By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“We got a sausage!” I hear someone call out as the bag passes through the machine. I am instructed to open it and surrender the sausage. A customs official wearing white rubber gloves picks it up and dumps it into a large garbage can. Foot-and-mouth disease is the explanation.
“You’re going to eat it, aren’t you?” I say, furious.
“I’m a vegetarian,” he replies smugly.
Au revoir, Paris. Bonjour, L.A.
The Acting Life: He’s a Super Freak
When actor Emmy Collins decided to move to Hollywood, everybody in the business gave him the same advice: Cut your hair, shave your beard, hit the gym and invest in an expensive wardrobe. You’ll never be leading-man material — that’s for prom kings and football heroes — but you might just scrabble out a living. Collins thanked them politely, then threw on an old T-shirt and started showing up at auditions. Now, five years later, in a town where ex–prom kings wrap twice around the block at cattle calls or clog the margins of Back Stage, Collins works constantly. His Charles Manson countenance and Dilaudid-lidded, thousand-inch stare have landed him countless television and film roles, mostly as hippies, junkies, muggers, burnouts and psychotics.
You may remember him as the recording engineer in the Jack in the Box “Meaty Cheesy Boys” spot, the Halloween Hippie on Freaks and Geeks or the Hippie Vegetarian in John Waters’ Pecker. Or not. Recently, he was the ne’er-do-well on General Hospitalwho relieved the amnesia-addled Luke of his wallet as he lay in an alley somewhere. Along the way, Collins has scored recognizable walk-ons in The People vs. Larry â Flynt(a flasher), Homegrown(a pot grower), Ready To Rumble(a carny), Almost Famous(a rocker at the Riot Hyatt), Rock Star(a roadie), Zoolander(a coal miner) and Fox TV’s Undeclared(an art teacher in ascot and clogs) — not to mention endless perp du jourroles on Homicideand America’s Most Wanted.
“Look how many cop shows there are out there,” he says. “There are a lot of guys who need to be arrested.”
Not long ago, Collins made it into the “Hot Property” column in the Real Estate section of the Sunday Los Angeles Times— the one Harry Shearer ridicules verbatim on his NPR radio show: “Actor Emmy Collins . . . has purchased a three-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot home on five acres in Pearblossom, just east of Lancaster, for about $300,000 . . . The cabin-style home, built in the ’70s, has solar panels and drinking water from a nearby well. Collins is an advocate for renewable energy. The home also has a koi pond and a moat.”
On closer inspection — after an hour-and-a-half drive into the high desert, the last 20 minutes over a rutted trail that seems designed more with security in mind than simple access — the “cabin-style home” is closer to a clapboard shack, the koi pond and moat have roughly the same relationship to reality as the term “Beverly Hills–adjacent” and both the size and the price appear inflated by at least a zero. Still, what is reality but a dearth of imagination? “My manifesto’s getting really good,” Collins says by way of greeting, dogs barking at his feet, and in fact it’s not hard to picture this scene on CNN, intercut with comments from his few neighbors like “He mostly kept to himself.”
Collins recently faced off against his own kind, a virtual round-robin elimination of working misfits, when he auditioned for “The Freaky Family,” a 30-second commercial spot for Choice Hotels featuring mismatched family members on a cross-country road trip. Walking into the strip-mall casting space on Olympic and Sepulveda boulevards, past the callbacks for Red Lobster and Marriott, the starlet/pretty-boy interlopers are immediately distinguishable from the genuine mutants.
“Freaky or foreign?” shouts Jeff, the casting assistant entrusted with herding the cattle into their appropriate chutes. “I need foreign front and center.” Almost immediately, everyone’s odds are doubled as aspirants for “The Foreign Family” are separated from “The Freaky Family” and led off in a welter of Mittel-European rumblings to audition elsewhere.
Collins is chosen to audition in a field of five with an albino biker guy, a steroid bodybuilder woman, a Nam vet with a noticeable hump and a guy with Bozo hair in a Zippy the Pinhead T-shirt — parade watchers at the corner of Walker Evans and Diane Arbus. “If you think about it,” volunteers the guy with Bozo hair, noticing my reporter’s notebook, “the majority of society is freaky-looking people. So we work all the time.” Jeff gives them the setup, videotapes the run-through, and then offers a bit of direction — something about urgency and conforming to reality and the transfer of energy. The second take goes better than the first, and then they’re off. The whole thing takes less than five minutes. On the way out, patiently awaiting his turn, is Michael Berryman, the huge, dome-pated, inbred-looking atavist from Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, still recognizable two decades later. In this crowd, at least, he passes for freak royalty.
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