I’m posting this for the folks who attended or wish they’d been able to attend the very first LanceFest which took place in the Chicago area in spring of 1994. I ran across it checking some dates, and it brought back so many good memories that I thought I’d share them.
Will there ever be another LanceFest? Dunno. My motto is “Never say never.” Well, okay, that’s not my motto (My real motto is “It’s around here someplace.”) but it’s a cool notion.
Somebody asked how this all got started and I couldn’t recall until Laurie reminded me of the night that we–myself, Laurie, Karen and Carol Joyce–were having dinner up in Milwaukee and for some reason, we started talking about a Lance Henriksen film festival.
This isn’t a new concept. Back in the 80s, at a party at Nancy and Cherry’s place the idea of Brian Con was born. The point was to only invite guests named Brian. We drew up a pretty sizable list of potential guests, but never went past the giggling stage with that one.
Never one to let a good idea go to waste, the four of us spent an enjoyable couple of hours at The Coffee Trader, thinking about the possibility of actually putting together a mini film fest for all the locals who are big fans of Lance’s. (We filled a whole row on the opening night of “Jennifer 8” and squeaked when we heard his voice over the police radio.) At first we thought maybe we could do it in one day at someone’s house but when we started naming all the films we wanted to run and all the little interviews and so forth, we realized that we had a lot of material and a lot of potential attendees.
Then Susan called from Baltimore wanting to share her “religious experience” on first viewing “Hard Target.” I told her about the idea and she said, “Can I come? Can Pam B. come?” I told Karen. She said, “Oh, oh, we’ve got a con on our hands.”
So here we are. Like the best conventions, there’s a common thread of interest here. Some of us are newish fans, some have been admirers for a lotta years, but we all love this guy and we all have boundless enthusiasm for his work. This weekend we’re gonna watch as much video as we can, eat a lot of junk, compare collections of clippings and have some good conversations. Sounds like a little piece of heaven to me.
So read on; there’s some interesting stuff in this program book. And enjoy.
LanceFest One is a production of The Gekko Goddess and Smiling Mauve Bovine Press which are subsidiaries of Rowan Studio and Bound in Leather Press. Just so you know who to blame.
Capsule commentary and approximate dates on everything we know Lance has done both in film and television. The comments are Jean’s; the reviews you all did are in the next section. If you have any additions or corrections, let us know; we might do this again.
What is this all about? Who wrote this dialogue? What on earth is Lance wearing? What is the Montblanc offensive? What is this thing with birds? Are we going to watch this film this weekend? Nope.
Okay, let me be honest here; if I were seven again and sitting at the Irving Theatre on a Saturday afternoon, snarfing popcorn, throwing Milk Duds at the screen and anticipating all the cartoons my little mind could absorb, I woulda loved this movie. Yeah, it’s that bad and I sorta liked it.
Well, I thought there was going to be a love scene and got all excited, but no joy. This film is my choice for worst of the lot. I mean, Franco Nero appears at the end as some sort of smiling, benevolent alien Jesus, and Lance gets pecked to death by pigeons…what more can I say?
This is a strange film. I thought, first time around: “None worse than” but by golly on second viewing it began to grow on me and I rather like it now. Karen Black gives a performance so completely over the top that she achieves the stratosphere, but Richard Lynch and William Forsythe are fun to watch, and Lance wears these really nice tight jeans that seem to attract dust on the backside. Oh, you’re gonna love it, too.
Jean Claude Van Damme gets to harrow Hell in this one but I don’t think anyone told him. Not just a dumb, violent action film, Hard Target has an interesting subtext about some macho nitwits who sell their souls to Fouchon (Lance playing Satan, I swear) in exchange for the ultimate thrill of killing a human being.
There’s an awful lot of fire in this one, and in fact the final scenes in the Mardi Gras graveyard look like scenes from hell with old Mardi Gras floats, grinning papier maché faces like demons in the shadows and even a brief appearance by the arch-fiend Himself in a scene so full of symbolic images that it requires a freeze-frame and letterboxing to appreciate them all.
