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Both the horror-remake and 3D crazes took major stumbles
last weekend at the nation’s box office, when the tepid FRIGHT NIGHT redux
vastly underperformed. No surprise there, as the unnecessary vampire update
proved totally anemic (Michael Gingold expertly sums up the picture here).
Anyway, as I watched the lackluster new film bored out of my skull, my mind
raced back to the superior original and a Fango-office field trip to a FRIGHT
NIGHT screening way back in July 1985.
That fateful summer, I had only been working at FANGORIA a
few weeks, fresh out of NYU. Under the tutelage of late editor Dave Everitt
(the pain of his untimely passing last year has barely lessened), I had begun
serving as an editor on the mag’s great masthead. One day, Dave announced that
the press folks at Columbia Pictures had invited the staffs of both Fango and
big sister STARLOG to attend a special advance showing of FRIGHT NIGHT. Just
for us! So the Fango and STARLOG teams (Dave and I, STARLOG editor David
McDonnell and his editorial bullpen, including Carr D’Angelo, Eddie Berganza
and Dan Dickholtz, and FX scribe David Hutchison) hoofed over to the old
Coca-Cola building at 777 Fifth Avenue for the private unveiling. Green and
wide-eyed, you can imagine my excitement, slipping away in the middle of the
day to be the first on my block to see one of that summer’s major horror
Once settled in that swank little screening room‘s plush
seats, I looked around and noticed that the STARLOG/Fango gang had the whole
place all to ourselves; no one in back of us and no one in front. Though we
took up almost an entire row, just as the lights dimmed and the Columbia logo
lady graced the screen, a stray moviegoer showed up and sat next to me, to my
left. I found this kind of odd, as the guy could have sat in any of the other
empty seats or rows in comfort and solitude, with ample elbow room. Well, maybe
he got scared during horror movies and was looking for strength in numbers!
FRIGHT NIGHT, written and directed by Tom Holland, was an
enjoyable romp. I remember Everitt in particular being especially enamored of
it. During the movie, many of us laughed and shrieked or cracked wise at the
screen. Since the theater was so intimate and we were all friends, we might as
well have been in one of our own living rooms, swiggin’ brews and eatin’ chips
with the gang. As much as I liked FRIGHT NIGHT, as it unspooled, the Evil Ed
character (played by 21-year-old Stephen Geoffreys) began to grate on my
nerves. “This guy is so obnoxious!” I grumbled aloud at one point, which lead
to more brickbats every time hero Charley Brewster’s weasely sidekick came on
screen. This talkback culminated when Evil Ed became a bewigged bloodsucker
himself. I shouted out, “This guy is even more obnoxious as a vampire than when
he was human!” The whole place chuckled. After we calmed down, we went back to
watching the film and politely clapped after FRIGHT NIGHT’s exciting finish.
As the lights came back on, the small fellow to my left got
out of his seat and crossed in front of the screen. Oh my God…it was Stephen
Geoffreys! He was the one who slipped in incognito as the film began and
plopped down beside me. He was the one who must have heard every insult I
hurled at the screen each time his character turned up! The actor made his way
to the elevator and disappeared before any of us could catch up to him.
Well, I felt like crap after that, guilty and shameful. Just
22 at the time, who was I to pretentiously judge the work of others in a public
venue like that? There I was, knocking this poor dude on screen, not realizing
the actor himself was sitting right next to me the whole time. What an
insensitive creep I was. While the others laughed off the experience, not me.
Days passed and I still could not shake the bad feelings over what I had done.
A week later, Fango Dave sent me to Jerry Ohlinger’s movie memorabilia
store in the West Village to purchase some Gene Corman stills for the mag. As I
walked along Eighth Street on the way back to the subway, I noticed a familiar
face walking toward me. It was Stephen Geoffreys again! I could not believe it!
As we came face to face, I stopped him in his tracks.
“Aren’t you Stephen Geoffreys?” I asked, though I, of
course, knew the answer.
“Yes, I am,” he said, in his distinctive lilting voice.
“Wow, I just saw you in FRIGHT NIGHT, at an advance
screening. You were great! So funny! You made the movie for me,” I said,
pouring it on thick, as if he had just met his biggest fan in the world.
“Realleeee?” he said with all sincerity and smiling from ear
to ear. “Thanks!”
We exchanged some more small talk, and then parted.
Fortunately, Geoffreys never recognized me as the smartass from the week
before. By spotting the young actor in public and praising his screen work, I
probably built up his ego enough to make up for my earlier wiseacre comments.
Relieved and somehow vindicated, I slept better that night after that opportune
act of contrition. And I learned a valuable lesson: to keep my big mouth shut
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