THE OUTER LIMITS TAVERN:
Ted C. Rypel Comes Clean
About the ‘Zine
Here in the Outer Limits Tavern*, one overhears all sorts of intriguing discourse. Like this:
DJS: Okay, so — Ted C. Rypel. What’s the “C” stand for?
TCR: The Outer Limits Tavern? Who’s buying? The “C” stands for Chester. It was my father’s name. Most of the time I drop it, except for initializing as we’re doing now or when I write fiction or scripts, when it’s pretentiously rendered T.C. Rypel, as you know. Well … part pretentious, part I-have-a-clunky-scanning-name.
DJS: I have a question I’ve always wanted to ask you: What does “TOLAIR” mean? (Oh … wait …)
DJS: Pronounced “two-layer?”
TCR: I’ve always thought of it more as a ‘zine than a cake and pronounce it “toe-lair.”
DJS: Let’s set the stage for the youngsters among us: You’re a family man, you’re living in Cleveland, the year is 1977-ish. You’re presumably working at a job that has nothing to do with The Outer Limits. And it occurs to you to found an epic fanzine project — three volumes that became four, as I recall. Explain yourself.
TCR: Explain or defend? Yeah … much the same thing, I suppose. OK, Cleveland … make it ’75 or ’76. I was working for NORCO when they stuck this thing on my chest (that’s another story).
I pretty much emerged from the same experiential pool as many of the TOL’able fanatics on the WACT blog. I’d seen the shows in first release, watched them repeatedly in syndication, taken copious, obsessive notes. I was writing short horror fiction and articles — mostly film reviews — for fanzines and college journals, amassing ambitious material for future novels.
Then it struck me one day that this influential show that refused to take quiet repose in my memories, that galvanized conversations for me and my similarly geeky friends (lots of organized and vocal fandom in the Midwest), had never been treated expansively in print. I had seen the early pieces you cite further ahead. But up to then it seemed like all you could find were episode guides. I thought TOL was of high enough quality to warrant a show-by-show analysis, like little sf/fantasy art films. So, blithely disregarding whether anyone would care about my opinions, I began to write what became a book-length series of TOL reviews.
I tried it out in mid-1976 on Fred Clarke at Cinefantastique, before I ever knew of you or the OL Archives and your groundwork for a comprehensive study.
DJS: (Sigh …) Best not to get me started on Fred Clarke.
TCR: Fred was interested in the idea but didn’t like my format, for one thing — with the synopses bracketed by the CV commentaries, followed by the reviews, like yours in the Companion and John and Peter’s in the blog. So I decided to do The Outer Limits: An Illustrated Review as a personal project. It started out as three issues, 64-pages-per. Then I saw that my logorrhea wasn’t going to permit that. Plus I picked up some supplementary features I hadn’t planned on. So the prospectus was expanded to four.
|“Keno” Don Rosa’s Mort-Drucker-like illo for his Outer Limits checklist in Rocket’s Blast ComiCollector.|
DJS: More background: Famous Monsters of course had that marvelous (though slightly “amended”) painting of the Thetan from “Architects of Fear” on its cover for the January, 1964 issue (#26). It featured a piece called “Inside OUTER LIMITS” by Roger Elwood and included a Joe Stefano interview. The fourth issue of Monster Fantasy (August 1975) had a two-page spread on “The Monsters from the Outer Limits,” ghostwritten, I believe, by my amigo Jeff Rovin. Also appearing in that issue was the ubiquitous Gary Gerani, who skunked my plan for Outer Limits world domination with his behind-the-scenes story and episode guide in Starlog #4 (March 1977); this, I think, was roughly parallel to the time Gary was preparing Fantastic Television, one of the very first fundamental books destined for the TV-monster obsessive’s short shelf. Based on the episode guide by “Keno” Don Rosa in Jim Van Hise’s Rocket’s Blast ComiCollector, I had whomped up my own version of an article plus a guide, and it had nowhere to land. Then in April and May of 1977, Dennis Gifford — who was working as Forry Ackerman’s assistant — disgorged a two-part article in FM #133 and #134. Then somebody named Ted C. Rypel stepped up with “The Outer Limits: TV’s Lamented Prodigy,” using words far too large and complicated for the readership of Fantastic Films #5, December, 1978. But right before that, in 1977, came Scorpio 13 and the first issue of The Outer Limits: An Illustrated Review.
