Q: Tell us about yourself.
A: I was born in Worcester, MA in 1975. I have been a fan of horror movies since I was a little kid. My grandmother got my sister and I hooked on them when we stayed over her house some weekends when we were kids. We would go to the local video store and rent horror flicks whenever we stayed over. We saw so many classics for the first time while over there - everything from the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE to the controversial yet beloved SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. These flicks really inspired me and by the time I was 13, I was running around the neighborhood with a video camera making all these wacky movies about psychotic killers, madmen, and monsters.
I started to take movie-making more serious in my 20's and decided to make a 30 minute horror flick putting many of my inspirations in the mix! So obviously the star is my 73 year old Grandmother who plays a sweet old Granny who finally loses her marbles after deciding her family isn't worthy of their blood. My sister plays her snotty Grand-daughter, Susie, who meets an untimely death at the end of Granny's ice pick. My Uncle plays Granny's anxiety-riddled son who she tries to coerce into helping her rid of the body!
And then I put Felissa Rose in it as a newscaster and the first and only acting performance of SLEEPAWAY's wacky creator Robert Hiltzik as Granny's wacky neighbor. The flick is called GRANDMA'S SECRET RECIPE and it premiered on the big screen at FLASHBACK WEEKEND in Chicago in 2002. Me, Robert, and Felissa were all there to unleash Grandma's wrath and it was wild for me to see the audience "eat it right up" with lots of squirming and laughing. I also finished my first Feature-Length horror opus this year called BLOOD BROTHERS about 2 serial killing brothers who use murder as a way to cope with an unusual trauma from their childhood. It took me 5 years to complete this puppy but I'm pretty happy with the finished product.
So as you can tell, my life has been a life long labor of love for the horror genre. I am also getting ready to release my debut R&B album. I've been recording it in the studio over the past few years. That's another of my passions: writing, producing, and performing R&B and rap songs! Candie Calvert, a promoter and fan from Alabama heard some of my music on a website that promoted Boston Area artists and she created an amazing website dedicated to my music and the forthcoming album. Fans of R&B take a listen and check out her work. The things that dedicated fans can do online, I'll tell ya! LOL! :-)
A photo from the "Sleepaway Camp" reunion.
Q: What is your involvement in the "Sleepaway Camp" series? How did you become involved?
A: I'm the guy who tracked down Jonathan Tiersten (Ricky), Felissa Rose (Angela), and writer/director Robert Hiltzik (who had been rumored dead) between 1998 and 2000 and basically brought them back to all the fans while also interesting them all in doing a new SLEEPAWAY. I am the webmaster of the Official SLEEPAWAY CAMP website and one of the producers of the upcoming RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP. I organized and arranged everything from the DVD commentary to all the SLEEPAWAY events at conventions and screenings across the US. Really I'm a big fan who set out to make big things happen.
Back in 1998, John Klyza (who runs the official site for Parts 2 and 3) and I met on a horror message board and decided to create a website for SLEEPAWAY CAMP together. While everyone was talking about FRIDAY THE 13th and HALLOWEEN, we wanted to put another deserving series back in the spotlight: SLEEPAWAY CAMP! John went to work writing and using his terrific web-designing talents to give the site a gory layout - I did some writing, scanned movie stills, and began spending countless hours researching to track down people from the mysterious SLEEPAWAY CAMP.
Q: You worked really hard to get together the Fangoria "Sleepaway Camp" reunion. What all went into getting that together? Tell us about it.
A: It was right around the time of the commentary that I wrote to FANGORIA magazine to see if they would be interested in adding a SLEEPAWAY CAMP event to one of their WEEKEND OF HORRORS lineups. SLEEPAWAY was slashing down the comeback trail and I figured it was time to start getting some of the SLEEPAWAY faces to pop up at some conventions, something they had never done before. I didn't hear anything right away. Then fall 2000 came, the DVD had been out for a few months, and Tony Timpone from Fangoria e-mailed me asking if I would be interested in hosting a reunion between Felissa and Robert on stage at their New York WEEKEND OF HORRORS 2001 convention.
I gave him a call and basically said, "Sure I can reunite them on stage but we can make this even bigger!" By this point I had been in touch with many more SLEEPAWAY folks and thought "why not make this as big of a SLEEPAWAY Reunion as possible and get as many people from SLEEPAWAY to go as we can." Tony liked the idea and told me to let him know who else I was inviting and we could put them on the guest list as well. So I made a bunch of calls and before long we had 8 cast members, Robert, and his wife (associate producer) Michelle Tatosian ready to attend. It was funny because Robert was a little skeptical at first and would always ask me, "Do you really think anyone is going to show up?"
I kept assuring him that there would be many fans there to see this spectacle. I had been reading e-mails from Fans everywhere telling me how excited they were about it and that they were going to be there. But I guess seeing is believing - and when Robert saw the giant turnout that day he was absolutely stunned. It was funny while we were walking into the convention to get backstage. Some fans immediately recognized faces from the movie and started shouting! I remember someone in awe of seeing Desiree Gould in person and shouting, "Oh my god, it's Aunt Martha!!"