Look for birds as messengers; in particular, doves as messengers of grace, and some nice visual quotations such as Lance doing Napoleon and Arnold Vosloo (Fouchon’s partner, Pik) as a perfectly wonderful Beelzebub (can you think of a better weapon of choice for the Lord of the Flies than a scatter gun?) in a pose that looks like it’s right out of Beardsley–a long, languid slash of black and white leaning casually in the doorway at Randal Poe’s.
My own favorite moment: “You’re not angry with me, are you Pik?”
This one is a gem, but you gotta pay attention. On the face of it it seems sort of silly, but the feel is absolutely Nawlins and the peripheral characters nearly steal the show. Nearly. I doubt anyone could wrest this film away from Lance as Jackson Rivers, especially after the scene where he gets caught on the doorjamb. What am I talking about? You’ll see.
Watch carefully the “You sure are makin’ my tits heavy.” Scene.
Easily my favorite of the lot despite plot holes you could drive a semi through and some unfortunate dialogue. Get past all that and you’ll find a fascinating film.
On the last couple of go-rounds with this one I’ve become convinced that the film’s vampirism is a metaphor for drug-addiction. Watch Caleb in the bus station; he’s every sixties runaway on a baaaad trip (remember when your friends looked like this? I sure do.) Note the William Burroughs tee shirt on Homer–that can not be accidental. And in particular, notice that there’s one member of the group who never, ever drinks blood. The pusher is never a junkie, is he?
Bigelow’s direction, like John Woo’s, makes a lot of use of light and shadow. This is a gorgeous film with moments of pure poetry. After we watch it we’ll all sit around and think positive thoughts about a prequel.
The Right Stuff
While I really like this film, I find it disappointing, too. There’s so little of his performance left here that it almost seems to not be one of his films, y’know? We’re not going to schedule it for this weekend, but you might enjoy seeing it if you haven’t already. One of the coolest soundtracks of the lot.
I love this one. Cool scenery, Lance playing one of the good guys…Susie asked for this one in particular so we’ll be running it this weekend. Watch for Dermot Mulroney (who met his future wife, Catherine Keener, on this film) looking young and vulnerable as a young punk set on the paths of righteousness–more or less–by Lance’s character. Look for Mark Rolston (who played Drake in “Aliens”) as the paranoid leader of the rival survival school. (“They haven’t dropped the bomb…yet.”) Look for the grey sweat pants that will fry your brain. “Look at that view!” Boy howdy.
Wildly uneven, this film features Jan-Michael Vincent (Possibly not the worst actor I’ve ever been forced to watch, but damn close.) as a man whose son is snatched (by mistake) by a mob hitman (Lance) of whom it is said: “This guy is so twisted that when he dies they’re going to have to screw his coffin into the ground.” Does this role sound juicy or what? Unfortunately before things can get really perverse, the hitman dies…and dies, and dies and… We’ll play some selected bits; you’ll get the idea.
I got the feeling that Lance and Leo Rossi were working on a totally different film from the one Vincent was in.
Look, what could I say about this one that hasn’t already been said? Lance’s role as a cop named Vukovich is wonderful; it’s a darn shame it wasn’t bigger. If you haven’t seen it, you’re gonna love it. If you have seen it, you’re gonna love seeing it again. Promise.
Wowser! Non-stop thrills, chills, lotsa slime, face-huggers, chest-bursters, a queen alien that will give you the whim-whams no matter how jaded you are, and a fantastic cast make this one easily one of the best SF films ever.
Only one thing I can’t figure: What did Lance do to his hair to make it look so…synthetic? Nice touch.
Look for Bill Paxton and Jeanette Goldstein, Michael Biehn, Mark Rolston and Paul Reiser.
This one…it’s so bad it hurts. Nothing about it makes any sense. I take back what I said about “The Visitor”; this is my “None worse than,” selection.
Not a bad film, all things considered. Lance only shows up in the first quarter of the movie. We’ll probably run exerpts.
Prince of the City
Another candidate for selected bits. I’ve only ever seen this one once and I remember thinking it was interminable.
