I know a couple things about Bunny Dees. I know she teaches drama at a high school in Arkansas and her students love her. I know she hates wearing her hair up and prefers stage acting to screen acting because of the immediate feedback she gets from an audience. She lived in Nice, France for a time, but the city that truly captured her heart was Austin, Texas because of all the rich art and culture things and stuff that they got. And I don’t know this for sure – but as a teacher in Austin, many of her students were involved in the many films that were being shot there at that time, including Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty so – and this is the part I don’t know for sure – she may have touched The Rodriguez.
Now, I didn’t do a shoot with her in Texarkana this past June, knowing that she may have touched The Rodriguez, with the intention of touching her and somehow gaining his power. Oh, no. That would be ridiculous. And just plain weird. But years ago, she played Mrs. Ford in the climactic scene of the drive-in classic, The Legend of Boggy Creek. It seemed entirely plausible that if I were to touch her I could gain her power.
So, I was thrilled that Bunny had agreed to do a short cameo in our film. The way Charles B. Pierce had cast Boggy Creek, which was a very low budget film in those days was to hang out at a gas station and stop customers who looked like the characters and ask them if they wanted to be in the film. So, most of the actors had no ambition to be act, they just needed gas. Luckily for me, Bunny was bitten by the acting bug during the shoot and became permanently hooked.
I needed another actor for the scene, so I looked up the phone number of another classic Bigfoot actor, Chet Armstrong, and called him up. That wasn’t really his name, but we’ll call him that because if I had been in a classic Bigfoot film, I should like to have been called Chet Armstrong.
I asked him if he was the same Chet Armstrong who had acted in a classic Bigfoot movie. He told me he was, but that his name wasn’t really Chet Armstrong. I told him I knew that, but that if I had been in a classic Bigfoot film, I should like to have been called Chet Armstrong. I asked him if he’d like to do a short cameo for our film. He told me his film had been many years ago and he wasn’t a young man any more. I assured him that I understood how time worked and told him this would be a piece of cake. He agreed to do it.
Here’s the part where I’m an idiot. His speech was slurred a little, and during our conversation, I had now and then suspected that he wasn’t quite with it. But by the time we hung up, I decided he was, perhaps, just hard of hearing.
I called him the day before I left just to check in. At first he didn’t seem to remember our conversation from the week before. It was at this point that I decided he wasn’t hard of hearing. I reminded him about our shoot, and he remembered and was still interested. So then I figured maybe he was just hard of hearing. He asked me why I would I want him of all people.
“Cause” I spoke with majestic eloquence, “You were in the movie!”
I was now feeling better about our chances of a successful shoot. Still, I wanted to make it easy on him, so we made plans to shoot at his house, and for Bunny to do most of the talking. Bunny, by the way, was hugely supportive and enthusiastic and really put my worries about Chet to rest because I knew she’d step up and make it work.
Sometime later, however, I received a voice-mail from Chet Armstrong.
“I’ve been thinking about this, and I don’t think I should do it. I’m too old. I don’t walk so good any more. I’m too old to do any movies.”
I called him back to tell him that I understood, but he didn’t pick up. So then I felt like a jerk for harassing him when he didn’t want to be bothered, even though I was calling to tell him not to worry about it, but from the outside, it kinda looked like I was calling him to pressure him into doing the movie or sell him a crappy vacuum cleaner or something, so I went ahead and felt like a jerk.
It retrospect, I guess I can understand why he questioned why I would want him for the film. He’s an unknown actor who appeared in an obscure movie 30 -40 years ago. Take the Legend of Boggy Creek, for instance, which is often hailed as the best of the classic Bigfoot films from that era. It has a 4.1 rating on imdb.com. Mathematically speaking, it totally sucks.
But I would argue that those movies are greater than the sum of their parts. They’ve inspired cryptzoologists, Bigfoot researchers, writers, and filmmakers. They made such an impact on me, I decided to make my own movie, which is, like, totally hard to do. Chet Armstrong contributed to that. Everyone who worked on those films from the directors, to the guys in the gorilla suits, to the accountants, to the dude that showed up one day and made the crew sandwiches contributed to that. Maybe not the sandwich guy. I’m trying to make a point here, but let’s keep this out of the realm of fantasy.
So, when Chet Armstrong asked me, “Why would you want ME in your movie?” perhaps I should have said, “Because you’ve inspired me.”
But instead, I said “You were in the movie!”
P.S. I’m just kidding about the sandwich guy. Even the guy who showed up one day with sandwiches is important. Even though he often says inappropriate things at the worst possible times and has snooty opinions about music.