Interview with Actress Dee Wallace By Jesse Striewski

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By all accounts, actress Dee Wallace should need little to no introduction. In the world of horror films, she’s regarded as one of all-time top scream queens, appearing in such classics as The Howling (1981), Cujo (1983), and Critters (1986). But of her nearly two-hundred acting credits, she will perhaps forever best be known for her role in the 1982 Steven Speilberg blockbuster E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Last week, I had the chance to speak with Dee over the phone from her California home, where I was honored to ask her about many of said previous films, as well as her more recent, inspiring work in the self-help field.

And I was lucky enough to catch her just at the right time; at the very start of our conversation, Wallace informs me with glee; “I’m heading out to do a film, so you’re my very last, good little thing I get to do before I hop on a plane!” I also wanted Dee to know how much I had learned about her prior to our interview while doing background research, to which she delightfully chuckled before proclaiming, “That’s funny, everybody says that! Well thank you for doing your research!”

One of the first things I wanted to know was what made Wallace decide to step into the world of motivational speaking. She tells me; “Well, when you’re called, you have to answer that call! That’s the best way I can put it. Really when I look back on my entire life, it’s all lead up to this. I used to get messages when I was a little girl – which a lot of kids do. Then later in life when I met Christopher (Stone, Dee’s late husband), he and I got involved in a philosophy called conceptology, and we studied that for a couple of years. Cut to later in life; when he died, I basically dropped to my knees and said, ‘I don’t want to be a victim or angry.’ And the first message I got literally within seconds was to ‘use the light within you to heal yourself.'”

She continues; “So I’ve kind of been expanding on that ever since. I had the largest acting studio in LA at the time, and I would start getting downloads about stuff, and they were always right-on. So then families began wanting to work with me once they saw my students lives’ were changing, and now here I am 30 years later with clients all over the world. I’m quite an oxymoron, actually; half my life I do horror films, the other half I try to teach people how to deal with fear (laughs)! But it’s pretty empowering work, I can tell you that. It’s definitely changed my life!” Dee also hosts a worldwide radio call-in show discussing many of these subjects, which airs online every Sunday at 9am PST.

By now I felt like it was as good a time as any to finally segue into her film career, and I wanted to know if the horror genre was something Wallace had pursued personally, or if it had more or less ‘found’ her. She tells me; “It definitely found me! That genre is one of the easier ones to get started in when you’re beginning your acting career. Ironically, the first film I ever did was a religious one called All the King’s Men – and then I booked The Hills Have Eyes – which again, it sort of explains the dichotomy of Dee, here! (laughs). But I love doing emotional work, and the horror genre gives you the opportunity to do that better than many others. It found me, and then I found out that I loved it!”

I was curious what it was like stepping back into the Critters film series last year when Dee appeared in the fifth entry, Critters Attack! (her first time returning since the 1986 original). She informs me; “It was a lot of fun. My first question for them was ‘are you doing the Critters CGI?,’ because if they were I wouldn’t have done it, and I think the fans would have been disappointed. But I read the script and met with the director, and I got to go to Cape Town, South Africa, so how bad could it be?!” (Laughs). I was also curious if Dee had kept up much with the various other sequels in the series, as well as the other long-standing horror franchise she had kicked off the original with (The Howling). She says; “Yeah, I was kind of like, been there, done that (laughs). Especially with The Howling series, they just had a different quality that didn’t really fit with who I am.”

I also wondered if it was odd for her at all to step into the role of a villain for the 1996 film The Frighteners. She says; “Oh God, I had so much fun doing that! I love to explore all of the different sides of me, and the psyche, and I just loved that arc of going from the little victim, to becoming the killer towards the end!”

Dee has also done a number of films with director Rob Zombie (who, coincidentally, I had also interviewed when I first got into journalism), and I always wondered how that relationship had originally developed. She explains; Well, “Rob loves to work with older, established, actors. He came after me for Halloween, and then he wrote the part of Sonny for me in Lords of Salem. And more recently he wanted to know if I would do this tough gal-type for 3 From Hell. He just always brings me interesting things, and doesn’t lock me into the same cubby holes a lot of people want to put me in.”

Knowing by now Wallace has probably been asked every question under the sun about her legendary role in E.T., I wanted to ask her something that perhaps she hadn’t heard before. So, I simply inquired what it was like to re-visit such a classic film all these years later. She tells me honestly; “I still cry, I still laugh. As we all know it’s just a magical movie, and has become a part of our consciousness. I never get tired of it, or talking about it – and I can’t say that about all of my movies (laughs). It opens hearts and reminds people of what’s really important, and we just need a lot more of that these days.”