Take it, Ted!
TCR: Runnin’ with it, Dave …
(“… words far too large and complicated…” You’ve perfected this slyly incisive, deadpan delivery that often makes it hard to tell whether you’re complimenting or chastising. In this case, if it’s the latter, you’re probably right. I was using Cahiers du Cinema lingo for an audience closer to Fangoria. I musta gone in the wrong door. But if, on the other glass hand, you’re praising my diction, I’ll getcha back with the observation that your own canny usage is as precise and acrobatic as a gymnastic competition.)
I had of course seen all the informative work about TOL that you cite by the time TOLAIR V1 (May, 1977) and V2 (May, 1978) appeared. (Scorpio 13, the “production company” name, was simply my own birthday, Nov. 13. That’s before some stargazer decided that the “ophicuckoo,” a half-bird, half-snake zodiacal critter had been inadvertently skipped.) And Gary Gerani’s Fantastic Television was then and is still a defibrillator for old TV-show passions.
But by then the TOLAIR project was tottering on the edge of abandonment, partly due to my poor business handling. (Repeat after me: Selling mass quantities to dealers at below cost is NOT a sound business model.) So I approached Fantastic Films about letting me do a feature-length piece, along with a thumbnail-sketch episode guide, so that I could at least complete my opinionating in brief, and they fell for it … went for it … Whatever.
DJS: It has always amazed me how someone in the middle of the country, with nothing but a passion, could assemble the resources featured in TOLAIR — most of them falling into the “labor of love” category. Whatever you didn’t have a photo for, you nonetheless went ahead and provided illustrations — illustrations at least good enough to be ripped off for those lamentable Outer Limits Files pseudo-“books.” So tell me about Joe Rutt and Gary Dumm and Marty Swiatkowski and Dave Billman.
TCR: It was definitely a labor of love. And although we — a-yuh — Midwestern-type folk do know a thing or two about thet there publicatin’ biz (I had worked as a magazine copy editor, and Joe Rutt was an advertising art director), I definitely learned that Cleveland was no country for OL men. So I had to scrounge what stills I could from cooperative collectors and memorabilia shops (Jerry Ohlinger’s store in New York helped a lot).
DJS: I hate to admit this, but I remember buying my very first Outer Limits still, from Dave Ichikawa at a convention (it was from “The Sixth Finger” and yeah, I still have it), which was right before I’d heard of Jerry Ohlinger, who was the go-to guy for most of the publicity shots that appeared like clockwork, thereafter, for anything needing Outer Limits photos.
TCR: Yeah, Jerry was definitely The Source on the East Coast at the time. But then by the second, graphically improved issue, I had hooked up with the Amazing Gary Gerani and the Incredible David J. Schow (who are teamed up in a coming ish of The Brave and the Bold).
DJS: The Crimson Mop Meets the Moisture Master!
TCR: (I’d say they’ve got a pretty good shot at their own book from DC. Who do you think: Gil Kane or Anderson/Infantino for the cover?) So I had some fresh resources and the promise of more. Gary’s TOL still files were astonishing, really helping to shape up the second volume. And you, your esteemed self, had gently corrected me on some mistaken production notions and were planning an article on the unfilmed TOL scripts for V3, you may recall.
DJS: Good thing I didn’t write it. It took nearly fifteen years to acquire copies of the actual never-filmed teleplays.
TCR: Really? You were going to wing it? I seem to remember that you sent pretty detailed thumbnails about their content. (Hey — how about that TOL quiz I once failed so miserably, about the original titles of some of the broadcast episodes? The WACT followers might find them pleasantly puzzling.)
Anyway, as for my local crew, I’m still in close contact with most of them.
