Silence of the Lambs 30 Year Anniversary Celebrated in Hollywood Museum’s Dungeon of Doom!

President & Founder of The Hollywood Museum welcomes guests and media; Photo by Milestone Photo, Courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

The Hollywood Museum was guarded soundly, but trepidatiously on the night of October 21st as Hollywood Museum Founder and President Donelle Dadigan and her staff prepped for a night of fun, frightful festivity, and fava bean eating!  As demigod and gatekeeper of Gozul (aka Zuul) sat balled up on his beefy haunches adorning the rear trunk of the Ectomobile, parked on the sidewalk in front of the elegant double doors of the Old Max Factor Building, the likes of Anson Williams, Judy Tenuta, and Ruta Lee all sauntered by sans exhibiting a scream, howl, or shudder…

NON-invited-Celebs, passersby (and the occasional invited reporter) on the other hand, bristled at the menacing beast as a canned version of Ray Parker Jr. sang the praises of its arch nemeses in the forms of Venkman, Spengler, Zeddemore and Stantz! “Ghostbusters”!!!

All this, put forth, in celebration of the 30 year anniversary of Silence of the Lambs, under the grimly cloaked umbrella of Ninety years of Monsters, Mummies and Mayhem as a means of honoring the thinning of the universally spiritual veil, all the while ushering in the near post-pandemic Halloween season!

Hosted by Hollywood Museum President and Founder Donelle Dadigan, the ceremony commenced in a lesser traversed portion of the exhibit space:  The bowels, of the building, (and ironically the only level bereft of a bathroom – perhaps one of its most chilling attributes at the outset) otherwise known as The Dungeon of Doom!

The Ecto1 Mobile from The original Ghostbusters film on display outside The Hollywood Museum; Photo by Milestone Photo, Courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

Featuring none other than the actual and entire jail cell set from Silence of the Lambs, to speak nothing of original costumes and props, this former make-up -building-basement-turned-den-of-dread was the perfect jumping off point to start negotiations with all manner of ghosts, goblins, monsters, mummies and psychotic killers, all the while commemorating their cinematic existence just two weeks shy of Dia de Los Muertos!

A far scream-yet short lunge– from its 60 year predecessors: Namely, 1931’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein (based on the highly acclaimed Mary Shelley novel), it wasn’t until 1991 that any film in the history of horror would garner the notable number of Academy Awards as the lauded Silence of the Lambs. Best known for, not only its allusion to gore, but its steadfast adherence to suspense, the early 90s horror thriller, based on the Thomas Harris novel, would go on to win Best Director for Jonathan Demme, best actor bestowed to Sir Anthony Hopkins, best Actress for Jody Foster, and best writing/screenplay by Ted Tally.

According to noted horror film director/producer Bill Lustig: “[Horror] was [formerly] a disreputable genre. But as soon as the movies started making tens of millions of dollars at the box office in the 80s…from 1980 ’til  now, it’s now/finally become reputable… It’s now got a museum in Hollywood dedicated to it!”

Original Jail Cell Set of “The Silence of the Lambs”; Photo by Milestone Photo, Courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

Since the jail cell of the original cinematically portrayed Hannibal Lecter has been put in place in the Max Factor building basement, legend has it, there have been many a request to spend the night in the serial killer’s cell, but, curiously, no actualized follow through… Irrespective of fawning fans’ unrealized bravado, the Silence of the Lambs jail cell, to this day, is the centerpiece of which everyone comes to partake!

Adjacent on display, alongside the above piece de resistance:  Dracula, Frankenstein and his Bride, including authentic costumes of thrilling threesome — but not like that, (as too many injuries would be sure to ensue, un-kissable masks and appendages notwithstanding, blech!) Freddy of Nightmare on Elm Street fame, Jason from Friday the 13th, and Michael from Halloween, to speak nothing of Pennywise (a make-up fiend like no other) from It and It Chapter 2, Annabelle of The Conjuring, and Chucky and his Bride. Noted celebrity costumes encompass those by Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen in Sweeney Todd, as well as those of The Walking Dead, Underworld, Van Helsing, Blair Witch Project, right alongside the classics Frankenstein, Dracula, Vampira and Elvira, to speak nothing of the animatronic dog (aka The Beast) from The Sandlot, The Werewolf head from The Howling, along with the death masks of Vincent Price, Bella Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, and Peter Lorre and if we continued listing everything else on display in the Dungeon of the Hollywood Museum, we would all be sure to do so until just nigh of meeting the Crypt Keeper himself!

