Interview with Actor Roger Rose By Jesse Striewski

Roger Rose is one of those celebrities you’ve just got to love; although he may not be as big of a “name” as such leading stars as say, Steven Segal or even the late John Ritter, he’s got his fair share of stories with the likes of both of them (and many more) from more than four decades of crossing paths and working in the “biz” with them. During a recent phone conversation with Roger, I was able to hear firsthand accounts from many of his encounters over the years, often resulting in uncontrollable, side-splitting laughter (did I mention he’s also extremely quick-witted?), making for one of the most hilarious – yet still enlightening – professional interviews I’ve ever conducted.

Right off the bat, Rose helped give some insight on both how he got started, and what he’s up to now; “I got real lucky! My parents were both broadcasters; my mom was on NPR, and my dad was a radio talk show host in L.A. and San Francisco. So I grew up around voice over, and I’m the voice of a bunch of TV stations around the country (Rose himself has lent his voice to everything from Scooby-Doo to Tiny Toon Adventures). I’m lucky enough to do some work for CBS network and things of that sort. And then I’m also producing a couple of things right now. There’s a couple of movies I’m actually working on too with the guy who made Police Academy and Ski Patrol, Paul Maslansky. He’s 87, and has so many stories about all these movies he’s done over the years. He’s just the best!”

Rose’s first on-screen role came in a 1981 episode of the Sci-Fi show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Regarding the experience he told me; “That was my very first SAG job, and I auditioned for the role and got booked, then had to run and give them my membership money because I lied that I was a even member! (Laughs). But the best part about that whole experience was, we shot during Christmas week. I had to cry in my ‘big scene,’ and there were special effects and all that, and they saved everything for the last day of shooting, which was December 24. And on a set, there’s a crew of maybe 150 to 200 people, and they all want to go home because it’s Christmas Eve, and it all comes down to me. My first professional television experience, and everybody is hating me. I could’ve basically not even said my lines and they probably would’ve said, ‘Great, print it, let’s go!’ (Laughs).”

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Rose appeared on a number of other notable TV shows, including Knight Rider, Mr. Belvedere, Married…with Children, and Seinfeld. I asked if he would briefly shed some light on what it was like to be a part of all these shows as well, and he explained; “You know, it’s funny. CNN recently did that show, History of the Sitcom, and now I know I’m old because I’ve been on half of those shows (laughs). The one that you don’t know that I’m on that’s probably more historical though is Three’s Company. They were shooting the intro for it, and someone came up to me and said, ‘Hey kid, want to make a grand?!’ And then I’m suddenly in the opening credits. I was the guy dressed as a woman when Richard Kline jumps on the bumper car, not realizing I was actually a guy! I was lucky enough to be on a couple of huge shows, but I have to say that John Ritter, far and away, was the nicest, most professional and wonderful guy I’ve ever worked with in the business, period.”

He continued; “When I guested on Mr. Belvedere, he (the late Christopher Hewett) actually gave me a Saint Christopher’s medal, which was really nice and I was very honored, and still have it to this day. And Bob Uecker was of course great. I also did an episode of Too Close for Comfort with Ted Knight, and the thing about Uecker and Knight was, by that time I was already doing stand up, and someone told them I did impressions of them. And they both basically said the same thing along the lines of, ‘I hear you do impressions of me,’ and then they would each try to do their own impressions. I remember Knight doing Clint Eastwood, and you just had to laugh! Both very nice guys though!” Going back to Married…with Children, he stated; “I was really lucky on that. I did two episodes, and then the last two seasons I did most of the voice work on that show, too. But those people on that show knew they had it good, and they could not be nicer and more excited about being there. Ted McGinley (who played Jefferson) and I were hanging out on the set maybe the year before its final season, and said to me, ‘I’m the luckiest guy in show business!,’ and then they cancelled the show (Laughs).”

He digressed again; “And Seinfeld? Everything you’ve heard or read is true. I was lucky enough to have already met Jerry through my VH1 show, and then a couple of other times after that. I played the George character initially, and they cut a lot of my stuff out because I ad-libbed like crazy at the audition. Anyway, when they hired me they basically said, ‘Just do what you did at the audition.’ And then I realized, what makes these people so great is they actually hire you for you. And it was so great to do, just so much fun. Oh, and Knight Rider I don’t really have a great story about doing it, but I have come across Hoff (David Hasseloff) a couple of times since over the years, and he is exactly what you think he is; just a very nice guy! I actually tested for Baywatch after it went from NBC to syndication, which no shows did at the time! I tested for the role of like, Joey the stand up comedian lifeguard, and Hoff was there at my final audition. One of the things I had to do was a scene from the TV movie Norma Jean, which was about Marilyn Monroe. During my last line – and this was to show I could do drama, mind you – Hoff stands up and just starts signing (the lyrics to the Elton John song), “Goodbye Norma Jean!” And the producers are looking around like, ‘Just let him go with it!’ (Laughs). So then they offered me the job, and my manager at the time convinced me to turn it down, which I did. And the rest is history (Laughs).”

He then offered some unexpected insight on another show; “But I’ll tell you one that was terrible, which was Gimme a Break! with Nell Carter. They hired me, and told me they were probably going to fire me by the end of the week, because they fired everyone on that show! But I was trying to talk to other people on the show, and they wouldn’t talk to me because they were all terrified. She (Carter) was nice to me, but we were in the middle of camera blocking rehearsal, and the assistant director suddenly screams, ‘hit the deck!,’ and everybody, cast and crew, just hit the floor, and she starts throwing props and screaming! And then she walks off, and some guy goes, ‘Okay, lunch!’ (Laughs). And I didn’t make it to they end of the week, just like they told me. That one was actually devastating, and really upset me.”

Another role Rose will forever be remembered for was Steven in 1986’s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. As previously discussed in our recent retrospective piece on the film, Roger recalled some of his experiences on the set; “The movie had already been shot, and the phone rings and it’s Paramount calling (Director) Tom McLoughlin, saying there weren’t enough deaths in the film and they needed more, so they were going to go back and kill two more people. Tommy hangs up the phone and says, ‘I always wanted to do this…kid, I want you in my movie!’ And that weekend we shot my scenes. I said to Tommy, “Man I’d love to die brutally on film, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do (Laughs)!”

He then filled me in on how his time as a VH1 VJ came about; “I had a screen test to be a VJ at either MTV or VH1, and I told a much more elaborate story of my audition for Friday the 13th, and that’s what got me the job. About a year after I got the gig, the guy running MTV and VH1 at the time came up to me and said, ‘You know, you were going to be on MTV, but I’m the one who said ‘No.’ And when I asked him why, he said, ‘You wore a sports coat, and no one’s gonna want to eff a guy in a sports coat.’ (Laughs). It was one of the best experiences of my career though.”

Working on VH1 for over two years in the ’80s no doubt awarded Roger with many stories of celebrity encounters, including a three-parter with action superstar Steven Segal. He told me; “He came on my show with his then-wife Kelly LeBrock, and I told her how she was my “free pass” from my wife, and she loved that! So then we took all of these suggestive Polaroids, which Segal loved too – they were both characters! But needless to say, my wife was not pleased (Laughs).”

He continued his story; “So then I’m on some back lot of Warner Bros., having just gotten Ski Patrol – and I hadn’t seen Segal in a couple of years since he was on my show – and I hear him calling my name. He brings me over to some table and he’s with all these women and says to them, ‘You know what I like about this guy?’ And then he looks at me and goes, ‘You popped a chick and had a stain on your pants right before you interviewed me, and I respect that about you.’ My response was of course, ‘Listen dude, I know me, and that was probably just cream cheese from a bagel I was eating at the time!’ (Laughs). And another year or two after that, I did another thing with all these cameos with major movie stars in it, and one of them was Segal. He’s standing there next to the food table, and I say to him, ‘Look man, I don’t know if you remember me,’ and he interrupts me and says, ‘You know, it’s funny, people think I have a really bad memory…but I remember you all the way down to the stain on your pants.’ (Laughs).”

