• A Rock! Shock! Pop! Exclusive Interview With John LaZar!

    John LaZar, star of stage and screen, is best known for his work with Russ Meyer on Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls but he’s done a lot more than just that film. John was kind enough to talk to Rock! Shock! Pop! about his career and his life.

    -Ian Jane

    IJ - So obviously you’re best remembered by cult film fans as Ronnie ‘Z-Man’ Barzell from Russ Meyer’s Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. Did your prior training as a stage actor help prepare you for that role at all?

    JL-Yes, definitely my stage training was essential. I received the brunt of my classical training at my beloved American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. As it turned out Russ Meyer was looking for an actor with a certain look and who could handle "mock Shakespearean patter". I was in Hawaii appearing on stage in Camus' Caligula when I was discovered by a Fox casting agent. That started the journey from Honolulu to Hollywood. And the rest, as they say, is history!

    IJ – I’ve got ask, was Roger Ebert ever hanging around on set while you guys were making BTVOTD, and if so, what was he like at the time?

    JL - I didn't see much of Roger Ebert while working on the set. What I remember most is by proxy. There were a few times, after lunch, that I would be handed script changes so I knew he was there!

    IJ - What was it like taking direction from Russ on one of his few major studio productions? Was he comfortable with the big studio setting or did he seem out of his element?

    JL-Russ, for the most part, let me do my own thing. He only rarely spoke up if he thought I needed some feedback. I was told that his style was very much like John Houston's. He never praised you while the process of filming was going on. It bothered some of the actors but I was having too good of a time and we understood each other! Russ seemed more than comfortable with anything that had to do with film making. He was a master cameraman in his own right. At the time, I didn't know what his relationship with the front office was with Fox, for good or for ill.

    IJ - Of course, you’d later go on to work with Meyer again on the independent Supervixens, where you played an entirely different character in the form of Carl McKinney, a would be pimp. How did this shoot compare to the Beyond shoot?

    JL - Supervixens was the throwback anti-big studio luxury project. Russ was back to his Gonzo guerilla shoot from the hip, no permits, looking out for the local "mounties" style of filmmaking.

    IJ - James McDonough's Meyer book makes it sound like you regret taking the Z-Man role, claiming that you feel it wrecked your career and wound up typecasting you in ‘freak’ roles. How much truth is there to that?

    JL-None! I've loved the role from the first time I laid eyes on the part to this very day. I believe, perhaps, the confusion may lay in the negatively panicked rejection of some in the Hollywood establishment at the time of its release based on the Manson murders. It did put me, as a newcomer, in an awkward position for a time.

    IJ – How difficult was it getting prepped and into character for the Superwoman sequence and was it tricky getting used to the costume?

    JL-I'm still not used to it! First, I had an ungodly 4:00 in the morning call which started with the shaving of my chest and the application of the now infamous breasts. Then I was fitted into "the costume". The acting was easy. The welts on my chest were hard! The high point was working with special makeup artist John Chambers, Oscar winner for "The Planet of the Apes".

    IJ - After Beyond you’d work alongside Zsa Zsa Gabore in Every Girl Should Have One – how was she to work with? There’s got to be some interesting stories to tell about that film.

    JL - Ian, you really did your homework there! I think you can only find that film at Eddie Brandt's in the San Fernando Valley. Zsa Zsa and I worked very well together. I knew my lines and she knew her lines! She kept saying, however, that we'd have to do some dinner theater. I don't do dinner theater! The other thing that leaps out at me is she had a marvelous little lap dog by the name of Genghis Khan. I must mention the great Alice Faye, former Fox beauty from the golden era of the 30's and 40's. As a child, my classmates were looking at Shirley Temple but I had my eyes on Alice and I told her so!

    IJ – Alice Faye always had a kindness about her. Every Girl Should Have One was one of the last movie’s she would act in – was she as nice in person as she appeared to be on screen?

    JL - Alice was a real sweetheart!

    IJ - Let’s talk about your television work for a bit – you had the interesting opportunity to play a Palestinian General in the David & Goliath episode of Greatest Heroes Of The Bible. This is a pretty big shift from Russ’ films – was there a bit of culture shock shifting to a project like this?

    JL - Culture shock? I didn't know we were going to get into culture! The desert was hot. The Native American extras adopted me after finding out I'm part Sioux. I worked with some of the most interesting actors of my career to date: John Dehner, Jeff Corey, Ted Cassedy, Daniel J. Travanti, etc. I never partied so hard after we wrapped the segment up.

    IJ - From there, you pop up in an adult film, Up ‘N’ Coming, with Marilyn Chambers, Lisa de Leeuw, Herschel Savage and John Holmes. This is a pretty ambitious picture for an adult film, with some pretty legitimate star power behind it. How did you wind up in this picture and what was the experience like? And was Marilyn really doing her own singing in that movie?

    JL - I was offered the part, being assured, that Marilyn was going legit. A word of caution: Quiet as it's kept, don't believe everything you're told in Hollywood! About Marilyn's singing, I really wasn't paying much attention to that!

