Press > Exclusive Interviews > Alan Shearman (Dancer: Escape From New York)




How did you end up being an actor, screenwriter, playwrighter and director etc?

Since childhood I wanted to be an actor, but common sense prevailed and I went with my other passion: Travel. I then spent six years working for a travel agency arranging other people's travel plans, with my own travel limited to commuting on the London Underground every day and spending all my time translating foreign rail schedules. I learned how to say, "This train does not run on Sundays" in 14 languages. Figuring there was more to life, I quit, joined up with Ron House as a co-founder of the comedy theatre group called Low Moan Spectacular (credited on IMDb for the movie) to create El Grande de Coca-Cola, Bullshot Crummond, Footlight Frenzy, The Scandalous Adventures of Sir Toby Trollope etc... and never looked back. All four shows continue to be performed across the country and around the world. Bullshot Crummond became George Harrison's HandMade Films movie Bullshot, in which I played the title role. As a result, I also satisfied the travel bug by working around the globe, writing and acting in movies shot in Africa, Asia, North America and Europe. About 20 years ago, I quit stage acting to instead direct stage comedies, musicals, musical comedies and comedies with music, collecting five Best Director awards along the way. I still work both on and off-screen as an actor, writer and director, with voiceover credits on several hundred movies, TV shows and video games. Do not be surprised to see me at weekends, however, waiting for a train that will never come as I wistfully recite the only phrase I learned in 14 foreign languages... For other directing work, both stage and screen, visit http://lowmoan.com/ashearman/director.html

In other words, I have been professionally acting, writing, directing and producing since 1971 - but until moving to Los Angeles in 1978, all this experience was related to theatre. Specifically, I was a co-founder with Ron House (also in Escape From New York) of the comedy theatre group called Low Moan Spectacular. Originally based in London, we created our own shows as writers and actors, directing each other and producing whenever needed, wherever we went. Our first show, El Grande de Coca-Cola was a big hit in London in 1971 and subsequently at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival of 1972 where it was picked up for New York to open in early 1973. The show ran off-Broadway for two and a half years and our replacement cast spawned such stars as the late Ron Silver and Jeff Goldblum (who took over my role). Ron House and I have stayed in the U.S. ever since (although he was originally from Chicago). During our time in the UK we also created a second show - Bullshot Crummond - which followed a similar path as El Grande de Coca-Cola, but ended up being hugely successful in San Francisco (a 5-year run from 1975-1979) and Los Angeles for over a year at the Westwood Playhouse (now the Geffen and the Coronet Theatre (now the Largo) on La Cienega (1979-1980)


Trivia note. All three Low Moan Spectacular comedies of that time were taped for broadcast. In 1978 El Grande de Coca-Cola was the first ever theatre concert (not the first program of course) ever recorded by HBO. HBO was a very young organization then, so budgets were small. We taped it at the Comedy Store on Sunset Blvd. Bullshot Crummond was the first ever theatre concert ever taped by Showtime (in 1979). We taped it at the Coronet Theatre on La Cienega Blvd. Footlight Frenzy was also taped by Showtime (in 1980 or 1981) at a theatre on Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills called the Beverly Theatre. It is long gone - and I can't remember exactly where it was.



Low Moan Spectacular in Footlight Frenzy

Left to Right, back row: Ron Vernan
, Anna Mathias, Alan Shearman, Diz White, Rodger Bumpass
Left to Right, front row: Ron House


How did Low Moan Spectacular get cast as the Drag Dancers in Escape From New York?

It was while we were enjoying the success of Bullshot Crummond at the Westwood Playhouse and the Coronet that John Carpenter came to see the show and offered us roles in Escape From New York. That's why Low Moan Spectacular is credited on IMDb. I don't remember who else from the group was a dancer, but of the other names listed on IMDb as Dancers, here's an update. Sadly both Joseph Perrotti and Ron Vernan have passed away. Ron House and I are still going strong - as is Rodger Bumpass who has made quite a name for himself as the voice of Squidward on Sponge Bob Square Pants. We are all still in touch with each other.

It's hard to remember exactly when we did this. I know the movie was released in 1981, but I suspect we shot it in 1980. I have a feeling that our Bullshot Crummond production had closed by then because aside from Ron House and me, nobody else in the picture had ever been in that show. Joseph Perrotti was in Low Moan Spectacular but as our line-producer/company manager. Purely administration. He died in 1990. Ron House, Alan Shearman, Rodger Bumpass and Ron Vernan (who passed away earlier this year, 2015) were all working on our third Low Moan Spectacular comedy called Footlight Frenzy. We were getting ready to produce and take the show to San Francisco. It was a big success there at the Marines Memorial Theatre and then transferred to the Alcazar Theatre on Geary Street.