While the previous story might have been enough to end things on, I had to dig a little deeper about his most well-known leading role in the previously mentioned Ski Patrol. He said, “It was three months filming in Alta Park City, and I got to work with the likes of George Lopez (in his first film role) and Leslie Jordan, so how bad could it be? (Laughs). But what’s the weirdest thing that’s happened – and I never thought it really had any hold on anybody (except maybe my mom), because it had been around for awhile – but I was doing the NHL awards a couple of years back, and Anders Holm from Workaholics (another show Rose has guested on) was there, and when he saw me he said, ‘Ski Patrol! You altered my life.'” With praise as high as that, it’s hard to argue with a legacy as vast and influential as Rose’s.

And as far as those ‘projects’ he alluded to co-producing with Paul Maslansky earlier on? He did let me in on one of them; “I can tell you that one of those films will be a remake of Ski Patrol, which I’m very excited about, because I’ll be producing it with Paul!”

Interview with Actor Sean Kanan By Jesse Striewski

There’s no doubt been a resurgence of interest in The Karate Kid franchise ever since the characters were brought back to the screen in 2018 for the hit sequel series, Cobra Kai. Actor Sean Kanan is no stranger to the Karate Kid universe, portraying Cobra Kai member Mike Barnes, who to date remains the final member of the revered dojo to officially take on Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) in a match in 1989’s The Karate Kid Part III. Today, Kanan is not only still acting, he’s also an accomplished writer, having recently published his latest book, Way of the COBRA, last month. In a recent phone conversation, I was able to speak to him regarding highlights from earlier in his career, up to his latest published work.

But before he ever donned the famous Cobra Kai Gi outfit, Kanan had already trained in martial arts, and was one of only a handful of actors to have actually studied karate before being cast in one of the films. So one of the first things I wanted to ask him was what it was like to get into karate around the young age of thirteen. He explained; “You know, it really had a profound effect on me. I was kind of this undisciplined kid, and I definitely needed some discipline. Martial arts gave me confidence, and taught me humility and respect, and how to deal with people empathetically. It really had a significant impact on my life.”

He continued; “My martial arts school was eventually transformed into a larger organization, and at the head of that was a man named Master Fumio Demura, and he was actually Pat Morita’s stunt double. And when I came back later to finish my degree at UCLA and pursue acting, he told me they were going to be hiring the new ‘bad guy’ for the latest Karate Kid movie, and that I should try to audition. Long story short, I went to an open call with about two thousand people, and John Avildsen – who had directed the first two films as well – plucked me out of the line. I eventually went in and did a screen test with Ralph Macchio, and got the role. And that significantly changed the trajectory of my life.”

I also had to ask whether or not he had been a fan of the first two films prior to landing the role of Barnes in The Karate Kid Part III. He informed me; “Oh, yeah! I was the guy who paid for his ticket and sat in the theater like everybody else. And to suddenly be on the lot at Columbia Pictures staring in the third one was surreal, and just an incredible experience!”

Few may recall, but Kanan’s first film role had actually been in a low budget horror film the year prior to appearing in The Karate Kid Part III. I asked how he felt looking back on that experience, and he told me; “I did a horrendous horror movie called Hide and Go Shriek! Every actor’s got a couple of those in the wood pile, I suppose. But you know, I got to cut my teeth a little bit.”

Going back to his time filming The Karate Kid Part III, I wanted to know what it was like working with the previously mentioned, legendary late actor Pat Morita. He informed me; “Before I ever learned about The Karate Kid films, he was Arnold who ran the diner in Happy Days to me. He was great…very kind, very funny. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a chance to see the documentary about him, but he also had a lot of adversity in his life. For example, he had a crippling disability when he was young, and he also struggled with alcoholism, too. So he was kind of a complex guy.”

Kanan is also not oblivious to the fact that the third Karate Kid film will no doubt remain the least favorite entry of the original series to some. He stated; “Well, first of all, I think a lot of people feel the third one should have been the second one, and vice versa. You know, there’s a lot of issues with the third one. For one, Martin Kove I believe was supposed to be the only main bad guy in it, but he ended up doing a TV series, which minimized the days I guess he was able to shoot. And if I’m not mistaken, that’s when they decided they needed to bring in another bad guy, and created the role of Terry Silver (played by Thomas Ian Griffith). And then for some reason, the female lead played by Robyn Lively, didn’t have a romantic relationship between her character Jessica and Daniel. And then Jessica just kind of leaves like halfway through the film, which was kind of weird. So there were some issues for sure.”

After The Karate Kid Part III, Kanan kicked off the following year with some notable TV work, including a brief stint on the short-lived series The Outsiders, as well as an appearance on the hit show Who’s the Boss? I was curious what each experience was like for him, and he informed me; “As far as The Outsiders, there was a lot of bad behavior that went on on that set (and I’m proud to say I wasn’t involved in any of it), and the network just pulled the plug on it. In retrospect, the show seemed to really be cursed; two of the actors committed suicide, then another one died tragically early. But I grew up on the book by S.E. Hinton, so to be able to portray a character from something like that was incredible for me. And then you know, Ralph Macchio ironically had starred in the earlier film, so him and I have really had some weird intersections in our careers (laughs). And as far as Who’s the Boss? goes, it was a huge show when I did it. It was great working with Tony Danza, he’s a great guy. I’ve had the fortune of seeing him over the years, and I’m such a huge fan of his. It was a great experience.”

Kanan then went on to star in numerous soap operas over the years, including such popular hits as General Hospital, The Young and the Restless, and The Bold and the Beautiful. I asked him which one was his personal favorite to appear on, and he explained; “I would say The Bold and the Beautiful, because I was able to originate a character that no one else had played. Then I was able to crossover and play the same character on The Young and the Restless. At one point I think the show was syndicated in almost one hundred countries, so it gave me sort of an international presence, which opened up a lot of opportunities for me.”

Regarding his new book, Way of the COBRA, he said; “Way of the COBRA is set up with the structure that you are a student of my dojo – the dojo of cobra life – and I’m the sensei. And ‘cobra’ is an acronym formed from the words character, optimization, balance, respect, and abundance. And a ‘cobra’ is really somebody who is living their best, most authentic life. Somebody that has unleashed their inner bad ass, which everybody has inside; it might have gotten lost, or yet to be discovered, but everybody has one. And in the book I say, I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news, and let’s do the bad news first; I don’t have this magic silver bullet that’s going to turn you into this incredibly successful individual. But here’s the good news – it was already there. Everything you need to achieve that is already within you, you just have to learn to get in touch with it and let it out.”

He continued; “The genesis of the book was about three years ago. I found myself at a place where I had some pretty significant success, and some epic failures. And I was looking in the mirror and thinking to myself, ‘Okay, what’s next?’ I was thirty-five pounds overweight, I didn’t have any prospects for acting work, and I realized I needed to do some things very differently, very fast. And I decided rather than wait for my ship to come in, I was going to build the damn ship, but I just had to figure out how I was going to do that. And I started doing things very differently, and in that year, I co-authored my second book, Success Factor X, which became an Amazon books bestseller. And I created a show called Studio City, which is on Amazon Prime and was nominated for eight Emmy’s, and one won (and was recently just nominated for two more). And I say this not as a way of impressing people, but impressing upon them, what can be done when you follow some of the strategies that I discuss in Way of the COBRA.”

As far as his thoughts go on the Cobra Kai series, he states; “Oh, I think it’s terrific. I think these guys really did a bang-up job, and I think it’s great they’re introducing it to a completely new generation of kids, a lot of whom have gone back and watched the original films after seeing the show. I’m completely humbled that all these years later this role I played so long ago seems to still have some relevance for so many people, and it’s great.” And when it comes to whether or not we’ll see Kanan reprise his role of Mike Barnes on the next season of Cobra Kai? He simply replied; “Ah-ha, I can neither confirm nor deny, my friend!”