Dog Day Afternoon
Well, this is the one that marks my first sighting. I thought: “That is one dangerous man.” And then I crossed my legs and grinned.
Attica, Attica, Attica….
Piranha 2: The Spawning
Does anyone really know how to spell piranha? Even my spell-checker didn’t. Jeez, even Karen didn’t! All that aside, I enjoy this one because it’s two, two, two films in one. One is so bad you want to turn off the sound and play Doctor Demento songs over the video parts.
The second film gives you some idea of the genesis of James Cameron’s talents. His strong female characters have their prototype in Tricia O’Neill’s character. The solid ties between family and friends foreshadow the strong relationships and family-of-choice themes in Cameron’s later films.
The piranhas are ugly little buggers but I’ve seen dopier mutant killer animal/plant movies…dozens of them, in fact.
Y’know, I really didn’t hold out much hope that this one would even be watchable, but I was dead wrong. Brian Bosworth doesn’t totally embarrass himself as a cop coerced into working for the FBI to crack a biker gang, but it’s Lance and William Forsythe who really steal the show.
Lance plays Chains Cooper, the leader of the local chapter of The Brotherhood and William Forsythe is his lieutenant, Ice. (Nobody in this film has a name that isn’t a noun.) Chains is…well, not to put too fine a point on it, Chains has gone ‘round the bend over the efforts of a local gubernatorial candidate to have one of his people executed for a cold-blooded murder. (Downright unfriendly, huh?) And when Chains wants someone dead, Ice is ready to ice them. Nice working partnership both as characters and as actors playing off of each other. I was happy to see them working together again.
I was perplexed by the extra muscle Lance was carrying in this film–he’s noticeably heavier here which, though it looks good on him, isn’t his look–until Susan pointed out that it was a great way to hold his own physically against Bosworth’s bulk. That and the bits of business he does; fidgets, straightening of clothing, toying with props like breadsticks and wristwatches, and you can’t take your eyes off of him. This is his film; he grabbed it and held on.
The Pit and the Pendulum
If I say I don’t like this one, please don’t misunderstand. I find it profoundly disturbing. Lance’s performance gives me chills; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better study in repression.
Yeah, some of it seems fairly dopey on first viewing, but I think it works. The gore is pretty over the top which is a signature of Stuart Gordon’s work from what Denise has said.
This one was made here in Chicago and there’s a funny story connected with it. On the Monday after Easter, Chris went to work at the Academy of Science and a couple of the janitors told him: “You shoulda been here yesterday; that guy from Aliens was here. You know, the robot guy?”
Being as well-trained as he is, he ran to the phone and called Pam at the zoo and told her and she called me and we spent about half an hour bashing our heads against our desks. Wrong place, wrong time…oh well. Chris doesn’t have much to add to the story but if you scratch his back I’m sure he’ll make up something.
This one is better and more interesting on the small screen. I spend a lot of viewing time trying to figure out where they were filming.
This one knocked me out. It has a great cast, a good story, an incredibly rich atmosphere… I love this film and I know we’re going to show the whole thing this weekend.
J. H. made Taylor’s television explode. She and her husband were watching and as the camera panned up Lance’s leather-clad legs, the tube blew up. She watched the smoke pouring out the back of the set and said: “Hell, I knew he was hot.”
Let’s have some more blood in here…throw a couple of body parts on the stove…call Brion James. This is one of those great gonzo-killers-who-won’t-die-even-when-they’re-dead films that were so hot in the 80s.
Don’t get me wrong, I love watching Brion James chew scenery, and Lance gives a decent performance though he’s somewhat hampered by the fact that he can’t chew back since he’s supposed to be a cop, a family man and reasonably sane. He still manages to give his characterization a real edginess.
Still, the dialogue rarely rises above the “Fuck you!” “Yeah, well, fuck you, too!” level which is a shame.
About six of us went to see this one evening and spent the next couple of hours sitting over coffee discussing how we thought it could have been better. When I finally saw it on the small screen, I found that I wasn’t nearly as critical. Some things need to be seen on a more intimate scale, I guess.