    IJ – Interesting – I know that Marilyn did try to go legit that same year with Angel Of H.E.A.T., but obviously that didn’t quite work out. Let’s talk about Deathstalker II, which you starred in, directed by Jim Wynorski and produced for legendary cheapskate Roger Corman. This is a pretty fun movie and you get to play a sorcerer named Jerek, which, you’ve got to admit, is pretty cool. You got to magically clone Monique Gabrielle and fight John Terlersky. Anything interesting to tell us about this one?

    JL - I'm proud of the sword scene in "Deathstalker II" which I co-choreographed. Jim Wynorski had me in mind for the part and, at our first meeting, was more than pleasantly surprised that I was a professional swordsman. I loved Argentina where we filmed. The people were wonderful! More often than not, looking like an Italian Argentinean myself, they would speak to me in Spanish which, unfortunately, I don't speak. I felt like a moron but, hopefully, a loveable one! A highlight was one Saturday when John Terlesky and I treated a group of our local stuntmen to lunch. Great guys but they ordered four rounds of lunch each! John and I had to go begging to our line producer for more per diem to get by for the week! Don't cry for me Argentina!

    IJ – What about your role in Fred Olan Ray’s Attack Of The 60 Foot Centerfold where you play a doctor whose program leads to leads to a gigantic and wonderfully curvy woman growing to gigantic proportions and wreaking havoc?

    JL - Only with the great Fred Olin Ray do I inadvertently walk into shots! Fred's one of my favorite guys! I just wish I had gotten to do a scene with Russ Tamblyn. It never ceases to amaze me how you can work in a film together but not in a scene or even meet. I'd like to think of my role as the "doctor before botox".

    IJ – You also had a small but very important role in the criminally underrated Night Of The Scarecrow, where you were directed by Jeff Burr who has carved out a pretty good name for himself as a horror film director. Anything you’d like to share about this particular film?

    JL - I thoroughly enjoyed being dragged by my two colleagues, who were brothers, the mules Pete and Repeat on a very long afternoon. I was into Craft Service and they were into carrots!

    IJ – In the last decade or so you’ve done some short films and also some television work – do you have a preference, as an actor, as to which format you prefer – film or TV? Why?

    JL - I love working in all formats and now, especially, the internet.

    IJ – Let’s elaborate on that a bit then. What are you up to online, is there an official John Lazar website in the works?

    JL - I have an Official John LaZar MySpace and John LaZar Facebook for fans and friends.

    IJ – You’ve also kept busy with theatrical and stage work over the years. What roles have you been playing and do you miss making movies at all or do you prefer working in front of a live audience?

    JL - I'm most excited about the recent success of "Alice Jacobs is Dead", a horror-love story short film starring me with Adrienne Barbeau. It was written, directed, and edited by a brilliant young man, Alex Horwitz. One of the reasons he's brilliant is that he wrote it for me after seeing "Deathstalker II". It's won many festival awards including the Best Horror Short at Comic Con and is still playing. Also, it's one of the few shorts that’s been released on DVD with very hip extras! I also am working on my one-man show which is definitely work in progress.

    IJ – I’ve read good things about Alice Jacobs Is Dead and will make a point of checking it out, it sounds interesting, kind of a twisted zombie love story. Tell us more about the one-man show! This is going to be a stage show I’m guessing?

    JL - Right now, my one-man show is in the early planning stage.

    IJ - Your IMDB bio describes you as a master swordsman and a martial artist. This makes you sound pretty deadly. How quickly could you kick my ass if I tried to attack you (in all seriousness, as someone with an interest in these things, what kind of training do you really have)?

    JL - I've been around the block with my martial arts. I'm into everything from Tae Kwon Do to the Chinese Wu Shu. And, as I mentioned before, I'm a trained swordsman. Foil fencing is one of my favorites.

    IJ – Then it sounds like you could kick my ass pretty quickly. I watch a lot of kung-fu movies and am good at pretending, but have no formal training myself outside of two weeks’ worth of karate lessons when I was twelve. John, thanks for taking the time to do this interview, we all appreciate it – any last works or anything else you’d like to mention?

    JL - I'll be shooting a cameo for a short film this March.

    Awesome. Thanks John, for taking the time out of your schedule to do this interview with us!
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      AWESOME!!!! I friggin love John Lazar. Great questions, Ian.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Thanks! John was a total gentleman and a kind soul to agree to this in the first place!
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      Seems like a pleasant guy. I didn't know John Chambers did the fake boobs! I need to watch BTVOTD again. Only saw it once when I first got turned on (!) to Meyer pics and was disappointed with having seen it after the mid 70s stuff. I need to give it a chance now that I like Meyer movies for other than just sweater puppets.

      Nice read. Thanks!
    1. Ian Miller's Avatar
      Ian Miller -
      Man, you scored there! John is every bit as outgoing and pleasant as I imagined after watching the BVD disc extras. What a cool guy!

      Great job, boss man!
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I'm assuming that Alison did the banner as well....looks fantastic.
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      I did, thanks.