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Marco Perella

Death in the Wankatorium
by Marco Perella

April 2000

I actually have a few fans who tell me how exciting it is to see me on television. I imagine their evenings go something like this:

FAN: Honey! Honey! Come quick! Marco’s on the TeeVee!

SPOUSE: Where? Where? I don’t see him!

FAN: Right there! Wait ‘til Walker gets that boot off his face!...There!

SPOUSE: Which one? Which one?

FAN: The stupid one!

SPOUSE: Wait a minute! I gotta call Mother!

FAN: Forget it, they shot him already.

SPOUSE: You sure that was him?

FAN: Damn right it was. Didn’t you see his nose?

It’s November and the year has not been kind. The wretched little TV movies that they used to shoot in Texas and hire us regional actors to act in and save money on have moved to Canada where the dollar exchange rate and government kickbacks have lowered the bottom line far beneath even the subterranean levels attainable in our fair state. I hear they’re shooting thirty movies in Toronto and another thirty in Vancouver. In Texas it’s zilchoid. The big Nada. Double-ought. We starve. So when the word comes down that a sci-fi flick is starting up in Houston every actor in the state responds to the audition call.

This epic is to run on the UPN network in between reruns of the World Wrestling Federation. The basic plot is that aliens are taking over the world. It’s a whole new concept. They call it "M K ULTRA" which has no meaning at all to anyone. So then they change it to "ULTRAKILL" which has way too much meaning. They finally say they’re going to call it "BILLY SABBATH: ALIEN KILLER". This pretty much nails it, descriptive wise, since our young cop hero is indeed the possessor of that unlikely name.

I am auditioning for one of the "Nephilim", an alien race who might not be actually alien at all but just in hibernation after the last meteor extinction. Anyway, we’re back and we’re pissed. We want to reclaim our planet from the infectious human vermin who have thrived in our absence. We intend to accomplish this by taking over host bodies of unsuspecting people (we could be your friends and neighbors!) and then impregnating as many human women as possible with our evil alien seed and then harvesting the resulting issue. This last is a good excuse to get scantily clad nubile young women into the cast as breeders. To hurry the process along we have also hybridized some bees infected with a fast acting killer virus that will decimate the population of Houston overnight and precipitate a mass panic from which we Nephilim will profit.

The director of this little gem is an actor’s director. I can tell because during the audition he comes over and whispers in my ear: "Keep your eyes wide and flare your nostrils and stuff." I follow his advice and get the part.

The trouble begins when I read the script. It’s an action flick filled with running and jumping and humping and killing and dying. I am only a month out of knee surgery and can barely walk across the room without doing an impression of Igor, the leg-dragging hunchback. Being highly motivated by poverty, I decide to conceal this information as long a possible. Preferably until they have committed a couple of days filming to my part and can no longer affordably replace me with another Nephilim actor.

Unfortunately the very first day of shooting involves one of my big scenes. I get the drop on Billy Sabbath in a cheesy motel and torture him until his fellow alien killers come to the rescue at which point I’m supposed to jump off the second story balcony and run away with super-human speed. Luckily they’ve hired a stunt man to do the actual jumping, but when I see who it is I prepare for the worst. It’s the same guy I worked with on that Tornado picture where they almost killed me twice. This guy has the best career asset in Texas: he looks like me. And since whatever movie I am in I usually wind up getting spilled all over the screen he gets a lot of work. He’s supposed to do the dangerous stuff but somehow I always get hurt. I surrender to the inevitable. At least I get to wear the latest in alien-chic: a floppy-collared rayon disco shirt with a shiny silver jacket and wrap around shades.

Billy Sabbath is being played by a young Turk Hollywood actor from one of those TV shows about the young unmarried struggling with sexual mores in the make believe Hollywood young urban professional universe where everybody cracks wise in the office and all the women look like Auschwitz survivors. My character used to be Billy Sabbath’s cop partner, Brad Dempsy, before aliens stole my body. We talk about the upcoming torture scene and he tells me he was just on a John Travolta movie where Travolta actually beat his head in for half a day and he loved it and felt so important like a real method actor so could I please hurt him a lot so he won’t have to act? I reassure him.

Thereupon we embark upon several hours of very satisfying choking, head banging and jaw dislocating. I say satisfying because your regional actor like me secretly lives for these moments where he can inflict a lot of damage on the Hollywood leads. You see, because they live in Hollywood they’re automatically considered better actors than us. If you’re an actor and don’t live in Hollywood or maybe New York there must be something wrong with you. Even if you’re in L.A. working as a waiter and I’m in Texas doing movies all the time I’m still a piss ant regional actor and you’re a HOLLYWOOD...i.e. "real" actor.

