Written by / 8/26/2014 / 1 Comment / , , , , ,

CAGED MOUSEKETEER: SHERRY ALBERONI DRIVE-IN INTERVIEW

Sherry Alberoni Interview
In the 1970's, two low-budget exploitation flicks with a similar premise... a group of lovely young ladies being politely coerced and then suddenly abducted and violently terrorized by a male antagonist... featured Sherry Alberoni, a former child starlet who began as a MOUSEKETEER and provided her voice in JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS. And now we'll go with Sherry down memory lane as she recalls two particular low budget movies...

year: 1974 rating: **
The first being TERROR CIRCUS aka NIGHTMARE CIRCUS aka BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD, where a carload of women get stranded in the middle of nowhere, and soon enough a seemingly friendly stranger named Andre, played by Andrew Prine, lends a helping hand... A hand that will soon wield a fierce, cracking whip: For Andre has his very own “circus” within a dilapidated barn where he keeps his captive ladies tied up...

Soon enough, Sherry’s character, Sheri, is part of this torturous time capsule escapade that is 90-minutes of raw, unbridled, tedious, classless, insane, inane, amazingly horrendously entertaining drive-in style exploitation while Andre either plays mind games or beats his subjects, or sets wild cats or poisonous snakes after whoever he really despises...

Interview with Sherry Alberoni
Sherry, how did you get the role in TERROR CIRCUS aka NIGHTMARE CIRCUS?

I had gotten married in 1971 to my one-and-only husband, Richard Van Meter, who was in his 2nd year of medical school at UCLA. Since I was the “bread winner” at that time, I wasn’t particularly choosy about the parts I accepted, so when I was offered the part, I took it.

In 1972 I had done my first “horror film,” SISTERS OF DEATH, and had a fun time with the cast and so I thought it would be another fun experience (which it was for the most part). I had been working in this business since I was 4 years old so to me, it was just another gig.

Andrew Prine
You and several women are locked up in a barn and the dialogue is frantic and edgy… What was it like acting in this type of creepy setting with so many actresses caught in such a nightmare?

Well, a set is not really a creepy setting – no scary music or dim lights to put you in the mood. I was never a “method actress” (I think a few of the others were – or wanted to be!). I just read the script and said my dialogue the way it was written with and all emotions that entails.

Sherry Alberoni
When the scene is over, I tend to walk away without a second thought of what I said or did – if the director liked it then that’s it. If he wanted more tears or fear or laughter or whatever, we did it again and I have him what he asked for.

I guess that comes from doing so many different parts for so many years – it was always my job… not my life.

I don’t mean to be flippant or blow it off like it’s not of some value, I was just taught, from a young age, to be professional but not take it too seriously (because it could all go away in a heartbeat). Be on time, know your lines and then come home to reality. If the part called for me to laugh, I laughed. If it called for me to cry, I cried – but it was all “play acting.”

I live a very normal life because my parents taught me from day one that if I get the part, it’s not because I’m better or more talented than the girl standing next to me… it’s because God wanted me to get the part… and it worked the same in reverse – if I didn’t get the part, it wasn’t because I wasn’t good enough – God just didn’t want me to get the part.

Andrew Prine
Describe a little about working with Andrew Prine, who plays the antagonist?

He was nice enough but I never really got involved with him off screen – like I said, do your part and then walk away. I had a really solid life outside Hollywood so I wasn’t into much else. I’m sounding awfully boring, aren’t I?

Your director, Alan Rudolph, went onto bigger things... What was Alan like as a director?

I really liked him – he was the first director I ever worked with who didn’t “look” like a director! He had really long dark hair and looked like a hippie! He was very handsome in spite of the “look” and his friendly, nice personality was a pleasure. I remember we had another director at the beginning and I don’t know what the problem was but they brought in Alan to replace him. Alan was very confident, not intense, and had such a pleasant attitude.

Like I said, I wasn’t used to directors like him so it was all a bit “new age” for me, but I really enjoyed him.

Andrew Prine
There is a scene where your character, Sheri, gets horribly beaten by Andrew’s sinister Andre... What was this like, reacting to such a horrible situation?

