From his stint on the original Saturday morning sci-fi Krofft classic Land of the Lost (1974-1976), to his appearances in the 1978 horror flicks Jennifer and The Toolbox Murders, Wesley Eure was a permanent fixture in the 1970s.
Spice it up with his lengthy time on Days of Our Lives (1974-1981), throw in guest spots on countless television game shows, a successful turn as a childrens book author, and you've got one colorful life. Wesley was gracious enough to sit down with us and reminisce about his career highlights.
The Terror Trap: Hey, Wesley, nice to meet you!
Wesley Eure: It’s nice to meet you too.
TT: Born in Louisiana, raised in Mississippi?
WE: (In a Southern accent) I was!
TT: So, you’re a Southern guy…
WE: Damn straight, boy!
TT: Did you always dream of going to “the city”?
WE: (Laughs, continuing the Southern drawl...) Yeah, I saw them city folk on TV shows and thought, “I wanna be on one of ‘em!”
When I was five years old, I remember being in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and I declared to the family….much to their dismay…I said, “I’m gonna be an actor” and they all looked at me like I was nuts and from another world. And that never changed.
TT: Do you still have family in that part of the country?
WE: I do. I still have family in Mississippi and a bit scattered.
TT: Do you visit them?
WE: Not a lot...but I go to New Orleans every once in a while.
The Eure family came over in the 1600s, and the River Eure in Paris is next to the Seine. The family’s been down south a long time.
TT: So you always wanted to get into show business?
WE: Listen, my dad left when I was two and I think I needed some attention. (Laughs.) I used to say, “Okay, that’s how I’m gonna get it” so I just announced that that’s what I was gonna do.
TT: You had that actor’s bug of wanting to “be loved”…
WE: I think we’re all drawn to what’s missing in our life. I know my friends who are therapists are usually the most screwed up people I’ve ever met. My mother was a therapist too.
But you find that most people that choose an occupation - it’s something that was missing. If you really look deeply.
TT: Were you involved in school productions?
WE: Oh yeah, I was the oak tree. I think it was my first part in grade school.
I always wanted to be an actor and I pursued it. I was lucky ‘cause I had a goal all of my life. I knew a lot of my friends were always struggling - what do they want to be, etc. I never went through that. I knew exactly what I wanted to be and I was focused on it.
I was living in Vegas when my mother went to head up the drug abuse program for the state of Nevada. She wrote all the legislation for drug abuse, substance abuse, alcohol treatment programs. Stuff like that. I was at the Frontier Hotel selling artwork after high school as a job…and I met Robert Goulet and his gang...and went on the road with them as a driver for their mobile home.
WE: Yeah - It said “The Bob Goulet Show” on the side. I was seventeen, driving a giant motored home with Bob Goulet inside and Carol Lawrence and the kids…going from place to place doing concerts.
TT: That would be around 1968?
WE: Right, around 1968-1969…
That got me to New York City. While I was there, we closed at the Westbury Playhouse after three months in the summer and I just called home and said, “I’m not going back to school.” My mother said, “I figured that!”
TT: Nice! So what happened next?
WE: I checked into a YMCA in Manhattan. The first time I had ever been into Manhattan was….I met the Goulets and, like I mentioned, they asked me if I wanted to drive their mobile home. I was only seventeen and my driver’s license was a year old. They fly me to New Jersey to pick up Carol Lawrence, who was a BIG Broadway star
TT: Sure, West Side Story…
WE: That - and of course, she and Bob used to do all these wonderful musicals. I Do, I Do is what they were doing (when we were together) in a concert.
So I’m at the Garden State Arts Center in New Jersey. I had never been to a big city like New York. And I pick Carol up and I’m told, “You need to drive Carol into Manhattan to her dentist.” And I go “Uh, okay.” I was terrified. So I’m sitting in the front seat and Carol is in the back.
And David Leeland, who is this big, overweight assistant to Bob Goulet, is in the front passenger seat. And we drive under the Lincoln Tunnel and I’m shaking like a leaf. I’ve got this big Broadway star that I just met five minutes ago...and I come to the very first stoplight that was on the right side of the road instead of hanging in the middle like I was used to. There were trucks parked all along and you couldn’t see the stoplight!