I'm also hazy about the year because this was a terrible time for the movie industry in Hollywood. There was a massive 3-month Actors' strike in 1980, followed by a massive 3-month Writers' strike in 1981. It closed down the whole industry. I remember walking around the lot at Universal with my footsteps literally echoing off the walls. The place felt like a ghost town. It was terribly depressing to have arrived in LA, having made a huge splash with Bullshot Crummond that won us screenplay and TV deals with Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, ABC, HBO, Showtime, and Disney, and then have the whole thing collapse. I couldn't believe it, we'd achieved the impossible dream of coming to Hollywood, only to have the whole town close down a year or two later. We were desperate and broke and never really recovered until we made the Bullshot movie with George Harrison's HandMade Films in 1983.



Left to Right, back row: Rodger Bumpass, Joseph Perrotti, John Carpenter, Ron House
Left to Right, front row: Alan Shearman, Ron Vernan



Left to Right, band:
 Nick Castle (Co-Writer) on piano (Unseen), John Carpenter on guitar and kazoo, Dean Cundey (Director of Photography) on sax, Barry Bernardi (Associate Producer/Location Manager) on violin and Clyde Bryan (First Assistant Cameraman) on trumpet

How did you prepare for the role and how was the experience filming your scene? How was it to be choreographed by Nick Castle (Co-Writer) for instance?

I remember that we had choreography rehearsals with Nick at the location where we shot the scene: a temple or some such on Wilshire Blvd. (NOT the Wilshire Ebell, but further east on the opposite side of the street. I think it's still there.) All costumes were provided by the costume designer. The roles were such that character input was unnecessary. As I recall, we only had one day's work on EFNY. Possibly an additional rehearsal day, I forget. And then the pick-up day.

How was the experience working with the cast and crew and what went on behind the scenes?


All very straightforward and un-stressful - mainly thanks to John Carpenter. It was certainly a fun experience. I do remember chatting with Ernest Borgnine (Cabbie) at the lunch break.

Were you disappointed that the original song by Steven Sondheim that you used during filming, Everything's Coming Up Roses had to be replaced by Everyone's Coming To New York based on the song No Business Like Show Business and be re-recorded due to unexpected rights issues?


I can't say I was disappointed (additional work is always good) but I certainly sympathized with the music clearance issues. We in Low Moan Spectacular had been through something similar when we were doing our El Grande de Coca-Cola show in New York. I seem to remember there being some concern on our part that the lip-synch wouldn't work - but they told us not to worry. That's probably why we're mainly kept in long shot.

What's your favorite memory or memories of working on the movie?

I remember it being a lot of fun. We really didn't understand much about the plot or premise of the film, so everything seemed very strange and bizarre.

What do you think of the movie personally?

Hugely entertaining - and in many ways, way ahead of its time.

What are you currently doing and what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

As mentioned earlier, for what now amounts to 40+ years, the comedies of Low Moan Spectacular (El Grande de Coca-Cola, Bullshot Crummond, Footlight Frenzy, etc.) continue to be presented across the country and around the globe. A recent revival of our El Grande de Coca-Cola show at the Ruskin Theatre in Santa Monica ran to sell-out houses for six months and wall-to-wall rave reviews. This extraordinary success prompted us to create a sequel called El Grande CIRCUS de Coca-Cola - WHICH IS CURRENTLY PLAYING as a World Premiere (also to packed houses and total rave reviews) at the Skylight Theatre on Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz. I directed both these productions and I'm in attendance for every performance.

ALSO - Ron House and I have collaborated on a sequel to the Bullshot Crummond show that John Carpenter enjoyed so much. Ron is credited as author and I shall be directing the world premiere production in Portland, Oregon early next year. We already have an offer to bring the show to Los Angeles. The sequel is called Bullshot Crummond: The Evil Ey
e of Jabar and The Invisible Bride of Death - a comedy in two episodes.

Thank you for your time, Alan.

More about Alan Shearman, Ron House and Low Moan Spectacular here:

http://lowmoan.com/
http://ronhouseproductions.com/

Photos by Kim Gottlieb-Walker