Sunday, December 8, 2013

Interview - Gorgasm Star Rik Billock

Interview With Gorgasm Star Rik Billock
By Brandon Bennett

How did Hugh get in contact with you to be a part of Gorgasm? Was he aware of any of your previous work?
Well, my one friend Tommy Jaros had a subscription to Hugh's "Draculina" Magazine and told me that Hugh was looking for actors for a project (I think it was called "The House"-guess he shifted gears or something), so I sent him a VHS copy of a film called "Virus" I'd made with American Cablevision over in Monroeville, not too far from the infamous Monroeville Mall, Also, "Flesheater" came out somewhere in that time frame, too, so I best recall he saw that as well. I remember him putting one of my Farmer Ned pics in his mag of that Bill Hinzman film although no one calls me by name in the movie itself. There was talk of a sequel to it but it never came to be. In fact I remember Bill saying "Burn me up really good so next time Rik can play me!" Although if ya haven't seen "Flesheater" aka "Revenge of the Living Zombies" and in Europe "Zombie Nosh" (disclaimer)Bill's Flesheater character doesn't die in the burned up barn. It so should have been called "Night of the Living Dead 2" There is only one part of the film that states differently because Hinzman doesn't or isn't shown being thrown on the burn pile in "Night" either so what if he escaped? In fact the homage with Vince coming back for his cameo as the guy who shoots Duane Jones and offs our leads with the statement "I'm gettin pretty good at this!" But I detract.

Was the subject matter something that drew you to the project, or did you just see it as another outlet for yourself?
A little of each. I had been an extra in "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" and "Dawn of the Dead" back in the 70s and was only getting these small background or atmosphere people parts and I'd done like 40 or 50 plays by then plus every Saturday afternoon we'd watch horror flicks on VHS. Tommy (a MAJOR collector of horror and gore) and Jerry Gergely (FX/makeup and teacher at Savini's FX & Makeup) and Ned Johnstone (Actor in "Virus" "Blood Dreams" and "The Treachery" with me-short 24 minute George Demmick American Cablevision videos I starred in - currently I am looking for them as they are around here somewhere) So, yeah the subject matter sounded pretty far out and sexually interesting-hey, I'm a Scorpio! And the work in a feature with a co-lead like Van Helsing in "Dracula" with Gabriella as the monster seemed a way cool premise. PLUS! I had just finished plying Van Helsing in New Kensington Civic Theater's 'Dracula' so it felt right to me. Plus I was in for a percentage of the profits which also enticed me.

Rik in Flesheater 1988

From the time you received the script how long after did the filming take place?
I don't actually recall the circumstances on that one. I'd like to say in a timely matter. I do believe it came with a round trip ticket to St Louis as well. By this time, before email, Hugh and I actually had spoken on the phone several times where he let me know I'd been cast in one of the leads. He had everything planned out nicely and professionally. It's kind of funny to be doing this interview now as the last time I saw Hugh he was at Cinema wasteland just outside of Cleveland and I told him he should release the Gore Trilogy of "Gorgasm""Gorotica" and "Gore Whore" ALL on one DVD and he didn't seem interested. 

I was offered the part of Chase in the others but didn't care for the necrophilia angle (maybe Tommy burned me out on it with "Necromancer" and the like, which I let him and the guys watch on our Sat afternoon gatherings and he sent me copies of the finished product and I wasn't real keen on the end results. I told Hugh that so I am not going behind his back on that.

Gorgasm Sales Ad

A lot of actors who work in horror aren't always fans of the genre. Was it something you were interested in working in or did you stumble into it?
Well, having been a zombie in "Dawn of the Dead" and then getting involved with George Demmick and doing "Virus"(a takeoff on Romero's "The Crazies"-George was a HUGE Romero fan and even thought because his name was George Arthur Demmick was the same as George Arthur Romero that that meant something. He still makes horror flicks I think in Nashville. We had a falling out after he'd formed a film company called Brimstone Productions and for two years we had the rights to Stephen King's "Graveyard Shift" We cast it and did our part except George dropped the ball and all our work was quickly scarfed up and the film was made by whoever did it, basically with our cast but none of us! THAT, at the time, was a HUGE disappointment! To be a couple guys and a girl and have to lose a major motion picture like that. I mean Demmick had gone to King's trailer on the set of "Trucks",..."Maximum Overdrive" down in Wilmington, N.C. and got the rights for $100. a page and there was only 20 pages to the story! We should have all been rich and more famous from that endeavor. We were young so you kind of get over it and shrug your shoulders and say "That's just the ugly side of this business!" Still to me it was the equivalent of being kicked in the balls about 50 times! Experience in movie making is a hard, callous thing when you're supposed to be sensitive artiste type! 