The alien killers arrive and my stunt double does his jump. He crashes through a real plate glass window and leaps over the balcony rail onto a big air bag. The glass cuts his arms all up but it’s all in a day’s work for a stunt man. I think I am going to get off easy but the special effects director tells me I have to match the jump so he can morph my face on the body of the stunt guy, making it look like the real me jumping out the window. I have to hang from a bar eight feet up and drop into camera onto the sidewalk and then run away with super-human, special effect enhanced speed. My knees start quivering in anticipation. I ask them if they can lower the bar a little. "What do you mean, lower it? What kind of weenie-ass regional wimp actor are you, anyway?" Well how about letting me land on the air bag? "No, that’ll screw up the shot! What’s a matter, scared of heights?" Well, I just had knee surgery. "Goddamn it! Get the producers over here! Call the casting director! We gotta replace this crippled weenie actor!" Oh hell, let’s just shoot it. I proceed to drop to the sidewalk about ten times and run away with super human speed. I throw in a few wide eyed nostril flares for effect and everybody’s happy.

The next morning my knee looks like a diseased turnip. Luckily I have a couple of days off and I get to go back to Austin and get cortisone shots and a knee drain. The juice they take out of my joint is mostly blood. A sure sign of trauma, my orthopedist informs me with ill-concealed glee at the prospect of cherry-picking my insurance policy. Of course I have to do this movie so I can make enough money to qualify for insurance that will pay for the damage I am doing to myself on this movie. It’s a wonderfully circular arrangement.

The lead villain Nephilim is being played by a friend of mine. We worked on Lone Star together and we both reminisce pleasantly about working on an actual quality film. His character’s name is Darrius but because he wears a snake tattooed on his lower belly, (the head tucked provocatively into his pants) to indicate his trenchant villainy, we all call him "Snake Daddy". In order to better spread the alien seed Snake Daddy has started a men’s club where middle aged gents pay to dance with gorgeous girls. On off hours Snake Daddy impregnates the women with fast growing alien fetuses that show in two weeks and are ripe for plucking. Snake Daddy takes the girls to the Nephilim clinic and removes the little Nephilim from their wombs and consigns the mother-hosts to the crematorium. He puts the baby Nephilim into tanks with a lot of tubes in them and they grow into big old bald Nephilim bodyguards in a couple of more days. Of course the alien killers lead by Billy Sabbath are raiding the fetus farms and torching our stock. This makes us Nephilim very angry. It makes us want to kill and kill again.

So we have a scene upstairs at the club where Snake Daddy is having an orgy with all the dancing girls. They can’t resist his alien charms. Or maybe it’s the tattoo. Anyway, they’ve hired all these kids to be extras and lie around in their underwear and on action start humping each other like a brood of quivering arachnids. Snake Daddy culls the herd for strays. How this stuff is going to get on television nobody knows. They just keep saying "It’s okay. It’s cable." A beautiful Latina model is Snake Daddy’s main partner for today and she has bought into the whole "This-part-will-make-me-a-star!" scenario and is happy to remove bras and make other necessary artistic statements as required. She doesn’t have any actual lines but after about fourteen takes (lots of coverage of the orgy) she starts improvising. The line she comes up with for herself in this situation is "Spank me! Spank me!" Thus she is rendered immortal for the rest of the shoot. For the next month members of the crew will come up to our star and say "Spank me, Snake Daddy! Spank me!"

As an under-Nephilim I don’t participate in the orgy. My character is a bit of a prude and doesn’t actually like to touch the humans outside of an occasional torture session. But I still have a sacred duty to bring alien babies into the world as fast as possible so what I do is, I go to the sperm bank. This is where I will come to the end of my delicious alien evil, because Billy Sabbath has trailed me to the clinic and is to dispatch me as I am making my donation.

Needless to say I have been a bit curious about how exactly this scene is to be shot. I don’t think I can get out of this one by claiming knee troubles. I am further alarmed by the appearance of some fancy disco underwear on my wardrobe rack the day of the scene. The old theatre line keeps running through my head: "There are no small parts, only small actors!"

In the first part of the scene I arrive at the Wankatorium and walk in with my sunglasses:

ME: I have an appointment to donate sperm.

CLERK: Been here before?

ME: Several times.

CLERK: Third door on the right. Thanks for coming.

Then we move to the wank-room. I start to get cold feet, thinking of my mother watching me on TV and suddenly seeing... I talk to the director. "Am I gonna, you know...I mean do you want me to actually..." "No! No! NO! I mean it is cable...but no, I think we’ll just shoot you from the waist up from the back and then Billy Sabbath will come in and kill you with cyanide bullets and you’ll knock over the video player where a copy of Debby Does Dallas will be playing and then you’ll die on the floor in a puddle of black alien goo." I am relieved. "Thank God." I say. "For a minute there I thought I might be in trouble!"

So I sit in front of the video player ostensibly mooding up for my deposit and Billy comes in. Now I have to do my death scene. Billy is going to say "All right alien scum! On your feet!" To which I will reply "No problem. Just let me get my pants on." Then I will cleverly go for my secret alien ankle holster and come up gun blazing, to be met by fiery death at the wrong end of Billy Sabbath’s cyanide pistol. (Having super human strength means it takes a cyanide bullet to kill you.)

