Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Very Candid Conversation with John Lawton

The legendary rock band Uriah Heep had undergone many lineup changes since its beginning. However, in 1976, the band was about to undergo it’s most difficult lineup change—replacing lead singer David Byron. As anyone familiar with rock history knows,  replacing a lead singer is the hardest thing a band can do, and very few bands can continue to thrive after a singer is replaced. John Lawton came from singing for two German bands: Lucifer’s Friend and Les Humphries Singers. With the exception of Lucifer’s Friend’s first album,  the music was not as hard rock as Uriah Heep. Yet, despite coming from a mostly non-heavy background, John passed the difficult role of becoming Uriah Heep’s lead singer with flying colors. He was accepted by the fans. John was the singer for Heep from 1976–1979. His fans and the band look back on those years very fondly. To this day, one of the songs he co-wrote with guitarist Mick Box, “Free ’n’ Easy,” is still played at encores at Uriah Heep concerts.

Yet, those who only focus on John’s Heep years are missing out on some good music as well. His previous history with Lucifer’s Friend and Les Humphries Singers not only shows why Uriah Heep picked John as their lead singer, but also shows John’s vocal variety with different musical styles. Although Lucifer’s Friend’s debut album is similar to Uriah Heep, the band showcased different types of music genres, such as progressive rock and jazz. In fact, Lucifer’s Friend was known for changing the musical direction with each album, and John was able to sing a variety of genres. Likewise, Les Humphries Singers was comprised of a group of singers with Abba-like harmonies that sang gospel, dance pop, and covered famous pop tunes of the 1970s.

While John continued to sing, perform, and make albums after leaving Heep, over the last ten years he found a new occupation as a filmmaker. He has made travel documentaries on Bulgaria.

In this candid conversation, we focus on John’s early years with Lucifer’s Friend and Les Humphries Singers. We also discuss the legendary Uriah Heep years. In addition, we look at John’s years after Heep and his new occupation as a filmmaker. I want to thank Billy James of Glass Onyon PR for setting up this interview. But most of all, I want to thank  John.

Jeff Cramer: All right. So, what encouraged you to start signing?

John Lawton: Oh, God, it goes way back, Jeff. I think the early days of childhood and things like that. My parents always played music in the house. My father was a great lover of Hammond organ and Jimmy Smith—people like that—and I grew up listening to all kinds of music like jazz.

Mahalia Jackson was a big influence when I was growing up. She used to be on British TV. They used to show her late at night on black-and-white screens, and she was a big influence in my later days of singing, so yeah, that's where it basically started . . . from my childhood.

JC: Okay. Before Uriah Heep, you were in two groups—Lucifer's Friend and Les Humphries Singers. Both of them were in Germany. How'd you get to Germany to become part of them?

JL: I went to Hamburg, Germany, in 1969 for the first time and played well. I came back again in 1970, and the band was made up of some guys from North East England. We had Paul Thompson, who is now with Roxy Music on drums, and John Miles was on keyboards. There were a couple of other guys, I think—Vic Malcolm, a guitar player, who later had a band with Geordie, which had Brian Johnson, who is now with AC/DC as a singer. So, it was like a clique up there.

We played Hamburg, Germany, a second time in 1970, and I was told by a good friend over there that that's where my future lay and that's where I stayed. I stayed behind in Hamburg. I met my wife in Hamburg, and yeah, that was the incentive. From there, I was introduced to the guys from Lucifer's Friend, who were looking for an English singer in 1971. They played me some stuff, and I liked what they were playing.

It was very Black Sabbath but very Hammond-organ orientated and good rock. It was something I'd never heard from a German band before. Yeah, that was the way that happened. [You can hear a great description of this sound John is talking about by clicking here for a live presentation of “Ride the Sky.”] And through them, I got introduced—or I was asked by a guy called Les Humphries who had a gospel choir (they were just becoming very big in Europe at that time)—if I would join them as well. So, I was kind of like, bouncing around between both of them, doing a lot of work with the Les Humphries singers but also with the Lucifer's Friend guys. We got together every now and again and made an album.

Lucifer’s Friend’s first album crept into the Billboard charts in the States and we became a bit of a cult band at that time—the first band of the so-called “Kraut rock” to make it outside of Germany, which was very good.

Lucifer’s Friend performing live (John far left)

JC: Okay. One thing of interest is that Lucifer's Friend and Les Humphries Singers were two different type of genres. Lucifer’s Friend pretty much change genres in each album. The genres ranged from heavy metal to progressive rock. Les Humphries, on the other hand, was a choir that did completely different genres. They did gospel, dance music, and covers of pop tunes. How'd you feel doing all these different musical styles?

JL: Well, the situation was that two or three of the guys from Lucifer's Friend were also steady musicians in the James Last Orchestra, which was a big orchestra over in Europe at that time. They had steady jobs with him and they earned their daily bread, their daily money. I guess I earned my daily bread working with the Les Humphries Singers ’cause we toured a lot. We did a lot of work. And that enabled us to get together—the Lucifer's Friend guys and myself—every six months or so and do maybe a couple of gigs and then start writing for an album. I mean, Lucifer's Friend was our main thing.

I did my thing with Les Humphries, they did their thing with James Last, but what we all really loved was getting together and doing some Lucifer's Friend work. But you had to live to be able to do that, because you couldn't earn enough money just being Lucifer's Friend at that time. The money just wasn’t there to keep the band going without anything else. We did a lot of studio work for other people as well—singing sessions and stuff like that—just to keep the money rolling so we could keep Lucifer's Friend going.

JC: Uh-huh. As I mentioned earlier, each Lucifer Friend album changed very significantly. Was that something that was agreed by the band in general?

JL: No. With the first album, the tracks were already written apart from “Ride the Sky,” which turned out to be the single. The tracks were already written, and a lot of the lyrics were already being done before they approached me. I got together with Peter Hesslein, our guitar player, and we wrote “Ride the Sky” together and some of the other lyrics on the album. But it was set in the way it was anyway. There were no set direction with the albums after that.

It was just a case of how the writing came. We went in and we did When the Groupies Kill the Blues, which turned out to be something totally different from Lucifer's Friend’s [debut album]. But that was just the way we were writing and every album turned out to be like that. It was, “Oh, I got this track. What do you think of this? Oh, that would sound good if we did it like this,” or, “It would sound good if we didn't play it like that.”

And that's why, consequently, every album was different, all the way up to Banquet, which is my favorite album because all of a sudden, we had brass section and we had strings, backing vocals, and all kinds of things going on. That was totally the other end of the extreme. [You can hear “Dirty Old Town,” from Banquet  by clicking here.]

JC: Right. Banquet is an interesting one because the song are longer. For instance, the opening number, “Spanish Galleon,” is eleven minutes long. The album before Banquet, I’m Just A Rock ’n’ Roll Singer, had much shorter songs.

JL: I think somewhere along the line, you look at what you've written previously and everything seems to be all elongated with instrumental passages and very progressive  and things like that. And sometimes, you look and say, “Well, you know, maybe we should look into something a little bit more commercial.” That's why I'm Just a Rock ’n’ Roll Singer turned out to be a little bit more like that. Not intentionally, I don't think.

