FRIGHT INTERVIEW – Tony Timpone from FANGORIA Magazine
Anthony Timpone has been the man behind the FANGORIA magazine for close to 18 years now. He’s also one of the key organizers and hosts of the popular FANGORIA WEEKEND OF HORROR conventions. We got the chance to catch up with him and get the exclusive scoop on his history with FANGO, and all the projects the FANGO crew has in store for us, the fans. Make you sure visit Tony and his crew at FANGORIA.COM. – by Robg. 4/04
What were you first recollections of getting into the horror genre?
Well, I started out as a fan of the genre when I was a kid, watching the Universal monster movies and the Hammer films and going to the drive-in to see a lot of the movies of the 70’s and late 60’s. I just always had a big love for horror and science fiction fantasy. I used to read the comic books as a kid and I always had a passion for ‘Famous Monsters Of Filmland’.
When I was in high school I used to do my own fanzines, and I joined the science fiction club. I used to go to the conventions and meet people like Tom Savini, and try to interview them and then try to sell the articles to Famous Monsters or Fangoria or any publications like that. That was my dream, to work on a horror magazine. Sure enough, as soon as I got out of college, that was my first job and that’s where I remain today. I actually like getting up in the morning to go to work because I’m doing what I always wanted to do. Which is, ya know… edit a horror magazine, get involved with horror projects, and movies and videos. It’s all very fun and exciting.
How did you come to work for Fangoria and eventually land the gig as editor?
Well, it was mostly networking at conventions. And I think that anyone wanting to get into the business or anyone who does writing… that’s what they do, they go to the conventions. And the horror personalities there are very approachable. They’re all good people. They enjoy meeting their fans. And it’s just a great place to network. That’s where a lot of make-up guys get started. They’ll bring their portfolio’s and show them around. And film makers hand out their short films. Fango con’s really are the place to meet people that can help advance their careers.
Is there anything you can tell us about your early experiences with Fangoria?
While I was still in college I was writing freelance articles for Starlog, a science fiction magazine, because at the time, Fangoria used to be pretty much all written ‘in-house’, meaning that the editors themselves wrote all the articles, which was pretty unheard of at the time. So Fangoria was a very difficult market to break into for that reason because the editors at that time, Bob Martin and Dave Everett, for some reason, they just liked doing all the articles themselves. They’d write as many as 4 articles each per issue. I used to go to the science fiction conventions and Creation shows and meet a lot of the Star Trek and Star Wars people, and they were also very accommodating back then. I would interview these science fiction people and then sell the articles to Starlog, the science fiction magazine at that time. Then I started meeting some of the horror people, like Tom Savini and Caroline Munro. And I would sell those articles to a magazine called Monsterland. Fangoria didn’t need them so I went to the competition, Monsterland, which was edited by Forest J. Ackerman who was sort of my mentor in the business. I started doing a lot of writing for Monsterland toward the end of college, and when I got out of college, I ran into the editor of Starlog at a convention and told him I was just getting out of school and asked if there were any positions opening up. A month later, he called me while I was working at my dad’s deli, to come in for an interview. I went in and got the job. I was originally going to start as an editorial assistant and I would’ve worked on Starlog and a number of wrestling magazines we’d published around that time, which wasn’t too exciting but I figured it was getting a foot in the door. But the weeks leading up to my start at Starlog, Bob Martin who was co-editing Fangoria decided to leave to go work on a rock magazine, and Dave Everett had no one to help him on Fangoria. There was a vacant desk in his office where Bob Martin used to sit so as fate would have it, I got that desk and instead of that job of editorial assistant, I was going to be helping out Dave Everett. But then Dave Everett left after about a month, and I was pretty green at the time, being just out of college. The editor of Starlog, Dave McDonald, decided to be editor for about a year until I earned my wings and could become editor in chief. In that one month with Dave Everett, he promoted me from editorial assistant to assistant editor to associate editor to managing editor. I did writing, editing, and I enjoyed my job and was off and running.
