Johnny: That does lead me to ask about The Hollywood Warrioress. What can you tell me about that project and what it meant to you?
Deborah: I told Adam, “You’re going to see some bad reviews for The Hollywood Warrioress because I produced MY movie out of my own pocket”. I could tell you all the stories about that, from meetings to broken promises to having the film stolen to financial impropriety and having my director hired by the financiers to work on a different project in Romania. I was furious when that happened. It’s a cutthroat business we’re in, and anybody who hasn’t had their hand in it can’t understand it. It’s cutthroat enough as an actress, and I could tell you stories about getting into movies that would make your hair curl, but producing is a whole other ballgame. It takes it to a whole other level, and that’s why I think the character of The Hollywood Warrioress is appropriate. It’s good and evil in this world, and I, as a good person, will work to destroy that evil like chopping the heads off a seven-headed snake. Another will pop up and you just have to keep swinging and chopping.
In my movie, I have a mystical sword of goodness to help the world, and that’s just part of the story. I created it, envisioned it and produced it, and after going through several years of being bounced around and having things stolen from me, I said, “The hell with this. I’m going to produce it myself”, and that’s what I did. Returning to my friend Adam, he asked if there was anything Ihe could for me, and I told him, “Adam, why don’t you watch my movie and give it a good review because some of those reviews are tearing it apart?”. I’ll tell you why they’re tearing it apart. There’s not studio quality sound or lighting. I have non-union actors in there because they were willing to act for no money, and then they could apply to join the Screen Actors’ Guild as they have great film on them. I gave them $125 per day, expenses, meals & credit, and they were paid on the shoot day. They didn’t pay to be in the movie. Whatever the gas or wardrobe or what they did for my movie cost, I gave it back to them. Some people got more than others, and of course, I fed everybody whatever they wanted. I was taking vegan orders for a couple of the girls, so I had to go to a vegan store for them, so everybody was very, very happy on my set.
The point I’m getting to is that these reviews are, in a sense, warranted, but I did a lot of it myself. I got behind a camera, wrote the last scene, and directed that myself, and I don’t even know how to work a freakin’ camera. The director sent me his camera because I couldn’t afford to fly him out and put him up in L.A, and we needed extra footage to finish out the movie. I ended up directing, filming and writing the last scenes myself, and I’ll never forget the scene. When it comes to the reviews, people were criticizing the look, the design and the acting. These young actors were wonderful in it. I gave them an opportunity, and I think they’re great. As far as the sound and the technical details, pardon my French, but fuck that! It’s good enough to be on television. I’ve only screened it three or four times, including once in Chicago. I didn’t go to the New York screening, but I did a few screenings in Los Angeles, and I’ll tell you they were nice screenings.
With one screening at a big film festival in Santa Monica, I got distribution. There was a big screen and a big audience, and everybody loved my movie. The audience jumped up and down. They laughed. There were cheers for me. When it came to the lesbian scene, there was lots of oohing and aaahing. I mean, they loved the movie, and I looked at the audience. I don’t look at these frustrated reviewers who are wannabes. I’ll tell you my theory about Amazon. I looked up a couple of the names that gave me bad reviews, as they have a site you can visit where they make comments, and I see that they work for Amazon, so I think Amazon assigns certain people to review the movies that they sell, so that they don’t hoodwink the audience. On a related note, they changed the poster, and once my contract is up with the distributor, we’ll go back to using the original poster. I love the distributor, though. They gave me the oportunity to make my movie global, and they have. They’ve also given me the opportunity to go forward with the Hollywood Warrioress internet series since people loved the movie.
The series will become a movie entitled Hollywood Warrioress: War Of The Gods. It’s a package of four episodes, 30 minutes each, and I’ve completed the first episode. I went and got SAG contracts so I can make sure it goes global without me being penalized as a union member. My editor is already working on episode 2, which will be developed further once the problems of coronavirus are able to be taken care of. Returning to the reviews for the original film, you’ll see reviews on the download saying things like, “Oh, this is the worst movie. The acting is terrible. The story is ridiculous”. To me, that’s ignorant in the sense that they’re not really seeing the forest for the trees. Granted, some of the young actors in the film are just beginning, but I’ve seen worse acting in soap operas than the young actors in my movie, and I was in soaps. Those actors just go out, step on their marks and spit out their lines. It’s called indicating, and that’s what they do. My actors have at least a little energy going, and I think they’re great, so keep that in mind when you do watch it.
When you write your review, I hope you give it at least four stars and say, “You know what? The story’s great”. The whole concept came out of a vision in my mind. For ten years I tried to make it, and I went through hell trying to get the money together to do it. For the sequel, one of the locations we’ve shot at is in Las Vegas with Donna Hamblin and Luc Bernier, who flew down from Montreal. Las Vegas is great. I love it. In the original movie, the locations were New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles. I worked with a production company in each one of these cities, although the New York and Philadelphia companies are siblings. I hope to shoot in New York again, because my first and only cousin Kristian Roebling is there. He’s a musician who has been on The Tonight Show and worked record release parties, and he composed the score, which is magnificent. When you listen to the music in my movie, you can’t touch it. My cousin’s work is amazing. He’s my mother’s brother’s only son.
