Chaka the Chocoholic
As we got nearer to premiering DERANGED DAUGHTER (our first super-8 opus which took well over a year to film), it seemed like the perfect time to think about what was next for our little troupe of merry misfits. Obviously we HAD to do a follow up film. Our public demanded it, even if they didn’t realize it yet. The goal was for this film to be bigger and better than the previous… I learned a few things along the way and was determined to avoid those mistakes again. Never fear, there were plenty more mistakes to made. But first I had to write it.
I don’t remember when the idea first hit, but the title was originally going to be House of Ill Repute. Just because I liked that term. And then I saw Giorgio Moroder’s rescoring of the silent film METROPOLIS and was struck by a quick sequence where the main character visits Yoshiwara’s House of Sin. What a great name! So HOUSE OF SIN became the new title. And it could all be filmed in the house my Mom, brother and had moved into… with it’s grand drapes, sculpted carpets and flocked wallpaper providing the perfect background.
I would write a few pages in an old spiral notebook, meet up with Shawn for pizza and go over the script. I think I was about 1/3 of the way done writing the movie when we started shooting it.
I was determined to have everyone back who had participated in DERANGED DAUGHTER, and would make sure to utilize their skills even better this time around. The best way to have an array of crazy characters seemed to be to have everyone passing through a boarding house, so that became our foundation… it would revolve around an eccentric middle aged woman who ran a boarding house for people whose unusual proclivities might be looked down upon by “normal” society, but she would provide a safe place. At least it seemed that way on the surface.
Aunt Viv, the proprietess of this home for wayward weirdos, would naturally be a star turn for Shawn, who had stolen every moment she was onscreen in DERANGED. We plopped a saggy, secondhand grey wig on her (that I think came from my Aunt Mary, who ended up inspiring her looks) onto her head, found a pair of cheap prop horn rim glasses with no lenses (but with a banana nose, which was easily removed), and set into the thrift stores to find her very unique style of fashion. This would include fabulous sixties ensembles made from polyester, silk, some unknown fabric monstrosity that weighed more that the person wearing it… most with sparkles. There was a dress/jacket combo that was on a mannequin torso at the Value Village thrift that would be perfect, but it was soon expensive, I left it behind. Then I couldn’t stop thinking about it, went back and paid the exorbitant twelve dollars and wound up with Aunt Viv’s defining outfit: the affectionately labeled “dinosaur dress.”
Next up, Ginger had to have a starring role. I wrote her the pivotal role of Betty Bubbles, the innocent country girl who comes to live at her aunt’s boarding house, and winds up being corrupted. One mistake that wouldn’t happen again was Ginger’s ever-changing hairdo over the long shoot. I hit the wonderful wig shops on Howard Avenue and found two versions of blonde that were very budget friendly and would represent Betty in her different phases. We thrifted some wonderful outfits for Betty, and Ginger wore them well.
My sister Linda got a slight upgrade from the previous film with the tailor-made role of Chaka the chocoholic (Linda was a bit of a chocolate fiend in real life). She spent all of her scenes in a hospital type nightgown and fuzzy blue robe, covered in (fake) pimples and voraciously devouring chocolate. Her role was short but memorable.
Another former classmate, Lisa, got an actual written character this time (she had played the silent role of a victim in Deranged Daughter, which was actually footage from another film I had started in high school). Lisa played Susie Bubbles, sister to Betty, and the one who had the true lowdown on what was happening in the house. Now… I really appreciate and respect everyone involved in my projects, but I have to say that Lisa’s uncomfortable, stilted delivery of every one of her lines is always a huge hit with anyone who sees this film. I don’t necessarily cast people for their acting chops; sometimes it’s just to spend time with people I like and think are cool.
