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Written by Written by Joe Sherlock   
Sep 06, 2005 at 02:00 AM
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DG Sept - Ray Etheridge Examines Hollywood Tragedies
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Set for a late October release (i.e. editor's note, but available now only at www.b-movie.com), DEATH IN HOLLYWOOD/WHEN THE APPLAUSE DIED is a DVD double feature detailing the world of fame and tragedy in show business. These documentaries examine the fast, rough lives and quick deaths of celebs like John Belushi, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Freddie Prinz, Bela Lugosi, W.C.Fields, Stan Laurel, Vic Morrow, George Reeves, Marvin Gaye, Nick Adams, Liberace, Sal Mineo, Natalie Wood, James Dean, Bob Crane, Dorothy Stratton, Ramon Navarro, The Black Dahlia, Steve McQueen, Jean Harlow, Ricky Nelson, Sharon Tate, Ernie Kovacs, Carole Lombard, Bruce Lee, Rock Hudson, Marilyn Monroe, Sam Cooke, Jane Mansfield, Russ Columbo, Thelma Todd, Lupe Valez, Carole Landis, and more. The man behind them is Ray Etheridge, a longtime filmmaker currently residing in Florida.

DG: Tell us about the upcoming release DEATH IN HOLLYWOOD and WHEN THE APPLAUSE DIED. What inspired you to tackle this subject?

Ray: I have worked in television for over 30-years. The schedule is brutal, the pay is low, and jobs are scarce. There is no job security, shows are often cancelled at a moment's notice, and many freelancers live from one paycheck to the next. The television business is full of insecurities, failed relationships, and rampant alcoholism. Yet the public in general rarely, if ever, knows how bad the business can be when everything seems to go wrong. DEATH IN HOLLYWOOD and WHEN THE APPLAUSE DIED are true stories about the dark side of the entertainment industry.

DG: What can folks look forward to when they pick up this disc? Why should people pick this one up?

Ray: WHEN THE APPLAUSE DIED is a morbidly fascinating look at Hollywood superstars who made it to the top, and then lost everything through drug and alcohol abuse. We look into the lives of actors, recording stars, and big time producers such as John Belushi, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, W.C.Fields, and dozens of others. DEATH IN HOLLYWOOD tracks the careers of celebrities who had it all, only to die untimely deaths at the height of their career through accidents, suicide..even murder. Both shows are jam packed full of newsreel footage, rare film clips, and little known facts. A real eye-opening, sobering experience!

DG: You've been in the film and television business for many years. How did you get your start?

Ray: When I was in middle school my parents moved from Los Angeles to a tiny community in Oregon, where they bought an old-fashioned general store. In school, my teacher taught me how to operate their 16mm movie projector and I was hooked. I bought my own projector and built a theatre on the second floor of my parent's store. Soon afterwards my mother gave me an 8mm Sears movie camera, and I later purchased a 16mm Bolex camera. Living in the country, my real world was rather bland, so I began dreams of creating a new world on film. I also worked on weekends as a projectionist at the old Avalon Theatre in Clatskanie Oregon, and two weeks after I graduated from high school I landed my first "real job" as a summer relief film editor for KATU/ABC in Portland.

DG: You've worked a lot in your current location of Miami Florida, including stuff for Telemundo. What are some of the more memorable projects you've been involved with?

Ray: I moved to Miami in 1997 to work on a new show for the Telemundo Network called "Edicion Especial", which was like "Entertainment Tonight", except in spanish. I did celebrity interviews with virtually every latin artist on the planet during the four years that we were on the air. I traveled all the way to such countries as Bolivia, Panama, central America, the Bahamas, and dozens of exotic (and not so exotic) places in-between. When the show went off the air I was Director of Photography on 130 episodes of a TV series called "Ocean Avenue", which was shot in English for Sweden. Victoria Jackson of Saturday Night Live fame was one of the actresses. I also had the privilege of being a camera operator on 15 episodes of the game show "Wheel Of Fortune", starring Vanna White and Pat Sajak. They were on location here in Miami. I am currently working for PBS.

DG: I've shot all of my features in Oregon (and a bit of one in Washington), so I have to ask you about "The Vernonia Incident". I see from your website that you have a behind-the-scenes documentary about it. Did you direct the movie as well? Were you living in Oregon at the time?

Ray: "The Vernonia Incident" was my first feature film, a 16mm action-adventure shot in the tiny community of Vernonia, Oregon. The local residents were so happy to have us there that we pretty much did whatever we wanted. We literally blew-up a dozen cars with dynamite and had a major car chase right through the center of town. When we made the film I was living in Los Angeles, but decided to shoot the movie in Vernonia because I had graduated from high school there, and my mother was still living in the area. Recently the movie has been digitally remastered, and the title changed to REVENGE OF THE REDNECKS. Ron Bonk has plans to re-release the movie on DVD, together with the behind-the-scenes documentary. We are awaiting a release date. The documentary, by the way, is fantastic! It shows how the special effects were done.

DG: I'm betting that you have the same sense of humor I do, considering you made FART:THE MOVIE back in 1991, way before the Farley Brothers movie of the same name. I understand it was available in Spencer Gift stores? Tell us all about it!!

Ray: I directed FART:THE MOVIE in 1991 and it was really ahead of its time. I remember that we placed an ad in Daily Variety for actors, and Variety refused to accept the ad until we changed the title to "Wind Breakers". But we received responses from DOZENS of actors who absolutely loved the idea. Many of the actors were SAG (professional union actors), among them Robert Axelrod, who had been in several Charles Bronson films, and Conrad Brooks, who was in the original "PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE". Brooks commented, "now I've been in the two worst films ever made." No video distributor would touch the film with a 10-foot pole, but we immediately discovered that the novelty store trade was very interested in it...just like fake vomit or doggie doo-doo...so it was cut from 97-minutes down to 30-minutes, and marketed to companies such as as Funny Side Up and Spencers. Oddly enough, Canadians bought more copies than Americans...go figure. It did extremely well. Marketing research told us that women bought most of the tapes, as gifts for their spouses and boyfriends. Ron Bonk has just picked-up the original 97-minute director's cut of FART, and we are awaiting a release date.

DG: What might we look forward to from you in the near future?

Ray: My wife, Migdalia, and I have just finish principle photography on our latest feature film, "Detour To Hell", and it should be ready to market by Thanksgiving. It is a suspense/horror film, and our most elaborate project to date. I wrote the screenplay and directed, and Migdalia acted as producer for our company, Golden West Films. I have yet another script in development, and we have plans to shoot that one next year.


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