Meantime, the Ecto-Mobile — referenced at the beginning of this article – (the vehicle that failed to intimadate Anson Williams, the founder of Judy-ism, and Ruta Lee as they blithely sauntered past) served not only as a welcoming fixture on the night in question, but a precursor, a portent, an omen (if you will) of things to come in the form of the Impending Ghostbusters: Hollywood Museum Exhibit opening On Nov 4th!!!

Though haunting and ominous, an air of actualized optimism filled the air as Dadigan welcomed all back to the Hollywood Museum celebrating not only its noted, continued existence, but certain projects in which staff partook during the 18th month societal slow down: “We used the past 18 months of the Covid lockdown constructively… I’m proud to announce that the museum’s ventilation and filtration system has been upgraded, and is now outfitted [hospital grade] to kill up to 99% mold, germs, and viruses… We are so happy to, once again, be able to welcome our fans from the U.S., and very soon, worldwide, back to the Hollywood Museum. Our priority is the safety of the public and to ensure everyone the best experience [as you enter the museum].”

And who wouldn’t want to celebrate the vibrancy of pre-pandemic existence as usual, by delighting in all things morbid, by way of rendering oneself capable of reaching out and touching the selfsame chair in which Clarisse Starling virtually feared for her life!

“This is actually Dr. Clarisse Starling’s folding chair that she sat in, in Silence of the Lambs,” Donelle Dadigan confessed from behind the lectern, atop an apple crate at the ceremony’s commencement. “And what’s cool about this chair,” she continued, “is that it was [lined up with] Anthony Hopkins’ [vantage point. He’s] not that much taller than us… They had to make Jody very vulnerable, and small, so that when the camera panned, Hollywood-style… All of a sudden, Anthony Hopkins — Dr. Hannibal Lecter — who was standing on an apple crate, looked even taller, looked much more menacing…”

Ah yes, such were the scenes from present-past begging to be re-enacted in said Dungeon of Doom “in what once was a bowling alley and speakeasy during prohibition days,” declared Dadigan, briskly specifying that “the bowling alley was [right where the buffet was]!”

Related fare aptly offered at said buffet:  Pasta the shape of spleens (or liver to be more coincidentally precise), meatballs the shape of uh… severed heads (particularly that of Charlie Brown in all their non-flattened earth approximate glory) and to top it all off, la plat du jour: Fava Beans!!!  (The LA Beat could not bear to divine whether or not the bar was also slinging Chianti!)

On the upside, despite the multi-faceted, murderous things that can potentially be done with food, eating and drinking are surprisingly not verboten in the cinematic world of horror. There is, however, one sensual, and about 4 sensible rules in avoiding any kind of morbid misfortune according to Dadigan who quoted the 5 cardinal rules of the genre:

“1.) Don’t ever leave the group, 2.) Don’t have sex 3.) Make sure the bad guy’s dead…and 4.) Don’t back up into a corner, and 5.) Don’t turn out the lights.”

Actor Conner Dean as Freddy with exhibit featuring original costume; Photo byMilestone Photo, Courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

“Many people have asked, how did we get these jail cells?” Intoned Dadigan, priming us for the answer to the question that was undoubtedly on all our minds. “How did they get here from the movie Silence of the Lambs?… Well, many years ago, as a real estate professional, my clients were Martha and Dino De Laurentiis who were involved with Silence of the Lambs in a very small way… [as] producers of the film franchise. After we purchased the Max Factor building for use as an entertainment museum, the DeLaurentises said, ‘We have something very special for your museum, and it will be perfect for the lower level.’

