Sunday, September 20, 2015

Manos Returns

The Return
An amazing new Manos project has come about entirely organically. A thought. A theoretical conversation or two. A suggestion of talented people and more conversations. Suddenly a film formed and manifested into a full fledged project: MANOS RETURNS. As I've witnessed time and again, the hand of fate guides everything. It's very strange how Manos makes things happen, but I know enough by now to just go with it.
Why now? It has to be now. The original has become a symbol to many fans of MST3K and B movies, and a source of inspiration to a new generation of film makers who love the concept of everything not to do in film making. But in 1966 it was a failure to everyone involved. This is an opportunity for the surviving principal players to enjoy a little recognition for the the place Manos holds in pop culture history.
I and a small band of indie film folk kicked things off with a t-shirt fundraiser, offering an exclusive MANOS RETURNS shirt and autographed art cards. These proceeds will go towards start-up funds, most importantly capturing initial footage of my dad, returning as The Master. T-shirts are available for a limited time only. The deadline to order them is October 1st.

A Kickstarter campaign to cover the remainder of the project’s expenses will be launched in the fall of 2015.
Stay tuned! It is the will of MANOS!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Manos Soundtrack

Until now, the soundtrack to Manos: The Hands of Fate has been pretty much a mystery.  Other than music composer/ pianist Robert Smith and songwriter Russ Huddleston, we knew nothing of the people who played the music.  The vocalists and musicians were never credited in the film.  Through research for my Manos book and a few serendipitous connections, I was able to find nearly all of them.  A random sighting on a facebook post ultimately started the domino effect.  It's as though everything I need to get this story done is now being handed to me and I can't tell you how exciting that is. 
For those who have actually watched Manos all the way through, you may have noticed the music.  It's so unique and odd at times but if you listen, there is no doubt that there is a lot of talent involved.  How is it that Hal Warren, with little more than a silver tongue could convince this group of accomplished musicians to create an original soundtrack for a film they knew nothing about?  Saving that whole story for later but for now, I'm thrilled to introduce you to Nicki Mathis, the vocalist on "Forgetting You" and Magic Circle".  I've had the supreme honor of speaking with her on the phone and we continue building our friendship online.  Nicki was already an accomplished Jazz singer in El Paso by the time she was recording the Manos soundtrack in 1966, and in fact had helped organize and had performed in First Pass of the North Jazz Festival in El Paso, TX, in 1959, featuring Dave Bruebeck, Eugene Wright, Joe Morello; Chico Hamilton with Eric Dolphy; Lambert, Hendricks and Ross; Chris Conner; and Maynard Ferguson with Anne Marie Moss; the concert master of ceremonies was Leonard Feather.  She has an anthology album out that really highlights her beautiful voice and I would encourage Manos fans to take a listen and buy her CD.  Gotta support the arts!
Nicki Mathis' Afrikan Amerikan Jazz

Nicki is my kind of a woman.  She is elegant with a sharp wit and great sense of humor.  I love when she told me how glad she was to learn that Manos is known as the worst movie ever made because she and her band mates were thinking pretty much the same thing at the 1966 premiere.  She was just too polite to say so until now.  Isn't it nice to be validated?

Hope to chat with some of the others this week so if you've got any questions you want me to ask, now's the time.  Post your questions here or connect with me through my Facebook page. 
Debbies Manos The Hands of Fate.  Be sure to press that little "like" button while visiting.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Master and Debbie

I got to spend a few hours with my dad last week working on a little video project a friend of mine, Rick Zunck, is producing, directing and filming.  This project has been in Rick's head for a couple years and the planets finally aligned to allow it to happen.  Not really, but it did seem that way.  I actually thought it wouldn't happen since no one was getting any younger and dad has had various health issues in recent years.  Now, at 79,  I didn't know if he would be up for it.  He was.  In fact, he had such a great time getting an opportunity to do a little acting and hang out with us.  Even my son's showed up to help and brought my grandson Jayce and his sister Araydia, to see great grandpa.
  I also had the chance to get dad to record his thoughts for an introduction to my Manos behind the scenes book.  He's always said he has no idea how or why Manos has become so popular but he's glad it has.  It makes him happy.  It makes me happy to share with him how many fans he has and how gracious and kind everyone is in regards to The Master and Debbie.  It may be an odd thing to be known for but I can tell you that The Master, Tom Neyman has embraced it although at his age he prefers to live vicariously through my reports and stories, and I thoroughly enjoy the excuse that Manos gives me to visit with him.  You may wonder why I would need an excuse to see my own dad, but I do.  It's the nature of the family.  You'll learn more about that in the book.  I will say that it is not for lack of love.  We love each other very much.