So, my interest came from doing the films with Demmick and having done 38 days on "Knightriders" with Romero (Blacksmith) and then "Monkeyshines" (Garbage Man) and then "The Dark Half" (Donaldson Cop #2)as well having been cast s the Silo Zombie in "Day of the Dead" and having my part usurped by a producer from the North Hills who couldn't even do a ferocious zombie growl (I was there when it was shot as I'd the opportunity to go with Demmick and had taken the day off work to go shoot) and tension was high enough without me putting my two cents in as to why her and not me. Maybe I should've suggested that but Laurel and Latent Images was falling apart and sometimes the power of the film overwhelms a person. So, I said and did nothing but watch my part filmed by someone else. Like I said these parts of the business suck! They had to loop her in with a more believable zombie growl. Like I am growling now! Just two more films I should be at a convention table talking to fans and signing autographs. Guess that's why I, affectionately, call myself Pittsburgh's Best Kept Secret I believe living in Pittsburgh where zombies are kings of the world through the decades had a lot to do with it, too! Seeing the FX and makeup and learning the secrets behind them was really awesome, too! 

I hope Greg Nicotero who I met on "Day of the Dead" would cast me in one of his "Walking Dead"s episodes even as a zombie. Everyone asks me why I am not on that show. Especially since I know Greg and his uncle Sam (actor) and cousin Frank (comedian). So, I could've been some actor purist against horror but that would be tough to do when you work with guys who love the genre and Romero's Grand Guignol approach is very almost balletic. Definitely artsy. I mean maybe we were trying to emulate "The Crazies" in "Virus" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" with a hooked hand in "Blood Dreams" but WTF they were definitely inspirational and at times the only jobs in town.

Rik (left) in Night of the Living Dead 1990

Where was "Gorgasm" filmed?
Well, we even did a part in Prairie Town, Illinois. But it was mostly filmed around St Louis and in the St Louis and Evanston area. Yeah, Hugh should have put the sites in the credits now that I think of it. He put the names of the location owners but not the individual towns.

How many days did it take to finish the shoot?
I wanna say my part and Raisa's,...whoops! Morgana,...uh, Gabriella were done in a week shooting everyday as we both almost missed our flights outta St Louis. THAT would've made a really neat filmed moment! Hugh raced his Black Camaro or Z car outta the area we were in a passed people on the right side of the four lane and we just got there in time to say "Goodbye" and Gabriella had to get back to New York and me to Pittsburgh. Hugh worked on other parts of the film but I don't know how many days’ worth? You'd have to ask him. Remember, Brandon this was over 20 years ago and I never expected a quiz or test on it. LOL!

Rik & Gabriella in Gorgasm 1990

Were locations already scouted before you signed on, or is that something that happened along the way?
Yes, they were all set for us. The weirdest thing, I thought, was my g/f had dropped out and Hugh and I spent the first night trying to find another girl to play that part. Calling casting agents and mentioning the film was "Gorgasm" didn't make them very receptive as he had tried before my arrival without any luck. Plus the fact she'd have been topless in a shower scene. Guess we should've, in retrospect, just hired a hooker! I do recall him telling me that much. We had no luck and ladies tuff titty! Ya blew it! You could be getting interviewed now as well and waiting for your video/DVD/Blue Ray to be coming out December 15th, 2013 as well! Hah! Location wise though the wildest thing happened at one of the guys who got tied up's place. I'd been told he was gay and he and his significant other had broken up and outta nowhere dude comes home with his luggage ready to move back in and finds his lover tied to a chair with a naked, topless centerfold dancing around his guy! The look on his face was priceless to find a film crew filming him in that position. I remember we kept him tied up and he seemed excited to have his b/f back. He made two trips with luggage & not a word was spoken as he went back to his room, I guess?

Aside from being the lead in the film, were you involved behind the scenes as well? Or was the crew pretty well established?
I made some suggestions that Hugh took and I get bored when they film without me, so I took lots of pictures, ironically, Hugh's came out scratched. Maybe a nice effect?  Wonder if he still has them. I gave him mine in trade for a copy of the outtakes. Some were pretty hysterical. So, I was kind of the photographer without any credit for it.

