Sunday, August 29, 2010

Interview with Writer Matt Beckoff

I had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing Matt Beckoff, author of Confessions of a Scream Queen, and host of the Beckoff Show on BlogTalkRadio™.  

Matt's book Confessions of a Scream Queen has earned him a great deal of recognition and acclaim. 
Matt interviewed fifteen legendary 'Ladies of Horror' spanning over nine decades of cinema.  The differences in their generations allow for a rare glimpse into the many changes in the horror genre that occurred over time.  Their personal experiences, informative recollections, and feelings about being named a 'Scream Queen' permit us a rare glimpse of a Hollywood that no longer exists.

Me: Where are you from originally?  Where do you reside today?

Matt: I was born in Myrtle Beach, S.C. I was raised and still live in beautiful New Jersey, about 10 minutes from Manhattan. Don’t mind Snooki, she doesn't represent the whole State! I can’t believe I just used a Snooki reference.

Me: Can you tell us a little bit about your life outside of writing and hosting your online radio show?

Matt: Aside from writing and doing the show, my life seems to be fixated on show business. I have about 30celebrity clients that I book for personal appearances. When not a chickenshit, I can be found around NYC doing stand-up.  I have lots of hobbies,mainly collecting autographs and Hollywood memorabilia. Bob Burns who wrote the Foreword to the book has the best collection of memorabilia out there. I also have a Facebook addiction. I am on way more than I need to be.

Me:  How do you perceive yourself ten years from now?

Matt: Oy Vey! This is a question my father would ask! I would like to finish a few more books by then, and be living in seclusion in upstate NY. I love Jersey and being right by NYC, the greatest city in the world, but, I think I am a country boy at heart. I love the idea of not hearing neighbors and the constant interaction with people. Is that crazy?

Me: When did you first discover you had the talent to write?

Matt: Do I? It never dawned on me like that. I just went and did it. There was no epiphany. I wish there was, I might be able to give you a great answer! I will say, when I first saw my article in print, in Classic Images, I was impressed with myself, which doesn’t often happen. It felt right to me.

Me: Do you have a particular Genre that you enjoy writing?

Matt: I love doing celebrity interviews. I love writing mostly about classic movies and the horror genre specifically. I have poems and journals, but, nobody will see those. Those are just for my own entertainment.

Me: Is there a certain person(s) who you feel offers you encouragement and inspiration?

Matt: Nope. It’s all me baby! LMAO

Me: Have you taken classes in Creative Writing? If you have not, do you plan to?

Matt: I have not taken any classes. School has never been for me. I have thought about taking creative writing classes, then I get flashbacks to High School and I convince myself otherwise. Who knows what the future holds? There is ALWAYS room for improvement. I don’t care who you are, or who you THINK you are. There is always something new you can learn. The world is a big exciting place filled with lots of stuff to take in!

Me:  Have you found certain things that never fail to inspire you when writing?  If you have, please share them with us.

Matt: Not really. I think my love for movies is what inspires me to go out and interview celebrities. I get off on the idea of sharing stuff with people, not body fluids, but, stuff they can keep with them. If I have made someone laugh or enjoy my writing, I am a pig in shit. I LOVE when somebody learns something from my work. I don’t think of my interviews, as just interviews. To me, they are ‘informative conversations.’ I want the reader to feel as if he or she is there with me and the interviewee.After all, it’s for the reader.  

Me: Who are some of your favorite authors or poets?  

Matt: I know this might be cliché,but for me J.D. Salinger had a big impact on my life. I think ‘Catcher in the Rye’ was the first book I read in full. It’s at least the first book I read and enjoyed! I remember it vividly and I felt like I was reading myself in Holden Caulfield. When J.D. Salinger died recently, it felt like a part of me died. I never met the guy, never read too much of his work, then again, there wasn’t that much work to read (rumors swirl that new stuff will be released). I felt like an extension of him. I am sure lots of people feel the same way. I like lots of writers, Ray Bradbury is up there on the list. I met him at Carla Laemmle’s 100thbirthday party. I also like a lot of theater writers, one in particular is Arthur Miller. I can list so many, I won’t bore you. I like celebrity biographies too. Are celebrities authors? I don’t really put them in the same category. Ernest Borgnine wrote a fun, easy book. Gloria Stuart’s book was interesting, yet odd. I certainly didn’t think I was going to read about masturbation in her book! I spoke to her about doing an interview for Confessions of a Scream Queen, but she said it was “too late.” I met her at her 100thBirthday party in July 2010. I am at a lot of 100 year olds' birthday parties it seems. I am leaving out so many writers. I know I will kick myself eventually when I read this back. As far as poets go, I am not really a big poem person. I will stick with a cliché of an answer and go with Robert Frost. Oh wait, Edgar Allen Poe.