Since there wasn’t enough photo documentation for a respectable first issue, I conscripted my talented illustrator compadres. Joe Rutt is a treasured friend and a local artist who achieved some regional renown for his fantasy paintings and scenes from movies, particularly the Harryhausens. He did those marvelous pencil covers, which are truly impressive in the large originals.
DJS: How big were the originals?
TCR: I haven’t seen them for a while. But I believe they’re 27x21. We had planned for the third issue to feature a full-color cover, for which Joe would have done something more representational, rather than another montage.
TCR: Gary Dumm is my Zen pal and kendo sensei, a skilled comic illustrator for decades, best known for his artwork on Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor. Gary also worked for many years at one of the nation’s great bookstores, here in Cleveland — Kay’s Book and Magazine Exchange. Long since gone to fossil, this was a massive, three-level temple to the printed word, more than a bookstore. It’s probably one of the places Harlan Ellison pilfered books from, in those anecdotal references he’s famously made about raiding downtown Cleveland as a kid. (He grew up a little east of the city, along Lake Erie.)
Dave Billman is an illustrator who specializes in horror scenes/characters. I met him through mutual friend Ed Learner, who was president of the Akron U. Film Society. The theme keeps galloping here: film fanatics seek their own kind and will go to great lengths to promote the things they love.
Marty Swiatkowski is a dear and parallel-minded sf-devouring friend since the third grade, a prodigious paperback and pulp collector, who served in numerous capacities on TOLAIR, including editing my ms. He owns the original TOLAIR covers.
But those artist pals really bailed us out with an assortment of nice scratchboard illos, ink washes, and various spot pieces without which the first issue would have had to be subtitled “A Semi-Illustrated Review.”
DJS: You were also hooked up with Gary Gerani at this time, yes? You also knew Steve Bissette?
TCR: Gary came along after V1 to rescue us in our impoverished still-state. He had a wonderful collection of stuff that was quite rare at the time, plus a rich knowledge of TOL, having already worked on the original Topps gum-card set. He put me in touch with Joe Stefano and, I think, Connie Hall, with whom I was planning an interview for one of the later volumes.
Steve Bissette introduced himself as a customer with an advance order for V1. He asked if there was anything he could contribute. To which I could only humbly gasp, “Hells, yes!” I love the Zanti scratchboard he did for V2, and there would have been more from him. A wonderfully talented illustrator who doesn’t need my props.
|Steve Bissette scratchboard illo from “The Zanti Misfits,” as it appeared in The Outer Limits: An Illustrated Review (Vol. 2).|
DJS: Having lumbered yourself with the time-consuming burden of actual hands-on physical layout and production, what did you learn, or what did you discover?
TCR: That I enjoyed a lot of the hands-on physical production — layouts and pasting-up copy and jousting with Joe about design. But also that it was a lot of late-night labor and dicey decision-making. I still shake my head about some of my calls — those half-tone pages that are so hard to read, for example. And remember the “Himes” flap?
TCR: Joe had decided, as a desperate space-filler, to do that Thetan mock-up illo and make it look as if it had been rendered by the show’s art department, signing it as “Himes.” I took some flak for that and owned up in the second issue. It was Joe’s idea and a nice illo, but my ill-advised call.
DJS: Well, wasn’t this also during the Dark Ages, when fandom theorized that there was, in fact no such picture of the full Thetan anywhere? Even if you knew there had been one in TV Guide, you had to remember it, then somehow obtain it. Just two years ago I was given, quite by chance, another photo in the never-seen-before category, of Paul Pattee standing by during construction of the costume. Check this out:
DJS: Now, go back to the “Architects” entry on the blog and check out the splendid full-length photo. Know what I can’t figure out? Paul appears to be wearing the same clothes … and I don’t think that Thetan was built in a single day.
TCR: That was precisely the apocryphal “wisdom” of the day: that there was no practical full Thetan suit, just an upper half and some prop arms and legs to complete the illusion. The TV Guide pic we’d seen was of some mock-up, the legend went. So we thought we’d have Joe extrapolate one. Oops.
