Off Hollywood - Dean Cameron
May 29 2012
Summer School (1987), Rockula (1990), Men At Work (1990), Ski School (1991), Hollywood Palms (2001)
Dean Cameron was relatively new to showbiz when he was cast in the 1987 comedy Summer School. Of all the rebellious flunkies forced to attend Summer School, his character “Chainsaw—as in Texas Massacre” poised Dean Cameron to become one the era’s most lovable goofballs. By the nineties he sealed the deal by taking the party animal character to new heights in the role of Dave Marshak in Ski School. While the 80s had seen a fair share of meathead jocks standing on kegs, Dean Cameron presented an alternative to the jock party animal—a dude you would actually want to hang out with and someone just nerdy enough to scream “Let’s get naked!” as he slides on his knees across the dance floor.
VICE: When you’re out walking around, which of your roles are you most recognized for?
It depends on the demographic. For college-age people it's Ski School or Summer School. Older folks: Men at Work. Little kids or deep hipsters: Rockula. Film fanatics: Sleep With Me, Kicking and Screaming, Hollywood Palms. But Summer School is pretty much the baseline.
I remember a friend of mine bragging to me that his brother “knew the guy who played Chainsaw in Summer School.” Was there a specific time in your career that you could feel you were becoming famous?
I’m still waiting for that.
I’m also a huge fan of Rockula. How did you become involved with that film?
You have great taste! I loved the script and I wanted to carry a movie. I was sorta hot off of Summer School at that point. I met with the director and producer of photography and talked about Cheap Trick and guitars and vintage amps and they made an offer. It was the first job I got without having to audition. I like those kinds of jobs.
When Twilight came out, did you tell people you were the original virgin vampire?
Do you have a great on-set story about Rockula?
I got Bo Diddley to record an outgoing message for my answering machine. "Hi, this is Bo Diddley. Dean ain't home now. Leave a message." It was during the very P.C. 80s, so when I had it as my outgoing message, people thought it was me being racist, so I erased it.
The Movie Channel used to run an on-air promo for Ski School claiming that you are the sole reason to watch the film, “because women love him and men want to party with him or destroy him.” So tell me, how did you prepare to play Dave Marshak?
Not to get too deep, but I based Dave on Bugs Bunny. I think that's the appeal. The part where I kiss my enemy on the lips at the end: pure Bugs Bunny.
You got your start in showbiz by going to an acting summer camp?
I spent summers with my dad in Santa Barbara. They had a great summer theater program, Youth Theater. It wasn't really a camp. It was a program that the city ran. They would do two musicals each summer along with a workshop a few days a week. I made lifelong friends in Youth Theater and it's directly to blame for my time in Hollywood.
What other actors were you in Youth Theater with?
Kathleen Wilhoite, William Calvert, James Calvert, Michael Sharrett, Anthony Edwards, Eric Stoltz, Robert DeLapp, Andy Lerner.
You played Jeff Spicoli in the Fast Times television show. Did having to play a role someone else made famous affect your performance in any way?
It was the job no one wanted (myself included) because it was an enormous pair of checkered Vans to fill. Obviously there was mimicry, but I had to figure out a way to keep it from just doing a Spicoli impression. It put me "on the map" in "Hollywood" because everyone wanted to know who the poor sap who got the Spicoli gig was. It was instrumental in my getting the part in Summer School, as well.
I'm really glad I did the part. I had a great time and everyone was really cool and fun. I was roommates with Eric Stoltz when he was doing the movie and "Jeff" used to call the house. So there was a weird full circle thing going on.
On a recent episode of Psych, a crime show about the Santa Barbara Police Department, they solve a crime by the airtime of a double feature of Ski School and Summer School. Over the course of the episode, the cast admits their love for you as an actor. Where do you see your significance in Hollywood?
I don't really see any significance other than I'm another statistic. I saw the episode after people told me about it. It's difficult to tell if they are genuine or if it's a Coreyoke-esque homage.
Oh yes, what’s the deal with your live karaoke band Coreyoke?
It began as a karaoke band doing only 80s tunes. Darren Leader, aka Stix Zadinia from Steel Panther, came up with the name.
Do you have any affection for Corey Feldman, Corey Haim, and fellow Canadian Corey Hart?
They were great before the drugs and the hype. It's a shame what happened. I couldn't watch all of Lucas because it was so heartbreaking. He was so fucking good. I'm actually Corey Hamm. Thank some very litigious attorneys for that.
For the past two years you have been working on an experimental stage play based on your correspondence with a 419 Scammer. How is the play structured?
The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam is a reading of the correspondence from two computers with photos that were sent, plus various email snippets projected on a screen behind us. There is a horrible show called Love Letters. The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam is similar to that, except it's not horrible and it's wildly funny.
What is in the future for Dean Cameron?
I keep dipping my foot into the shark-infested showbiz waters and losing toes. I need to figure out if I'm really out of the business or not. I'm not sure.
I've been making a living as a front-end web developer for the past decade…. working for companies exactly like LegalZoom, CyberDefender, TicketMaster, etc. I like that the amount of effort invested is equal to the result returned. It's completely different than showbiz.
And I've been working on that screenplay for the Nigerian Spam Scam Scam. It's difficult—at its core, it's two people who don't exist reading email. Not so cinematic. I've asked myself, "What would Charlie Kaufman do?" and approached it that way, but… I'm not as good a writer as Charlie Kaufman. Oh. I've asked for a million dollars to do a cameo in the Summer School remake. So… if they actually make the movie this time and I'm in it, know that I got a sweet, sweet, sweet check, but please, don't ask to borrow money from me.
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