I had the privilege of interviewing Tim Harden, here's that interview.
For those of you who don't know, Tim is the TCM fan club president, so I took the chance to talk about one of my all time favourites.
Q1: Why the Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
When I first saw that movie when I was about 16 years old, I became an instant fan of the film. This is back when the film first came out on VHS and VHS players were the size of a suitcase. So I had never seen a "video nasty" before. I saw it in a completely dark room with the audio running through a loud and booming stereo system and there were no windows in the room to speak of. When the film ended, a friend of mine got up and raced out in the street to vomit. It left an impression on me that I'll never forget. And no other film since then has affected me like Chainsaw did.
Years later, when my wife and I moved to the Austin area, I had heard that the film was made in Austin and surrounding areas. So I really wanted to find the "Leatherface" house. I soon learned that it's location was somewhat of a myth or legend because it was only by word of mouth that I heard rumors about it still existing. Was the story true or not? Where was the house? I sent an e-mail to Gunnar Hansen back when he still had his e-mail address posted on his web site and asked him if he knew where the house was. To my surprise, he replied back but said that he didn't remember exactly where it was. So it became somewhat of a mystery that I wanted to solve to find where the house was. This was long before Google existed, in 1998. So I didn't really have any resources to answer my questions like we do today.
Q2: What made you want to dedicate so much time and money on the TCM website?
I didn't originally intend to do that. My original intention was to find the "Leatherface" house, take a few pictures, and post them on the Internet to share with the world. I had about 7 pictures I took from Quick Hill. Which, much to my chagrin, I found out later that I was just a few days late and missed the house being moved to Kingsland. Nevertheless, I posted the pics of where the house USED to be and then manually registered it on the search engine at the time called Alta-Vista.com. Come to find out, there were a ton of people out there not only wanting to know about the house, but also where the cast today was, where the other locations were, and many other questions.
This inspired me to find the other locations and eventually build a website dedicated to just the film locations from the 1974 film. I enjoyed the investigative work. Because I gained the friendship of the original cast members along the way. Most of the cast members, at that time, hadn't any contact information for each other and hadn't talked to each other in several years. So I was instrumental in getting them back in contact with each other. So at that time, I just so happened to have the time, money and resources to spend on building the web site. But it was definitely the feedback from people around the world sending me e-mail's that inspired me to go further with my research and my work. If I had not received any feedback or positive reinforcement from fans around the world, my little site with only 7 pictures on it would have died a very long time ago. And I also credit the cast and crew for being so friendly and helpful in answering my questions as well.
Q3: What is your goals with the TCM website?
My goal with it is for it to remain a repository of information about the original film and subsequent films. As the film locations change, and eventually go away forever, I feel that my site will provide a vault of information of what and how things used to be before they all go away. It will also always serve as a landing spot for people to read and understand the "real story" behind the myth about the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and to answer the very common question people ask wondering if the story is true or not.
Q4: I've got to ask, how many times have you been asked about the true story about TCM?
Hundreds and counting. Mostly via e-mail, and almost always in person when people find out about my web sites.
Q5: You've put in some serious work on keeping TCM's memory alive (I can only dream of the man hours). Do you feel it's all been worth it?
Oh, absolutely! I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be included in the DVD and Blu-Ray of the original film! How F'ing cool is that?!?! I'm so proud to be involved in "The Shocking Truth" documentary, to have a chapter in" The Seven Stories of the Saw" by Michael Felscher, to be a part of the E! True Hollywood Story on Chainsaw, and many other interviews in all forms of media. And also to be referred by the original cast members as the "go to" guy for information about the making of the film. I could have only dreamed to be good friends of the cast and crew members and to have a personal and business relationship with them. These are all things that money absolutely can not buy for a fanboy like myself. And there have been many other wonderful things that have happened as a result that either I don't remember at this very moment, or will remain a secret with me because of confidentiality with other cast and crew members of whom I have gained their trust.
Q6: How was it going from fan to friend of the cast?
I have to give 100% credit to my wife for helping me with my social skills on that one. LOL! This first happened when I was e-mailing with Gunnar Hansen in 1999 or so. At that time, Gunnar temporarily moved from his home in Maine back to Austin, Texas to take care of his mother who was sick. He rented a small apartment. This was also during the time that Exploited Video did the "Shocking Truth" documentary. His footage for that doc was filmed right outside his apartment. But at some point, during our e-mail conversations, Gunnar proposed that we meet for Mexican food at a local restaurant. The only other time I had met Gunnar was when I drove to San Antonio to see him at an appearance he made at a haunted house to sign autographs. So I couldn't believe that *THE* Gunnar Hansen wanted to have lunch with me!
After talking with my wife, we decided that I would go there first and she would join us later. And I'm so glad she did. Because I really didn't know what to talk about other than just Chainaw stuff. But yet I wanted to not just be one of the thousands of Chainsaw geeks that he's surely met over the years. The start of our lunch was nice. But predictably, tough to break the ice. But since my wife has the "gift of the gab", she arrived and was able to get a more comfortable conversation going. Which really helped us all to have a really nice time. I believe this experience definitely helped to pave the way for Gunnar and my wife and I to have a long lasting friendship until Gunnar's untimely sickness and death. And because we quickly became friends with Gunnar, the rest of the cast accepted me as a friend and business associate a lot more readily than they would have someone else for whom they had never heard of. So, in other words, since I was friends with Gunnar, I was basically friends with everyone else.
