Saturday, August 30, 2008


Continuing with my interview with Billy Stark of the Blessed. Part 4.

ME: Who was the first really famous person that you met? Were you at all impressed that you were so young?

BILLY: The first so called famous person of any note that I can recall had nothing to do w/music. That would be Elia Kazan (The Director) My Father was friends with him and his wife. We visited him @ his house somewhere upstate-when I was about 8 or 9 years old. When I still lived in Connecticut my Mother and I used to go to the Westport country playhouse to see plays in the summer. This is the place that literally started summer stock theatre so we used to finagle our way backstage and I got the only two autographs I have ever asked for in my life Vivian Vance a.k.a. Ethel Mertz on ‘I love Lucy" and Shirley Booth a.k.a. ‘Hazel’. I also met Hans Conried but I didn’t know who he was and my autograph asking career was over @ 9 years old.

There was also a certain amount of so called celebrities, artists, models, and people of all walks in the arts that my father associated with through his work and studio from before I was born. Through my school in NYC there was all that element of "Famous" so I have never been what you call star struck. I don’t recall ever having posters of Rock people on my wall-Movie stuff yeah-maybe a Pistols poster when they came out but that early Pistols stuff was ART –Jamie Reid stuff- but never that typical teenage stuff. I’ve always admired people themselves and their work, not the show biz personas but the behind the fa├žade grist and mill. Blind fan worship always seemed really weird to me.

One of the reason that Rock’N’Roll was attractive to me is when I was 11 years old I was having such a miserable time in Connecticut and when I took notice of some groups of the day "Hey! Those people look kind of look like me and vice versa" and look at all the people that are attracted to them and how crazy they go over them?? HMM, maybe that’s the road I should take! This was a contrast to the crew cut haired kids whose mothers bought their clothes and dressed them that I was associated w/ in the Good old Elementary schools of Connecticut. After seeing how manic fans acted toward the bands and liked them THAT MUCH, I thought maybe that’s the direction I should take. The secondary reason thing- was how people go crazy over groups. THE MAIN REASON is I wanted to perform and be creative in that area - fame etc was the secondary reason.

One last thing is that I never went through a girls are "icky" phase that so many kids go through. I always enjoyed and liked girls as they had better conversations and were more into music and stuff. You hear about so many Guys who get into bands to GET GIRLS but I always did very well Thank you with or without being in a band although being in a band certainly made it more palatable and opened up many more avenues to explore. Now I don’t like when people go into details and name names and such I think that’s just vulgar and I will always keep that side private. I kiss but I don’t tell but let me conclude that for a 15-16 year there were plenty of ‘older’ women in their 20’s and such who did show me a great time so a big Thanks to them all. I tell you, some of these women –and girls too -were really so brazen and so upfront, talk about your lack of inhibitions I mean it was ALMOST SHOCKING -lol

ME: What was it like for you in high school? Did the kids in your class know that you played in a band at night?

BILLY: Ok, here is where it gets ugly. I quit High school when the band started. I went about two weeks into 11th grade when I was 15 so I have really no idea if anyone knew I played in a band although I had run into a couple of them later on but I’m pretty sure most knew I quit school to start a band. I didn’t play @ night then go to school the next day. It was all Blessed all the time.

Now here is a dirty little secret no one but the band members and very close friends ever knew –a very guarded secret-lol- but the school I went to was for Professional kids who were working as Actors and in the Arts. The other one in the city was Professional Childrens school but mine was their competitor if you will. It was in Lincoln Center across from the Julliard. The premise was that the curriculum was kept to a minimum as the students were professionals in the industry, on TV shows, movies, Broadway shows, Ballet etc. They had very busy work schedules that the school was set up to accommodate. It was very small of 150 students or so from grades Kindergarden through 12th grade. I went there from 7th through two weeks in 11th. It was a private school but the first year a friend of my parents paid for it and the following years we scrimped and paid as I went along. The school needed the enrollment Numbers for the State or something and kind of let me slide but I never had any friends over my house. We didn’t have any(very little) furniture and stuff and I was very much a black sheep out of my element. In fact The Band was the first friends I think I ever had over and the lack of furniture made it easy when we started to rehearse there.

Anyhow one of the kids in my class who I sometimes would hang w/ after school has a Mother that worked for a big talent agency and we’d hang out there sometimes (they lived in the same building as the Agency). Eventually they asked me if I wanted to get into the biz. So for a few years I did a few things, some movies, TV, a bunch of commercials, a small thing on a soap opera. But I didn’t actively pursue it since I wanted to be a Rock’n’Roll singer and was terrified of getting a sitcom or something. It never really works our for Actors who go into music. I remember going on some audition for some Shakespeare thing on Broadway and purposely NOT DOING GOOD so I wouldn’t get it.

The first ‘PROFESSIONAL’ thing I did was when I was 3 years old. My father was a commercial photographer and used me in an ad for a Sunday supplement ad. I did several modeling things as I was growing up and a lot of test stuff for his ad agencies etc. So by the time the Blessed started I had a bit of ‘PERFORMING’ experience under my belt. Being in a Band was my main and only choice of creative expression or what have you @ the time. I like to joke that I was the only member of The Blessed in S.A.G.(Screen Actors Guild) though I let my membership lapse when the band started and the only Blessed member---so far as I know-to have been directed by Woody Allen (I worked on Annie Hall for about a week). So this also answers the previous question-Who was the first famous person you met?

A lot of the kids in my school and class were well known on TV and movies and having worked on sets myself and in the industry I’d met a lot as well. I was never particularly ‘Star-Struck’. I was always been more interested in people and their work rather than fan type stuff. How it felt the first time on stage - it was just where I wanted to be. With having worked on movie and TV sets etc I already had been performing in a sense for a few years so being on stage wasn’t as foreign to me as it was for the other band members.

Also in late’76 my school was planning a charter trip to London-with an emphasis on the Plays and a Shakespeare excursion or whatever which would have been nice. I would have gone and ditched the school thing to go see The Pistols and everything else going on there at that time at The Roxy Etc. Maybe I could have caught an Anarchy Tour date or something but it was cancelled due to lack of interest. I WAS SO PISSED- but I showed them by quitting the following year-lol -OK that’s enough of that.


No comments: