We're trying to give them blitz, glitz and everything. It's an 'Introduction to Hollywood 10-A,'" remarked the irrepressible Tommy Curtis on Friday night.
Tommy Curtis has done it again. After invading Washington , armed with singles bars, his short-lived Polo Club and the "People magazine of the air" on WASH-FM, Curtis is visiting home. And he's bringing Washington with him. He and his brother, producer Bruce Cohn Curtis, have rounded up a group of wealthy Washingtonians with visions of soon being wealthier after investing in low-budget but (they hope) high-grossing movies.
"She's going to be here any minute,c Curtis said, as he moved excitedly among the guests at his mother's three-story Beverly Hills mansion. He was preparing them for the entrance of Linda Blair, the 21-year-old star of the group's first venture, a horror movie called "hell Night."
"'Hell Night' is a formula movie addressed to a young audience between the ages of 12 and 35 who like to be manipulated," explained producer Irwin Yablans, who with the Curits brothers formed the Washinton-based firm, Film Investors and Leisure Management Co. (Filmco), behind the scheme. The brainchild of Yablans -- who has given the world such films as "Fade to Black," "Roller Boogie" and "Halloween" -- "Hell Night," currently winding up location shooting in Southern California, is the latest in the recent crop of Hollywood horror movies. The Washington group had flown to Hollywood at their own expense to hobnob with the glitterati and to visit the movie's set the next day.
"If Reagan can come to Washington, we can come to Hollywood," said John Antonelli, prominent Washington businessman and stepson of parking-lot mogul Dominic F. Antonelli Jr., as he and other guests sipped their drinks and mingled with some of 'tinsel Town's luminaries.
"You're buying some people's visions," declared Leon Rosenberg, owner of a D.C. consulting firm.
At a time when the average cost of making a major motion picture is about $10 million, the Curtises, Yablans and their associates expect to bring in "Hell Night" for $1.4 million. According to the Curtises, the investors have put up between $75,000 to $150,000 each.
"I figured this was a money maker," said D.C. attorney Albert Brick, as one of the bartenders refilled his glass. "I felt I could use the money to invest in oil wells."
"Financially, it's a good deal," agreed Washington real estate man Stanley Reines, as his wife, Harriet, scanned the crowd for recognizable Hollywood faces.
There were a few there. Crooner Rudy Vallee showed up, as did actress Persis Khambatta ("Star Trek -- The Motion Picture") and singer Jerry Vale. There were actresses Barbara Rush, Joanna Mills and Beverly Garland. Actor Dick Van Patten was there. Onetime showgirl Maggie Hart was there with her companion, John Ferraro, the president of Los Angeles City Council. Former congresswoman Yvonne Braithwaite Burke also attended the party.
Tommy Curtis kept up a frantic pace, making sure all the guests from the East Coast met the folks from the West Coast, making the right introductions, directing the photographer from Beverly Hills People magazine, announcing new arrivals as they came through the door, and reassuring visitors that Linda Blair was on her way.
"People don't know how I do it without drugs," Curtis told a guest as he maneuvered around the house.
Upstairs in a room opposite the curved stairway, a psychic held court for a group of partygoers eager to have their auras described.
Downstairs, a plastic surgeon moved around the crowd, no doubt studying the stretched complexions and re-engineered physiques of a number of the once-beautiful people.
Yablans talked about the plot of "Hell Night," a "haunted house story" in which not everything goes as planned at a college fraternity initiation party. How much room is there for more horror films, he was asked. "They usually do peter out," he acknowledged, "but I hope there is room for two more."
After "Hell Night" (scheduled for release in May or June), Filmco has plans for a similar movie, already written, and described by Bruce Curtis as a "psychological rape thriller." The male lead, according to Curtis, will be Kevin Brophy (one of the stars of "Hell Night"), but he is still looking for a female star."
"Here she is," exclaimed a seemingly relieved Tommy Curtis at about 11 o'clock as Linda Blair (who achieved fame in "The Exorcist") made her appearance with her leading man, Peter Barton.
By that time, the crowd of about 100 had thinned slightly. Missing was at least one Washingtonian -- a would-be producer who had left to conduct a personal interview with an aspiring actress.
As the Curtises escorted Blair through the crowd, the Washingtonians revealed their motives for getting into show biz. "To make money," said Reines' partner in real estate, Sidney Teplin. "We've been in real estate all these years and won and lost. We hope we don't lose in movies."
All trial lawyers want to own restaurants and make movies," stated attorney Gerard Lear.
"We want to become part of the mainstream," explained Leroy Washington, vice president of a black-owned advertising firm.
Washington said he is urging greater black involvment in the movie, and hinted that musician Isaac Hayes will be composing the film's music score.
"Er, that's out, right now," interjected. Hose Wilson of Venture Records, Hayes' label. Wilson added that Hayes may get involved at some future time.
Few Washingtonians mentioned the glamor of Hollywood as one of the attractions of the movie industry, saying that Washington offers its own political glamor. But Rema Yeskel, wife of businessman Peter Yeskel, said it was on everyone's mind.
"We all get starstruck," she stated. "I got a big fat rush out of sitting and talking to Barbara Rush. I used to watch her on "Peyton Place" as a teen-ager. I used to wear my hair like her."
And the quality of the movies the group seeks to make?
Leon Rosenberg harbored few pertensions. "it's honest schlock," he conceded. "It brings schlock to a new level. We're giving the public what they want for a price that's affordable."
Off to one side, Irwin Yablans was making plans for the future."I had an idea in the shower," he was telling a friend. Whispering, he outlined a plot. "Then the maniac goes from house to house," was all that could be heard.
"That's how they do it in Hollywood," marveled Tommy Curtis.