“Hey You, In the Front Row – You Want a Wish?”
An Interview with Michael “Dukey Flyswatter” Sonye
by Dr. Rhonda Baughman
“Art that’s outside the box. That’s what I love. I have no regrets. The heart is never all good or all bad and my life is really just a whirlwind of experience all mashed together and I am grateful for all of it.” – Dukey Flyswatter
It’s truly official now. I have pursued, met, and interviewed the majority of my idols, specifically those I considered the most talented and mesmerizing in one of my top ten most adored films of all time: Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.
There was just one bright, blinking orb left from the film.
One star. One … star …. a voice, really … an …. Imp.
I had already decided against stalking David DeCoteau and somehow tricking him into giving me the Uncle Impy prop puppet I know bloody damn well he has stashed in a closet somewhere. (I can feel its lifeforce! Begging to be released! You hear me, David?!) So really, there was only one thing left to do.
Where in the world could I find a Dukey Flyswatter?
My dearest Brinke Stevens had once glimpsed him in a supermarket in LA. I, of course, was planted in Ohio, and did not get the chance to participate in this rare Discovery channel worthy sighting. And let’s be honest … did I really need to locate another B movie star who’s career I was awe-struck by and who I found strangely attractive?
Well, the answer is yes … yes, I did need to do just that very thing. And so it was set into motion.
And as much as Facefuckbook exasperates me – it did play a vital role in my ability to find a Flyswatter and request an interview. (I miss Myspace, but it consoled me slightly some of Dukey’s music can still be heard in that social media mausoleum.) And honestly, I’m not above barging into someone’s life, but I prefer to make my presence known beforehand, perhaps give them a little jingle to let them know I’m coming. Enter Cinema Wasteland’s whirlwind vortex of coincidental opportunity.
As previously reported, I spent the first night of the convention at dinner – with Fred Olen Ray and Michelle Bauer (1). Then, I shopped. Additionally, I schmoozed. And before calling it a night, I attended a screening of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers knowing there would be a panel featuring Michelle, Fred, and Linnea Quigley afterwards.
At the end of the panel, one more question burned, yearned for attention. Tentatively, one small, sweaty hand raised high into the air, waved dramatically, perhaps a bit frenetically, and Linnea’s gaze met mine.
“Woah, hold up. Rhonda has a question,” said Linnea. And did I ever. (Oh wait … she said my name … ! Good grief, what was my question again?!)
I stood. “Um, I know you have all worked together on many projects and on some of those you worked with Dukey Flyswatter. So, really, I want to know what it was like to work with him.” I sat.
As previously reported in my write-up of my dinner with Fred and Michelle, there was an uncomfortable silence where I was taken back to 7th grade, a lunch room, a fruit cup, and hostile faces.
Unlike 7th grade, however, this was my convention family and those hostile faces were actually just a little tipsy. And while the fruit cup visual remains – it’s mostly a metaphor now for coolness, awesomeness, and badassness. Mostly.
Linnea, Fred, and Michelle all took turns answering and consensus reigned: really talented, definitely unique, kinda weird, and super nice.
This was what I thought I would find during my interview – and I did. Except, I also found out a few other things: really intelligent, definitely creative, kinda inspirational, and super voiced. (Seriously, he’s like *none* of the characters he has voiced onscreen, nor how he sings, nor like Impy …. where in the hell did this Smooooooth Awperator voice come from?!) My only real regret was that I could not interview Flyswatter in person – he tells AMAZING stories.
And for anyone curious, I called him Dukey. And when I telephoned, I simply indicated I was looking for a Dukey Flyswatter. Not Mr. Flyswatter. And not Michael or Mr. Sonye (pronounced ‘sunny’, although I French it up and say ‘sawn-yay’. Just … a Dukey Flyswatter.
Before I proceed, I also have to set the record straight, for anyone confused about Dukey’s artistic career – he’s never stopped pumping out mischief and mayhem and grinding his gears writing and singing and performing and … and …. some of it has just been off the radar, but thanks to social media – and most likely one reason I haven’t completely turned away from it – we can see and read about some of that aforementioned mischief and mayhem. It’s time for long overdue Flyswatter appearances: clubs, cons, panels, backyard bbqs … music, performance art, a Q&A session, recitation of an epic poem – what have you and why the hell not – it’s just time for something. At the very least, we should all demand a Jello Biafra/Dukey Flyswatter concert. CALL TO ACTION, DEAR READERS: Go hit up Jello Biafra, The Guantanamo School of Medicine, Dead Kennedys, Undead Kennedys, Haunted Garage, and Dukey Flyswatter FB pages. Go ‘like’ them. Go ‘friend’ them. Do not piss me off. Go now.