We just had it in our minds that we should be thinking something along the lines of a little bit more commercial. Not pop, but commercial in that respect. And I think it turned out that way. And then, of course, you go to the other extreme where everybody's getting the jazz as rock influence and you get Banquet coming out of that, you know.

JC: Yeah. Lucifer's Friend reminds me of this Texas band called Bloodrock. I don't know if you've ever heard of that group or not.

JL: I've heard the name, but I can't say I'm familiar with it.

JC: Bloodrock had a name like Lucifer's Friend that indicated they were a heavy metal band. The band did start off heavy, but like Lucifer’s Friend, they were doing jazz-oriented stuff at the ending of their career .

JL: Yeah. I think over the years your musical tastes differ when you listen to other kinds of music. I think that when the guys put together Lucifer's Friend’s debut album, they were listening purely to Black Sabbath—that kind of riff-orientated thing—and then I think as the years go by, other bands start to influence you. I know John McLaughlin was a big influence on the guitar player, Peter Hesslein. I think that's where a lot of this thinking came from after that.

JC: Yes, one other thing I want to say is did you ever think that the group name would confuse people on what the band really sounded like?

JL: Satanic way. [Laughs]

JC: Yeah, yeah. The Satanic way. Even though it seems to match with the first album. I mean, there is a song on there called “Lucifer’s Friend.” But on the later albums, did you ever think of changing the group name? ’Cause it left people thinking . . .

JL: Yeah, I know what you mean. I think the problem was the guys themselves had come across that name. That's what they wanted because they were thinking along the lines of Sabbath, the Satanic thinking. And then, of course, once you put an album out, people start listening to it and the name is out there, and people associate certain tracks with Lucifer's Friend. The name is very difficult to change after that. And I don't think really we thought anything more about it because by that time, the name Lucifer's Friend had kind of been established in certain areas of music.

To change it then would have been a little bit crazy, I think. We had to stick with it. And I don't think really, we thought any more about it. That was the name of the band and that's it, you know?

JC: Yep. At the same time, you manage to have a hit where you take the lead vocal on “Mama Loo” for Les Humphries Singers.

Les Humphries Singers in a print ad (John in center)

JL: Yeah. That just came up. That was a direct rip off of “Barbara Ann” from the Beach Boys, who Les Humphries himself admitted years later that that was where he’d ripped it off from. But I just finished up doing the vocal on it and it became number one all over Europe. So, what can you say? Yeah. It just made him more money. Rip the Beach Boys off—it made him more money. [You can hear “Mama Loo” by clicking here.]

JC: All right. How did you get the call from Uriah Heep, then?

JL: Well, strangely enough, there were some good friends of mine over in the UK—a band called Mud. I don't know if you've heard them. They were pretty big in the 70s over here. They had a lot of hits and I was quite friendly with them. Their road crew had a tape cassette of my work with Lucifer's Friend.

And they knew the guys, the road crew, from Uriah Heep because you meet up on the road—you meet up and play just on the road, burger joints and stuff like that. And they knew that Uriah Heep was looking for a singer to replace David Byron, and Dave Mount [Mud’s drummer], for some reason, handed the cassette over and said, “Listen to this guy. You might not know him, but he might be what you're looking for.” They obviously had a listen to it and the next thing I knew, I was getting a phone call from Ken Hensley asking me to come over to London. They'd heard the tracks and if I was interested, I might actually come over and give it a go, you know?

Which I did. The road crew held up cards like they used to do in ice-skating, where they held up sixes and things like that. I got a load of sixes from their road crew, so that's how I got the job.

JC: ; How did it feel, because at this point, you were now in a very big band and you were also replacing the singer, which is the hardest to replace. Audiences may not know if a guitarist or drummer is replaced, but they do know when a singer is replaced.

JL: I didn't think too much about it really because to be quite honest, I didn't know enough about Uriah Heep before I joined. After I got the phone call from Ken, I basically had to go out and buy the album, The Best of Uriah Heep, to familiarize myself with the music. And so I didn't think too much about the fact that I was replacing somebody like David Byron. It only probably happened in the first couple of months really of joining the band where the press were kind of like, “John Lawton who? And Lucifer's Friend who? And Les Humphries who?” That kind of thing.

I think they were expecting a bigger name. And at the auditions for the job, David Coverdale came down, auditioned for the gig—

JC: And I also know Ian Hunter did, too.

JL: Yeah. A couple of big names. But they didn't get it. So, after we did a few gigs together, I started to notice people in the audience were getting used to the fact that I was replacing David. But I really didn't think too much about it.

JC: You started off with Firefly, which was a little smoother than the last Byron album, High and Mighty.

Lawton with Heep (From L to R: John 4th)

JL: Yeah. Once again, the tracks were already written. They were already there. All they needed was the vocals on them. So, I had no say in the direction that the band was going. It was great. You could walk in the studio and listen— the tracks are great. “Wise Man” is probably one of the best tracks on that album together with “Firefly” and things like that. So, to walk into the studio and have the songs ready to sing was, for me, a bonus really. And you're right—in a way, it was a little smoother than High and Mighty. Yes, it was. [You can hear Uriah Heep performing “Wise Man” live on the Top of the Pops by clicking here.]

JC: Yes. It helps to start off with a really good album. ’Cause fans are gonna be a little more harsher when they have a new singer and you get one chance to make an impression with them.

JL: Yes. Oh, yeah. I also think that the band was kind of softening. At that particular time, they were also softening their approach to their writing as well. I mean, consequently, Ken Hensley was writing a majority of the material anyway, so he was kind of softening his approach to what he was writing and looking at more of a softer side to the band, I think. And not to be as progressive as they were in previous albums.

JC: Yes. On the next album, Innocent Victim, you wrote a very heavy track, which happens to be—and I'm not saying this ’cause you co-wrote that track with Mick Box—one of my favorite Heep tracks: “Free ’n’ Easy.” It’s jarring when you hear it on Innocent Victim because Ken is still doing softer stuff.

JL: Yeah. It's something I came up with. I came up with a riff at home and I put down some lyrics and things like that and took it to the guys, played it, and mixed it all out. I thought we could put a couple of changes in there, which we did—change it very slightly from what I'd originally written in my own naïve way, ’cause I’m not a guitar player or anything like that. And I managed to put this track together.

But I made a couple of changes in there, and to be quite honest with you, Uriah Heep's still playing it today as one of their encore tracks. When they tour, it's one of their encore tracks at the end of the gig, and I'm still doing it, and people still love to hear it live so we keep playing it.

JC: Right. At the same time, Ken was writing “Free Me” which was the more softer approach. That's a track that the AllMusic Guide described as a tune “whose acoustic style and accent on harmonies brought the group dangerously close to Eagles territory.”

JL: Yeah. Well, we basically had completed Innocent Victim. As far as we were concerned, it was cut and dried. We recorded all the tracks we wanted to. He came in maybe a couple of days before we were planning to mix and just said, “Have a listen to this, guys. It might be nothing. I don't know.”

