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Friday’s last Trash Film Orgy screening at the Crest Theatre

After 14 years of successfully entertaining late night movie goers, the locally produced Trash Film Orgy (TFO) film festival series is ending its run at the Crest Theatre. It may well be back at another venue, but TFO is directly connected to the current Crest management team, who have lost their lease on the building after a 28 year run of operations, and so the Crest era of TFO is coming to a close.

But not before one last 35mm blast from the past, with a screening of “Beetlejuice” tomorrow night (Friday, October 24th) – with doors opening for the usual TFO lobby hijinks at 8pm in advance of the film starting at 9pm.

The name itself is a bit of a misnomer. “’Trash’ is just a catchy name…we actually strive to show the best of horror, exploitation and cult films on 35mm to capture the spirit of bygone theatre days when going to the movies was more of an ‘event.’ That’s why we offer live stage shows, carnival style games and so much more at our shows,” said TFO co-producer Christy Savage.

TFO co-producer and Crest Manager (and recurring TFO character “Evil Sid”) Laura “Sid” Garcia Heberger explained the 2001 genesis of the series. “It started with [local comedian] Keith Lowell Jensen asking me to do the show. He’d done Tuesday night Grindhouse at the Colonial with some success and asked if I’d take a chance with the show at the Crest. I told him I’d give him six weeks in the summer and that’s been the formula ever since.”

“TFO has been a true labor of love for all of us since we joined together with Keith Lowell Jensen and Sid in 2001 to make it a reality. We have worked really hard to create something unique and special and I believe that we really did. While we will continue to do shows elsewhere, it will never be the same as the Crest and the loss is hitting us all really hard,” Savage added. “We’ve built a family of misfits, freaks and artists that put their heart and soul into every show.”

In the interests of full disclosure, I’ve been a TFO attendee since the early days and I have executive produced two of TFO’s original feature length films – ventures that have provided another outlet for that team of “misfits, freaks, and artists.” The screenings themselves have functioned like live versions of “Mystery Science Theatre 3000,” with full audience participation consisting of snide real-time commentary of the film being screened. And I’ve witnessed confused first-time patrons complaining about people talking during the film.

“That happened a lot in the early years. We lost some patrons because of it – somebody who actually wanted to watch and appreciate the movie, however crazy that seems,” commented Heberger.

I asked for some favorite memories of TFO shows from the past. My own include several years during which I rolled out astroturf and a white picket fence and created inside “lawn seating” – something which will be revived tomorrow evening.

“I think a lot of our favorite memories from the shows are the musical numbers. We did a 20 minute musical version of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” in 2005, which was amazing. And we did “Deadside Story,” a take on “West Side Story” with zombies, in 2007,” recalled Savage.

The “Macbeth” musical was also a favorite recollection (via Facebook) of local actress, now living and working in Los Angeles, Liesel Hanson. She also cited “the summer of sumo wrasslin in the basement,” which demonstrates that there’s even more fun going on backstage than the audience gets to witness.

Each segment of the show is introduced by the TFO emcee, Mighty Tiki, a giant wooden tiki icon allegedly voiced by TFO writer and director Darin Wood (a rumor that seems believable as nobody has ever heard them speak at the same time). This was another of Hanson’s treasured memories, “Every time Tiki says “Aloha trash fans!” my damn heart lights up.”

Both Savage and Heberger recalled a night in 2006, when “Evil Sid” first sang on stage. ” But possibly my greatest personal moment was when I had my singing debut. I was on the stage as a clown. No one knew it was me on stage. When I made the big reveal the audience went nuts!” said Heberger. Unfortunately, the title of that particular pre-show extravaganza is not fit for a family friendly publication.

It’s also noteworthy that Sacramento’s TFO has also spawned a growing trend in other cities of “zombie walks” during which large numbers of participants, dressed as zombies, prowl the streets of the city. In Savage’s words, “…we’ve had prom themes, camp themes, circus, carnival, you name it. And of course…the Zombie Walks. They’ve really become their own thing in recent years and people love them.”

Some memorable moments are a little smaller in scale. Heberger described the following encounter, “I once admonished a group of people who were leaving before the conclusion of the feature. They explained that they’d already seen the film on video to which I responded that seeing it on the big screen was different. Although tired and ready to leave they complied and returned to their seats.” Evil Sid at her finest.

Nobody knows quite what will happen to TFO after the “Beetlejuice” screening, but I suspect tomorrow night will add to the collected memories and leave the audience screaming (politely of course) for more.

About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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