Can't say much yet about what we filmed but I can share a few photos and you'll see that the theme is Manos related.  I even had to wear a Debbie dress that I made myself and my dad is wearing a robe that I made just the way my mom made the original costumes.  Bryan Jenning, who is the eldest son of the original sheriff in Manos, and his wife Wanda were visiting Portland, Oregon from their home in Boise Idaho and took an extra day to make the almost 2 hour drive South to be part of the project.  Great to have the sheriff on board by proxy.
Dad nailed it on his lines and got ovations from the crew which resulted in the sweetest smile.  Any of you who has done film will understand the editing will take some time.  Particularly since Rick will need to do it all in his extra time.  I'll keep you posted on when it will be ready and where.  I'm hoping it will be submitted to some short film festivals.  Would be great to have it presented at some of the venues I hope to attend next year.  For now...Just so happy to have it  "in the can"
Photos courtesy of Lonnie Thurston Photography

Monday, June 22, 2015

50th Anniversary Coming Up

As you probably know by now, I’m writing a “behind the scenes” book with my co-author Laura Mazzuca Toops about Manos: The Hands of Fate and with a little luck and a lot more work, it will be available by the beginning of 2016 which also happens to be the 50th anniversary year since Manos was first thrust upon an unsuspecting world.  Good timing, I’d say.  The Restoration of Manos will be released by Synapse later this year in mid October and I’ve learned that an LP of the Manos soundtrack is in the works as well.  In the ensuing years since January 1993 when MST resurrected Manos from a dusty bin of full of bad public domain movies and aired it on Comedy Central, our beloved little film has inspired a number of creative projects and has steadily gathered new fans.  Those fans share it with others and the awareness of Manos expands.   It has leaked into the main stream on a number of occasions and been included in a couple of television programs. “Elementary” which gave John Reynolds and his character Torgo, more than a cursory nod and also a mention on an episode of “How I met your Mother”.  I love what I think of as the Manos revolution and I love that I am able to be a part of it.  To me, it’s one of the quirkier things one could be known for.  Diane Mahree, who played my mother Margaret in Manos once said she thought it very funny to think that out of her entire life and a very successful modeling career, she should be known best for being in Manos.  Such are the ways of cosmic humor.  Suits me quite well.

The process of writing and researching a book like this has been challenging but includes feelings of success when I find people who I thought were not to be found.  I’ve discovered the fate of many of the other originals and uncovered names of participants who were mysteries until now. 

Hint: I now know who the woman was who dubbed all the women’s voices in Manos, including my voice.  I also know the names of all the musicians who played the soundtrack to the film and the identity of the woman who sang “Forgetting You”. 

I’ve learned more about the film and the people behind it than I imagined would be possible.  My own understanding of what makes it the phenomenon that it is, has grown through hearing different perspectives from a variety of people and I would really enjoy hearing from fans what it is about this film that captures and holds your interest.  Please connect with me here or through my Debbiesmanos facebook page and let me know.  I may include some of your responses in the book.

Recently, I was able to connect with Joel Hodgson, the brains behind MST, to interview him for the book.  He has given Manos some thought and has interesting insight that I can’t wait to share it with you.  Since our first talk, he has generously given me advice on my plans to promote the book while attending events in the next year.  I’m sure we will meet in person at one of them as I plan to travel  to a number of Cons around the country and possibly into Canada.  Finally getting a passport at 55 years old.  About time.  I’ve been getting a list together of the events that may be interested in having me.  So again, I rely on the fans to help me with suggestions and contact the organizers to let them know you would like Debbie from Manos as a guest.  I’ll do my part to make it happen, because if anyone enjoys talking Manos, it's me.  I look forward to seeing you!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Crypticon Seattle 2015

Just returned home from a weekend at  Crypticon Seattle and have to admit that this was my very first Con.  Not only that, but I got to go as a guest.  Wow! What a really great time we had.