Was there any sort of wardrobe setup, before you came to the film, or did you just raid your closet for what you thought might fit the character? (As a side note the shirt you are wearing in the opening monologue was killer)
I liked that shirt for the opening monologue but wasn't comfortable with the "governed by a giant asshole" line, so I changed it but Hugh filmed it both ways and his way won in the editing room. I can't remember how I worded it instead. The wardrobe was from my closet and we discussed it via the telephone beforehand. Gabriella's costumes all came in a duffle bag. One duffle bag because as you know she didn't wear much. I wonder what became of that shirt. Wait! I do believe it was Hugh's shirt to begin with and he just thought it was THE shirt to wear for the opening. Glad you agree, Brandon.

Rik in Gorgasm 1990

When you went to film was the script truly in place or did it progress in the days passed? Also, were you able to adlib or did you stick mostly to what was already written for your character?
I added a few things including the homage to "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and Ed Wood when Chase places the pistol to his head and scratches. I was trying to show that Chase was losing his mind a bit by then with all the pressures of losing his girlfriend, which was the nightmare with Tara sort of rethought by Hugh and I as if she was the new face in my love life or something deranged subconsciously. My piece de resistance was (disclaimer alert) was taking her to a "New level" and shooting her under her dress(nice view incidentally-I actually think I had enough balls to ask for a picture of my point-of-view, but wasn't granted permission by Tara) Ah, to be young again. At least it ("Gorgasm") is a part of a film legacy for me. Maybe one day I'll sit and watch myself age and my hairline recede.

How long after filming was completed was it before the film was edited? And were you sent a copy once it was?
I honestly don't remember how long. It seemed pretty fast that I had a copy of the finished product in my hands. I'd say he got me a copy very quickly as soon as it was done. Unfortunately, even today there are projects that I have done that not only have I not received the promised copy but I never even saw them. This goes back to my 5 films I did in college at Penn State University that I have no copies of nor have seen. All were shot in 16mm so I gotta become a reasonable size star and have someone dig up this stuff on me so I can see it before I pass away. This list includes films I have done in the Pittsburgh area and student films I have not seen let alone own! That part of the agreement not being fulfilled drives me crazy! Especially, something that is winning film festivals. One in particular is called "Priceless" that I hear is getting BIG raves and such but did they include muah in the celebration.  A big emphatic "NO!"

Gorgasm VHS

What was your reaction to it once you saw what you helped bring to life?
That's a very good question and kind of explains the underlying factor of what an original script does. I mean I have played Oscar in "The Odd Couple" and Van Helsing in "Dracula" and McMurphy in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" along with Scrooge in "A ChristmasCarol" and in the musical "The Stingiest Man in Town" as well as George Bailey after meeting Jimmy Stewart and having a life moment with him. It almost felt like the torch was passed to me in that handshake and when I was young I held his Oscar, Jimmy's Academy Award in his father, Alexander's Indiana, PA hardware store, (Stewart's Hardware), but thern to meet the man in real life who was my first inspiration as someone from around here who made it as an actor...WOW! 

But in answer to your question I saw myself playing a part that I gave my all in and created a character I never expected to be talking about in 20+ years afterwards. I wanted "Gorgasm" to be a hit, a stepping stone to another level of my career. My friend's reaction weren't just polite as I kind of agreed with them. They all gave it a "D" and basically, said I was the only one in it who could act. I also thought Flint Mitchell as the distributor of "Xciting" the fictional lil magazine that Tara has her "Gorgasm" ad in. and I should've had a funnier scene. In fact at one point I thought maybe the whole film should've been some kind of a comedy instead with semi-gory FX, etc. 

I thought I did my job and no one said anything bad circle of friends wise yet the reviewers never singled me out as that spark which made me wonder "Had I done the BEST job possible on the film and Chase Nicholas character. As an actor and I firmly believe as an artist if you're ever satisfied with your work you should quit. When you get to that third stage of filmmaking quit before ya ruin it. Not sure if you or the readers are familiar with those three phases of filmmaking and probably not but stage #1 is "Hey!  I have a great idea! Let's make a film out of it!" Phase #2 is "Well, it's not exactly as I saw it (or planned it) but it'll do." And stage #3 is "Let's get the damn thing over with" It would've been interesting to see where Chase would've gone in life and whether or not he'd have got a prosthetic hand or whether the police department's insurance would've allowed him since he was "Off the case" and just where Hugh plans to see as the direction of "Gorgasm 2" I find it a nice compliment to know he wants me to recreate the whole Chase character all these years later. A lot more acting experience has transpired in me and I felt something back about 4 years ago that really threw me acting wise. It was like a man on a flaming pie hit me in the face and told me to go with the idea of just having fun with the part and the experience and with the people, just like I always do when I am on stage whether acting or singing. It's like Robin Williams "Follow me through this invisible 4th wall and enjoy yourself as much as I have" An old, deceased older lady friend told me once. "There's a sparkle in your eye that catches people's attention and takes them with you" this was on stage and maybe it's still there,.,..somewhere!?  I know it tries to be.

