"We hit three mill today," film distributor Ross Wheeler shouted to nascent film producer Tommy Curtis across the loud tightness of Annie Oakley's western-style bar last night. Curtis' smile, already two feet wide over the hubbub surrounding movie star Linda ("Exorcist") Blair's appearance to hype his $1.4 million "Hell Night," went the whole yard.
Curtis, Blair and some of the film's backers -- all Washington businessmen -- crowded into the bar to drink up some of their immediate profits. Blair sat in the center of it all, looking amused and not at all embarrassed at her return to the horror circuit. "You have to make a living," she shrugged. "I thought, 'I hadn't done one for nine years. Why not do it again?' " Blair's words, or at least those that worked their way into audible range, were stolidly absorbed by 21-year-old Michael Vance, winner of the DC-101 Dial-a-Date with Linda Blair earlier in the day. Blair, having survived celluloid possession, rape, kidnaping, horseback riding, repossession and hijacking, also managed to brave the "Howard Stern Show." Now that she's really done it all, she's not worried about what a schlock director might think up. "I don't think they can come up with anything new . . . and I hope they don't."
Curtis, whose string of formers includes singles bars and fledgling careers in radio and television, seems to have adapted to Hollyweird without having to pause to take a breath. He's already working on a follow-up horror, tentatively titled "The Parasite." Right now he's more excited about the just-completed "Seduction," a potboiler starring Morgan Fairchild, Vince Edwards and Andrew Stevens ("you know, Kate Jackson's husband," Curtis explains).
"I couldn't get an interview with Morgan Fairchild for my radio show. She was tied up and wouldn't do it, so I said the heck with it, I'll just put up $2 million for my share of the movie, and I'll get the interview." Curtis looked around triumphantly. "We had a three-part interview." The film opens in January.
One of the investors at the party was ad executive Leroy Washington, who admitted he "popped the button on my shirt" during a screening without explaining whether it was because of pride or gagging at the film's gorier aspects. Another investor was Marquee Television's Steve Wechsler, who seemed as thrilled as Curtis at Wheeler's ticker-tape grosses. "We knew the numbers were right," he gloated, admitting there had been a cable deal before the picture ever started shooting. "I can't really talk about it," he confided," but there's a deal there. It's a salable picture."
Meanwhile, Blair, having withstood Stern and drang, kept signing autographs for people who weren't even sure who she was. That's one of the problems for young starlets coming out of the B-hive; they wax and they wane and they slip quietly into films like "Hell Night." "I have to work," Blair insisted. "It's not an easy business."