And he just played the opening bars and sang it a bit and we all said, “Yeah, why not? It's a good track to put in there. It sounds commercial. We could have something good here.” So, we recorded it.

It was a last-minute thing and it took the album with it. It became number one all over Europe and Australia—places like that—and it took the album with it, which is a good thing to have. [You can hear live performances of both “Free Me” and “Free ‘n’ Easy” by clicking here.]

JC: Okay. We'll go on to Fallen Angel and Innocent Victim—it has a mixture of heavy rock and soft rock. I noticed that you have a ballad this time as opposed to Ken. Even Lee Kerslake had a ballad and the biggest hit on Fallen Angel, “Come Back to Me.”

JL: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Big song. Lee actually played that to me in a Holiday Inn in the hotel bar. There was a piano.

There was nobody else in the bar—just him and myself and our wives—and he just played it to me as basically as he could, and I thought straight way, “It's a good song. We should certainly record this.” And we did. And it was terrific. And I'm glad we did.

It's a good song. And it's still stands up today. I make a point of playing it live, especially in Europe because people in Europe and the eastern side of the Europe love that song. So, I make a point of playing that live. It brings back memories for a lot of people, I think. [To hear “Come Back to Me,” click here.]

JC: Yes. I've even played the song for a few people who aren't even familiar with Heep, and it goes down pretty well. At that time . . . now, I understand there was an album that was going to be recorded with Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller.

JL: After Fallen Angel, we started to record some tracks. I had written some and Trevor Bolder, bless him, had written some and Ken had come up with a few things. So, consequently, everybody now was kind of writing. It wasn't just necessarily Ken Hensley doing most of the writing. Everybody was contributing tracks to this new album.

We got Jimmy Miller in. The idea was to get a producer in who had nothing to do with the band at all, because up until then, it had all been Gerry Bron. So, the idea was to get somebody in, somebody internationally well-known to produce this last album. The name Jimmy Miller came up because he has a Rolling Stones influence and things like that. It turned out to be a bit of a disaster.

So, it was agreed halfway through that he shouldn't carry on and we reverted back to Gerry Bron. I think we recorded fourteen tracks all together, things that were kind of a little bit off the wall. I had three or four tracks on there, which were poppy but at the same time a little riffy, things like that. And everybody kind of contributed. But it came down to the fact that nobody seemed to be able to settle on what tracks we should actually go ahead and complete.

And then, of course, toward the end of that recording session, I left the band. But the tracks are still there. Plenty of people have bootlegs of it. It's called Eight Miles and things like that. It has various names.

There are bootlegs, but I think it should really be completed. It would be nice for the likes of Mick Box to go in and complete it. I would like to go in and redo the vocals and all kinds of things just to have a one-off to commemorate the end of that particular year.

JC: Yeah.

JL: But I don't think Mick Box is too keen on doing that. Of course, Uriah Heep moved along a lot. I don't think Ken Hensley's keen on doing it. Lee Kerslake would possibly do it. Well, Trevor isn't around anymore unfortunately, so I think you would need all the members—apart from Trevor, of course—who want to do that, and I don't think the persuasion is there at the moment.

JC: What are your memories on the late Trevor Bolder?

JL: Oh, he was a lovely guy. I know everybody says when somebody leaves this earth, “Oh, what a nice guy he was,” but he was a genuinely down-to-earth guy, an absolutely, fantastic bass player. We both joined the band around the same time. So, we both got into Uriah Heep at the same time, both strange to what was going on, but he was an excellent bass player then. I knew him from his David Bowie days; I’d never actually knew him personally, but I’d seen his work with Bowie and the Spiders, and he just progressed from that until the end of his life with Heep. He was just one of the best around and a genuinely nice, nice guy.

He was very down to earth. His humor was very dry, but he was just exceptional and an exceptionally good song writer as well. He wrote some terrific stuff toward the end, and I know there were a few things in the pipeline that he had for this last album, which Heep are in the process of recording now. I think he's a great loss – a great loss to the music business.

JC: ; What brought on your reason to leave Uriah Heep?

JL: To be quite honest with you, it was a combination of things. Ken Hensley and I weren't getting on well at all and he'll admit to it. At that particular time, he had his demons—drug demons and things like that. And he's the first to admit that. Musically, we weren't gelling at all. I think there were signs when we were recording Eight Miles that we weren't on the same wavelength musically at all.

It's all very well if somebody brings a song along. At least if everybody tries it, you try to work it out, and if it doesn't work, then you leave it. But we were getting to the stage where nobody was really wanting to try anything out except Ken maybe. So, there was a lot of that kind of thing going on. Musical differences played a large part of it, plus the fact that I was taking my wife on the road, which we always did.

We always travelled together, and there was kind of a bit of a thorn in the guys' side because they're old hands at rock ’n’ roll and things like that; they had various ladies in various ports, so to speak. And it became a bit of a problem. And of course their wives were saying to them, “Well, if John Lawton's wife can go, why can't I travel with?” I think they were the old school, you know, where you didn't have wives if you were a rock star. You didn't have this, you didn't have—you were purely a single guy.

So, it was a bit of that and a bit of musical discrepancy going on, and we both really agreed that we should come to the end of our ways. It was better for them to go their way and I should go my way, and that's it. Having said that, we are still good friends. I stood in for Bernie Shaw, the present singer of Heep, this past year. He’s had some problems, and I stood in for him for a European tour and we've done gigs together.

Mick and I still e-mail a lot and I'm still friends with Ken. We had the Hensley Lawton Band in 2000. We recorded an album. So, it's not as if we totally ignore each other. That's not the case. Simply, we needed to go our separate ways and I think that's what happened.

JC: I also saw The Magician’s Birthday concert where you and Ken reunited with Trevor, Mick, and Lee and joined with the new guys, Bernie and Phil.

JL: Yeah. We're good friends. I always say, “Once you join the Heep family, you never leave, regardless.” And I'm always there for them if they need help. I'll always step in. And if I need help, Mick and the guys are the first ones to step up and say, “Yeah, we'll come and do this for you.” We can't argue about that at all. It's a good way to work, I think.

JC: Yeah. So, I understand right after you left Heep, there was a solo album that was pretty much with the Lucifer's Friend guys and then you did one last Lucifer's Friend's album.

JL: Yeah. I did an album called Heartbeat in 1981, and it was Peter Hesslein, the guitar player from Lucifer's Friend, and myself. We did most of the music and the rest of the guys who played on the album were the Lucifer's Friend guys. We got a drummer in called Curt Cress who was a big jazz-influenced drummer in Germany, a big name. He came and did the drums.

John Lawton’s solo album Heartbeat

He used to play with Klaus Doldinger’s Passport, and I think he did a stint with Frank Zappa as well. He came in and did the drumming. I got a release in the States through RCA. It was a good album. Very poppy. But it was slightly different than Lucifer's Friend stuff.