I didn’t see it and I pull out and suddenly see that the stoplight is red and I back up. And a policeman comes over…
TT: Oh no…
WE: This is the very first stop light under the Lincoln Tunnel! The cop indicates for me to roll down my window. I roll it down and he goes, “Didn’t you see the stoplight?” I’m shaking and saying, “Yeah, yeah…but you see…I come from a place where they hang down in the middle and I didn’t it…as soon as I saw it, I backed up.” I was terrified.
TT: Did you get out of it?
WE: Well, luckily there was a card that said The Garden State Arts Center. He looked at that and looked in the back seat and said, “Oh hello, Miss Lawrence. Just be careful the next time.”
WE: That was my welcome to New York and “celebrityism.”
TT: Did you do much stage work?
WE: My first professional job was with the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford. I had never done Shakespeare in my life and I was doing temp work. And there was an audition. I didn’t know what it was and they told me I had to do two things of Shakespeare. I had never studied that before. So I learned two poems and had to do five minutes. I go and audition - and it was terrible, I’m sure. I got a call back and got the job with the Festival in Stratford.
It was run by Michael Kahn, who was the head of Juilliard School of Music. And it was the most prestigious company in the United States at the time. Jane Alexander was there….she was just starting out.
I was gonna be understudying Ariel in "The Tempest" and I remember rehearsing for a month in NYC and we performed in Connecticut for eight months.
The first day of rehearsal in Manhattan…I get up on stage with my little Shakespeare book…I don’t know what I’m doing and I proceed to talk with the biggest Southern drawl. And they go, “Wesley…not on our stage!” I said, “What’s wrong?” and they say, “It’s your accent!”
So they had this linguist from England named Liz Smith work with me every day in Statford to get rid of my accent.
TT: It must have been really thick.
WE: My family couldn’t understand me!
You know, it’s funny…at the end of the season with the Shakespeare Festival, everyone was drunk at a pub…there was an actor’s club at the theatre. It was our closing night and I went up to Michael Kahn and asked him, “Why did you hire me?” He told me that during the audition, I was terrible at the Shakespeare but I made them laugh so hard…
TT: That was supposed to be a compliment?
WE: Yeah, it was a compliment! He said they knew I had to be a part of the company.
TT: How did you make the transition from stage work on the east coast to Hollywood?
WE: Well, I found out that you could get a house in Hollywood for the same price I was paying for my apartment in New York City. So I said, “I’m going!” I got a house for two hundred bucks in Los Angeles and there was an ad in Variety. I think they were looking for “Barry Williams" or "David Cassidy” types. I auditioned and I got this job for a show called The Organic Vegetables starring Kaye Ballard. It was from the guy that produced The Monkees.
We had to play instruments and sing. I was the drummer, even though I didn’t really play the drums very well.
It was sold so we shot in Canada. Kaye Ballard owned an organic food restaurant and we were the waiters…and we formed a band. That was the premise. And then the writer’s strike hit. We started filming it and then it was cancelled.
I never met Kaye but now she’s a good friend of mine here in Palm Springs.
Is it true that you were chosen to replace David Cassidy on The Partridge Family?
WE: I was. ABC was gonna replace him. He was backing out of his contract and leaving the series. The series hadn’t finished its run yet and they were looking for someone to cast as his best friend/next door neighbor. They were gonna hire a guy to play the dad - who would then become the love interest of Shirley Jones.
There was a bunch of us and we all had to sing at ABC. We did our little things and I got the job.
TT: And so what happened?
WE: From what I hear, Cassidy got wind of what was going on and he said, “You know what? I think I’ll stay.” He stayed and finished out the season.
TT: During that audition process and your getting the part...did you meet the cast or visit the set?
WE: No. This was actually in a vacuum. Mostly, they wanted to see who you were and wanted to hear you sing.
TT: Did you ever want to be a recording artist?
WE: Well, Bobby Sherman was recording me. Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garret and I became friends. They used to come over to a place I rented in Beverly Hills...I suddenly had money...and they’d go swimming. Leif was at the beginning of his career…
TT: They were very young at that time…
WE: We were all young.
TT: Was it a disappointment when The Partridge Family fell through?
