Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media

Klaus Encounters

EDITOR’S NOTE: I was contacted by Barry Hickey some time ago. He’d read our Complete Guide to Klaus Kinski at the ER Web Site and wanted to contribute his own tales of Klaus.

You see, Barry had actually acted with Kinski — well, sorta, but that’s getting ahead of things — in the flick REVENGE OF THE STOLEN STARS (available from Video Search of Miami). This was late in K2’s career, an era defied by linen jackets with rolled up sleeves and the kinds of performances he gave in CRAWLSPACE.

Barry and I finally got together over the phone one night and chatted for a couple hours about his career in low-budget cinema and working with Kinski in Mexico. The following is Barry’s tales of working with Kinski, director Ulli Lommel, Lommel’s wife (and DuPont heiress) Suzanna Love and other assorted crazies and characters on the set of REVENGE OF THE STOLEN STARS.

I’d also like to point out that Kinski’s dead, so he’s not here to defend any of the stories set forth in the pages to follow — this is simply one man’s tale of Klaus Encounters.


It was the first film that I ever did in Hollywood. I was 30 years old, but I looked like I was 21. I was living out of my car doing singing telegrams. And this movie came about because they have this thing called ‘Dramalogue’ because all those straight-to-video B-movies, that’s usually where they cast from.

There was a Saturday audition for this movie called SIX STARS TO SINDINAO and the director was Ulli Lommel, who had a film a few years earlier called THE BOOGEYMAN (1980). Another good German schlock film.

And it has been said that that movie really started the HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH movies, you know, that kind of psycho slasher stuff. Personally, I think it was TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but Ulli wanted to take credit for it. He’d read articles so Ulli believed his own hype. The movie made about a million and a half, two million dollars in the [late] 70s. He basically kept remaking that film for the next five years.

And here I was doing singing telegrams and there was an open audition for [this movie] down at the Coronet Theater. I went down there at 9 in the morning and I had six singing telegrams that day, I remember. There was about a hundred guys in line, so I waited in line, couldn’t get in, went and did my singing telegram thing and came back. Now there were about another 50 people on line, [and] I had to do another singing telegram. I kept coming back for the audition — this was for the lead. They were looking for an unknown. I came back about four o’clock and the line was way down and I was the last guy they auditioned out of a couple hundred dudes.

They hired me and four days later I’m on a plane to the Philippines with this cross-eyed Australian producer who is also a witch and he looked like Peter Sellers. And he limped all the time ‘cause he got stabbed in the foot working for the Peace Corps, when he was in his 20s, by a New Guinea tribe that attacked his van because he was teaching a competitive tribe how to bake bread.

So [he's] like my buddy... he still is. He’s as crazy as a loon. Anyway, I’m on a plane with him and I’d never really been overseas to a tropical destination. So I get drunk as a skunk on the plane, we get to the Philippines, we’re there, I’m working with Ulli and his wife Suzanna Love. [She] was funding the movie and she’s one of the DuPont family. Remember John DuPont who killed the wrestler? That’s her family tree, the crazy artist side.

She’s one of the stars with me, and she’s in other films, of which I can never remember any of the titles. Anyway, she’s a pretty girl and a decent actress; she was actually in HAIR on Broadway — that was her claim to fame.

Ulli, when he was younger, his claim to fame was that he was an actor and did the German ‘Starsky and Hutch.’ He was the German “Starsky.” He was also the voice of Robin in the Batman tv series. What’s really funny is about two-and-a-half years ago I’m sitting out at Burt Ward’s house and he’s married to the heiress of RC Cola. So I’m sitting there with Burt Ward and Ulli Lommel and we’re talking about this movie we’re all going to do together and I realize that I’m in a room with the two Robins. And I knew my career was in trouble.

