By Shane M. Dallmann
What can I tell you about David Hess that you don’t already know? Probably not much–I won’t regale you with his musical background or his filmography. What I CAN tell you is that while I was more than familiar with his film work, I had never chronicled it in my writing, nor had I ever met the man himself at a convention or anything like that. Truth be told, I quite literally met him on the street!
It was San Francisco–the Castro Theatre was running an independent film festival, and my buddy Christo and I had turned out to attend a screening of Jeff Burr’s STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS. As it turned out, David Hess appeared in another film screened during the fest (I believe it was Ulli Lommel’s ZODIAC KILLER), but NOT one that was playing that particular day–he was just in the area. While waiting for Burr to complete his post-show interview, I simply happened across Hess outside the theatre and we struck up a conversation, simple as that. And before I knew it, he’d happily joined our miniature entourage and we were all enjoying a round of drinks at a nearby restaurant.
We joined up for several more ‘Frisco get-togethers over the next few months–we had outspoken conversations about movies, music, you name it… and then I got around to asking him the question I’d been saving. As his directorial debut TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT (1980) had vanished into legal limbo (to this day, there’s no legitimate DVD release), but as I happened to have a copy, and as I just happened to host a local TV/Net “creature feature” program, and as we just HAPPENED to be gearing up for a Christmas episode… what would he say to the idea of our hosting that very movie?
I’ve read testimonials from fellow fans who’d wanted to see that particular film–David himself would see to it that they got to do just that. As for us… not only was he fine with our running the film–he was ALSO willing to make the drive to Monterey and APPEAR in the episode as our very first honest-to-goodness celebrity guest! In return, I promised him that he could say or do… anything he wanted.
And he did!
That particular Christmas MANOR special became one of our most notorious… David Hess made his surprise appearance after the first segment of the movie, happily terrorizing me and my friends (at one point I suggested a LAST HOUSE spoof segment, but I could tell right away that he didn’t want to do that, so the motion was cheerfully withdrawn with no ill effect whatsoever). Among the highlights: David told the fully uncensored story of how he was inspired to write ALL SHOOK UP; and he buried me in Christmas lights while encouraging me to sing (my rendition of Elvis’s BLUE CHRISTMAS made him groan out loud–I’m going to try to put this clip on YouTube for you in the not-too-distant). Naturally, he also gave the lowdown on the movie we were hosting and talked about his future plans….
…yeah, one of those future plans involved appearing in a movie to be written by me and Christo–we went through a couple of drafts before we came up with a scenario that pleased him… it really looked like it was going to happen, but in all too typical fashion, our prospective producer changed his mind and backed out of the project. I still allowed myself to hope that we were going to work together professionally ONE of these days.
As we all know by now, that’s not going to happen. But we’ll always have the MANOR, and we’ll always have those great dinner chats.
Rest in peace, big guy. What a treat it was to simply be your FRIEND.