WE: It was but I immediately got cast in TWO series. I got Land of the Lost and Days of Our Lives.
WE: Pretty close. It happened very quickly.
TT: That’s amazing for a young actor, isn’t it?
WE: Yeah. I was real lucky. I got Days of Our Lives first and then David Merrick (the big Broadway producer) flew me to New York. They were doing Candide and he wanted me to go and star in that. They flew me in to see the production that they just opened and while I was there, the phone rang and I was offered the part of Will Marshall on Land of the Lost.
They said I had to “play sixteen” and I was like nineteen or twenty. I turned them down at first and they kept calling and I finally said. “Okay, I’ll do it.” That’s how that happened.
NBC let me shoot both series.
TT: How did you manage that?
WE: Days of Our Lives made sure that all my scenes were filmed in the morning for three years. And then I would race over to General Services Studio in Hollywood - and run from dinosaurs!
In the morning, I was crying that my girlfriend was cheating on me…and in the afternoon, I was running from dinosaurs. It was a lot of fun. I had a great time.
TT: What a cool story…
Tell us about your first impression of Sid and Marty Krofft?
WE: I had met Sid Krofft prior to getting the job. He was this great guy. He was like this spiritual kind of guy and into organic food. I just thought he was amazing.
TT: And Marty was more of the business guy?
WE: Marty is the business/salesman. Yeah. (Laughs.) Marty could sell ANYTHING. Sid is very metaphysical and spiritual. I mean, it takes someone like that to do Lidsville, for God’s sake.
TT: Sid is the creative force…
WE: Exactly. When they were casting Land of the Lost, it was Sid who put my name in the pot to come in and audition.
TT: Land of the Lost was a dark and intense show for a Saturday morning program. To what do you attribute its success?
WE: I think the dinosaurs, of course. And the storylines…it was a great story about a family…they didn’t have a mother. And there was a father taking care of his kids. There was love between a brother and a sister….a real family relationship.
And then also, so many of the scripts were written by the Star Trek writers. So there was some really terrific sci-fi for that time.
TT: Glad you brought that up. You really did have some exceptional writing talent for a childrens TV series - Walter Koenig, DC Fontana, Larry Niven, among others. Do you know how many episodes Fontana wrote?
WE: I don’t, no. But David Gerrold was one of the head writers, and he had written "The Trouble with Tribbles" for Trek. There were a lot of really great writers, and some of the stories were way ahead of their time. The stuff with the Pylons, the crystals, the time warps.
TT: It sure hit a cord with younger viewers on Saturday mornings.
WE: It did, it really did. I got emails once from some guy who told me he didn’t have a family, and he used to watch Land of the Lost and just dream that he was part of our family. It touched people on a lot of levels.
You know, it was number one in its time slot...but the reason it went off the air is that the stop frame animation/claymation was so costly. It took eight hours to do thirty or sixty seconds. Today, they would just pop it into a computer and it would be done.
TT: Sure. But we prefer the old school claymation to CGI effects. It was much more charming.
WE: Yes. That was a great time.
We had two huge sound stages. One was a jungle with the lagoon and our cave. And the other was Chroma-key - it was all painted Chroma-key blue...so they could superimpose us with the dinosaurs. It was pretty amazing.
TT: How about those Sleestaks? They were scary!
WE: Yeah! They were played by UCLA basketball players. Bill Lambier of the Detroit Pistons, was a Sleestak. He talks about it. These guys would come…and they were already like seven-feet tall…and they would put on these heads with the points and heels. And it made them almost ten-feet tall.
TT: Did they use heels or stilts?
WE: They had boots with lifts. But the pointed heads made for colossal monsters….
TT: What was it like working with Walker Edminson, who played Enik?
WE: He was a wonderful actor. He actually played several roles on Land of the Lost. There was an episode in the first year and he played a miner/pioneer guy…
TT: Didn’t he also do the voice for Sigmund in Sigmund and the Sea Monsters? It’s very distinct…
WE: I think you’re right. He passed away about three years ago.
TT: Did you stay in touch with him until his passing?
WE: I didn’t. I didn’t see anybody, really. I talked to Kathy Coleman a little bit. I have not spoken to Spencer Milligan since he left the show. Philip Paley, who played Cha-Ka, and I have reconnected. He just got married to his wife Marla and we’re recreating a wonderful friendship.