I’ve done about 20 movies with Ulli. He’d call me out of the blue and say, “Barry, can you be a detective today?” And he’d always give me like $300 cash when I showed up. I’d ask, “Well, what’s this movie about?,” and he never knew. He’d say, “It’s about a man in the bushes with a gun...stand over there.” And that’s the kind of movies he’d be doing. I’d show up and there’d be all these Germans or Swiss or French people, there’s some guy Nick something who was a big actor in Germany. And Ulli’d bring them here because they wanted to come to Hollywood for a couple days. I met Ulli on SIX STARS.

So there I am in the Philippines with this guy and he’s hypoglycemic and he’s freaking out and we’re filming with people in the Binali rice fields, which is one of the seven man-made wonders of the world. During World War 2 these people used to kill the Japanese and eat them because the Japanese decimated the Philippines. The chief gave me the head of a Japanese guy as a gift. He told me, “I killed him, I killed him, I ate his brains.”

And this is all before I knew Klaus was in the movie. They gave me a script which was supposed to be, at the time, an action script. Sort of like Indiana Jones. That’s what he was trying to do — a B-movie version of Indiana Jones. The story was about a guy named Gene and I’m a musician for the San Francisco Orchestra and I find out my uncle died, my favorite uncle, played by Tony Curtis. He died and left me a ruby mine in the fictitious country of Sindinao and I had to go there personally to take the mine on or I lose it.

So I go to Sindinao and I meet Suzanna Love who [played] the secretary to my dead uncle. And Ulli played the villain, he’s this mysterious lawyer. And apparently, when my uncle died he had all the rubies hidden, which are worth a lot of money and there’s all these ghosts and curses. My uncle’s murdered by one of his foremen over the location of the rubies.

We’re filming in the Philippines and we come back, Tony Curtis can’t work another week; we’re negotiating with his agency to find out when’s Tony going to do the movie. Finally, we’re shooting most of it in Malibu now. We turned Ulli’s house into this tropical place and then we went up to San Francisco and filmed me walking around town for two days.

Then we had some problem with the distributor, Media Home Entertainment, about something. And I’m starring in this movie and I got paid for four months work, $1200.00 to star in my first movie. And I had to beg for that!

Meanwhile, Tony Curtis is supposed to film in five days. But we had to make it out of this country because he couldn’t work [in the US] on a non-union film. So we pay him $50,000 to be my uncle. Two days before we go to Mexico Tony goes to Betty Ford instead. And I’ve been playing the character the whole movie — I always knew the comedic instinct was there that I’m playing this guy who has a funny dead uncle. ‘Cause it’s Tony Curtis playing this Brooklyn Jewish uncle.

At the last minute Curtis couldn’t do it. Then they had Ernest Borgnine, but he wouldn’t do it because he was selling some cosmetics with his wife. All of a sudden [the agency] says, “You know, Klaus is available.” And Klaus Kinski was [Ulli’s] idol.

And I was a big fan of Werner Herzog’s work and I knew about the whole story in Brazil and thought this guy was really interesting. Plus, I was a film buff and I saw all of these [Kinski] films when I was in college. So I thought it was really cool to work with this guy. I also thought he’d be totally wrong for the role. Ulli said, “It doesn’t matter, he’s a star in Germany.”

Barry and KlausMeanwhile they send me on to Mexico — the “star” — to find locations, [and] Klaus will work next Monday. So [Ulli] sends me down to Mexico. So I go to Mexico and I bring a friend of mine. He used to recruit football players for Stanford. I bring [him] with me because he said he spoke Spanish, but he didn’t speak a word of it hardly.

[He] and I go there and we stay at the Rosarita Beach Hotel, and I go out to find locations to film in. I finally go out and find a bullfighter who was a well-known Mexican bullfighter and he used to know a realtor. He takes me to the Johnny Carson of Mexico’s house in Tijuana and he has the perfect house — it matches the Philippines as much as we could.

Meanwhile, I call the US and Klaus has committed and now here’s the deal. “Barry, we’re paying Klaus $75,000 for two days. He wanted $50,000 per day but we had to pay him cash. So everything’s gotta be ready.” But I don’t have any money, we’re charging everything to my room and I’m wearing the same shoes I had from four days ago.

