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Sid Haig and Captain Spaulding’s Gumball Martini

Here’s a quick pop culture pop quiz: What do the following have in common?

Star Trek (original series), Untouchables (original series), The Lucy Show, Batman (Adam West version), The Man from UNCLE, Gunsmoke, Get Smart, Mission: Impossible (original series), THX 1138, Diamonds Are Forever, blaxploition milestones Coffy and Foxy Brown, Jackie Brown, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Rockford Files, Emergency!, Wonderbug, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, Police Woman, Charlie’s Angels (original series), Hart to Hart, Quincy, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Dukes of Hazzard, T. J. Hooker, Fantasy Island, The A-Team, The Fall Guy, Hill Street Blues, Amazing Stories, MacGyver, and Kill Bill.

Aside from essentially summarizing five decades of entertainment, the above is a very partial list of Sid Haig’s credits. Celebrating his 50th year as a working actor, Sid Haig is one of those go-to guys who’s always there to deliver the goods, no matter what the part or genre. Of course, we’re talking horror right now, which means that when we called Sid, we wanted to speak with Captain Spaulding, Haig’s iconic death-dealing, fried chicken-peddling, psychotic clown from Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects.

With Spaulding, Haig has created a quasi-villain so convincing that Roger Ebert, in his review of Devil’s Rejects wrote: “Captain Spaulding… is a man whose teeth are so bad, they’re more frightening than his clown makeup. [Haig] plays such a thoroughly disgusting person, indeed, that I was driven to to discover that in real life Sid looks, well, presentable, and even played a judge in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. This was a relief to me, because anyone who really looked like Captain Spaulding would send shoppers screaming from the Wal-Mart.” To me, that’s the greatest testament to Haig’s ability – to be able to make a man like Ebert, who’s seen it all, scratch his head over where the actor ends and the character begins. Since first donning the Spaulding suit for House of 1000 Corpses (2003), Haig has become a horror mainstay, appearing in Zombie’s Halloween (2007) and upcoming The Lords of Salem as well as numerous other productions.

I asked Haig if he minds – at this very established point in his career – being typecast within the horror genre. “If I was going to be typecast – again,” he says, “horror wasn’t a bad place to be.” Haig loves the fans – “They’re amazing and will do anything for you” – and between roles, he spends a good deal of his time getting to know his loyal admirers at conventions, festivals, and celebrations all over the world. In 2010, Rob Zombie presented Haig with the Lifetime Achievement award at the Eyegore Awards, which honors the best in horror. That same year, Haig accepted the Maria Honorifica award, which honors those with an outstanding career in the “fantastic” genre, at the 43rd Annual Sitges International Film Festival in Spain, the world’s largest celebration of all things fantastical.

As you may suspect, Haig’s love of horror goes all the way back to his boyhood – back to the Saturday afternoons when he would be first in line for the latest Universal release. It was a love of movies that led him to pursue a career in acting, and he first made a name for himself doing black box theater at the Pasadena Playhouse. “Every single night, there was a play, and the place was filled with industry people.” Haig’s success at the Playhouse was so great that, during one week in the late 1960s, he was a featured guest on a different television show every single night. Beyond his work on the stage, Haig has performed nearly every job behind the scenes as well – something that would come to serve him well over the years, especially when working in low budget films.

Of the directors, outside of Zombie, with whom Haig has worked, perhaps some of his most interesting experiences have been with exploitation film legend Jack Hill (Coffy, Foxy Brown, The Big Doll House). It was Hill who cast Haig in Spider Baby (1968), which remains a seminal cult movie to this day and a title which Haig recommends to us all. More importantly, Spider Baby presented Haig with the opportunity to work with Lon Chaney Jr., Universal’s Wolf Man himself. Being such an ardent admirer of classic Hollywood horror, it should come as no surprise that Haig’s choice for our festival is one of the great hallmarks of the genre – 1953’s House of Wax, starring the incomparable Vincent Price.

