AICN HORROR: Ambush Bug talks with his childhood hero Rowdy Roddy Piper about THEY LIVE!, HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN, & IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY! Plus a review of the THEY LIVE! BluRay!
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Sometimes it’s just a damn thrill to do this column and this interview allowed me to meet one of my childhood heroes, Rowdy Roddy Piper. Though I don’t really follow wrestling anymore, still, there’s something awesome about his wrestling persona and the films and television shows he’s been a part of since. Here’s what my hero, Roddy Piper had to say when I caught up to him at a con recently.
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): I’m here with Rowdy Roddy Piper, one of my personal heroes as a kid growing up. It’s great to meet you, sir.
ROWDY RODDY PIPER (RRP): Thank you.
BUG: How are you doing today?
RRP: I’m great. I had a show with Mick Foley, a comedy show last night, but he’s not speaking to me today, so I’m the only one that found it funny, I guess. (Laughs)
BUG: So is this new for you? Doing stand up? Or have you done this for a while?
RRP: You know, I don’t really do stand up traditionally. I just kind of stand up. I guess I’ve been standing up my whole life you know, but the art of stand up comedy is… I have a ton or respect for it and my house in LA is a comedy store on Sunset Blvd. and you can see me there, I’ll wander in at one o’clock in the morning either playing the piano or looking for ghosts or standing on stage, man.
BUG: Very cool. Well I reviewed THEY LIVE a couple of weeks ago when it was released on Blu-Ray.
RRP: That’s right.
BUG: It’s a fantastic film. I loved it. It’ a classic.
RRP: Thank you.
BUG: Just going into that film, how did John Carpenter choose you as the lead?
RRP: He came to WrestleMania Three at the Pontiac Silver Dome and asked me if I would have dinner with him and I had never heard of him, I’m not sure when this was, maybe eighty-seven, and so that’s why I hadn’t heard of him. I wasn’t into airplanes and dinners and the fancy life, I was into cars and stuff and so I said “No, I don’t want to have dinner” and then after the event was over a guy named Dave Wolf, who was managing Cyndi Lauper at the same time, knew Carpenter and I said “Okay” and we went and had dinner. It was just… I’m trying not to be facetious at all, we are sitting down at dinner and it’s like “Would you like some Champagne, pass the rolls, you want to star in my next movie?” And I was like, “Sure, can you pass the meat?” (Laughs) It wasn’t any more than that and then I got into it and I found out how over my head I was. I should have paid attention, but they were very kind to me.
BUG: Was that your line or was that John Carpenter’s line… the bubble gum line?
RRP: That was mine.
BUG: That was yours?
RRP: Yeah, I just… You know like back in those days I would do like ninety takes in a day, ninety two minute and fifty second takes in a day and we did so many of them I don’t really know where it came from… Some times you just put bits and parts together when you’re improving and I was in a bank and I had a shotgun…. I’m not going to rob it and Carpenter says “Say something.” And out comes, “I’m all out of bubble gum." Then "Lunch!”
BUG: It’s one of the most classic lines in any movie for me. I’m sure you hear it every day.
RRP: They told me it’s one of the top ten movie lines ever and it plays in the Guinness Book of World Records and… I’m very honored, let’s put it that way.
BUG: Have you seen the film lately?
RRP: No. I haven’t seen it since it came out.
RRP: I don’t get the chance. No the Blu-Ray, that might be cool. I never really get to see my own work unless I’m studying it to break myself down, I don’t like myself that much. I think a lot of actors are like that.
BUG: So how did you get into wrestling in the first place? Where did you start?
RRP: Oh…. I was living on the street for two years and I came fifth in the world laying the bagpipes and the youth hostel I was staying at was a YMCA and somebody didn’t show up with I was fifteen years old at the youth hostel I was staying at the priest, when pro wrestling would come through Winnipeg, Canada, he would be a local professional referee and because somebody didn’t show up, they just needed a body, so he says “I can get you twenty five bucks.” And I was like, “Sure.” And I lost in ten seconds and the guy I fought was… Do you remember Mr. Perfect?