We’re ready to go. Klaus comes in from Marin County they pick him up at LAX in a stretch limo and they’re driving to Mexico. We have this girl who played a maid in the movie, she was also a part-time makeup artist, and her name is Joyce Lin-Lew. She used to be on ‘Kung-Fu’ the tv series. She played David Carradine’s girlfriend who gets killed when he’s a little Chinese guy. She’s our makeup artist on it, too.

They’re driving down in the limo the whole way and Klaus wants to sleep with Ulli’s wife. That’s how Ulli hooked him because he knew about his sexual stuff. And Suzanna’s playing like she likes him. Klaus has this ego and he buys into everything about him, he thinks he’s the center of the universe. That’s also why they brought Joyce along because, well, Klaus liked anything female.

So they’re driving down and [Ulli] didn’t tell Joyce this, she just thought she was going down to be the makeup artist. The whole way [Klaus] keeps trying to put his hand up between her legs. Ulli’s not doing anything to stop it and Suzanna’s laughing like it’s a good time and Joyce’s totally freaked out. She’s going to Mexico with this sex maniac she doesn’t know, nobody’s helping her, she’s in a limousine going 80 and they’re all giggling!

They get down to Mexico, Klaus is staying at the Rosarita, I get back from location and I haven’t met the guy yet. Ulli runs up to me and goes, “You can’t meet Klaus yet.”

“What is he, the prince?” And realize something, I grew up in Chicago in a gang on the South Side. To me, just having moved to Hollywood was a joke. I don’t come across that way, people think I’m this real naive, Michael J. Fox kind of guy.

“What do you mean I can’t meet him, he’s sitting right over there.”

“Please Barry you don’t understand how delicate the situation is — Klaus thinks he’s the star.”

“Ulli, he’s working a fucking day on it.”

Kinski ChessSo I sat at the bar drinking and I kept waiting for him to introduce me. And Klaus, at that point in his life, I don’t know why, he always wore these linen jackets. He always rolled the sleeves up and that’s what he wanted to wear in movies. In the later movies he’s basically wearing the same clothes. You know, he’s a weird dude, he’s 5’6”, he never bathed, he smelled. It’s nine o’clock at night and I’m with Ray who’s drunk as a skunk. Finally, I say, “This is bullshit” and I just walked up to him, “Klaus, Barry” and stuck my hand out.

And he doesn’t even raise his hand. He looks at Ulli and Suzanna and Joyce who’s sitting there with this terrified face.

“What is this?”

“Oh, this is Barry, he plays Gene.”

“Yes, but what is this with the hand?”

“I’m Barry, I’m starring in the movie, I guess you play my uncle.”

“I don’t shake hands with people.”

I just started laughing and I walked away.

So Ulli came out and said, “You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Come on Ulli, what’s the big deal he’s just like everybody else.”

“No, he’s the Laurence Olivier of Germany, you can’t do that.”

The next day we’re all at the set. I get there earlier, they bring him in the stretch again. By this time Klaus is now totally hitting on Joyce. He’s sitting in a makeup chair, I come in and sit in another makeup chair. We’re supposed to be doing our scene together where I come into this room where my uncle’s [been] killed and his ghost appears and talks to me, telling me what to do. You know, I’m getting ready for the scene and he looks at me and goes out of the room. And Joyce, the makeup artist, whispers to me, “SAVE ME!”

I go, “What?”

“Save me from him.”

“What do you mean?”

“This guy’s the weirdest dude I’ve ever met!”

So Ulli comes in ten minutes later and says, “Barry, we’re going to shoot the scene a bit differently. We’re going to shoot Klaus first and then I’m going to shoot you.” I figured reverse angles, no big deal. Finally, they’re in there and about to shoot and I come into the room. They’re shooting and Klaus gestures for Ulli and whispers something in his ear.

Ulli comes over to me and says, “Barry, you have to leave the room.”

“Why?”

“Because you can’t see Klaus.” And he’s buying into this, he’s explaining to me Klaus’ logic. “Because Klaus is a ghost.”

