"We need to laugh, we need to be scared, we need to hug our girl in the theater. It lightens the load of this crummy life." - Clu Gulager"
Clu Gulager is part Indian and part Caucasian, part cowboy and part actor, part humorist and part philosopher. But when he isn't joking his answers are about as honest as you can get. He crept onto the scene in 1956 performing in live television and even though he'll try to convince you of the opposite, at 83 years of age he hasn't slowed down his acting chops very many rpms. His later roles in horror films have taken on a cult status and for several years revitalized his career. The following multi-part interview was conducted at Dark Delicacies on a calm day in September when he had walked miles to come to the store.
Clu Gulager: I used to be an actor, Del.
Del Howison: I hear that.
I rode horses. I was a cowboy from Oklahoma. I came out here and rode Randolph Scott's old pony in The Virginian. One day it fell with me in a gully in the back lot at Universal and they put it out to pasture. Now the question is: did I get hurt? Nope.
They didn't put you out to pasture?
(laughs) Well I gotta think. Let me think. Give me a minute. No they didn't. You're right.
Do you ever think about writing a tell-all?
I think about writing books but it's just a thought. I tell you if I wrote about my business and what I did in the business it wouldn't work because I know where the bodies are buried. I have acted a great deal, worked with almost everyone, and when you know where the bodies are buried it's hard to write a book about the motion picture industry without being a little invasive to people's lives. I just can't do that because some of the grandchildren and even some of the children of these people are still living. I feel that it's not my prerogative to delve too deeply into things that are best left unsaid.
Did anybody ever write stuff about you that was not true, that you would like to clear up?
You bet they did. I did a movie called, well a lot, but one in particular bothered me. I did a movie called Return of the Living Dead about zombies. A man named Dan O'Bannon wrote it, who was not a filmmaker. He was a writer and one of the best in town. He died and a book was written about the making of it by a girl who was in it. She wrote in there several things. I don't know. She's very imaginative, has a great imagination. But a bad reporter. She wrote many things that I did that I didn't do.
Do you wish you had done them or are they things you don't want to be named as doing?
(Laughs) I didn't do them. She swore up and down that I did. Like she said I threw an object at Dan O'Bannon. Which is certainly not true. I mean I'm ... You know, she's not really a professional actor and I am. I guess she doesn't know how professional actors behave because we just don't do things like that on the set. That's a no-no. We don't let our emotions run rampant probably the way she does, she's a very emotional woman, because you would never finish a film if that were the case, Del.
You have to be on your Ps and Qs, say your lines, find your light, hit your marks, and go home and mow your lawn. That's something that professionals do. People like this woman, who is kind of a jack-of-all-trades, don't quite understand the discipline required in a profession like acting. I think that's what it boils down to. So making her book more exciting was understandable and I'm certainly not angry about it. But I am sorry that she felt she had to do that to make her book more readable. Well, she didn't have to do that at all, you know.
So you didn't throw something at him and what else?
Oh, a lot of things. I won't go into them now because I don't want to repeat. The prevarications in a book are enough. 100 years from now they will read that and say "Well, Clu you must have been a pepper pot, a no-goodnik." They would be right on both cases. But I certainly didn't throw anything at little Dan O'Bannon. He was a little guy. He was dying and he had never directed. He didn't know how to do his homework. He was tough on us, the actors. But because it was tough doesn't mean that you throw things at your director.
When you get down to it what would you say was your favorite experience? Not your favorite film that you did, but your favorite experience on a film?
Killing my wife. Murdering Miriam was certainly one of the highlights. My wife and I acted in a film. The first film by a very fine filmmaker named Jeff Burr, who has since moved away from Hollywood and is making films out of Georgia now. He had a scene in which I drowned Miriam in a bathtub stark naked and she aroused and I had to stab her in the back to finish the murder. Finally I got rid of her.
What was the film called?
In England it was called From a Whisper to a Scream and I believe here it was called The Offspring. They named a band after that movie, the American, The Offspring and the band just recently headlined at a big festival on Sunset Strip, on Sunset Blvd, in Los Angeles. So it became very successful and the movie had five people at its premiere at the Egyptian.
C. Courtney Joyner wrote that, didn't he?
Courtney wrote part of it. It was an anthology of four really fine happenings, ugly horror. Courtney wrote my thing where I was a psychopathic killer. My sister was my wife in real life, Miriam Byrd who is since deceased. It had in there a thing I really liked and they cut it out from the motion picture. They felt it was too strong. The sister and the brother, my wife and me, slept together in the same bed. They cut that out. I wish they hadn't because it would have made for a much more complex integrated ugly story that the boy wrote. But that was their first film and they were frightened. So they cut out probably the best aspect of that sequence. It would have given it a great edge, Del, the way we were doing it. I was... it was quite violent, my segment, and that would have fit right in with that incestuous relationship.
In the next segment we delve deeper into Clu's career and talk about Feast.
Clu can be found roaming the Hollywood Hills or eating a Pink's chili dog.
Del Howison is a journalist, writer and Bram Stoker Award-winning editor. He is also the co-founder and owner of Dark Delicacies “The Home of Horror” in Burbank, CA. He can be reached at Del@darkdel.com.