For some reason I gave myself a starring role as well; I don’t know why… I can’t stand to see or hear myself onscreen, I am most certainly NOT a good actor by any stretch of the imagination, and it also makes it more challenging to direct and shoot a scene if you are in it yourself. My part was a riff on myself… I was a 19-year-old virgin, and super-queer but not admitting it. So I wrote myself the role of the Sex Bomb, an extremely promiscuous nymphomaniac. Because, ya know, I would know all about such things. I wore red lipstick, had bleached orange-y blonde hair, and had just gotten braces which made my lisp even more prominent. I didn’t really have to admit my queerness I suppose. It is cringingly obvious onscreen to even the most casual viewer.
Chris Bouchard and Paullette Walsh were originally cast as “the girls who live in the box”… two doll-sized go-go dancing girls whose music and antics keep Betty awake at night. I dressed up some Mego dolls - Supergirl and Glinda the Good Witch - in kleenex dresses as stand-ins, with the thought we would go back and shoot insert shots of them. Which we never did… it ended up being a sort of unresolved plot point. Then again, what continuity?!! They ended up playing gals who turn up individually to have sexy time with the Sex Bomb… Chris was the blue-haired punk Leigh Dawn, and Paullette played very against reality as a preppy girl. Though she did keep her everyday regular goth eye makeup on.
My other onscreen conquests included a college schoolmate of Linda’s named Jill (not THAT Jill), and a young man we worked with named Steve who I had a bit of a crush on. He played Betty Bubbles’ boyfriend, but my character seduces him while he is waiting for her to show up. Naturally, I didn’t tell Steve that was how the scene would wind up in the final movie. But he was a good sport about it and said I should have told him. Ohhh… and I shot a nude-ish scene of myself where you see my skinny 19-year-old backside. That ended up on the cutting room floor. I don’t know what I was thinking.
The shoot was silly, seemingly never-ending, and a lot of fun. Of course I didn’t understand lighting… or sound (the wired microphone would be run up each actor’s clothing before their lines… and yes, they get caught a couple of times because the cord was not that long)… or editing. But oh, what a blast. There was a scene where Ginger go-go dances on our kitchen table… I knew my mom would not be on board with it so as soon as she went out shopping Ginger hopped into her outfit, we shot it and were done before Mom got back. A couple of horrifying bodily fluid scenes with Chaka, we didn’t tell Ginger what was going to happen to get a natural reaction from her. It helped that she didn't read the script ahead of time.
Linda was sad her character was written out after a couple of scenes, so I ended up writing a second character for her to play, the dancing hippy Mo. She had long black hair, a paisley dress and headband, and big glasses. She was actually named Mo in homage to our former boss Mary at the head shop who had similar big glasses emblazoned with her initials on the front of one of the lenses — MO. As it turned out, Mo was the missing link for tying the stories together, and Linda was hilarious in her dual role (we billed her as Molly Mountainchild for her second role).
We filmed every weekend from fall ’84 to summer ’85. Ginger, being a very busy 18-year-old, would sometimes (often) miss her call. We would shoot around her, and I think pretty much every single person I knew threw her wig on and served as her stand in at some point in the filming. Then whenever Ginger would show up, we would shoot her lines as single shots. Weirdly, it kinda worked. I mean, as much as anything in the movie. She actually wasn’t able to make it for the final scene we shot, as Betty escapes from the house, so Linda stood in for her. I feel compelled to mention that Linda is probably almost a foot taller than Ginger.
When I was deep into editing and getting the film ready to show, Shawn walked into my basement and said “I want my name in the credits as Uncle Alice.” What??!! I tried to argue her out of it, but she was adamant. so I changed the posters, even though I thought the name was dumb. When Ginger heard about it, she decided she wanted her name to be billed as Gina Cappuccino. And history was made. Those names have stuck with them for over three decades now. Steve requested his screen name be Roman Oliver.