It all began when Calvin McCarthy of 7th Street Productions contacted me to ask if I would do a small cameo in his film and I, of course, said yes, as I do.  He then asked to interview me on camera and again, I acquiesced.  He drove to my home in Western Oregon from his in Vancouver Washington. I did my part for his film, we had a nice talk, he left and I forgot about it.  Months later I'm again contacted by Curtis. "Hey, that interview we did a while back?  Well.  I submitted the documentary, 'Manos: A Conversation with Jackey Neyman  to Crypticon and guess what?  We're in the short film festival." He went on to ask if I would like to attend.  Well, yeah, I would like to attend. The second thing I said was "Documentary?  What documentary?"  Long story short, three weeks later, my fabulously supportive boyfriend, John and I arrive in Seattle with me dressed in the Manos t shirt that has my dad, The Master emblazoned across the front, and postcards with a little info about who I am for anyone who showed recognition of the shirt design or said anything about Manos.  I didn't have a table and wasn't listed anywhere as a guest since it was short notice but although I was there for just one event, I had entry to the Con for all three days so I took advantage of the amazing opportunity to meet people and find out how the whole thing works.  It was beyond any expectation I could have had when a little buzz began that the little girl from Manos was wandering around.
 It was even more fun when Rachel Jackson creator of Manos: The Hands of Felt, came to hang out with me and brought The Master puppet with her.  We enjoyed causing a little stir. 
As a result, I am invited back next year as a celebrity guest and I know they want to see Rachel and The Master again too.  I also connected with a couple organizers of other Cons who want to talk about their upcoming events and on top of all that I had a chance to meet some of the wonderfully talented guests. I have special gratitude for the time that Ken Foree (best known for Dawn of the Dead) and Michael Berryman of my personal favorite "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" each gave  to answer questions and to offer advice.  Charming men indeed.

The short film festival was very well attended and had a really interesting line up of films from documentary to animation to gut wrenching horror.  It was an honor to be featured in a chosen film and I want to thank Calvin McCarthy and the rest of the 7th St Production crew, Arianna Kindsfather, Natalie Lucia and Josh Dietrich for inviting me and for being such enthusiastic young film makers.  Great job.

As you might have surmised, I am gearing up for next year and the 50th anniversary of Manos: The Hands of Fate.  2016 will see both Ben Solovey's HD Bluray Restoration of the film and my book "The Untold Story of Manos: The Hands of Fate".  Who knows what other projects could arise by then?  I vote for a ManosCon, but that will have to be up to people much more organized and funded than myself.  If anyone is up to that task, please be sure I get an invite.  In the meantime, check out my new website and thanks for reading.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Return of Debbie

I'm back here posting after nearly one and half years.  It's not that I had nothing left to say, it's that life gets in the way.  My art, family, relationship and all the normal things in everyone's lives.  Turns out, I have lots more to say on the Manos subject.  I had wanted to write a book for years but just didn't know where to start or how to go about doing it.  I put feelers out on Facebook from time to time looking for someone who could help me.  During the process, I met a very talented woman in Chicago.  I'm in Oregon and I love how social media and technology opens previous boundaries of communication, because she is perfect, and more than anyone I was hoping for.  She is an accomplished editor of many years and a published author of four books.  She's also a huge Manos fan and has become a good friend.  Together, we are co-authoring "Little Debbie Reveals All.  The Untold Story Of Manos: The Hands Of Fate", a behind the scenes book of my favorite family film.  Speaking of my own family, of course.   Laura Mazzuca Toops and I began in October and are well on our way to getting the book done.  We have found a fabulous publisher with Bear Manor Media.  My personal goal is to be done with the manuscript by the end of this summer and hope the book can be published by the beginning of 2016.
When we began, I thought it would be just about my memories and my dad's and maybe memories of a couple other folks I already knew.  This thing has grown into so much more.  I have done a tremendous amount of research and have unearthed so many things I had not previously known.  I have discovered other things I thought I knew and was wrong about.  This is truly a labor of love and I can't wait to share it with you.  And, in case you didn't know already.  2016 is also the 50th year anniversary of Manos: The Hands of Fate.   The Hands of Fate have a life of their own and it is the will of Manos this book be done.