RRP: It was his dad, Larry the Axe Hennig. He was 320 lbs. I was a hundred and sixty seven lbs. with bagpipes and my nuts hadn’t dropped yet. (Laughs) I’m pretty sure to this day it’s still the shortest match in history for Winnipeg. Ten seconds, that’s with the three second count. (Laughs)
BUG: Something made you stick with it, what was that?
RRP: They put me in a van that night and they snuck me over the border to America and I never stopped. I just didn’t have anywhere to go and they beat me up a lot. The first four years, every night I would wrestle. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and back then it was guys from the Gorgeous George Era than had collapsed and they were angry. It was very difficult, but after a while guys like Mad Dog McPhie would take me under their wing and then I got my first break in Los Angeles when I was about nineteen. I just wrestled every night. That’s the only way I learned. I sucked, but if you do anything enough I guess you kind of catch on.
BUG: Sure, you’ve paid your dues.
RRP: Oh boy, yeah. They would make me steal gas and yeah… I was the brunt of all of their jokes.
BUG: Wow! That’s great. Then Piper’s Pit came along and wrestling just became so huge. How did you deal with that, coming from the streets and then all of a sudden to be this super star?
RRP: Before WrestleMania I had been wrestling about fourteen years and I was on top in the Olympic and Los Angeles for about three years and went on a Spanish channel that went all over the world. Then I was in Portland, Oregon for about two years. Then I went to Charlotte where I beat a young named Rick Flare for the US title and then I went to TBS and so I was international way before WW anything and then Vince McMahon senior had called and I guess they had seen me some place and I was working for a guy named Jimmy Crocket who’s a direct descendant of Davey Crocket, true story, very well-known there and you know I’m…. It had to do with God, it’s not like I had any great plan. I just didn’t know what else to do but charge and I got used to that.
BUG: Well, I know we only have a few minutes and I have to ask about WHEN HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN.
RRP: (Laughs) Oh big Jesus… (Laughs)
BUG: Do you have any fond memories from that shoot?
RRP: Fond memories? The last potent male? I didn’t think anybody would watch the damn thing, you know? That was at a time in my life where I had a lot of money, I was just rolling hard. “You want to do this?” “Sure.” I had to put a canvas bag over the mutant, “Toadie the Frog” to make love to her… (Laugh) I mean, are you serious? And the damn thing sold like a million copies or something and I can’t get rid of it now! I might as well do another one.
BUG: Hah! Yeah, you might as well. I know I saw you on IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILIDELPHIA and that was great. Are you planning on doing any more of those episodes?
RRP: They’ve asked me to. They are really nice people. I might change courses. I’m doing a podcast right now called Rod Pod on the Universal City Walk and it’s the fastest growing podcast in the world and after the first seven episodes I was in the top 20 on iTunes, then I broke it down and I just went back to it. I may change course and start doing some acting. You know, one of my malfunctions is not being trained in anything. If I’m not wrestling or acting or doing stand up comedy… they are all different. It’s like maybe one day you are playing piano, the other day you’re changing pipes, the other day you’re acting and instead of focusing in on something, a guy can get doing too many things and I’m right there right now. I hate losing, so I’d rather do something really well than four things where I’m not putting my entire heart into it. So I’m just kind of reorganizing a little bit, so we’ll see what happens.
BUG: Great. Well congratulations on all of your successes. It’s great to see you here. I actually work in a residential home for boys and girls during the day. I’m therapist there, so this is a great story to tell these kids that you’ve come from the streets and have come up to be the star that you are today.
RRP: Yeah, you know keep your heart on the right side of life and god on your side. Sometimes that’s hard to do. It’s hard. It’s hard out there and so if someone like yourself is giving up your time, that’s very honorable. Good for you.
BUG: Thank you and thanks for talking with me today. It’s been a real pleasure to meet one of my childhood heroes.
RRP: God love you, man.
BUG: Thanks to Mr. Piper for taking the time. You can check out his Rod Pod podcast show here and follow him on Twitter @RodPodShow! Also check out his official website here! And check out my review of the new THEY LIVE! BluRay below!