Anyway, that’s how it went: If it was good, someone else did it. If it was a mistake, it was mine. I really should have deferred to an outside editor, since all I had really wanted to do were the reviews. But there was no one handy who’d work more cheaply than for less than nothing.
DJS: About this time, you need to explain how you got mixed up with a fellow like Lawrence Rapchak.
TCR: Larry Rapchak — great guy. He came along a couple of years later, the early ‘80s, having discovered the wonder of TOL elsewhere and then been directed to TOLAIR. He was interested in getting much deeper into the production history of the show, and I steered him to you and Frentzen, who were at the time dealing with your own proposed Cinefantastique issue, no?
DJS: We repeat … do not get me started on the topic of Fred Clarke.
TCR: (Let me get this straight, “for reasons both sociological and psychological” I shouldn’t pursue the topic of F— Never mind.)
I really liked Larry and his boundless enthusiasm. We share, to this day, a lot of film interests beyond TOL, like The Three Stooges. He used to come to my house for these marathon 16mm film club programs. A very bright and talented, enthusiastic and generous guy. You’ve seen his outrageous gag videos? Hilarious!
DJS: What was your original schedule? How long between TOLAIR V1 and V2? And what kind of response did you get?
TCR: It was just about exactly a year between issues, the second one taking longer to publish because it was more complex and harder to raise the money for. I was charging way too little for what we were giving out, as several people had been telling me. I think Doug Murray was charging $5 for his TOL mag a couple years later, for much less content. Ours were $2.50 and $3, respectively. And we were giving away those great full-color silk-screen prints to the first 500 subscribers!
But the response was astonishing. I can’t say I was surprised to learn that the show had a strong and loyal following. Could I have run off double the print runs, backed off some on the dealer consignments, and sold them out eventually at full retail? Maybe. I might then have had a lot more revenue from retail sales and thus finished the four issues. That was my friend Ted Bohus’ m.o. with his slick SPFX series. But there was just no way to tell how it was going to go, or how long it would take. I didn’t want to wait 2-3 years between issues, alienating readers. So we were under-capitalized, in the final analysis. I wanted to get them distributed quickly. I erred on the side of cautious expediency, and the comic dealers bought us out cheap. With today’s streamlined methods, you’d just keep printing them on demand.
Stefano sent me a check and told me to send him as many copies of V1 as it would cover. I gave him the dealer’s rate, figuring — hey, producer’s break, right? He called later and chided me, saying, “You can’t make any money like that! You’re a better writer than you are a businessman!”
DJS: In the February, 1978 issue of The Comics Journal (#38), Jim Wilson wrote a long and glowing review of TOLAIR, saying — I’m paraphrasing here — that it was the first example to his knowledge of a comprehensive, accurate and literate work that was a holistic analysis of a subgenre done as a fanzine per se; quite amazing when you consider all the fan attempts at a qualitative study of Star Trek that were probably out there at the same time, incomplete, doomed to obscurity, or hobbled by the limitations of their wanna-be historians. Were you consciously trying to elevate the discussion out of geekdom and into the “grown-up” realm of criticism, or was TOLAIR more a storehouse for your own personal reactions to the show, kind of “solidified memory?”
TCR: Well, of course, Jim Wilson was my friend and a participant in the project, so he was understandably biased. He’d already been friends with Tony Lawrence, and he brought in that interview. I think I partly answered you somewhere above when I said that, yeah, I thought the show deserved more special attention, critically, than most TV, certainly in its own time. I was deeply into my nascent discovery of the richness of foreign films back then. I thought, Hey, wait a minute — you do an analysis of the nuts and bolts of an episode like “Forms of Things Unknown” and you’re in the realm of French New Wave cinema and the surreal stuff from Cocteau.
So, yeah, I wanted to “elevate the discussion” into more serious levels of consideration, transcend the typical Star Trek alien bio-fax conjecture. That being said, my personal, subjective feelings about the shows were inevitably going to color my commentary. Pure objectivity doesn’t come easily when you’re dealing with a subject that’s so engaged your emotions as TOL did mine. It’s pop-art with a purpose. A crazy joy ride in a very finely crafted vehicle to a destination that’s unexpectedly meaningful.
