Otis! My Man! Catching up with Otis Day from "Animal House"
Editor's note: Mark Metcalf, who lives in Bayside, is an actor who has worked in movies, TV and on the stage. He is best known for his work in "Animal House," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Seinfeld."
In addition to his work on screen, Metcalf is involved with the Milwaukee International Film Festival, First Stage Children's Theater and a number of other projects.
He also finds time to write about movies for OnMilwaukee.com. This week, Metcalf writes about "Animal House" co-star, DeWayne Jessie, who is known as Otis Day.
When I went to Chicago for the mini-reunion of the "Animal House" cast, my son, Julius, went with me. He rode in the limo with all of us when we went from the hotel to the theater and, because it is his way to teach, he began telling everyone about unusual animals and the way they killed humans.
He began with the black mamba from Eastern Africa and he and Karen Allen shared some memories of the green mamba of Central America. He managed to fill the 60-minute drive with information about deadly creatures.
Martha Smith, "Babs," wants to try to produce an Animal Planet show with him as the in-studio host and me as the in-the-field-guy and call the show "Neidermeyer, Dead!"
The person who seemed most interested in what Julius had to say, asked the fewest questions and made the fewest interruptions was Otis Day.
When we made the film, Otis' name was DeWayne Jessie. That's his name in the credits. That was his real name. He was an actor just like the rest of us. He had maybe a little more experience, but he was hired to play Otis Day in the toga party sequence and at the roadhouse. He lip-synched "Shout" and "Shama Lama Ding Dong."
Lloyd Williams is whom you hear, but DeWayne is whom you see. He sells the song and the moment, as we say in the show business. And he sells it well. He's still selling it. At some point DeWayne changed his name to Otis Day. He travels around the world performing as Otis Day. Now he does all the singing. He does a pretty good R&B set. I introduced him at Summerfest about four years ago.
He came up to my restaurant, Libby Montana, with his band and his managers and had dinner. He always travels with family and managers. He was in Madrid two years ago to shoot a commercial for Aquafina and his niece and his manager came with him. About 16 years ago, I was on a boat around Manhattan signing autographs with Stephen Furst and Otis was there with his entourage playing for the crowd.
They had blankets thrown over a rope at one end of the big stateroom where we were all to rest between appearances. That was Otis' room. Stephen and I were on the couch at the other end, on the other side of the blankets. Otis knows how to travel. He gets taken care of real well. There were a lot of beautiful young women with him at that gig and a lot of laughter from behind the wall of blankets. I envied him. I thought he was pretty cool.
Otis has worked it hard. When we were in Chicago, we were on WGN for about two hours. Otis played with the whitest band I have ever seen and he played well with them. He put it all out there and did at least one short set for the television audience. When we screened the movie he did "Shout" before each screening. About seven times over the course of the weekend. No band then, just a tape of the band and Otis, his voice a little raw from talking to fans and singing without a proper warm-up.
Otis is what show business really is about. Like in vaudeville. Nine shows a day; five bucks a show; get on the train; go to the next town; do it again. He's made it work for him. He saw "Animal House" as a ticket, and he is making it pay. He lives in Las Vegas and is available for toga parties anywhere.
When we arrived at the theater in the limousine and everyone was getting ready to go inside and talk about themselves and sign pictures, Julius looked at me, pointed at Otis and said, in that big voice of his that sometimes embarrasses me, "I love this guy." The two of them hugged. Otis really enjoyed it. I felt very proud. My son got over on Otis and Otis really enjoyed him. And Julius really got Otis. I think it's important to know which one of the guys works the hardest and to actively love that guy.
Does anyone know what ever happened to the local band here in MKE-- Otis Day & The Funkatrons??? Popular in the 80's.
Trivia DeWayne Jessie was born in Madison and post Animal House, Otis Day and the Knights played an extremely wild toga party gig at Zivkos but that story is better told by someone from the local opening band. Also, Robert Cray played bass for the Knights in the movie.
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