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On Location In Blairstown

Given the fulsome tributes which followed the recent death of Lou Reed many folks may now feel well informed about the rock icon. But did you know Reed lived right next to where director Sean Cunningham shot his horror film Friday the 13th?

“He did,” confirms author David Grove, whose new book On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th features this nugget of information, among many others. “They filmed at Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco in Blairstown, New Jersey, and the property was owned by a man called Fred Smith. He kept talking to the crew about his neighbor, Lou. And the crew said, ‘Who’s Lou?’ And they discovered it was Lou Reed. He came by during filming and he sometimes played some music.”

Below, Grove talks more about his book — which boasts a foreword by special effects legend Tom Savini — the film itself, and one (allegedly!) anti-Semitic beaver.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you come to write an entire book about the original Friday the 13th?

It was probably the movie which most affected me as a kid. Even though I know it’s not a great film by any means — certainly in comparison to Halloween or Texas Chainsaw Massacre — it was a very visceral experience. I started writing for Fangoria around 2000 and I’ve been covering the movie for over 10 years. I previously did a book about the entire series in 2004 but I was intrigued about doing a book on the making of a single movie, taking as inspiration Stephen Rebello’s great book on Psycho and David Szulkin’s great book on the making of Last House on the Left. I thought maybe there was a book that could be written about the entire film, the planning, the history, the production itself in Blairstown, and of course the aftermath.

The franchise has become so associated with Jason Voorhees I suspect a lot of people would be surprised to learn he’s barely in the original and that the killer is actually his mother.

One of the things that really shocked me when I first saw it was the appearance of Betsy Palmer as Mrs Voorhees. She was so terrifying, I think she’s my most terrifying villain. And as you read in the book, Betsy Palmer wasn’t the first choice. Sean Cunningham tried to get Estelle Parsons, who was an Academy Award winner. She passed. During filming the crew were told that Louise Lasser, who is probably best known as being the ex-wife of Woody Allen, was going to be taking the role. And then Sean Cunningham actually left the set in Blairstown to go and meet with Dorothy Malone, who was an Academy Award winner, and he came back and said, “No, she’s not going to be able to to it.” Shelley Winters was another one.

As one of the crew members told me, Sean Cunningham was looking for an over-the-hill actresses that had some name recognition. It’s funny, they almost had (Oscar-winning actress) Gloria Grahame play a small role but she backed out at the last second. They almost had two Academy Award winners in this low budget movie. Can you believe that?

Something else I learned from the book is that the “ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma” repeatedly heard on the soundtrack actually refers to Palmer’s character.

Yeah, it basically means “Kill the mommy.”

The film was a massive success but one which had little positive effect on the careers of the cast. In the book, you tell the story of how one actress was advised to remove the Friday the 13th footage from her reel.

It really had no positive impact on their careers. They had to pretend it had never existed. The actors on Friday the 13th who had a strong foundation found the most success. Kevin Bacon had been in Animal House, Mark Nelson had a theatre background. Harry Crosby — who probably had the most fame on the set because he was the son of Bing Crosby — he really tried to forge an acting career but he ended up studying business at college and he works in financial services.

As Sean Cunningham told me, Friday the 13th was like the Blair Witch Project before there was a Blair Witch Project. And that is especially true of the actors. Because you look at the actors in the Blair Witch Project, they were so good. I was curious the other day about what Heather Donahue, who plays the girl in the Blair Witch Project, was up to.

I can tell you exactly what she did, because I interviewed her a couple of years ago: She became a pot farmer.

A pot farmer??? You see!

Finally, you describe in the book how a beaver tried to bite the genitals of Friday the 13th cinematographer Barry Abrams. I don’t really have a question with regards to that — I just wanted to make sure it was included in this Q&A.

He went down to the lake to take a pee and the beaver snapped at his privates. He ran back up and said, “There’s an anti-semitic beaver down at the lake!” [Laughs] These people were out in the middle of nowhere.