Saturday, October 17, 2015

Actor Interview: JOSEPH A. ZUCHOWSKI

Interview with JOSEPH A. ZUCHOWSKI

Your editorial for issue 23 of AEA zine “Endowed By Their Creator” was partly inspired by Jason Colavito’s publication H.P. Lovecraft And The Cult Of The Alien Gods. How long has it been part of your collection, and what aspects of Lovecraft’s life and career does it cover?
I've had the book since 2005; I picked it up at The Strand. It doesn't go too deeply into Lovecraft's life but focuses more on his Cthulhu Mythos, and how it indirectly influenced the basis of the ancient astronaut movement. Lovecraft held that the earth had been visited by extraterrestrial beings that influenced our development. Colavito explores the big names like Erich Von Daniken, Zecharia Sitchin and Robert K.G. Temple and shows how they were more con men then scientists. Sitchen for example predicted that the earth would make contact with aliens in 2012, knowing he would no doubt be dead by then. I believe he died in 2010. Von Daniken has a long record of being a con artist; in fact he wrote one of his books while in prison.

What is the ancient astronaut movement according to Colavito, and how was it influenced by the Cthulhu Mythos?

It’s the idea that the earth was visited by beings from another galaxy or planet and that our species was either recreated or reeducated by them. In short had it not been for these beings we would not exist as a species. The problem with this theory is that it’s to begin with unsubstantiated. Secondly there is no biological basis for it; we can trace our DNA accurately back thousands of years and there is no sign of tampering. It would have shown up. Also, the AAT (Ancient Astronaut Theory) implies humanity cannot have created what it has as we lacked the intelligence to do so. And why were only the races of color the selected ones? There is no evidence of such contact in Europe or Asia, only Africa (Egypt) and South America.

Is this legend of ancient astronauts that supposedly visited the earth related to the legend of the Nephilim? What theories did Temple have on the subject? And what evidence does Colavito have to support that those authors were frauds?
According to Sitchen and Von Daniken yes; the difference is Sitchen believed we were created by them and Von Daniken believed we were educated by them. That is the basic contention in that group, and so far neither side has presented convincing evidence to support either position. Temple was and is famous for his "Sirius Mystery" in which he claimed that the Dogone people of West Africa were actually descended from a fish-like people from the constellation of Sirius. Colavito basically researched all the guilty parties; for example Sitchen had a degree in journalism not history or linguistics, yet he claimed to be able to speak ancient Hebrew better than most experts today. Von Daniken’s first book "Chariot of The Gods?" was originally intended to be a pseudo-documentary but he chose to present it as factual.

From where did the inspiration of Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth come? Did Temple's theory have anything to do with it?
Where every great writer's ideas come from his own fertile imagination, Lovecraft was a typical man of the early 20th century with all its failings including racism. His accounting of the family of old Obed Marsh came from the idea that humans (white males) shared their seed with non-humans (non-whites). Also Lovecraft saw remote places and the depth of the seas as the perfect hiding places for these beings. Loosely, but it was just the similarities. I do not know if Temple actually read this story. Keep in mind that the Dogone people were not untouched by Westerners; they had been contacted by and interacted with French settlers for nearly a century and a half before Temple wrote about them. So it is more than likely that they learned of Sirius Major and Minor courtesy of science studies at the schools the missionaries created. The Shadow Over Innsmouth touched on the racism of the time, but remember most Americans were very unaware of it; it was just the status quo.

How many connections exist between Lovecraft’s fiction and the Necronomicon? Is the Necronomicon a legitimate book of magic or a work of fiction just like Lovecraft’s fiction?

Lovecraft created the story of the Necronomicon for his fiction. It's actually not mentioned all that much; it features most prominently in "The Dunwich Horror." Lovecraft alluded to it more than anything else. He was once asked if he would ever write a copy; his reply was "heavens no, it would be over a thousand pages long!" Abner "Wizard" Whatley used it to conjure Yog Sothoth and impregnate his daughter Lavinia, though it is implied it was an act of sexual intercourse involving father and daughter. She gave birth to twins; one is called "Wilbur" and the other "looks more like his father," meaning Wizard Whatley channeled the Yog Sothoth force through him. Whatley's copy of the Necronomicon is flawed so Wilbur relearns that a better and more accurate copy exists in the rare book room at the Miskatonic University. Lavinia Whatley was based loosely on Lovecraft's mother Susie who died in an insane asylum, the same one Lovecraft's father had died in years earlier. Hence Lovecraft's fear that he might end up the same way.

