The following journal contains accounts of rape, abuse, and other disturbing content. Caution is advised.
FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984)
So much happened in the year and a half while the Friday series was on a sabbatical that it almost boggles the mind. From August 1982 until April 1984, Friday the 13th was on a bit of a hiatus; the year 1983 was the first in the 80s not to feature a new release from the film franchise. This was understandable, in retrospect, since big daddy Paramount had initially intended Part III to be the end of the series.
It’s difficult to imagine now but back in the period between 1980 and 1990, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) wielded much more power than they do today. Even a major studio like Paramount could come under their scrutiny, and Friday the 13th did just that, albeit after the fact. Cunningham’s slasher-prototype-Halloween-rip-off was bought after completion by Paramount, particularly by studio head Frank Mancuso. Released in the spring of 1980, Friday the 13th dominated the late-spring/early-summer box-office, competing directly for theater screens with The Empire Strikes Back which was nearing the end of its run, and new releases like Warner Bros’ big-budget-major-talent-blockbuster-in-waiting The Shining. However, The Shining tanked theatrically, and Friday the 13th began a dynasty that exists to this day.
By 1983, a break was needed. The Halloween films were finished after the negative reception to Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). Slasher films, and the horror genre in general, seemed headed into a bust period. The biggest horror offerings in 1983 turned out to be Jaws 3-D, an experiment that turned out better than hoped for and was prematurely pulled from theaters while still pulling in cash. Rumor has it that Jaws 3-D was hauling in more revenue than Return of the Jedi when the former was unceremoniously yanked from screens.
That year was a bit of a retreat for me, mostly into the worlds of music and collectibles. Like a madman, I was collecting Topps card sets for films. Sets like Alien (1979), DeLaurentis’ King Kong (1976), Jaws 2 (1978), Rocky II (1979), Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), First Blood (1982), etc., plus, baseball cards in general. Baseball was the only physical sport, apart from basketball, that I enjoyed. Later in high school, coaches wanted me for football, but I’ve never cared for it. Math, calling plays — those aren’t my strong suit, and just hammering people didn’t seem like much of a skill to me.
So, I tried to learn some new stuff. My mom bought me a Casio keyboard, and I enjoyed experimenting with that. I turned more towards music and reading, particularly horror. Stephen King’s novels Different Seasons (1982) and Christine (1983) were huge for me. John Carpenter’s adaptation [John Carpenter’s Christine (1983)] was an enormous moment for me in December 1983. I loved the novel, I loved the film, and I loved both soundtracks, the one featuring the pop songs used in the film and the other featuring Carpenter’s iconic score. Great stuff.
The winter heading into 1984, as I remember, was pretty snowy, and Pat Benatar’s “Shadows of the Night” was the big song. That coincided with some major snowstorms in Winchester that winter. I ushered in the new year with the new cassette release of Van Halen’s 1984 album. The first single, “Jump,” was both fresh and different. While Eddie’s decision to incorporate keyboards was enormously controversial at the time, it breathed fresh life into the band and allowed them to begin ’84 with a #1 album, single, and a groundbreaking video. Later in the year, when Ghostbusters (1984) was huge, and I had the soundtrack, I tried to recreate it by using my pillows and beds as drums with real drumsticks. My forgotten father had left his drums in our basement. I never knew if this or anything my mother said was actually true, but, supposedly, the cheap-shit drum set left in the “rumpus room” of our basement was my real Dad’s — whoever that was. My brother Billy fixed the bass-drum kicker by putting a tennis ball on it. It worked like a charm. Soon, I thought I was Charlie Watts.
