Interview With Debra Lamb
A casual observer might take a quick glance at Debra Lamb's career and assume she was a B movie actress with only a handful of films to her credit.That person might also make the assumption that she eventually quit acting,got married and settled down to live a life outside of the entertainment industry. Which is exactly the assumption I arrived at. In fact, when I contacted Debra to arrange for an interview with her, she said to me at one point during our conversation,when I confessed to being familiar with her only through her films roles ,"You know nothing about me."
Sadly,she was right. Before our interview, I rectified the situation by doing a bit a of research and discovered that Debra is more than an actress. She is a creative force to be reckoned with. As a child she performed ballet at the Portland Rose Gardens(in her home state of Oregon), and wrote,as well as illustrated, several children's stories. Debra also made a collection of puppets and built a stage where she could put on plays.
Currently, when Debra isn't acting, she's writing for Dark Beauty and Tastes of San Jose Magazine. Debra has also built her own website by herself. If that isn't enough on her already full plate, she is a psychic, clairvoyant and spiritual counselor.Then add to Debra's list of accomplishments that of being a trained fire eater. Talk about having ambition! So, don't try to pigeon hole Debra by labeling her "an actress". She's much more than that; she's a renaissance women with an enthusiastic and bubbly personality to match.
JV: Debra, you took a fifteen year hiatus from acting. What was the reason?
DL: Well, it's pretty simple. I was doing my thing, making those low budget B horror movies and I was also doing some very,very good student films. I did a couple at U.C.L.A and U.S.C and they were quite good. So, I'm going along and I had one relationship that I was in since I was nineteen years old. I was with that person about twelve years and the relationship ended finally. It should have ended six years before that. A little late, but it finally died.(laughter) I started dating somebody who I thought was kind of a good match for me and I kind of got sucked in. I got sucked into the black hole!(laughter)
JV: Oh my God, the black hole!
DL: The black hole and death! Oh my God! This person who in the beginning,of course, was very excited and enjoyed my acting endeavors became a very controlling person. I just ended up getting completely out of acting and not because I didn't love it, but just circumstances. I kinda ended up moving around with this person and I ended up in the Bay area. It was all those years that I was married to my ex-husband. I was with him a total of nine years. During that time, since I wasn't acting, I had regular jobs. And I did finally get a divorce. Then I met somebody else who's wonderful,who I'm now married to. He just loves this whole acting thing;loves it that I'm doing what I love again. But how I actually got back into acting,it's funny,I had been working these regular jobs, demanding,stressful jobs like most people have. I was really suffering from depression. I was depressed a lot at just the thought of working at where I was working for the rest of my life just pretty much made me want to shoot myself in the head. I'm like,"Oh,God, if this is what it's going to be for the rest of my life,just kill me now!" (laughter) I was talking to my husband about it and I was saying," You know, I have to do something. I have to change something. Something must change or I'm going to just die". I was thinking," Okey,what would I want to do? There's only two things that I really,really love: one thing is psychic stuff, new age kind of stuff,crystal healing and all that kind of stuff is one thing that I really love. I had been doing that since I was in my twenties. And the other thing was acting;that's my love along with dancing. I was like,"Well, I have a full time job. I can't just run out and be an actress. I have to work. I can't go to auditions. I don't have the time to actually pursue it." I thought," But I can get back into all my psychic stuff that I love." I got back into it and picked up on my studies and just worked on that. I started doing readings and put together a website. I was still working,but at least I had that. I got on Facebook and set it up, and as every body does,they search out their friends and people that they lost contact with from the past;so after my obvious, immediate friends I started thinking,' I wonder whatever happened to this person. I wonder whatever happened to that person." You know, my acting friends;people like Brinke Stevens and Linnea Quigley.People that I used to know. The more people that I got in touch with,it was great fun. Then I started getting people who were actual fans. I'm like," Wow,people know who I'am." After some time of being on Facebook, eventually I started getting people who were fans of mine from my movies in the 80's and 90's,but who are now filmmakers themselves. I started getting people offering me roles, people sending me scripts and eventually it lead to a very prominent role in Joe Hollow's " Disciples". Have you had a chance to see it online?
JV: No I haven't. On the IMDb website it said the film was in post production,so I didn't know if was out yet or not.
DL: No, there doing the finishing touches on the film. So, it's not out yet. But ,there is a trailer on YouTube and if you go to the website, you can find the trailer on the website. Anyway, it's got Angus Scrim,the tall man from Phantasm. It's got Tony Todd,Bill Mosely, Camden Toy,if you know who that is.
