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Back in the 1970s, there was a poster for a movie. At first,
I didn’t even notice the name of the film; the poster showed four young people
standing around what I presumed to be a dead body. The angle was such that it
was looking up at their faces rather than straight on them, as they gazed down.
Again, not even registering the movie’s title, I did note that one of them was
what I back then called “a cute guy,” which made me want to see it.
Much to my chagrin, disappointment and major pouting, my
parents would not let me go to see THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, which I believe
may have been rated X back then. My parents claimed it was “too scary.” I just
wanted to see the cute guy. Years later, when VHS tapes were around and
available for rent, I was finally able to watch LAST HOUSE, and not only did I
love every minute of the violent shocker, but I still thought Krug was a cute
guy…besides his being quite the psychopath. But that was that and my life moved
forward. End of chapter.
One day, I was at a FANGORIA convention in LA, doing a
webcast with my colleague Rebekah McKendry. It was getting late when suddenly,
someone was escorting two men to our area for an interview. I looked up and
said to myself, “Oh my God, that’s the guy from the poster!” I didn’t even
connect him to Krug. He was older now, but all I saw was that young person from
that one-sheet. He was with LAST HOUSE’s Marc Sheffler, and it was Marc who was
to be interviewed; David Hess was there for support. Our other colleague Sam
Zimmerman did the interview, and I tried to think of a reason to talk to David,
but I was tongue-tied. It was a no-go. I just could not make my presence known.
Therefore, when we had another Fango convention just three
months later in New York, I was determined to grab the opportunity no matter
what. This time it worked. There was strategy involved: There was a party that
night in the hotel where David was staying. He didn’t show at the party, but my
co-conspirators Drew Tinnin and Debbie Rochon knew I was on a mission to meet
the man, and so we kept going from the party to the lobby bar, back and forth,
looking for David until we realized he was likely out on the town in Manhattan.
Plan B: We’d wait at the bar until he returned through the lobby, and then ask
him to have a drink with us. It worked. He was tired and resistant, but I
turned on all my charm and he had that drink with me. I told him my story of my
crush on the guy in the poster, to which he asked, “What am I, chopped liver
now?” That was my first glimpse of the real David Hess. He was funny! And
flirty—he insisted that the next night he would be staying with me, and not at
the hotel. I told him he was dreaming.
That next morning, I invited him to be on our webcast, and
as all of you who knew David will remember, he started to flirt, and heavily.
But this was on camera, and it went on for a while. I didn’t care; I was just
happy to get to know him. That night, he invited me to join the casts of LAST
HOUSE and SMASH CUT (the Lee Demarbre film in which he co-stars with Sasha
Grey) for dinner in Little Italy. I had so much fun being out with my heroes,
laughing and feeling so included. And true to David’s prediction, that night he
did stay with me.
That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship and
friendship that lasted until this past weekend. We were romantic for a period
of time and transitioned to the best of friends, who spoke weekly thanks to the
memories we created. We spent weeks in New York together, always discovering
new restaurants, and David liked to go back to Central Park (about which he
wrote a published song) over and over again. For me, it was like seeing my city
through new eyes every time. Once I flew out to spend a week with him at his
home in Corte Madera in beautiful Marin County, California. David had a
motorcycle, and we’d bike for hours. I was terrified and thrilled at the same
time. We went to his friend Chris’ winery, and to many beaches where we’d take
long walks. David was a doer; we never sat around. And we never talked about
LAST HOUSE—he would yawn when I’d bring up the subject. Life was always about a
new day for him. He was waiting for a new role.
Our best trip was to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. David was the
most relaxed person I have ever known. Absolutely nothing bothered him—while I
was totally neurotic! I was constantly fussing with the air conditioning,
trying to set it at a perfect temperature, and it never was good enough for me.
He would just watch me and laugh and laugh, which in turn made me laugh and
laugh—at myself, of course. We never butted heads. If I complained about the
heat, he laughed. If I complained about the food, he laughed. If I complained
about anything, he laughed. I never knew someone who accepted me so
Ultimately, I did have to interview him for Fango, and he
did have to answer some questions about Krug, as the role always came up
throughout his life. But this was an interview about SMASH CUT, and of his
starring role, he said, “One thing that comes forth in this film perhaps more
than anything is the fact that I’m pretty good with comedy. On reputation
alone, nobody would have gone to that place with me. How many times have I
heard, ‘Hess scares the shit out of me?’ ” He laughed about that, because he
knew how gentle he really was. I was always talking to him about how important
he would be throughout the ages as the seminal baddie. He agreed that LAST
HOUSE would probably be taught to students studying horror, but always—I mean always—added
that he’d rather be remembered for his music.
David went to Juilliard, played rugby and had no ambitions
as an actor when Sean Cunningham approached him to be a part of what was to go
down in history as one of the scariest movies ever. David composed the
soundtrack for LAST HOUSE, but went on to compose THE NAKED CARMEN, which won a
Grammy, with John Corigliano, along with hundreds of other songs. In fact, his
first job brought him into the Brill Building music scene, where he wrote
several songs for Elvis Presley himself. But alas, we are horror film fans, and
David will always be Krug to most of us.
For me, he was David Hess, my special friend who would not
let two weeks go by without checking in on me. He cared about my career and my
personal life. He was always asking me where we were going next. Even when he
wasn’t feeling well two weeks ago, he said, “But I’ll be fine”—always looking
on the bright side. And that is how I hope everyone who met him will remember
him: as someone who only saw the good in everything and everyone. You were
taken too soon, David Hess. And you will be so surely missed!
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