Rustling Up The Menfolk: A Conversation With Jan Jensen

Photos courtesy Alamo Drafthouse and HLK Photos.

I walked into the Austin-Bergstrom airport with my VHS copy of The Last Slumber Party. I’m pretty sure that this is the first time that sentence has been written.

A few minutes later, I recognized the person that I was meeting and held up the tape.

It was Jan Jensen aka Chris from The Last Slumber Party. She threw her arms in the air and started laughing. Then I got a hug. From Jan. From Chris.

Life is good.

The Last Slumber Party isn’t a “movie” in the typical sense. It’s more of a gift of life, one that’s wrapped in exquisite non-professionalism, inexplicable madness, and a song called “Just A Nightmare” by skid-row metalheads Firstryke. Watching this movie is like making an agreement with your body to forever reject anything that is not this movie. See the killer’s scalpel constantly misfire fake blood! Hear revolutionary new slang terms such as, “Rustle up the menfolk!” Bear witness to shower scenes with no nudity, sequences lifted directly from Halloween, and no less than three endings!! And then there is Chris. Played with mucho-gusto by Jan Jensen, Chris is the foul-mouthed, sex-crazed Final Girl whose actions will forever leave an imprint of happiness on our collective souls.

Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey was originally supposed to contain one interview. It would have been a surprise at the end of the book with the person who served as a guiding light for our aesthetic. That person was Jan. I couldn’t find her, so the interview didn’t happen. That never stopped me. I’d spend the next five years searching for Jan when I had a spare minute. It became a routine, like reading comics during breakfast or searching for tapes online while making dinner.

In 2013, I moved to Austin, Texas from Los Angeles for a job at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Again, life is good. I inherited the honor of programming and hosting Terror Tuesday from Zack. Terror Tuesday is a weekly 35mm horror series that happens at our downtown Ritz location. When I started, I made a list of fifty dream shows that needed to become a reality. The number one show on the list was “The Last Slumber Party with Jan Jensen in person.”

Three years later, a Terror Tuesday was falling on my birthday — May 3. I knew what had to happen. After three weeks of intense searching and many false leads, I found Jan through a blog that was written by one of her old co-workers.

When you invite a guest to a screening, you never know what you’re going to get. They might be pretentious. They might be racist. They might be a shitbag dirty old man who says, “Did you see that piece of ass walk by? I’d like to see those tits pop right out of that shirt!” True story.

Jan Jensen was the nicest, smartest, most inspiring guest I’ve ever met. She overflows with a love of life. Jan is quick and hilarious, and has the kind of welcoming personality that makes you want to hang out and eat pancakes with her — which we did. Taking a roadtrip with Jan would be the best.

On May 3, 2016, The Last Slumber Party screened to a sold-out crowd at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz with Jan Jensen in person. What follows is a transcription of the Q&A between Jan and myself after the screening of the movie on VHS.

I still can’t believe this happened. And I’ll never forget it.

In Chris’s words: “LET’S MUNCH OUT!!”

JZ: When this movie is unfolding before people, there’s a preconception that there were a lot of drugs going into it — because it’s so much fun! Was this a party set?

JJ: You know, amazingly — no! Not at all. It was filmed in New Orleans, which is party city. But we were filming in the home of a friend of the director’s father. The family was often upstairs when we were downstairs, and vice versa. So we had to be very considerate of that. I’m not saying that we didn’t go out afterwards. But not in the house.

JZ: You would think that Stephen Tyler would be into some heavy duty stuff.

JJ: Doesn’t it make you think that if it had been a big party set, that the movie might make sense? Because this is the SOBER Stepher Tyler movie!

JZ: I don’t think I could even handle that. So your dialogue in this movie is incredible — the best.

JJ: [Laughs] It’s like the poetry of Tennessee Williams with the wisdom of Oscar Wilde.

JZ: How much of that was you? And was this script written down on a piece of paper somewhere?

JJ: I wish I could take even a little credit for “Let’s rustle up the menfolk!” or “I need a fucking valium!” But I can’t. Those exact words I said were actually typed in a script on a typewriter. It’s an honor.

JZ: I can’t believe that he had the scene with the telephones in the bathroom written down. And he has you go in the bathroom and say, “Stereo telephones?!” What?

JJ: I wish I could take credit for that.

JZ: So how long were you filming The Last Slumber Party?

JJ: We actually filmed in 1984, hence the Bee Gees and Xanadu posters. He sold it in 1988. The house was in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans. I think we shot for about two weeks. But the family finally said, enough is enough, get out of our home! We had day jobs, so we were going there in the evenings and filming all night. And then, a few months later, we spent three days filming the various endings. Those were not written down. Stephen just said, “Okay, now go out in the pool and do this. Now act surprised a lot.” We were hurrying.

JZ: So some of the movie was made up as you went along. You’d never know it.

JJ: [Laughs] I know, I know!

JZ: Pretty much everyone involved in this project made one movie, and that was it. What brought you to The Last Slumber Party?

JJ: The explanation on why we didn’t make another movie is pretty clear. [Laughs]

JZ: No! The reason why is because you could never top it!

JJ: [Laughs] I came to the movie later, after it was cast. And I remembered why when we were watching it. Because the blonde who plays the nurse, who’s out on the bench — she was the original Chris. But she decided to go on a vacation. So a friend of Dorothy Steinicke, the assistant director, knew me through another friend. I met Stephen Tyler and it was so much fun, so he cast me in the movie.