With The Hollywood Warrioress, I hope you’ll enjoy it when you watch it, and keep in mind that, when you see the scenes shot at the West Hollywood Halloween Parade, I shot all of that, and I didn’t even know how to work the camera. My collaborator James Panetta worked on the special effects for both Hollywood Warrioress projects, which will impress you when you see them. This movie was finished with faith, which is everything to me, and spit, in the sense of determination to get it done. For example, there’s a scene where my house serves as the location for a charity ball, and the kids in attendance are kidnapped by the man from Planet X to suck out their souls and make them zombies. My niece is the catalyst as she gets kidnapped and then I get my superpowers. The theme of faith is in the movie as my character happened to be born for the film’s events. I play several characters, starting with Athena, and then the Hollywood Warrioress, and then Deborah The B-Movie Queen in Hollywood. I also play a fourth part, which is a sex demon that takes over Deborah’s soul. The bad guy is trying to get to me sexually, so I have a hot sex scene with a guy, and a lot of people don’t know it’s me, but it’s the only nude scene in the movie and it’s like a dream sequence.
It’s four roles altogether, and there’s a lot of interchange between them. Athena represents the Higher Power outside of the world and coming down to save it. She transfers her anima into Deborah, the B-movie actress in Hollywood, to take on these superpowers to save the early teenagers, who are all played by actors in their early 20s, by the way. One critic said, “This movie has nothing to do with youth”. I replied to that guy and said, “What are you talking about? The kids in there are from 18 to 23 years old. If that’s not young, I don’t know what is young”. The whole thing is about the teenagers. I just happen to be the aunt in it who saves them, which is, for me spiritually, part of my mission in life. This is what I do in my life.
Even though I didn’t have kids myself, I am an aunt, and I love my nieces and nephews. I’m about to start crying. I love my cousin Christian’s kids, August and Chace, and I adore all my other nieces and nephews. Technically, August and Chase are my second cousins as the children of Christian, my first cousin, but I look at them as if I’m their aunt, you know? It’s very deep and meaningful to me to take care of young people, especially today. I mean, we’re going through the coronavirus and the world is in a panic. People are basically going into survival mode and instinctual behavior, and it’s scary. In 20 or 30 years, I may not be here, so what will I leave behind? I’ll leave behind the creativity and help I gave the youth to take over this world and make it a beautiful place, not a place of hate and war. This is me. I care about world peace, and love, and people who are creating a wonderful world and a wonderful life. They’re not killing each other and hating each other and using people. That, to me, is so disgusting, and before I leave this planet, I am going to do everything I can to help others…Everything. My whole life and my art…That’s what my movie is about. Those kids in my movie. I’m their Aunt Debbie to help guide them against the evil of this world towards a good and powerful direction in life. That’s ultimately what it’s about. When it comes to the negative reviews you’ll see, I hope that you’ll absorb what I’m saying. Those reviews are based on, “Oh, let’s see how much blood there is and how many people get killed”. That unnerves me.
I’m a member of SAG, as mentioned before, and I was watching a screener of Joker. I think Joaquin Phoenix is a brilliant actor, but I was disgusted by that movie, absolutely disgusted. I was puzzled. This is what people were clamoring to see? How many people could be killed for no reason at all, violently, disgustingly, because of your frailties? To me, that’s not entertainment. As far as guiding the youth, to fill their brains with the idea that it’s cool to see all these clowns destroying the city since people don’t like them? It’s just so violent, disgusting and negative. I kept turning it off, and that wasn’t the only one.
Almost all the movies that were nominated were negative, except for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. I liked that movie because it had a hopeful ending. Instead of Sharon Tate getting murdered, they had Leonardo DiCaprio’s and Brad Pitt’s characters killing the killers instead, and Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski expressing gratitude for being saved. It was a really good ending, which is really nice as that’s what everybody wanted. They didn’t want Sharon Tate and her baby to be killed by these horrible, brainwashed youth. You can see that in The Hollywood Warrioress as the kids in my movie get brainwashed by the villain. In the case of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, it’s Charles Manson. In the case of my movie, it’s Gerard Devereaux playing the villain, who takes on the persona of a Donald Trump/Vincent Price character of a media mogul.
When it comes to The Hollywood Warrioress, this is my goal in a nutshell: To create value through my art and making my movies, to help the youth have a better world and a good life, to help them have faith and not be swayed by negative influences like what we’re going through now. We’re going to overcome it. With faith, anything is possible, you can make the impossible possible, and you can overcome any evil. That’s what I portray in my movies, and what I’ll continue to portray in War Of The Gods. People are just giving in and giving up, feeling hopeless. A lot of youths are committing suicide because of bullying, but there’s no reason for that. If they have a strong support system when they’re going through this stuff, then they’ll be able to go forward. You can’t get that from a film like Joker. Seeing the way that character acts? I mean, it’s destructive. I know that behavior has a place in horror stories. I really do. My mission, though, is to create something that’s scary and has lots of blood, but in the end, the good is going to win…Just like the old-fashioned Superman or the cowboy in the white hat before even our days. The good guys are going to win in my stuff, and they’ll win for a reason: To instill hope, faith and confidence that your dreams can come true and you can create something wonderful with your life. That’s what life is: A treasure. It’s precious and invaluable. You can’t give a million dollars for one more second of your life. Once you’re dead, you’re dead. It’s over, so what are you going to while you’re alive? Sit around and waste it? Watch television and eat chocolate? Don’t get me wrong. I love to party and have a good time, but I really want to help people and the world before I leave this planet. There’s going to be a difference even before, and it’s so subtle, with anybody who ever met me, or watched or participated in any of my movies. That’s the way it’s going to be. I’m going to create something wonderful with this life to help others.