And lastly, with Halloween just around the corner, I wanted to know if Dee considered E.T. a ‘Halloween’ movie. She replied; “It’s an everyday movie! It crosses all of the years, and all of the holidays, no matter what time of year it is!” Oh, and as far as that movie Dee was setting off to film? She leaves us with a cliffhanger; “I wish I could tell you what it is, but I can say it’s part of a franchise that hasn’t been visited in awhile, and I think fans are going to be very excited!” I can however say to check out the short film Stay Home, which Dee produced during the quarantine (check it out on Bloody Disgustings website today!).

Album Review: Marilyn Manson – We Are Chaos (Loma Vista/Concord)

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By: Jesse Striewski

Although I’m far from the Marilyn Manson fan I might have once been when I was fourteen, there’s still that part of me that will always be intrigued by what Manson does these days. I’m glad I took the time to listen to the band’s eleventh studio release, We Are Chaos, which sees them taking some surprisingly interesting new avenues with their sound.

One thing that has been disappointing about Manson in more recent times is the fact there’s no real “band” to speak of anymore, rather just random, faceless musicians that come and go through the fold. But despite this, Manson finds songwriting help via collaboration with Shooter Jennings, who definitely helps add new dimensions here. The two manage to unleash some dark, Bowie-inspired numbers in the form of “Broken Needle,” “Keep My Head Together,” and the title track.

But the standout here hands-down goes to “Don’t Chase the Dead,” which not only echos early ’80s Ministry, it also features a sleek music video featuring The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus and photographer Lindsay Usich. I always say to go in to things with an open mind, and the same applies with everything here. Give it a chance and you might find something you like.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: The Damned – The Rockfield Files EP (Spinefarm)

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By: Jesse Striewski

My first introduction to The Damned back in the day came via their 1980 effort The Black Album, so the lineup my mind forever goes to is the one on that album, consisting of Vanian/Sensible/Scabies/Gray. Although it’s still not that exact same lineup here, having bassist Paul Gray back in the fold, as well as recording in the same place as said record (and its two follow-up releases), does give The Rockfield Files a hint of nostalgia to it.

“Keep ’em Alive” starts off this four track EP promising enough, but ultimately gets lost in its own repetitiveness. But “Manipulator” quickly puts things back into the right direction, while “The Spider the Fly” and “Black is the Night” each hearken back to the band’s most goth days, with the latter being the overall standout.

The Damned’s music may not be for everybody, but those familiar with their stuff should be able to appreciate something here. And having seen the band live a couple of times myself (the last time being well over 15 years ago now), it would definitely be interesting to see this lineup go out on the road, whenever the world finally gets back to those days.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Film Review: Hubie Halloween (Netflix/Happy Madison Productions)

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By: Jesse Striewski

Adam Sandler is back to do his best, well, Adam Sandler, in this zany new Netflix romp (and just in time for Halloween). Directed by Steven Brill, the film follows the same formula of many a Sandler flick (even referencing several of his older films like Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison), but this time with a spooky twist.

Sandler plays the titular role of Hubie, a do-good “Halloween Helper” type who takes it upon himself to monitor his hometown (which of course is Salem, MA) on the big day, despite constant ridicule from his fellow townspeople. Things take a shift when his new neighbor Walter (played by Steve Buscemi) begins to display some “questionable” traits. From then on, Hubie progresses through virtually every Halloween cliche imaginable, including a drive-in, a Halloween party, and even a haunted house. A large ensemble cast that includes everyone from Kevin James, Julie Bowen, Tim Meadows, and even Shaq, help move the pacing along.

The film no doubt asks its viewers to suspend reality, and those actually willing to do it should find this a fun festive ride. Not overly crass, and harmless enough for older kids to enjoy, it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what it actually is, and there’s no annoying hidden agendas in an effort to try to make it timely. If you grew up on holiday classics like Ernest Scared Stupid, this should be up your alley. So take a break from the endless social justice wars on social media (do they ever really change anyone’s opinions anyway?!) and take some time to just be a kid again.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

In Memoriam: Eddie Van Halen (1955-2020)

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By: Jesse Striewski

It’s easy to throw out cliche phrases like “legend” or “pioneer” when talking about the loss of a fallen rock hero. But few have come and gone that have been more deserving of such terms than Eddie Van Halen. And while it’s not always easy to put into words exactly why we grieve so much for a person we may have never even met, I can only do the best I can to try to explain how and why the loss of a titan like Eddie Van Halen and his music effected us all so deeply and personally, while remembering the life of a man who forever changed the face of rock music as we know it.