“Yeah, I know, he’s my uncle.”

“But you can’t see him and if you see him now it’ll destroy his performance.”

“Help me out here Ulli. This is my comedic, fun-loving Irish uncle, now he’s a crazy German who whispers...?”

“That’s what he wants and that’s how he acts. I’m paying him all this money Barry.”

“Payin’ him for what, the guy’s a nut!” So I walk out of the room and I’m back in the makeup chair. Joyce comes up and says, “He’s putting his hand up my skirt. The night before he kept coming to my room, he came to my door, he came to my window, he tried to get in. One time he saw me, he stood up and said he was Nosferatu...anything to get me to open the window.”

JoyceMeanwhile I’m back at the house talking to her and he sees me. So he tells Ulli he wants the makeup artist on the set the whole time for him. She’s sitting on the set all day, Klaus is working all day, and he would never talk. He would only whisper.

So the funny part is, I come into the room and say, “Uncle! You’re alive!” and he would whisper, “No Gene, I’m a ghost.” And thirty of us say, “What?” Ulli walks up and says, “Klaus, could you say it a little louder. Think about it Klaus, this kid barges in and sees you and he’s surprised to see you.”

“No, no, no, he’s a ghost...he doesn’t yell anymore. He’s a dead man and he’s living with the dead. And when you live with the dead you whisper because voices have no meaning anymore.”

And Ulli says, “Ah, yeah, that makes sense, let’s film it.”

By this time I’ve snuck into the room and I’m standing in the corner. He doesn’t see me. We did this one take 50 times. All he has to do is say, “Gene, listen to me.” Over and over again. Nobody can hear him. The soundman can’t get a level and I’m not sure what he’s doing half the time. Meanwhile, the Johnny Carson of Mexico is there now and so’s the bullfighter, and these guys are doing the Mafia thing on me: “Okay, you’re filming here now, I know we told you you could film here for $300 a day, but now that we realize you’ve got these famous stars here maybe it’s worth more like $3,000 a day.” And it turns out that “Johnny Carson” is best friends with the head of the police department. So I realize we’re getting railroaded by the Mexicans.

Meanwhile, I can’t tell anyone because I know what I’m going to do: I’m going to sneak all the equipment out when nobody’s looking. But these German people are too bizarre and the director’s already freaked out on me in the Philippines. He freaked out on me in a few more locations. And now he’s freaking out with Klaus.

So we film the first night, well, they did — I’m not even in the scene. We all go back to the hotel and everybody’s having dinner. Klaus is being Klaus, I still can’t go near him so I’m sitting there with a few of the extras and [Joyce] comes across to me and says, “Barry, will you do me a favor? Will you stay with me in my room tonight?”

“Why?”

“First of all, I want to sleep with you and second it keeps him away from me. Will you come over to the table and just sit down next to me?”

She’s over there with Klaus and Ulli because they’re treating her like a hooker. I just walk up and sit down next to her, kiss her on the cheek, hold her hand and he’s freaking out, but in a very subtle way. The funny thing about Klaus Kinski is that for all the bravado he’s just a scared little man. All you have to do is stand up to him. Herzog knew and I knew that, too. He wasn’t a bad person, he’s just so self-centered. Everything was his way or the highway. I admired a lot of the work that he did previously, then he got into all the great stuff like the attic movie and the sorority things. That’s when I knew my career was really over, when the guy from CRAWLSPACE was playing my uncle.

So here I am, this is my first movie and I’m thinking this is what it’s all about. I go back to her room with her and Klaus is knocking on the door for half the night and I finally answer. “Klaus, do you mind? I won, you lost, now get outta here.” And he leaves. Now I know he’ll never act with me, not a chance.

The next day he’s totally the ghost now, won’t even acknowledge me, doesn’t talk or anything. Won’t talk to Joyce anymore either. This kind of business went on and we couldn’t even get him to come in [afterward] and do foley work or anything. The next night I had one more shot at getting him to work with me. Then he’s [playing] games with the director about me: “Well, I can’t act with him, he’s a nobody.” And now he’s trying to pick up Ulli’s wife. So that was the new game.