TT: That’s nice.
WE: Remember, he was a little kid. Nine-years old when I started on the show. I think I was twenty when the show started.
TT: You were twenty-three.
WE: Now lets not get too technical. (Laughs.)
I HATE the Internet. I hate it! You can’t lie anymore. (Laughs.) You know, for an actor...it sucks. You can’t get anyway with anything anymore. You can’t do anything, you can’t have a secret. Nothing.
I was going to lunch the other day and a friend of mine calls me up and says, “Oh - I hear you’re having lunch with the editors of LIFE Magazine and I go, “How did you know that”? And he tells me it’s on their Tweet!
TT: Well, if it’s any consolation…we prefer the old days when someone like Joan Crawford could subtract a few years from her age.
WE: Me too! I mean, my goodness.
It’s terrible. I tried to lie about something when the Internet first came out. And some guy said, “Uh, no...I’m looking you up right now and this is what you are.” And I go, “Oh jeez…”
TT: You have such a great rapport with Kathy Coleman, who of course played your sister Holly on Land of the Lost. The warm relationship you two have is so evident on the LOTL DVD commentaries. It’s obvious you have affection for each other and enjoyed working together.
WE: Oh, absolutely.
TT: What do you remember about Spencer?
WE: Spencer was a great guy. He just kind of lumbered around. You know, he took everything very seriously. His acting was very serious.
TT: Was he the Robert Reed of Land of the Lost?
I was really upset when he didn’t do the final season. It was like a betrayal to all of us.
TT: Why did he leave?
WE: He had some contract dispute with the Kroffts, I guess. I don’t really know what the whole story is. I never found out. Nobody told me.
So we had Ron Harper come in as a replacement. And I was working with his wife on Days of Our Lives.
TT: Oh, didn’t know that.
Do you think the addition of Ron as Uncle Jack in the third season helped or hurt the series?
WE: Well, I think switching the cast hurt the show. I don’t think Ron had anything to do with it, personally. He was terrific and did a great job. In fact, in some ways the third season is almost the best. It certainly upgraded itself as far as animation. It went up a couple of notches.
And I got to sing - which of course, was just fabulous. I used to play my three-string cord guitar and have an orchestra play. It was really an amazing feat.
TT: You sounded pretty good…
WE: (Laughs.) Oh, thanks. I appreciate that!
You know, I liked the two-headed dinosaur in that third season. We also changed locations and lived in the Lost City.
I actually had not seen those shows until a marathon on the Sci-Fi Channel when the movie came out sometime last year.
TT: Don’t you have the seasons on DVD?
WE: Yeah, but I've never watched any. I have them but they're covered with dust.
TT: What is it like when you watch yourself? Is it a self-conscious feeling?
WE: Well, I think, “My God…what a cute, fabulous actor!” (Laughs.)
TT: Whose idea was it to have you sing the theme that plays during the opening and closing credits?
WE: I was pushy. I was singing a bit. After I got cast on The Organic Vegetables and that fell through, the producers of The Monkees were trying to put me together with Mike Curb. He used to have the Mike Curb Congregation and then he became Lt. Governor of California. He put together a group of white boys for Motown. There were four guys, including Michael Lloyd and myself. It was a failed attempt…and of course, Michael is now a very famous music producer.
Listen, I was never a great singer. I used to headline in Vegas. I used to open for Bill Cosby and had a big act with four girls and sets and costumes. We had forty-seven costume changes in 45 minutes.
TT: When would that have been?
WE: 1904. (Laughs.) No, it was the early ‘80s. At Harrah’s.
So I did push for the singing. I even started recording with Bobby Sherman...we were trying to get albums launched.
TT: Did you ever actually record an entire album?
WE: No. (Laughs.)
TT: Tell us about the decision to give you the credit as simply “Wesley” with no last name.
WE: Oh, that was the stupidest thing in the whole world. That was managers thinking it would be a fun thing to do. But by the third season, I was so over it…I told them it had to be Wesley Eure.
TT: Were you mortified at first?