Johnny: You’ve definitely done a great job of that so far. This more than answers all my questions about The Hollywood Warrioress, and I’m definitely looking forward to watching it. I’ll be doing so within a week or so.
Deborah: Just keep the limitations in mind when you do. I live comfortably, and some of those comforts are seen in the movie, but it took a lot to get made. You’ll notice some interesting scenes in there. For example, there’s a scene we shot in Hopewell, New Jersey with my mother. I’m tearing up recounting this, but it was an honor to work with her.
On a lighter note, the concept of the Hollywood Warrioress actually began all the way back in the 90s. I got a phone call from a European photographer, and his name was Jonah Mohr. He was on assignment for Cinema Magazine, which was a top European movie magazine. The year was 1997, and Jonah was in Hollywood on assignment to photograph the Top 5 B-movie queens in America. I was in the Top 5, alongside Brinke, Linnea and Monique Parent. This was all along the line of sales and popularity in Europe. What happened was that Jonah called me on the phone and said, “Debbie, I’m doing a photo shoot of the Top 5 B-Movie Queens, and you’re one of them. What’s your persona?”. I said, “Persona? What do you mean?”. He explained that there were different types in the B-movies, the vampire, the mob girl and so on. The girls who became famous in the B-world all had their own persona, an idea of how the audience perceives and buys them. This is show business. It’s all about money and what is selling. As I’ve mentioned before, anybody who is sensitive about being rejected or passed on? This business isn’t for them. The people who are buying your work are trying to define your work as an actress. What is your image? What is your look?
Sometimes an actor can make a transition in roles, but a lot of the time, they can’t. They’ll see you in a certain way. I made a transition, but kept the initial draw that people told me, which is sex, my body. I kept that in the configuration of how I was going to transition from a younger to an older actress in B-movies. I thought, “Okay, what is my persona?”. I looked back on all the movies I was in, and I was either carrying a knife or being stabbed by one. I was either chasing a monster or a monster was chasing me, but I always had a knife in my hand. I thought, “You know what? I feel like a warrioress”. It was funny as Xena: Warrior Princess was on the air at that time. I never thought of myself as a true warrioress, but that’s what I told Jonah. I addedd the “ess” after the fact, but I told Jonah, “I feel like a warrior, and I always seem to feel most comfortable with either a knife or a sword in my hand”, which is a common theme in my movies, with the exception of Hard To Die. In that film, I carry an AK-47, but in most of my other movies, I’m carrying either a sword or a knife.
I asked, “What do you think of the Warrioress idea?”, and he loved it. He said, “Oh, perfect” in his German accent. “We’ll pick you up tomorrow. We’ve got the location. It’s a beautiful house in the Hollywood hills under the Hollywood sign”. I said, “Perfect”, so I went to the set and we did a beautiful shoot. He was more than a professional photographer. He was working for magazines, and probably still is if he’s still alive. He wasn’t that old when we shot in ’97. Anyway, the pictures came out and we published all over the world. Besides getting paid, I created my own costumes, as I mentioned before about creating my own characters. When I was to work on Sea Of Love, I designed my own costumes for The Balloon Girl, and the costume designers went along with it. I’m not bragging when I say I have a talent for costuming the characters I create.
On a different note, in those days, I was doing a lot of modeling as I was contracted to a friend of mine who did a lot of movie posters for companies like Lionsgate. On a lot of movie posters, they don’t use the actual actors. It’s models dressed up like them. I could send you some posters of my work along those lines. I did a lot of those back in the 90s, and I still am. Granted, I’m not getting paid the money I was back then, but it’s a different ballgame now. Back then, I would pose for one poster after another.
To come back to this ’97 shoot, I created the Hollywood Warrioress outfit, and one of the objects I had was a prop sword. There was a photographer named Larry Garsky, a really cool guy, and after every shoot, he’d give me something from whatever movie I was modeling on the poster for. I can’t recall what film the sword came from, but I took it, and I still have it today. I’m looking at it right now as I put it in a place of honor in my home. I took the sword, and we went under the Hollywood sign, and the rest is history. Part of my contract was that I got to keep the rights to the photos they published. Nowadays, it would be a download, but back then they sent me a poster, and I went to the photography place to get my negatives for when I would do the conventions.
Back in the 90s, I did conventions everywhere, and I had a stack of these photos. Even back then, I called it The Hollywood Warrioress, with the “ess” at the end because I wanted to retain the sexy scream queen image. The Hollywood came as the photo was shot under the Hollywood sign, and these photos would just sell out. I would have a stack of 200 of them, and they would be gone. I’d get another stack for the next show, and they were always gone. Even though the nude photos were in demand, the Hollywood Warrioress pictures would go, so I said to myself, “Wow, there’s something to this”. By then, I was a bonafide well-known scream queen near the end of the 90s and through the beginning of the 00s.
Johnny: That does lead me to ask about conventions. What can you tell me about your experiences there?