Were you aware of the self-published underground magazines like Xciting already?

I thought (as stated earlier) that the mag was fictional. You mean it isn't? But I was aware of the mags just didn't subscribe to any or do more than laugh at some of the ads, so when I read them and laugh at them that is pretty real. Pretty sad state of affairs when someone's fantasy involves them wearing diapers, but hey, look at those Furbees! I only recently found out their yearly visit to PGH involves motels even doubling the rates because the people dressed like these things defecate in motel room dressers and supposedly have wild animalistic sex, too! Are there really any normal people left in this crazy, mixed up world? In 1990 not everyone had a computer where you can find crazy sites like Pussy Kicking and Pissing videos and anything imaginable to any one? Maybe the devil doth lurketh in these things lie people once thought television did. But we all like to gather around the campfire or entertainment center and tell or see or show our efforts or fantasies that make us who we are. So, yeah I am Xcited to see where Hugh's next level of Chase goes!

Rik in Gorgasm 1990

Do you feel like Hugh was making a statement of the effects of porn, or the future of it concerning the internet now allowing people to have access to just about any kind of fetish they could want to explore?
Honestly, I didn't read over your questions before answering them! It seems we are so to speak on the right page though and no I never really thought about that until I was kind of led there by your last question or at least the inner conscious psychological shall we say re-evaluation of the script. I dunno? Was there another movie or two that went the same direction or was it just the script Hugh imagined after reading some news article about something similar to it? Kind of like the David Carradine incident. I don't seriously think David wanted to be found dead hanging in a closet over some such fantasy? Maybe that is part of the rebirthing process of films like "Gorgasm" that however viewed and reviewed are often predictions or premonitions or even catalysts for this type of zany behavior. Or is it to remind us that we all have skeletons in our closets and are sinners in one way, shape, form or another? You'd have to ask Hugh if that was where he was going but he did say the idea came from his news reading. Maybe both?

When the film was being distributed via Draculina, Hugh's magazine, this was part of a wave of self-distribution that set a movement in place that paved a way for independent filmmakers today. And other filmmakers who started filming their own on VHS versus film, inspired so many to pick up digital cameras, once they were affordable and make their own no/low budget films. As someone who has been a part of this, how do you see the future of independent film making going?
A terrific question. You do have a great knack for interviewing, Brandon. Pick our brains. I like it! Well, let's see I started out on stage in summer stock in 1965, so I have quite a lengthy story to tell which would have to of course involve change and such as equipment has become so modernistic that my understanding like computers the 1st one off the line has no comparison to the last one or next BIG thing coming. As a kid I wanted to make movies and after JFK was assassinated and I was 15 still getting over that my parents invested in a Super 8mm movie camera and projector. Both Kodak products and I was able to investigate my imagination and visit inner demons of fascination I only wanted to please likeminded audiences. A Super 8 film only ran 3:18 though. That's 3 minutes and 18 seconds, so making a feature would be slightly out of a teenager's allowance. Film cost about $5.98 a roll and development went for $1.99 somehow reduced to $1.29 for processing and you had to wait a week to see what you shot. In camera editing was a probable necessity if possible. Discovering that the super 8mm image versus the standard 8 was the exact size of a television screen at the time was a major revelation for me I tell you. 

When video tapes/VHS's came along WOW! but the camera were outrageously priced for us filmmakers. My cousin, Ron Downing aka Ronnie Diamond (a jazz drummer) became a quadriplegic and decided we needed to make films. Since as younger boys we would act out the movies I saw on Sundays he thought just maybe we could do something with them and had he not passed away in 1989 I think he would be amazed at what all has gone down. In college at Allegheny Community College @ the Boyce (Monroeville) Campus I made my film I'd always wanted to do from the time Carol Wetovich (ABC TV camera lady-the first camerawoman on TV with "One Day at a Time) told me "The Story of The Hill" I made "Thoughts" a 10 minute story that takes 45 minutes to show because of just those thoughts. And then when I transferred w/my Associates Degree to Theater Arts & Film at Penn State University's main campus I was able to do "Triad" a story based on the David Crosby tune "Triad" which Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young did as well as Jefferson Airplane answering the eternal question "Why can't we go on as three?" "Thoughts" by the way has been known to clear rooms but there is always one guy who gets it and he is the part of the audience this film needs to be shown for. I regress though. 

