Monday, January 12, 2009
Recently, I have been fortunate enough to bump heads with someone who has worked with two independent film distributors of the late 80’s. He had messaged me through YouTube and the moment he told me he had worked for both Camp Video and Even Stevens Productions, I knew that he would be the perfect guy to interview for SlasherIndex.com. His name is Walter Reuther and has had experience not only in video marketing, but working in a video store catering to celebrities during the era of VHS.
Currently, Walter is still acting and runs Pretorius Productions.
This interview was done through back and forth email correspondence.
You had mentioned you worked for a video store for some time, was this prior to working with the video companies? Were you already fond of horror films or videos prior to working at the video store, or did the video store job really do it for you?
I was very fond of horror films before I started working for the video store and Camp Video. I have great stories about both places. I worked for Camp Video in 1987-88 the video store in 89 and also Even Steven Productions in 89 after the video store. The interesting thing was once I began working for Camp Video, I really got to learn how these video stores across the country came to carry a lot of independent titles. I believe there were only about 2 major distributers that supplied the video stores with the major studio titles and the rest of the companies like Camp Video and Even Steven Productions got there titles in through phone sales.
(Elaborating on his Camp Video experience)
I remember at Camp Video we had a room with about 10 desks. In it, me and my 2 buddies each had a desk and there was a bunch of other co-workers. The boss would give us a pile of papers which looked like white pages listings which were all video stores. There were thousands if not millions of independent video stores across America in 1987. We would sit there all day and call them up. I remember our big seller was Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. We would always offer it in a 3 pack with a movie called Evil Spawn. They would buy the 2 titles and we would throw in HG Lewis’ the Psychic for free and we would charge 112.00 or something like that. We also had titles like Rat Fink a Boo Boo and the Incredible Stranger Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies and the Thrill Killers, these were all Ray Dennis Stickler films. I can also remember we carried Video Violence, and Gore-Met Zombie Chef From Hell. We would mix and match but our sales pitch on the phone was always the fact Gunnar Hansen from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was in Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, and featured in People Magazine. I will always remember one day: John Carradine died and he was in one of our titles, Evil Spawn, and the boss came into the room, clapped his hands, and told us Carradine died and to sell the crap out of Evil Spawn that day (laughs). A couple of months went by and it seemed that the company was doing okay, when one night they had a big party. Linnea Quigley was there and so was Entertainment Tonight. The owner of the company got wasted and went knocking on people’s doors in the neighborhood, it was a mess. We worked about another 2 weeks and the company closed due to the owners and people who ran it going broke from drug problems. I can tell you there are big boxes for all the Camp Video titles I mentioned, I believe Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and Evil Spawn were in slip cases, I think we had a few other titles but I don’t remember them.
(Follow Up Questions about Camp Video)
How did you end up working for Camp Video?
I only remember, I think, answering an ad in the paper to work with horror films or something like that. I went for an interview and got the job. Being a horror lover, I was happy to be working with them.
Camp Video has always been shrouded in mystery and rumors. Such as they were once LA Video, a porn distributor, who wanted to cash in on the mainstream distribution world, and that the owner of Camp was a shady salesman and wasn't always fair with the royalties of the films he licensed. Do you know anymore tidbits about this, or the actual people who ran it?
Funny you mention LA Video. They had that and Camp running at the same time. I believe Camp was the mainstream titles and LA Video their porno stuff. When Camp closed its doors, they pulled me and my buddy Harold aside, took us upstairs to LA Video, and made us a business card and sent us out to frequent video stores that had a big porno section. They gave us a catalog and our job was to sell titles to the stores. The few times we received orders chosen from the catalog, we would then have to get the titles from the LA Video office and return to the stores and get paid in cash. After that, we would call our boss at Camp/LA Video. I think his name was John. We would meet him on a corner somewhere and give him the cash. It was so shady that one day, me and my buddy, after making a $150 sale, decided to keep the money. We never called the boss and sold off the titles we had in the trunk and nothing ever happened. It may have been dishonest, but the whole thing at that point was a joke, and we were always handed $20 or so after each sale. They weren’t covering our gas or anything and we knew inevitably that they would screw us. I still have that business card.
Do you know anything about the in-house productions of Gore-Met Zombie Chef from Hell and Death Row Diner?
All I know is we sold those titles. They were already produced when I got the job, which only lasted a combined 5 months.
After all these years, do you have any Camp Video memorabilia you held onto, such as catalogs, posters, etc?
I wish, the only thing I kept was the LA Video business card. In those days, that stuff was crap. Who knew Gore-Met Zombie Chef would become a collector’s item.
(Elaborating on his Video Store experience)
Later (after Camp Video), I went to work for a video store called 20/20. I loved working there and I loved horror so it made it even cooler. This store was located at the bottom of Laurel Cyn in Los Angeles and a lot of celebrities were members there. I met Meg Ryan, Dennis Quaid, Shelly Duval, Eddie Van Halen, guitarist of Ratt, singer of Warrant, John Goodman, Dennis Miller, but Anthony Perkins was the only one I met that I thought “wow, I’m talking to a legend.”