Me:  This interview focuses mainly on you as an author.  Do you have any other talents or aspirations that you would like us to know about?

Matt: I would like a radio show on Sirius satellite radio. If you got the hook up, please let me know. The only talent I have is making ‘spit bubbles.’ If you are not familiar with them I will explain. You simply roll your tongue in your mouth and form a bubble, and then you gently blow it out your mouth. It is actually very hard to do, and I only know one other person who can do it. Sadly, he passed, so I am the only one I know who can do it. It may seem trivial, but, I’ll tell you this; I am the most popular at all my nieces and nephews parties.

Me:  Your recent book Confessions of a Scream Queen released June 9, 2010, has received a lot of positive feedback (with the exception of one person – who in my opinion harshly judged you based on his own lack of knowledge.)  How do you feel about the huge success of your novel?  

Matt: Who judged me harshly? I missed that one. I better caller Tony no-thumbs and let him take care of that. All kidding aside I have greatly enjoyed the feedback so far. When I did book signings and they sold out and many of the actresses in the book came out in support of the book, I was on cloud 9. As far as critics, I don’t take what they say to heart. People have their opinions. I am a very opinionated person myself. I think I know what instance you are referring to now. That was a critique about the flyers to one of the book signings. A flyer, I had nothing to do with writing. That being said, I don’t know what a flyer has to do with the content of the book anyway, so moving on.

Me: The fifteen “ladies of horror” interviewed for your novel, which allowed for much diversified experiences.  They provided you with very intimate accounts of their personal experiences spanning throughout nine generations of careers.  Out of all these intimate accounts, which one surprised you the most?

Matt: The book isn’t a novel. Who knows if I will ever write a novel? That is a TON of work. I think the most surprising account out of all the interviews would be Marilyn Burns. She really went through hell when making The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. She got cuts, bruises, you name it. I was amazed at some of the stories she had to share. For instance, in the movie there is a scene in which she gets cut and bleeds. During filming she was actually cut and that was real blood we saw from a real cut. For years she had been told the prop knife malfunctioned when it cut her. It turns out they actually used a real knife to cut her! She didn’t know that at the time and for years to come. Talk about a surprise!

Me: Many people envy your opportunity to interview two very well known Centurions: Carla Laemmle (1925s Phantom of the Opera and 1931s Dracula) and Lupita Tovar (the Spanish version of 1931s Dracula).  What impressed you the most about these two women who have lived to witness many changes in the world, and experience things that many of us could only dream?  

Matt: They both have lived incredible lives and continue to do so at their age. Carla is about to turn101! Carla lived for many years on the Universal lot when it was being built by her uncle Carl Laemmle in its founding days. She actually saw Universal studios at its birth! She even witnessed Lon Chaney when he filmed Hunchback of Notre Dame there in 1923! Who publishes two biographies when they are 99years old? Well, now that I say that, Lupita is coming out with her biography and she is 100. They are both marvels when you think about it. Lupita is a true icon. She was the first movie star in all of Mexico, and is considered a legend there. They still show her movies on TV to this day, which makes her very proud. She has been pictured on stamps, lottery tickets, you name it. She is a very sweet woman; it never went to her head. I was very nervous when doing that interview, it was over the phone and she was 99 at the time. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to understand her and vice versa. Turns out it went great and I think the interview is one of the highlights of the book. So much so, her son Pancho Kohner took a part of my interview with her and put it in Lupita’s book that is coming out. I can’t tell you what an honor that is. Lupita’s family is pretty much all in show business and all very successful I might add. Her daughter Susan Kohner is an Academy award nominated actress who starred in Imitation of Life. Her son Panchois a very successful producer and wrote her upcoming biography. Her grandsons are also in the business. Chris Weitz directed the second Twilight movie, and along with Paul Weitz produced the American Pie films. Talk about full lives! Their like the Barrymore’s, but normal.

Me: Can you describe the most memorable moment in the creation of this book?