I was an 11-year old child by this point, but it seemed that everything and everyone had changed. I had some sort of path laid out. If I continued to keep my head up at school, outlasting the bullies and working on my writing and music, which my teachers were beginning to embrace and encourage, I might have a path. I still had enemies (the fat kid in any school will always have enemies), but I had friends as well and some of them were the most popular kids. My love for films, books, music, horror, and all kinds of other shit, had allowed me to obtain “an in” with a lot of people. Plus, all the adults and parents, with very few exceptions, liked me. From as long as I can remember, I communicated far better with adults and people older than myself than I did with kids my own age. I had an old soul. I was asked to deal with too much too fast. It’s horrible enough that I was a really sensitive and heartfelt kid getting beaten up and bullied every day, but it’s another to endure that and still be raped, disbelieved, treated like shit by your own family, and forced to wait hand-on-foot to your mother who is faking an imaginary illness to reap the rewards from SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). I had to be roped into this; my brother and sister were gone. They weren’t dealing with this shit and that left me. I had to make the meals, feed her, feed myself, clean the house, tuck her in, massage her, listen to her…and all I wanted to do was be a kid.
Any chance of that went out the window in 1984.
My grandfather was dead but so was the stipend my mother had received for years. This stipend had enabled her to not only live in an affluent suburban setting but also forge a career in historical writing by taking up my Grandad’s footsteps and being elected to the Board of Selectmen, an executive arm of the government usually found in New England towns. However, she wasn’t well-liked, and to this day, I still don’t know all of the reasons behind it. It seems to me that something was just seriously off about my mother, and some people saw it and avoided her (and me too) as a result. Still, many others remained fooled by her for a very long time. Yes, I’ll use that word: fooled. She was what I would call a pure sociopath. She had fooled people in positions of power, anyone with influence such as her personal doctor(s), her remaining family, the bank that held the mortgage on her house, the electric and telephone companies, etc. She charmed and smarmed, she battered and cudgeled, she fought and retreated, she did whatever she needed to do. No conscience. No guilt. No remorse. If there’s a problem — kill it. Run it over. Bludgeon it into submission or kill it with kindness.
I was getting older, growing, becoming more adult, and emotionally complex. I obviously had serious deep-set issues with my family. My mother was a nightmare that allowed me to be repeatedly raped and then manipulated me into taking care of her when she faked her disability claim. She tried brainwashing me into thinking that I was put on this Earth to help her because she gave birth to me. That was her mantra. As far as she was concerned, kids were there to take care of the parents, not the other way around. My thoughts on children are that if you have them, you love them, experience life through their eyes, and become a child again yourself. Raise them and always be there for them no matter how far removed from the nest they may be. Enjoy. Help. Nurture. Love.
But not my mother. My mother put on a good front though. During the holidays, we all got together with the home-cooked food and typical family horseshit. It was never quite right, and in early 1984, shit hit the fan.
My mother, objectively never the most attractive woman, apparently decided she wasn’t finished scratching a certain itch. In the wake of my grandfather’s death and her reduced financial circumstances, she embarked on several schemes to bring in money, like applying for SSDI, faking an illness, scamming her doctors, etc. They were pat systemic hustles, but she also tried to run a few games on her own. She guilt-tripped a family friend who was the editor of the Woburn Daily Times and Chronicle into continuing grandfather’s weekly column, although she wasn’t nearly as good. She also manipulated the Winchester Board of Selectman into giving her grandfather’s seat to her for a period of time. She proposed a book idea to collect her father’s columns into one volume and persuaded Winchester to rename the local historical society after him. This happened only for a short time before the actions of another selectman, who did not like my mother and fought with her over everything, stopped it.
The one thing she tried at home was to build a business based on her beloved coupons. This was a woman who lived and died by the Sunday papers and the coupons inside of them each week. She was good at predicting them, saving them, and taking good-sized sums off her regular grocery shopping costs. She decided to start a business called (so help me God) “Coupon Capers.” She came up with a cheap way to market it — direct mail — and gave it a go. Her fliers went everywhere, all over the Eastern Seaboard at least. Eventually, some landed in New Jersey at the Rahway State Penitentiary, no less.
One envelope landed in the junk mail of an inmate named Mike Russo. He looked like the actor Michael Vale who used to do those old “time to make the donuts” commercials for Dunkin’ Donuts. That was Mike, a stereotype of a New Jersey Italian. He was short, rotund, and had a balding head and a thick black mustache. He was close to getting out of prison after serving a 15-year sentence for manslaughter. I learned why much, much later. As I progressed through sixth grade in early 1984, enjoying what I thought was a pretty good winter, my mother was hiding in the bathroom and recording cassette tapes to send Mike in his jail cell. They declared their love for each other. Yak.