How do you personally relate to the fictional works by Lovecraft that we have covered in this interview so far?
I discovered Lovecraft when I was twelve or so, so he was an influence on me. I was fascinated to learn he was an atheist and when I was about sixteen I read a biography written by L. Sprague Decamp, a warts and all book. I saw a film called "The Shutter Room” based loosely on a short story by Lovecraft and August Dereleth. It was more of an outline. He never completed it as he died before he could. His friend August Dereleth actually wrote it but he shared credit with him. In some of the books I read about him there were brief biographies; these were where I began to piece things together until I read the actual biography. L. Sprague DeCamp’s Lovecraft: A Biography was published around 1976 I believe. Lovecraft is one of the best documented lives around; there are literally thousands of websites dedicated to him but the best is H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society at cthulhulives.org.

Describe the information presented in Lovecraft: A Biography and explain why you’d recommend it?
In Lovecraft: A Biography L. Sprague DeCamp did a very comprehensive job in detailing Lovecraft’s life. He used letters, diary excerpts and anecdotes from friends and portrayed Lovecraft as a complex and troubled man who had come from a family of wealth and privilege. A series of unfortunate events led to the impoverishment of his family and this only exacerbated his mother's already unstable mind. As I said both of his parents died insane and he would spend his life with his two aunts, one of whom survived him by several months after his death from intestinal cancer in 1937. When he died on the morning of March 15, 1937, he was alone in the Sarah Browne Memorial Hospital. His funeral was very sparsely attended. He was buried in the family plot in Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, Rhode Island. I would recommend the book for those invested in him. There have been several biographies written about him, but I am most familiar with this one. Lovecraft's style is not easy to read; he uses a stilted style of writing plus he had a penchant for long words. Many of his stories been made into episodes of the TV show "Night Gallery” and Lovecraft has influenced such modern writers as Brian Lumly and Stephen King. Lovecraft himself was influenced by Poe, Lord Dunsany and Robert W. Chambers. The author Robert Bloch of Psycho fame was a friend of his, and two episodes of Star Trek had Lovecraftian themes, "Catspaw" and "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" As I said my first experience with Lovecraft was with The Shuttered Room. The original story was more straight horror with a supernatural theme. Ironically I had seen another film based on his work a few years earlier, "Die Monster Die" with Nick Addams and Boris Karloff. It was loosely based on "The Color Out Of Space" about how radiation from a meteorite effects a farmer and his family turning them into monsters.

What sort of information about Lovecraft can be found at cthulhulives.org that can’t be found elsewhere?
If you were to ask me to name some of the most influential horror writers of the 20th century my first nomination would be Lovecraft. Although he died in poverty and virtual obscurity, within a couple of decades his posthumous fame far outreached anything anyone could imagine. Websites, rock groups, anthologies, movies, fan clubs. I think he would have been amazed and overwhelmed by all of this. As for the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, I would recommend people go to it and find out for themselves what eldritch horror does dwell waiting patiently for some  unfortunate soul to plumb the eternal dark and twisting corridors of that unspeakably unnamable place. The mere thought of it makes me tremble so badly I am near fainting at the thought of it.

Name other publications written by Jason Colavito or name his new writings you haven’t checked out yet but want to?
Apparently he has one on Jason And The Argonauts I would love to read. It apparently just came out and is called Jason And The Argonauts Through The Ages. The movie is based on the classic Greek myth. I recall the original well; I saw it as a child. Even with the choppy Ray Harryhausen effects it was still magnificent. The quest is at the core of the search for individualization. Jason, the true king of Ithica, undergoes the quest for the golden fleece, a magical skin that can restore life to the dead. He needs this to help him reclaim his kingdom, so he ventures out with a band of warrior on a ship called The Argo named after its builder. They set sail to Colchis beyond the Black Sea (Turkey) where he meets Medea who is his feminine side and together they recover the fleece.

What were the most significant similarities between Jason And The Argonauts and the Greek myth it is based on?

