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The Interview

Mink Stole

by Michael Varrati
Mink Stole is certainly no novice when it comes to the world of cult cinema. With a long and storied career appearing in the films of filth auteur John Waters, Stole has cemented her status as a midnight movie legend for several generations of filmgoers, and her recent work in such films as the popular Eating Out series have kept her an ever present gay icon at the multiplex.

Despite an impressively exhaustive list of credits to her name, Stole has showed little signs of slowing down, and is currently touring the country with her latest film project, All About Evil. The film, which serves as a delightful love letter to the blood-soaked exploitation cinema of a bygone era, is the directorial debut of Joshua Grannell, a longtime friend and fan of Stole’s. Joined by Grannell’s alter ego, Peaches Christ, Stole and members of Christ’s Midnight Mass players have been traversing the country with the film, presenting a unique screening experience complete with a preceding floorshow that has left audiences in a frenzy of delight.

As the show prepares to make its Chicago debut this Saturday, August 14th, we were able to catch up with the cult veteran and chat about her role in All About Evil, her thoughts on some of her more famous Waters characters, and how there’s a part she’s always wanted to swipe from Elizabeth Taylor.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mink Stole.

MV: You’re currently on tour with the film All About Evil, which has already played in several major cities and has offered a live preshow in advance of the film’s screening. What can filmgoers expect from the show, and what’s been your experience on the tour thus far?

MS: (Mink Stole) Audiences can expect a really good time from the preshow. It’s a whole different way of seeing a movie- you get a movie, you get a floorshow, you get some razzle dazzle. It’s kind of like having a big warm-up act for the movie. Peaches is a wonderful interviewer and a terrific showgirl. She puts on a good show, it’s done with love. We all just have a really great time doing it and I think that translates…the audience really picks up on the good time we’re all having.

MV: You first became acquainted with Joshua Grannell, the director of All About Evil, when you were the first ever celebrity guest at his Midnight Mass cult film series...

MS: ...which was a HUGE honor for me! I was so thrilled by that.

MV: Surely you’re asked to do many appearances. What stood out to you about this one? What is it about Joshua and the Peaches Christ persona that makes you keep coming back for more?

MS: Well, I love San Francisco. I was living in Los Angeles at the time and had the opportunity to go to this city I love because they were showing one of my early films, Desperate Living. They said, “Here, come to San Francisco, we’re going to treat you really well and give you a party…and give you some money too!” That’s kind of hard to turn down. –laughs- When I went, it was so much better than even I had anticipated, because Peaches was so professional and terrific from the moment my plane landed.

When I got to the theater that night, on the stage was this animatronic Peggy Gravel from Desperate Living, stirring a pot of rabies potion. It was so much bigger and more spectacular than I had ever expected. They had a film montage of a lot of my early film roles…and I have to tell you…it brought tears to my eyes. I was so moved by what they were doing as a tribute to me, I was very humbled. Anyway, I had such a wonderful time, I came back three or four times, and always had a good time…was always treated with respect and professionalism. Those things really make an impression, which is why when Joshua told me he had this movie script, based on all my experience with him, I said, “Yes!” Because I knew it would be a professional experience and that I would be treated well…and I was!

MV: So was your experience on the film set akin or above what you had experienced at Midnight Mass?

MS: It was at least akin, if not above. My experiences with Joshua have always been on a very high level. I expect good and I get good from Joshua, always. So, my experience on All About Evil was really good. It was a hard shoot, because it was a night shoot. It wasn’t easy…but it was fun.

MV: Since we’re talking about the movie, I don’t think it would give too much away to reveal that your character in All About Evil has a particularly grisly act of violence visited upon her, especially since the teaser posters for the film show the aftermath of that scene. It’s a particularly gory image- your character with her mouth sewn shut. What was filming that scene like? I know you’re not particularly a fan of violence and gore.

MS: I’m not…at all! –laughs- It was hard, mainly because I’m a chatty kind of gal, and being unable to speak for hours on end was very hard for me. Finally, after hours of frantic gestures, someone gave me a pad and pencil so that I could write notes to people, which helped a lot.

MV: I heard that since the prosthesis was right over your mouth, there was danger of them potentially sewing your actual lips. Were you ever concerned that they might accidentally go too deep and get you?

MS: Not once! Now, having the prosthetic made was unpleasant because it didn’t work the first few times, so we had to do the full face mask four times to get one that actually worked. But, during the actual shooting the prosthetic worked perfectly, so I was never even remotely afraid. It never even occurred to me to be scared. Though, now that I think about it…I probably should have been! I’m retroactively terrified!

MV: The horror genre is often thought by the mainstream to be very macho and chauvinistic, what with the T&A and the violence. However, films like All About Evil and Rocky Horror have really found their place with gay and alternative audiences. What is it, do you suppose, about cult and horror cinema that appeals to the gay crowd?

MS: I haven’t a clue. I don’t really understand the appeal of horror movies to begin with. I mean, I kind of get it on an intellectual level…that there’s this “safe terror”. I think there’s always crossing lines and breaking barriers…doing the unexpected. I think that appeals to a gay audience, because gay people often have to cross lines and break barriers. That’s part of gay life, being the “other” and different. Maybe on that level is where the appeal lies.