After that, I worked with a German band called Zar who hailed from the south of Germany. They asked me to come over and if I would produce their first album, which I said I would. Unfortunately, the singer at that time was having some problems and he couldn't really sing the tracks that the guys had written so I said, “Well, look, I'll demo them for you until you get a new singer.” And they liked the demo so they asked me if I would do the proper singing, which I did, and it resulted in two albums with that band Zar. So, I've always been kind of in the studio somewhere.

JC: What else have you done after Zar?

JL: I did a lot of session work after Zar for various other people, but then the session work was getting to me and I didn't particularly like the session work. It was a bit boring. But I got together some local guys I knew around the London area and we put together a band called GunHill. We went off and just did some gigs just for the sheer hell of it. They weren’t the best musicians in the world, but we had good fun and we played a lot of stuff. We played some Heep songs and some Whitesnake, and all kinds of things just to get out there and get an audience reaction to it, and it just really went from there. We started playing in Europe and it got better and better and better.

We got a few changes in personnel. We got a new guitarist who was better than the old guy, so to speak. It just went very well.

JC: So, is that your current thing, GunHill?

No, no, no. That band moved on to become the John Lawton Band. We had an album out, and we added a couple of studio albums with the bass player that I worked with—a guy called Steve Dunning. We worked for Classic Rock Productions based here in London. We had a DVD out, a CD, and all those kind of things.

John Lawton & Steve Dunning

I was just doing all this work and things just kept coming along. And it got more and more sudden, and suddenly I found myself back on tour again. I was asked to be special guest with Heep, and the Hensley Lawton Band came along. From there, I progressed from that into working a lot in Bulgaria. I've been working in Bulgaria for the last ten years, from doing live concerts over there, to directing and presenting travel documentaries.

JC: Oh, travel documentaries. That's interesting.

JL: Yeah. I've done nineteen-and-a-half hour programs about Bulgaria. I'm presenting and directing, and then I've had a part in a Bulgarian cinema movie which did very well. Mick Box from Uriah Heep had a cameo role in that one and that did very well. So, I've been putting my hands in various boxes to see what comes out.

It's progressed from that to the present day where I'm working. I work a lot in Bulgaria, that's very true. I'm working with a guy called Milen Vrabevsky, and the last year—eighteen months ago now—we recorded an album called The Power of Mind. We've just completed the second album in this series called My Kind of Loving, and we have Simon Phillips from Toto on the drums.

JC: Oh, yes, Simon’s a great drummer.

JL: Yeah. And Joseph Williams from Toto has sung four tracks on it. So, that's completed. I think release date is set for the middle of May.

JC: Okay. That's good.

JL: Yeah. So, that's where we are at the present day.

JC: Okay. Let’s go back into filmmaking. How did you get into it?

JL: I was approached by a Bulgarian guy called Valeri Simeonov. He has a TV station out there called Skat TV. It's a Bulgarian TV station. He saw these little short movie clips on my John Lawton website that we would make when we were on tour somewhere.

He asked me, “Would you like to do this kind of thing for real?” And I said, “Yeah, okay.” And he outlined what he wanted to do.

Basically, they’re commissioned by the head honcho in Bulgaria—the mayor and his counselors—and they’ve commissioned a film about their particular area and the history of it up until the present day. So, I tried it and it worked out really well. It’s called John Lawton Presents [You can view one of the travel documentaries by clicking here.]. Like I said, we've done nineteen-and-a-half hour programs about Bulgaria, so it's worked really well. And they're very interesting to do. I'm learning a lot from doing them about that particular part of the world ’cause not many people know a lot about Bulgaria. People know about Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, etc., but people are not aware of the history of this particular country and things like that. So, it's very interesting for me to make and I get a lot out of it.

Right now, I will be doing some more of these movies/documentaries this coming year. I’m hoping to do another two. I have more concerts coming up. I do what's called the July Morning Festival every year in Bulgaria. It celebrates the first of July. It represents, through the Bulgarian people, their freedom from the times.

It’s on a cliff overlooking the Black Sea at 5:30 in the morning. As the sun rises, we go on stage and open up the set with the song the Uriah Heep song, “July Morning,” and it's the people's way of expressing their freedom. When we first started doing it ten years ago, there were a couple of thousand people there. And we've got it up to 10,000. I think we had 12,000 people there last year at 5:30 a.m., and they come the evening before. They pitch their tents and all kinds of things.

And they're all there, at 5:30 a.m. when the sun rises, and we kick off with “July Morning” and follow with a full set. It's a feeling. I can't tell you. It's just a great feeling.

JC: I love going to concerts, but I don’t want to get out of bed at 5:30 a.m. for anything. How does one get ready for a concert at 5:30 in the morning?

JL: It's tradition though. That's the thing. I've never heard of it anywhere else in the world, but it's the specialty for Bulgarians that they celebrates their freedom from the days of oppression with the first of July, and it's just a great feeling. The first time I ever did it, I looked at my wife and said, “Can you tell me why I'm getting up at 4:30 in the morning to do a gig at 5:30 in the morning?” But once I'd done it, I realized, “This is why I'm doing it. Because it's just great.” It's a great feeling.

JC: Yeah, then that's the sign of the power of music. Even though you weren't in Heep when they recorded “July Morning,” but nevertheless, you were a singer of Heep and the fans consider you an essential part of Heep history.

JL: I was never aware of how much of an influence Uriah Heep’s music was to the people in the Eastern Bloc, not only in Bulgaria but also in Romania, what used to be Yugoslavia, and in the Ukraine all the way up to Russia. Uriah Heep's music at that time was a breakthrough—apart from the Beatles, of course and things like that—but the music of Uriah Heep was the breakthrough thing for them. It was really the first kind of westernized music that they listened to via their bootlegs, which were hastily hidden from the secret police if anybody came knocking, under the table. And I've met so many people—all the generations—who've said to me, “You have no idea how much that music meant to us.” And that's why a song like “Come Back to Me” is still very popular over there because they love all that kind of music.

They love “Free Me,” “Lady in Black,” and other songs like that. And when you see them singing along, it sometimes brings the older generation to tears. They really respect Uriah Heep’s songs over there. I've been over there with Mick Box from Uriah—we've done a couple of gigs together with Bulgarian musicians and the band is greatly loved over there and I think that's a great thing. 

JC: Yeah. That's a great thing, especially the williness to listen to something even though it was illegal in their country.

JL: Yeah. It's a good thing and I think they appreciate Uriah Heep members coming down to play this music. I was the first ever to perform a rock concert in a specific area of Bulgaria at a place called Kavarna, which is in the north, on the Romanian border. I did the first ever rock concert there. I'm not blowing my own trumpet, but since then, every year in June and July, Kavarna has some of the biggest rock names over there. Last year, Deep Purple was there.

Whitesnake's been over there. Robert Plant's been there. Alice Cooper—some of the biggest names in rock have played the Kavarna Rock Festival. I'm kind of proud that I was one of the first ones to actually go and do it.

JC: Yes, yes. Good. Given all this interesting history you’ve had as a singer, what advice would you give to someone who is interested in singing? What would you recommend?