I remember being really ticked off that he didn’t have complete control of the whip he was supposed to be whipping me with, and it scared me when he came way too close to me with it. I kept thinking, “Geez, I could loose an eye for a dumb movie!”

I don’t remember if that scene was filmed with the first director or with Alan – I think if it were with Alan, I would have gone to him and talked to him about it because he was so open.

Sherry Alberoni
Nowadays, with Quentin Tarantino and others celebrating exploitation movies, the genre has been glorified... But what did you think of drive-in flicks when you were doing them?

As I said, at the time it was “just another gig” but not something I was used to doing, so it was interesting to me to see how the violence, etc. was filmed...

There was a topless scene in the movie and I remember being a little “shocked” (I had led a very sheltered life – very Disney!!) I lived at home with my family until I got married at 25, and never saw this kind of scene being filmed: The set was cleared of all extraneous people, but some of the crew had put up a ladder on the outside of the barn and let me climb up to their peephole for a look – and I remember there were two girls (a blonde and a brunette) sitting on a patch of hay on the floor and I thought “No way!”

Claudia Jennings
SISTERS OF DEATH aka DEATH TRAP aka DEATH TIME aka DEATH TIME HOUSE stars Claudia Jennings as the survivor of a ritual shown in the spooky prelude. Filmed in 1972  and released in 1976, it's a cult flick that even got the Rifftrax treatment...

year: 1976 rating: ***
Plot centers on Claudia's Judy and several of her friends, including Sherry Alberoni as Francie, who are called upon for a mysterious reunion, and eventually get trapped within a rural mansion surrounded by an electric fence thanks to their captor Edmund, played by veteran actor Arthur Franz, who holds a dark secret – and a reason to torment and torture the ladies, resulting in their all-night quest for survival. 

Compared to the tedious and claustrophobic TERROR CIRCUS, this is a pretty decent drive-in venture. The characters aren't just lumped into a dire situation for the sake of exploitation. There’s enough background and set-up as we get to know each individual, and the suspense builds along with the mystery of an ominous get-together. And in this group, Sherry’s Francie is the most confident and outspoken.

Claudia and Sherry
You co-starred with the now legendary cult starlet, Claudia Jennings, in SISTERS OF DEATH... What was Claudia like to work with?

Oh, I loved Claudia! There was no Internet back then, so it wasn’t so easy to learn everything about everybody with just a push of a button… but I had heard through the grapevine that she had been in Playboy so I don’t know exactly what I expected of her but I know I didn’t think she would be as nice and down-to-earth as she was. She wasn’t as “glamorous” as I figured she would be – she was very pretty but didn’t “live” in her make-up.

She was a lot of fun, had an infectious laugh and was truly a “sweet girl.” I was shocked and extremely saddened when I heard on the news that she had gotten killed in a car crash – if I recall, she was dating Tommy Boyce (or was it Hart?) and it was all so sad to me because I knew her and really liked her.

Red, White & Blood
Your character stands out from the others with her American flag hat – did you have anything to do with selecting your own wardrobe?

We wore our own clothes and yes, that hat was mine! I had made several trips to Vietnam in 1968-69 and was/am extremely patriotic and that was one of the hats I wore on stage over there (when I did a musical medley asking the audience which states they were from).

I was supposed to be the little, quirky, bubbly, more innocent of the girls so I just wore what I normally wore, and I guess the director felt it was “me” and went with it.

Like TERROR CIRCUS, this movie has a group women captured and terrorized by a man in a contained setting (albeit a much nicer setting this time)... What was like particular location like, working at the rural mansion? 

Misleading Sign
I always loved “location” filming – I had spent several months in Spain filming THE THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER and I loved going on location, so this one was filmed near Paso Robles at some big old house in the middle of nowhere!

I’m sure the mansion was lovely at one time, but it was a bit “tired” when we filmed there – I don’t know if the set director made it “tired” or not, but it was a great property...

It was nice to be “so close and yet so far” from L.A. because my husband was able to drive up there to see me when he got a free weekend from school.