Deborah: Back in the day, conventions had all sorts of vendors. There were model kit vendors there, for example, and they were fabulous artists. I mean, this was not schlock. I don’t know if it’s changed, but as recently as a few years ago, it was quality. I remember sitting next to Linda Blair in Pasadena, and a gentleman came up to me and asked, “Have you had your comic book made yet?”. He saw the Hollywood Warrioress picture, and that’s when the comic book came about through MakeMagic Productions. I have to give credit to George DiLorenzo. He created the first treatment for The Hollywood Warrioress because I told him my vision. I told him, “I have this vision, and this vision just popped into my head off of that picture, a vision of the Hollywood Warrioress coming in”. The vision then evolved to include my niece, whom I love very much, and how I had to protect her. This whole story came about, and I shared it with George, who made the first installment. I had this comic ready to go, so Comic-Con? Watch out! I can recall being on a panel at a Comic-Con in the early 00s, which was before all these big stars came and started to push the little guys right out. Back then, they paid for my hotel and everything in San Diego, and gave me my own table and a rope for the lines.
At another convention in Costa Mesa, an artist had me pose for his model kits. What this artist did was he started with 200 model kits, and they completely sold out. I did a tour of Japan because of my scream queen status. They flew me to Tokyo, and I went all over Japan signing autographs. When I’m asked about that tour, (laughing) I think of the bulletproof Mercedes that they put me in. It was like a million dollar car back in the day, and this was a couple of months before 9/11, which changed everything. I was being chauffeured all over Japan in a bulletproof Mercedes limousine, and I just thought, “Wow, this is really cool”. The producer of this tour was fabulously wealthy at a young age, and very sweet.
To return to the model kits, they were all completely sold out, and when I returned to the states, there were none of them left. When 9/11 hit, nobody was thinking of model kits anymore. I contacted John, the designer, when I started work on the Hollywood Warrioress five or six years ago, and he said, “You can have the molds”, because you can’t do a model kit without molds. He said, “I’m not doing this anymore”. He was moving on to smaller projects. I wasn’t the only scream queen who modeled for him, and mine completely sold out. There were only 200, and they were gone. I have one right here in my living room, and I think it’s the only one. I created the stand with the crystal ball, the lotus blossom as my foot and, of course, my sword. This is really beautiful, Johnny, and there should be a picture of my model kit somewhere. It looks just like me. We did a photo session for the kit, and I got almost full payment on each one sold. I had a really good deal. John made his money, so he gave me a certain amount of points, and I think I got almost 100 percent. I gave him back 10 percent. I think each model kit was $99.99, so out of $100 or so, I kept 80 or 90 bucks. Those model kits were very lucrative.
On a different note, and returning to the Hollywood Warrioress, I’ve always gone to film markets. As recently as this year, I went to the party of one of the biggest producers in Hollywood during this particular film market. They did so many movies that I can’t even list them. I wouldn’t turn to them for help with my little project, but what I’m saying is that you can really make contacts at film markets. I said, “You know what? I’m going to take this treatment, and I’m going to get a script written”. I had a script written, and that was the beginning, meeting at film markets. I had a friend who worked at 20th, and he wrote up a complete budget and shooting schedule. The original Hollywood Warrioress budget was $1 to $3 million, and then I did a budget for $750,000. and then I did a budget for $25,000. Of course, you know which one I ended up with, but the point I’m getting to is that that was the beginning of the Hollywood Warrioress.
Johnny: Cool. That’s really an amazing story, and I know our audience will find it fascinating.
Deborah: Right. When you, or any of your readers, watch the Hollywood Warrioress, keep in mind what went into it and why I’m so passionate about it. So many people in Hollywood talk about what they want to do. They’ll say, “I did this, but I’m going to do this”, and they never do it. Guess who did it? I had a vision, and now it’s out on the market. Whether you like it or not, it’s there, and I freakin’ LOVE my movie! Every time I watch it, I love it. I even love the quirks. In the end scene, when I come back and find my niece, I’m taking her back to my house, (laughing) but we’re shooting at my house. Of course, the audience doesn’t pick up on that. They just think I found her after all the craziness of fighting and killing the bad guy.
Also, you’ll notice in the end scenes that my bra is not the Warrioress bra. I left it at home. When you’re doing what’s called guerilla filmmaking, you have to jump and go, period. The Pacific Palisades, where we did this filming, is a drive. It can be up to an hour in traffic going from the Sunset Strip to there, and I had to get this shoot done. I had the camera, I had the actors, and I had to get it done as it was the last scene in the movie. I thought I had everything on my checklist when I left for this shoot, but I left my studded bra in my bedroom. Thank god I had a black strapless bra, so when you see that last scene with my niece where we walk off and the credits roll, remember this story. Check it out…The bra has no studs on it. It’s just a plain black strapless bra (laughing), and you’ll see little things like that in the movie which can’t be helped. It’s a miracle that scene even got done to complete the movie. Like I said, that’s the truth about these B-movies. You’ve just got to jump and do it, and there’s going to be a lot of things that may be out of place or missing (laughing), but that’s just the way it goes.
Johnny: To go back to conventions: What have been the most wonderful piece of memorabilia you’ve signed?