When again filmmaker wise as I continued to play in rock bands mostly as a lead singer, then bassist and drummer I still did any number of plays and still play as a guest to most bands around here and do open stages as well. On this quest I love my roots of rock and filmmaking. My George Romero experiences in film from "Dawn" to "Night-90"(I could've been in the original Night, but that's another story), "The Dark half" "Monkeyshines" and almost "Day" plus "Knightriders" with only credit given in "The Dark Half" were exciting days to watch professional equipment being used and studying the whole process of makeup and FX and getting to know guys like Jerry Gergely and going into the 80s with American Cablevision and George Demmick's "Virus" in 84, which won the Teddie Award. No kidding! An award from Ted Turner himself so to speak! It was the Ted Turner Award for Community Broadcasting Excellence. The award for "Virus" is featured rather quickly in "Blood Dreams" no, it's in "The Treachery" on the wall of George's parent's house where we shot the majority of these last two films as well. The next year against 13 films "Blood Dreams" won first prize and "The Treachery" shot about the same time frame before "BD" took Honorable Mention. They were all shot on 3/4 inch video tapes. That meant they were broadcastable on and at any TV station. Where 12/2 in.tapes make up VHS' and inch tapes are the main television force of tapes. Unfortunately Cablevision didn't buy new tapes, so the things were used again and again causing "glitches" in the tapes and "The Treachery" is full of them. 

Rik in Gorgasm 1990

On a personal note in 1976 when cousin Ron (remember him?) got his video camera, which had to be connected to the video player, we began filming our zombie flick "Give Us This Day Our Daily Dead" I wrote it because he was paralyzed from the neck down and I was the one working with Romero. My idea was shoot the outdoor shots on super 8 and the interior ones on VHS. This worked really well but silly me tried to do the unthinkable at the time and do the whole shoot in camera editing unless insertions were made of the exteriors. THAT caused glitches in our final product of mostly the VHS stretching and not holding pause exactly where it needed to. Maybe we or at least I was ahead of my time? Possibly. Or I needed better equipment. I'd attempted to do "Starcastle: The Man Who Landed in Vandergrift" directing and starring in the role of Starcastle. My son in law has his hands full, Derek Purtell aka Schism on Facebook because it's he and my daughter Erika's film as well as Lyn Lowery's. To clarify Derek and Erika met Lynn at a horror con and D and L started writing emails to one another and they decided to write a story which became "Schism" now available through the website with autographed copies. My daughter Erika wrote the screenplay and added the vampire scene. So proud she was of her first IMDB credit as a screenwriter. Buy the film so we can make another. I play the voice of Lynn Lowery, the star's father and am last in the credits. I do hope Derek is able to bring "Starcastle" and "GUTDODD" to life so to speak and help me finish them one way or another. 

Nowadays cameras shoot videos or films with those SD cards and have the way of going in and erasing them if a take is blown or you're running out of room on the card. And computers to on the spot edit or whatever.  I could edit and run the 3/4 inch machines of the mid 80s in the studios. They are actually in our film "Virus" so if ya one day get the chance to see those you can see how antiquated they were and I did two episodes of "Rik Billock's Infamous People" starting out with Episode #1 "A Conversation With Chief White Wolf" an hour long documentary of a Sioux/Cherokee Native American who was in his 80s and then Episode #2 was "Rockin Steady with Double N-Dann" my friends band Wicked Cookie playing his original stuff. We made videos or I did to run some of his music over. Gettin back to cousin Ron (Bet you thought I forgot him?) He and I did a series of our own before "Beetlejuice" called himself "The Ghost With the Most" Ron played the Ghost and I was Igor and I-gor his side kicks and it was a chiller theatre type show where we made our own films and commercials, etc I guess there are about 8 or 10 of them around here some place. One day they'll at least be on You Tube when I figure out more technicalities. Until then my technical abilities probably still remain 36% as they did in sixth grade. I never really thought of us as innovators when you consider films like "Easy Rider" going on location with small budgets and coming out with such incredible product yet those things inspired me to do it myself and get something done to reflect the mood, atmosphere and ever changing times. I hope we have inspired other young film makers to just do it. With whatever equipment you can afford, rent, borrow, etc and let those cameras roll. 

Thanks, man for the memories and bringing some of the fun back of making a low or no budget film.