An Interview with Tony Timpone, Editor of Fangoria
You thought there would be no more episodes of Mendo Talks to Rather Interesting People from Around the Internet, but guess what? It’s time for yet another episode of Mendo Talks to Rather Interesting People from Around the Internet! Yay for me!
Well, kiddies, the outlook wasn’t sunny when ol’ Mendo was coming home from Iraq last November: the interview with Piers Anthony hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped, and nobody was responding to any of my solicitations.
There we were in Kuwait, waiting for days for that plane ride home, and on one of my more masochistic whims, I went out searching for interview subjects again. Since I’d just bought Brutal Massacre on DVD earlier in the day, I noticed a review from Fangoria Magazine on the back, and so I sent an email to: Tony Timpone, Editor.
Amazingly, he replied within hours, saying he’d do anything for a “real American hero” like me! You know, I normally can’t stand it when I get people thanking me for joining the Army, but that really touched me, ya know?
I found him to be a pretty cool guy. A very busy guy, but he was more than willing to go along with my inane questions when he had the time. So without further ado, join us for some light conversation about horror movies, jerks with movie cameras, and why that little star-watch section in People you like so much is bad juujuu all around!
Mendo: How did you get into the publishing biz, and when did you become editor of Fangoria?
While I was in college in the early ’80s, I was freelancing to a number of horror and sci-fi mags, like Monsterland, Heroes, Enterprise Incidents, and Starlog, the latter being Fangoria’s sister publication. I could never break into Fango, as back then, the mag’s two editors, Dave Everitt and Bob Martin, did all the writing themselves. In the days after I graduated NYU, Dave McDonnell, my editor at Starlog, called to say that an editorial position opened at the company. Bob Martin had quit Fango (he did not get along with his co-editor), so Dave E. needed someone fast to help put together Fango. I got the job and started right away. Within a few weeks, Dave E. quit too, so Dave M. took over Fango until I got my “wings”, and I became editor in chief a little over a year later in late 1986. I was very lucky, being in the right place at the right time. Plus I was a known quantity with the company.
Mendo: One thing I have noticed about Fangoria is that unlike other entertainment mags, like Wizard or Rolling Stone, you refrain from running short little nothing pieces in the first few pages, and get right into the articles. Was this a conscious decision, or an economic one?
We avoid “fluff” pieces in Fangoria, and prefer to get to the “meat” of the matter. We start each issue with shorter news stories and columns, then dive into set visits, interviews and previews. This has nothing to do with economics, just with squeezing in as much comprehensive content into the magazine as we can.
Mendo: Over the last year or so, we’ve seen the DVD re-release of such forgotten classics as Don’t Go in the Woods Alone, and Devil Times Five. Are there any other films from the ’70s or ’80s that you hope will receive similar treatment?
The only one that comes to mind is Night of the Creeps and maybe a few old TV movies (Moon of the Wolf, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark) and Empire Pictures flicks. But eventually, everything will come out.
Mendo: As someone who must run into a lot of film critics, have you ever been cornered by someone who pretentiously tried to convince you that a non-horror film is “really scary”?
Not really. Maybe the Fatal Attraction-type films that were popular in the ’80s and ’90s. Most of the time, I don’t find anything very scary. I’ve seen too many movies and know what to expect.
Mendo: You have a bit part in the mockumentary Brutal Massacre. Tell me, how does David Naughton’s character compare to other horror directors you’ve met?
I’ve met a few schlockmeisters over the years, like Brutal Massacre‘s Harry Penderecki, but none as likable as Harry. The real-life version is more clueless, seedy, sleazy and less talented. I usually go to the other side of the room, as they inevitably think that I can be their ticket to success by giving them exposure in Fangoria. But the vast majority of all the “legit” horror directors—Romero, Raimi, Mick Garris, John Landis, Stuart Gordon, Don Coscarelli, etc—are truly nice people.
Mendo: Lower budget horror films, though almost never as successful, are usually much more creative, and much more beloved than mainstream hits. How much cheese is necessary for a grindhouse film to be great?
For me, I’d rather have story, characters and creativity over “cheese”. But you want to give the audience enough bang for their buck, and provide enough outré entertainment in a grindhouse film that you won’t find in the mainstream.
Mendo: With the camp revival in full swing, and a plethora of offerings, such as Black Devil Doll and Oversexed Rugsuckers from Mars, what do you think the next immortal camp cult classic will be?
Camp classics are never instantaneous. They take years to build a following to get “discovered”. Filmmakers who start out to make a “cult” film inevitably fail. You can never predict what genre audiences will embrace. They prefer to discover cult movies for themselves and not be led or spoon-fed.
Mendo: In your latest issue (#278, published in Nov. 2008), you did a feature on the new Twilight film. Is it true that the movie is better than the novel? I know it doesn’t sound hard to believe, but our readers have been disappointed before.
I did not read Twilight. Maybe if I was a 13 year old girl, I would have embraced it. I did see the movie, and it was nicely shot and had its moments, but the film was not my cup of blood. Most gals I know who loved the book felt the movie was not as good. But my teenage niece Amanda saw it three times.
[Note from Future Mendo: The movie was better, but not by much.]
And there you are! A little shorter, perhaps, but I like it. It’s nice to know that even someone with a huge readership still has time for guys like us. Of course, nobody’s immune from the “Interviewed? Me?” bug, but still…
Oh, before we go, I’d like to dedicate this interview to my long suffering mom, who dutifully transcribed my questions over the phone while I was without internet for a few weeks.
And that’s our show! If you’d like to be one of Mendo’s Rather Interesting People from Around the Internet, feel free to contact me, and then go out and do something… rather interesting!