Van Halen were originally formed in Pasadena, CA in 1972 by classically trained Dutch brothers Alex and Eddie Van Halen, who added high school friend Mark Stone (who ironically passed away last month as well, just days before Eddie) on bass, and eventually vocalist David Lee Roth. Originally calling themselves both Genesis and Mammoth before settling on the name Van Halen in 1974, the “classic” lineup was finally solidified by the addition of bassist Michael Anthony.

In 1976, shortly after seeing them perform, KISS mastermind Gene Simmons produced the band’s first demo recording and rallied for a record deal for the group. Despite little coming from Simmons’ assistance, it didn’t take long for the band to land a deal with Warner Bros. and release their massive self-titled debut album by 1978, quickly becoming apparent this new act would soon dominate the rock world, led by this “new” guitarist, who almost instantly earned the rightful title of “guitar god.”

By the time I came into this world in 1981, Van Halen were already on their fourth album, and I had four older siblings to each introduce me to various bands, including Van Halen. My oldest sister, Tammy, owned a copy of the band’s 1982 effort Diver Down that was in our collection of vinyl records right alongside to Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Journey’s Escape (and I still own each one of these to this very day). These early albums all left permanent imprints on me, and instilled a lifelong association between music, and historical moments in my own life.

More albums from the band’s catalogue were soon to make it into my collection; a cassette copy of 1984 (where Eddie re-invented the wheel again by incorporating synth in the band’s sound) was gifted to me as a birthday present one year from my grandmother, Mary (R.I.P.). A hand-me-down tape of 5150, the band’s first effort with frontman Sammy Hagar from 1986, was given to me by another older sister of mine, Wendy. And when it was still their “new” album, 1991’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge became the first album on CD format I ever bought. Again, I still own each and everyone of these to this day.

By the time I took up playing bass around the age of 14, several of the band’s tracks became standard practice for me (what bassist didn’t start off honing their craft by playing “Runnin’ with the Devil” endlessly?!). And even though I was not a guitarist like Eddie, his dedication to being the best rubbed off on me, and I began taking practicing more seriously than school work itself (I even briefly took bass lessons from a guy named Ken who was the biggest Van Halen fan I have ever met).

Then, years later, I was a single father by the time Christmas of 2007 rolled around. My father Terry surprised me with two tickets to see Van Halen at the old Amway Center in Orlando that following February, on their first tour with singer David Lee Roth since 1985. It was honestly one of the best things I have ever been gifted, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to share my other ticket with then my big sis who started me on this journey to begin with, Tammy.

I remember that 2008 concert like it was yesterday; we arrived fashionably late, and I could hear the sounds of “I’m the One” echoing from inside the arena as we approached the front gates. From then on, it was a night full of not only the usual expected classics, but many favorites like “Little Dreamer,” “I’ll Wait,” and “Atomic Punk” also found their way in the set. And although I was initially disappointed that longtime bassist Michael Anthony was not included on this tour, it gave me a certain hope seeing Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen playing alongside his father on stage. But most importantly, witnessing Eddie play his solo that night was unmatched by any guitarist I have seen live before, or since.

By the time the band released their first new album (and what would ultimately prove to be their last) for some time, 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth, I had already been a freelance music journalist for a number of years. I gave the album a mediocre review in a local, now-defunct magazine at the time, and in hindsight, I’d rather have a dozen less-than-stellar Van Halen albums albums than none at all.

I was standing in the middle of a store with my wife and son when I looked down at my phone this past Tuesday afternoon and learned that Eddie had passed away. It was a time-stopping moment that hit as hard as though someone in my own family had actually died. The music of Van Halen was deeply engrained in me at an early age as much as anything from The Beatles or The Rolling Stones had been, and realizing that we’re now living in a world without Eddie Van Halen still in it was a heartbreaking revelation. But Eddie will never really be gone. He created a legacy that will truly live on for generations to come; how lucky we all were to be able to walk the Earth as the same time as him, even if only for a short time.