The film Jason And The Argonauts is different from the classic Greek story. The special effects were handled by Ray Harryhaussen, who studied under Willis O'Brian who in turn brought King Kong and Son Of Kong to life. It was the special effects that fascinated me, the skeletons brought to life, the bronze giant Taltos who came to life after the Argonaut stole jewelry from the gods. The story is thousands of years old; Jason is not as honorable a man as he was presented in the film after Medea helps him obtain the fleece and they return to Ithica. This is not covered in the film but in the story, and the great Greek play "Medea" by Eurypedes. But I think it was films like Jason And The Argonauts that made me curious about mythology. After I saw the film I went to the library to find the book that the film was based on. I was handed Hamilton's Mythology, this plus stories that my grandmother told me was the basis of my eventually turning to Wicca as a spiritual path. The main thing about Greek mythology is, it was the most common mythology around for many people. They may not know the myths but they might know the gods like Zeus, Apollo or Hera. Going back to Lovecraft, he was also a Hellenophile. His grandfather had a collection of ancient Greek and Roman art and artifacts. I think in fairness the best way to really experience the Greek myths or any mythology I find the best available translation and read for yourself.

Recount some of the stories your grandmother passed along to you?
My babba (Grandma) told me a lot of stories, sometimes I think the village she came from was Eastern Europe's answer to Collinsport and Twin Peaks. She used to leave a bowl of porridge out for the fairies on New Years’ Eve; one night I stayed up to watch them eat and damn those fairies disguised themselves s as cats and ate the porridge. Some of the folk spells she taught me was: for prosperity wash yourself with a silver coin, and to drive away evil dreams sleep with a knife beneath your mattress pointed towards the door. This is a funny one: Annold Begged had to relieve himself. But he was passing by a cemetery so he did not want to disrespect the dead so he hid behind a wall and began his movement. But it was a hard passing so he groaned and grunted. The caretaker heard this and thought it was a ghost crying out. "Restless soul, what can I give you to bring you peace?" the old caretaker cried out. "A piece of paper," came the reply. She also told me the story of a widow who mourned and cried always for her deceased husband, then on All Souls’ Night his ghost appeared to her. "Take my hand" the ghost said. His widow obeyed and he began to lead her to the graveyard where he was buried. When he found his grave he began to descend into the ground pulling her with him. "Let go of me," she cried. And as he sank into the ground she heard his voice say, "First you must let go of me." I became fascinated by the paranormal and the like. I was a budding horror movie fan so there was tie in there also, I loved the old Universal monster flicks; I must have seen them all before I was in my teens.

What movies released by Universal Studios did you watch most often or remember as personal favorites today?
There are so many. The original Wolfman is one of my favorites, with Lon Chaney Jr. as the ill-fated Lawrence Talbot. Dracula with Bela Lugosi. The original Mummy with Boris Karloff. The monsters in them were actually very human; they had pathos. Most were victims of circumstance. The Frankenstein monster did not want to be created, and Larry Talbot did not want to be a werewolf. I think that is what made them so good; we could relate to them because we all have been in situations we could not control. I prefer the older horror films; they were more focused on story and character then effects and gore. One of the greatest suspense/horror films, the original "Psycho," has no gore but it's considered the best ever made. Look at Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre; it has virtually no gore, but the suspense and intensity make it the great film that it is. I think the Greeks had it right with violence; we don't show it but the effects let the imagination work. It is the most powerful ability we have. Everything we create is only a manifestation of our imagination. That is what Jez and I always stressed, to be creative.

What led to you choosing Wicca as your spiritual path?
Okay here it gets a bit funny, I was in a D&D group and one of the other players my friend Mark Saichis’ sister knew someone who was into Wicca asked if I would like to meet her, I said yes. I met her, we talked and I became one of her students. I was formally initiated into her coven in 1976; I was nineteen and the youngest initiate. It was an Alexandrian coven; I was with them for about three years. There were internal issues and the coven broke up, then I joined a Saxon oriented coven. Around the 1990s I began to really look into and question a lot of my beliefs, it was also at this time I discovered "Skeptic" magazine. Reading Skeptic and questioning my beliefs was painful, but necessary. I realized I was much more of a humanist than I had thought, and when I applied the arguments that Wiccan discussed against Christianity I found that many of my beliefs did not hold up. I began working and teaching at Enchantments in 1995. I began with my girlfriend Liz and our friend Caitlin, but soon we were having philosophical differences and we went our separate ways. Liz and I broke up. It was around this time that Jez and I hooked up. We had similar views, so we began to teach the Pagan Way. Ours was the first grove to hold all eight Sabbaths; prior to that Enchantments’ grove ran from Spring equinox to Samhain. Jez and I formed a coven and called it "Kyklos Ton Asterion," Greek for "Circle elf stars." Our main focus was the Thelemic path of Crowley. Crowley had a major input on Wicca; he and Gerry Gardener were friends.