This film makes me very sad.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Here’s another one about much has been written and said, and as Lance’s part ended up being pretty small, I don’t think I have to add to the verbiage. But goddamn he looks good in those last scenes…
You may remember that I asked for reviews from you when I sent out invitations. So what happened?
Short Bios of the Attendees
You may remember that I asked for bios from you when I sent out invitations. So what happened?
- I’ll start. Hello, my name is Jean and I have a teensy little addiction. I’m 42 and would be idiotically pleased to hear that I don’t look it which is why I have a nose ring and purple hair. I discovered Lance in “Dog Day Afternoon”, noticed him in CE3K and “The Right Stuff” and my eyes popped out on stalks when I saw him in “Aliens” which was the beginning of that teensy little addiction I mentioned. Non, je regrette rien, as Edith Piaf would say.
- Hi, this is Jean’s partner, Karen. I don’t have purple hair or bits of metal stuck in me but I do plan to get a tattoo this year; does that count? I first noticed Lance in “Aliens.” Remember the scene, shot in profile, of Bishop remote piloting the dropship? I looked at his hands. Beautiful hands. Then I noticed his voice. Then I noticed his mouth. Then I noticed Jean twitching and drooling beside me and I started twitching, too, so I guess I can say it’s all her fault, really.
Use this to plan your few hours of sleep this weekend. What? You thought you were going to go home rested? Madness…
Beauty & the Beast: Snow
Clips and Interviews
Clips and Interviews
Piranha 2: The Spawning
Clips ‘til closing!
These are the folks who deserve a thank-you or two from us. The “without Whom” section. Pay attention; there will be a test later.
- Thanks to Karen’s sister, Andrea, without whom we wouldn’t have been able to afford to have this puppy at a hotel, thereby forcing us to invade Karen’s apartment for the weekend. Heh.
- Thanks to Karen for arranging her family to suit our plans. And for being a great friend and great instructor in the art of throwing a convention. And thanks to Kitty for sparing her mom for the weekend.
- Thanks to all of you who brought stuff to share, and to everyone who brought offerings for “The Shrine.”
- Thanks to those of you who have helped me build my collection: Laurie, Susan, Pam B., Nell (who wishes she could have made it but Texas is a long way away just now.), Paulle (for putting me in contact with the folks who gave me a critical head start in this collecting business), and especially Pam & Karen (who faithfully searched Ohlinger’s folders and bought me anything I didn’t already have.) Boy, you people are really nice…
- Thanks to Lance. This is the truest and best “Without Whom.” We would have invited you, but we figured that the “Extended Ladies’ Raunch Sessions” might have proved a little scary.
LanceFest One — Post Con Report
In the grand tradition of Bound in Leather Press convention planning, it has taken me a whole lot longer to type this up than it needed to. Why buck tradition? Anyway, with many insincere apologies for being such a slug, here it is.
Looking over my notes, I find…
Friday, 10:30 am. – Susie arrives with Susan and Pam B. She has a little sign on her dashboard which says: “Lancefest.” They waved a photo of Lance at every passing car at O’Hare. They chose one of him with a cigarette and someone asked if they were trying to bum a smoke. A nice start to the weekend, I think.
1:30 pm. – Check in at the Residence Inn. Susan, zoned on allergy medicine, goes face first into the pillows. A bottle of Diet Coke explodes in Pam’s hands.
3:00 pm. – Susie and I go shopping. Again. Dominick’s has a Starbuck’s next to the service desk and we succumb to gigantic cups of latte.
4:15 pm – We return to the hotel, put away the groceries and I sit down. Pam has hooked up all the video machines. I stare at them. What’s wrong? Wait, that’s not the disc player, it’s the broken Beta machine. Oh, noooooooo.
4:30 pm – Karen and I go screaming back to my place to trade machines. It’s the height of the rush hour. I feel so stupid to have not checked the bag before I left.
5:30 pm – We’re back. I hook up the machine and throw in Excessive Force as a pre-con warm-up. Susan wakes up and hangs her artwork which is wonderful. I hang the The Pit and the Pendulum poster that Pam B. has just sold me. It falls off the wall immediately. Pam D. and Chris arrive with more pop. Lorraine arrives with Saturday’s dinner. This weekend is going to happen.