And Paul DeAngelo was telling me that after he parked his car and was walking toward the hotel, people were shouting, "Ronnie!! Hey Ronnie!" And it didn't even dawn on him that they were calling out to him until he got inside and saw all the fans. Most of the cast had no idea that SLEEPAWAY had become such a cult classic. It opened a lot of people's eyes. We had a wild time. The autograph line for the movie lasted around 4 hours. Fangoria told me that the SLEEPAWAY Reunion turned out to be the surprise hit of the show.
Jeff Hayes and Paul DeAngelo on the set of "Return to Sleepaway Camp".
Q: Who all have you been fortunate enough to have met from the "Sleepaway Camp" world?
A: I met Jonathan, Felissa, and Robert in person all within months of having tracked them down. Then when I organized the SLEEPAWAY REUNION in 2001 for Fangoria's Weekend Of Horrors, I met many of the original cast who, up to that point, I had only spoken with on the phone such as: Desiree Gould (Aunt Martha), Paul DeAngelo (Ronnie), Loris Sallahain (Billy), Tom Van Dell (Mike), John Dunn (Kenny), Michelle Tatosian (associate producer) and Mike Tatosian (Chef's assistant). In 2002 I did a big interview with Kathy Kamhi (Meg) on the phone. I also had phone conversations with William Kuskin who played "Mozart" and Alan Breton who played "Frank, the cop with the unforgettable moustache" a few years back. As for the sequels, I've been in touch with Daryl Wilcher (Riff in part 3) and director Michael Simpson since 1999. Daryl is playing a role in my gruesome upcoming sequel: GRANDMA'S SLOPPY SECONDS. Is the horror world ready for the Return Of Riff?? And believe it or not, John Klyza and I have yet to meet in person!
Q: You did commentary on the "Sleepaway Camp" DVD. John Klyza did commentary on parts II and III. According to him it's not as easy as it seems. What was your experience like with part 1?
A: Actually, making the Commentary happen was the hardest part because of everything having to be arranged at the last minute. The original SLEEPAWAY disc was just going to be a bare bones release because Anchor Bay had nothing to put on it. So I contacted them in 1999 and told them that I had tracked down the director and some of the stars and proposed that we do something with them to put on the dvd for all the fans. By the time they finally got back to me, they only had about 2 weeks left until they had to begin pressing the discs. So I got a call from Bill Lustig at Anchor Bay and he said to me, "If you can get a commentary together within a week, we can put it on the disc!"
I immediately called Robert and Felissa and said, "Okay guys, Let's do this! The fans will be psyched to hear from you almost 2 decades later and we can let the cat out of the bag for our plans to do RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY." They both happily agreed and I set up the commentary to record within a week. Anchor sent me to NY to be a part of it. Originally I only planned on coming on toward the end of the movie to let world know about the website but Felissa, Robert, and Armand (Anchor's sound recordist) insisted that I moderate. The experience itself was pretty loose and also pretty funny. It was the first time Robert and Felissa had seen each other since making SLEEPAWAY back in 1982.
So it was a very cool thing to be there and to have been responsible for making it happen. While we were recording the commentary, I basically sat back and let Felissa and Robert do most of the talking. Fans often e-mail me and ask, "Why didn't you say more? There is so much you could have talked about." To be quite honest, I felt the fans would want to hear as much from Rob and Felissa about what it was like being there making SLEEPAWAY as they could within the short 83 minute running time of the movie. Plus I knew that all the fans online would come visit the website and then they could read all about the things I have to say about SLEEPAWAY CAMP. :-)
No one really told us what to say so we basically just let it roll naturally. It's a pretty loose commentary. A lot of fans have commented on how they liked the loose vibe and how nobody took it too seriously like some commentaries do. We basically let out a lot of fun trivia, goofed around, and Rob and Felissa reminisced. Of course for every good there is a bad and some folks were upset that Robert did not get very technical. But that's part of his mysterious persona. Robert loves to keep things a mystery and very speculative - after all, the mystery and speculation is part of what the fans love so much about SLEEPAWAY.
Jeff and Felissa Rose on the set of "Return to Sleepaway Camp".
Q: Your site is the official site of the original film. How did that come to be?
A: Through endless hours of research, promoting, and making connections with many of the people involved with SLEEPAWAY CAMP and it's distribution. I was organizing, arranging, and reporting things that were creating a big buzz and excitement for the SLEEPAWAY revival. John and I were resurrecting a movie series by creating the definitive meeting place for fans from all across the world filled with exclusive news, interviews, and articles on the movies and the makers.
I was taking trips to meet and interview people from SLEEPAWAY and trying to get everyone back together for a new installment. Fans were flocking in once they saw that I had found and interviewed Jonathan, Felissa, Robert, and others because it was the first they got to see and hear of them in almost 2 decades. Everyone had been wondering where they were and what they were doing now. I dug until I got to the bottom of it. Up until John and I formed the original SLEEPAWAY site back in '98, you couldn't find hardly anything online about any of the SLEEPAWAY actors except for wacky rumors. The site became the definitive resource for all things SLEEPAWAY CAMP. Eventually as things continued to grow, John, who enjoyed the first film but was always more partial to the sequels, decided to create a site focusing on his primary interests: Parts 2 and 3.
