Actor / restaurateur Mark Metcalf, who writes about movies for OnMilwaukee.com, recently attended a reunion with fellow cast members from the film "Animal House."
Metcalf, who played Douglas Neidermeyer in the 1978 classic, conducted interviews with several cast members and will share the conversations with OnMilwaukee.com readers.
In this installment, Metcalf catches up with actress Karen Allen, who played Katy.
When I went to Chicago a couple of weeks ago to hang out with some of the cast of that movie that we all worked on 30 years ago, the idea was to have fun, be adored a little, and make a little money.
As a sidebar, I was going to interview each of the cast members that were there and then publish the interviews here in this space, which was just starting at the time. To this end (A strange literary device, "To this end ..." more likely seen in The New York Times or the Atlantic Monthly), I was to take a recording device and talk to my friends at relaxed, vulnerable moments and get them to spill the beans about on-set romances and how completely crazy everyone was, so that I could then relate those stories verbatim to you.
That would have been perfect, entirely too perfect for an imperfect world, so I managed to forget the recording device and the private, entirely true, and off-the-cuff stories went the way they were intended and I had to try to follow up with written questions after the rush and flush of the event, when the impromptu nature of things had passed. Now everyone is back to real life, where we are not movie stars being adored and thinking obsessively about ourselves because everyone else seems to be thinking obsessively about us.
Now we are producers, actors looking for work, real estate agents and fabric designers or restaurateurs who don't have time to tell those great stories and probably don't find ourselves nearly as fascinating as we did that weekend in Chicago.
So, I will now attempt to recreate some of the stories that we lived. Stories that will be part truth and part the lie that memory turns to truth. I'll start with Karen Allen. One of my favorite moments in the aftermath of making "Animal House" was when some fan asked me, not "What was it like to work with John Belushi?" but "What was it like to work with Karen Allen?"
I flew out to Eugene, Oregon, from New York, with Allen. I was picked up by the limo with her and sat next to her on the plane, in first class -- a first for both of us. By the time we got to the production office at the Roadway Inn in Eugene, I was completely in love. She had the most open, joyous, intelligent, inquisitive face, smile, and eyes -- all of it -- that I had ever seen. She was radiant and without artifice. Still is. I think maybe movie stars are. Perhaps that's a rule.
At the Q&As we did in Chicago, she told a wonderful story about how John Landis, the director, came to her on the day they were shooting the scene with Donald Sutherland and told her he wanted to open on a shot of her bare behind, the "ass shot." She said absolutely not. It wasn't in the script and there was no call for it and she would not do it.
Landis was insistent, as he can be, persuasive and cajoling, demanding in a fun way. Karen became even more certain that she would not do it. She "Dug her heels in," are the words she used. At some point, Sutherland, who had been watching this whole discussion / argument from the corner of the set, came up to them and said to Landis that he, Sutherland, thought that if Karen was going to have to bare her butt then he should bare his, too.
When asked what she is doing now, Karen points out that she lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, has raised her son who is now 17 and has gone off to college and runs a company called Karen Allen Fabric Arts. She had originally gone to school at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan but didn't finish because acting got in the way, so when she had a lull in working as an actress she went back, finished and learned to use a particular kind of Japanese loom. She designs the fabric, uses only the best cashmere and sells her scarves, sweaters and hats out of a store in Pittsfield and online.
Her work is carried in a small store in Chicago called Sweet William. I don't know where it is and neither did she. "Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull" is coming out in May. She brings back Marian Ravenswood, a great character she created in the first of the now four Indiana Jones films. Once we were on the set in Eugene, I didn't spend much time with Karen because she was aligned with that other fraternity, but in Chicago I finally got to dance with her. I danced with Karen Allen. That was pretty neat.
Mark Metcalf is an actor and owner of Libby Montana restaurant in Mequon. Still active in Milwaukee theater, he's best known for his roles as Neidermeyer in "Animal House" and as The Maestro on "Seinfeld."
Originally from New Jersey, Metcalf now lives in Bayside.