I remember meeting you at Enchantments in 1995; we had mutual friends there and in the pagan community. Recount some of your experiences working there and attending events hosted by members of the community.
I started going there when it opened in 1981; I was a floater there for a while before I started working there. I knew Carol and Rhea, the original crew, Dianna Iguanna, Lexa, Jeffery. I remember when Enchantments was just the narrow store and the back office was where we stored everything. I started attending Sabbaths there shortly after; they used to do the Sabbaths from Spring Equinox to Samhain. At the time there were a number of occult/New Age bookstores: Enchantments, East/West on 14th and 5th, Magickal Childe on 19th between Broadway and 6th, Weiser's on 9th and Broadway. There were also some botanicas but they were up in the Bronx or Spanish Harlem. I spent most of my time in the East Village. To get more involved I studied runes under Lord Note (pronounced No-tay). We became friends and he died in 2012 from health complications after 9/11. He was working downtown when the buildings collapsed and he was caught in the cloud. I was at his passing ceremony; there had to be forty or fifty people there. I also remember when Herman Slater of Magickal Childe died in 1992 of complications from AIDS. The Childe was never the same after that and in 1999 it closed its doors for the last time. The Pagan community underwent many changes over the years. In the 70's it was smaller and more underground but in the 80's and 90's we exploded. But like anything that grows too big too fat there were power plays and ego wars, and by the early 2000's it wasn’t the same. I left Enchantments in 2005 and worked at Halloween Adventure as a foot messenger, and did some work at Original Products up in the Bronx. In 2007 Jez and I bade farewell to NYC and headed to Augusta, Georgia.

What was the name of that store on 14th Street where the community would often meet? Describe that place and the events held there?
Video Haven later moved to 9th and Broadway and it closed in 2000 due to the economy and expenses. The ground floor was a video store that also did a little outreach to the pagan community. We generally held New Moon New York business meetings there, it was also a place you could hang out in. I recall taking a couple of naps on the couch there, and you were there the day I had to ask someone to leave, Klingon style. He had been annoying one of the customers there. Artie was being polite but the guy was drunk. I asked him to leave, he grabbed my arm, and you know the rest. But the high point of the year was The Witches Ball. The first was a small affair run in the garden of Enchantments in 1981, but soon it outgrew the garden. It was held one year in the Ukrainian Home, and one year in a high school auditorium, but for the most part they were held at Wetlands on New York’s Lower West Side. They usually had Shaman perform, Jez danced at a couple of them. The last Samhain ball Jez and I attended was in 2005 at the Delancey. It was run by Magical Realms up in the Bronx, Lady Rhea's store which is now on City Island. We had a great time; it was kind of bittersweet for me because win about a month and a half I'd be leaving NYC.

There was also a place uptown where there were events and circles held. It was called The Gay And Lesbian Center or something like that. What do you remember of that place?
It was and still is on little West 12th street; it had been an old high school. It was about a hundred years old. I recall it had a nice garden; It was laid back and they always had workshops, classes or groups important to NYC's LGBT community going on there. New Moon New York held some circles there but I don't recall that much about it.

There was the publication Our Pagan Times which was released monthly. Was it by New Moon or another group? I had some of my work published in that zine and still have the copies I collected. How many articles did you write for OPT? Did you receive feedback for them?
Our Pagan Times was the official newsletter of New Moon New York. It started out as a one page event flier that eventually evolved into a many page newsletter until it was discontinued in 1999. It came to include articles, letters to the editor and event dates for the entire community. It was funded by sales and advertisements. At one time stores like Enchantments had their events posted in OPT. I even wrote some articles for them, mostly on the runes. This was in 1995 I think. By 1999 due to internal conflicts OPT began to falter then finally faded out, but by then New Moon New York was also fading out. This was due primarily to burn out and power plays by several members who sought to control New Moon New York. I wrote five or six articles for them; they were mostly straight forward factual, not opinion. As for feedback there was none really. I looked but there was none, I also did a couple of workshops for NMNY and assisted in some rituals.