But hey — as a “qualitative study,” TOLAIR was as incomplete and “hobbled by limitations” and guesswork errors as many of those Star Trek wannabes you cite. It remained for you to come along with the Companion, after years of compiling research materials, interviews and production logs to give this great show its due. I just wanted to chronicle it as an admiring reviewer.
DJS: Talk a little bit about the Gary Dumm silkscreen prints. Looking at them now, I think the frou-frou pink was a bold and unexpected choice; it works when seemingly it should not.
TCR: Gary won you over with the frou-frou pink! He’s probably reading this and getting the last laugh! I remember when you kind of winced in a letter about it — your wince embossed the letter. I told Gary, “Hey, Dave Schow said, ‘Ugh! All that frou-frou pink.’” He laughed and said you were probably right. But time has borne out his choice, hasn’t it? And it was only then that I learned “frou-frou pink” was the precise name of that color hue.
But those marvelous silk-screen prints — I can’t think of a more valuable giveaway by any fanzine — were one more symptom of our complete lack of confidence in what we were doing. They were worth more than the damned magazine!
I recall assisting Gary with them one day, learning how the serigraph process worked, pushing that squeegee along the length of a table for one color pass at a time, for each separate color in a 500-copy print run! Each one signed and numbered by this outstanding illustrator — and then we gave them away. Insane!
It’s why we’re all poor today.
DJS: Ahem, um … do you have any left, perchance? Y’know, just sitting around, sans patrons, needing love and appreciation?
TCR: Just my own copies, matted and framed, which I think I’ll love and appreciate myself a while longer. But you’ve presented me a can of worms, now, that I’m too curious not to open. Let’s see … I’ve got some original incidental pieces — column decorations and such — by Dumm and Billman; the original paste-up layouts; tons of 8-page uncut press overruns; and, weirdly, the actual plate negatives for the issues. I should melt them down for the silver content. And I also discovered, in the same enormous portfolio, an original 27x21 inked cover illo by Joe Rutt for J. Vernon Shea’s HPL fanzine Outre (appropriately enough), from around that time. Thanks, Dave!
DJS: What kind of resources did you have? Very few people I knew in 1977 had videotape, and even if you did, you had to be lucky enough to be tapped into a syndication source. Did you have 16mm prints? Did you go the audio tape route, as I did? Or did you just assiduously annotate the shows as you watched them on broadcast? (Which had to be frustrating, for a one-time viewer to tear their eyes away from the screen long enough to scribble something down.) For the record, the very first VHS tape I owned was a dupe copy of Please Stand By and The Unknown. (I still have it, and it plays just fine.)
TCR: I have a really crappy VHS dub of The Unknown. That was your first tape of anything, Dave? Wow. My first dub, bought from a local shyster-pirate, was The Thing and Assault on Precinct 13 — an all-Carpenter double. Is this great regression therapy, or what?!
DJS: My first tape of a feature film was — gulp — Videodrome.
TCR: Ahh, you can’t be too hard on yourself for that one.
As I said, I had been scribbling TOL notes for years from syndicated episodes, which seemed to run fairly regularly on various Cleveland UHF channels. Yeah, it was exasperating to scribble while watching. And there would always be frustrating omissions from the syndication packages. Or you’d get “Specimen Unknown” every third week. Sometimes I’d compare detail notes with other fanatics via correspondence or phone calls. We quickly realized that in most cases we were losing the teasers, wondering if our imaginations had manufactured some of them back in ’63-’64. Because syndication demands extra commercial time, they always begin by lopping the teasers. It was years before I got to see the wonderfully bizarre vacuum cleaner scene in “Woodwork” again. For TOLAIR, Gary remembered the scene but not the big industrial vacuum; so he did that V1 illo of the cleaning lady on her knees with, like, a Hoover!