We premiered the film in my basement in October of 1985 to our enthusiastic friends. More people wanted to see it, so Shawn’s parents who owned the movie-themed bar/nightclub The Roxy offered to let us show it at their bar. We got a decent crowd… It was really cool that my Mom got to come see the movie with my Grandma Bernadette, since we ended up losing my mother to cancer the following spring. I will always remember her watching the film with the crowd and laughing. Except when the scene came on with the go-go dancing. She just said “She was standing on MY table???!!!!” It ultimately ended up being shown at the Smart Bar and Facets Multimedia as well, but the Roxy show remains my favorite for many reasons. We were on our way.
HOUSE OF SIN cemented the feeling that I had that this was what I wanted to do. It was a true collaboration with many different people in my life, and the show at the Roxy just elevated everything to a new level. I wrote and shot as often as I could get my hands on the expensive and elusive Super-8 sound film cartridges.
1985, color, Super-8 film, 60 min.
Click on thumbnails below to start slideshow of behind-the-scenes photos!
Classic Aunt Viv
We affectionately called this Aunt Viv’s Gumby outfit. I believe Linda wore these pants a dozen years later in METER GIRLS
Another Aunt Viv thrift store look
Aunt Viv - fashion plate
Talking a break from filming
I try to behave myself
Aunt Viv looks out the basement window while carrying a Partridge Family plastic bag. The stuff we used to find at thrift stores!
I suspect she is calling her agent
The many faces of Aunt Viv
One of my favorite Aunt Viv outfits... it was tight and unforgiving. It was completely open in the back. But isn't it great?!
Betty (Gina Cappuccino) and Aunt Viv (Uncle Alice)
Classic shot of Linda Larson as Chaka the Chocoholic.
Chaka the chocoholic (Linda Larson)
Addiction is not pretty, folks.
I’m not saying Linda really drank that bottle of chocolate syrup for this scene… but I'm also not saying she didn’t.
Me as the "Sex Bomb" - oh lord, what was I thinking?!!
Lisa Eicher as Susie Bubbles. I still can't believe we found these outfits at a thrift store for a dollar or two
Lisa Eicher as Susie Bubbles, made up for her phone scenes
Lisa Eicher as Susie Bubbles in a vintage prom dress
Betty Bubbles (Gina Cappuccino)
Betty Bubbles (Gina Cappuccino) in her date night best
Roman Oliver and Gina Cappuccino, dressed up for their date. Please note the microphone hanging out of Steve/Roman's breast pocket
When things go bump in the night... you dress like this
The gals in nightgowns
Jill Dietz as the Dominatrix. She left her bullwhip in the cab on the way over. No, really.
Christine Bouchard as Leigh Dawn, the tough-talking visitor of the Sex Bomb. Yes, that was real beer at 10am on a Saturday. Anything to get into character!
I love love love this photo of Chris Bouchard
A good look at the detail in Leigh Dawn's (Christine Bouchard) makeup and hair
Paullette Walsh as Valerie, preppy, lookin’ for action
Valerie (Paullette Walsh) later in the movie
Sex Bomb (me) and Valerie (Paullette Walsh)… after
Mo (Molly Mountainchild aka my sister Linda) proving she can dance as well as Betty
I love this photo of Linda as Mo
Linda Larson in character as Molly Mountainchild as Mo
How great is this?!
Uncle Alice in the fabulous “Dinosaur Dress”
Star quality on display from the one and only Uncle Alice
Spoiler alert - my character meets an unfortunate end in the movie
Gina Cappuccino as Betty Bubbles
Because every orange dress needs a red satin cape.
Mo at the end of the movie
Behind-the-Scenes… Christine Bouchard and Shannon Lastowski
Behind-the-Scenes… Shannon Lastowski helps Uncle Alice get camera ready
Behind-the-Scenes… Uncle Alice gets into character
Linda standing in for Ginger in the final scene. She wore this same dress a dozen years later as Myrna Beavers in METER GIRLS
Ad from Chicago Reader when HOUSE OF SIN played at the Smart Bar. We had basically nobody show up, but we set up a screen on the dance floor.
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