The illustrious Dr. Jose of Camera Viscera returns for his 3rd year of Halloween Horrors! Well, of course he did. He, like myself, is a strong believer in the power of whoring yourself out.
In all seriousness, the enigma known as “Dr. Jose” is easily one of my most trusted and reliable associates. He’s been there numerous times for me to bounce ideas off of, and each time, his advice has been right on the money. While I hate the idea of there being “cliques” among writers and reviewers, I’m happy as Hell that he’s in mine. Or am I in his? Ehh, who cares?
Once again, the Good Doctor reaches back into his childhood for a piece on a character that has great significance to him and his youth. Really, the character is secondary to the story he’s about to tell.
“Is It Soup Yet?”: The Quotable Alfredo Sawyer
My best friend Nick and I have been buddies for almost 20 years now, and the whole affair began because of a mutual love of horror movies. We had initially met through the music scene, but it was movies that we really bonded over. He lived a few towns over from me, what equalled about a 25-minute drive for my dad (I didn’t have my license yet), but that didn’t matter: once I’d found out my new friend was a fellow gorehound, I was over at his folks’ place with regularity – long drive for my poor pop be damned.
I still recall Nick’s bedroom, its blood-red walls adorned with Christmas lights and posters of both the music and movie variety. There was a giant poster for The Cure taped behind his door, right above a crappy-but-playable drum set, and there were pages torn from various horror and music magazines scattered around the four walls like checkered makeshift wallpaper. It was in this room that we watched an endless amount of ’80s comedies, horror movies, and episodes of Tales from the Crypt I’d taped off HBO.
I have one random memory of us laying on the floor, pillows tucked behind our heads, closing out the night of our latest sleepover with a repeated viewing of Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning. To say we loved this movie would be an understatement. We had every square inch of that celluloid memorized. We lay there howling as resident redneck Ethel Hubbard berated her dumb-as-shit son,
Junior, while she made stew for dinner. And we couldn’t catch our breath as we watched the leatherclad Demon sing a soulful tune from inside a porta-potty after a bad case of the runs caused by some damn enchiladas.
Long story short: there were a lot of movies watched in that room, and a lot of lines from those films were committed to memory in order to later be spit-out indiscriminately at a rapid-fire pace in groups of bewildered friends who had no idea what we were talking about. Really, it was like our own secret language.
One of the films that we watched an endless amount of times and ergo committed to memory was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. We were diehard fans of the original trilogy, as our conversations proved; they were often peppered with random excerpts from the petulant Franklin Hardesty, bizarre insults from “The Cook” Drayton Sawyer, and the zen-like musings of the hook-handed “Tink”. But there was perhaps no character from the series that we found ourselves quoting more than that distant relative of the cannibalistic clan, the lonely gas station attendant Alfredo Sawyer, from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.
Portrayed by character actor Tom Everett, Alfredo “Fred” Sawyer delivers every line in the most weaselly nasal Texan drawl you can imagine and is made-up with a greasy skunk-tinted hairdo and milky dead eye. The over-the-top character quickly became our favorite, one who Nick and I quoted constantly.
“Is it soup yet?”
“California daddy’s girl!”
“…Do I know you?”
“Take your ugly face, Tex, and ram it up your butt!”
We’d even randomly sing-song “Clean that trap out, Fred…,” when there was a lull in the conversation, just as Alfredo sang to himself while he was dumping severed body parts in the hidden marshy bog where the Sawyer clan disposed of their victims.
“You remind me of my last girl down in Tupelo; now you’re gonna go down below.”
While the other characters from the movie are also great, it’s really Everett who steals the show. Played with the type of giddy insanity reserved for only the most twisted of horror’s onscreen characters (but really, which of TCM’s antagonists aren’t?), Everett’s portrayal of Alfredo is honestly one for the ages, and probably the most under-appreciated role in the film – if not the entire franchise. (Of all the TCM characters I hear people talk about, Fred’s name never gets tossed in the mix. It probably didn’t help that the distractingly-handsome Viggo Mortensen played his brother in TCM III.) The saying goes, “There are no small parts; only small actors”, and there is no better example of this than Everett’s “Alfredo”. The character is probably on screen for less than 10 minutes of the film’s runtime, but Everett makes every second count. His persona is huge.
So why did Nick and I take to ol’ Fred so fast? Probably because we, much like that rictus-faced grease monkey, were hillbillies. We could affect his southern tongue without much effort. Plus, every line he uttered was so goddamn hilarious, they were a great arsenal to have to keep each other in stitches. Again, it’s a secret language thing for us. We don’t need to have deep conversations with each other when we’re together to connect; all we need is a twanged “Darlin’ I only got one thing to say to you; I don’t like the tone of your voice.” or “It’s Armageddon, you bitch!” to say what we really need to say.
Only a few short months ago I randomly Googled Tom Everett to see what he was up to recently (isn’t most time on the Internet spent just randomly Googling stuff?), and I discovered he has a personal Youtube page where he uploads short little videos of himself doing random characters. Its purpose, it seems to me, is to act as a virtual résumé. After watching a few of them (one of which he did in his
Alfredo voice) I was shocked to find that not only is he a well-spoken and multi-talented fellow (he released a country album in 1971), but he isn’t even from the south! He’s from Oregon! According to IMDB, he learned the East Texas twang from a Tyler, Texas woman while working in Houston; he had her record tapes of her just talking, and he studied them. That is some wild trivia right there!
In the end, my words can only do so much: it’s a performance you have to see to truly enjoy. Horror films are full of low-life scumbag characters, they’re nothing new. But there is a special nuance to Alfredo. He’s jumpy and short-tempered, but still a big wuss when the tables are turned on him. It’s an incredibly detailed performance for what could’ve been a throw-away character. Or worse, a role that
could’ve been played predictably, void of the fun layers Everett brings to the table.
Nick and I still quote Alfredo to this day. We live two-thousand miles apart, but that doesn’t keep us from texting each other, “Big surprise, mister: FUCK YOU!” whenever we get the urge.
Postscript: my love of Alfredo eventually manifested itself into a t-shirt I designed for my own website’s store. It’s a design I retired recently, but my affection for Fred is something I’ll never call it quits on.