FOR DALLAS MAYR – aka JACK KETCHUM (1946-2018)

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Jack-KetchumI was devastated to hear of Dallas Mayr’s passing yesterday.

I came to his writing through film originally – specifically his collaborations with Lucky McKee and Andrew van den Houten – but from the first time I read Red and saw his pic on the back – hiding his face with a feline friend – and later reading his beautiful treatises on the dog scenes in Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and John Carpenter’s The Thing (both in his non-fiction book What They Wrote), I knew I wanted to meet him. His reputation preceded him and I was jealous of my friends who got to rabblerouse with him on the convention circuit. So when we opened Miskatonic NYC and wanted to do so with a horror giant leading the charge, Ketchum was it. Thanks to mutual friend Andrew van den Houten I got in touch and we booked him for a “Live at Miskatonic” event with his old friend Douglas Winter – a horror giant in his own right – moderating. Winter ended up cancelling at short notice for personal reasons, and I had to step in at the last minute as interviewer. I was absolutely terrified. I knew Dallas was a sweetheart from our exchanges but how could the guy who wrote such books as Off Season and Ladies Night be anything but intimidating? You had to go to some pretty dark places to come up with that stuff, or even to read it.

The class went well, and I even managed to dig up a softcore movie he had a small role in, called Cry Your Purple Heart Out which, even after seeing the trailer played on the big screen (probably embarrassingly so, in a full house of people) he still didn’t remember being in. But he chalked it up to the 70s, an era of excessive drinking and toking that left many memories a bit fuzzy. Dallas still loved to drink – he unashamedly nursed a flask during the whole class – but probably not enough these days to forget his appearance in a dumb sex comedy (forgettable though the film may be).

After the class someone came up with a book to sign – and it was for me. This made me uncomfortable but it peaked Dallas’ curiosity and he wanted to know what this book was, so I later sent him a copy of House of Psychotic Women, and my then-Miskatonic co-director Marc Walkow ended up procuring him some of the films therein. He knew there was talk of making a TV show out of it. Dallas said, “If you make a show out of this, I want a fuckin’ walk on!” And he would have gotten it too, if he hadn’t up and died on me.

Before we parted ways that night he gave me a big kiss on the lips. What a rascal! But I’m proud to say the last boy I kissed was Jack Ketchum. I haven’t told anyone that until now, but figured he’d want people to know he was a ladykiller right up to the end.

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We kept in touch and he told me the next time I was in New York he would take me to the “Goodbar” bar – the last place schoolteacher Roseann Quinn was seen before being murdered by a late-night hookup in her apartment across the street – a crime that became the basis of Lacey Fosburgh’s book Closing Time and the Judith Rossner’s bestseller Looking for Mr Goodbar (after which the crime was subsequently named). True crime was the foundation of some of Dallas’ most powerful novels and stories (The Girl Next Door, The Lost – the latter based on the Pied Piper of Tucson, memorably documented in a non-fiction book by crime writer John Gilmore as well as Joyce Carol Oates in her influential short story “Where are You Going, Where Have You Been?”) and we bonded over our morbid interests. So the next time I was in town I hit him up for said field trip and I got an unnerving reply: “I’m gonna have to pass this time around – I’m being treated for throat and neck cancer and I’m not feeling too good right now. Next time, okay?”

I don’t know if he was sick for a long time or if this was a new development, as obviously we barely knew eachother. But I was really looking forward to that shared drink and didn’t expect to be hearing so soon after that the day would never come. I would spill out a drink for him, but I feel he would think that was a waste of alcohol – so instead, a toast. To one of the most twisted and beautiful rascals I ever met.

-          Kier-La Janisse

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Photo by Marc Walkow

About the author:

Kier-La Janisse

Kier-La Janisse is a film writer and programmer, Owner/Artistic Director of Spectacular Optical Publications and founder of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies. She has been a programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, co-founded Montreal microcinema Blue Sunshine, founded the CineMuerte Horror Film Festival (1999-2005) in Vancouver, was the Festival Director of Monster Fest in Melbourne, Australia and was the subject of the documentary Celluloid Horror (2005). She is the author of A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi (FAB Press, 2007) and House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (FAB Press, 2012) and contributed to Destroy All Movies!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film (Fantagraphics, 2011), Recovering 1940s Horror: Traces of a Lost Decade (Lexington, 2014) The Canadian Horror Film: Terror of the Soul (University of Toronto Press, 2015) and We Are the Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale (PS Press, 2017). She co-edited and published the anthology books KID POWER! (Spectacular Optical, 2014), Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s (Spectacular Optical, 2015) and Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin (2017), and is co-editing Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television for release in late 2017. She is currently writing A Song From the Heart Beats the Devil Every Time: Children’s Programming and the Counterculture, 1965-1985, monographs about Monte Hellman’s Cockfighter and Patricia Birch’s Grease 2, and is in development on a TV series based on her book House of Psychotic Women with Rook Films.

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