However, Kanan definitely could confirm that he had just completed shooting two different films with Bruce Willis, produced by Emmet Furla and directed by James Cullen Bressacks, that you will be able to catch him in in the very near future!

Interview with Enforcer Vocalist/Guitarist Olof Wikstrand By Jesse Striewski/Photo By Brooke Striewski

While I’ve said this many times already in the past, allow me to go completely ‘fan boy’ here again for just a second; I cannot stress it enough how Sweden’s Enforcer are the real deal, and possibly the best, true heavy metal band to emerge in the past two decades. It was an absolute blast to finally catch them live and review one of their shows for Rewind It Magazine back in 2019 (see attached photo above), and even more of a thrill meeting frontman Olof Wikstrand (among others) shortly after the show. It was just as much of an honor getting a chance to pick Wikstrand’s brain recently about the band’s latest release, Live By Fire II, which was actually recorded on the same 2019 North American tour in Mexico City.

One of the first things I asked him about was why the band choose Mexico City to record a live album, and he explained; “I think Mexico City is one of the greatest places in the entire world to play traditional metal. It has a great scene for it, and the people are incredibly enthusiastic about music in general, so I’m very grateful to go there as an artist. We also had the full lineup for it – we’ve been touring a little bit with session musicians lately – so this was a good chance to capture a show that we had the entire lineup of the band together for once. We also had good ticket sales for this one, so we knew that it was going to be something special.”

He continued; “Another reason was we had a good venue that we could set up exactly how we wanted, both in terms of sound, as well as stage. And we had a full headline slot to preform, so we could basically do anything we wanted with this show, and it was a great opportunity not to miss. I think we decided that same week that we were going to record the show, and we flew in our Swedish light guy about five days prior, just to do the show. So it was a spontaneous decision, but it worked out really well. When you get so much back from the audience and you really get the energy flowing, it makes you play so much better. I think we did a pretty good show, I think it was the second out of fifty-eight shows that we did in North America in 2019.”

Something about Enforcer’s style, and Wikstrand’s songwriting, has always struck me as uniquely authentic. So I wanted to know just where some of that inspiration came from. He told me; “I’ve been into heavy metal for the majority of my life. I think when I was like three or four I started to get into The Rolling Stones because of my dad. And then a year or two after I was introduced to Metallica by an older cousin, and that must have been around ’91 because it was right around the time of The Black Album. My parents come from a very musical background, so I had the interest for music already, and when that interest met with heavy metal, I thought that that was the coolest thing in the universe; it was like this mixture had set something special on fire.

He explained a bit further; “It started with a little bit of a thrash wave in the beginning (Megadeth, Slayer, etc…), and then I got more into death metal for awhile, and then I wandered out into Scandinavian black metal when I was a mid-teenager, before going back to thrash, heavy metal and classic rock more recently. So it’s been a lot of different phases throughout my entire life, and I’d say that I’m inspired by pretty much everything that’s ever touched me musically.”

I was curious what some of the tracks Wikstrand enjoyed performing live the most were. He stated; “I think the best songs to perform live are the ones where you get the most instant feedback from the crowd. Usually songs like “Destroyer,” “From Beyond,” or “Die For the Devil” create so much movement from the crowd, and you can feel so much energy coming back from them to you on stage.” I was also wondering if there were any forgotten songs in the band’s catalog that the band might consider resurrecting someday. He said; “I used to really liked “Roll the Dice” from our second album – that’s one that I would personally like to get back. But it’s also a little hard to bring them back if the crowd doesn’t want to hear them. So if it’s songs that haven’t really made an impact on people, then it’s hard to play them live because it will kind of kill the vibe. I think the track list that we have right now is the product of years of trial and error to find the right songs that work the best live.”

I couldn’t help but notice how the piano-driven ballad “Regrets” from their last studio album, Zenith, had not made it into said live sets, and inquired why this was. He replied; “We tried to it with the piano backtracked first, but it didn’t really feel genuine. Then we tried to do a guitar version in place of the piano, but it didn’t feel the same, really. So we have not yet been able to find a way to perform that live in a genuine way. We might still play it in the future , but it also depends on the demand of the song. And with a song seemingly so deep, I wanted to know if there was any meaning behind the lyrics. He stated; “The lyrics weren’t really inspired by anything in particular, but the original idea was to make it as dark as possible, with the thought of the love for something being beyond reach.”

With concerts slowly creeping in again, yet still up in the air for nearly any band on the planet, I of course had to ask what the band’s future live agenda looked like. He informed me; “We’ve had a European tour scheduled that has moved forward twice now. I think I’m in a state where I don’t want to book anything right now because it just feels so frustrating to keep having to move it forward and forward. I guess we have to wait this out and keep trying to come up with other creative ways of putting exposure towards the band. I think this year has shown that you don’t necessarily have to be touring on such a high level to create exposure for your band, and you can do that on social media instead. But we’ve had great responses from almost everything we’ve been doing on social media, and the contact with the fans has been the greatest thing. That’s something we’re definitely going to focus on in the future.”

But that has not slowed down Wikstrand’s creativity much. As far as the band’s future goes, he assured me; “I’ve been writing songs, and I think I’ve been more creative these last twelve months than I’ve been in the past twelve years. So it’s been very nice to have all the pressure off of touring/playing live and that whole aspect of the band, and hopefully we can actually get into the studio soon and record the follow up to Zenith. We have focus on growth almost everyday with every step we do as a band, and I hope to be able to keep taking this concept to the next level and get the music out there. That’s the only focus that I have, and it’s always been.”

Interview with Actress Julie Piekarski By Jesse Striewski

For the rest of my days, I will most likely always associate the girls from The Facts of Life with the ones in my own life at the time. Growing up in the ’80s with three older sisters and countless cousins – all around the same age as the girls on the show – it was impossible for me not to make some sort of connection whenever the show was on in our household.

Recently, I was able to chat with one of the original stars of the show, Julie Piekarski, who, after a successful first season, found her role of Sue Ann Weaver (among others) drastically cut down by the following season, before ultimately exiting the show all together. Piekarski continued acting through out much of the ’80s, appearing on such popular shows at the time as Quincy, M.E. and Three’s Company before finally stepping away from acting by the end of the decade to focus on motherhood. But in recent years, Piekarski has stepped back into acting again, and I was able to discuss both her past and present career highlights over the course of our conversation.

Before she was even on The Facts of Life, Piekarski first made her mark as a member of The New Mickey Mouse Club in 1977. One of the first things I wanted to know was just how a girl from St. Louis made it to Disneyland exactly. She explained; “Well, you have to remember, this was back long before we had American Idol, and Disney was going on it’s first “nationwide search” for kids to be the next group of Mouseketeers. My mentor/dance instructor, who I’m still friends with to this day, had heard about this, and sent in a resume and pictures. And they replied back and said, ‘come to Chicago’ – the closest to St. Louis they came – for an audition. So we went, and honestly we were just hoping for a guest spot at best. We came back home, and two weeks later got a call saying they had a couple of things they’d like to film me doing. And they filmed me in front of like a green screen pretending to talk to Mickey. And two weeks after that, I got a call that pretty much changed my life. Working with Disney at thirteen years old was an incredible childhood, and a dream come true.”

In between The New Mickey Mouse Club and The Facts of Life, Piekarski appeared on an episode of the hit sitcom Diff’rent Strokes in 1979 with her future Facts… co-stars. I was curious how much she knew at the time that the appearance was going to lead to it’s own spin-off, and she informed me; “We had already been picked to be on The Facts of Life, and they made that sort of ‘transitional’ episode to kind of get Mrs. Garret (the late Charlotte Rae) off Diff’rent Strokes and segue her onto the new show, which is something I think they still do to this day. But they did that to ‘introduce’ us, and get us to crossover to The Facts of Life, and that was so fun because it was great to work with all the girls for the first time, and I had also known Kim (Fields) before that as well.”