WE: No, I wasn’t mortified because I had to agree to it...but I thought, “Oh, okay…I guess they know what they’re talking about.”
TT: It’s totally unique. People really remember that billing because it was so different and unusual.
WE: You know what…thanks for that because I've always kind of hung my head down and apologized…
TT: There was a lot of merchandising for Land of the Lost…view-masters, puzzles, coloring books, a lunch box, board game, etc. Did you get any cut of that?
WE: A little bit but the Kroffts were very careful to keep us out of that. It was before the unions got involved in Saturday mornings. So we weren’t really protected back then.
TT: Which did you enjoy more - Days of Our Lives or Land of the Lost? Or were they just so totally different?
WE: They were both fabulous. I had a great time. I mean, Land of the Lost was every kid’s fantasy. I mean, running from dinosaurs and into caves…oh my God, it was amazing!
And Days of Our Lives was a wonderful job. I kind of grew up with them - and then it was over. I’m still friends with a bunch of the cast.
TT: Have you kept in touch with the Krofft brothers?
WE: I certainly saw them in the last year. I’ve talked to Sid over the years. Marty I hadn’t.
TT: You and Kathy filmed a cameo for the film version, correct?
WE: Yeah, we did a scene with Will Ferrell - which got cut. And rightfully so. It was horrible.
TT: In what way?
WE: It was an insult. I mean, come on. They actually cast us for the part of “man and woman” and it wasn’t even written for us. There was no humor involved. What a great opportunity to find a way to make something funny. And they just stuck us in parts that they were gonna cast with day players. It was sad.
TT: That’s really unfortunate, not to mention disrespectful.
WE: Yeah, you always think you do your best job and you want to be treated well. And when it doesn’t happen, it’s sad. We always like to think, “Oh, they loved us…we were special to them.” But that didn’t play out in this scenario.
TT: Are you in touch with Kathy?
WE: I have talked to her a bit. Especially since there were some articles that came out and I was trying to protect her.
TT: What was that about?
WE: Well, it was a very difficult night filming the scene for the movie. She had some problems, some illnesses and all sorts of stuff. She was doing interviews with the National Enquirer and stuff like that. So I talked to her to make sure she was okay.
But it’s her life. She’s had a difficult life.
TT: We’re very sorry to hear that and we hope everything works out okay for her.
Why do you think the film version tanked?
WE: Well, because they envisioned it to be Curly, Moe and Larry.
TT: Our view on that is two-fold. First of all, kids nowadays don’t even have the original show as a reference. They don’t know what it is. Secondly, when you burlesque the concept and turn it into a comedy, you insult the original viewers. So you end up with no audience.
WE: You’re right. They shot their audience in the foot. Land of the Lost was a drama and they decided to make a farce. There was no plot, there was no science fiction. Will never seemed to be terribly startled. He was like, “Oh wow - there’s that dinosaur.” There was no tension or drama or ark to a storyline. Nothing happens.
Did you see it?
WE: Well see, there you go. There’s the point.
TT: Did you work much with Deidre Hall - “Electra Woman” herself? The two of you were acting in Krofft productions and ended up on Days of Our Lives at nearly the same time…
WE: I actually helped her get the job on Days.
WE: I met her when she was doing Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. I was doing LOTL. We met and she said, “Oh, I have this audition for Days of Our Lives” and I offered to work with her on it. I worked on her scenes with her and showed her what I thought they were looking for...and how to nail the soap opera audition. I felt like such a pro!
TT: That’s neat. She was on that show for years and years - until recently.
WE: All the soaps are struggling right now. All of them are heading off the air, basically. It’s no longer the three networks and there’s so many other things to watch. It’s a hard medium to continue.
TT: How did it feel to be a Teen Idol?
WE: I don’t know…it was just my life. I mean, I worked really hard. I didn’t think I was anything special and was happy to be working. I was just grateful all the time.
I bought a ranch outside the city, I had horses…I drove a truck. I lived a very quiet life and then I would go and work a lot. I was doing concerts and I was hosting telethons all across the United States for many years, especially for March of Dimes.
I wasn’t involved in the “Hollywood scene.” The truth is I was working very hard. I didn’t drink, I didn’t do drugs…
TT: Don’t you have an amusing story about the Sally Jessy Raphael Show in that regard?
