Debbie Rochon got her start
in the wild world of film by playing a groupie
in the cult flick LADIES & GENTLEMEN,
THE FABULOUS STAINSwhich also kick-started
the careers of Laura Dern and Diane Lane.
Since that 1981 debut, Rochon has appeared
in about 30 films ranging from the Nicholas
Cage vehicle VAMPIRE'S KISS and the arthouse
flick LONELY IN AMERICA to straight-to-video
exploitationers like ALIEN AGENDA: ENDANGERED
SPECIES, HELLBLOCK 13 and SPLIT. Her recent
work includes appearing in the Spice Girls
parody Slice Girls (alongside Steffanie
Pitt, Tammy Parks and Christine Cavalier)
and a risky venture - a role in the 30th
Anniversary version of NIGHT OF THE LIVING
DEAD where new footage was shot and edited
on to the existing classic. As Rochon says,
in her typically blunt fashion, "Even
people who rip us a new asshole are still
going to write about it." We caught
up with Debbie on the phone after her NOLD
Tell me a little bit about
Well, I grew up in Vancouver,
British Columbia. And I was a child of a
very dysfunctional family, so I was taken
out of my family and put in foster care
when I was twelve. I was constantly running
away at that point because I didn't really
like the foster care system. I was sort
of insightful at that age to not like it.
And I somehow metthrough the foster
systemsome other kids and they were
older, like sixteen, seventeen. And they
were hooked up, one of their uncles was
in to casting films; I just heard to go
down to this one hotel and Paramount Pictures
was casting for LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE
FABULOUS STAINS. So, I went down there and,
obviously, I didn't have a picture or a
resume or anything. I was even shoeless
at the time because I had run away at that
I walked into the room and
Lynn Karo took a Polaroid of me and said,
"would you be willing to dye your hair,"
and I said, "No problem." Anyway,
she cast me and I did it and I dyed my hair
like a skunk and it was that way for many,
Making two or three hundred
cash every week, plus I was staying at the
hotel where all the film folk were staying...so
this was the life. And I decided when it
was all over I decided that this was a good
direction rather than falling into all the
pits of various things that can suck you
in when you're a runaway.
It's just a glorified extra.
I have one line, I had three or four but
they cut most of them out, and it's just
a groupie. As you may remember they travel
around and they have a couple of main groupies
that follow them around wherever they go.
That's one of those films
I wish they would release in this country,
but I guess there have been some problems.
I know, I just don't understand
it myself. It was a funny thing...a couple
months back, maybe two, three months ago,
a writer named Sarah Jacobson who writes
for the Beastie Boys' magazine Grand Royal,
she contacted me and did an interview with
me about this movie. And I thought it was
kind of strange, the movie was made 1980,
'81 and all the sudden out of nowhere people
have become interested. Then a few months
after it was on the stands, it was on VH1.
On R&R Picture Show?
I wish I had known, 'cause that's one of
the films I'd like to get on tape.
It's just really extra work...it's
not the kind of thing where you can look
for me unless I'm sitting there with you.
But it had a really big impact on my life.
So you make the flick and
think, "This is what I want to do with
the rest of my life."
and I studied, and I auditioned for the
community college theater department and
was accepted. so I worked three jobs during
my early teens and saved up. Just before
college started I decided I wanted to take
my money and study in New York. All the
books I was reading were written by teachers
in New York. So I figured, what am I doing...I've
gotta go over there. And I've been here
Then you did some stage
work before you got in films?
I did a lot of stage work,
mostly plays that were written by the resident
playwright. I did do some Tennessee Williams
and Pinter, sort of what we consider as
the classic contemporaries. We did a lot
of that, but mostly I did original work.
I did a lot of work at the Samuel Beckett
Theater, The Harold Korman Theater.
It was an awful lot of fun
and I learned so much, but the truth is
the theater world is really no different
than the film world. It's extremely political.
I belonged to a number of theater groups,
but it was always about whoever's buddies
with the director or writer. They will always
get the leads. You may have a few lines
up to a supporting part, but unless you've
been with the company for 10 years you won't
even be considered for a major role.
So I decided to concentrate
on getting some film work and I landed in
the lap of Chuck Vincent. And did a couple
of films with him and a couple of films
with Roberta Findlay.
What was it like working
with Chuck and Marilyn Chambers?
(Laughs) Oh my god, it was
just so funny. I have worked with Marilyn
Chambers since then, but at the time of
PARTY INCORPORATED I shot my scenes and
didn't know she was in the movie. I was
done and when they told me I thought I was
going to have a heart attack. I thought,
"Is this a porno?"