There are several issues I’m really proud of. Fangoria #100 and Fangoria #200 are probably my favorite issue. I was really happy with the way issue 200 came out and I’ve liked a lot of the theme issues we’ve done. We’ve done issues devoted to vampires, werewolves, dinosaurs, Godzilla. Some of the Godzilla issues I really liked because we always managed to get such fabulous pictures and that’s another thing I grew up on. I used to love the Godzilla movies. I’d see all of those in the theaters as well. And we did a few specials. We did a magazine on Dracula when the ‘Coppola Dracula’ movie came out and I thought that came out really good. We did a dinosaur magazine to tie in with ‘Jurassic Park’ with a 3-D cover and I was really proud of the way that came out. We’ve done a Lovecraft issue. All those issues were a lot of fun.
Back in the late 80’s/early 90’s, there was another horror publication called Gorezone. Were you involved in it at all?
Yep. That was a Starlog publication and I edited that one as well. During that time, Fangoria’s circulation really spiked thru the roof and we realized there were probably going to be a lot of rip-off publications that are going to come along and steal Fangoria’s thunder. We thought we should create our own competition to discourage these other people that were going to try to steal our subscriber base. So we created Gorezone to literally form our own competition. And it worked.
There were a few rip-off magazines that didn’t come out or folded after one or two issues, whereas Gorezone lasted several years. I think it went up to issue 22 or so. Gorezone was a lot of fun to put together too. We put a lot of stuff in there that Fangoria didn’t have like fiction, we had a make-up effects column, and a lot more independent and foreign film coverage. More reviews. It was fun while it lasted, but now we’ve folded a lot of those departments into Fangoria and on our website, so Gorezone lives in other ways. We’re also starting a Gorezone video label to put out more independent gory horror films and so the title’s going to live on that way as well.
By profiling films in production for the magazine, were there any projects that either met or surpassed your initial expectations or surprised you upon release?
I would say the two re-makes that came out this past year. ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ and ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, I had low expectations going in because I didn’t think they were going to be able to top the originals. But even though they weren’t as good as the originals, they stood out and were very effective in their own right. Ya know, I think they were much better then I anticipated and they did a good job of re-imagining the films. They didn’t just slavishly recreate the magic of the original films, but they tried to do something different so I respect that. ’28 Days Later’ was better then I thought it would be. I knew it was going to be good but it was even better then I expected; it really scared the hell outta me and I thought that was terrific. That’s one that really blew me away.
Speaking of zombies, fast zombies or slow zombies?
I think the fast ones are scarier. I love the original ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ & ‘Night Of The Living Dead’ but there’s other social commentaries going on in those films. You have that in ’28 Days Later’, but I think it also upped the scare quotient by making them faster zombies. I think they’re scarier when they’re faster.
In the 80’s, you went on a crusade defending horror films. What do you think of the current state of horror films & how people view these films now?
Well, back then video was just gaining popularity. There were all these mother’s groups and PTA groups that were always attacking horror movies and violent films. That whole generation of concerned parents used horror films as a scapegoat. So yea, I was frequently called upon the carpet to defend the genre and the magazine. We were getting thrown off news stands. There was always a lot of trouble. And even back then, I said “you’re going after horror films now but what’s next? Are you going to go after TV and other movies”, etc. etc. And sure enough that’s what happened. After they were done attacking horror, they would go after the NYPD Blue, and starting ratings on records and tv shows, all the trouble with the MPAA. It was a real mess. It got worse and worse and worse and all these censorship issues never really died. We’re actually seeing a lot of that going on right now. But horror films haven’t really been the target like they used to be. The MPAA has almost sort of been horror’s best friend in the past few years. When you see what ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ got away with, it’s unbelievable.
Do you think the MPAA has lightened up the past few years?
Absolutely. Just look at ‘Kill Bill’ and again, ‘Dawn Of The Dead’. It’s amazing. I can’t imagine those films getting R ratings, say in 1990. Look at what ‘Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3″ went thru back then. The film was taken apart due to MPAA restrictions.
In a recent editorial, you mentioned how you desire more original films based on un-adapted books, as opposed to all of these current re-makes. Can you tell us a few books you’d love to see adapted?