Eventually, this “affair” became common knowledge to the family. My older brother was living with a friend in a nice apartment while my older sister was living in Everett (a lower-rent city at the time) with her new husband Mark and their new kid Shannon (my niece was born in mid-1983, and I’ll never forget being able to hold her). My sister’s first child, Gilbert, was still gone, locked up in whatever foster care facility was available to him. More on Gilbert later.
Everyone was dubious, to say the least.
Then the gossip and unease became real when my mother announced that Mike would be coming to A) live with us upon his release in May, B) that they would be getting married, and C) that after my school year was over, we would be moving to Mike’s old home in Edison, New Jersey with his sister, her two teenaged kids, and his eldest mother. Yay.
A quick note: I eventually ended up living and dealing with Mike for 25 years after this. He wasn’t a horrible human being; he was a deeply wounded guy who felt lucky to have a place to land. In the end, I honestly don’t blame him for his decisions during that time. I blame the woman who allowed it.
Being an 11-year-old kid, although damaged, I still had some optimism. I never had a father figure before. I was hopeful that maybe I could be a more normal kid now. I even went around school bragging that I had a new dad, that I was going to change my last name to his. Mea culpa. I was young and smart but still naïve.
It was in this setting that Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter finally emerged.
Despite having a subscription to Fangoria, the film wasn’t reported on until a scant couple of months before its April release. It was a welcomed shock and surprise to learn that the franchise was back. The initial premise of Jason actually dying in this entry with major serious scares energized me. The Halloween films were seemingly still dead, and the Nightmare on Elm Street series had yet to begin. I was laser-focused on Jason.
I remember seeing the first showing at approximately 1 pm on Friday, April 13th, 1984. As with Part III, The Final Chapter premiered at the Woburn Showcase Cinema. It was a cool, grey day, but the line to get in was all the way around the theater and stretched through the parking lot. This film was a big deal. It wasn’t necessarily boisterous like the Part III premiere had been — the atmosphere in this line was a bit grimmer. It may have been the weather; it may have been the ad campaign that promised Jason’s demise. That said, the excitement was in the air. I could feel it. And you know what? Despite all the personal upheaval, the cold and rainy April weather, and all of the personal fear and uncertainty, I had a ball with The Final Chapter. At this point, my peers hated me for an entirely different reason than being fat. I was envied because whenever a new Friday the 13th film came out, I was excused from school so I could see the first show. It drove my friends nuts! It’s one of those bittersweet memories (of which there are plenty more to come) where I loved my Mom unreservedly, so it only makes it worse that I had to find out who she really was, although much of me already knew.
The film itself was major fun. Though I was scared by the film at 11 years old, I was also getting old enough to enjoy it in other ways. I was a lot like Tommy (Corey Feldman) in that I was really beginning to enjoy the nudity. Hey, I was 11 and the hormones were beginning to rage. Sue me. The overall dark and gritty tone really served the film well. Ted White, who played Jason this time around, was a welcomed darker take on the character, not to say Richard Brooker’s version of the character in Part III wasn’t great (he was). The characters were better drawn and certainly better-acted by an ensemble full of standouts who could hold their own. The FX crew, hired before series stalwart Tom Savini became involved, created some amazing seminal 80s effects including Paul’s spear in the groin, Jimmy’s corkscrew-in-the-hand and cleaver-to-the-face, and the final reveal of Jason and his slide-down-the-machete moment. It was also really cool to see the protagonists as a family, and I really enjoyed the character of Rob avenging his sister. It was dark, terrifying, and didn’t stint on the kills or the blood. It was also more intellectually and emotionally satisfying than most, if not all the Friday films. If The Final Chapter was really the swan song for the series, it was going out on a high note.