Later on I would work with
her and she was really nice and supportive.
A lot of the Playmates and Penthouse Pets
that get hired for these sorts of things,
it's always sort of a competitive atmosphere
because they're basing their whole career
on looks. Some girls like that have a hard
time with her, but I just look at her like
this matriarch, and I always had that attitude
towards her like, "Yeah, Marilyn Chambers!"
So you go from that to
making tons of B or exploitation flicks?
The only thing of interest
I did before I landed in the B world was
I had a part in Spike Lee's editor's big
film debut...Barry's Brown's LONELY IN AMERICA.
I just think that was cool because it was
something very different for me. I haven't
really done anything like that since, except
maybe NEW YORK UNDERCOVER because I've fallen
pretty much deep into the horror world.
And it seems from having
covered the genre for the last 12 years
or so that once you get into it you stay
I'm a huge fan of the genre,
big time! I remember waking up in the middle
of the night to catch the Hammer movies
with the sexy vampire women, and I wanted
to be one!
So, your ideal wasn't the
Farrah Fawcetts of the world, it was Ingrid
Pitt and the other Hammer chicks!
And it is still. But I guess
what I'm trying to say is that I've always
been a major fan and you end up sort of
hanging around the genre because you do
a number of films, you get exposure, you
get on tv, you're on a number of magazine
covers and then people know you and start
offering jobs in the genre.
It's almost like you could
continually work, say like a Julie Strain
does, and never have to go outside the genre,
or stop the wheel and say "No, I want
to pursue mainstream stuff." Because
this stuff takes over your life, there's
just so much of it going on. Yeah, I love
the genre and I'd love to stay here as long
as it will have me. I am in the section
that's a little too low-budget to make a
good living at it.
And that's the thing. A lot
of these people, at this point, are my friends,
and I know how hard it is to get these films
off the ground. I certainly wouldn't shake
them down, but I've worked with B-movie
"legends" or "stars,"
and they just squeeze the life out of these
Cause they know how much
their name can mean on a box.
Absolutely. To me it's the
spirit of low-budget filmmaking, that's
where it's at. That's what really gets me.
So when people want, not just a nice hotel
they want a penthouse and they want unlimited
lobster. And hasn't that whole acting thing
come so far? Remember back in Shakespeare's
time when they were thought of as vagabonds
and thieves...the scum of the Earth were
actors. Now actors are the royalty.
It's such a shame. It's two-fold.
People will use you for your name and just
run with it and make a lot more money off
the film than you ever will. There's gotta
be some sort of balance between either side
taking too much advantage, but that's why
it's called the "exploitation"
I noticed in your bio that
were a number of instances where films ran
out of money, were shut down because checks
bounced, or scenes were shot and they ended
up years later in another film you never
knew you were going to be in. What's the
strangest incident like that you've ever
been subjected to?
It's not strange and it's
not shocking and I probably could've predicted
it. Recently I saw an ad by a filmmaker
that I did one of my first starring role
thingsjust a shot-on-video thing,
it wasn't a real film. It was going to be
sold through magazines and at conventions.
It was not quite finished and the directora
certifiable mental case and I mean that
literally, he was insane and turned out
to be quite evil and vindictive. And when
I moved on and I did a lot of work and got
my name out there, he would see my name
all the time and see how much I was working
[and] he would get very angry over that.
Years later he made a video,
which was just a little sex video made on
a home camcorder that he was trying to sell
through the backs of magazines and nobody
was buying it. Recently I flipped open one
of the genre magazines and I saw an ad for
that video and it says right on it, "Plus,
the lost trailer for DO YOU LIKE WOMEN starring
Debbie Rochon." I could've seen that
coming and it doesn't surprise me, it's
just so pathetic he's gotta stoop to that
You've worked with a lot
of people, "genre legends" as
you refer to them, like Marilyn Chambers,
Jan Michael Vincent, Dan Haggerty. Who's
the strangest character you've come across
in your years in the business?
Let's see, I have to say that
it's a little bit of a stretch. I didn't
actually work with this person in a movie,
but I would probably say Phoebe Legere.
I'm, on one hand, a big fan
of her stage work and how outrageous she
is. I love that sort of thing. But I had
a radio show in New York city and had her
on the show, many years ago, and my co-host
was a guy. And at that time, Phoebe was
going through a very anti-man period in
her life and she basically used the entire
show to berate and degrade him. I was just
so shocked I was dumb-founded.