Deborah: A fan had a T-shirt he had made that had pictures of me in all these different hit movies. He presented me with one of them, and I have it still. It’s amazing. I mean, he had pictures of me in movies I almost forgot that I was in. He had me autograph that when he brought it to a screening of Hollywood Warrioress. He showed up with this T-shirt, and I was so blown away. I couldn’t believe it. He knew almost every movie I was in, and then there was a picture of it on the T-shirt. I signed it, and it was one of the sweetest things I was ever presented. I’ve also signed underpants, bras…You name it. I’ve autographed almost everything unusual, but especially body parts. I did sign a breast once, but never any other private parts.
Johnny: If someone asked you to come up with a flirty and provocative personalization for one of your sexy photos, would you be okay with that?
Deborah: As far as sexy things to write, I’m not going to sign anything that’s crude when autographing a picture. I’m very classy…No F-words or C-words or P-words or “suck this”. I won’t write any of that crap on there. I’m more like, “I’ll see you in your dreams” or “I’m your fantasy girl”, that kind of thing. It’s always classy, nothing slutty.
Johnny: Alright. Moving along, I would like to ask this question: I see that you do background vocals for several bands in California. Have you ever fronted any bands, or recorded any of your own music?
Deborah: Okay, that’s a great question. When I was younger, I had a really beautiful voice, and I was in a girls’ ensemble. I was always the second soprano or the first alto, but my talent is, and then I moved from dance into acting. I was a cheerleader until I was 15, and then I broke my knee and couldn’t do the four hours of dancing every day as a ballerina. This was documented in many interviews that I was a ballerina from the age of 4, and being a ballet dancer is a short-term career anyway. With the exception of a couple of dancers who made it past their 30s, you just can’t do four strenuous hours of practice a day, spending all that time on your toes. I ended up as a professional dancer anyway, but not a ballerina, and then I moved into acting, which moved me into musical comedy in my high school days.
I appeared in plays like West Side Story, but although I would sing, I was never the soloist because that’s not my talent. I moved into the acting world, and if I was called upon to sing, I would sing, but I’m not a trained vocalist. I did sort of train when I was in high school since I wanted to be in the girls’ ensemble. There would be four or five members in the group, and I would be the fourth or fifth to sing. I remember that my voice coach was amazing when he trained us, so I had some training, but it was very minimal.
What happened was that, when I moved to Hollywood, I was in love with a rock star who was produced by George Harrison. I left Broadway because I was in love with this rock star when I was younger. He was on the radio with his Harrison-produced hits, and some that were produced by Richard Perry. I would go to the studios, and in those days, you recorded all night when you went to those studios because you had so much money from the record company to record that album. I think they still do that now with newer bands, but I have first-hand experience working in a real recording studio with real rock stars.
What would happen at 2:00 or 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning is that they would say, “We need a background singer”. I was sitting there because I was in love. I might’ve been half asleep, but it was an incredible experience. One night, John Lennon came in. He had separated from Yoko, and he was with May Pang. I actually ran into May Pang at a couple of Chillers, and we hung out. I can remember that clearly. I also met Paul McCartney, and I have to mention a couple of things that happened with him. He passed me a joint at a cool party at A&M Records. I took a joint from Paul McCartney, and I just loved it. I remember meeting George Harrison on several occasions, and loving that man. He was just so incredible.
To go back to the recording studio, they said, “We need a background singer here”, and Derek, my rock star boyfriend at the time, said, “Deb, get up here!”. They put the headphones on me, and I went in and sang some notes in the background. I really remember their second album. We were up in the Pine Mountains, and they rented an A-frame home in the middle of this beautiful forest because they wanted to really concentrate on writing and recording. They set up a private recording studio in this house, and it was me, my boyfriend, his brother, and his girlfriend. That was it in the middle of the Pine Mountains, and once again it was 4:00 in the morning. I got a call, and they said, “We need you, Deb”. I can’t remember the name of the song, but I sang a high A, and I don’t even know where it came from. Perhaps it was because I had been drinking wine that night, and that clears your vocal chords. The altitude in the mountains may have helped as well.
I remember going horseback riding, and almost getting trapped in a canyon the horse went down. It was rugged out there. I can remember tumbling down the side of a mountain, and I was almost killed actually. I was with a guide, and it was quite a struggle. My boyfriend knew nothing about this. I loved riding horses, so while they were writing and recording, I would go out horseback riding. Returning to my singing, I assumed it was the altitude that made my vocal chords be able to sing higher than my range. After that, I only sang if it was required for the role.
For example, I played a rock singer in Caged Women II alongside the late Nikki Fritz. My character’s name in the movie was Nicole, and I sing the song “Secrets Of The Heart”. Even though they dubbed it over with the woman who wrote the song, I did sing the original track, and it sounds beautiful. It was really nice, and when you watch me sing the song, you can see that I must have been a rock star in a past life. When you see me play that part, Johnny, you’ll say, “Look at Debbie go! She’s so great as a rock star”.
I also did a fabulous burlesque show in L.A that was a big hit. I had met the producer at a Glamourcon. Her name was Cameron, and she worked on the Star Trek franchise. She was drop dead gorgeous, and she was into burlesque, so she created a burlesque show. I don’t know if you’ve seen RuPaul’s Drag Race, but Cameron had a similar performing aspect that was way out there. Dancing, singing…She created the costumes. She wrote and produced this show called Bump and Grind.