By this time, I had also gotten into the habit of keeping a Friday the 13th scrapbook. This was way before the Internet, and even while huge films like Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) got publicity coverage in national periodicals, the basics of actually making the film, the process itself, were almost never covered. It was an era where horror/sci-fi fans had to depend on the few genre magazines running features on genre films and filmmakers, primarily Starlog, Fantastic Films, Cinemafantastique, and of course, Fangoria. My F13 scrapbook, which grew year by year, began with the Fangoria articles about the series but also included all of the newspaper ads and reviews I could find. Friday ads were special back in the day, especially beginning with Part III. The Final Chapter’s ad wasn’t quite as lavish, but it was 3-quarters of a page, and the blood surrounding the hockey mask was red. The blood on the knife was removed from the poster after watchdog groups complained.
It also bears mentioning that the release of The Final Chapter was met with vociferous and vocal opposition to the series, ranging from film critics to civic groups to feminist foundations to politicians to the MPAA, to the studio itself. Those born and raised after 1990 really have no idea how hated or how countercultural this series was at the time. I’ll be talking about this more in a later entry, but several misguided bureaucrats in the school system recommended that I be examined by a school-approved psychiatrist because I loved horror. The response I received from the therapist himself was, “there’s nothing wrong with you” and basically “fuck them.”
Roughly two weeks after the film’s release, my 6th-grade class was scheduled for a field trip to the Showcase Cinemas in Woburn. Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) was just released. For some insane reason, one of my teachers thought it would be an educational experience to bring the class to the movie. Education in what, I don’t know. They should have waited for Gorillas in the Mist (1988) — now THAT was a good film and educational too. So, they took us on a field trip to see Greystoke, and don’t you know what was playing in the theater directly next door? The Final Chapter. It didn’t take long before my wheels started spinning. One of my best friends at the time, Danny, was in a different homeroom with different teachers, but because this field trip incorporated the entire 6th grade, we had the rare opportunity to hang out during school. Danny was a sci-fi kid and really smart. He introduced me to the Star Trek films and to Monty Python (thank you, Danny!!!). So, I conspired with him, and after watching the first preview at Greystone, we snuck into The Final Chapter. I broke Dan’s horror cherry that day, the poor bastard. That’s ok, though. Danny got me drunk for the first time in my life when he stole his parents’ booze about a year later, so I consider that ample payback. We had a great time, and it was made all the sweeter by the fact that we snuck in to do it. My first but not last taste of juvenile delinquent behavior, and damn it felt good.
After the excellent experience with The Final Chapter, a long summer droned ahead and a very scary one at that. Mike was flown up to Massachusetts by my mother. This was only the first salvo in a self-imposed war that would see the woman who was supposed to protect me piss away my birthright and my grandfather’s inheritance (which she controlled because I was a minor) on airplane trips, a backyard wedding, payments to Mike’s family in New Jersey, clothes, food, jewelry, and so on. She pissed all of our money away gambling on an ex-con she barely knew.
As moving day grew closer, my PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) began to exert itself and grow. No matter how optimistic I may have been, the bottom line was that I didn’t want to go. Especially after an incident that occurred shortly after Mike moved into our house. I wasn’t happy, and I had a mouth on me. I said something stupid, something innocent but raunchy if I remember correctly, while I was in the kitchen down the hall and Mike and my mom were in the bedroom. He came marching down in his tighty-whities, grabbed me by the throat, and threw me into the refrigerator. Not the worst thing in the world, in retrospect, but I had never been manhandled like that before. I was scared, and even though my mother called Mike off, I never forgot it, and as moving day drew closer, my unease and panic grew.
Dealing with Mike was scary enough, but I was leaving Winchester, my home. As horrible as moments in my childhood had been, my best memories were there. Lots of them. I was now entering the 7th grade, an all-new territory called junior high. Plus, I would be turning 12 in October later that year, entering adolescence with all of the trepidation and uncertainty and raging hormones that it entails. I ended up, slowly, growing quiet, retreating, not talking. Some people noticed.
My mother and Mike were married in a backyard ceremony. The backyard was nice. The preacher was nice. The atmosphere was nice. Still, an invisible anvil seemed to hover just over the proceedings. People were polite, people were involved, but the lack of enthusiasm for this “holy” union was apparent.