I also wanted to know what it was like working with the likes of the late Gary Coleman and Dana Plato on the set of Diff’rent Strokes, to which she replied; “Dana Plato I didn’t really know that well personally, but on the show, she was really sweet, and it was kind of like just being with any one of the girls since we were all together. And Gary Coleman…well here’s the thing, you did kind of forget how old he was because of his size, and he could be a bit of a, what’s the word I’m looking for…stinker? (Laughs). I remember us girls were in like little runner shorts on the set, and every once in awhile you’d feel the slightest tickle right above the back of your knee, and you’d say, ‘Was that you Gary?!’ And he’d just look up at you and say that famous line, ‘What you talking bout?'” (Laughs).

Regarding her time on The Facts of Life (which also began in late 1979), Piekarki noted; “I loved being on the show, and Charlotte Rae was just like our mother hen who looked out for all of us, and wanted the show to mean something. We also got to do outside things like charity work, where we’d all show up for baseball games and events like that. And although it may have been PR work, when we got to go out and do things with the public, I thoroughly enjoyed that, because I felt like I was using this great gift that I was given to help others. It was just such a wonderful experience.”

But after just one full season on the show, the writers removed or reduced several characters from the show, with Piekarski’s being one of them. When asked how she dealt with this and if she harbored any resentment at the time, she stated; “When they went to cut the cast, it wasn’t like a major, devastating shock, because life does go on. But it was a bit of a surprise, considering in a lot of those early episodes, Sue Ann did have a lot of, if not major, at least secondary parts in there. But I guess the writers just felt they only wanted to develop certain characters, which is interesting considering when you look at a show like, say Friends, and how many characters that had. I’m sure that I was upset, but in the meantime, I had done other things, like a pilot for a show that didn’t get picked up called The Best of Times, which also had Crispin Clover and Nicolas Cage in it before they were known! But it was never like, ‘oh, I’ll never watch The Facts of Life again!’ I’m sure I watched it from time to time. But at the same time, I was still living my life and moving on.”

Piekarski and many of her former co-stars did return to the show from time to time in guest roles, including the 1986 ‘reunion’ episode, “The Little Chill.” But notably missing from any of these shows is the presence of Molly Ringwald, who after appearing in the first season of The Facts of Life, went on to star in such blockbusters as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. Regarding Ringwald’s absence, she said; “It’s interesting, and this would only be based on and what I’ve heard and speculation over the years, but I would imagine it’s because she was pursing that path of movies, and I think at that time TV was considered a little less-than. But now a days, it’d be no big deal, and all of that has changed!” With the late Cloris Leachman also passing away earlier this year, I was also curious what it was like spending time with her during that reunion episode. She informed me; “I can’t really say that we got to send too much time together during our downtime. But when we were together, she was always kind, friendly, and encouraging.”

Another standout moment on her resume was her appearance on a 1983 episode of Three’s Company, where she worked with the late John Ritter. Regarding the experience, she explained; “I was so excited that I actually got to work with John and Joyce (Dewitt)! John was such a sweet and kind gentleman, and so humble about giving suggestions. In a way, I was bummed that we did our scene so well and it was done in just a couple of takes…it was almost like I wished I had messed up more so that I would’ve been able to stay longer on the set! (Laughs). From what I could tell by just briefly stepping into it, they had created such a great ‘family,’ which is what you end up doing when you’re on a series with a long run. But John had such a great positive energy to him, and it was just a sheer gem working with him. I will always feel blessed for that.”

In more recent times, Piekarski has begun slowly but surely acting again after nearly three decades away to focus on her family. She informed me; “When I moved back to St. Louis to raise my family, I always knew in my heart that I would not step completely away from acting. And even when I was in St. Louis, I did different industrial film work and things like that. But once I had my kids, I wanted to be a full time mom, which I was blessed to be able to do. It just so happened that I went through some different things in my life, one of them being a divorce, which I never really imagined myself going through after thirty one years of marriage. But unfortunately it did happen, and my kids really convinced me to go pursue what I wanted to do. And I really felt this strong calling telling me to go back and see what’s out there for me, and things kind of slowly fell into place for me. I’ve actually had some scripts fall into my lap, and it looks like I may even be getting into the aspect of movie producing, which, I wasn’t really looking into doing. But again, doors keep opening, and I’m learning to kind of keeping my options open.”

For example, she was recently involved in a new series titled Pilot Season, which she explained; “They approached me and said they were trying something new. It was almost like doing that ‘cold’ reading with a group of people, but instead, they shot it, and made it like a pre-pilot. The episode was called “The Nuclear Option,” and it was crazy because I had never met any of these people, and they filmed us all by Zoom. So we were all on our own laptops, and then the way they edited it was really creative, editing in different backgrounds and scenes. It was a really unique experience.”

She continued; “Things have changed a lot since the way we did things back in my day. I still keep in touch with Kim, Lisa (Whelchel), and Mindy (Cohn) from The Facts of Life, and I was talking to one of them recently about how much things had changed since then. If you did TV, theater, movies, whatever it may have been, you never crossed over back then. But now that’s changed, and there are no boundaries. And now with things slowly kind of opening back up, I also have a new project coming up that I can’t share too much about right now, but I’m going to start filming it soon. I can say that it’s an eight episode show, and I know I’m involved with at least two episodes right now. I’m really excited about that!”

Reflecting on her career as a whole, Piekarski spoke candidly to me; “Now that I’m older and I’ve lived my life, I’m actually coming back into the industry, with a fresh perspective. I might get asked sometimes why I went down this path or that path. But there were a couple of times I turned down different roles because maybe they contained nudity. And what if say, my father, or my priest went to see it? I just couldn’t do it. You have to stay true to yourself. Education was always important to me, my values were always important to me, and I was always very grounded, with my faith being a huge factor. I think that’s really important for any young person no matter what industry, to just have a good identity of who they are and to not surround themselves with ‘yes people.’ But my favorite quote that I’ll never forget – my nun actually told me when I first came out to Hollywood – she said, ‘What you are is God’s gift to you, and what you make of yourself, is your gift to God.'” I couldn’t come up with a better way to end our conversation than that if I tried.

Interview with Ex-Queensryche Vocalist Geoff Tate By Jesse Striewski

There’s no doubt in my mind that Queensryche played an integral part in my own personal life; long before we were married (and formed Rewind It Magazine), Queensryche were the first concert my future wife and I ever officially worked together as a writer/photographer team back in 2013 (and we have since covered an additional one of their shows for Rewind It as well in 2019). But even after watching the band’s current lineup – which is more than competent in it’s own right with current frontman Todd La Torre – it still felt as though something was missing each time we saw them live. That something was of course original vocalist Geoff Tate, who I was more than honored to get the chance to speak to last week via phone.

At the time of our conversation, Tate was in the middle of traveling on the road to his next destination. Tate has indeed kept on the busy side in his post-Queensryche days, writing, recording, and touring either as a solo artist, with Operation: Mindcrime (who he is in the midst of performing the classic Queensryche releases Rage For Order and Empire on the road in their entireties), and most recently, with Sweet Oblivion, who are about to drop their second album featuring Tate at the forefront, Relentless.

One of the first things I wanted to ask Tate was just how he first became involved with the latter Italian metal act. He informed me; “After spending thirty years working with the same people when I was in Queensryche, I was ready for something new. I was talking to Mario at Frontiers (Records) about maybe branching out and doing something different, and collaborate with some new people. A couple of years later he introduced this idea, which was exactly what I wanted really, and introduced me to Simone Mularoni, who we did that first album with. This second record here is lead by Aldo Lonobile, and then we actually have a third one that’s going to be happening too, but I don’t know who’s going to be involved with that yet, so that’s going to be a nice surprise for me.”

I also wanted to know if the first single from Relentless, “Another Change” – which struck me as an extremely personal song – had any specific meaning behind it. He told me; “Well, I don’t really like to explain my music too much, because everyone hears and interprets music differently, typically based on their own experiences. So I like to leave it up to the listener. I have to say though, the album came together nicely. It was a great session despite the fact that we recorded it in different parts of the world.”