Retro-review: New on BluRay from The Scream Factory!
John Carpenter’s THEY LIVE (1988)Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Ray Nelson, John Carpenter
Starring Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, George 'Buck' Flower, Peter Jason, Raymond St. Jacques, Jason Robards III
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
You know, when I first saw THEY LIVE all those years ago, all I could marvel at was the machine guns and the weird looking aliens and the fights and the explosions and the cool WWF hero spouting some of the coolest dialog in the history of cinema…
But now, after revisiting the film, I can’t help but admire how prolific John Carpenter and his co-writer Ray Nelson were in making this gritty modern western set in a civilization overrun by alien controllers using subliminal messages to numb the population into being mindless drones while they take over the world. Sure, it’s an apathetic and somewhat downer of a world view, but I feel it’s a pretty accurate description of the way the bulk of our sheep-like population thinks and acts today. In that, watching THEY LIVE caused me to admire Carpenter’s power to point his camera towards the future, while at the same time feel sorry for the world it predicted.
Rowdy Roddy Piper stars as a drifter who wanders into town in search for work. Seeing the lines at the unemployment office and the sad state of THEY LIVE’s world is almost like looking out of the window today. If one didn’t know it, the first moments of this film, before any skin-less faced aliens show up, feel as if this film were made today made from headlines ripped straight from today’s papers. Piper does a fantastic job here as the everyman core of the film, representative of the hard working, good hearted soul of America…that just so happens to get his ass kicked at every turn. Through luck and some shrewd observation, he begins to see what others don’t; first when a pirate broadcast attesting there are aliens among us is sounded out by the blind preacher who no one pays mind to and later, when he finds some special glasses that allow him to see past the cloaking devices and gander at the hidden messages printed on our magazines, our billboards, and street signs. He also can see past the aliens disguises. Though trying to draft others to see what he sees proves to be difficult, especially when those other people happen to be Keith David. What transpires is probably one of the best (and longest) fight scenes ever filmed. Take a look.
Chock full of manliness, Carpenter makes no bones about this being an action film. But the way he juggles genres and themes is masterful here. More so than most any other one of Carpenter’s films, THEY LIVE is social commentary at its best using creative themes to warn us of possible futures. Though with the way things are today with consumerism, collective hive-mind thinking, and face-value imagery all ruling over things like free thought, creativity, and substance these days, it makes me feel as if the aliens won.
When this film was released, I was all about the wrestling and loved it that my favorite wrestler of all time, Rowdy Roddy Piper was the star here. It really surprises me that, aside from HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN and this film, he didn’t become a bigger action star after this film. He was certainly buffer than he ever was on the mat in this film and presents himself with at the very least more charisma than Van Damme and Chuck Norris. He’s no Jeff Speakman, but his performance here shows that the guy can act decently.
The aliens themselves are both creepy as shit and goofily designed with hardly any articulation to their Halloween mask-like faces. Sure their bug-eyes are pretty shiver-inducing, but ad their mouths been able to move a bit more, I think they would have been creepier.
My only other complaint about the film has to do with the score by Carpenter, who has been known for his simplistic and iconic chords in his films. Here he relies on the same “dum-ba-daaaaa-dump” baseline waaaaaaay too often to the point of being monotonous. I understand Carpenter was trying to drive home the point that life on the streets was hard with this drudging score, but it literally feels as if you are listening to the musical equivalent of someone trying to walk hip deep in mud. Point taken, but if overused, as with this score, it makes the story feel like mud sludgery as well.
That said, THEY LIVE is as entertaining now as it was back then and more relevant by a long shot. With over the top macho posturing and ‘splosions THEY LIVE is one of those films you can enjoy as a mindless sheep or a wily coyote super genius. The new BluRay not only has an interview with John Carpenter, but a commentary by Roddy Piper and Carpenter which should not be missed.
See ya next week, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over eleven years & AICN HORROR for two. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be available on iTunes and soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK last year from Zenescope Entertainment & look for his exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81 released August-December 2012. Mark will be writing GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES to be released in February-June 2013. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
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