I’ve been pretty fortunate throughout my life for a number of reasons. One of the biggest is that I’ve met and often even befriend people that I admire. That takes a certain gift of gab and insight- I asked Jim Steranko what record was on the player in this image, I talked to Greg Dulli about Sam Cooke’s SAR Records, and conversations grew from there.
As a gawky early teen, I was a rabid fan of Bruce Campbell. I got to meet him at a local mall when I was a boy, and did little to endear myself. Just a few very stilted seconds of conversation, and all I had to show for it was a very awkward photo that came back from Walgreen’s and left me terrified.
So when I got the opportunity to talk to Bruce Campbell again for my job at the Voice-Tribune, it was a chance to set things right. It went a little something like this:
Bruce: Hi, this is Bruce.
(Pause as I try to figure out if this might be the recorded message).
Rocko:Heeey, Bruce. This is Rocko from Louisville…
B: Hey,howyadoin’.Hey, hey, they’ve got you guys too stacked up this morning, I’m gonna need like ten more minutes.
R: Ok. You got it, pal.
B: Maybe like twelve.
R: OK. I’ll call you back then.
(Exactly 12 minutes later…)
B: Good morning!
R: Hey, Bruce! Did I give you enough time, there?
B: Yes you did, and thank you. I’ll tell (REDACTED) at Wizard to sort of spread these out, they’ve got you stacked up a little too tight. Like planes landing at LAX.
R: Yeah, man. That’s a hard scene.
B: But here we are.
R: Here we are!
B: We’re good to go.
R: We’re good to go! I’m the guy, I think you saw this picture of me and you, like twenty years ago…
B: Oh, yeah.
R: Yeah, I’m that dork.
B: Very good.
R: When I met you then I was super-starstruck, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’m sure I was extremely forgettable.
B: Well, that’s gonna happen, you know…
R: Oh, of course. Point is, I was a big fan of yours around age 13 and 14, and the things you guys were doing told me that there was a thing I could do between work in a factory or break it as big as Harrison Ford or somebody, that there’s a “do it yourself” way to go about things. It changed the way I think at an impressionable age and led me to lead my life in ways I otherwise might not have.
B: That’s good to hear. I’m glad you’re doing something at least close to what you want to do in life. Most people don’t really find much time. But “life is not a dress rehearsal,” as Sam Raimi’s mother used to tell me.
R: That’s good! I talked to Ted Raimi last night.
B: Oh, good!
R: Yeah, I got a real kick out of him. We talked on the phone for around an hour, I think he enjoyed it. He seemed to be having a good time.
B: Well, I won’t give you an hour but I’ll give you a few minutes.
R: OK! Excellent. So do you guys all still hang out together?
B: Oh, I hang out with Ted all the time! Yeah, Ted is my pal. Sam, you know, he has 47 kids, and so he has a very rich life outside of movies. He’s a pretty busy guy. The nice thing is, I’m getting to work with him again.
R: Yeah, on the new show!
B: Yep. Exactly right.
R: Now, I imagine that’s obviously a labor of love. How exciting is it to get back into the chainsaw hand, as it were?
B: Well, now it’s mainly just labor. As a middle aged guy, these things don’t come so easily. But it’s good! It’s fun to play Ash again. I can go back and give him the tweaks I want to give him, now.
R: It’s interesting to have Ash as an older guy now, obviously. Is he in a different place in life, maybe he manages the S-Mart, now?
B: No. Ash is right where you think he would be. He’s in a trailer park, picking up chicks late at night and lying about how he lost his right hand.
R: Sounds about right.
B: Right? That’s our buddy. And because of his foolishness, he’s unleashed these long dormant demons, and now at a point in his life where he really doesn’t want to have to deal with this…he has to.
R: He has to get back on the horse, as it were.
R: Speaking of horses, when I met you on tour for Brisco County Jr., you were Brisco. Completely in character. And I was like “I know who you are, you’re Bruce Campbell.” And you were like “That’s cool, kid. Let’s take a picture real quick…” What do you remember about those tours?