Another thing interesting about Relentless is the track “Aria,” which Tate sang completely in Italian. I asked how much of a challenge that was for him to do, and he explained; “Well, I’m really good at ordering off the wine list in a restaurant (laughs), but not so much at conversational Italian. But with the song, I was able to get used to it for awhile first and perfect it, which I think makes the album much more interesting.”

With live concerts slowly beginning to become the norm again, Tate has upcoming tour dates scheduled, including several tour dates in the U.S. beginning in the fall. I inquired what it was like playing live gigs post-Covid, and he explained; “Well, different places have been opening up again at different times with various precautions, and we’re finally picking back up where we unfortunately left off last March, when we were playing the Rage For Order and Empire albums for their respective anniversaries. But I did a show in Florida last December, and I believe that was actually the first live show we had done since last March. Then I did one up in New Hampshire, which was a matinee show. I haven’t done one of those since I think Japan in the early ’80s (where it’s customary to do them), so that was pretty challenging to do at my age (laughs). And then most recently, we did a show in Seattle back in February. But we’ve got U.K. dates starting in June and July, and then we’ll be back in the States again in September. Which I’m not complaining about – I’d much rather stay busy than just sit around!”

And with roughly four decades worth of material to draw from, I was also curious if Tate had any personal favorite tracks in his repertoire to perform live. He replied; “That’s hard to say, I like them all (laughs)! Well, doing the Empire tour that we’re doing now is really pleasurable for me, because this is the first time I’ve gotten to sing and play quite a few of the songs on that record. When the album came out, we only played a certain amount of them live, so now playing the whole album is a real treat, because I’m able to play some of the songs I’ve never played live before.”

As many of you may already know, Tate had a messy split between his most well-known former band in 2012. Before letting him go, I wanted to know if there was at least a chance for him and the other members to ever reconcile on a personal level, if not a professional one. He informed me; “Well, I talked to them a couple years ago. We were both playing the same festival, so I went out early to check them out, because I had not seen them play before. It was kind of a weird scene hearing them play, I felt like I was maybe watching a science experiment or something (laughs). And it was funny too, because I was actually standing backstage talking to someone when I heard Queensryche start to play, and in my subconscious, I thought, ‘Oh, they’re playing one of our songs on the PA or something,’ and then I realized the band was actually playing on the stage (laughs). But when you’ve played with a band for so long, and then see them perform without you, it’s just kind of a strange feeling. But I talked to everyone that was there in the band at that time, and it went well.”

Interview with Sex Pistols Bassist Glen Matlock By Jesse Striewski

I’ve said it many times before in the past, how when I was a kid learning to play the bass guitar, there were two bands I specifically cut my teeth to more than any others; punk outfits the Misfits, and the Sex Pistols (to the best of my knowledge, “Anarchy in the U.K.” was actually the first song I had ever learned on the instrument from front to back). So to get a chance to pick the brain of original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock (who was in the band from 1975-77 before being replaced by the infamous Sid Vicious) from his London home last week via a Zoom meeting was as surreal as it gets for me.

Matlock is so much more than simply a bass player though; he’s an accomplished songwriter (Glen had a hand in co-writing the majority of tracks from the one and only official Sex Pistols album, 1977’s Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols) and an all-around talented musician whose first love before he ever picked up a bass was the guitar (Matlock even mentioned in our conversation how playing the bass was more or less a ‘skill,’ but not his ‘art’). And one thing I had not anticipated was how much of a sense of humor Matlock has as well, causing for one of the most painfully hilarious interviews I have ever done.

Case in point, his latest work. Matlock recently released a limited edition, two-song single with longtime friend and collaborator, Earl Slick (best known for his guitar work with the likes of John Lennon and David Bowie) on Stay Free Recordings. Glen informed me that said new single, “Consequences Coming” (which also features a cover of KD Lang’s “Constant Craving”) was recorded last year in his home when he and Slick suddenly found themselves ‘stuck’ together after the lockdown first took effect. He explained; “We were in the middle of the tour in the U.K. at the start of last year, and then all of this started happening. and he got stuck with me, a bit like The Odd Couple. We did a couple of live streams and people started to like it, but you can’t do the same thing every week, so we had to learn four separate, hour-long sets.”

He continued; “So we had all of this stuff, and I figured, ‘well, we’ve got the computer out, let’s just hit record.’ And we did, in a very basement-tapes sort of way. And it’s just me and him, playing, shooting the breeze – I mean there’s some really funny stuff in between songs! We’ve actually got a full album in the can, but it’s not out yet, just the single. And that’s it really!” I also asked Matlock what made the pair decide to cover said KD Lang ’90s hit “Constant Craving,” and he replied; “Because I told him that we were going to do it (laughs)! But no, I’ve always liked that song. You know, it’s kind of about yearning and love lost, and I thought it kind of fit the mood for what’s going on for a lot of people right now.”

Of course I had to ask Matlock some questions about his former band the Sex Pistols – even if he has heard them all before. And his initial reaction to my forewarning of this was, appropriately, “Oh here we go!” (Which of course was proceeded by more laughter!). Still, I inquired what it was like watching the Pistols from the sidelines with Sid Vicious in his place, and he told me; “There’s a good expression in England that goes, ‘If that’s what you want, that’s what’s going to happen.’ I saw the train coming, but I wasn’t that concerned about it. It had all gone a bit, ‘tits up’ to me anyway, and I didn’t like the way it was going. But I was really busy, I had the band Rich Kids quite soon afterwards, and we were off writing and recording a record, so I wasn’t too concerned at that point. They (the Sex Pistols) were out plugging the songs I had co-written, and I was still earning money off of them doing their thing.”

I also wanted to know what he thought of some of the work that came in the aftermath of the Pistols, such as the 1980 film The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, and the 1986 hit, Sid & Nancy. He revealed to me; “I thought the Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle was a load of rubbish, and Sid & Nancy I didn’t think was too far off from that. But I did a little work on that one when I became friends with Alex Cox. He always maintained he should be paid by the government for making an anti-drug advertisement, which seemed reasonable to me (laughs). The funny thing with bio pics though, is everybody can pick holes in it. In a way, the whole Sid & Nancy thing was very Shakespearean, in a Romeo & Juliet sort of way.

After releasing one studio album with his post-Pistols group the Rich Kids, the band broke up, and Matlock briefly played with legendary frontman Iggy Pop. He enlightened me some on how that happened, and why it didn’t go past recording the one album with Pop; “Iggy’s agent was also the Rich Kids’ agent, and he knew they had just broken up, so he suggested me to Iggy and got me the gig. And when I started working with Iggy, he had a proper crew and road manager, and the equipment worked! We never had any of that stuff in the Pistols (laughs). It was fun, the way it should be. But it was great working with him, and I wish I had stayed working with him a bit longer. But he was in his ‘flashing’ stage at the time, and I definitely didn’t miss that at all after I had left…some things you can’t un-see (laughs).”

Fast-forwarding to when the Sex Pistols reunited in the mid-’90s, I asked if it was a sense of validation for him at the time to step back in to his original role as bass player. He said; “Yeah, I got the last laugh! (laughs). I think I actually caused it, because in ’95 I got to L.A. to do a project with a mate, and the guy I was staying with, Calvin Hays, gave me (Sex Pistols guitarist) Steve Jones’ phone number at the time – and I hadn’t spoken to Steve in fifteen years. We went back-and-forth for about a week, and when I finally reached him, he said, ‘I heard you were in town, come on over!’ And when I did, he said, let’s go see (Sex Pistols vocalist) John,’ and I said, ‘Oh, here we go!’ (laughs). And when all three of us were together, we decided to call (Sex Pistols drummer) Paul up in England. And the next thing, we got a world tour out of it, and if I hadn’t made that phone call in the first place, I don’t know if it would’ve ever happened.”