JV: I've heard of the name, it's just not ringing any bells right now.
DL: Right. Right. You might remember his face. There's Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens; a ton of people.
JV: I understand you were in Robocop and Planes,Trains and Automobiles,but your part was cut out.
DL: I was!(laughs) That sucked!
JV: I bet it did.
DL: Wouldn't it be great if my scenes hadn't been cut in Robocop? I love Robocop. I was in the commercial where the guy would say," I'd buy that for a dollar." They actually filmed more than one commercial, they filmed a handful. How cool was it,though that even though I got cut out of the film,I worked with Paul Verhoeven. Anyways, I'm standing there while they were setting up and doing the lights. I'm juggling this pizza dough in between the takes. And he (Verhoeven)says," Oh, I like that. Do that." So, you see me juggling pizza dough. It is hard to find,but it is on the Internet somewhere of me. Oh, and I'm topless. That's fun. I'm happily juggling pizza dough topless with a chef''s hat on. Somebody sent it to me,like,about six months ago and I'm like," Oh my God"!,'cause I'm so young. I'm like," I'm adorable." In Trains,Planes and Automobiles, I'm on the set with Steve Martin and John Candy and of course John Hughes. The scene I was in was taking place in a strip joint that John Candy and Steve Martin comes in after their car blows up. And they come in to use the phone and John Candy gets sidetracked and enthralled with the dancers. And so John Hughes needed somebody to do a scene with John Candy and Steve Martin and they chose me. We were doing this really,really funny scene and it was all improv and everybody was loving it. It involved me and John Candy doing this really silly banter, then Steve Martin comes over and I give Steve Martin a hard time and then they leave,and then that's the scene. I'm invited to a screening on the Paramount lot. I get there and I'm handed a cast and crew card that has everybody's name on it and my name's on it,so I'm like," Oh,yay!" Then I get inside and seated right behind me was one of the editors who had worked on the film and he was very excited and said," Oh, I recognize you. You were so funny." He was excited for me because he said it was such a good scene. But then, when we watched the movie and here's where my scene was supposed to happen, it comes and goes and then of course it's not in there. After the film was over, the editor who was behind me said," Oh I'm so sorry. I didn't know they cut it out. It's too bad 'cause it was really a good scene." And of course, I cried in the parking lot because that was like my first big thing that I had done.In fact, that's how I was able to join SAG(Screen Actors Guild)was because of that film. Those were my two sad things that I got cut out of,but I was in Wild At Heart and in Point Break. Point Break,of course, is on TV all the time, so that's cool. You can see me fire eating in Point Break.
JV: You were telling me the reason they cut your scene from Trains, Planes and Automobiles was because it was a Holiday movie.
DL: Yeah, don't you think? Maybe they thought that a Thanksgiving/Christmas movie didn't need gratuitous nudity. I don't know. I always assumed that they just cut it out because they didn't want to show these sexy girls walking around without any tops on. But gee, what kind of holiday is it without half naked girls?
JV: I know, naked breasts make the holidays. I've said that time and time again to all my friends. Which leads me to my next question, how do you feel about doing nudity in films?
DL: Oh gee. Hmmm...(laughs)
JV: I mean do you do it reluctantly or is it something you have no problem with?
DL: I am a free spirit. I've always been a free spirit. I have a tendency-I shouldn't be sharing this- but I have this habit of if I start drinking I tend to want to take my clothes off. Which I really have to stop doing in public.(laughter) No, I'm kidding.
JV: Gee and I was going to fly all the way up there to see it. I was going to pay for the drinks,as a matter of fact.
DL: I was a dancer from when I was seven to fourteen. I took ballet and then I took all sorts of dance after that; jazz and all these different types of dancing and I was doing a lot of theatre productions.You change your clothes and everybody would be just rushing to change and it didn't matter who was around. I used to change my clothes in the car from school while my Mom was driving on the way between school and my ballet class. I just changed my clothes in the car; I really didn't care and that's when I was a kid. When I was a young actress just stating out, I did do a couple of modest, nude layouts. And then I decided going that route was not for me,but I didn't have a problem with the nudity. When I was getting film work, a lot of it was topless;there would be topless scenes. I didn't mind that so much,but it started getting to the point where people were offering me roles just as the gratuitous topless scene. So, I really had to put my foot down and let people know," It's not that I mind nudity,but I'm really going to have to turn down these roles. They're not really roles they're just me being topless. I 'm gonna have to turn that stuff down. Actually, things really slowed down there for a while. I was actually turning down a lot of work. But I knew in order to get to the next step, that if I continued to accept that work,that's all I would be offered. I stopped doing it.Finally, I had some opportunities to have larger roles in films that I thought was a step up. There was for the most part still some nudity, but the roles were much better. I don't have a problem with nudity.In Disciples, that I just did this year, I have a lot of scenes where I'm topless and I still don't have a problem with it.