Describe in detail the extent of your involvement in NMNY and your input into this group. How often were you helping out?
I was never an officer, but I was fairly involved as much as I could be, often doing the heavy lifting and set up and take down and clean up. There was a greater sense of community back then. The biggest two were Samhain and Beltane. Beltane was held in Central Park on the great lawn. Samhain was held wherever we could get the space. The rituals were dark rites performed by strange cultists who spoke in obscure ancient languages worshipping strange gods no mortal man had any right to call upon. But seriously, they were not bad most of them; they were pretty freeform left up to the creativity of the people running them. They were also mostly Wiccan themed. New Moon also held monthly full moon circles held on the day or the closest day to it.

Speaking of Klingons, you were and are known to be a huge Star Trek fan; we would sometimes discuss what was going on with a couple of the series. What does the Klingon theme mean to you personally? Did you remember the Klingon incense you made while at Enchantments?

With a little modification it can easily be turned into a Viking or Norse pagan theme. There was great similarity between the cultures, both the peoples were proud, determined and adventurous. I recall the incense as red wood base with about twenty very strong scented oils and a good helping of saltpeter. It was designed to produce a good amount of smoke. The Klingons are a powerful people, bold and to some arrogant; they are brutally aggressive and have a high sense of honor and even self-sacrifice. They know that they may not live long, but who cares no one lives forever anyway. All Klingons are warriors, for to a Klingon life is a struggle. What does Poe's poem "The Raven" and a person who has insulted a Klingon have in common? “Nevermore”. I had a troubled upbringing and I was always getting in trouble, I know knowing me hard to believe. It was through the martial arts I found focus and direction. Wicca gave me a plethora of god forms to choose from. I was attracted to the Greek and Norse, Primarily because of their warlike tendencies, I resonated with them.

Describe your move to Georgia, and how you and Jez adapted to a new lifestyle once relocating there. Did you hook up with a local pagan community there?

Oh the move from Hell. Jez drove a 17-foot U-Haul all the way as I did not have a license. We piled all our pets and most of our goods into it and went 800 miles due south. Jez’s mom was not prepared for what she got and was not exactly happy with the fact we had pet snakes. She wasn't too thrilled about the cats either. We arrived Monday night, Dec 17th 2007, and we spent the next three weeks unpacking and putting stuff in the attic where a lot of it still is. We started doing rituals, there was a local Pagan hang out at a pub not far from downtown; we basically got to know the people and they us. We were involved with the local Pagan Pride, and coordinated the first Pagan Pride Day celebration. It aroused some Christians but overall things were pretty good and it went over well with no major problems. We had vendors, entertainers, workshops, and we had a midlevel recreation group do weapons and fighting demos, and then we had a workshop on making practice weapons. We did an opening and closing ritual and we had musicians. Altogether it was quite an eventful day. Some Christians came by and stood on the outside of where we were holding it. They sought to banish us by "The Power of Jesus" but after fifteen minutes or so they gave up and left.

On your Facebook profile you have a lot to say about some Christians who use their beliefs to justify seeking control over others’ lives. Explain your views on this and why you think some are like that? When you hear of someone in the news using their beliefs to justify trying to control others, what sort of objections do you raise?

I'm actually very tolerant of others’ beliefs. I really don't care what a person believes but I do care what actions they take based on those beliefs. I do what I can to call attention to it. You see Christianity is a very different brand than Islam or Judaism. Those were founded by prophets and only Christianity claims to have been founded by and aspect of god itself.

I came across a clip on Youtube, of you reciting Jacob Grimm’s The Frog Prince. Was this at an event taking place either in New York and Georgia? What do you like of Grimm’s tales did you choose this particular story to recite?

That was my evil twin Broth Rignatz. It was at an Arts In The Heart Festival here in Augusta about two or three years ago. The AITH Festival is a big event here in Augusta. This is the thirtieth year we've had one. There are vendors selling all kinds of wares, organizations promoting themselves, and several stages set up for entertainment purposes. There is the big main stage and there is the troubadour stage. I frequently make an appearance as Yosef the Storyteller where I recount stories from the world over. That year in particular the featured country was Germany so instead of Yosef I was Jakub Grimm. The German food was good and the traditional costumes from various parts of Germany and the music was enjoyable. Basically the costumes were 19th century. Lederhosen, plumed hats, wide swirling skirts; think of a 19th Century Tyrollian village.

