Hey-ho, let’s go! The Artist Previously Known
As Kate Rambeau – Riff Randall’s sexy science nerd buddy, natch – talks
Ramones, Riff, and more.
BY RON HART
There is no denying
the sheer trashy brilliance of B-movie mogul Roger Corman’s 1979 teen film
parody Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.
Directed by cult
film director Allan Arkush (in clearly his finest moment in celluloid,
considering he would go on to helm such Hollywood pabulum as 1981’s big-budget
napalm bomb Heartbeeps and 1988’s
unwatchable Caddyshack II), who
originally prepped the film as Disco High to go with the times of the late seventies dance trend before co-collaborator
and future Gremlins director Joe
Dante stepped in to set him straight, RnRHS centers around the happenings going down at Vince Lombardi High in 1980. As the
story goes, various principals are continuously being sent to the psychiatric
ward because they can’t seem to get control of the unruly, rebellious student
body, led by No. 1 Ramones fan Riff Randall (portrayed by a very adult-looking PJ
Soles, who was nearing 30 at the time of the movie’s theatrical release).
That is, of course,
until the school hires fascist disciplinarian Miss Togar (deliciously played with
maximum camp by former Warhol superstar Mary Woronov) as the new school
principal, and she and her two lackey hall monitors do everything in their
power to keep rock music out of the school and prevent Riff from meeting her
heroes The Ramones (and in turn getting the song she wrote specifically for
them in the hands of lead singer Joey Ramone).
But in pure punk fashion, the band and the student body team up to
overtake Togar’s gulag regime with (literally) explosive results. And there is
nothing more joyful than watching the orgiastic glory of this film – a
zeitgeist combination of ‘50s juvenile delinquent shock films, Zabriskie Point, Grease and The Ramones’
legendary residencies at CBGB – that has since become as ubiquitous a flagpost
of late ‘70s teen culture as The
Blackboard Jungle was for the Eisenhower era.
In conjunction with
the film’s recently passed 30th anniversary, Shout! Factory has
released a special edition of Rock ‘n’
Roll High School on both DVD and Blu-Ray loaded with a ton of goodies,
including an interview with producer Corman conducted by popular American film
critic Leonard Maltin and new featurettes with appearances by Arkush, Dante,
Soles, surviving band member Marky Ramone and co-star Vincent Van Patten
(sadly, the great Clint Howard, who played Vince Lombardi High’s resident
Ferris Bueller, the mysterious Eaglebauer, is nowhere to be found here). There
are also audio outtakes from the Ramones’ riotous show at The Roxy in Los
Angeles featured in the movie’s climax; original TV and radio spots as well as
the theatrical trailer (complete with audio commentary from modern-day horror
auteur Eli Roth); and a 22-page booklet complete with all kinds of cool ephemera including essays and interviews
culled from the original press kit.
Watching this film now is like opening up a time capsule that will instantly
transport you back to the days of shopping at Korvette’s and Record World, Kramer vs. Kramer, Three Mile Island,
the Iran hostage crisis and Jimmy Carter getting attacked by a swamp rabbit.
BLURT recently had the opportunity to chat with actress-turned-renowned
sculptor Dey Young, who portrayed Riff Randall’s best friend, sexy science nerd
Kate Rambeau and whose presence is prominently featured in the extras of this
special edition of Rock ‘n’ Roll High
School. She talked about working on the film, hanging with out the Ramones,
and if she gets recognized more as Kate or the snobby sales associate from Pretty Woman.
BLURT: How did you wind up getting the part of
DEY YOUNG: I
literally was the last one they saw. I was cast on a Thursday and started work
on the following Monday. I had just gotten to town after finishing LAMDA and
was staying with my sister. I happened to meet the casting director who
immediately submitted me. It was a stroke of luck!
In the film, Kate gives off this amazingly
subtle sexiness. Was that intended for the character vs. the more rough-edged
Riff? Would you consider Kate to be the feminine epicenter of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School?
I never thought of
her as anything but the innocent, naïve one who inherently was the protector of
Riff. I imaged they had been best friends forever and Riff got into rock ‘n’ roll
and Kate got into science. I approached her very simply as me and if I was
giving off any sexiness that was unintended but thank you for seeing that
What was your first impression of the Ramones
when you first met them on-set and why?
Oh, my first
impression was that they were aliens and addicted to pizza. They probably
looked at me the same way, although I preferred salads and Tab.
Were you a fan of The Ramones before filming
Rock ‘n’ Roll High School?
I had never even
heard of the Ramones, let alone punk rock so that was a huge eye opening
experience for me. I had been in London in a professional drama school and
other than frequenting the popular Hard Rock Café where all sorts of music was
played, it was all a novelty for me.
Please share some details about the filming of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School nobody has
heard of yet.
Well, in the dance
sequence at the end when we are all dancing in the school halls, Vince Van
Patton struggles to lift me up and my pants split in the back. It was a very
embarrassing situation, but I finished out the number, as gracefully as
Also, in the concert
scene at the Roxy, we used a real punk audience and it got a bit hostile and
scary as the night progressed and we had to keep stopping to contain the
audience because they were pushing on the actors pretty aggressively.
Did you make friends with The Ramones after the
film wrapped? Did you stay in touch with them through the years, or at least
until the untimely passings of Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee?
No, our lives just
didn’t line up. However, in the last number of years there is a charity event
for prostrate cancer in honor of Johnny held at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
where the cast will show up to sign autographs and introduce the movie before
it is projected on the mausoleum wall. Johnny’s wife, Linda, organizes it. So
that has been the cast’s way of staying touch with them and their legacy.
Who was your favorite Ramone to work with?
Well Johnny was the
most talkative and engaging. He was very smart. The others were more shy and
harder to talk to.
Do you stay in touch with any of the other cast
I see P.J. on
occasion at different publicity functions for the movie and also Mary Woronov.
I used to run into Clint Howard on film auditions, although not for the same
role! I am most in contact with the director, Allan Arkush, who is very busy in
the television world.
Did you ever attend a Midnight Madness viewing
of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School?
I did go to one
midnight showing in West LA and it was a hoot… everyone dressed up very punk
and was singing and cheering. It was really cool and it gave me an opportunity
to see how the movie lives on with an avid following.
When people pass you on the street, who do you
get recognized more for: Kate or the snobby saleswoman in Pretty Woman?
I think Kate because
she is most like how I look in everyday life and I associate with her more.
Only when I mention to someone about the snobby saleswoman is there some
recognition. I like to think that it’s because I am such a nice person and no
one would ever associate me as a snob!
I have two rewarding recognition
moments for me as Kate. First, when I had just finished the movie and I was standing
in line at Wells Fargo writing out a check and the writer/director Bill Condon was indiscreetly peering
over my shoulder… I was forced to turn around and he asked me if I was Dey
Young from Rock ‘n’ Roll High School?
He went on to tell me how much he loved Kate and had written me a movie role.
It was his first script, Strange Behavior (aka Dead Kids) and I was off to New
Zealand working in my second movie within the month. I have gone on to work
with him three other times and he is a dear friend.
The other time is more recent. I was
standing at a coffee shop with my daughter, Shane, at her college in Savannah,
GA. And a very punk group of students made a fuss over the movie and me. My daughter
was beaming. She was very impressed and, believe me, a mother eats up those
opportunities to be admired by her kid!