Interview: Dukey Flyswatter
On Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama
“Sorority Babes took longer than I thought it would. Not that I minded, though. It was my first film with David DeCoteau. I think he’s moved on to a film about or inspired by Edgar Allen Poe. He’s definitely a great artist to work with. He’s found his niche. I met David through Fred Olen Ray, actually, while working on Prison Ship, (Star Slammer) for Fred. In addition to writing it, I did have a decent supporting role, same as I would receive in Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. For Babes, I didn’t audition per se. I was just joking around, imitating Audrey in The Little Shop of Horrors musical one day and then a few days later, DeCoteau would see me perform with Haunted Garage. He gave us money to demo and as such we created four songs which would actually be used in Nightmare Sisters. Needless to say, I enjoy doing voiceover work, but it’s an industry where you really need to know someone to get in the door.”
On the Early Acting Days
“I started by doing plays at a community theater – and received recognition for quite a few things. Notably, I performed in Arsenic & Old Lace with Kitty Bruce, Lenny’s daughter and I took improv lessons from Del Close, who was just the Godfather of improv performance, really. Working with him really took my craft in the direction I wanted it to go and I got to learn from those he taught – Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Howard Hesseman, among others. It was totally terrific – especially at age 14, for three whole months – it was really an invaluable experience. That really helped me, helped shape who I am, who I wanted to be, who I became. Micheal Sonye was a shy guy, but this would help to change that.
Creatively, no one stopped me – and in that time, that era, the hippie movement, so to speak, everyone was cool with trying new things, smoking weed, experimenting, and I can say it now – since some of these guys are quiet now. Honestly, my favorite early memory, I had just started Haunted Garage, I think, and the Match Game’s Gene Rayburn came over to our place while I was writing and performing acoustically – he was taking tennis lessons, I think – and we sat around and smoked and talked with Gene Rayburn, who was still in his little tennis outfit. Right after he left, we all just kinda sat back and said aloud, laughing, did we just smoke pot with Gene Rayburn?!?”
“I don’t really have any, no. I think we did what we could with Haunted Garage, but by the end we were tired and it was hard to keep it going. Some of us didn’t talk for awhile, but now it’s really all okay. Haunted Garage just refuses to die. New generations are finding out about it, kids are just discovering it thanks to the internet, and there is reunion footage going up, probably as I talk to you. What’s going up is probably miniscule to what we actually did, I mean, technically, we chainsawed people open every night. That’s hard to document.”
On Future Collaborations
“I love how these things kind of take on a life of their own. I mean, once, we tried to collaborate with Jello, get him interested. We were in San Francisco and it was awhile ago, but I’m hoping now he can see our sincerity, our seriousness, and we can entice him to collaborate with the Undead Kennedys. I used to get so frustrated when things wouldn’t work out right away. I always have high hopes for all my creative projects and hobbies. Now I try not to hold on so tight and let some things go … just let it be what it is. It is what it is … I now say.”
“I am happy now, actually. I am writing again, quite a bit. I just did an article about haunted houses for an LA paper. I am working on several projects including a script that’s based on a 50’s B horror movie – my partner and I plan to give it a big overhaul and 3D treatment. Soon, I am participating in a banquet, too – and one of my side projects seems to have generated some interest: I make ice cream. Weird flavors, of course. Still tasty, but some a little more odd than others – brown butter/cashew, maple bacon and spicy praline, for instance, for the mainstream, but for those a little more daring, I created uni ice cream, even served in its empty shell. And my real happiness comes from my current love – I met her at the last Haunted Garage reunion four years ago. She sort of started stalking me, but when we found out how much we had in common we just clicked. She’s half my age which keeps me on my toes; however, better on your toes than on your back with a lily between your fingers.”
On the New Documentary
“It came about actually from the line producer on Surf Nazis – Robert Tinnell – he also writes graphic novels – and basically he is among the first generation of monster kids; those who grew up watching horror movies on TV and get all the cool horror merchandise. Especially horror tees – you know, the real ones – the ones where you had to iron on the transfers and really watch so you didn’t fuck it up. Tees became available finally in the back of monster magazines, like Famous Monsters. I was one of those monster kids who grew up with the Dick Smith kit ordered from those same magazines. I had a great childhood and it was my dad’s side who would always tell me those kinds of things would rot my brain – not that it ever stopped me. It doesn’t now even. Tinnell’s documentary – That $#!% Will Rot Your Brain: How the Monster Kids Transformed Popular Culture (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2302853/) is amazing – I mean he did a really great job with it.”