There’s a lot of great Lovecraft stories that haven’t been done yet. Guillermo Del Toro wants to do ‘At the Mountains of Madness’, and I think that would be wonderful. Um, there’s some [John Skipp and Craig Spector] books that would make good movies, like ‘The Light At The End’. They were the splatter punks of the 80’s. They also did a werewolf book called ‘Animals’ that I remember liking a lot. So I think they’re some good 80’s splatter punk type books that would be really cool to see made into movies. There’s some Clive Barker stuff that hasn’t been done yet. Like ‘Weaveworld’. Christopher Fowler, Kim Newman (some of the British authors). They’ve done a lot interesting ones that would make good movies.
You published a book called ‘Men, Makeup and Monsters’ and helped edit several other books. What lead you to write that book and do work on the others?
I was approached by an agent who wanted to represent me, and asked if I had any idea for books. So that was the first one I thought of. Fangoria, especially in the early days was the bible of the make-up effect industry. Back when every kid wanted to go out to Hollywood and sling make up or latex. You don’t get that as much anymore because of CGI. So many people were coming to Fangoria just to read these profiles on Rick Baker and Rob Bottin and Tom Savini. They were the gods of our readership during the 80’s so I thought it would be a good idea to write a book about all these make-up gurus who were inspiring the fans. We profiled 12-13 of the top guys at that time. I got that book done, but it was a lot of work writing a book and editing Fango at the same time, so when the idea for other books came along, I decided to just edit them. I haven’t written any other books since, but I’ve edited 4 others under the Fangoria banner.
How did the Fangoria Weekend Of Horrors get started?
Well, pretty much as soon as I started here I got involved with the convention because I was going to the conventions myself as a fan even before I started here. The first Fango convention was in 84, and then I got involved with producing the shows by late 85/ early 86. I took a real active role to producing them, seeing them and booking the guests, and did everything it took to put on a big show.
How difficult is it to get genre professionals involved with the Fango Weekend Of Horrors? How do you go about making your selections from year to year?
I try to bring people on board people that the fans haven’t seen before. That’s usually the big goal. To bring a guest you just don’t see at other horror conventions. To get a Quentin Tarantino or a Jack Nicholson or Kenneth Branagh, just cool people. Guillermo Del Toro. They want to do these conventions because the magazine supports their movies in print. They want to meet the fans and press in the flesh and promote their new movies. I’m pretty much able to get most of the people I want to at the Fango shows because I work with these people on a daily basis in the print edition and they want to meet the people who support them at the theaters. A great place to do that is at the conventions.
The Fangoria Weekend Of Horror’s takes place on both coasts. Any differences between the NY and CA shows?
Yea, there are. At the LA shows, sometimes you have just as many celebrities in the audience as you do on stage. Ya know, it’s the company town where all the movies are made. You get a lot of people coming down just to hang out, even if they’re not speaking on stage. It’s not uncommon to see John Landis or Quentin Tarantino floating around the dealer’s room when you’re in LA. That always makes for a pretty exciting atmosphere. But the fans in LA are kind of jaded because they see these people on line at the supermarket. But when you bring Ron Perlman of Hellboy, to New York, it’s a real event and the fans go crazy. They’re not used to getting these people to come into their town.
The New York shows have moved to different locations thru-out the past few years. What initially sparked the merger with Chiller for the most recent Fango convention?
It started out as competition for the Fangoria shows. Kevin Clement who runs Chiller used to be a dealer at the Fangoria shows years ago. So he created his own show & it was a different kind of show but it kept growing and growing and getting bigger and bigger. I went to my first Chiller show and I just could not believe the numbers of people that were turning up. And at the Fangoria convention, the attendance was starting to erode a little bit. It wasn’t as big as it used to be.
So we decided it was time to switch partners and try to reach a lot more people and the first show we did with Chiller, we thought we had three times as many guests then with the previous convention partners that we had, Creation. The experiment worked and we were happy with the numbers of fans. The conventions are very crucial to us because we’re promoting the magazine, and our video and movie projects. So the more people there, the better.
You’ve helped set up events in Milan, Italy and the Fantasia Fest in Montreal. How’d you go about setting up these other Fango related events? What were the experiences for those events like?