7:00 pm – We’re still eating when Laurie and Carol Joyce arrive. Laurie’s face is swollen and she’s miserable. The root canal is not going well, but she’d rather be miserable with friends than at home. Pam gives her some gonzo pain-killer (don’t leave home without it.) which only puts a dent in the pain.
7:30 pm – We start half an hour late. But then Aliens makes most of us forget everything else, and by the time Delta Heat’s credits roll about one the next morning, we are all – including Laurie – feeling pretty good about being there. It’s a great start. We blow off Beauty and the Beast because everyone is zoning by then.
Saturday morning – Lorraine leaves again. Ten of us sit around eating eggs and watching Stone Cold. The suite attendant comes by to clean and we giggle a little over the thought that she’s probably going to go downstairs and tell the other attendants that she has a room full of people watching biker flicks.
We all agree that we like the chaps. And the chain mail shirt. A lot. (Well, Chris doesn’t care one way or the other, but he enjoys the heck outta the film and the back scratches he’s getting.)
We do clips next: Out On a Whim, the interviews and the Martini Ranch video. We have to do them all twice. We have lunch and watch Cutting Cards, Beauty and the Beast and Survival Quest, then do more clips and watch Johnny Handsome.
Pam B. and Susan take naps. Chris gets sick on lemon freeze. Lorraine returns. Denise arrives, then Dawn and Debby show up. It’s afternoon of to-ing and fro-ing made more difficult by the fact that our doorbell doesn’t work properly and the hotel doesn’t seem to have registered that we’re actually there. They haven’t a clue that I am, and only a marginal one that Karen is. Only the tenacious manage to get through on the phone (I know they’re there, now put me through!) We tell them to stand outside the windows and shout and we’ll let them in.
More clips. All are in agreement that Pirahna is, on one level at least, highly inspirational. The nappers return and we tell them they slept through the Special version of Johnny Handsome, the one with the missing scene…
Saturday Evening and everyone sits down to watch Hard Target. We don’t manage to agree on the monogram, the thing wrapped around Pik’s hand or the religious imagery, but the concensus seems to be that we like Lance in a long coat, Jean Claude has less reach but more power than Thomas Ian Griffith and Uncle Douvee is an acceptable God in a Cajun heaven.
We have an excellent dinner and a chocolate raspberry cake to celebrate Pam and Chris’ anniversary and Dawn’s birthday. Then we watch Near Dark. For some reason the conversation turns to the ability of these vampires to take showers. Can they or can’t they? More important, we seem to hit on a workable explanation for why the transfusions work: Putting blood back into empty veins is not the same as ingesting it. Like injections of drugs, it’s more efficient than oral treatment. And a lack of blood in the veins is the reason why they’re cold. We still can’t figure out how Jesse and Sevren traveled before there were cars if horses won’t tolerate them. Someone says “Trains.” with a good deal of authority, but personally I cherish the image of Jesse pedaling away on a bicycle, sort of like the Wicked Witch of the West.
Karen, Susie and Laurie (who is feeling much better, apparently) hang out the kitchen window and tease a group of young guys in pickup trucks. Carol takes Laurie home and Dawn and Deborah leave.
The Baltimore crowd retires and Pam D., who has a migrane, goes off to suffer privately. Suddenly there are only four of us in the suite and it’s awfully quiet. We blow off Pirahna II and go to bed.
Sunday morning – Chris has gone off to ride his horse; he took off about six that morning. Everyone says they’re not hungry but they all snarf down the rest of the food. We start to clean out the refrigerators and force people to take food home. Susie arrives, Pam and Denise leave. Susan and Pam B. discuss the possibility of going downtown to hang out at the ‘tute until they have to get back to the airport. I tell Karen that we need a L. H. panel at ZebraCon and she agrees, and then Susan suggests: “The eroticism of villainy.”