On Fond Memories
“Johnny Saiko, Wayne Toth, Cleve Hall (2), Brian Moore, Mike Chainsaw … these guys were just starting out once, too and were really instrumental in my career when I was also just starting out with Haunted Garage. Brian Moore started out doing puppet shows at Lake Arrowhead and now is a Satanic Priest. He’s actually a real sweetheart – and even presided over a LaVey wedding on 6-6-2006. I have wonderful memories of partying with 45 Grave’s Dinah Cancer – we were film collectors together before video even came out. We’d have punk shows at this old Chinese restaurant, show movies like Glen or Glenda? and that was the era that really propelled me creatively. Shortly thereafter, I saw a rough cut of Urgh! A Music War and I saw The Cramps in concert and said to myself when I have a band – it will be just like that. I was also very lucky to be able to play with, open for many of my heroes as well, like The Cramps and the Butthole Surfers. Being able to make a crowd go apeshit by chainsawing a KROQ radio DJ – those were some great days. Yeah, we chainsawed the KROQ DJ at a Butthole Surfers show sponsored by a rival radio station, so when he announced himself as a KROQ DJ everyone booed. And when we chainsawed him everyone went nuts. He was a great sport about it. I ran into someone about eight years ago who told me he still had some of the rubber guts from the DJ gag hanging on his wall.
My best memory might be one night, at a record release party at the Roxy, our dancer Carol had her legs propped up, all splayed out, spikes in her ankles, and our roadies were dressed as doctors who would yank me out as her baby. I, of course, also humped my stage mom right after birth. It was super hot in there and we had almost finished the set when my guitar player passed out. Just fell right over from heat stroke, so we called in the paramedics. The paramedics saw all the blood and theatrical carnage and freaked out – we had to lead them in and take them to my guitar player. After the show, folks were coming up to me, thanking me, telling me how great of a show it was, especially that part where we called in the paramedics. To this day, I’m sure some still think it was part of the show.
I know you asked me why we don’t see this much anymore and I think it’s because it’s underground now. It’s there, we just can’t see it. And let’s face it, kids aren’t going out to see live music like they used to – unless the band is huge and radio played all the time. I remember the days when you could pay three bucks and get to hear several bands and you could make a night of it. Now it’s really about dance clubs, rap or hip hop – which still has women and drugs present, I mean, we did that, too – but the music was live and raw and loud. Alice Cooper is still around. Marilyn Manson, who came to one of our last shows, is still around. Rob Zombie is still around. And now that I think of it, Zombie used to open for Haunted Garage, as did Tool. Those guys all signed to a major label, which I think was part of Haunted Garage’s downfall – we did not.
There are still bands like The Residents around who refuse to play the top 40 game, who are pure performance art. They understand that celebrity status taints art and even after 30 years, they remain true to that code, and their anonymity has continued. Conceptually, I was blown away when I saw them last year.”
On Blessings… and Lord of Illusions
“I was, and still am, truly blessed. I know it. I didn’t achieve super stardom, go as far as I wanted to with it all, but I still had a total blast. I was more into the music, less into the film where I often had to censor myself, but I can really thank Fred Ray for helping me get into the film aspect more. I remember going to see movies with Fred, like Re-Animator, and that movie would never be made today. Fred does what he does – and he does it well – there will never be another Fred Ray. I mean, when I wrote for him for Slammer, a guy gets a laser lobotomy, which goes wrong, and excessively drools throughout … and even Ray was just disgusted by it. Haunted Garage had tons of slime and people just loved it, would scramble for the front row, begging us to slime them. Being in Haunted Garage was like being the director of my own little mini-horror movie every night.
The film work in between Garage shows was great and fueled a different kind of fire. Even now, after doing music for Sympathy for the Record Industry’s ‘Mother’s Day’, Breakfast of Aliens, Nightmare Sisters, Cyclone … I felt really good about it. I still get the most residuals from Cyclone. A song I wrote called ‘Incredible Two Headed Transplant’ made it into the remake of Night of the Demons, which I loved seeing Linnea in … she was still so cute in her original little dress. I am also thankful for the amazing time I had on the set of Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions with Linnea, although her naked demon scene went to the cutting room floor.
LA artist and The Red Box author Stacy Lande painted a very naked portrait of me, although I think she painted out the piercing in my penis that I had at the time. Either way, she painted a great portrait – goat horns and schlong – which Clive Barker bought and had hanging in his bedroom at one point.
The mud suck scene in Lord of Illusions was amazing, but also amazingly hard work, however, since it took hours for the scene, hours for the makeup, and then simply sitting in the mud with the makeup took it’s toll physically and really dried out my skin – it was a little painful, actually. I would up getting into some trouble, too, what with doing what I was told and all – and grabbing Janssen’s cooch. That aside, when I finally saw the scene on DVD I was shocked – and pleasantly surprised that I could see me on the back cover, too.”
