I set out with my Polaroid camera to photograph and interview disappearing Hollywood—the directors, actors, special effects artists, producers, even composers, who’ve had great influence but have since fallen under the radar. This is a record and a reminder of the true soul of the movies.
Andy Sidaris directed a series of action films with a cast of Playboy Playmates and Penthouse Pets. To complement their idyllic bodies, he gave them machine guns and bazookas and told them they could be as forceful and agile as any male action hero. If you think about it, there isn’t much difference between casting Dona Speir or Arnold Schwarzenegger in an action film, aside from gender.
The women in Andy Sidaris films go around Molokai Island by either two-seater jet or jeep. They partake in melee combat as well as a full array of ranged attacks, and when they’re done kicking serious ass they hit the jacuzzi. So what if they show their tits, they have remarkable breasts. For me it’s like watching my Barbie dolls live a life far beyond the clutches of Ken. An Andy Sidaris movie tells me an ideal woman has a perfect body, but she can also fight to the death with a toxic mutant snake.
Andy Sidaris made these films so people could have a blast in a virtual reality of Hawaii. If it weren’t for his passing in 2007 from throat cancer, he’d still be putting out a movie a year. In his biography Bullets, Bombs, and Babes Andy Sidaris says, “The smartest thing I ever did was to marry Arlene Sidaris. She is my producer and the love of my life.”
Arlene Sidaris was a producer in her own right before she met Andy, producing the Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys Mysteries, a primetime network television show. I was excited to meet her because I was yet to meet a female producer who worked in the Golden Age of Action. From 1985 to 1998 Arlene Sidaris produced eleven of her husband’s films. What a badass.
VICE: Of all the jobs in the movie industry, why did you want to be a producer?
Arlene Sidaris: I like putting things together, I like trimming budgets, I like figuring out how to get something done, I like all of it. Period.
It’s a very powerful position on set. How many women were producing in 1978?
Not that many. In fact, I don’t know any other women who were producing one-hour action.
It’s not that easy for women working in production these days. I can’t imagine what it was like in 1978. There was no path cleared before you. How did you do it?
My friend Joyce Brotman and I had been working together to develop an idea for a television show. The two of us met and learned the ropes while working as assistants to the producers on a number of live comedy and variety shows. We wanted to produce our own show so we came up with a pitch and bought the rights to the Hardy Boys with our own money. I was too naïve to know that you don’t do that. We brought it in to a big-time television producer who had a number of series on the air at the time. He was very prolific and very experienced. He loved our idea but he said, “What do I need you for?” I said, “Well, we’re a part of the deal.” He laughed, and I said, ”Goodbye!” Sure enough he could have gotten it on the air, but this was a project we developed and wanted to produce.
Wow! That took some serious courage saying that to someone so powerful. Good for you!
When I look back at all those steps along the way, it took some nerve but I didn’t think of it that way. I just didn’t want to bend to that philosophy.
Do you think that is why you were drawn to producing B-movies, because they are usually owned and operated by their creators?
Absolutely! Andy and I self-financed all of our films and only answered to each other. Andy was certainly A-list as the recipient of 14 Emmy Awards for his work as a live director for ABC Sports and I had my share of mainstream Hollywood as the producer of several network television series. Our films have attracted the loyalty of cult film fans over the years and continue to attract fans. Nothing beats that. Plus, it meant we could do whatever we wanted.
While you and Andy were making those movies, did you ever feel like you were outside of Hollywood, like you had to earn your way into the A-list?
We loved being B, as independent as we were. You gotta remember, this was our own money. We didn’t have to go to anyone else for approval. Our movies did well and we made money. Not as much as someone like James Cameron, but we said, “It’s enough. I’m going to enjoy this.” And we didn’t have to talk to anyone but each other. We had done enough of the shirt-and-collar world.
What genre do you consider the films?
Warner Brothers markets our films as "James Bond meets Baywatch."
What would you think when Andy would come to you with an idea like the bladed Frisbee?
I would tell him it was silly and then he would say, “Hold it right there!” and then go ahead and do it. All those funny ideas are his. He was a very charismatic and hilarious person.
Were you ever afraid of Andy working with so many beautiful women?
Once Andy admitted that because Roberta Vasquez was so beautiful he would forget to call cut. She really is that beautiful. I was confident about our relationship. What I want to know is why no one ever asks me about working with so many gorgeous men!
Previously - Off Hollywood - Kane Hodder