WE: Yes! I had a book coming out (The Red Wings of Christmas) and they asked me to be on the show with all these ex-child stars. Paul Peterson, the girl that passed on from Eight is Enough (Lani O’Grady), Jerry Mathers… all these people…and they were talking about their lives - and suicide and drugs - and all this stuff.
I was the last guest and I’m standing behind the set piece and the producers come up to me and go, “Wesley, you have GOT to make this funny!” So I go out and Sally says “Wesley, so how have you been”? I go, “Sally, I can’t even get arrested.”
TT: You had nothing tawdry to share?
WE: Nothing. I just had a good life.
TT: That’s great.
How did the role of Kent Kingsley in The Toolbox Murders come your way?
WE: What a name. I got that part and Days of Our Lives was freaked out. They didn’t want to give me the time off and I said, “You’d better give me the time off!” I wanted to expand into the movies. I wasn't doing Land of the Lost anymore.
I was a major player on Days so I was on a lot. It required them to actually stop writing and re-write storylines. With soap operas, it’s not as simple as just getting off because everything is like a house of cards. Each storyline is based on certain events happening.
So when an actor asks for some time out or gets sick, they have to re-think everything and re-write.
TT: Were you just looking for a change of pace?
WE: Oh sure. It was a lot of fun. It was interesting because I loved playing a villain and I remember it was really cool. It was shot for nothing. And it was filmed on location in ten days or something like that.
TT: That’s a very short shooting schedule.
WE: It was really short.
TT: Any trepidation on your part - or your agent's part - about you playing a bad guy?
WE: Not at all.
TT: Were you a horror fan at all at that point?
WE: Yeah, I loved horror films. Today, I just don’t like watching people get slashed…I don’t want to watch it. Life’s a little too scary these days.
Do you have a favorite horror film?
WE: I love ALIEN. The first one. I though that was one of the scariest films I’d ever seen in my life.
TT: Good choice.
WE: Doing the part in Toolbox was kind of fun and I remember I really got into it. There’s that scene where I kill Cameron Mitchell in the kitchen. He’s got a doll that he’s playing with.
And I had just seen the new version of King Kong with Jessica Lange. There’s a part where King Kong puts her in a waterfall and washes her.
So after I stabbed Cameron, I said to the director, “I’ve got an idea.” I was at the sink and there was blood all over the doll from stabbing Cameron. I picked up the doll and I took the water sprayer on the sink and held the doll like I was King Kong, washing the blood off her as I lovingly looked at her. That was my contribution…(Laughs).
TT: Toolbox is an interesting film in that it’s really gritty - but then you have a cast of actors (Cameron aside) who were known for playing ordinary, nice people. You have Pamelyn Ferdin, Tim Donnelly (the director’s brother) from Emergency!, Aneta Corsaut from The Andy Griffith Show - and you, a Saturday morning/daytime star…
WE: True. You know, Pamelyn was the “girl who could cry.” She was known for that as a little girl actress. If you needed a girl who could cry, you’d get Pamelyn.
TT: She was ubiquitous in the ‘70s. She appeared on The Brady Bunch, was the voice of Lucy in Peanuts specials, was a regular on Space Academy…
WE: She’s amazing. And she now works with animals.
TT: That’s wonderful because we’re big animal people ourselves.
Did you have any interaction with Aneta, who played Pamelyn’s mother?
WE: It’s been so long. I don’t think so. But I’m sure our paths probably crossed. I don't think we had any scenes together in Toolbox...
TT: Did you get into the motivation for the character? For most of Toolbox's running time, it's unclear whether Kent knows his uncle has committed the murders, whether he's covering up for him...or whether he discovers it along with the viewer.
WE: I deliberately played it ambiguous, absolutely. Otherwise, I thought there’d be no surprise, no suspense.
TT: Did you see Kent as crazy to begin with?
WE: Yes. Totally. I just tried to play him brighter than Cameron!
TT: Tell us about that fun scene in which you set your friend on fire.
WE: I told them I had an idea about lighting the wooden matches with my fingernail….as I said that little “Joey Joey, burning bright…lit the night with fire light.” I made up that little ditty tune. Actually, the lyric was there but I made up the tune.