I got cast in a role in it because of another example of the last minute casting. In this case, the girl I ended up replacing had a drinking problem. She would show up on stage to dance and sing, and she had to change costumes, which is a big part of burlesque. This performer would show up at rehearsal drunk, and she wouldn’t be able to perform. She couldn’t sing or dance or remember her lines, and you need to do all those things in burlesque. As mentioned before, I befriended Cameron through Glamourcon, which is also how I got Caged Women II, as I was signing autographs alongside Ava Cadell, and she connected me with that film’s director. When it came to Cameron, she called and said, “Debbie, I’m doing a burlesque show, and I know you dance, but can you sing?”. I said, (laughing) “I have in the past”, and she said, “Come on over. We have rehearsal tomorrow. Let’s see if you can pick up the steps. We’re going on next week”. (Laughing) It was at the Mayan Theatre, a beautiful theater in Downtown Los Angeles. Now it’s a nightclub, but back then, they did productions. This was a two-night event, and it was totally sold out. Literally hundreds of people filled the place for the performances. I went over for rehearsals, and I pulled off the steps and the songs.
I played Miss Electrifying from Gypsy. I dressed as Marlene Dietrich to sing one of her famous songs. I also played a nurse in one scene. I recall that we had to go into a recording studio to do the soundtrack. It was very exciting, and Cameron put a lot of money into it. We went on for quite a while. We also did a run at the famous Variety Theater in Downtown Los Angeles. The show was taped, although I don’t know whatever happened to it. We were being considered to go to Vegas, which would’ve been big-time for us. We were all ready to go, but the thing that caused us hesitation was that we had to reside in Vegas for the periof of time we were contracted to the casino. I wasn’t sure about that, but then that deal fell through. I think she made a couple of attempts to get it back up and running, and then I didn’t hear anything else, but that was in the early 2000s.
Within the past few years, I have a girl friend, who I love and adore, who sings backup for a really cool punk rock band called Buzz. The lead singer said to my girl friend, “Do you have anybody who can sing backup with you? I need a few more girls”. She said, “Oh, yeah. I’ve got the girl”, and we went to Vegas and sang there. I just followed her, and I’m still singing with Buzz, and I love it. We get a good audience. We sing at the world-famous Whisky A Go Go, and of course, the Rainbow Bar And Grill at their special rock-and-roll events. It’s just plain old fun. I’m never going to be the lead singer. That’s not what I do, but I love being a back-up girl and dancing in the background. I hadn’t sang in forever, but I somehow pulled that off.
The rock-and-roll side is part of the personal Debbie. I love to hang out on the Sunset Strip, near where I live, and meet people. That’s what I like to do. The funny thing is I have another friend who has a band in town now, and what happened recently is that he went to my backup singer girl friend and asked, “Can you and Debbie sing backup for me? I’ve got a gig at The Whisky. It’s a big one, and I’d love to add some backup singers”, (laughing) and we just did it. His band is called The Porn Flakes, so we sang at The Whisky, and we knocked the socks off the audience. I didn’t even know the songs, but I just followed my girl friend Donna. We’ve been doing our act together for about five years now from when I first went to Vegas to sing with Buzz. We’ve got our steps down, and I always say to her, “Come on, Donna. We’ve got to get our outfits together. I’ve been doing this for years, and it makes it look so much more professional”. We’ve got our steps and wardrobe together, and I said, “Let’s do something shiny onstage because the guys always wear black, and we’ll just sort of sparkle in the background there, and it will add to the show”.
It’s just fun, so fun, and I’m sure I’ll be doing some more as soon as we get through the coronavirus. That’s what I’m doing, and it’s fun as hell, you know? With punk rock, you actually don’t even really need to sing. I don’t mean to sound rude because Donna is a really good rock singer, but me? I just sort of fake it, and if you’ve ever listened to bands like The Ramones, you can just sort of yell it out. (Laughing) As long as you’ve got the right beat and the right lyric, you’ll pass.
Johnny: To move to another aspect of your work, you’ve done a lot of bikini and lingerie pictures, and you’ve looked great in them, so which have been your favorites to take?
Deborah: My favorite is Celebrity Sleuth. It was shot back in the 90s, which is appropriate for your article, and it was when Celebrity Sleuth was the magazine to be in as a young starlet. I had one with my partner Debbie D. We were called the Double Ds, and it’s a lesbian tease act we did. She’s a dear friend. I’ve worked with her many times. I love her, and I can’t live without her. I also had my single layout, and it was three to five pages. It had my baby picture, pictures from when I was a cheerleader, you name it. It was the coolest layout I had ever done in my life.
The photographer was Bill Randolph. He flew in with Mandy Leigh, whom I did several Playboy videos with, and we shot in the apartment I live in right now, so you’ll see my stuffed animals and everything else. They were the most beautiful nude pictures that have ever been taken of me in my life, and gorgeous. That would be my number one top pictorial. They were so professionally done, and when you see that layout, I must have gotten so many fans from that layout. I would love to revive that, for more than just the fans, because we don’t have that anymore. Celebrity Sleuth and all those magazines went out of business, and I’m sad about that. They brought such an art into the beauty of a B-movie queen, whether she was a scream queen or an up-and-coming starlet. Whenever I write my autobiography, I’ll be including that as a high point in my modeling career. It’s the way I always wanted nudity to be portrayed.