JL: First of all, I would recommend trying to find out whether you can sing. There are so many people who have said to me, “I'm having singing lessons.” And I'm thinking, “Well, hang on a minute, if you can't sing, you can't hold a note, or you can’t hold a melody, then nobody can teach you that.” If it's not in there, it's not in there. A good singing teacher will teach you how to breathe: how to use breathing techniques for the difference in falsetto and normal and from the chest, etc.

A good singing teacher will do that for you. But so many people can’t hold a melody and can’t sing along. So many people sing along to Karaoke and think they're great and they're not. They can't hold a melody even they know the song backward.  I've been asked this question many times—if you're good at what you do, just go out and sing live as much as you can. Because there's nothing like singing to people regardless of whether it's two people, ten people, twenty people, two hundred . . . whatever.

I mean, I first started out doing small clubs in the north of England. They’re called “working men's clubs” where the workmen would go after they'd finish their days’ work. They would go to the bar and have a few pints of beer and talk with their friends. I've played at gigs where there's maybe four or five guys in there with a couple of dogs, and in between songs, they would play Bingo, and then you'd come on and sing some songs, so I know what it's like to play to very few people. But once you can do that and make them listen to you, then you know you're on the right path. But the best way to establish it is to get out there and sing live so somebody hear it.

These days, YouTube is the best way for people to get recognition. So many artists these days have gotten their recognition through YouTube, especially bands like the Arctic Monkeys and people like that. People have seen them on YouTube and say, “Hey, you gotta see this band,” and it's word of mouth that's passed down. So, YouTube is a great way of doing it. Today, the technical ability to record stuff in your own living room, in your own bedroom with a computer, is limitless so for anybody out there, if you're just starting out, try every possible way to get your voice out and be heard. That's the best way to do it.

John Lawton today

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Brief but Very Candid Conversation with Caroline Munro

Caroline Munro and myself, Chiller Theatre—Oct. 2013

Caroline Munro was a memorable presence in 70s and 80s fantasy and horror cinema. She started  her career in Britain, her native land. Hammer Films,  a studio versed in horror and fantasy film, hired  her as an actress. You couldn’t take your eyes off her great beauty. In the Hammer films, she played either a gypsy or a former slave girl beside the hero as he battled villains, evil men, vampires, or monsters. Besides Hammer, other studios found roles for her in British horror or fantasy films.

She first became noticed by American audiences when she played the villainess Bond girl, Naomi, in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).  Her first American film was Maniac (1980), a groundbreaking horror film in which her character, Anna D’Antoni, befriends a serial killer played by Joe Spinell. Also around the time, Caroline had her first starring role as Stella Star in Starcrash (1979). Caroline’s character is a Barabella-like heroine who battles against the bad guys in a Star Wars-like universe.  She would continue to do more American productions such as The Last Horror Film (1982) and Slaughter High (1986) . She also appeared in an Adam Ant video around the time. By the 90s, her appearances had become brief and would slowly come back into the films by 2006.

I met Caroline recently at the Chiller Theatre, and as she is friendly as she is beautiful, and super nice. I was able to conduct a brief interview with her. I agreed to her agent Jane’s request, which was to ask her four questions only, and not interfere with the fans who wanted her autograph. Although I wasn’t able to ask her all the questions I wanted, I did get some good replies from her. One of the things we talked about in this interview is something most fans of Caroline don’t realize— she is a singer, and Adam Ant is not the only famous musician she collaborated with.

Caroline’s answers were so interesting that I would have like to conduct a bigger interview than the one I got. (If Jane or her stepdaughter, Tami, is reading this, please let Caroline know I would like to conduct a more-extensive interview if she ever has the time.) Nevertheless, I am happy to have taken the time to interview Caroline. I want to thank Jane for giving me permission to interview Caroline on a day she was there to greet other fans and sign autographs. And most of all, I want to thank Caroline.

Jeff Cramer:How did you get started in the industry?

Caroline Munro:A very long time ago, for one thing. I started accidentally, really. I was at art school, and there was an art student—a chap—who wanted to take some photographs of me, which I did. And he asked my mother, took the photographs, and then showed my mother. I was only sixteen. He showed my mum and asked if he could send photographs to a very, very famous English photographer at the time in the 60s called David Bailey. And he wanted to send these photographs out. David Bailey had a competition, and they sent the photographs out, and by some fluke it won the competition. The photograph won, and I won what’s called the Face of the Year. So I became the Face of the Year in ’66. And that was my first foray into modeling.

I did modeling for a good few years. I worked for American Vogue and product commercials and print work. And then I started—I think my first films—oh, I was an extra in the original Casino Royale.

JC: Yeah.

CM: So no lines, no dialogue. So I started doing a little bit of extra work, and gradually I got more work and I got a part playing Richard Widmark’s daughter in a western, which was amazing. I got to work with Richard, and Cesar Romero played my grandfather. So that was an incredible time. I did more films, more films. And then I got a contract from Hammer. I had to screen test, and they contracted me for the year. I did two films, Dracula A.D. and Captain Kronos. So I’ve been very lucky. I’ve worked with some amazing people and traveled to some lucky places.

Caroline bitten in Dracula A.D. 1972

JC:Now I don’t have time to go into all of your movies, but have you done many. What was a memorable time during your acting career? 

CM: Yeah, I think Dracula A.D. was one of the turning points. And then from there I did Kronos, and then Brian Clemens wrote and directed Kronos. He had written a screenplay for The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and he felt I was right for the role of Margiana in Sinbad. And he took Ray Harryhausen and Charles Schneer, ’cause they wanted a big American name, and he said, “No, I think Caroline is more right for what you’re looking for, for the role of Margiana.” And they supposedly liked what I did, and therefore I got the role. I got to work with Tom Baker and John Phillip Law.

Caroline in the Golden Voyage of Sinbad 

JC:You’re obviously an actress and a model, but one thing that’s rarely talked about is that you sing. 

CM: I did a bit of singing. I did.

JC: Yeah, let’s talk about that.

CM: I used to sing in a church choir when I was in school. Not very well, mind you. And my dad’s friend was head of Decca at the time; they had the Rolling Stones. They had the really good people in the 60s, and they were looking for a female singer, a young female singer. And he said, “Would you like to have a go?” so I sang a bit for him, and he decided to put a really good producer with me and he took me to Abbey Road. So I was singing in Abbey Road Studios. I sang a song called, “Tar and Cement,” which was my first. [To hear “Tar and Cement,” click here.] A really good producer. And I had a few hits. And then my backing band, my amazing backing band, we had Eric Clapton, we had Steve Howe of Yes, we had Jack Bruce, and we had Ginger Baker.

JC: Oh, awesome.

CM: I had a pretty cool band.

JC: Yes.

CM: And they were session musicians before Cream, the band.

JC: Yes.

CM: So that’s how I started singing. And then, you know, I’ve done various bits and pieces with singing and Gary Numan. He produced a song I sang called “Pump Me Up,” which was a big hit in Italy. [To hear “Pump Me Up,” click here.]