Matt: All of it is! I still pinch myself when I think about the actresses I interviewed, and how lucky I am. There is such a great, eclectic mix of truly talented ladies in the book. I  loved talking to Adrienne Barbeau, P.J. Soles, Dee Wallace, and Karen Black is a good friend, I was happy to do something with her. I am a big fan of the early Universal horror pictures and having most of the early Universal stars in the book is another highlight for me. I loved the interviews with Elena Verdugo who was in House of Frankenstein, and Janet Ann Gallow who was in Ghostof Frankenstein. It’s all very memorable for me.

Me: What (if any) disappointments did you experience during the creation of this novel?        How did you deal with them?
Matt: As I mentioned I wanted to interview Gloria Stuart and that never happened. I also was hoping to interview Barbara Steele. I really courted her. I sent her a nice bouquet of flowers, and a nice little note with them. I heard from her and her manager who said she would do it after the holidays. The holidays came and went and all my calls and letters went unanswered. It was obvious she wasn’t interested. You can’t get everything you want in life. As far as how I dealt with it. I didn’t, I am still in therapy over the rejection.

Me:  You describe your take on all things ‘pop culture’ as “offbeat and sometimes offensive” can you describe some instances where this side of your personality has been most prevalent.

Matt: As said, I am opinionated.And not everyone likes my opinions. I get lots of angry emails from people,which is kind of surprising to me. I have a twisted, sometimes dark sense of humor, so some people don’t appreciate that. I am also pretty liberal and others don’t appreciate that. I think I am most prevalent when someone calls me an “asshole” I enjoy that a person takes their time to share their thoughts with me, even if they are cursing me out.

Me: You host a myriad of popular, talented, and interesting people on your show: Jane Wiedlan (The Go-Go’s),Georgina Spelvin (1970’s The Devil in Miss Jones), Tommy James (Tommy James andThe Shondells), The Amazing Kreskin (legendary Mentalist), Craig Bierko (The 13thFloor, Boston Legal, Scary Movie 4, For Your Consideration, Dickie Roberts and the Larry David flick ‘Sour Grapes’). And soon Carol Channing.

The above mentioned is only a short list of the guests appearing on your show within the past couple of months.  Is it your influence or the connections you have obtained that draw your guests to appear on your show – or both?  

Matt: I have no influence, trust me. It is through my connections and my constant nagging that gets them on the show. It is so much fun for me. I don’t even have to get dressed. I can sit in my pajamas, talk to celebrities, and be funny. What’s better than that? The guests are eclectic, as is everything in my life. If  I am not a fan of the person, I won’t invite them on the show. I like to have interesting people on the show. When you get someone who is on just to promote a TV show or movie,they just want to talk about that, and that’s boring to me. I like having guests,that don’t really have an agenda, of course everyone promotes stuff, but I like people who like to just have fun and schmooze.

Me: You have received recognition from the LA Times, MSNBC, and Turner Classics promoted Confessions of a Scream Queen. Can you tell us your feelings toward this honor?  Have you been recognized by anyone-else not mentioned here?   

Matt: It is an honor. My book signing was in the Daily News, and I went and bought a few copies. I gave one  to my grandmother who said “I’m so proud of you, now when are you getting married?” Go figure. Famous Monsters of Film land gave the book a stellar review and that was awesome. They are like the bible when it comes to the horror genre. Classic Images is also publishing a positive review. And thank god for that. If I had written for them and they gave me a bad review, I would be crushed! I told them to write an honest review, and an unbiased one, and they did. My favorite reviews come from actual people that buy the book. That is the best compliment a writer can get. Reviews, and PR are good but when customers enjoy the book, that makes me happiest.

Me: What projects are you currently working on?

Matt: A few books. I am halfway through work on a book about Girl Group singers. I just did an interview with Mary Wilson of The Supremes earlier this week. Originally, the book was going to be on early rock and roll, but in my first batch of interview requests that I sent out, I only heard back from female singers. So, I kept with the theme and kept it all girl groups. I like how it evolved like that, and it’s coming along great. I did interviews with La La Brooks, who is the lead singer of The Crystals, Judy Craig who was the lead singer of The Chiffons, among many others. I am also working on a book I know horror fans will enjoy. The book is Eileen Dietz’s biography. Eileen did most of the hardcore stuff Linda Blair didn’t do in the movie The Exorcist. Eileen was pretty much her body double, stunt double, whatever you want to call it. It has been said Linda blames Eileen for not winning an Academy award for her performance in the film.We’ll just have to see when the book comes out. I have yet start work on it. I should be traveling to L.A. soon to start that. I am also doing a follow up to Confessions of Scream Queen.

Pick up your copy of Confessions of a Scream Queen today!  Amazon  & Alibris

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