On the Arts Collective
“I am trying to get to what we used to have. To get it going again – you know, all different types of artists just trying to make it and work together. Working together has its perks and advantages. I love collaborations. John Strysik (Monsters, Tales from the Darkside) who I worked with on Deathbed, is working again with Stuart Gordon, and I just loved Re-Animator: The Musical. Deathbed was supposed to be a series for Gordon, but it just never went beyond the first one, and I remember I was just getting over walking pneumonia when I shot that film. I know Strysik is working on a project, trying to get it financed, and he wrote a part with me in mind. Sometimes things get off the ground, sometimes they don’t, but there is a beauty in collaboration.”
On Blood Diner
“I began writing this film for TransWorld and while I had a great time – it just wound up getting me into trouble. Meeting deadlines for me during that times equaled cocaine and I lost some contacts and friendships because of it. Lesson learned and I don’t do that anymore. I loved writing this movie, even though it was like pulling teeth on set, I do like writing stuff for other people. This movie was from me, though, and there were things added to it that were not part of my script. There were some difficult people to work with on this set – and no one really liked Jackie Kong. She just wanted me off the set and that was not going to work – so she was just no fun to work with at all. Blood Diner was released in Germany as Blood Feast 2, and I remember that the rights were purchased to HGL films and I think that a female director gave it something a little different and I can appreciate that. Either way, the film became a cult classic.
Not too long ago I had a WTF moment at Wal-Mart when I saw the 6 movie pack DVD release in a bin. Most of them were gone, but it was pretty surreal even seeing that. I did a special edition three years ago, interviews with myself and others, although I am not sure where they are in the process of that release or what’s happening with it, if anything. I can say now that Blood Diner, while I bit much for its day, has stood the test of time and I still find it funny. We went for outrageousness and achieved it, I would say.”
On Surf Nazis Must Die
“I can also thank Fred Ray for helping me to get this film since he introduced me to director Peter George. I shot my audition video in an alley. I was finishing Star Slammer and working on The Tomb, and I remember hooking up my pal Dawn Wildsmith with Fred Ray. It was an amazing shot, but difficult in that I did not have a stunt double, per se. Lots of people were hurt while we shot this film, so we honestly thought of the film as really violent – and were just kind of shocked when we saw the final product as really not all that violent. After shooting, after the long day of working – that was all pretty mellow. We sat around the fire, on the beach, just chilled out, smoked a little pot, or rather a lot, now that I think of it, and everyone just had everyone’s back. It was a great environment, a great camaraderie, save for one guy – Gene Mitchell who played Brutus in the film. This guy was always on my case, and a real asshole.
During our fight scene he was supposed to throw me against the rocks and by the fourth take, I just lost it and indicated I would bite his fucking throat out unless he stopped being so rough. He took method acting to the extreme. I also remember that while we were fighting by the ocean, a baby octopus grabbed my leg and scared the absolute hell out of me, and there was an actual connection during that fight to the bridge of my nose. And the scene where someone has bleach thrown in his face and yells ‘My eyes! My eyes!’ Yeah, he’s not acting. There was actually chemical residue in the bottle. This is just part of the violence and why we thought the film was much more brutal than what you see today.
Barry Brenner, who played Adolf, was a real ding dong – and a source of much amusement on the set. I became friends with Joel Hile, who played Hook – and we had to hold our laughter as it took upwards of 40 takes for some very simple Adolf scenes. And most people are never really sure what happens to my character. This is partly due to scenes that had to be cut – we spent days trying to get Brenner to play with a tarantula that’s supposed to bite me, hence why you can hear me screaming ‘My neck! My neck!’, instead there is just a grenade tossed into the bunker.”
On His Stage Name
“No one has really asked me that in a long time. The band actually started around my birthday, chatting about horror movies, B-movies, biker movies, all with that bad music, bad songs … and really two days after talking about it, we just decided to do it. I knew it would have a garage band sound. I knew that much. I wanted to be the Isaac Hayes, Escape from NY, Duke of LA-type character – and behind my back others were calling me Dukey. And I thought, well, it can’t be behind my back if I do it aloud and I do it first. So, I changed my name to Dukey and it was the time and era for it and really; Dukey just fit. My bass player walked in, basically added Flyswatter, and I did not contest it. Michael Sonye was gone and Dukey Flyswatter stayed. I never had to be a ‘Mike’ and that’s the name that when someone calls it out in a room, at least three guys turn around. I never had to worry about that. Michael Sonye was the reserved one and Dukey Flyswatter was the the persona, the artist, and he was really out there. And right now, Rhonda, I’m pushing 60. I never would have believed I would still be around, still creating, and the younger generations finding out about Haunted Garage and the Undead Kennedys. I really never thought that would happen. But I love every minute of it.”