JV: I understand that you are a fire eater? How did you learn to do this?
DL:Well, it takes a little chutzpah. But how I learned it was,a friend of mine who is a magician's assistant, the magician's name was William The Wizard, I think. He performed a lot at the Magic Castle. Part of the show involved pyrotechnics and she(the magician's assistant)did some fire eating for the act, so she taught me how to do it. She was no longer still doing the act;that was when she was younger. But she taught me how to fire eat and of course I was doing stage performances. I incorporated it into my performances as well as my film work. You can see me eating fire in Point Break and Wild At Heart, which Wild At Heart's not on TV a lot, but Point Break is on a lot, so most of the people I know have seen me in Point Break many times for those two seconds;you can't blink.It's right at the scene where Keanu Reeves character goes to the Patrick Swayze's character's house for a beach party and he goes with Lori Petty. It's right at the very second they arrive inside the beach house and I spit fire right on their faces. In fact, after I did it, I had to do it a couple of times for the takes and they were saying," Wow! How do you do that?" I said ," Very carefully." I also fire eat in Deathrow Gameshow. I play Shanna Shallow the game show hostess. This is one of my earlier films and you'll see me spit fire in that.
JV: I saw on IMDb that one of you recent film projects called The G String Horror has been completed.
DL: Yes, they're going to be entering into a series of film festivals and I've become real good friends with the film maker Charles Webb and his wife; they're really cool people and really interesting. They have so many great stories. They reside in San Francisco and the building we filmed in is a building called The Market Street Cinema. It's a historic building and it just celebrated it's 100th year, I believe. Part of the building is being used as a Gentleman's Club, but the interior is really cool and there's a whole back section out of view from the public that's behind. They're only using the front half of the building and behind that, where the second half, is blocked off, is this really old, dilapidated, perfect for a horror movie setting, where the actual,original stage is back there from the Vaudeville days. They used to have Vaudeville shows there. The history of the building is amazing. In fact, how I got involved in doing the film was because of my psychic work. They contacted me because they wanted to me to go do a reading on the building and see what I picked up on in the building. That's how I first met Charles was through that, he wanted me to come in as a psychic. The film is half documentary/half horror film. It's not a regular horror film where it's a horror film throughout. You've got a lot of chunks that are actual documentary footage, where he's interviewing a lot of people who experienced a lot of paranormal activity in the building. I did a reading through the building which has been made part of the film. He also has a bonus feature that will be available at the end of the film where you see a little bit more of the reading I do on the building. I picked up on all sorts of things; you know, fires and things like that. So it's a very interesting film. We'll see what happens. I've seen an almost completed version. I think they were still putting the finishing touches on it. We're going to show it around at some festivals and see what happens.
JV: Of course,we have to get up to speed here and talk about Celluloid Bloodbath. How did you get involved with that film?
DL: Oh, yes! Jim Murray,who was a very big part of the film, he was one of the producers and was one of the major editors on the film,he contacted me and we were friends on Facebook; he contacted me and asked if I'd be interested and he told me what it was. I was like," Oh,I love it. That's great. I'd love to be a part of it." He had a list of different films that would be featured as far as the clips and the movie trailers. He had different people,celebrities and horror characters comment on the different films. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I had seen a lot of the films that are being included in Celluloid Bloodbath,so I had a lot of fun making comments on some of my favorite old time horror flicks.
JV: Are there any future projects you'd like to talk about?
DL: Again,just to reiterate,Disciples will be coming out. Now that one I'm really,really excited about. It's got all these classic horror genre actors in it. It's going to be very exciting to see what happens with that. And again, the director is Joe Hollow.Now, Joe and I have become very good friends and I was actually co-executive producer on Disciples. We have some other projects that we're developing right now. We have some ones that we're co-producing, but there's this other film that he wrote last year,which we'll be filming next year. It's called Cannibals. We're going to be doing that next year. We're still in the early developments of that. But there's a couple other films that we're developing right now which we hope to do spring/summer of next year.I have some other projects with some other people I'm working with. One of which is a paranormal show and I'm in the developing stages of that. I write for Dark Beauty magazine. I've been writing for them since 2010. So, that keeps me busy,too.