And lastly, I had to ask Matlock that question that will likely follow him for the rest of his days; with all four original members of the Pistols still walking the Earth, will there ever be another tour, or even just one huge ‘farewell’ show? His reply; “Well, I’m not holding my breath. But I liked the James Bond series, and when Sean Connery came back and made one more movie, it was called Never Say Never Again. We’ll see.”Matlock however did assure me, Sex Pistols or not, we will see him on stage again, someday; “We’ve got a festival gig over here (in England) in the summer, and I’m hoping for maybe a U.K. tour by fall, but I really don’t know if it’s going to happen or not yet.”

Interview with Actress Khrystyne Haje By Jesse Striewski

For several weeks, actress Khrystyne Haje and I had been playing a game of back-and-forth before our schedules finally aligned right for a phone conversation. And as soon as I got her on the phone, I knew it was worth the wait. Almost instantly, it felt as though I had been transported back to being that same 9-year-old kid who would tune in every week to watch her play Simone Foster on Head of the Class (one of my personal favorite TV shows at the time, which originally aired from 1986 to 1991) and developed one of my very first, and very real (albeit innocent) celebrity crushes. Since the show, Haje has gone on to do numerous acting, voiceover, and various humanitarian work. But with Head of the Class about to turn thirty-five this year, I focused heavily on the show that originally put her on the map.

Early on in our conversation, Haje gave me some insight into just what it was like growing up and simultaneously going to high school in real life, while also doing so on the small screen. She explained; “It was such a life-changer when I got the role! I had been working as an actress prior, and was an emancipated minor, so I was one of the only people on the show going to ‘real’ high school (at North Hollywood High), and what I called ‘fantasy school’ (laughs). It has just created so many opportunities for me since though, and what I consider some life-long friendships.”

Although I may have never been part of an honors class like the students on the show, I always admired the sense of camaraderie that the characters seemed to share together, something Haje informed me still exists with many of her former cast mates to this day; “Kimberly Russell (Sarah on the show) is still one of my best friends in the world. I was also super close with Dan Schneider (Dennis) – we actually met at a call back, and became friends instantly. Dan Frischman (Arvid) and I are forever friends; I lived in New York for a couple of years, and he moved there not long after I first did, so that was really fun having him there. Lara Piper (who joined the cast later as Viki) and I are still close as well. And Tony O’Dell (Alan)…I used to stop doing my homework to watch him on the show Otherworld, so when I saw him at the very first table read, I just couldn’t believe it! (laughs). But I still probably talk to him and Kimberly the most, a couple of times a month, if not more.”

Knowing that previously-mentioned former co-star O’Dell had recently appeared on the hit Netflix series Cobra Kai, I was curious to hear Haje’s thoughts on The Karate Kid revival show. She reveled; “Even though it was ‘super secret’ at the time, I was SO excited when he went to film Cobra Kai! And because of Tony, I actually got to meet the Cobra Kai guys back in the day! It was so fun randomly getting to hang out with William Zapka or Martin Kove back then, and I’m so happy for all of them right now!”

Of course I had to ask what it was like working with such a legend as Howard Hesseman as well; “I was a BIG fan of WKRP in Cincinnati! And at one of my final call backs, I actually got to read with Howard, and was just so starstruck! But I thought, ‘well, even if I don’t get the role, at least I got to read with Dr. Johnny Fever!’ (laughs). I always admired Howard’s work though, and he became just such a mentor to us all. He’s not only a gifted actor, but he’s also a great comedic actor, and was a great example to me as well. He was really invested in the character he played, and it was an honor to get to work with him.”

Towards the end of the show’s run, Hesseman left to be replaced by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. I asked Haje what it was like still being on the show after such a drastic change, and she told me; “Billy just showed up with a huge heart, ready for the adventure. It was different, because his approach was different. And there were definitely some shifts as far as the writing went – at the time, it seemed like the writers were leaning on his stand up comedy skills, as they should have. I was personally grateful to get the opportunity to work with Billy and see what that was like. He was just so kind, and already had had such huge life experiences, with so many stories to tell about all of his U.K. adventures that were so different from anything else to any of us at the time!”

Aside from Head of the Class, Haje has also made appearances on such other iconic shows as the ’80s juggernaut Growing Pains, and the quirky, oft-forgotten Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. I asked Haje how these experiences were in comparison to working on Head of the Class, and she explained; “When your job is to make somebody laugh, you only have good days! Growing Pains was a similar style to Head of the Class, in that it was a five camera sitcom. And I knew the kids, we kind of all grew up together at Warner Bros., so the environment was very familiar, and very family-esque. Parker Lewis on the other hand was a single-camera show, so it was shot very differently, and the approach was different and ahead of it’s time. But I was already a big fan of the show, so it just felt surreal to drop in and get to be on it, and to be able to maneuver those different techniques and skills, too.”

There’s also been some talk of a Head of the Class reboot, which of course I had to inquire about. Haje informed me; “I have heard about a reboot! It looks like HBO Max, who’s airing the original series, is also working on a reboot, and they want to flip the script a little bit. So I think they want to have a young, female teacher, with possibly younger, middle school-aged students – though I’m not entirely sure. But they definitely have – let’s call it a re-imagination – of Head of the Class brewing, and it would be fun if they had us guest star in some way! I think that fans of the original always love to see what the original cast is doing, but we really have no idea right now what they’re looking to do exactly at this point. We all loved that show so much though, so it’d be fun to revisit that world officially. It’s going to be great no matter what though!”

Interview with Quiet Riot/H&B Guitarist Alex Grossi By Jesse Striewski

When I spoke to Quiet Riot/Hookers & Blow guitarist Alex Grossi via phone from his Las Vegas home last week, one of the first things I mentioned was how our paths had already crossed previously back in 2006, when I saw him perform with Quiet Riot on a bill that also included Skid Row in Ormand Beach. To my surprise, he actually remembered the exact show; “Oh yeah, during one of those Bike Week events! I vividly remember going to a Waffle House afterwards with a bunch of bikers and meeting with some fans (laughs). That was a good show!”

While technically it was actually Biketoberfest and not Bike Week (though I won’t fault him for it too much, it does get confusing!), I was still impressed none-the-less for remembering, and knew it was primed to be a good conversation from then on out. So of course I tested his memory further and asked him to recall how exactly Hookers & Blow, his cover band he formed along with Guns N’ Roses keyboardist Dizzy Reed (one of two GN’R members Grossi has worked with extensively, the other being former drummer Steven Adler in Adler’s Appetite) around the same time he joined Quiet Riot (in 2004), originally came together. He tells me; “We met at a place on Sunset Blvd. that’s no longer there called the Cat Club. It was sort of like the local musicians watering hole, where they would have an open jam there every night. I approached him to see if he wanted to maybe do some cover gigs. We exchanged numbers, and a couple of days later he said, ‘yeah, let’s book some shows, but call the band Hookers & Blow.’ And I said, ‘sounds good to me,’ and we gave it a shot, and it sort of snowballed from there. Now seventeen years later we’re finally putting out a record (laughs).”

The band has seen it’s share of members come and go, and Grossi did his best to clarify; “We’ve had a bazillion guys in and out of the band over the years, but the ‘core’ as of right now is myself on guitar and Dizzy on vocals and keys, but we also have Mike Duda from W.A.S.P. on bass, and Johnny Kelly from Type O Negative/Danzig on drums. And as far as who also appears on the album, (late Quiet Riot drummer) Frankie Banali did a couple of songs, and so did Scott Griffin from L.A. Guns. And when it comes to the touring aspect, we’ve had everyone from Chip Z’Nuff from Enuff Z’ Nuff and Todd Kerns from Slash’s band play with us live. It’s been a rotating lineup, but like I said, the core is really myself, Dizzy, Duda, and Kelly, and also Dizzy’s wife, Nadja, on background vocals.”