“Innocently I asked Mr. De Laurentiis, ‘What is it?’”

“And he responded, ‘Why, the jail cell of course!’”

“Well Steve [Nycklemoe – Director of Operations and Curator]… and eight carpenters got to work and built this jail cell. When the De Laurentiises came to see our baby – or their baby I should say – they walked hand in hand through the jail cell corridor, smiling all the way, and said they knew this was the correct home for the jail cell… They really enjoyed what we had done… And did you know that the Academy winning actor Anthony Hopkins is quite an artist, and that the pencil etchings that are…[down] here are actually drawn by Anthony Hopkins Himself?…  I remember he came with his mom after he received his star on the Walk of Fame. They enjoyed seeing that his artwork had been saved, and here it is!”

Lightening up the frightful vibe just a bit, self-proclaimed ‘Goddess of Gratitude’ Judy Tenuta was all but glam and self-actualization in her delivery: “I am Joody and I have my own religion, Judy-ism and [in] my religion there is no wall, there is no ban, and whether you are woman, man or trans, I will bake your wedding cake, and then I’ll jump out of it!”

Waxing sentimental in only the most touching, upbeat manner, the founder of Judy-ism gave nod to that which was still in the back of everyone’s minds, pending the challenges of the last 18 months, as she choked up slightly, then bounced back in all customary comicality: “Miss Ruta Lee has been so kind to me I have to say. I don’t know how many of you know… We’ve both had our challenges during this horrible pandemic. I just love coming here to the museum ‘cause it’s a home away from home for me, and it’s so great to see all your faces. And I’m really celebrating because I have been — I don’t know how many of you know – kicking-cancer’s-ass!!! I’m kicking cancer’s ass! …and thank you Ruta because really, I love you, and, also, if you marry me, you will be Ruta Tenuta!!!”

Dadigan described one of the night’s most fitting guests as, “a longtime friend of the Hollywood Museum [and] our favorite Queen of Scream Dee Wallace!” While the LA Beat thinks superlatively of Ms. Wallace as Movie Mom Extraordinaire, said descriptive nomenclature was not absent from all horror-related wisdom imparted by E.T.’s Mom and Cujo’s Child Protector on the night in question:

“When my daughter was little, she loved all the Disney movies. But her favorite was The Little Mermaid… She would say “Mommy, Lady get big part, lady get big part!” Remember Ursula? [The scary sea witch character?] In every Disney movie we watched [she wanted to watch the same scary scenes.] So, I got a little concerned about this as a mom. So, I did a little research, and, to my great surprise, Disney did that on purpose. Because they found children loved to work through their horror, and their fear in a safe place with mommy and daddy. Well, we’re all doing the same thing. I want you to know that all of us in the horror industry are really in the public service, [pertaining to mental health issues and]… You can google all this on your computer. When you watch a good horror film… Um, I couldn’t believe it, so I wrote it down: Your immune system is strengthened. Your DNA is strengthened. You women, you burn about 200 calories watching a horror film. I’m gonna go home and binge. It improves your brain activity. It releases stress and anxiety, because after you do the big [scream] then you do the big [sigh]. And it decreases depression. Who knew? Yeah. Google it. Yeah.”

“[But] Honestly…doing Cujo, I can’t relate to any of these, just about killed me that film. But when I watch Silence of the Lambs, I feel wrung out, at the end. I feel absolutely like I’ve used everything in me to watch and experience that movie. And so, I understand it. I understand what the research is saying from that perspective. But I never realized, I was serving my fellow mankind so thoroughly in doing all these horror films. I have to tell you, I’m proud to be a Scream Queen… But horror fans are some of the best fans in the world… They love you unconditionally. They support you forever. I’m so, so pleased that the museum is coming forward to honor all the great artists that have participated in this genre!”

Actor and Director Anson Williams with Jason (Friday the 13th); Photo by Milestone Photo, Courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

Other celebrities in attendance (both in speaking and visiting capacity): George Chakiris, Carolyn Hennesy, Hank Garrett, Elaine Ballace, Bruce Vilanch, Diana Lansleen, Tracy Weisert, Geoffrey Mark, Ray Proscia, Alice Amter, Kate Linder, Tyrone DuBose, and the D’Ambrosio Twins: Bianca and Chiara.