I looked so beautiful with Mandy, who was Bill’s assistant, even though she was in the magazine a lot. She looked so gorgeous in those videos. With the shoot, I had creative license for my wardrobe, and I had very comfortable shoes. Sometimes, when you do nude or lingerie shoots, you don’t feel comfortable with the director or the location. It impedes the tone of the photos. These are aspects of any photo shoot, let alone a nude photo shoot, and I was stark nude. No spreads, though…I never would do that. If you do see anything like that, it’s been photoshopped, and that’s probably been done. I’ve never done anything like that, and that’s a line I will never cross. I have no judgment about it as I have a few friends who are in the porn industry.
However, for me when it comes to nude modeling, and nude scenes like the one I’ll be doing in The Vampire Santa, I have requirements that I make sure the director knows before I’ll even accept the role. Yes, I’ll do the nude scene, but I want it to be beautiful, classy and tasteful, and that goes without saying. If it falls in that category, I’m down with it, and you’re going to have the most beautiful nude body in front of you. It’s still, and I use the word “still” because I’ve lived a certain amount of life, in shape. A lot of times as you get older, your body gets out of shape. Mine isn’t, and I’m not bragging in any way, shape or form. I’m humbly saying straightforward that I have a beautiful figure, and I plan on keeping it that way for as long as possible. It’s been like this for a long time, and I expect it to be like this for a long time to come. I can wear the same clothes I wore back in high school when I started to get my boobs, and my boobs are bigger now, but we won’t get into that (laughing).
On a related note, I don’t put up with discrimination. If you’re discriminating based on age or color or religion or handicap or weight, I’ll tell you, “You know what? I don’t think that’s right, and you’d better really think about what you’re saying and doing”. I’m not going to listen to it, and I’m not going to let it hang around me, so if YOU want to hang around me, you’d better be cool and realize everybody is beautiful just the way they are. Nobody’s better than the other person. I don’t believe in discrimination, and I’m adamant about that. If anybody in any way says something rude about age or other factors, they’re somebody I don’t want to talk to. I don’t want them anywhere near me. I’ll be polite to them, but keep your distance. You have the coronavirus as far as I’m concerned (laughing).
Returning to the nudity issue, what I’m saying is that I’m thrilled to still do nude work because I think it’s beautiful. I used to study all the great classical artists from Leonardo DaVinci onward, and that’s the way I see nudity…Artistic, classic and beautiful. I don’t look at nudity as, “Oh, let’s stick it in. Let’s see her tits and ass”. I don’t look at it that way. A woman is beautiful, and sexuality is beautiful, and all bodies are beautiful. Genetically, though, I inherited it through my genes, and then I teach yoga, and I swim and I dance. That’s all you need to do to keep your figure, and I continue to do so. It’s really a discipline. Even if you’re 20 or 30 years old, you can’t keep your body if you don’t exercise. Also, if you just sit and eat junk food, and don’t exercise, you’re going to get fat. It’s the law of thermodynamics. What goes in has to come out. In other words, if you eat X amount of calories, and you don’t exercise to burn them off, then it’s going to form fat. It’s as simple as that, and people don’t get it, so that’s why they get fat.
I never allowed myself to get fat because I understand the law of thermodynamics, and my genetic makeup. I love bikinis. I love showing off my beautiful body. I’m proud of it, and it’s something that people respect. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a lot of people understand why we were given our bodies. It’s a temple for your soul, your spirit, and my temple? I was given a beautiful small package. I’m 5′ 2” and under 100 pounds. It’s small, but I’m keeping it tight, baby! I’m keeping this girl as hot as possible for as long as possible (laughing). I love being hot.
Johnny: You certainly are, and your beauty is equaled by your compassion and your kindness. Do you have any advice for people looking to enter the entertainment business?
Deborah: I would tell them to have faith and believe in themselves, because if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will. Don’t forget the training. You won’t become a star just because you have a pretty face. Recalling what Agnes Moorehead said, a pretty face is a dime a dozen. Talent is what counts, and be honest with yourself that you have talent. You’ll need to work like crazy to develop and hone that talent so you can go on camera and do whatever you need to do.
You need to train, and then you need to get out there and work it because you can’t just sit in your house and wait for the phone to ring. You’ve got to go out and make your own career happen. You’ve got to pound pavements, do plays, go out on auditions, get an agent, get good photographs to market yourself, and be diligent. You also can’t get caught up in the Hollywood party scene. I was in it, but never caught up in it. The party scene is quite an underbelly, especially for starlets, and then they end up doing other things that aren’t so cool. You’ve got to be very careful when you’re starting. You’ve got to be careful, hen you’re beautiful and you’ve got talent and you’re on your own, to not get swayed by what I call, with only a little exaggeration, the evil path.
Also, DEFINITELY don’t take the casting couch as your way into a movie because that does not always work. If you work the casting couch correctly, yes, but most young actresses don’t. They’ll say, “I’ll give you a blowjob and expect my call time”. It doesn’t work that way. As a matter of fact, it can work against you. What you do is you get passed on, and then passed on to the next guy, and I have several experiences of the casting couch with the top of Hollywood…I mean, the VERY top of Hollywood, and let me tell you, the Harvey Weinstein stories are all true. If you don’t sleep with them, they can wreck your career, and if you do sleep with them, there’s no guarantee they’ll do a damn thing for you, so you have to be very smart if you’re going to use your sexuality to move forward in this business, but you can.