My sister, who had seemed really cool to me as a kid, was really just a chip off my mother’s block. I saw that clearly for the first time when she gave my nephew, Gilbert, up for adoption and let him scream and cry his eyes out in the backseat of a car driving away from us. She was an opportunist like my mother. Two years after Gilbert was given up, she was in a new apartment with a new fiancé, a baby, and a partner in-mid-1980s-cocaine-crime. Fuck Gilbert, right? He just got in the way. Her fiancé, Mark, was no prize, but he wasn’t stupid either. I knew I was in trouble when I gravitated toward him during the wedding. He was cool to me, and we kept ourselves amused talking about the Porkys films. I’ve never been a fan of what I term “manly” men (or the “unga-bunga” type). Mark definitely slid towards that end of that spectrum, but we got along just fine that day. I think he, and many others, were generally horrified by the entire situation. Consider exactly what was happening here: my mother had met an inmate imprisoned for 15 years in a federal penitentiary for manslaughter and gambled her and her 11-year-old son’s future on him. To do all that, she basically spent all of our money, sold the house, took my inheritance and college fund, and gave them to what amounted to be a very low-level Mob associate with no practical knowledge of the current world. She took an already-traumatized child and forced him into a series of increasingly horrific situations because, well, sex. At the wedding, Mark caught a whiff of my fear and so did my brother.
Shortly after, my brother came to visit when it was only my mom and I at the house. He let her have it. They screamed behind closed doors with my brother telling her she had no right to put me through this, she was being selfish, and that he or the parents of my friends would be willing to take me in to live with them. Naturally, she wouldn’t have it. She had her fairy tale ending firmly fixed into place in her head, and nothing, especially reality, was going to interfere with it. We were going to move to New Jersey with Mike and be one big happy family. I remember my brother leaving, slamming her door behind him, and seeing me watching and waiting in my room. “I tried,” he said and left.
My aforementioned best friend, Danny, tried hard to convince his parents to let me live with them. As I remember, it was a close call, but it boiled down to my mother’s weird reputation, something I still to this day don’t understand. There’s no one left to ask about it, and I could never believe a word out of her mouth. She made up lies for fun. It was like breathing to her.
So, in the summer of 1984, my mother moved us down to Edison, New Jersey. I was scared it would be bad, but again, being a kid, I was at least a little hopeful. Edison was a nightmare that cemented my PTSD as bedrock, although I didn’t know what it was at the time, and when I look back at it, yeah, the move was horrible, but it’s not like I was beaten or raped or anything in Edison as opposed to Winchester. I even have a few decent memories of that year. But the emotional abuse was non-stop and constant, and I wasn’t equipped to deal with it for whatever reason.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING
The period between April 1984 and March 1985 was an enormous transition, both for the Friday the 13th franchise and for me personally. My life had taken on a nightmarish, whirlwind aspect that saw me moving away from home, enduring a traumatic, hellish environment, beginning adolescence, beginning junior high, and generally, for the most part, being tortured on a daily basis. I wasn’t physically abused, not really, but rather emotionally abused as the triggers and behaviors were beginning to cement themselves into my bedrock.
A couple of things you should understand about being a kid in the 1980s, particularly with my circumstances: mental health issues like PTSD and anxiety disorders were relatively new phenomena. I was never diagnosed with it as a child, though I exhibited all the symptoms. In a perfect storm of time, place, parenting, personality, and circumstance, mental health medical officials pretty much never entered the picture. I can only speculate, but I have a feeling my mother’s own fear of exposure for whatever issues she had, helped keep me away from formal medical help. And anyone who’s grown up in New England back then understands how private we Yankees can be. In my family, if you had a problem, you didn’t communicate it to friends and family or accept help — fuck that. We took our lumps with a practiced weariness. Our problems were OUR problems. If there’s an illustration next to the word “stoic” in the dictionary, chances are it’s of a bemused, irritated, even pissed-off Yank. We kept ourselves to ourselves, and as is typical in closed-off, tightly wrapped family units, shit would happen that wouldn’t escape the circle. School wouldn’t hear about it much less mental health professionals. It was all in the family. It was all in the game.