How many appearances have you made at AITH as Yosef the Storyteller since arriving in Georgia? How many other fictional classics have you recited at these events?
I’ve appeared there five times I believe. I've told a number of folk stories from many cultures, both East and west. I usually perform for about thirty minutes or so. Depending on the length of the story I can get five or so in a set. I'm constantly reading folklore so that I can have new material when next I play Yousef. The AITH is held every September and lasts about three days. I can be reading the stories of Ananzi or the fables of Aesop, I like to go to the local libraries and see what books I can find in that field. I go to the main library here in Augusta, and the Friedman branch because it is close to where I live. My reading tastes haven't changed all that much and I have found a fair amount of literature to keep me busy. Plus there are so many books that I own that I have yet to read. I like magazines like Rolling stone, Time, Skeptic and Free Inquiry to name a few.

You mentioned Skeptic magazine previously; what do you know of that publication you would share with the readers?
I started reading Skeptic in about 2003. I believe it was and is a good magazine put out by the Skeptic society. It is a magazine of investigation of claims on science and religion and seeks to present an honest and logical explanation. It spares nothing as far as skepticism and there are no sacred cows. I've been reading it for almost ten years now. There were so many. The "God" issue was a good as it explored the concept of god as most people know it. It was actually the first issue I ever read. I used to get them at B&N, and later I subscribed and got the back issues. I currently have all the issues of Skeptic and I think I may be renewing my subscription this year. There are about forty-six issues. It's published quarterly by the Skeptic Society. The articles are informative and well written always by experts in the field, you can learn about the Skeptic Society by going to skeptic.com. You can also find them on Facebook. There is no way to say what writer will be in any particular issue. They vary but I do enjoy the editorials by James "The Amazing" Randi. He's a retired professional magician and a founding member of the society. He is also a great friend of Penn and Teller.

Your Facebook profile shows you were involve in a production of The Rocky Horror Show. Who hosted it, which character did you portray and who else appeared in the production?

It was put on by the Misfit Theatre Group. The MTG is headed by Robert Stillwell IV. He employed Dr. Frankenfurter, I was Dr. Scott, Jez was Magenta and Taryn Stineman played Columbia. There were several Transylvanians who also played the wedding party. Jez and I joined the MTG in 2008 about a year after we arrived so it's been about six years. We have done cabaret versions of Phantom Of The Opera, Wicked, Chicago, Moulin Rouge and Twisted Wonderland. They were much smaller scale then the actual shows, In many we lip-synced to the songs and lines. If you flubbed a line all you had to say was "peas and carrots" and it looked like you were going full steam ahead.

I saw a video trailer of Cabaret Diabolique with information on the full cast, direction/production team and when the stage production was taking place. I gather the show happened in May of 2013 and was a creative take on Vegas stage shows that included a murder mystery. Shed some light on this and describe your character to the readers?
Jez and I have been working on them. Of course I have Nikolai pretty much worked out. His daughter Lucia has a fairly simple one and she tells most of it in the film. It's Charles and Yvette that are the meat and drink’ they are the broth resister team and it's implied that they are somewhat incestuous also in their relationship, Charles is openly gay and Yvette is bi if it suits her purposes/ As Nikolai tells "Lucia" when Lucia asks if Yvette likes girls, Yvette likes what is best for Yvette.
Nikolai is an illegitimate descendent of Rasputin, who was known for his many activities. He is an ex KGB officer, and his specialty was hypnosis and the ability to get inside other people/s heads. He learns weaknesses quickly and uses them ruthlessly. He deeply loves his daughter but he cannot reveal who he is to her for her own safety and his, since he has become a mole to the feds. Nikolai and his wife left Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, but they were followed. He has killed in the past, so to him this is what had to be done to stay alive. His wife was a ballerina so they separated to keep her safe. They had a code they used to stay in touch. She ended up as a dancer in a strip joint, and she was pregnant with their daughter, and the owner of the club took an interest in her. She was a Kajik woman so she looked somewhat exotic, and she died of cancer, On her death bed did she send Nikolai a letter telling him the truth, and that as a last request Lucia be made Nikolai's ward when she gets out of jail.
One thing was I kept my head shaved for almost a year as I thought Nikolai being a master of disguise would want making the makeup transitions as smooth as possible. Also I made it a point to think in Russian as much as possible; most of my family is Polish and Ukrainian which are very close to Russian in many ways. It was a matter of filtering what I needed and wanted.