B: Well, I had a lot of energy back then. We would shoot all week, and then like three o’clock in the morning sometimes, on a Friday night…we would call them “Fraturdays.” Brisco was a very challenging shoot. A lot of moving parts. We would put in some serious hours on that show. And I would get picked up by a car at like 6:30 in the morning after about three hours sleep. And they shove you in the car or on a plane, and you’re off to some city with your gun and holster in your luggage, hoping nobody asks you too many weird questions. And then go parade around in some city, come back Sunday night, then Monday morning at seven you’re back on set looking at your costar going “What’s your name?”
B: It was a very busy time. But I didn’t mind touring, I still don’t mind touring. I don’t mind promoting stuff, because how the hell else are people going to know what you’re up to? Whenever I hear stories about these actors who won’t do publicity, I’m like “You’re an idiot.” I mean, “Who taught you that?” My dad was a Detroit ad man for thirty years. He was an ad man in the Motor City. And he often told me, “You can do the best work of your life, but if no one sees it, what the hell are you doing it for?”
R: Yeah, exactly. I remember that day, you were at the mall, a local mall…
B: I did a lot of malls, yeah.
R: There were so many people there. And there were kids dressed and cowboy costumes like you would think they wouldn’t have since the fifties.
B: Yeah! Well, Brisco was a slightly old school show.
R: It was a great show. I loved it. I remember thinking, when I saw that crowd, “Hey, maybe this is something that could last!”
B: Ha! Yeah, one season wonder.
R: You got to do a whole season at least though, right?
B: Oh, hell of a season. Twenty-six episodes.
R: And a lot happened in that second half of the season.
B: Sure did.
R: I would say that all in all, it turned out pretty well. Would you agree?
B: Yeah! Yeah, it did. You know, unfortunately, the last episode was a two-parter, and at the end of the first part of the two episodes, Ash and his guys are shot at dawn Breaker Moran style. And then some markets did not show that second episode, because they yanked it. So some people didn’t see that final episode where we wake up and they were rubber bullets, and we ride off into the sunset. So people were like “Wow, what a lousy way to end that series!” And I’m like “What are you talking about?”
R: Right! You had shovels underneath your shirts. I remember when that happened, I was really concerned about you and Bowler.
B: Yeah, you should’ve been! You should’ve been.
R: Any chance you might revisit Brisco at some point?
B: Hey man, they’re redoing everything, so never say never.
R: Maybe somebody could be Brisco The Third and you could be the dad.
B: Yeah, well, maybe you could finance it, too.
R: (Laughs) Yeah, really. Well, you know, I’m smiling ear to ear, which is maybe not too professional of me. Listen, I’m glad that you’re around. I’m glad that you’re hard at work doing so many things over the years.
B: I haven’t gone anywhere.
R: Absolutely. You’re doing your thing. When you guys started out, did you have any idea it would lead to all this?
B: Well, no. The idea is just to get in the business. That was the only goal. It didn’t matter how we did it. I said yes to every early part…Maniac Cop, whatever. It didn’t matter. It was time to plow the fields. And wherever that led was wherever that led. And it’s like that today. You just lean in and see where it goes, like Mr.Toad’s Wild Ride. Technology changes, movies change, TV changes. Video games change. I just did my first Call Of Duty.
R: Oh, wow. That’s really great. How did you like voice acting?
B: I’ve actually done a lot of it. I did all the Evil Dead games. I did the original Pitfall Harry for Activision. Yeah, I’ve done it for awhile. It’s fun. Very antiseptic work.
R: Pretty easy to do compared to all the physicality stuff you’re doing now, and previous stuff too, I would imagine. I’m thrilled to get to talk to you, I will be there at Wizard World, and I’ll find you, get you a copy of the Voice-Tribune.
B: Good! Come on down.
R: Maybe we can recreate that photograph.
B: Uh, yeah. Sure! Why not?
B: Yeah, come on down. I look forward to seeing you and seeing all the folks from Tulsa. It’s always been a very friendly place. I haven’t been in about ten years, we’ll see how it’s doin’.
R:(Contemplating bringing up that this is for Louisville, not Tulsa)…Yeah. Yeah, it’s pretty cool. The last time you were here was for your first book, when your book was out.
B: Yeah, I came for the second book I think, too! In 2005. First one was I think 2000, and about five years later we did the second one.
R: Yeah! Good stuff.
B: Alright, my friend! Nice talkin’ to ya!
R: You, too! See you down the road.
B: Alright, sir. Bye!