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After interviewing Chris Diani, the writer/director of CREATURES FROM THE PINK LAGOON (get the links here), I knew I needed to speak to one of the film’s cast as well. So I set all journalistic ethics aside and picked the cutest guy from the ensemble, Vincent Kovar. (Cue angry e-mails from the rest of the actors…)
Kovar first appears in CREATURES wearing only a towel, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the only thing we need to talk about. Thankfully for my readers, in addition to being an actor, he’s also a teacher and very prolific writer, topics that will allow me, once again, to appear as if I know what I’m doing during these interviews. (Fingers crossed.)
SEAN ABLEY: I look at your websites, and it’s obvious that you’re very smart and do smart things, like talk about books and gay history and math. What smart things are you up to these days?
VINCENT KOVAR: I’m teaching at Antioch University, University of Phoenix [branch campus] and Richard Hugo House [a literary arts center]. Mostly I teach writing, literature and film with a bit of gay studies thrown in. This fall, I will be introducing two new classes: Writing Ghost Stories and Writing Comedy. Maybe it’s weird, but I believe fear and laughter have a lot in common. I also believe fear and laughter share similar psychological underpinnings with sex.
ABLEY: I like where this is going.
KOVAR: Recently, one of my short plays, MEMBER DISMEMBERED, was selected as a script-category finalist for the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival. It’s a surreal piece about people uploading—and downloading—genitals to the Internet in an effort to make themselves perfect. It started as a comedy, but ended up being a little dark.
This last August, Gay City Anthologies—a project I founded as a subset of Seattle’s Gay City Health Project—published our third volume: GAY CITY: VOLUME 3, RE-PULPED. It is a multidisciplinary anthology of gay fiction, comic art, photography and poetry.
ABLEY: What, no recipes? OK, let’s jump backwards a bit and talk about what you were doing before meeting CREATURES FROM THE PINK LAGOON writer/director Chris Diani—which, if I read your bio correctly, was theater. Are you from Seattle? Did you move there to be an actor?
KOVAR: I was doing stage shows as well as a few commercials—mercifully lost to the ages. I moved to Seattle from Spokane back in 1989. I came primarily to finish college, and while there I completed a degree in drama. I also have one in history, and then went back to grad school for a masters in teaching.
ABLEY: I’ve had many friends who gave the Seattle theater scene a shot. One of them said to me, after working at it for a couple of years, “There are a handful of Equity actors in Seattle, and they go around replacing each other in long-running shows, and if you’re not one of them, you’re not working much.” Now, this was back in the ANGRY HOUSEWIVES days—which tells you how old I am. (ANGRY HOUSEWIVES was a huge hit musical that started in Seattle and eventually ended up as a bad sitcom—SA) But when I was in Chicago doing theater from 1988-97, all we heard about was how much theater there was in Seattle. Thoughts?
KOVAR: When I first moved here, and until about the dotcom era—which tells you how old I am—there was a pretty vibrant fringe theater scene in Seattle. Over the years, however, the Fringe Festival, formerly one of the world’s largest, shut down, and then the midsize theaters began falling away. There are a few very exciting fringe venues left in the city, but even if you’re one of the blessed few Equity actors, there just isn’t much work, let alone paying work. It’s funny you mention ANGRY HOUSEWIVES; I remember seeing that waaaay back in the day.
ABLEY: You played the titular role in JEFFREY. Can I be brutally honest for a moment? I think that play is awful! Yet everybody was doing it for a while. Feel free to disagree with me—most people do—and tell me what you think of that show.
KOVAR: That show came at a very odd point in my life, and those events probably color my appreciation of the script. Plus, the show was in an un-air-conditioned theater in the summer. The theme of the play is that a gay man, Jeffrey, stops dating due to a paralyzing fear of AIDS. Back in real life, somehow a bizarre rumor got started that the play was canceled due to an outbreak of AIDS among the cast and that—in dramatic despair—I had committed suicide. This led to a very surreal moment in a bar where a man I’d never met before told me the whole story. I kept pointing to my own image on a show poster and asking, “This guy, this guy right here is dead?” This stranger explained that he was the “very best friend” of the deceased. If nothing else, it really underscored some of the perniciously enduring prejudices and attitudes about AIDS…though I did think it was amusing to be able to say that “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
[The show was] also how I came out to my grandparents. My mother invited them without explaining the story, and so once they saw me kissing a man and prancing about in my undies, my closeted days were over.
ABLEY: I see something called SEX*BUT on your resume, in which you played the letter “T.” What did the letter “T” have to say? And did someone play the asterisk?
KOVAR: That show was some of the most fun I’ve had on stage in Seattle. As I remember, one of the execs at Comedy Central started reading selections from the 1969 best seller EVERYTHING YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX* (*but were afraid to ask) and couldn’t stop laughing. That in turn became a show where a group of actors sat on stage and read the pieces related to gays and lesbians while a female “host” made commentary. Nothing we did as actors was nearly as clever as the script, which directly quoted the book’s author, David Reuben, MD. The things he described as “fact” are so profoundly disturbing that they circle around to become hysterically funny. There was also a dance number in which all the guys dropped their trousers to show off various underwear that revealed something about their personality. Mine were a neon-pink pair of boxer briefs I’d made using a whole box of dye—again, I was on stage in my underwear! That show led to me doing one installment of an annual holiday cabaret here in Seattle called HAM FOR THE HOLIDAYS, starring comediennes Peggy Platt and Lisa Koch. That show is where I got to sing and do drag for the first—and only—time. I didn’t dance around my underwear then, but did get to imitate Condoleeza Rice and much of the cast of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES.
ABLEY: So, let’s talk about the short film BOB HOPE’S MIRACLE CURE FOR INCARCERATION, a Western in which you appear as a prisoner in the town jail. This was made for the Seattle Truly Independent Film Festival (STIFF) Weekend Film Challenge over a weekend. I mentioned this to Chris Diani, and of course he said, “Sometimes a gun is just a gun.” But seriously, when that gun barrel is placed in your mouth, I’m pretty sure your inner monologue was, “Man, this would be so awesome if it was a penis…” Am I close?
KOVAR: It always helps me to remember the projects I’ve worked on if they represent some kind of “first.” BOB HOPE’S was the first time I’d ever worn chaps. It was also the first time I’d ever had a pistol in my mouth. As for anything else that might resemble that situation…it all kind of blurs together.
ABLEY: And what about THE BIRTHDAY CORPSE? Please tell me this film involves a zombie jumping out of a cake.
KOVAR: No, no zombies in that one. I don’t remember a cake either. I remember wearing a wool suit on the roof garden of the former Washington Mutual building. So much of theater and film is hot and sweaty. Maybe I should be glad the directors are always asking me to strip down to my underwear.
Check out Part 2, were Vincent recalls his CREATURES FROM THE PINK LAGOON experiences, at this site soon. Spoiler: They include kissing a straight guy!
For more info on Vincent, check out his website here.
CREATURE FROM THE PINK LAGOON is available from Amazon.
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