One of the most special nights (thus far) of my film career came when The American Cinematheque honored my film STUCK! with a special event premiere at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The theatre itself is a glorious complex just down the block from the famous Chinese Theatre, which is another spectacular (albeit touristy) place for Hollywood premieres.
STUCK! is an homage to black and white women in prison films, and was filmed in the noir style as if it had been made in the 1950s or 60s. It stars the late great Karen Black, John Waters muse Mink Stole, my muse Susan Traylor, Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s, punk rock royalty Pleasant Gehman, CalArts alum and friend Stacy Cunningham, and newcomer Starina Johnson in the title role as the girl sent to Death Row.
I knew the American Cinematheque hosted events for Hollywood big-wigs and all the cinematic greats. It was a total honor and pleasure to be included in that group, and be experiencing the event inside that very space and air.
I went to the Egyptian on the day before the premiere to set up a police line-up type of display (so fans could take their mugshots in front of it as if they’d just been “booked”). I also taped posters to the entrance way. Outstanding portraits of all the leading ladies on Death Row photographed by celebrity photographer Austin Young.
As an aside, the posters were printed at www.ShortrunPosters.com which is a top-secret place to get awesome posters made for $2 each. The best part is that there is no minimum amount you can print. You can just print 6 or 20 if you like. You don’t have to print 1,000 (I have posters from the theatrical run of FIRECRACKER that I’m unlikely to ever get rid of).
I was asked if I wanted a full on red carpet type event, or something a little more casual. I voted casual. There’s something about a red carpet that’s fine and all, but I didn’t think hoards of fans and media would be turning up like they do for Brad Pitt. I was mostly right, but surprised that when I arrived at the Egyptian the night of the premiere, there was a line of movie-goers stretching down the entire length of the Egyptian colonnade, out onto Hollywood Boulevard, around the corner and down the block. There were so many people trying to get in that the guys at the Cinematheque told me we’d start the screening 30 mins later than planned so as to accommodate all these people. It was wild.
In order to pass the time and keep people occupied, I was asked to go down in front and speak for a bit. I froze. What!? I didn’t know what else to do than to take the microphone and walk out there. When I saw the vastness of the theatre I was overwhelmed. There had to be almost a thousand people in there. I walked up in front, made eye contact with Karen Black and the rest of my cast sitting together in the front middle section. I pretended they were the only ones I was speaking to.
I told the story about meeting screenwriter Frankie Krainz, the genius who created STUCK! When Frankie and I met, I told him I’d love to make a women-in-prison film. He said, “Oh, let me write it for you.” I said, sure, and we went about the rest of our meeting. Several weeks later Frankie called and said, “I’m done!” And I replied, “With what?” (I had no idea what he was talking about). He sent me the script and I was floored. It was so moving, poetic, and like a combination of Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote, only more to the point. Reading it was hypnotizing. And then I made it into a movie.
After the screening, which was a huge success—both technically (there were no audio/projection mishaps) and critically (everyone loved it), we went across the street for the VIP after-party and dinner at legendary Musso & Frank. The owner of Musso’s had printed special menus for us, and Pleasant Gehman and Iris Berry (another punk rock royal) gave me a cake. When I cut into it, the knife hit something hard. I dug into it and discovered there was a huge file inside—perfect for use in escaping from prison!
It was such an amazing, special, incredible night. As vivid in my memory today as if it happened last week.