(Follow up questions about his video store experience)
I'm sure many of us are thinking what kind of movies were they (celebrities) renting? Ever remember being surprised that a known celebrity was renting an obscure horror film? Do you have any other stories from your video store experience that are worth mentioning?
I really don’t have many interesting stories that have to do with videos or movies, but I have funny stories about the employees I worked with. For instance, my boss was this fat chick named Angie and every time we closed the store, she would put on a porno. One night, I agreed to go see a band with her at a club in LA. She wanted to make out, but I didn’t want to, so I declined and the next day they transferred me to another store, which had a lot of celebrity members. One day, Christina Applegate walked in and I offered her 100 bucks to be in my film. I thought that was a lot, she rolled her eyes and told me she was making $1500 a show for Married With Children, which she did a few shows a week, so she declined. Anthony Perkins had me help him find certain foreign films and told me how he just got done filming Psycho 4. I got his autograph. I’m pissed that I don’t know what happened to it, but basically, I had small talk with several celebrities.
Meg Ryan was a total bitch. She came to the counter once and this was 1988-89 and I didn’t know who she was, so I asked for her membership card and she responds, "You don’t know who I am?!" I said, “No,” and she flipped her glasses up away from her eyes and responds, “Ryan, Meg Ryan!" She put her glasses back over her eyes. She had a real snooty tone. I can’t stand her to this day and her breath stunk.
We always laughed when the singer from Warrant came in. They were an old butt rock band who was huge at the time. We laughed cause girls would come in with their boyfriends or husbands and couldn’t take there eyes of him, and sometimes they’d follow him around, ignoring their boyfriends. It was hilarious.
(Elaborating on his Even Stevens Production experience)
At this time, my best friend growing up Michael Rider and his friend Steven Arthur were making a film called Satan’s Storybook. Steven Arthur was the owner of Even Steven Productions. When Satan’s Storybook was done, I went to work for them, and like Camp Video, I worked in the sales room selling Satan’s Storybook over the phone with titles like Droid, Swingers Massacre, and others like Blood Hunger and Midnight Intruders. I actually ended up quitting that job due to personal reasons but if you’re familiar with Satan’s Storybook, it features Ginger Lynn. The company used to have me sign her signature on posters and send them to fans, it was my signature not hers (laughs) I thought at the time it was funny, I mean, the boss told me to, but in retrospect, it’s pretty dirty low down, I despise autograph forgers, but hey, this was the 80's and it was Ginger Lynn. Also a little tidbit, the guy who did the effects for Satan’s Storybook also did the Mutilator, and he also ruined his career on drugs.
(Follow up questions on his Even Steven Productions experience)
So you had mentioned you're friend began the company along with another friend. Did Even Steven begin as a production company to produce their own films such as Satan's Storybook, and then branched out to distribute other films not made by them? How did they make the transition from making their own film to producing obscurities such as Swingers Massacre? Did you know anything about how the artwork for their releases were designed or by whom? Also, do you have any knowledge of how they came to rename Inside Amy to Swingers Massacre or where they drudged up that movie from?
Even Steven was started by Steven Arthur, whose father, David Arthur I believe, did Swingers Massacre. That’s how they came to distribute it. He also did a movie called Midnight Intruders, which you will see trailers for at the end of Satan’s Storybook. David Arthur was famous in the 70’s for making porno films such as Taboo, ect. When his son Steven was old enough, he started Even Steven Productions. They produced and distributed their own movies and adult titles as well, that’s how Ginger Lynn came to be the star of Satan’s Storybook. My friend Michael Rider and Steven were best friends in childhood, so when Mike decided to make a film, of course Steven was to distribute it, that’s how Satan’s Storybook came to be. I don’t know who did the artwork for them and as far as I know, the pornos they distributed may have been under another name. But as far as Even Steven goes, they had the following titles: Satan’s Storybook, Midnight Intruders, Swingers Massacre, Blood Hunger, Droid (may be the worst film ever), and a few others.
Mike Rider died in 2006 and I haven’t spoken with Steven Arthur in 10 years since Mike has died. I have no way of reaching him, although Satan’s Storybook was released on DVD from Televista so it might be possible to reach Steven Arthur through them. I believe Christopher and Phillip Booth may have had a hand in ownership.
When looking at the credits for Satan’s Storybook, I notice you go by the name of Fry Scarlet, I’m just curious to how you came up with this name.
I use the name as my alter ego, kind of like how Alice Cooper has his. I just thought of it one day. I’m also in a movie called Grossout, which is on VHS and DVD and I’m in a movie coming out in June called Blood Moon Rising with Ron Jeremy. I believe Universal will release it on DVD. I also completed 2 other films: Scarlet Fry’s Horrorama available on DVD on Amazon.com and Scarlet Fry’s Junkfood Horrorfest which has been released in a 50 pack by Mill Creek Entertainment called Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares. I’m currently working on Nightmare Alley which Brain Damage Films is interested in picking up.
I would like to thank Walter for taking the time to uncover some of the mechanics behind the independent video market in the 80’s. Be sure to check out his films!