Caroline’s “Pump Me Up” single

I also appeared in music videos with Adam Ant and Meatloaf, so I have gotten to work with quite a lot of people in music.

Adam Ant and Caroline

JC:So what have you been up to these days?

CM: I’m keeping fairly busy. I have two daughters; Tami, my stepdaughter, lives in Seattle, and my two daughters live in London, who are both doing art. One is pursuing acting, and the other one is pursuing singing—she has a great voice. But I’m still busy. I’ve starred in three independent films in England: two cameos and one role as the main lady. It’s just been shown in England this week, called The Landlady. It’s a short film—twenty minutes long’s that’s what I’ve been doing. My dream is to work with Rob Zombie . . . love him. Obviously, Quentin Tarantino, too. I admire them very much.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Very Candid Conversation with Linda Haynes

Linda Haynes was a memorable presence in 70s cinema. In addition to her great beauty, she often appeared in gritty cinema cast as women who fall in love with the wrong men whether they be Robert DoQui’s pimp in Coffy, Jason Miller’s gangster in The Nickel Ride, Andrew Robinson’s con man in The Drowning Pool,  William Devane’s psychologically damaged Vietnam vet in Rolling Thunder, and Tim McIntire’s prison trustee in Brubaker.  The male characters are incapable of loving Haynes’ character back, but all of them are aware of how much she loves them and how loyal she is to them.  Linda did one leading role in Human Experiments, where she played a country singer falsely convicted of murder who eventually finds herself in prison, only to become  subject of the prison psychiatrist. The psychiatrist performs experiments that reduce Linda’s mental state to that of an infant, and then tries to rebuild her psychologically to function in  normal society.
After Brubaker, Linda’s career came to an end as she left acting and the industry. Though her career ended, she had not been forgotten by viewers. One of those viewers was Quentin Tarantino. He had tried to cast Linda in an episode of E.R., which Linda turned down. Since Tarantino was unable to get her, it would seem that viewers would not hear from Linda again.

But in 2013, viewers reheard from Linda.  Although she was not back in the industry, she agreed to do interviews for the blu-ray edition of Rolling Thunder and now maintains her Facebook page where she freely communicates with her friends and fans.

In this candid conversation, we discuss Linda’s acting career( from the beginning where she acted in a Japanese film Latitude Zero to the end in 1980), her life after her career ended and what she’s up today. I really want to thank Linda for taking the time out to do this interview. 

Jeff Cramer: Well how did you get started in the industry anyway?

Linda Haynes: Quite by accident. It wasn't that I was wanting to pursue that. I eloped when I was 16. We eventually moved to California, to Los Angeles. We had a dog. We were walking on Beverly Drive I think and a guy pulls up, a silent screen actor by the name of Ben Bard. He was running an acting class and asked if my husband and I wanted to attend. My husband didn't want to, but I did because I didn't have anything else to do.

I started there with Ben Bard and then I did a showcase. Ben invited people in to view his talent. I got an agent from that. His name was Maury Calder. I think the first thing I got was a screen test with Richard Zanuck. They didn't like the screen test. So that's really how I got started. And I went on 'cause I didn't have anything else to do. It was the path of least resistance.

I was approached and I figured, "Well okay, I'll give that a try." Maury sent me out on auditions and I got a bit part in the movie In Like Flint. It was a non-speaking role and I was dressed out like a boy kidnapping the president off the golf course. I believe after that my next thing was Latitude Zero in Japan.

JC: Okay, so how did you get that Japanese film?

LH: That's a good question. [laughter] I must've auditioned but I don't remember auditioning for it. I was 20 when I got that job.=

JC: Yes.

LH: I remember how uncomfortable I was because I knew I had to go to Japan – to Tokyo for two months.

Linda(far left in Latitude Zero)

JC: Right.

LH: And I hadn't been away from home. And Tokyo was foreign – very foreign. The movie was foreign and there were translators – God love them, they were really helpful. But the whole thing was kind of uncomfortable for all of us because we got sick. It was cold there. We got the flu and Joseph Cotten and his wife talked about that in interviews too. The only one who was really comfortable was Richard Jaeckel because he had been in Japan so much.

So he knew people there and so on. But it was certainly an experience. Later I went back to Japan and I was a lot more comfortable, but that was of course decades later – not to work.

JC: Now one of the things I had heard about that film was that Joseph Cotten and his wife said that you did not get any money until six months after the film was there because the American producer left you.

LH: Yeah, there was some problems there and Joseph Cotten was the one that took care of it. He was like a spokesperson for the rest of us 'cause I didn't know how to deal with them. We were in a hotel and I don't remember ever having any problem paying for it. We weren't under threat of being evicted or anything. So I don’t know if it was our paychecks or our per diem or what it was that was at issue. But apparently somebody didn't want to pay or didn't pay or whatever it was.

But we survived it, and we did get paid in the end. I don’t know what it was that triggered that problem, but he solved that for us. At least for me he did because I can't remember exactly the particulars. I guess in Joseph’s biography – I know that there's a biography (a short little book about him) where he talks about it there. But it worked out, and then I went to see the movie in Santa Monica and it was really a laugh at that time.

The kids were laughing and they thought it was pretty funny. [laughter]   

JC: Well, it’s hard not to laugh when you see a flying lion.

LH: What was it, a flying lion?

JC: Yes. [laughter]

LH: Well, that is a little bizarre.

JC:; Yeah, I just recently watched the movie as I was getting ready for this interview.

LH: Well, bless your heart, because I haven't seen it but now, going back years ago because I have to force myself to do this stuff. And it's good in one way because when I saw it initially I was very critical of everything I did. Now I'm not so critical because time has passed and you figure, what the heck. I know that I was really uncomfortable 'cause I wasn't used to acting. That was like a foreign thing and it was uncomfortable.

Ishirō Honda didn't speak English although he was able to get his points across even in Japanese. You know, you kind of got a sense of what it was he wanted. He was a very, very nice person.

JC: Yes.

LH: Everybody was really, really, really nice on the set. There was no problem with the actors, crew or anything. Everything was amicable.

JC: Okay, then it would be a couple of years, although I think there was some TV. Coffy is the next movie you did, you know?

LH: Yeah, and that was fun. I think I recently watched it before I went to California to do an interview. I had to watch a string of them. I was surprised. I was surprised at the movie itself – you know, what it was about, and so on. But it was fun working with Pam Grier and Bob DoQui and you know. It's tough to remember this stuff going way back. I mean I'm going really far back. And three years I didn't even think of it nothing because I was too busy living the life that I've been living.

Linda(far right seated) in Coffy

So I just saw I did Room 222 with Karen Valentine.

JC: Yes.

LH: And I can only remember – and I watched maybe a week ago – that there are exactly two things that I remember and that was one on the scene of the outside. The kids were circling me, haunting me. And I remember that Karen Valentine ate the biggest breakfast I've ever seen anybody eat before she started work.

JC: Really, and she's not heavy.