Not the original release poster but a better one.

House of Wax is most notable for being the first color 3-D film released by a major studio. The plot is somewhat inconsequential – a brilliant waxworks sculptor, having been horribly burned and left for dead in an arson fire set by his business partner, returns to prominence by using the real victims of his revenge-fueled murders for his statues. Where the film really shines is in its absolute embracing of 3D kitsch – a barker breaking the fourth wall and playing paddleball directly into the audience, a large can-can number, and of course, the big waxworks fire sequence – all filmed in beautiful WarnerColor (which may just as well have been Technicolor). Price is in top form, playing both the deranged murdered and his more affable “public” persona; what I enjoyed most about the film was Price’s Professor Jarrod scheming to attract visitors by staging tableaus of “crimes ripped from today’s headlines” – his crimes – in wax. Victims today, wax figures tomorrow.

While House of Wax wasn’t Price’s first horror film (he had both played and voiced the Invisible Man in two prior Universal productions), it was the film which cemented his reputation in the genre. Watching the film today – even without the 3-D – it’s easy to see why it was a smash hit – and why it left such an impression on a young Sid Haig. “3-D was new then, and House of Wax was very spooky and scary — things really jumped out at you,” he shares. Interestingly, the director of the film, André De Toth, had one bad eye and could never see the 3-D. “It’s one of the great Hollywood stories,” Vincent Price recalled. “When they wanted a director for [a 3-D] film, they hired a man who couldn’t see 3-D at all! André De Toth was a very good director, but he really was the wrong director for 3-D. He’d go to the rushes and say, ‘Why is everybody so excited about this?’” Obviously, since we’re still talking about and recommending the film almost sixty years later, De Toth must have done something right.

Now, you’re in for a treat – especially if you’re a Sid Haig fan. Unlike any of our other Halloween drinks, today’s concoction comes directly from our guest – yes, the Captain Spaulding’s Gumball Martini is a creation of Mr. Sid Haig himself. Here’s a drink that tells you what you’re in for right up front – that is to say, it tastes just like a gumball. And what else would you expect from a sadistic clown?

Captain Spaulding’s Gumball Martini

0.75 oz Gin
0.75 oz Red Bull
2 oz Root Beer

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with a gumball (preferably the bloodshot eyeball kind)

Featured Glassware: New Cottage Amber by Villeroy & Boch

Even if you happen to be a huge Sid Haig fan, you may not know that the man is a serious bartender – known as “The Alchemist” among his friends – who even has a bartending training video to his credit (as if all those movies and TV shows weren’t enough!). Needless-to-say, when Haig allowed us to feature an original creation here – and one named after horror icon Captain Spaulding no less – we were honored. As mentioned, not only does this drink live up to its gumball moniker, it very much captured the spirit of the good Captain himself – a glossy, sweet coating on the outside with an adult punch waiting beneath the surface. It should be noted that Haig’s original recipe is double what we provide here, so please go with that if you want the full Spaulding effect. We’ve scaled it back just to fit our standard glassware.

Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to spend Halloween than donning my 3-D glasses and curling up on the couch next to a large clown while we down a few Gumball Martinis. Actually, maybe I should have said “scarier” way. Either way, it’s the full Captain Spaulding experience that we’re after here, and Mr. Haig, a consummate professional, delivers the goods. Not only would we like to thank the man for his contributions to our event, we also need to extend a huge thank-you to Susan Oberg, Sid’s partner in crime, who made everything possible.

If you haven’t seen them yet, do yourself a favor and watch House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects this Halloween – I’m particularly fond of the latter film and its exploration of “who’s the bad guy?” Also, be sure to catch Sid in the upcoming films Mimesis and Zombex, which also features Malcolm McDowell, John Doe, and Kinky Friedman.

Esoterica: Like so many (too many?) horror films, House of Wax features a faithful manservant named – wait for it – Igor. But this Igor is a badass, and he should be, as he’s played by Mr. Badass himself, Charles Bronson.