JZ: Were people asking about Stephen Tyler’s name? In 1984, Aerosmith was a pretty big deal. That’s why we’ve never been able to find him.

JJ: I wish you could find him! Wouldn’t it be great if we were here tonight and then suddenly in the back row, a guy with a scalpel popped up and it was him?! Stephen took his work very seriously. He was very sensitive about having any fun with the movie at the time. This was his auteur moment.

JZ: We were talking over dinner about a certain director that was his biggest influence for this movie. Who was that director?

JJ: HITCHCOCK.

[Crowd goes wild]

JJ: Its been many years, so hopefully he has developed somewhat of a sense of humor and fun about it. I wouldn’t guarantee it.

JZ: [Laughs] You’ve been a drama teacher for a long time. What happens when you’re at school and someone finds out about The Last Slumber Party?

JJ: The most fun experience I ever had with it was one some of my students — boys — stopped me in the hall. They said, “Ms. Jensen! We like to go to Blockbuster Video and just find horror movies to rent.” And then they walked right up to me and whispered, “We saw The Last Slumber Party.” [Laughs] And drama students are the grooviest people around. So we had an enormous laugh. But I was very grateful that I did not do a total nude scene. Somehow, the heavens smiled on me and said, don’t show your breasts because you’ll be teaching sixteen year old boys!

JZ: What does your family think about the movie?

JJ: Thrilled. Ecstatic. I have a daughter who is finishing her freshman year of college and she was just sending me the greatest text messages today. Such fun. And thanks to you, I now have a DVD copy to take home and we can watch it together for the first time.

JZ: You mentioned that you had only seen this movie a handful of times over the years. What’s it like to sit in a theater and watch it?

JJ: For me, watching the movie is like looking at a beautiful scrapbook and experiencing the joy of creating it all over again. It was Stephen Tyler’s dream to make this movie. And we had a marvelous time. It just makes me as happy as can be. It makes me want to say to people, create! Do stuff! Go to somebody’s house and start filming! That’s what it’s all about.

JZ: Now we’re going to open it up to the audience. Who has a question for Jan?

Audience: It seems that some parts of the movie were shot on film and other parts maybe were not? What happened with that?

JJ: I’m glad you asked me that. That’s true. We were always running out of money and film stock and places to film. The endings were filmed later than the other parts of the movie, that was the reason why the film quality was different. Also, the folks that bought the movie from Stephen put in that still shot of a clock and several things that we didn’t shoot. So I think that adds to the incongruity as well.

JZ: The movie was actually sold in Japan before it was sold in the U.S. So it wasn’t actually finished when that happened. All of the Firstryke music and the scene with Forever Evil on TV — that was added by the Japanese producers. So this movie was actually finished by people in Japan who had no idea what they were getting into.

JJ: Also, the Dr. Sickler swallowing was added. When he was drinking that juice — did you all notice that?! GUUULP!

JZ: Speaking of Dr. Sickler, the other interesting thing you mentioned is that Dr. Sickler’s daughter in the movie, Linda — in real life, they were married! So weird.

Audience: When you were filming the movie, did you ever have any “What the fuck are you doing, Stephen?!” moments?

JJ: NO. [Laughs] You know when you wake up in the middle of the night and think, I’ve got that idea for my screenplay at last! You scribble it down. Then you get to come back and see it twenty-something years later and you go, dang! I don’t know what that was! We just figured that Stephen knew how to put it together.

JZ: Like Hitchcock.

Audience: Was the opening scene at the school filmed in a real school?

JJ: It was! And the gentleman who played the teacher was an English teacher at that high school!

JZ: Whoa, what?! THAT GUY WAS A REAL TEACHER?!

JJ: Yes! And that part of the script was ad-libbed.

Audience: Did you want to talk about why your reaction wasn’t bigger when finding out that all of your friends are dead in the movie?

JJ: I wish I had been that wise. You know, I look like I just dropped a penny.

[Crowd goes wild.]

JJ: But I had mostly done theater, so I didn’t want to be “too big.” So I guess that’s subtle acting. Also, did you guys notice when I fall down the stairs after I’d been stabbed? I look like I just sort of twisted my back too far. But I could still run! And of course it was all a dream . . . or was it?

JZ: I’ve seen the movie nine times and I still can’t tell.

Audience member: What about the jersey?

JJ: Oh the jersey I wore! I was talking to Joe today, trying to figure out why I don’t still have that jersey. Because it was the director’s jersey! And he took it back when we were finished. That was Fran Tarkington’s number from the Vikings.

JZ: I really can’t thank you enough for coming out for this screening. I know it was hard for you to get away from work, and it just meant the world to us to have you here.

JJ: I just want to say thank you. This is like my birthday and Christmas and Arbor Day and Labor Day all rolled into one. It has been incredibly fun. One of the things in the emails with Joe, I remember saying to him right away, “You do have a sense of fun about this, right?” And then when I saw the description that Joe had written on the Alamo site — have you all seen that? Isn’t it the best?! As soon as I read that, I said to my husband, “Oh these are my people! This is gonna be fine.” It has been such a pleasure. Thank you so very much for giving this gift to me.

Check out a ton of high-res photos from the show!