Well, those are different from the conventions because they’re film festivals. Those are very exciting to work on because it’s always exciting to see a lot of these films on the big screen. A lot of these movies don’t get big screen exposure, so you go to a festival like Fantasia in Montreal or the festivals in Spain and it’s amazing when you see these films this way and not at home on video. You have a chance to discover a new film before anyone else. Fantasia was the first place to show the original Japanese ‘Ring’ in North America. Last summer, they had ‘Dead End’ & ‘Undead’. Films that haven’t even come out on tape yet. It’s a great place to get a buzz going and get the fans excited about upcoming films. It’s exciting working with the studios to premiere these films in front of audiences of hundreds of fans who are seeing these movies the way they’re meant to be seen and enjoying them.
In the early 90’s, Fangoria produced a series of films; ‘Mindwarp’, ‘Children Of The Night’ and ‘Severed Ties’. How did these projects come together? Can you tell us a little bit about Fango’s first experiences in movies?
Yeah, the first three movies we shot around the late 80’s/1990 for Columbia-Tri star. They financed the films and the first one was ‘Mindwarp’, a sci-fi/horror movie with Bruce Campbell and Angus Scrimm.
The second was called ‘Children Of The Night’ and that had Peter DeLuise, Ami Dolenz, Karen Black. And the third one was called ‘Severed Ties’ with Elke Sommer and Oliver Reed. They were shot for a little over a million a piece. They went direct to video and showed up on the sci-fi channel. They also played at festivals all over the world. And they did what they had to do. After producing a few movies, we decided instead of getting involved in production, about 8 years later, we thought why not start our own acquisition label where we would just distribute other peoples movies. That came together well. We partnered with a company called Delta Entertainment and now it’s all come full circle again. Because the videos started doing so well, we figured why don’t we start producing movies again. So that’s where we stand now. We have a few arrangements with a couple of companies to do horror lines with the Fangoria name. Also, we’re releasing our first theatrical horror film this year called ‘The Last Horror Movie’. It’s been playing festivals in San Francisco, Philadelphia. We’re looking at booking theaters this summer and it’ll be at Fantasia in July. It’ll also be at the Philadelphia International Festival in April. So, it’s getting out there and we’re looking forward to it getting a small art house release, much like what ‘Bubba Ho-Tep’ was able to achieve.
Did you get to see ‘Bubba Ho-Tep’?
Oh yeah. I loved ‘Bubba Ho-Tep’. It was one of my favorite horror movies, actually, favorite movies, period of the last year.
Is there anything you can tell us about ‘Sick In The Head’, the new Fango film with Frank Henenlotter?
Yep. He’s going to write and direct. The film was set up to go into production last year, but some of the money fell out at the last minute so we’re now actively trying to put the last piece to the financial puzzle together. It’s a little bit of a struggle because the film is really extreme and out there, but it’s a great script. People really like it. Eli Roth really loved it and was looking at producing it for his company. So, we’re just trying to get the last few dollars in place so we can start, so it’s going to happen hopefully this year.
Out of the Fango films distributed on DVD, are there any particular ones you enjoy yourself? I know ‘Slashers’ is a fan favorite?
Yeah, we came up with a really great campaign for that one and it seems to have sold the best since this movie we put out called ‘Angel Of The Night’, which is a vampire movie. That was our previous big seller until ‘Slashers’. I think out of all the movies, the one I’d like the best would be ‘Eternal Blood’. I think I like that one the best. I’d say the one with the most brains is ‘Dead Creatures’. I like that one a lot. And ‘Angel Of The Night’ is a fun vampire romp. ‘Another Heaven’ was our first attempt at doing a Japanese horror film, and I think that’s a good effective Japanese horror movie. We were very happy with the way that one did. Nothing goes out on the Fango label that I don’t personally approve and if I don’t like the movie, it’s not going to go out. So there has to be something about the movie that I find attractive and so far I’ve been proud of all our releases.
Thanks so much for talking to us Tony!
Anytime. I’m looking forward to logging onto the website every day to see what excitement you guys have lined up.
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