Album Review: Blue Oyster Cult – The Symbol Remains (Frontiers Music srl)

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By: Jesse Striewski

After years of multiple reissues and live albums from Blue Oyster Cult, I was thrilled to finally be able to critique some actual new material from the band, who I’ve always considered extremely underrated. And I was even more glad to discover the band’s first new studio effort since 2001 wasn’t a total dud.

Album opener “That Was Me” is reminiscent of such heavier tracks in the band’s catalogue as “See You in Black.” Seeing former drummer Albert Bouchard make a welcomed appearance in the video (playing cowbell, of course!) for the song was a definite nice touch as well. Further singles like “Box in my Head” and “Tainted Blood” (the first number from the band to be sung by current guitarist Richie Castellano) are less effective.

But the real highlights here come in the form of the experimental; “Florida Man” and “Secret Road” are in a category all their own, while “Nightmare Epiphany” (my personal favorite) and “Edge of the World” are the strongest tracks overall. Even if you’ve never listened to a BOC album a day in your life, this isn’t a bad starting point.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Ace Frehley – Origins Vol. 2 (eOne)

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By: Jesse Striewski

As an avid KISS fan, I’ve always been a fan of guitarist Ace Frehely’s contributions to his former band, as well as his solo catalogue. There’s just always been a certain realness to his songs and voice that fans have always found appealing, and what makes another collection of covers in the form of Origins Vol. 2 so easily digestible, even if the track list found here is once again just so-so.

Like with Vol. 1, Frehely goes back to his early rock roots, in some cases improving on the original source material. Choosing to kick off things with an admirable version of Led Zepplin’s “Good Times, Bad Times,” Frehely quickly wields his magic throughout (most) of the album’s remaining tracks, including singles like Deep Purple’s “Space Truckin'” and The Beatles’ “I’m Down.” But other renditions of more obscure dinosaur rock tunes like Cream’s “Politician” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” are sure to get lost on younger fans.

But the real highlights come in the form of the collaborations; Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander lends his voice on a lively version of Humble Pie’s “30 Days in the Hole,” while the lovely Lita Ford adds her talent to a unique take on The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” And of course Ace even tackles one from his former band KISS, going back to the Dressed to Kill album to unearth “She.” These later tracks alone do enough to cancel out nearly any of the filler tracks on Vol. 2. Overall, not a completely bad way to spend 45 minutes or so.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Retrospective: 35 Years of The Golden Girls By: Jesse Striewski

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On September 14, 1985, Americans everywhere welcomed four irresistibly lovable ladies into their living rooms for the very first time when it premiered on NBC. The series was created by Susan Harris, who also served as executive producer, along with her husband, Paul Junger Witt, and Tony Thomas.

Set in Miami, FL, the show followed roomates Dorthy Zporank (played by Bea Arthur), Rose Nylund (Betty White), Blanche Devereux (Rue McClanahan), and Estelle Getty as Dorthy’s mother Sophia Petrillo, who was originally only slated to be a recurring ‘guest’ before testing so well with audiences she ultimately replaced the show’s original fourth character, a housekeeper named “Coco” who only appeared in the pilot episode (portrayed by the late Charles Levin).

Since my earliest memories of first seeing the series, I’ve often related the women on the show to the ones in my own life; airy but lovable Rose reminded me of my mother, Joyce; feisty Sophia bore a striking resemblance to my late grandmother, Mary; and sultry southern belle Blanche was the spitting image of my late Aunt Roberta, who actually lived in south, FL at the time the show was on the air. It wasn’t until I eventually met my lovely wife Brooke many years later, who also re-introduced me to the show after many years of being away from it (we now fall asleep with it on nearly every single night), that I would finally come full circle and find someone that represents the strong willed Dorthy.

Actress Deena Freeman, who played Dorthy’s daughter Kate on the season 2 episode “Son-in-Law Dearest” from 1987, can also relate to the same sentiment on an even more firsthand basis. In a recent conversation via email, Freeman, who currently runs a teen acting studio out of Los Angles with her husband, reflected on her time on the set to me; “It was a sheer pleasure to work on The Golden Girls; I was flying high. Working with Bea as my mom is a memory I cherish forever.”

Aside from it’s ability to produce witty one-liners at a rapid pace, the series was also timely throughout it’s run, touching on multiple topics ranging anywhere from discrimination, teen pregnancy, and homosexuality. Actor Monte Markham, who first appeared  as Blanche’s gay brother Clay Hollinsworth in the season 3 episode “Scared Straight” from 1988, took the time to speak with me over the phone regarding his appearances on the show. He says;  “The Golden Girls was probably one of the best on-camera experiences I ever had. I had actually known some of the ladies prior; Bea I had known from New York – her husband (Gene Saks) had directed me in (the Broadway production) Same Time, Next Year. And Betty and I had crossed paths many times over the years, so to finally get to work with her on camera after all those years was truly great. The set was brilliant, the writing was brilliant…and everything you could possibly want or need from a show was just there. Corralling all those ladies with such different personalities to work together like that was really quite amazing.”

