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Interviews > Alan Shearman (Dancer: Escape From New York)
How did you
end up being an actor, screenwriter,
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
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
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
Low Moan Spectacular in
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)
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
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
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 Eye
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:
Photos by Kim Gottlieb-Walker