I prepare for my death scene. The stunt coordinator is an old pro in the business. He was the first guy ever to set himself on fire and jump out of a window in a movie. His first assistant worked on the scene in the Godfather where James Caan got riddled with bullets. Unfortunately he assigns his second assistant to work on me. A guy in his twenties just breaking into the business. The second tells me very seriously how carefully he’s going to wire me up with a squib that will make it look like my chest is exploding but will hurt me not a whit. I’ve been squibbed before and it always hurts. I never die an easy death in the movies. (I just want you to realize the sacrifices I make so that you can enjoy watching me die on national TV.) Director Tim wants a real spectacular death for me to bring a surge of joy to the audience who have had to endure my loathsome alien villainy. I’ve impressed everyone with the depth of my characterization and the commitment to nostril flaring for which I am so justly famed. The second assistant informs me that I am to get a DOUBLE squib. Oh the honor of it all. He tapes a cannon ball of rubber onto my tee shirt under the charge so it will not actually blow a hole in my chest. We march to the set.

I try to prepare myself for the sequence: Reach down for my ankle gun. Swing it around on Billy Sabbath. Get shot in the heart. Fire an errant shot somewhere near Billy’s head but not right at him because the blank wad can still kill him. Knock over the TV. Sag lifelessly to the floor. Lie there patiently until they apply the goo. Any time you’re ready, Cecil.

The fatal miscalculation is that as I bend down to get my ankle gun the rubber padding with its taped charge swings away from my chest. Then when I turn quickly to get the drop on Billy Sabbath it swings out even further from my chest. When the guy hits the switch it’s like firing a shotgun without holding the stock against your shoulder. I am knocked flying across the room. I miss the TV entirely but no one is unhappy because it looks like I really got killed. They crowd happily around me. "Are you hurt? It looked great!" Oh yes. I am hurt. There is already an angry red contusion over my heart, which is, I think, for the moment, as it were, stopped. They drag me into the back room and unharness me from my rubber death mallet. The stunt coordinator has a few choice words for the second assistant. The first assistant is assigned the task of sweet-talking me into not suing if I die. The producer insists on taking me to the emergency room to protect himself in case I do, in fact, die. I may have broken a rib, but I think I will survive. I don’t want to go sit in an emergency room for hours waiting to see an intern. But the forces of bureaucracy win out. The producer puts me in his Land Cruiser and off we go.

He phones ahead to some doctor flack and tells him to call the emergency room and tell them we’re coming in. They don’t want to waste a lot of time getting back to the set. My chest hurts. We get to the emergency room and of course there are fifty people there. The producer storms up to the desk and demands that I be seen immediately. "We called ahead. We’re from Hollywood!" He thinks these magic words will somehow grease our skids into the curtained cubicle but the Houston emergency room nurse just laughs. The producer squawks "This actor has a very serious simulated gunshot wound!" The emergency room nurse replies "We’ve got three REAL gunshot wounds in here and a couple of heart attacks and we don’t plan on seeing THEM any time soon either so take a number, Bub." Defeated, we go back to the car. The producer badmouths location shoots. "This would never happen in Los Angeles. People understand priorities out there."

Back on the set I have to complete my death by being gooed. We aliens spit up black blood and smoke and twitch when we are killed by cyanide bullets. I am a master of all three disciplines. Years of study. I take a huge mouthful of Karo syrup and burble and smoke on cue. They run a tube up my shirt that pumps smoke into my face. Feels good. I’m lying on my back so the syrup runs into my eyes as I burble. The first assistant stunt coordinator wipes it out with a dirty paper towel after each take. The director is not satisfied with my burbling technique. He wants great geysers of projectile black blood lofting up into camera range. I take an enormous mouthful of goo and make like Old Faithful. I twitch like an electrocuted squirrel. I smoke like flank steak on the grill. Billy Sabbath stands over me and delivers his eulogy (in voice over)

"Brad Dempsy -- ex-friend, ex-cop,

ex-human being and now just plain X.

I have a bad feeling that cyanide is

my only friend."

"Cut! Print!" The crew applauds.

I am disgusted with myself because I feel such a glow of accomplishment. Everyone is patting me on the back telling me what a trooper I am. How great the shot looks. What a memorable death scene. I am such a movie animal I am actually proud of my ability to take abuse. Tomorrow I will wake up sore from head to foot. My knee throbbing and puffing, my ribs aching, a two week bruise starting over my heart. I will develop a terrible eye infection from Karo syrup and dirty paper towels. I have just portrayed a character who meets his maker while wanking. And all this makes me somehow professionally satisfied. I am fulfilling my destiny. Spank me.

FAN: Look, Honey! It’s Marco on the TeeVee again!

SPOUSE: Is this the one where he gets shot in the wankatorium and spits up that black goo all over hisself?

FAN: Yeah! Yeah! Get Grandma on the phone and tell her to turn on channel a hunerd n’ twelve!

SPOUSE: Oh lookee there! He’s doin’ that crazy thing with his nose! How does he do that? He’s so good!

FAN: Oh hell, that ain’t nothin’. He’s ALWAYS been able to do that.

SPOUSE: I guess you got to be talented to look so stupid all the time.

FAN: Here it comes! Here it comes!... THAR SHE BLOWS!

SPOUSE: I love that part. Wonder what that black goo tastes like?

It’s sweet. Very, very sweet.

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