MV: From your work with John Waters to your more recent outings in films like All About Evil and the Eating Out series, you’ve certainly found a niche with gay audiences. Do you ever feel as though this has hindered your working on other roles? Or do you find that most of the roles you take are geared more towards an LGBT audience?

MS: Most everything I do is a little on the gay slant. It’s not my personal choice to do it that way, although I’m not bothered by it…but I do seem to be more wanted by gay audiences. They seem to like me more. It’s just kind of how it fell…and it’s because I work with John Waters. I’ve worked with drag queens my whole life. I’ve worked with the Cockettes. I’ve worked with Divine and Charles Ludlum in New York. Basically, I’ve been in the gay entertainment milieu my entire career, so it’s not really a surprise.

I think it is a bit limiting, but I’d rather be here than nowhere. So, I’m happy to have the work!

MV: With that said, is there a role or type of role that you’ve always wished you could play but haven’t yet had the chance?

MS: I’ve always wanted to play Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I’m past the age for her now, but I’ve always loved that role.

MV: …and I think the irony there is that the role of Martha has, in its way, also been heavily embraced by gay audiences.

MS: -laughs- That’s right! I’ve always wanted to play that role, though. The other role I’ve always wanted to play was the Better Davis role in Little Foxes. There’s still some really good, juicy roles for older women. Not the grandmother roles, but like some of the wonderful stuff Tennessee Williams wrote.

I’d also like to do film noir, if that ever presented itself to me. The women in prison movie that I did last year, Stuck, is as close to film noir that I’ve ever really come, and I enjoyed that a lot.

MV: Stuck was recently featured at the Outfest Film Festival in Los Angeles. Can you tell me a little bit about that? You’ve been to Outfest before, correct?

MS: I’ve been to a zillion Outfests! Over the last ten years, I’ve probably had films in Outfest at least five of those ten years. I’ve done male gay films, I’ve done female gay films…they’ve all played there. I’m an old friend of Outfest.

Now, I don’t know if the gays are going to like what I say now…but I really wish that there wasn’t a need for gay film festivals. I wish film festivals could be about film and that we didn’t have to segregate the gay from the straight. I know that there are crossovers always, the new film The Kids Are Alright being a prime example of that. It’s not in the film festivals, maybe Sundance, but it went straight to theaters and mainstream audiences are watching it. I wish that there was not such a ghettoization…however, the fact that there are so many gay film festivals, and that they’ve reached such huge audiences, is an indication that there is a growing audience for gay films. I wish that the audience could expand, that gay cinema could be more mainstream and that mainstream cinema could expand to embrace it all.

MV: We were talking about some of the roles you’ve played before, the roles you want to play, and the kind of roles you’re offered. Would you say there is a specific role that you are recognized for above all others? Of all the roles you’ve played, do you have a favorite?

MS: There are a few. People talk to me about Dottie Hinkle from Serial Mom, Taffy Davenport from Female Trouble (which is my personal favorite), Connie Marble from Pink Flamingos, and Peggy Gravel from Desperate Living. Those four…and they’re all John Waters films. Those are the roles that have had the greatest impact and that I’ve had people ask me about the most.

MV: Do you ever feel like you have hit the point where you’ve talked about these roles too much?

MS: No, because I’m proud of them. The idea that something that I did nearly 30 years ago still resonates with people who are seeing it now for the first time…I find that astonishing and completely gratifying. It’s nice. It’s sort of the “now” way to express it, but I’m very pleased by that. When people tell me that watching these films and laughing at these films has gotten them through tough times…that makes me happy. During the AIDS crisis people would tell me that they would watch Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble with their dying lovers…and laughing at these movies helped them through the awful situation. I never know what to say to that. “Thank you” just doesn’t seem big enough.

MV: Well, all of the movies you’ve mentioned have certainly endured and went on to become classics in their own way.

MS: Yes, but there was no way to have known that at the time. It’s really kind of remarkable and wonderful that this has happened.

MV: With such a wonderful back catalog, and you’re still making films- you made Stuck and All About Evil- one has to wonder…what’s next? Any future projects you can tell us about?

MS: Right now the thing that’s biggest and I’m most excited about in my life is that I’m getting ready to do an album with my Wonderful Band (that’s what they’re called by the way, as in “Mink Stole and the Wonderful Band”). This is my first album, and we’re thrilled…all I want to do now is play with my band. It’s all I want to do!

I mean, I love going on the road with Peaches! I don’t mean to imply that! –laughs- But, it’s the thing that gives me so much joy, going into rehearsal with the band and playing with them. We’re preparing for a Christmas show, at the moment.

MV: Do you think that once the album comes out you’ll tour around a bit?

MS: We’d love to! We’d very much love to do that, but you know it all depends on how. I’m getting too old to be sitting in the back of a van with a drum kit. So, it would depend…but we would love to get out there. We love performing.

MV: Well, you’re certainly getting your touring chops with All About Evil. Who knows, maybe the first stop is All About Evil, the next…


Related: Listen to Mink Stole on the Feast of Fun podcast

All About Evil: The Peaches Christ Experience in 4-D premiere is Sat, Aug. 14 at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave. Mink Stole and Peaches Christ will host pre and post parties at Berlin, 954 W. Belmont.

Click here for tickets and more information
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