DJS: That makes sense, and would also explain why the “tree trimmers” in “The Man With the Power” are depicted working on a power pole — “show-memory” being powerful enough to itself suggest controllable power (and also presages Leslie Stevens’ unwritten idea for a bottle show, “The Lineman,” about a fellow whose consciousness gets sucked into the endless network of the power grid, giving him a “body” that extends everywhere).
TCR: Oh, right — Joe’s freaky stylized ink wash! I don’t know which one of us mis-remembered that particular detail. But I like the illo. And your Stevens bottle show premise, “The Lineman” — that always reminds me of Bradbury’s “Dial Double Zero.”
Anyway, as we got older and took up 16mm collecting, as much as we could afford to, a lot of episodes turned up in that format.
DJS: Did you score the internegative dupes Ted Bohus produced, or did you have access to syndication prints?
TCR: Both. I think we saw Bohus’ dupes first because he began making them available right around the time we were prepping V1. But there were always dealers turning up pilfered syndicated episodes, here and there. You’d sometimes hear that some apocryphal TV station had “sold” a batch of them, knowing full well that it would have been illicit commerce. Remember what we were paying for 16mm prints then, Dave? Teeth-pulling, arm-twisting dedication to collecting treasured movies has been completely trivialized by modern accessibility. You had to do some scampering to see the films you loved in those days, and some scrimping to own any.
(Ellison aside: We saw Harlan at a convention at Kent State U. in Winter ’76-77. Showed him the advance sales flier for TOLAIR and discussed the available TOL titles. He brushed them aside and told us if we could find him a 16mm print of “Soldier,” we’d be friends for life. In those days, the creative artists didn’t even have ready access to their films!)
So I had a lot of serious collector friends who would bring an occasional episode to my film club shows. We were able to promote TOL’s memory, introduce some newer viewers to what we had marveled at. It increasingly impressed me that the show ought to be chronicled as the art-house sf it could be, at its best. Even its relative bottom-feeder episodes beat most other shows all to hell, certainly in the genre.
And yeah, I had lots of the shows on acetate audio tape, too. There were a lot of friends of friends who had amazingly recorded them just for all the weird sounds and eerie music. There haven’t been many TV shows that warrant that kind of mixed-media attention.
Frantically jotting down those end credits with your own personal shorthand was a trip, wasn’t it?! Swearing the whole time, if the channel rolled them fast!
DJS: I actively hated those end credits. So I held them down and immortalized them on page 373 of the revised Companion — trapped at last!
TCR: I remember cross-referencing mine with magazine coverage (which never went very deep) and the notes of a few other fanatical list-compilers; doing what library research was available; and then hoping for the best. I had only a couple of scripts, courtesy of Joe Stefano, others dribbling in from TOLAIR supporters. The CV commentaries were the worst embarrassment, where despite every effort and cross-reference we’d wind up with a misinterpreted word here and there. You caught me with a couple —“saccharin” for “saffron” (in “Tourist Attraction”)! Damn — that one is permanently lodged in my craw! It came from someone “researching” those for me, and to this day it remains the most brain-dead, common-sense copy-editing error I ever let pass.
DJS: Despite the cover price increase by a whopping 50¢, the second TOLAIR was the last. What made you pull the plug and how did you feel about it? By now I’m assuming that the Fantastic Films piece was an effort to salvage some of the review material, to get it, at least, into print form for the record.
TCR: I pretty much already answered the “why” of this one out of context. As for my feelings at the time, they were mixed. I was sorry to see another ambitious undertaking abandoned without completion. I’ve had my share. But I wasn’t sorry to gain back all the leisure time that had by now turned to writing projects with promise of pay. And that’s ultimately why we write, isn’t it, whatever noble reasons we have for taking it up?
DJS: Yet TOLAIR inspired a whole ‘nother fanzine — Steve Streeter’s Outer Limits Newsletter, which lasted for six issues (January 1978 through late 1983).