When asked his favorite movie, or moment in horror history, Anson Williams had a rather interesting response: “My favorite — well my favorite… I can’t say it’s my favorite moment in a horror movie. It’s the scariest moment in a horror movie. I was like 9 years old, and my parents thought I was maybe old enough to babysit myself. And uh, Frankenstein was on Channel 9. And I’m watching Frankenstein and scared the Hell outta myself!!! And I called my best friend’s father who came down to like, assure me that Frankenstein wasn’t in the house! And I’ll never forget that — I was SCARED! And you know something? I have not watched the film since. I have not watched the film since… And decades later…I’m actually (through laughter) getting up the courage to watch this movie again…”

(On a related note, be looking for the LA Beat’s Live Action Exclusive of Anson Williams watching Frankenstein a second time—as if–for the first time ever!!!)

“I’ve never been in a horror film,” confessed Ruta Lee. “Closest thing to it was a Twilight Zone and that was a favorite moment [in horror] without a doubt… I got to play this nasty, little sexy bitch, and bitches are much more fun to play than good girls… It’s called, A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain. Look for it! …My favorite [movie]: Silence of the Lambs …That had me on the edge of my seat all the time and I loved it!”

Slinky, voluptuous Alice Amter (aka Mrs. Koothrapali of The Big Bang Theory fame) dressed as Puss n’ Boots – resembled a pirate and a pussycat all in one, with a little bit of Carmen San Diego on the side! Moreover, and speaking of exclusives, this event in itself was a first of sorts: “I never dress up for Halloween ’cause I figure I do it for a living all the time. My first gig in L.A. was playing…Vampira (cinematic costume also featured in the Hollywood Museum display) — Plan 9 from Outer space. You can find it in an old L.A. Weekly or Dramalogue review. [Reviewers] said, ‘Alice Amter who looks more like Sophia Loren than Vampira, slinks around as Vampira. And it was a hit [L.A. stage] show, so yeah. if that would come my way again that would be great… Burt Ward came to see that show [and] told me …’Oh you remind me of Elvira. Only you’re better ’cause her hair isn’t real!’ I mean, it’s real but it isn’t that color. And then I did all the Morticia Addams movie promotions in Japan before I even got to L.A. with Christopher Lloyd…on their Number one television show in Japan. So I have a history with these kinds of women…vampy, sexy women. Don’t let my Meryl Streep kind of character work fool you… But I’m kind of getting, I hate to say, tired of that but you know…”

Admitting that Vampira was naturally her favorite, she continued: “…But it was a musical so it was lots of singing and it was a stage musical version of Plan 9 from Outerspace… If I did a film [version] of it that would be cool.  And I’ve basically avoided the horror… [Aside from the time] I played in Penance, a low budget horror film. I was a prison warden, a French prison warden with Graham McTavish. I was, like, his hench woman. I tortured strippers. But I don’t know… I think horrors’ really hard to get right. but when you do get it right O-M-G!!! You know?!?”

O-M-G, and we DO know!!! And what better way to describe the perfection that is, was, and always will be the cinematic genius of Silence of the Lambs, to speak nothing of the polished and well put together collection that resides in The Hollywood Museum’s Dungeon of Doom!

All, in all, a night of Intensity, expectancy, and amazingness as the Hollywood Museum pulled off another timely event!

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Jennifer K. Hugus

About Jennifer K. Hugus

Jennifer K. Hugus was born at a very young age. At an even earlier age, she just knew she would one day write for the LA Beat! Having grown up in Massachusetts, France, and Denmark, she is a noted fan of Asian Cuisine. She studied ballet at the Royal Danish Ballet Theatre and acting at U.S.C. in their prestigious BFA drama program. She also makes her own jewelry out of paints and canvas when she isn’t working on writing absurdist plays and comparatively mainstream screenplays. Jennifer would like to be a KID when she grows up!
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