It's actually quite funny
looking back, but it was a horrible experience
at the time. And just how everything comes
full circle, I play a character in TERROR
FIRMER - which is Lloyd Kaufmann's new filmwhich
is very loosely based on her! It has influences
from other actresses, so I wouldn't want
her to think it's literally her.
Joe Bob Briggs told me this
funny story about her. He was in this lounge
in New York City and she had just gotten
up on stage and sang a song. And it was
not something that was publicized, she just
sorta did it.
And she came off stage and
he said, "That was wonderful and I
thought you were just fabulous in the TOXIC
AVENGER movies." And she was standing
there and looked at him with this sort of
blank expression and said, "Well, excuse
me. I have to go home and masturbate."
He was a little shocked. It
was just so Phoebe.
also worked on TROMEO
& JULIET. What was it like to work
on that project and what's your association
I've always gotten along with
Lloyd very well. He's had a rough time of
it and he has a really interesting story.
He's always struggled and it's a really
offbeat film company. It's "mainstream"...if
you asked the average person on the street
if they've heard of THE TOXIC AVENGER they'd
Sure, between the cartoon
series, the action figures, and the Colorforms...but
I remember sitting in the movie theater
thinking, "This is the last time I'm
ever going to see this flick!" Same
thing with THE CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH, and
then the whole video thing took off and
Troma was everywhere.
Right. And they had successes
along the way with certain pickups. But
after NUKE 'EM they didn't experience the
same kudos until TROMEO & JULIET.
I thought TROMEO &
JULIET was a great flick.
Great, thanks. And it was
a lot of fun to make. They actually wrote
it in iambic pentameter, which is sort of
weird and you wonder why did they even bother?
In their own crazy way there's a rhyme and
reason to the madness. And you would probably
never appreciate that fact, but it meant
a lot to them.
It was Lloyd's pet project.
I remember him speaking to me about it four
years before it was ever written. And it
went through three or four writers, but
it was a major Lloyd Kaufmann dream. Interestingly
enough, Michael Herzhis partner
wasn't really into it. He really didn't
get it. He thought, "Let's stick to
what we know..."
Right, like REDNECK ZOMBIES,
Good stuff, MOTHER'S DAY...so
there was sort of a little ripple over that,
just getting it done. But Lloyd pressed
on and god bless him, because
I really believe that besides
TOXIC AVENGER, the first one, it's his best
movie. That was a combination of great writing,
taking their time, a good cast and co-directing
it with the writer, James Gunn. He's a performance
artist himself, so he had a good sense of
the bizarre, lurid humor that Lloyd likes
and he also knew how to bring a lot of drama
into it. It's definitely a standout Troma
I thought it was the first
Troma film since the original TOXIC AVENGER
and NUKE 'EM HIGH that elicited genuine
Well, I'll tell you then,
you're really going to enjoy TERROR FIRMER.
It's based on Lloyd's book, All I Needed
to Know About Filmmaking I Learned from
The Toxic Avenger. It's about a director
named Larry Benjamin, who's of course Lloyd,
and he's blind. And that's because Lloyd
has always been told that he doesn't have
any vision as a director.
And he's making a movie, a
typical Troma movie, within the movie. And
there's a serial killer wandering around
knocking people off, affording the movie
to have some really funny and really gory
special effects. This is really supposed
to be the ultimate Troma movie.
What are some of the things
you've beem doing lately? I know last week
you were working on that NIGHT OF THE LIVING
DEAD Anniversary project.
Yeah, and that just came out
of the blue. It's very exciting, but people
have some very strong reactions to messing
around with a classic.
Sure, I have very strong
reactions to the fact that they're making
a PSYCHO remake. I'm disturbed by it because
it's probably one of my top five favorites
of all time. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD doesn't
bother me so much because even Romero has
been involved with an authorized remake
as well as the sequels. Tell me some more
about the project and what your involvement
with it was.
They wrote 18 pages of script
to complement the already-existing film.
We shot it in black and white, 35mm, same
cameras, same film stock as 1968. It was
funded by Anchor Bay and it'll be distributed
by [them], one of the co-owners of that
company is William [MANIAC] Lustig. They
release all of George Romero's stuff, but
George is not involved in this project...everybody
else is that made the original one.
So they're going to edit
the new footage into the existing footage
as a framework story?