TCR: Yeah, Streeter kept that thing going longer than anyone would have bet. All I can recall about him was his being hyper-enthusiastic on the subject. I’m glad he was sufficiently inspired to keep providing the fandom with a forum. Wild energy and passion is what gets these tributes done.
DJS: During this time did you ever consider reviving TOLAIR?
TCR: Only when prompted many times over the years by eager readers who had found it useful. That’s equal parts humbling, gratifying and guilt-inducing. But no, I never gave it serious thought. I became busy with other things, had a family to raise, etc. Then once you brought out The Official Companion, it seemed irrelevant for me to force my opinions out there, against the grain of other pressing life involvements.
I’ll share an oddity with you, though. I’m still occasionally accosted by a former reader via the Internet about the possibility of more TOLAIR. The concept is kept alive, in part, by the fact that to this day the outdated ordering info for the fanzine is a footnote on p. 230 of the paperback edition of Stephen King’s Danse Macabre. He found it at a World Fantasy Convention in Providence, is how it’s been told to me, and at the time (ca. 1979) he thought it was the best TOL coverage he’d seen. He cites the show as his favorite in the chapter on TV influences on his work and was apparently urging people to buy TOLAIR by footnoting it. Many years after the publication had gone defunct, I was working at the USPS and the letter carrier who had my old residence on his route hand-delivered me an order for TOLAIR! I had been gone from my TOL house for nearly twenty years, and yet it pulled me back like the house in “The Guests”!
DJS: Did you ever see Steven Johnson’s mind-boggling “psychological” breakdowns of Outer Limits episodes in his magazine, the aptly-named Delirious?
TCR: No, I haven’t. Sounds like something I should seek out.
DJS: Here’s a sample:
|Four bullets from Steve Johnson’s Delirious #1 (1992). Steve lived in Cleveland Heights, Ohio — not all that far from Ted Rypel.|
TCR: Well, now I have. Hay-sus Marimba— Is that some Freudian stream-of-consciousness meditation, or what? They read like my flash-fire notes to myself before I transcribe them from the restaurant napkins. But as I‘m sure you didn’t overlook, this guy makes some strangely insightful points: For “Doomsday,” it sounds as if he’s positing that dreams (fantasies?) are lost once human union is embraced; once marriage is consummated. Sounds like a contention endorsed by the porn industry.
And for “The Guests,” what do you suppose he means by “deterioration of (phallic) consciousness”? My cerebrum goes flaccid just contemplating that one. His equation seems to express: “Love” = “a fortifying principle that enables defiance of oppression, even when such defiance is futile or illogical.” That would seem to add up in the context of the episode. But how about that spacey reference to the Control Voice? This guy “heard” a mystical CV commentary on an episode where there isn’t one?
We could do a whole article on this one-page TOL hieroglyph. Enlightened gibberish, I’d call it, until thoughtfully deciphered.
DJS: Flash-forward, now. Did you stay in touch with Joe Stefano? Or any of the other original Outer Limits players?
TCR: Joe Stefano was the only one I really got to know, and we remained friends until his passing, exchanging letters and Christmas cards and sometimes lengthy conversations, mainly about writing. I’m still in regular contact with his wife, Marilyn. He was a wonderful man, in addition to being a colossally talented one. (How many TOL fans do you think know about his songwriting accomplishments, Dave?) ** I considered him a real guru, especially in imparting tips about character shorthand and screenwriting. He always had time to talk to a friend. My last beautiful memory of him is that Joe and Marilyn called, in response to my Christmas-card note, on Christmas Eve the year before he passed away. I had a houseful of family, all of whom knew who he was and were charmed to be so honored with a holiday call from these delightful movie industry friends from so far away.
Once my daughter, about 10 or 11 at the time, was awed that I had gotten a letter from someone who lived in “Beverly Hills 90210.” I told Joe, and he was charmed enough to send her a personal letter, explaining our friendship, and regaling her with news of his famous neighbors and such. She cherishes it to this day. Joe was simply a first-class, thoughtful human being, on top of all his other achievements.
DJS: I recall one of the Gonji books was dedicated to Joe. In fact, illuminate Gonji a bit for us.
