A recent book signing attests to the fact that self-proclaimed "B movie actor" Bruce Campbell is adored by a motley legion of fans -- preppie post-Boomer families of moms, dads, kids, even babies, getting their pictures snapped with the "Prince of Thieves" from Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules; white-skinned, black-clad goths, hauling along their Evil Dead posters; scruffy tattooed twenty-something alternative types clutching their Army of Darkness special edition DVDs.
They're all armed with yellow Post-It notes -- so The Man knows how to spell their names as he scrawls
his illegible but immediately treasured signature inside hundreds of covers of his, well, biography of sorts.
In If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, Campbell breezily tells of his boisterous boyhood in
suburban Detroit -- of elaborate pranks and plots concocted with his brothers; of hilariously indecipherable encounters with the opposite sex, pre-, during, and post-pubescence; of an early but strong interest in acting and filmmaking with an almost unbelievable group of school pals and acquaintances who grew up to be in the biz as well. Take, for instance, Sam Raimi (producer, Spiderman
director, and Campbell's lifelong tormentor), part of Campbell's tight-knit group of
high school friends and most often behind the camera in a long series of "Three Stooges"-type Super-8 amateur movies,
who directed Campbell in the cult classic Evil Dead.
But cooler than dishy tales of people he knew "when" or whom he met on his way to the B-list is the way in which Campbell describes his early experiences with filmmaking -- especially independent filmmaking, a la the first grainy Evil Dead, a film that set him on the road to, if not superstardom, at least middling stardom. No fan of Campbell's will feel anything but comfortable with his tone -- goofy, self-deprecating stories of growing up to be involved in film and TV that would go perfectly with a few beers and peanuts between friends.
There are a few moments in Campbell's Confessions where his breezy tone belies what must have been a great deal of pain -- when his mother left his father shortly after his brother's wedding, or when his own first marriage fell apart under the pressure of long absences
from his young family while filming on location. But his sardonic descriptions of Hollywood (beware the spores) and his fumbling brushes with greatness remind readers and fans that our heroes -- especially our
actor heroes -- are just people, too, fallible and prone to occasional pratfalls.
© 2002 by Sharon Schulz-Elsing for Curled Up With a Good Book