If you’re smart, you can use it, but you have to be responsible enough to accept responsibility. “Okay, I’m going to get into that with him, but I’m not going to be down on myself because of it”. “I’m not going to feel guilty about it”. “This guy I don’t mind that much”. “He’s not married. I’m not married. No big deal”. You have to assess the situation before you get into that. Some of these young actresses will go in and say, “That’s ‘so and so’. Oh my gosh. Okay, I’ll give you a blowjob if you put me in a TV series”. NOOOO! It doesn’t work that way. If you don’t know how to utilize it properly, you’ll get a bad reputation and nobody will touch you with a ten-foot pole, and you get blacklisted, basically. You’ll hear, “Oh, she did me a couple of years ago. She’s really good, but I just passed her on to ‘so-and-so'”, and they’ll go, “Really? Oh, let me see how far I can get with her”. “She’ll do it and you won’t have to give her anything?”. “Oh, yeah. I never gave her anything”. ‘Oh, great”. You’ll get that kind of reputation, and that happens, and you never work. It can backfire on you, so I advise young actresses NOT to use sex to get ahead.
I say you should go on your own confidence and your own talent, and believe in yourself. Also, have some sort of faith, whatever that faith is. I don’t want to get into religion, but you have to have strong faith, and to translate what faith is, it’s belief. You have to believe, “Yes, I’m going to make my dreams come true”, and that’s what I’ve done, and what I want to share with the world. Please, let’s make our dreams come true. Never give up, because once you give up, that’s self-eliminating. You’re out of the game. That’s it. As long as you don’t give up, and you keep going and you have faith, your dreams will come true.
Johnny: That’s definitely good advice.
Deborah: Also, keep yourself as clean as possible. Don’t get into drugs and alcohol. Partying is one thing, as I love to party, which people can see on my social media. It’s only on Saturday night, though, and very modified, but that’s because I got it from my mother. She loved to party and have fun. What happens in Hollywood is that you can get into a habit of partying every single night. After I broke up with Derek and got into big movies, a limousine showed up at my door, and I was going to one party after another, every single night. Cocaine, money to have sex with the rich Arabians who were coming in because of oil money..It was so easy to get caught up in that, and a lot of the girls I knew got caught up in that, being flown to Dubai and promised money and movie parts. It’s a fast lane out here. That’s no joke, and I lived it, but you can’t get caught up in it. I never turned pro for sex, and they liked that, so they included me in their Hollywood parties because it made them look legitimate. They didn’t just want prostitutes there…They wanted some legitimacy. I won’t mention any names, but that’s why some of the girls from my day aren’t here anymore. I really saw the underbelly of Hollywood. There’s no question about that.
Johnny: Before we wrap up the interview, what are some of the projects we can look forward to seeing you in once the coronavirus blows over and things improve?
Deborah: Besides Sal Lizard’s The Vampire Santa, I’ll be working with Jim Wynorski again on Cannibal Pep Squad, Michael Moutsatsos on The Butcher 2, and, of course, my own project, Hollywood Warrioress: War Of The Gods. Jeffrey Schneider’s The King, The Swordsman and The Sorceress has been moved to 2022. I can also be seen on YouTube currently in Brother Andy’s short film The Ghost Of Room 13.
Johnny: I thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
Deborah: Oh, Johnny. We’re buddies for life. Once I make a friend, I’m loyal as hell…
Johnny: …And I’ll be so for you, too…
Deborah: …And I’m that way with my fans, like my friend Adam, whom I exchange Christmas cards with, who checked up on me. He said, “Deb, can I do anything for you?”. That’s what you call loyalty, and that’s what I have for anybody who’s kind to me. I’ve shared things with you that I haven’t shared with anybody. There’s a lot more, but because I shared these things with you, that makes you super-special to me. I love you, Johnny. You’re a doll. We’re going to be friends forever now, because once I make this kind of connection, I’m very loyal. It’s like my friendship with Jim Wynorski. He’s loyal, and a great friend, which is a rare, rare quality in Hollywood.
Don’t forget my mantra: Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It’s a mantra of positive energy I use to break through obstacles. It’s a positive energy that brings peace into the world, and unleashes your unlimited potential. It makes you have a feeling of “Nothing’s going to stop me”, and will make you have your dreams come true, which is my motto in my life. I wanted to share that in case somebody wants to try it if they’re reaching a stalemate in their life, or if they’re considering killing themselves. A lot of people have lost hope, and when you chant that mantra, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, it instills your life with a beautiful, positive energy, so I want to share that so I can help others, which is a big theme for me. Take care of yourself, my dear friend. I love you, my dear.
Johnny: I love you, too.
Deborah: We’ll talk soon. Take care.
Johnny: Alright. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye.
I would like to thank Deborah Dutch for taking the time out of her schedule to speak. For more about Deborah Dutch’s work, you can visit the Hollywood Warrioress Facebook page.
Coming soon to the Flashback Interview will be conversations with actress and ADR/voice-over director Leigh French and legendary rock musician/actress/baker Brie Howard. Stay tuned.