All he cared about was money. Ulli would say, “Klaus, say this line.” And Klaus would say, “You didn’t give me those lines before. It’ll cost you $5000 for me to say this line. Or, I can make the sentence shorter and I’ll charge you $3000.” By the third day I said screw him — I just sat there.

It’s kind of sad in a way.

[Here’s] a few of the funnier stories I knew about him, one [from] after I did the movie with him, one from before. Why Ulli was impressed with him was back, I want to say in the 50s, Klaus did a show at one of the soccer stadiums in Munich. He came out, according to Ulli who was a teenager when he saw this, to do a solo performance, it was avant garde art. Nobody knew what it was going to be, but it was Klaus Kinski. 80,000 people in a soccer stadium, he came out and he had a tiny little Farfisa organ like the Doors had. He wasn’t a musician and he came out and started playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” And 80,000 people were talking and he stopped and stared at everyone out in the stadium. And he left the stage. People started chanting, “Klaus, Klaus...” Twenty minutes later he’d come back on and play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” again. He’d hear a noise out in the audience, stop and walk off the stage. He did this — it was like a five-hour performance — until you could hear a pin drop in a stadium with 80,000 people, listening to “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” which is all he did all night. It was all about controlling people and showing that he could mesmerize people. He was sort of a genius in that way. I’m not sure what he got out of it in the long run.

The other story was from a girl in CRAWLSPACE, I forget her name. He [plays] an older man that gets into bed to seduce the girl. She gets in bed with Klaus, they kiss, the sheets are over them. All of a sudden the girl jumps out of bed and goes “AH!” She walks up to the director and says, tell him to stop it. And the director says, “Stop what?” She says, “I can’t tell you.” So the director walks up to Klaus and says, “Klaus, what’re you doin’?” “I’m doing nothing, what?” He goes back to the actress and says, “We’re okay, get back in bed.” Klaus leans over, kisses her and “AH!” she jumps out of bed again. And she slaps him this time and says, “That’s it, tell him to stop it or I’m not going to do the scene,” and she leaves the room. He walks over, says “Klaus, what’re you doing?” “I’m doing nothing, I’m making love to her like you told me.” He goes to the girl’s trailer and says, “Come on, you can come back, you can do the scene. He says he’s not going to do anything.” This goes on for like two hours, finally she’s crying in the trailer and [the director] says, “Alright, just tell me what he’s doing.” She says, “Well every time you yell ‘Action’ he leans over and kisses me and then he sticks his finger up my ass!” So he goes back to Klaus and says, “What’re you doing? She says you’re sticking your finger up her butt.” Klaus says, “Yeah, what’s wrong with that? That’s how I make love.” And that’s how he was those last eight years or so.

The movie ended up being called REVENGE OF THE STOLEN STARS and it was aired in Europe. People tell me I’m a big star in Yugoslavia. It showed in San Diego and actually outperformed INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM at a multiplex. The problem was I know I only made $1200, and I know that we shot it in the director’s house, and I know that we went to the Philippines and that we shot it MOS and that we shot it with a Filipino crew that was each making $20 a day. And I know that they gave me $10 a day spending money. Suzanna was supposedly paying for the movie out of her checkbook. It may have been a $1.5 million movie, but it was all going to the Executive Producers. The crew never got paid, Joyce Lew was doing it for $30 a day ‘cause she wanted the credit. She ended up making five times as much on the movie as I did for being the makeup artist and the maid.

It also got into litigation between Media Home Entertainment, Tri-Mark somehow got involved, so it really became a question of international rights, who owned the picture. Ulli was the kind of guy who didn’t care about any contract. He’d say, “Yeah okay, thanks for the $50,000” and then go shoot two days. Then he’d sell the movie to another company and get $60,000. You’d have nine companies on your movie and he didn’t care. So he made a lot of pictures that were never released.


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