LH: She's not heavy, no. She's like a healthy normal person, and she looked great today. I saw a picture of her. But that is all I remember. So it's like I couldn't remember that anything – I couldn't remember the clothes that I wore, nothing, nothing, nothing. It was so novel to see that. And again I hadn't had a lot of training when I did that. So I was uncomfortable as usual. But again I did the job okay, looking at it now, for as young as I was and as inexperienced as I was.

But that’s all I can remember. It's amazing how one can forget. Usually, you remember clothes that you wore in a movie or something. And I didn't remember that. It was all foreign.

JC: The thing with Coffy, though; that was the beginning of a bunch of characters you would begin to continuously play. In Coffy, your very devoted to Robert DoQui's pimp character. You would continue to be very devoted to other criminal characters in the roles you play.

LH: Yeah, right, that kind of was a thread through my career, playing a girlfriend or whatever, or a wife. And I guess that’s how they saw me and cast me. Today, were I to do that many years later I would be cast differently, I would think. You know that's how it was then and I just simply took what was offered. There were a few refusals. There were a few things I didn't want to do and I think – I'm not sure what it was.

It was another movie in Japan and I think Roger Corman. Maybe it was the Big Bird Cage. It was something like that that I didn't want to do. I'm not sure.

JC: 'Cause the next one is – and this is where you are very comfortable in it because it's a major role now: The Nickel Ride.

LH: Yeah, well that was comfortable to make. By then I believe I had had some training. Somewhere along the line I had gone to workshops and I had become a life member of the Actor's Studio. So I began to get some tools, some craft. So it wasn't so difficult then and what I did – I improved. And then the people around me made it easier I guess to do well or to feel more comfortable in what I was doing. But there's definitely a craft and tools to use.

Then I began to feel very comfortable with the camera. I decided, "I've got to be friends with this camera and I have to be really intimate with it and not be intimidated by it." And also make what's going on in the scene, the person or whatever it is – actually just let the life flow that was going on. Then things got easier. But they didn't have those tools in the very beginning, so it was just like, "Well let's see, do the best we can here no matter how uncomfortable I am."

In some ways that worked, like in Latitude Zero. I was so young and played a doctor. Well a doctor – usually they don't act like comedians, with a few exceptions. I've had a few doctors that have been – You know so the fact that I was kind of stiff – reserved. I guess that worked for me but that was what I was. I was very, very uncomfortable. And I know Pat Medina, my co-star in Latitude Zero, and I, were in a car driving somewhere.  I had said, "Well I wonder what something said about the actresses," or something. Her retort was, "Well as far as I'm concerned I'm the only actress in this film." I didn't say a word. No argument there. It takes time. It takes time.

I look at the credits and I see with The Nickel Ride there were people – John Hillerman and Victor French went on to their own TV series and got major roles in TV series. So it's really a matter of staying with it and delivering the goods.

Linda in Nickel Ride

JC: One thing about The Nickel Ride there's a moment there in the thing where Jason Miller's character is describing your dancer past. And you do a little shimmy just in front of Victor French. From there we could see right away what also attracted Miller to you and it gives a good idea from your past. It's just a one little moment there you know?

LH: I didn't remember doing that either until I saw it on the little clip on whatever. [To see the clip, click here.]

JC: YouTube, yeah that is a popular clip from it.

LH: I thought that was okay. That was all right with me 'cause I'm always watching to see when there's BS going on: where I was uncomfortable, what worked. And through that scene work we were all comfortable and it works. I'm satisfied with that. So that was okay, and I didn't really think much about it, about developing a past character, being in the – whatever, more depth or carney or whatever it was we were talking about. I just gave them a little shimmy.

JC: The next one would be The Drowning Pool where you shared it with Paul Newman.

Linda with Paul Newman in Drowning Pool

LH: Right.

JC: Let's talk about that.

LH: Well, he was easy to work with. I mean, he's a super nice guy. That was a cute scene. I don't know. We did a little bit of rehearsing but the scene just kind of worked. It was easy to work with him. Again, that was fun.  Of course I had Monty Westmore on hair and makeup, and you can't ask for better than that. I looked glamorous rather than weather-worn like in Rolling Thunder where we were outside and it was hot.

Tommy Lee and Billy Devane would call me greasy because I would get greasy all the time from the heat. But it was fun. Paul Newman of course; he had his own chauffer which was Mario Andretti's backup driver. So when we went from Lake Charles where that trailer scene was filmed back to where Lafayette is where we were staying, he said, "Do you want to ride with me?" I said, "Yeah, okay.

We were riding in the car back to Lafayette and I looked out the window. We were drinking a bottle of French wine after work and I looked at the cars and I said, "How come all these cars are stopped on the highway." Over the wetlands they put like a freeway. Well it turned out that those cars were going 55 miles per hour. In those days maybe that was the speed limit. And we were going like 120.

JC: [laughter]

LH: It was hilarious because I'm not really fond of driving fast. In fact if you drive too fast or too carelessly in the car with me today I will probably ask to be let out on the spot because I don't like it. But it just looked like all the cars were stopped, relative to how fast we were going. And anyway we made it back to Lafayette in no time whatsoever. But that was fun. And he was a super, super nice guy. I was really sorry to hear when he died. Anyway, that was a good project.

JC: Now we come to Rolling Thunder. Again, the one line of dialogue you say would be true for all your characters, "Why do I keep getting involved with crazy men?"

LH:Yeah right. [laughter] I don't know. I don't know why they saw me that way and cast me accordingly. That worked. The idea is to work. I don't know what it was but apparently that's the way I was seen and what I took. And I was comfortable enough to play that. It's like an old shoe I guess.

Linda with William Devane in Rolling Thunder

JC: But anyways let's talk about that film. Tell me what you remember about it.

LH: Oh let's see. Well we were in San Antonio I think for a couple months. Geez it's tough to think back that far.

JC: I know this is the one that is Tarantino’s favorite film and he even contacted you about it.

LH: Well, I can believe that because when he contacted me about that I was married, and we were living between here and Florida and the Bahamas. I didn't know who he was. I wasn't particularly interested in watching movies. He wasn't as big as he is now. And I figured, "Now why would I fly to California?" Number one he called and I had just awakened from a nap.

I really had finished with all that because my life was into something else. I wasn't working in any law office at the time but we were commuting between Florida and the Bahamas. I was more interested in snorkeling and relaxing than I was in working. At that point I wasn't very interested in it. If you were to call me today I'd have a different reaction altogether. But you do what you do and I'm glad he liked the film. I'm glad he liked my performance in it because again it was comfortable.

We had a good time in that film as well. I remember Billy Devane saying, "Well, she should go with us to the end," where they have that –

JC: The massacre at the end.

LH; He threw his two cents into that but they didn't go for it so I was left at the motel room and he went on to do his thing there. I didn't argue with anybody. I just did what they told me to do. I figured it's their job to make these decisions – John Flynn and the writer and so on. So I just figured, "Whatever."

JC: What do you remember about Tommy Lee Jones?