TCR: Yeah, that was the fourth book, Fortress of Lost Worlds. I thought I owed him that, as a significant mentor and staunch supporter. In the dedication I reference his TOL work for its influence. And did I ever mention to you that the unpublished sixth book, which resides in my files, has all 48 TOL titles woven into the text? It was a trip doing it! Not to mention a stretch, having to invent characters with names like Eck and Col. Barham Obit, just to manage the conceit! It works, though, and no non-TOL reader would be jarred by the effect.
DJS: I do that to this day. Some character will have a TV on in a hotel room, and passing reference will be made to a line of Outer Limits dialogue or a brief glimpse of “some guy from the future with a gigantic head” — never identified, though. If you know, you know.
TCR: Adventure-fantasy has long been my main fictional passion. Gonji grew out of my lifelong love for Japanese film, some years as a martial artist, and a taste for Robert E. Howard and Karl Edward Wagner, among others.
DJS: Karl was another friend of mine who checked out too soon.
TCR: I picked up on your association during the “splatterpunk” heyday. I wish I had gotten to meet him. I think Death Angel’s Shadow convinced me that you could write medieval fantasy in a modern idiom. He was a helluva fantasist.
TCR: I picked up on your association during the “splatterpunk” heyday. I wish I had gotten to meet him. I think Death Angel’s Shadow convinced me that you could write medieval fantasy in a modern idiom. He was a helluva fantasist.
Gonji is a dispossessed half-breed samurai traveling through legend-haunted Europe (ca. Solomon Kane’s day) on a mission to unravel his mysterious destiny. What begins as alternate-history fantasy gradually becomes a quest by Gonji and his shaky ally, the misanthropic werewolf, Simon Sardonis, to unearth and challenge a conspiracy by demigods who have determined Earth’s history for millennia. These creepy folk do their meddling from a labyrinth of concentric worlds, of which our Earth is one.
Five books were published by Zebra in the ‘80s, before they changed their entire publishing philosophy and dropped their fantasy line. The series prospectus has grown to eleven total books. They’ve been re-issued in Germany and the first book is on audio here. Now Wildside Press is bringing them back in domestic print and e-book soon. Maybe I’ll still get to finish and publish the other six.
DJS: You also mentioned on the blog that Tracy Tormé had consulted you about the revived Outer Limits.
TCR: Yes, Tracy called me in the ‘80s at my intermediary residence (prompted by Stefano, I think) to run by me the idea of what would become NOTer Limits: Did I think there was a solid fan base for a revived series, from what I could gather? etc. I put a bug in his ear about the possibility of pitching him a script. He said, “Sure, if it all comes together,” and then I did nothing more about it and, sure enough, it all came together a few years later.
Damn … I could have been bitching about what some ham-handed director did with my NOTer teleplay.
DJS: (clears throat in chagrin) Don’t get me started …
TCR: Lots of touchy subjects tangential to The Outer Limits, is the vibe I’m getting. But I see that the questions have run out, so I’ll gracefully shut my yap.
DJS: One more thing: You want to make Blamire’s day?
TCR: Sure. Who wouldn’t?
DJS: Then let’s reproduce the TOLAIR interview with Anthony Lawrence at the end of this …
* Tucson’s Outer Limits Tavern as depicted in the photographs is no more. Neither is the Studio City branch of London’s Forbidden Planet, which was called Outer Limits during its brief but memorable existence.
Nationwide, the name has been used for everything from bar & grills to furniture shops, and Kari Barba’s Outer Limits Tattoo is still going strong in Orange County after more than two decades.
** A few more, at least, now that Dom and Marilyn compiled a disc of (about 20) Stefano songs to give away at Joe’s memorial, where much of the attendance was from Joe’s songwriting days … and they ALL performed! The opening act was Sally Kellerman, belting out Joe songs as though in a smoky noir lounge — a surreal and unique memory in itself, and I think Dom has a video of it.
|The entire Lawrence family, ca. 1977, photo by Jim Wilson.|