SISTERS was a lot more organized and professional than CIRCUS and I loved the cast – all very nice people who were fun to be with and we had great camaraderie both on and off the set. 

Joe E. Tata
What was it like working with Arthur Franz, who played the antagonist/captor?

Nice man (are you seeing a theme going on here? Ha!)... I didn’t have a lot of screen time or off time with him, but I do remember him being kind and nice.

How about Joe E. Tata, who played one of the good guys, and later had an important role on the long-running BEVERLY HILLS 90210?

LOVED him! I always though of him as “Sad” and when Claudia told me his wife and child had died in a car crash, I knew why. I was very happy to see him become such a beloved and successful actor. It was one of those “I knew him when!” things.

"Smart chick..."
Your bit of dialogue (the only line transcribed on imdb, by the way) about wanting to be clean to be closer to God... a play on cleanliness is next to godliness... leads to your death in the shower/bathroom – any memories of that scene where you have a knife in your back?

Not sure if that was my last scene filmed – it never goes in order… But I was appalled when I was there was a glass shower door – milky glass, but still glass! I was supposed to be a non-see-through shower curtain!! I never did a nude scene and wasn’t planning on starting then!

My first thought was to call my agent and then the union but before I did that, I spoke with the wardrobe lady – together, we came up with a sort-of bikini made out of gaffer’s tape covered with body makeup. I wore my robe onto the set and didn’t take it off until I was inside the shower and my back to the shower door. We filmed the scene and no one ever knew what her and I had done, but I screamed bloody murder back in my dressing room when I pulled that damn tape (and my skin!) off.

Sherry was Alexandra, far right
You were Alexandra in the classic cartoon, JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS... What was it like bringing characters to life with your voice compared to physically acting out a role?

I started doing voice-overs when I was pregnant with my first child… our daughter Casey, since I couldn’t do on-film in my condition. I really enjoyed it; such a happy time and I loved being with Casey Kasem (we did all those years of JOSIE plus SUPERFRIENDS and several other shows – my daughter, Casey, was named after him).

It was great and easy work because the entire cast was very professional and everyone knew what they were doing: so it was go in, quick read-through, record, and go home. Probably only 4 hours at the most.

Speaking into the microphone, there’s a lot of arm-waving, quietly jumping up and down and emoting without moving… acting standing still. If the director wanted more, he told us and we gave it to him. We recorded that show for so long and knew each other (and our characters) so well that we just did it!

From Way Back
As a MOUSEKETEER, you were part of a group of kids – what was it like performing with other children, and what was your favorite part of the show?

My brother, Roy, had originally gotten the casting call and he was a drummer and tap dancer. After his audition, the casting director told him that they loved him, but they already had their drummer, Cubby O’Brien, and asked if Roy played any other instruments.

Roy said “No, but my little sister can play the trumpet and tap dance at the same time!” They asked my mom to bring me to the studio the next day – I played the trumpet as I tap danced: nearly knocked out all my teeth, but got the job!

M-O-U-S-E
At the time, none of us realized how important and iconic the Mickey Mouse Club would become to so many people and that it would become a lifelong job (next year is the 60th Anniversary!). Cubby and I still do shows on the Disney Cruise ships and also with Doreen, Tommy, Bobby and Karen we do shows and appearances at Disneyland, Disney World and the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

I was on MMC for a year, when Lou Costello brought my contract from Disney for me to play “Bootsie” (his adopted daughter) in DANCE WITH ME HENRY, the last film he made with Bud Abbott. Lou used to watch the MMC with his young daughter, Chris, and she pointed me out to him on the show, and said she liked me.

Filming the MMC with other kids was great fun – we were only allowed to be at the studio for 8 hours per day: 4 filming (or in wardrobe, make-up, hair or rehearsing), 3 in school and 1 at lunch/recreation… We all loved to sing and dance and play-act so it was always fun and still is to this day!
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1 comment:

  1. So excited to find this. I really liked Sherry's character in Sisters of Death, was very curious about the actress herself, but never was able to find much on her. Thanks!

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