Without a doubt, I can state this unequivocally: my mother was a monster, and the very worst part about that is she got away with it, day after day, year after year. She was a salesman, no doubt, whenever her circumstances forced her to be one. She had doctors, therapists, guidance counselors, principals, elected officials, hell, Social Security, and both state and Federal officials conned. She never missed a trick, never left a stone unturned. She was smart and sly in the way that an animal can be when its back is against a wall. She got away with it, over and over and over again, all the way up to the end of her miserable life, and God help me, much of her is in my blood. My birthright is mental illness, and all I can ever do is see these facets of myself for what they are. I’ve always said I have her powers, but that I use my powers for good (with great power comes great responsibility). But she got away with it. Forever. She allowed her own child to be sexually abused and turned a blind eye. She allowed my nephew, an innocent little boy and much more a brother than a nephew to me, to be ripped away from his family while screaming, only to be deposited God knows where, when my mother could have easily taken him in. It would have cramped her style, don’t you know?
And that’s what I can’t live with — that she got away with it. That’s why I’m tearing open these wounds for all to see. Hopefully, by dragging these uneasy bones into the sunlight, someone may read this and understand, feel like they’ve been seen, and that they aren’t completely alone. If that happens just once, then this is a success.
The house was sold and packed up. Movers were hired to drive furnishings down to the new house in Edison, New Jersey. Tearful goodbyes were exchanged. In what remains the first of only two plane trips of my whole life, we hop a cheap-ass Piedmont flight to New Jersey. After an hour drive through what looks like industrial parks, shitty housing, more industrial parks, and more shitty housing, we pull up to the house. Being terrified and already traumatized, moving was terrible enough for me, but it soon became much, much worse.
First off, the house was a complete shithole. Nothing worked. Holes in the walls. Mike’s sainted mother and his sister Janet with her two teenage kids lived there. To this day, I don’t remember their names, but I do remember other things. The oldest son was in his late teens, and the younger daughter was in her mid-teens. I think both kids were ready to hate me and then, upon seeing how scared I was, chilled out and talked to me. I think they changed their minds when they saw what I was into horror and heavy metal. They were too! They were typical suburban metal kids, though I was too afraid to understand it at the time. They saw my Fangoria magazines, my books, my music, and I think they were a bit surprised that this fat kid was actually pretty nice and liked a lot of the same stuff as they did. The older brother got me into Iron Maiden, and I’ll always be grateful for that. I’m a bass player, and Steve Harris was/is an enormous influence.
Eventually, I had to go back to school and start 7th grade. That’s where some of my PTSD symptoms became concrete. Not only was I entering junior high, but I was doing it in a new place with a new family, a new everything. And it was way too much. It was a nightmare. Not only was I starting over, I was doing it with virtually no support system in place. I remember every interaction with kids as pure horrific bullying. It wasn’t long before the PTSD kicked in, worse than ever. It got to the point where I was stopping the car driving me to school every morning so I could vomit. Then I would get to school, and it wouldn’t be long before I had to vomit again, usually in a trash basket. Some teachers took pity, some did not. I have only one decent memory of a teacher reading my work and encouraging me.
By the fall of ’84, a few months later, my mother had had enough — not because of me, mind you, but because it became fairly obvious that she had been screwed over in the situation. She couldn’t abide by that, so she agreed to bring Mike’s mother along with us when we moved back to Massachusetts. Sister Janet and her kids were out of the picture.
On the way back we took planes, drove U-Hauls, and stayed in motels. It was kind of exciting. We looked for houses around Winchester but eventually found a place in Woburn, not far from our old home. It felt much more like home.
Back home, I went to see Silent Night, Deadly Night, and A Nightmare on Elm Street in the theaters that fall of 1984. By March of 1985, I was primed for a new Friday the 13th movie.
I was 12 years old when Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning was released, or a more accurate term would be “dumped,” in that early wet spring. The TV ads came around again, but this time I was marginally excited. The Fangoria articles came, and I was suddenly less excited. The film came, and I was both thoroughly confused and irritated. It was the ambulance guy? Tommy is now Jason? Huh? What?!