We pack, then sit and stare. The walls are bare again, or covered with hotel art. The machines are unhooked, the television looks sort of naked, and the dining table is properly set for two instead of being covered with M&Ms, bottles of mineral water and paper plates. It all happened so fast and now it’s over.
We check out. Susan and Pam go off with Lorraine; they still don’t know what they want to do with their afternoon. Karen, Susie and I sit in the living room of our suite and do a post mortem, and though I don’t say it, I can’t help but think that it all went too fast. We needed more time, we had so much to talk about, so much to watch…
I don’t know about anyone else, but I had a great time. I thank all of you for coming and hope that you enjoyed yourselves. It didn’t matter much that things didn’t always work according to plan; they worked out for the best which is all we can hope for.
Sunday night – I came home to find myself covered with bruises I can’t account for, to a huge manuscript that needs a major overhaul by Friday, and to a tape of HBO’s first look at No Escape. Ohboy.
Thanks are due to:
- Karen, for all the help and support, the lemon freeze and the rude remarks.
- Susie, for playing chauffeur, finding Debbie, and for general, good-humored support, and Susan and Pam, for being good sports about the photo thing, and for bringing gifts.
- Pam and Chris, for showing up with way more stuff than I ever expected, and for being their old, wonderful selves.
- Lorraine, for coming at all considering the lengths she had to go to.
- Laurie, for toughing it out and Carol, for being such a good friend, not just to Laurie but to the rest of us. And to both of them for the muffins.
- Denise, for lending her own, dry humor to the proceedings and for handing us money even though we know she didn’t have a lot for frivolity.
- Debbie, for letting us get to know her better. We hope we’ll get to see more of her.
- Dawn, for making me laugh and for bringing some of the best salsa I’ve had outside of Taxco.
Miss Karen’s Famous Lemon Freeze
2 T sugar, or to taste
1 C cornflakes, smashed
1/4 C melted butter or margarine (use butter)
1 can, Eagle brand sweetened, condensed milk
2 eggs, separated
1/3 C lemon juice
1/2 t lemon zest
3 T sugar
Assembly: (Sorry, I’ve been doing instructional booklets for too long…)
Mush all the crust ingredients together and press into an 8 inch pie pan. Refrigerate.
Beat yolks until thick. Add the milk, lemon and zest and stir well. Whip egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually beat in sugar and fold gently into the lemon mixture. Pour into crust and freeze until firm. Serves one.
Proposed answers to some of the “Burning Questions”
An add-a-bead necklace
The jungle orchids, definitely
Keep your mind on business.
In fifteen seconds
Pam D. Wants you all to know that I made a mistake in her bio. It’s “Tamarin” monkey, not “Tamarind.” I’m doing penance in the village square at nine sharp next Shrove Tuesday, okay?
We did have some lively discussions about “Roles we’d like to see” and got some interesting proposals including: Something on Northern Exposure. Anything on N.E., actually, since we all watch it semi-religiously. Specific suggestions range from an old NASA buddy of Maurice (Wally Schirra?) to some crusty hermit who shows up in town once every decade or so to raise a little hell.
Shakespeare also cropped up with Othello and Prospero. And I thought of another historical figure I’d love to see him play: Galileo. Nobody ever did remember the one Karen swears we discussed. I think she dreamed it.
Late breaking news: Check out “Drive-In Saturday Night” on May 8th (TMC) Lance is going to be Joe Bob’s guest to kick off “Slimeball Month” What an honor, huh?
Also, I hear that The Color of Night has a new release date of August. Maybe this time…
And, if you haven’t seen No Escape yet, go. It’s head and shoulders above your run-of-the mill explosion movie. Great production values, good pacing, interesting characters. Well worth an evening.
- Doctor Gash’s Tip of the Scalpel: A Tribute to Lance Henriksen (dreadcentral.com)
- Exclusive: Lance Henriksen Talks Not Bad for a Human, Puts Prometheus Rumor to Rest, and More (dreadcentral.com)
- Jarv’s Birthday Series: Hard Target (1993) (moonwolves.wordpress.com)
- Lance Henriksen: Not Bad for a Human (moviemorlocks.com)