LH: Super nice guy. He's super smart. My sister came to San Antonio so after working hours were over we were able to talk as friends, etc. These were really super nice normal people. He certainly got to be a colossal star. Well they all did – Billy Devane too. But I had chosen to go another way. I don't know where I'd be if I continued, but anyway it was fun. It was fun doing that. It was fun. The scenes were fun to do.

JC: By the way were you really that good of a shot in that scene?

LH: I think I was 'cause I hit the mark, and I had never fired a shotgun before. So I may just be really talented in that. [laughter] Because I remember – I mean it was shooting blanks but I remember when I shot the gun it hit what I was looking to hit. And of course the kick on the shotgun gave me a good bruise. They must've covered it or something 'cause I had never shot anything like that before. But I guess I was a good aim. So that was fun.

JC: Now you had your first – I guess it was your only starring role – Human Experiments.

LH: Yeah, right.

JC: Okay what was it like there where you had to carry the whole film?

LH: Well it's like you just trust in other people that it's going to be okay. I did my part of the work, and Greg Goodell was a great director. He was just starting out. He had been, I think, doing documentaries before that. I just thought when I saw the script that there was a vast array, all the way from singing to getting nuts and having bugs dumped all over me. I thought, "Well this is a good vehicle to really be able to fill a lot of facets, or a lot of range." So I wanted to do that.

And we had a lot of fun doing it. The bug scene of course was really – When they started dumping stuff from the scaffolding, garbage buckets full of crickets. I wouldn't let them use roaches because that's too icky. I'm from Florida and crickets were one thing. But it still was icky having that many around me – or dumped on me. But I did it, and then I went in my trailer and I composed myself. It was kind of tough. Then I told Greg, "Listen. You've got one chance. You can do anything you want." And he went in with a handheld camera with me and he suffered the same as I did because I'm sure he got full of bugs.

We shot it and it was over with. But that was creepy. I didn't mind it when they put the tarantula because those were well-placed. I knew where they were. They had put Styrofoam in the tarantula's mouth so he couldn't bite, and the same with the scorpion on his stinger. So I knew that I wouldn't get stung or bit. And also the tarantula decided he needed to urinate so he urinated on me.

Linda with bugs in Human Experiments

JC: Eh.

LH: And I didn't know tarantulas urinated. I thought, "Oh that's an interesting thing." But that wasn't so bad. It was just crawling through a thing with those on and I was careful not to squash them. I had to crawl through some kind of tunnel, and they were on me. As long as I knew where they were and what they were doing I was okay with it. But it was a fun shoot with Jackie Coogan and Aldo Ray. And then Ellen Travolta is super nice. Everybody was nice. I never had any complaints about anybody.

JC: Were you actually singing?

LH:No, no, I said that I could sing. And of course we can all sing but whether we sing good or not is a whole other story. But I said, "Yeah, sure I can sing." But as it turned out, they dubbed it. And they dubbed with a lady by the name of Linda Handelman, which was my first married name. That was just coincidental. It was spelled a little bit different but she sang and I lip synced. Or I guess I sang and it looked like I was singing it. 'Cause I've seen the footage and it worked out well.

That was good.

JC: Okay then we come to your last film Brubaker.

LH: Brubaker was my least favorite of what I did.

Linda in Brubaker

JC: Really? The Robert Redford one would be the least favorite of what you did. Why is that?

LH: Well it wasn't Robert Redford. It was my own performance that I don't like because I didn't really probably have a clear idea of what it was that I was to do. There were just some things that worked better than others. I mean the film itself; people liked it – and Robert Redford. I didn't really get to know him very well because I only had the one scene with him. I did the best I could but it was – Actually when I look at it I didn't really like what I did too much, certain scenes anyway.

I know I was the trustee's girlfriend.

JC: Right, and he gets killed.

 LH: Yeah, but I haven't really seen that movie in a long time so I'm not that familiar with it to talk about, it but I do know that when I looked at it, when I did see it last, I remember thinking, "I'm not real thrilled with that performance." And then the very last thing I did was the Guyana Tragedy. That was okay. By that time, my life started changing, and I decided that it was not a healthy life, and I wanted to change it.

I wanted to have a baby. Greg Goodell and his wife had had a baby and I thought, "When am I going to do this?" And living – It was a lot of drinking and drugging. And on that last set on the Guyana Tragedy there was more drinking and drugging and I decided that I didn't want that anymore. I figure, "Hey is this all there is?" And I had been doing that kind of work – either working or being rejected for 15 years more less I'd stayed in California. I decided, "I'm going to stop and I'm going to change all this."

I was married, and I didn't have to work if I didn't want to. But I decided to change everything radically. I did. I divorced, moved across country, got remarried. And that didn't work out at all, but I wanted a baby, and I knew that in order to have a baby you need to be healthy. And you need to provide, give a basis for children, and take care of them. Eventually, I moved back to Miami and I lived there. I didn't have any money.  I didn't even have a car. So when I arrived in Miami I didn't have anything. I was pregnant and decided that, "Well, I think I'd better get my GED," because I'd never finished high school. I eloped when I was in the tenth grade. And then I went on to a business college.

I had to learn how to do something fast. It wasn't like I could start college. So I just figured, "Well, if I can work in the legal field there are always a lot of law suits and stuff like that." So I learned that, then learned on the job. I did that for decades. I'm now a grandmother. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old grandson. My son is happily married. He turned out really normal, and I think it was the right decision. I just recently retired from litigation. There was no shortage of work, because we were doing defense work: slips and falls, accidents, and that medical malpractice.

You get your work from insurance companies when someone gets sued. So there's no shortage of work there. But there came a time when I knew it was enough already. And plus, I had gotten sick. I'd had quite a few surgeries. So it was time for me to retire. And now I'm deciding what I'm going to do again – another metamorphosis. I don't know. I don't know what exactly I'm going to do. I love the craft – the art of acting. Even though I don't want to live in Los Angeles, I still remember it. That never leaves you, once you know something. We'll see.

JC: Since you reached out on Facebook and I notice you've been pretty active on there –

LH: I know. It's because I'm used to sitting in front of a computer. [laughter]

JC: Also, I guess, probably now more than ever, just like you got in touch with me, but you also probably got in touch with people who said, "Hey I remember you from So-and-So now during these years."

LH: Well I can't believe that would even happen. I know that you can look me up and cross-reference me with Linda Sylvander and Linda Haynes.

JC: Yes.

LH: I checked out that in certain search engines or wherever they look up people. So I figured – I don't know. Somebody contacted me. Well then Tom Graves wrote his book and then it became – He probably mentioned my last name so then people had friended me under my maiden name. And then I decided, "Well, what the hell. I'll just put Haynes in there because I'll always be known by that." I still take residual checks under the name of Haynes. I just put it in there. And then people – I was surprised that anybody would remember. I figured that's long forgotten.

But I'm really pleased. I couldn't believe that people would be – have any interest and then things coming out on Blu-Ray. And now there are reviews of performances given, of the movies and so on. That's really cool that that would happen. It's another lifetime. I mean I quit acting in '80 – 1981. So I find that amazing and very – I'm honored and flattered that they would remember.

Linda Today