It was a dirty way to continue the series, and after an initially remunerative operation weekend, Part V suffered the quickest collapse in the series’ history, eventually bringing in just about $22 million. It was a disappointment, but I was still truly invested. I tried to help. I took the full-page ad Paramount had in the paper and Xeroxed it. I took 200 copies and put them on every windshield I could find. Just trying to do my part.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES
My PTSD was jumping by the time 1986 rolled around. It really was no different wherever I went whether it was New Jersey or Massachusetts. Back then, in the mid-1980s, bullying wasn’t taken seriously. It was seen with a “boys will be boys” kind of attitude. I basically spent every day of my life, to some degree, running from bullies. It’s a tough way to live. It was around this time that I started getting serious about being less of a fat-ass and more about getting in shape. Nothing I did worked. Every day, someone was sticking their face in mine telling me I’m no good, I’ll never be anything but a fat piece of shit, that no girl would ever want me, and so on. I was hammered relentlessly. “Stay down,” was the message. “Stay down!” Only I wouldn’t stay down. I somehow managed to graduate 8th grade, mostly because my algebra teacher had a forgiving soul. By then, I was 13 years old and poised to go…where? Where would I go? That question was soon answered.
As usual, I found out Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives was coming because of Fangoria. We had to go see the movie. The year 1986 was great for horror: Aliens, The Fly, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2…
Part VI debuted on August 13th, and to me, it was a revelation. I saw it on opening day and was transfixed. Jason Lives contained everything I could ever want in a Friday the 13th film. Finally, Friday the 13th had the story, the writing, the filmmaking, the performances, and the push to become a great horror film. Paramount spent more money than they had in a long time to get Part VI going. They guaranteed a major release including tapping into ancillary markets. Part VI would have a novelization and a mini soundtrack in the form of Alice Cooper’s return album, Constrictor. This included a music video for Cooper’s single “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)” wrapped around scenes from the film, still a new device at the time. Cooper’s album would go on to sell gold (500,000 units sold), but the entire promotion would seem like a weak sister compared to New Line Cinema’s promotion some six months later with A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. The Dokken single “Dream Warriors” managed to outdo Alice’s contribution to Jason Lives, but in the long run, Alice fared much better. In less than two years, longtime Alice Cooper manager Shep Gordon brokered a deal between Alice, Epic Records, and producer Desmond Child.
Cooper was literally forgotten before the film debuted. Even classic rock stations didn’t play his stuff. New bands like Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, W.A.S.P., Mercyful Fate/King Diamond, Lizzy Borden, and others were cashing in on Cooper’s schtick, but the man himself was in a kind of purgatory after three failed albums in a row, a serious alcohol and cocaine habit, and a supposed retirement. Finally getting clean changed everything for the Coop, and he mounted a successful comeback beginning with the Friday the 13th cross-promotion. In the late 1980s, he went on to earn two gold albums and two sold-out arena tours, filmed a collaboration with John Carpenter in Prince of Darkness (1987), made an appearance in the corner of professional wrestling superstar Jake “The Snake” Roberts at the World Wrestling Federation’s Wrestlemania III in 1987, made an appearance on the soundtrack for Wes Craven’s Shocker (1989), and has enjoyed a successful career since.
While Alice was parlaying his 1986–1988 tours into a rejuvenated career, I was running from bullies every day. I was dying to find a direction. A path forward. Anywhere to go. I finally found that path, my most significant find, in Alice Cooper. I had been searching for what seemed like forever for a musical horror hero. Film and music were my reasons for living. A bridge between the two was what I was always looking for. I found it with Jason Lives.
I’ll never forget opening the Constrictor LP and seeing Alice for the first time on the inlay. There were heavy metal icons who used horror or taboo imagery to get over but nothing like this. He was a fully-formed character, instantly recognizable as a horror icon in his own right. I took one look, listened to the album, and I was hooked. I found where I was poised to go — where I would go. That’s who I was. That’s who I am.
It proved a catalyst for the rest of my life in every way.
To be continued…
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About the Author
Michael Crosby was a contributing writer for Manor Vellum. He passed away on December 5, 2020. We miss him dearly. His articles remain on this site in his honor.