Drummer Kelly has also been pulling double duty in Quiet Riot along with Grossi, taking over for the previously-mentioned late drummer Banali. I asked if this arrangement would be permanent or not, and he said; “When Frankie got sick, Johnny kind of fell into the spot. At first he was just keeping the seat warm, but now we need him to keep it warm for us every night. He’s been with Hookers & Blow for eight years now though, so it made sense for him to fill that (now unfortunately empty) seat for Quiet Riot. But he’s doing a great job, and he’s family, so I’m really glad it’s worked out the way it has.”

I also asked Grossi for some insight on how H&B chooses the songs for it’s sets, as well as for their upcoming full length album. He explained; “Well, when we initially got together we were only playing live shows, so we basically were sending master lists of the songs we all knew back and forth through emails to each other. And over the years we’ve since added and subtracted songs from the set. But as far as the record goes, I’d say it’s about fifty percent of our live set, and then the other half are songs we’ve always wanted to cover. For example, we cover Body Count’s “The Winner Loses,” and we’ve never played that live before. Then on the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got a track like David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust,” which is literally the first song we’ve ever played together and have played at every single show since.” But Grossi maintains that H&B doesn’t indulge too much when it comes to playing their respective bands’ music in their sets; “We’ll throw in the occasional Guns N’ Roses deep cut, but for the most part we like to keep it completely separate from our day jobs (laughs).”

I was also curious if a cover of Led Zepplin’s “Trampled Under Foot,” which featured the late Banali on drums, was a personal favorite of Frankie’s. He tells me; “That was a really special track. He was given 3-6 months to live in April of 2019, and he recorded that track in November of that same year after about a dozen rounds of chemo, and he still did it all in one take. He was definitely amazing though, just a monster. But we learned that, and “No Quarter” specifically for him, cause Zepplin was obviously Frankie’s favorite band. “Trampled…” we actually played live for years before we recorded it. In 2013 we got hired to do a residency at the Whiskey A Go-Go for a month, and Frankie wanted to come down and play, and asked if we could put some Zepplin in the set. We did, and it just turned out great.”

Before our conversation ended, Grossi clarified that Quiet Riot will still go on, and confirmed some upcoming show dates with both them and H&B; “We’re still going full steam ahead, that’s what Frankie wanted. His wife has taken over as manager and is doing a great job, and it’s nice to be able to still carry on his legacy, and it’s like having him here still in a way. But both bands actually have shows booked for the year already; Quiet Riot has a show March 6 at the Landis Theater in Vineland, NJ. And Hookers & Blow actually have four shows in Texas the following week, in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and Eagles Pass. They’re reduced capacity shows of course, but thing’s are slowly opening up, and wherever it makes sense for us, we’re going to do some shows here and there.”

One final thing I wanted to ask Grossi, was his thoughts on the late, great guitar legend Eddie Van Halen’s recent passing. Grossi tells me; “I was such a HUGE fan of Eddie’s, but I never aspired to play like him, because I knew I never could! There was Eddie, and then there was everybody else. It’s almost surreal that he’s not here with us anymore.”

Interview with Pinkerton Thugs/Ex-Unseen Vocalist/Guitarist Paul Russo By Jesse Striewski

When I think of punk rock, I think of those days of my youth so long ago when anything felt possible. I think of learning Clash songs on my first bass in my old bedroom, and getting together with a bunch of kids to make noise in some random garage. And I think of my first “real” taste of freedom, going to shows with my friends. One early show in particular that will always stand out for me was in the summer of ’99, when a group of friends and I hoped into a beat up old Buick and drove to St. Pete to catch The Casualties play along with The Unseen and Violent Society in direct support. I was both blown away and inspired as I watched these guys on stage – who weren’t really all that much older than I was at the time – doing something that seemed so relatable, so attainable to me.

It’s impossible to recall those days without thinking of the impact bands like The Unseen – lead at the time by vocalist/guitarist Paul Russo – had on me back then. Russo would ultimately leave The Unseen in 2003, eventually returning to another group he has been a part of (off and on) since his early days with his former band, The Pinkerton Thugs, who he is back playing with today (when he’s not busy being a family man). And while I have not seen him again since that show so long ago (though I have seen The Unseen several times since), I have kept up with him on social media, occasionally even corresponding with him from time to time, which is what finally lead to us sitting down and talking over the phone for an “official” interview this past Friday evening. What transpired was a candid, hour-long conversation that was both enlightening, and as natural as catching up with a long lost friend.

I wanted to start with Russo’s (slightly muddled) roots right off the bat, and asked if he’d clarify the foundations of each of his early bands. He tells me; “We grew up together as kids long before we ever started The Unseen. We all started discovering punk rock around the same time, and of course fell in love with it. When my parents got divorced, I moved away from Massachusetts to Maine, and when I got up there – this would’ve been the early to mid-’90s – there was maybe one or two other kids who gravitated towards the scene, and therefore I gravitated towards them, too. And that was Micah and James of The Pinkerton Thugs. So technically I started The Pinkerton Thugs with those guys before I joined The Unseen. Then briefly after The Pinkerton Thugs started, the guys from The Unseen called me up and asked me to join after their previous singer, Marc Carlson, ended up leaving. So for awhile there, I was kind of pulling double-duty, living in Maine playing with The Pinkerton Thugs, then on the weekends catching the Greyhound bus to go play with The Unseen down in Mass.”

He further clarifies; “Actually, I was originally asked to join The Unseen as just a guitarist, because (Unseen guitarist) Scott had just gotten sent away by his parents to some boot camp thing for the summer. Then when he got back in the fall, we decided, ‘hey, this is working out pretty good,’ and that’s how the ‘core’ lineup of myself, Mark, Tripp, and Scott really all came together. And I feel like Scott was way further along musically than the rest of us; he was like, busting out solos, and at that point I only knew a few chords! (Laughs).”

One thing I always found so unique about The Unseen was their ability to shift around on instruments so flawlessly, not only in the studio, but on stage as well. I asked Russo what lead to this, and he explained; “I got fairly decent, fairly quick at a few different instruments. Once I put myself up to task, I managed to learn guitar, bass, and drums. And I think even Mark will tell you he’s not the best drummer even when he’s not singing (Laughs). But I think that’s what was kind of a cool aspect about The Unseen, there really wan’t much ego involved back then. If the song needed me on drums, I’d hop behind the drumkit; if it needed me on guitar or even just vocals, than that’s what I’d do. We almost had two sets back then, where we’d start out with me singing and playing guitar, then I’d jump behind the drums and Mark would come out front and sing some songs. It was almost kind of like seeing two different bands, which I think made it more interesting, and I don’t think too many people were used to seeing that kind of thing in those days. I don’t know if it’s that I get bored easily, or just loving playing music, but I love playing other instruments as well.”

Aside from The Unseen and Pinkerton Thugs, Russo has lent his talents in brief stints with such other notable punk bands as Blanks 77 (on drums) and Anti-Flag (on bass). He elaborated to me just how these came about; “Having played so many shows with Blanks 77 while I was with The Unseen, they had noted that I could play drums, and asked me to fill in when they needed a drummer. And I believe it was around the same time that I played bass with Anti-Flag as well, which I did for one tour after Andy had originally left the band. I basically just did those for fun, since I hated sitting around at home, and they needed me to do it, so I was just like, “hell yeah, let’s get on the road!” (Laughs). But if you’ve ever listened to Anti-Flag, you know they’re not the easiest bass lines, and I had like two weeks to learn them before their upcoming tour that was already booked. So Justin (Sane, Anti-Flag frontman) actually recorded himself using an old camcorder playing all the bass lines, and gave me a tape of it for me to learn the songs!”

As far as why Russo would ultimately leave The Unseen, he tells me; “The truth of it is, for awhile, I had become sort of disillusioned, not only with the direction of the band, but sort of with punk rock in general. Maybe I came to the table far too idealistic, but I definitely started feeling like I didn’t know why I was doing it anymore. Even though I loved those guys and the music, I was tired, and definitely not participating in the band as much and giving it 100 percent, and it just came to a point where we all agreed, this isn’t working anymore, let’s try something else.” Russo maintains he is still friends with his former band mates in The Unseen, and informs me; “I still love those guys like brothers, and I’m SO proud what they’ve done with the band since then. I’ve even jumped on stage with them here and there over the years for a song or two, so there’s no ill will there at all.”