It's a little bit of an additional
storyline but not too much. They open with
a scene before the original starts and it
shows the burial [of the original zombie]
and his coming to life and killing a couple
people and then going down the road and
cuts to him in the cemetery. There's a couple
scenes in the middle, throughout the movie,
but there's really just a little chunk at
the beginning and a little chunk at the
end. It doesn't try to bring the whole thing
in another direction, I'd say the most that
it tries to do is it ends it on a very different
Did you shoot out in Pittsburgh?
Yeah and HBO was there and
they're doing a special, not so much on
our remake but on the anniversary. They
interviewed George Romero at a different
cemetery, but we'll see what happens. For
better or worse, it'll get a lot of attention.
Even people who rip us a new asshole are
still going to write about it.
How long were you there?
My part was just three days.
But they're only shooting five days. They
didn't want to add a lot of time. I would
say they're adding maybe fifteen minutes.
Did you get to see any
of the city? I ask because I just spent
three years there.
No, I was just in and out.
The hotel room, the cemetery...that's my
life. From the hotel room to a cemetery
is a normal thing for me. But I like it.
Tell me a little bit about
the Slice Girls.
That's a parody group, obviously,
and we use the same melody but we reword
the lyrics so they're horror-movie oriented.
For instance, for the "Wanna Be My
Love" song we have "Wanna Haunt
Me"..."If you wanna haunt me lover,
you've gotta dig up my friends, good ghouls
last forever, nightmares never end."
It's very bubblegum but it's pretty funny.
We have a comic book out...
Yeah, I was just looking
at the poster book you sent me.
It's pretty cool, and we're
getting airplay in the Netherlands. I don't
know why, but for whatever reason, we are.
We'll see what happens in the States.
So, you have a cd coming
Yeah, it's actually out now,
but it's not the type of thing you're going
to tour with. It's the type of thing that
should just be at the checkout counter.
It's been a lot of fun, I just wish it would
take off. I find people, especially people
that don't like The Spice Girls, like it.
But, like everything else, just because
you think it's wonderful idea doesn't mean
it'll go anywhere.
Any other things that you'd
like to mention?
Yeah, just a couple things.
One is called IN THE HOOD and that's a comedy.
It's a wonderful super-low-budget film that
I've been working on for a few months. And
it's going to have a cameo with JJ Walker,
which is pretty exciting...Dy-No-Mite. I've
been having a lot of fun with that because
it's completely non-genre, it's just a comedy.
I've really been sort of stretching myself
and doing something different. Also a film
I was going to ask you
about that...that was the one shot in Philly,
Yes, that's three-quarters
done and that's going to be at the IFP Film
Festival this coming Monday. It's very exciting
because it's just the most breathtakingly
shot film that I've ever worked on. It's
very sort of futuristic/cyberpunk, and the
dialogue is very cool and mean yet very
funny. It's just an incredible film and
I'm extremely proud of it.
When do you figure that'll
Well, he's hoping to get it
completely done by the end of the year.
This festival that it's going to be at is
actually a market. And what happened with
his last film a few years ago is that he
brought it and he got finishing funds for
it and he's pretty much doing the same thing
with this one.
Who was the director?
Hiem Bianco. He did a film
called THE POPE OF UTAH and he actually
had a short film called INTO YOUR GUTS that
was shown at The Sundance Film Festival.
He's the type of guy that's
extremely talented and it's just a matter
of who's going to see him first. It's one
of those things where you just meet somebody
who's so exceptional, it's just a matter
of time and somebody's going to pick him
up. And I don't say that about hardly anybody.
I love the people I work with, but this
Well, sometimes even the
exploitation world produces someone with
some real talent and the ability to move
beyond the low-budget world...not that there's
anything wrong with the low-budget world.
I know exactly what you mean.
And no offense to Spielbergbecause
I loved SAVING PRIVATE RYANand any
of the others, but I'm just so bored with
I used to see upwards of
200 flicks a year in the theaters; now I'm
lucky if I see 50. I can't get motivated...I'd
much rather go to the video store and rent
something that's wacky and low-budget.
Sure, like a Steve Buscemi
film...and those are even high low-budget
Exactly. There's something
about low-budget filmsthere's a certain
spark to them that's missing from the big-budget
films. There's more going on than in a Hollywood
flick that's been screened for focus groups,
tweaked here and there, and rewritten and
re-edited by committee.
If you're interested
in finding out more about Debbie Rochon
or receiving info about her fan club, drop
the Queen B a line at PO Box 1299, New York,
NY 10009. Many thanks to Debbie for taking
time out of her schedule to chat with us.