And I continued to promote and work with the original SLEEPAWAY CAMP, the mystery around it, and the proposed: RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP. To me one of the most intriguing factors about SLEEPAWAY was that nobody knew what ever happened to the actors and director. This gave this mysterious cult classic an even more mysterious aura. Unlike other popular horror flicks of the time such as FRIDAY THE 13th and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET where many or the actors (like Kevin Bacon, Johnny Depp, and Patricia Arquette for example) and directors went on to do many more films, SLEEPAWAY's cast and creator remained an intriguing mystery just like it's unique story. I wanted to unravel some of that mystery.
After I found these SLEEPAWAY icons, I put them back into the spotlight and it really changed some of their lives. Felissa got back into movies and started to do (and continues to do) lots of horror films. Robert prepared to make his RETURN to the director's chair for the first time in 2 decades. Paul DeAngelo (Ronnie) would go on to write and direct his first movie. Tom Van Dell (Mike) would take his first stab at executive producing a movie. Even Desiree Gould, our beloved Aunt Martha was inspired to make a return to acting in another who-done-it thriller (UNDER SURVEILLANCE also starring Felissa) this year!
Jeff mixing blood on the "Return" set.
Q: Give us some information on your site? What does it have to offer?
A: The site has quite a few cool things to offer. It's the most comprehensive resource for info on the original SLEEPAWAY CAMP and it's stars. There are lots of interviews, many that you can't find anywhere else. There are hundreds of photos from all the conventions and screenings we have gone to so fans that couldn't be there can have a vicarious front row seat to all the events and the giant world of fandom . Of course I put all the RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP updates and photos on the website also. There's a lot to see and explore. Also all campers should keep an eye out for some fun contests that we will be hitting the site as we get closer to RETURN's release. Prizes will include such collectables as cast-signed On-Set movie stills.
Q: What is your opinion on Sleepaway part II and III?
A: I have always enjoyed them and think they are both a lot of fun. They are very witty and creative with great make-up effects and performances.. In fact, shortly after doing the commentary for the original SLEEPAWAY, I got back in touch with Anchor Bay and discussed putting the sequels on DVD. They told me they were interested but wanted to wait and see how well the first disc sold before moving ahead. Needless to say, they contacted me again some months after the first SLEEPAWAY was released (which proved to be a great seller for them) and asked me if I would help get the sequels put on DVD. I immediately contacted Michael Simpson (who stayed in touch with the chairman who owned distribution rights to parts 2 and 3, Krishna Shah) and discussed it with him. He was indeed interested in getting involved. Shortly after that I put Simpson in contact with some of the head honchos over at Anchor Bay to finalize a deal.
Robert and camera on Scizzor lift for a high shot.
Q: What can you tell us about Return to "Sleepaway Camp" thus far without giving away more than you are allowed? Plot? Theatrical release or Direct to video.
A: RETURN feels a lot like the original SLEEPAWAY, except on a bigger scale. In fact, it is designed a lot like the first SLEEPAWAY in a lot of ways. First of all, it is a direct sequel to the original SLEEPAWAY and does not follow the events of Part 2 and 3. Not that 2 and 3 weren't great fun, it's just that Robert wanted to take the series back to it's roots and continue with the original nature of the original story. RETURN is another fun who-done-it with extremely innovative murders wrapped around a story of kids tormenting each other and having a blast at summer camp.
Ronnie (once again played by the super-cool Paul DeAngelo), now a co-owner of a new Camp becomes very suspicious when kids and camp staff begin falling victims to gruesome "accidents" again. Ronnie can't seem to shake what happened 20 years ago at Camp Arawak and with good reason. So as he deals with his paranoia, a large cast of kids and camp staff run amuck doing all the things they can get away with when there is no supervision around and everyone gets wrapped up in the murders and that's just the bare basic premise. I think the movie is actually more gruesome than the original and it's definitely a lot of fun. The cast all did a fantastic job and Robert's script is pretty dark and sarcastic. If you are a fan of the original, I can pretty much guarantee that this sequel will knock your knee-high socks off. Fans of SC 2 and 3 will find much to like about the new SLEEPAWAY also. We are aiming for a theatrical release just like the first film had in 1983. It opened at #1 in the New York box office, making almost double what the next highest grosser made.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: I want to say thank you for taking an interest in what goes on Behind-The-Scenes in the world of SLEEPAWAY CAMP. Movies live on because of their fans and sometimes fans can make some pretty amazing things happen. Horror websites are extremely popular amongst fans of the genre and everyone who makes them and visits them are contributing in keeping these fantastic movies alive! It isn't every day you hear about how 2 ambitious fans resurrected a franchise. I think both John and I have accomplished some pretty darn cool things in the horror world and it all began by being inspired by some great horror movies! Much thanks also to all the SLEEPAWAY fans who continue to support this innovative franchise. It's coming back with a vengeance!!
The cover of Haye's 30-minute horror movie "Grandma's Secret Recipe".
Jeff Hayes music