Russo also revealed to me how the song he struggles with the most from his days with The Unseen is the last track he ever wrote while still in the band (and only one of his to appear on their 2003 album, Explode), “Tsunami Suicide.” “That song came from a really hard time for me, and not many people know this – and actually I don’t think the other guys in the band even knew this – but I had actually written a full album’s worth of material for that record. But by that time, I wasn’t really writing from the heart anymore, or writing from a place of “anger” or “truth” anymore. The best way I can describe it, is on a certain level at that point, I kind of knew what to write and what to say to make the kids throw their hands up and chant the chorus, and just go through the motions. And even though kids might’ve enjoyed it, I didn’t enjoy it. I felt like I was being cheap, or cheating myself even. So what I ended up doing was taking all thirteen songs or whatever, and just completely throwing them out. And in that moment, between that and some other things going on in my personal life at the time, I really just felt like killing myself. And that’s where the song “Tsunami Suicide” came from.”

Of course we here at Rewind It Magazine have never been known for in-depth political pieces by any means (we try to stick with what we know and keep things entertainment related as much as possible). But I had to at least touch upon how Russo views the punk rock scene back then, vs. what it has become today, which, some might argue does not leave much room for open-mindedness, and has in many ways even become a symbol for the very conformity it once stood against so adamantly. He explained his thoughts on this to me; “I think objectively, the punk scene is definitely different. And to be fair, I think someone who was around in ’77 might have said the same thing about the scene in ’97. Things change, people come in, and people go out, that’s sort of the natural order of it. I would never sit here and say ‘punk’s dead’ just because it’s not the same scene that I used to know…that’s bullshit. Right now there’s a kid in a basement somewhere putting on his first punk record getting his mind blown and ready to create something new, and thank the universe for that.”

He continues; “But…that being said, I will also say I think it has definitely gotten a lot more close-minded in the scene. I just think that when people stop preaching and putting each other in these little boxes with labels on them and start listening to each other, it’s always better. The more open-minded people are to things, makes for a better scene. And it’s hard, because people can misconstrue things so easily today, not only in just the scene, but in everyday life now, too. No matter what it is, if you criticize one side of something, people automatically assume you’re on the other side. And that is something that definitely didn’t happen twenty years ago; if we’re talking politically, anyone was free to criticize the Republicans AND the Democrats, and anyone else in between equally. And I think that’s where a lot of that disillusionment I mentioned earlier came from; after a while of just fighting with each other, and getting falling down drunk and puking all the time, it was like, ‘where are all of the ideas?’ We could’ve just been jocks at a frat house doing the same thing at that point, you know?”

Wanting to end our conversation on a bit of a higher note, I informed Russo how my own former band, Random Tragedies, once covered the anthemic Unseen track “Are We Dead Yet,” which I had always viewed as the punk rock equivalent to “Eye of the Tiger.” I asked Russo how he felt of this comparison, and his immediate response was, “I like that! You know, I think you could probably take that metaphor and stretch it out over most songs I’ve ever written (Laughs). Even when I’ve written songs that might have some negative aspects to them, I’ve always wanted people to get some sort of hope or empowerment from them like I did with the music I listened to growing up. I remember some kid coming up to me after a show we had did very early on in Cleveland, and telling me how a song I wrote really inspired him and changed his life, and after that, I was just hooked. I really feel that punk is one of the strongest sub-genres of rock and roll ever, and always will be.”

And as far as new music? Russo assures me; “The only thing that’s really holding The Pinkerton Thugs back and keeping us from putting out a new record is the stupid pandemic. That being said, the second we’re able to, we’re going to get together and release another record. That’s something I’m really looking forward to.” Russo says the best way to keep up with what he’s doing these days is to simply follow The Pinkerton Thugs’ Facebook page, which can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/thepinkertonthugs

Interview with Actress Linnea Quigley By Jesse Striewski

Scream queens are hardly anything new for us here at Rewind It Magazine; as some of you may recall, we recently spoke with the likes of Dee Wallace and Deborah Voorhees. Linnea Quigley was not only a force to be reckoned with back in her ’80s heyday, she’s still at the top of the line in the B-movie world to this very day. She’s currently working on a documentary about film extras (which we’ll get into shortly), and she’s still a big advocate for animals, which was evidenced in our recent phone conversation last week, which was just slightly delayed in part to one of her many dogs running off outside of her California home (something I could hardly get upset over, being a pet parent myself!).

Being that our conversation took place so close to Christmas, one of the first things we spoke about was her appearance in the 1984 holiday slasher, Silent Night Deadly Night. Looking back on it, she reflected to me; “I thought it was great! I loved how everyone was so up in arms over it, and Siskel & Ebert were plugging it even though they thought it was horrible! Everyone was saying how terrible it was, which of course made people only want to see it more (Laughs)!” I also inquired if she was a fan of the horror genre prior to such early roles, to which she said;”I grew up on horror! I think I was drawn to it, and it was drawn to me, so it was like, a match made in hell, right?!”

One specific thing I had always wondered about her scene in Silent Night…, was whether or not she was actually exposed directly to the frigid elements of the Utah winter it was filmed in (when she answers the door wearing, well…next to nothing). She tells me; “Oh yeah, I was completely exposed, and it was really, really cold! I was from the valley, which is not very cold at all, so I was like…freezing (laughs)! And then (in the next scene) where they put me up on the antlers, the door had been broken open, so I was still exposed! It wasn’t like, contained or anything where they actually have heaters or something, like they would probably have now. Nobody’s asked that before though, so that’s a good question!”

Silent Night… was merely the first of several films Quigley appeared in that would later go on to spawn franchises (no doubt due to her being a good luck charm, an observation she more than approved of), including her follow up film, the now-cult classic 1985 horror/comedy, The Return of the Living Dead. With the zombie market just a tad oversaturated these days, I asked Quigley how she felt it holds up in comparison today. She replied; “I think it holds up really well! I’m always surprised, I get new people at conventions and shows all the time that love that movie, like it’s a brand new movie! But it doesn’t age, which I think is really cool. We should’ve known then (late director) Dan O’Bannon was a man to be reckoned with!”

With films like Return… and Night of the Demons largely sporting metal and punk soundtracks, I wondered how much of a fan of that music Quigley was herself. She states; “Oh yeah, I loved all the punk bands and rock n’ roll stuff at the time. I was a big fan of music, I think that’s why I got into it. But I didn’t want to be a groupie, I wanted to be IN the band! (laughs).” And indeed Quigley would, putting together an all girl-group, The Skirts, back in the day. With very little information available on the band, I asked her to tell me a little about them. She says; “The Skirts were a band of girls I formed; I played guitar, sang, and wrote songs in it. We played a lot of venues, and we even recorded some. A lot of my music was actually used in the movies I did, or movies other people did.”

Aside from horror, Quigley has done the occasional comedy, including the 1981 Cheech & Chong stoner romp, Nice Dreams. Of course I had to know how this transpired. She informed me; “My agent at the time sent me to go in for an audition for a Cheech & Chong film. So I went in, and Cheech was actually in there! I was making him laugh, playing guitar, and he said to play him something. So I played like two notes and said it was the Charlie’s Angels theme, and he hired the whole band right then and there. We were so excited!”

I also wanted to know how her (brief) appearance in 1988’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, came about. She explains; “My then-fiance was the special effects guy on the film, and he brought it up to them to have me in that scene in Freddy’s chest for that short little, basically “cameo” scene. That same day he actually brought the ring out and proposed to me after I came out of Freddy’s chest!”

Quigley assured me she has plenty in the works for 2021, stating; “I’m working on a lot of stuff on my YouTube channel, like a reality show. And I’m doing a documentary right now called Extras…which will be all about, well, movie extras! Hopefully that will be out by February; I’ve been lucky to have been staying so busy all year, even with Covid.”