It was also truly amazing to meet Jim Siedow and his wife along with Paul Partain before they left us as well. I was so fortunate to have met them and gotten to know them. While Jim was still around, my wife and I decided to see Jim and his wife on our way to New Orleans. Marilyn Burns was in Houston as well. So we made a point of visiting them on our way to Louisiana. Jim welcomed us in his home and showed us his artwork that hung on the walls of his house. And Marilyn was selling cellular phone service at an AT&T store in Houston. We got to meet her and talk to her during her smoke break as she signed my original Bryanston poster, just like Jim did as well. So I would say that going from fanboy to being a friend of the cast is about as exciting as you think it would be! I would sometimes get phone calls from Gunnar just out of the blue, or calls from Marilyn as well. Sometimes Marilyn called just to see how we were doing and talk for no particular reason. Sometimes my wife would answer the phone and just chat with her for an hour!
Q7: What is your favorite story regarding TCM?
That's a tough one because I've heard so many stories. Most of which everyone knows by now. But one of my favorite stories is one where a huge fan had already bought all of Gunnar's 8x10s' and autographs. Then he asked Gunnar if he had something that no other Chainsaw fan had - some sort of memorabilia that no other Chainsaw fan had that he could buy from him. So Gunnar proposed that he could buy one of his monthly residual checks that he gets as a royalty from Chainsaw. I don't remember exactly how much his monthly check was for. But I'm certain it was less than $50 a month. So Gunnar sold it to him at a very high price. Then the fan turned around and had it framed to show off to his friends and family. Meanwhile, Gunnar then placed a call to the bank that issued the check and requested another copy of the check because said he lost the check.
Q8: I'm curious as to what your thoughts were on the remakes and the continued films such as the upcoming "Leatherface".
It's a double-edged sword. On one hand, these films get further and further from the original film. And, to some fans like myself, continues to sling mud at the franchise itself because most of them are so bad. But, on the other hand, the new films help bring a new generation of fans to my web sites. Such as my flagship site, www.texaschaisnawmassacre.net, and to the fan club at www.tcmfanclub.com and to my location tours site at www.texaschainsawtours.com. I have to admit that, for as bad as these films might be, they do help generate traffic to my sites which translates into revenue through advertisement on my sites to selling merchandise and memorabilia. By no means can I quit my job with the money I make. But over the span of almost 2 decades now, it's a decent chunk of change. I do spend the money to see the new films at the theater. But I'll probably only watch them once. If I hit up the right people, I can sometimes get a free copy of the film on DVD or Blu-Ray. And sometimes, I'll start getting requests for interviews because a new movie is out. And if the film gets made in the central Texas area, then I get to add more film locations to visit with my tours service at www.texaschainsawtours.com.
Q9: You've sold and continue to sell items from the film such as dirt and foundation rocks. Where did that idea come from?
We collected a ton of foundation stones and we both took pictures of the land, the rocks and of ourselves. We talked about where various parts of the house were, where some film shots were done, etc. Then I started putting them on eBay to find out what the market value of them would be along with a certificate of authenticity that Gunnar would create and sign to go along with the stone. Ever since then, we've made them available through both his web site and my web site as well as his appearances around the world. Once I realized that this wasn't such a crazy idea, it seemed only a natural progression to also add dirt from the location where the house used to be as well as asphalt of the road where Gunnar did his famous Chainsaw Dance at the end of the first film. One fan was able to explain to me why these items are sought after by Chainsaw fans by saying it's not so much the value of the item itself that I'm selling. It's the sentimentality that is tied to the film that is worth money to the fan.
Q10: Do you have any plans for the site and the store?
Not really. Just going status quo has been working for me for years now. I'm a much different person now than I was almost 20 years ago when I started my web sites. I have other outside interests, like music, playing poker, a job that I enjoy and a wife and house to keep up with. I have always wanted to overhaul my web sites because I know that they really look outdated. Thus the reason why I have smaller Facebook versions of the sites that makes it a lot easier to update rather than changing HTML code and uploading files to make changes to the sites. But this experience showed me a very long time ago that, no matter how a web site might look antiquated, it's the information you post that holds the value. I created www.texaschainsawmassacre.net back in 1998 and it still gets a lot of traffic and it's still being recognized by people around the world and taking places where I never thought I would ever be. And it's not because I have any fancy Java or flashy Flash player code going on. It's the information itself that stands the test of time and what people want the most. But again, I hope that someday I can revamp the sites and make them more visually appealing. But the information will never change.
Q11: Do you have any last words for anyone reading this?
Yes. THANK YOU for your support! It's fans like you and your positive feedback over the years that has taken me to places I never thought I would be in my entire life. The Saw truly is Family!!!