Markham would later reprise his role again in the 1991 episode “Sister of the Bride,” and notes the subtle changes that had occurred on set since his last appearance; “When I went back for the second episode, there was a new director that was very abrupt, and the atmosphere had changed and just felt like it was more about ‘business as usual.’ I think they knew by then they weren’t going to be doing the show much longer.”

And indeed they would not, as the show would come to an end just one year later in 1992. A short-lived direct spin-off, The Golden Palace, would premiere in the fall of that same year. But despite having all of the actresses attached sans Arthur, it didn’t have the same effect as the former show, and would only run for one season before falling through the cracks by 1993.

With the series now on round-the-clock syndication and perhaps more popular now than ever in pop culture thanks to everything from board games to t-shirts, The Golden Girls remains an enduring classic that continues to gain new generations of fans. The one and only Betty White herself was kind enough to provide Rewind It Magazine with a brief quote (via her agent) reflecting on her time playing Rose Nylund on the show; “It was always great fun shooting each episode and I truly miss everyone involved.” One thing is for certain; no matter how much time may pass, the lasting legacy created from The Golden Girls will always continue to entertain and endure. Always.

Album Review: Zakk Sabbath – Vertigo (Magnetic Eye Records)

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By: Jesse Striewski

I tend to usually shy away from tribute/cover albums (always found them a tad too on the ‘gimmicky’ side), but this track-by-track rendition of Black Sabbath’s masterpiece 1970 debut album arranged by Zakk Wylde and company was way too irresistible to pass up.

Backed by former Ozzy Osbourne/Rob Zombie bassist Blasko and ex-Danzig drummer Joey Castillo, Wylde does justice (both vocally as well as musically) to not only classics like “N.I.B.” and the title track, but equally brilliant (yet sometimes overlooked) numbers such as “Wicked World,” “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” and “Sleeping Village,” all of which are a welcome trip back through time.

What’s also interesting is that instead of releasing Vertigo digitally, the band is only offering physical copies in an effort to bring back a more ‘authentic’ feel to the entire rock experience. Fifty years since it’s original release, Black Sabbath is still just as timeless as ever, and this new addition serves as one more reminder of it’s enduring legacy.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Film Review: Bill & Ted Face the Music (Orion Pictures)

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By: Jesse Striewski

After nearly three decades since their last adventure, Bill S. Preston, Esq (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) have finally returned to the big screen (and with the current state of the world, it’s not a moment too soon). Bill & Ted have always been a personal favorite of mine (to this day, I still have my original VHS copy of the first film), so taking the family to see the latest entry was a no-brainer.

This third chapter finds Bill & Ted traveling through time once again to find their future selves in order to obtain the song that will ultimately unite the world and prevent reality from totally collapsing, often with hilarious results. Meanwhile, the duo’s daughters (played by Samara Weaving and Bridgette Lundy-Paine) simultaneously attempt to construct the greatest band ever (a la the original Excellent Adventure) by jumping through time and nabbing every historical maestro possible from Mozart to Jimi Hendrix.

Sure, there’s plenty of ridiculousness along the way that requires one to have a really open mind, including a cameo from Dave Grohl, and an emotionally conflicted killer robot (played brilliantly by Anthony Carrigan) named Dennis. There’s also plenty of familiar faces from throughout the series that return here, including William Sadler as the Grim Reaper, Hal Landon Jr as Captain Logan/Ted’s dad, and even Amy Stoch briefly returns as Missy (I mean, “mom”). A brief appearance of George Carlin as Rufus via archival footage adds a touch of class as well.

If there’s anything to complain about with this entry, it’s the music itself, or lack of it. Sure, there’s a couple of headbanging tracks thrown in here and there, but the previous two films were nearly giant MTV advertisements with their enriched soundtracks in comparison. Still, Bill & Ted Face the Music is harmless, dimwitted fun, a wyld ride of sheer escapism, and everything the world needs in 2020. Definitely worth seeing on the big screen, if you’re able to make it to one.

Rating: 4/5 Stars