The problem with the match thing is that I practiced lighting the match so much before we shot - my fingernail was breaking off and bleeding.
WE: Yeah, during the rehearsal it had been easy - just flip it, and flip it, and light and fire. And finally, when we got around to filming, it was bloody and painful.
TT: That scene is particularly mean and vicious…
WE: It’s really who I am. “Sweet guy” is not me. (Laughs.) I thought it was wonderful. BURN him up! I loved that scene.
TT: Pamelyn was such a ‘70s sweetheart. Did you have any problem tormenting her?
WE: Uh, no! We actually got along very well. In fact, she was my date at an event during that time. I had to go to something and took her. So we had a really lovely friendship.
TT: Have you spoken anytime recently?
WE: She contacted me a few years ago. We ran into each other at some event and she was working with her animals. She was protesting big time on behalf of animals, things like that. There were a whole bunch of news articles about her. I forgot the exact details of what was going on.
TT: Were you approached about participating in the DVD commentary for the Toolbox DVD in 2002?
WE: No. No one ever contacted me.
TT: That’s too bad.
WE: The only time they contacted me is when they decided to do the remake. The director called and asked if I happened to have an original script. That’s all they wanted!
TT: Have you listened to the commentary by Pamelyn, producer Tony DiDio and director of photography Gary Graver?
WE: No, I haven’t.
TT: There’s a whole “I wonder what happened to Wesley” and “what is he doing now” section. Pamelyn says some nice things about you - and she remembers you taking your profession seriously.
WE: That’s very nice of her.
TT: Tell us about Cameron Mitchell.
WE: Well...he was kind of aloof. Kind of into his own world. And maybe part of that had to do with the character he was playing too.
This was a real step down in his career at the time, I think.
TT: Your death is not shown in the released version. Was anything shot that was cut out?
WE: No, it was just off-screen.
TT: How would you describe Dennis Donnelly as a director?
WE: I thought Dennis was really good. First of all, to accomplish that in the time frame that we shot it in. And it was made for pennies. We shot at an apartment complex in the San Fernando valley.
He was very officious and good. I thought he did a fine job. It was down and dirty filming.
TT: Did he have permission to film in that complex?
WE: Oh yeah. They had to take it over. Absolutely...because we were there a few days, making a big mess.
TT: We read a great story about how you took your friends to see the movie.
TT: Toolbox comes at the tail end of that wonderful cycle of drive-in grindhouse films made from the early ‘70s to right around that time. It was a period when gritty low-budget horror flicks were shot that made you want to take a shower after watching them…they had such a greasy vibe. You felt you had been to some surreal, nasty ass celluloid backroom…
But they were fun!
WE: Absolutely! Siskel and Ebert called Toolbox the “worst of the genre.” They raked it over the coals and I thought, “That's such a great tribute.”
TT: How do you respond to charges of misogyny against the film and the genre in general?
WE: Don’t go see it. Don’t go see it, then. Everything is in context…a period, and the time, and what was happening.
Like I mentioned earlier - one of the reasons I personally don’t see a lot of horror films is that life is a tough struggle. There’s so much violence in the world nowadays - and we see so much more violence than we saw in the ‘70s because of CNN. Look at Haiti, look at Afghanistan. Look at everything. There’s your horror movie.
WE: I just came from the Palm Springs Film Festival. I did two weeks and saw 3-5 movies a day. It’s one of the best film festivals in the country, in the world. And I avoided all the war movies and violent movies. I went for the French comedies. I deliberately avoided all of the former. I’d seen enough of it and needed to escape.
TT: We can understand that. Nowadays, you might actually see someone shooting a person in the head with a nail gun on Youtube. Or live footage of terrorists decapitating a hostage. That reality, combined with torture porn, and documentary-style horror flicks...you've lost a certain wavelength where you could get comfortable and enjoy the FANTASY of horror.
TT: Have you seen The Toolbox Murders recently?
WE: I haven’t seen it. I don’t keep a lot of stuff around of what I used to do. I don’t have pictures in my house of that life or people I knew. I don’t have one of those rogue’s galleries…
TT: So you’re not a male Norma Desmond?
WE: (Laughs.) No! Like “Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”? Not at all.