Tell the readers about the other characters in Cabaret Diabolique and how Nikolai interacts with them?
Generally Nikolai keeps to himself; he cares little for them. He could care less about Bruno the manager. His only real concern is for his daughter Lucia whom he not so much loves but feels a sense of duty and obligation to her as she didn't know her true story. Nikolai knows not to get too involved with Charles and Yvette; they are loose cannons. Nikolai basically impersonates the victims, but he is also a mole for the feds. Knowing what he does, he is gathering information in return for immunity. Then Lucia comes into his life and a young dancer named Jimmy. Jimmy becomes friends with Lucia, and he is gay so he hits it off with Charles. But Bruno wants Charles. Think of a twisted version of Othello. It's Bruno who convinces Charles he is not gay but bi and is having an affair with Lucia. That way Bruno can get rid of Jimmy and have his revenge on Nikolai. The plan backfires badly; there is death and vengeance delivered as only a Russian can.

Since moving to Georgia have you visited New York City or do you plan to at some point in the near future?
I made a short visit in 2009 and plan to do so again. I was only there for about five days. I stayed with my friend Liz, had lunch with a couple of her friends who wanted to meet me, walked around and saw some of my old haunts. It was kind of sad that some were already gone like Round The Clock. I visited the original Enchantments store. The backyard was being redone and they had busted up some of the statues that had been left behind. The store sword was a rusted relic; that was the part that hurt the most. I was thinking about the classes I had taught there and the rituals I had attended and high priested. Now all that was left were memories. I took a small stone from the fire pit; it's here on one of my bookshelves. I was there when Enchantments opened practically, and was a part of its history. It was like visiting the desecrated grave of a family member.
I saw the metal shades were drawn but the one over the front door was open. I saw a couple of guys working inside. They had torn down the shelves and dropped out the bookcases. I asked what was going on and they told me that they had rented out the place and it was being made into a wine bar. I told them I used to work there and was wondering if I could go take a look in the back yard. I went in there; the altar posts were still in the ground but the altar which had been a marble slab was broken and in the garbage pile, along with the statue of Venus and the table that used to adorn the set and eastern quarters respectively. The back wall which was part of the theater building was bare; I sat on one of the posts for a little while with mixed feelings. I saw the sword sticking out of the pile, and I pulled it out. Even Arthur would have been heartbroken by this Excalibur; it was broken and rusted and felt dead in my hand. I had thought of taking it back and maybe cleaning it up but it was completely corroded and there was no point in salvaging it. That was when I took the small stone and walked out; there was nothing there anymore.
I walked to where the new Enchantments was; it was empty of customers and the shelves looked fairly bare. There were two guys working there who remembered me. They asked how I was and what I was doing. I told him I had moved to Georgia. He said every once in a while someone came in and asked for me. I doubt that happens anymore; I was let go in 2005 so that's almost ten years now. There were so many people who came and left; some I recall well some hardly at all. They had the herbs from the old store, some tarot cards and crystals. I understand it's really built up now, with a better selection of stock. Sadly I hate to say the emphasis changed from helping to making a profit. Plus I think with the internet, there is less and less a need for places like Enchantments.

Even though the physical store is not there anymore, you still have memories of Enchantments and are still in touch with some of the people from the old store. Would you consider the memories and sustained friendships the important thing?

Working in Enchantments for almost ten years was one of the best experiencers of my life. Again I started as a floater there and eventually became a regular. I would describe us as a somewhat dysfunctional family. Carol Bulzone was the original owner; she was the main stay of the store. I am still friends with her. Mark Ebert was the general manager when I was there; he left in 1996 after being there from when it opened. I also did tarot readings and mostly worked at the oil office making candles oils and incenses. I remember when carol sold the store in 2003. She had been in the business for almost twenty-five years and wanted out. One of her employees was able to come up with the money and bought it in 2003, Things did not go well and the original store closed about four years ago. It relocated down the block below First Avenue where it is today. I was there briefly once in 2009. It was okay but not the Enchantments I remembered.

How do you hope to develop as an actor and performer in the years to come?
I do it more as a hobby but every actor wants to hone their skills. I also want to write more. I like live plays in some ways more than film but each has its ups and downs. In a film a good director can take a bad actor or scene and make it great. On stage there are no retakes. I see theatre as a means of social change and awareness. I would develop my skills as an actor more along those lines. It's not so much how I can be a better actor, but a better person.

http://www.facebook.com/joseph.zuchowski

-Dave Wolff

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