How long have you been involved with the public access program Sci-Fi Ninja Theater? What subject matter has this program covered since it first aired on cable television?
I and my friends were hanging out watching TV long ago; Ultraman, Kamen, Rider, Jetman and a lot of anime. I mentioned there was nothing on TV and my friend suggested I start a public access cable show. I suggested we all should and asked what we should call it. My friend mentioned we love sci-fi and my daughter mentioned I love ninjas; then we thought of naming it Sci-Fi Ninja Theater. I had to take classes to become a public access cable director. I thought all my friends would do so with me but ended up doing it by myself. It was hard for me since I am dyslexic, but I tried and tried again and eventually found a way. My first show aired around 1994 or ’95; I had had other stuff on before but this was my first real show. At first I only had specials and then it became a series. This was before the internet became popular. My first convention appearance was at Chiller Theatre. They really welcomed me and I still make appearances there today. I copyrighted the name and my daughter helps me; she was my camera person for a while.
Where did you take classes to become a public access cable director? How long did it take you altogether?
It was QPTV on Main Street in Flushing. I fell out with some of the teachers because they were going too fast and I couldn't keep up. But I eventually found my little neck of what to do on editing. Now I have to learn how to work with computers.
What horror and science fiction movies and TV shows did you grow up watching? What do you most often watch today?
When I was a kid it was basically all the Warner Brothers horror movies. Then it was the TV show Chiller that blew my mind and scared me every weekend. I couldn't wait for Saturday so I could get scared, haha. It was a really cool time to be alive and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I also liked Hammer horror movies, grindhouse movies, and old slasher movies. Anything with horror and a little T&A is great, actually a lot of T&A. Movies from the 70s and 80s. Ultraman was on channel 9 when I was a kid in the late 60s. It was a great show that I truly miss, and which is coming back today. The show Goranger was like the Power Rangers. Also sci-fi from the late 60s and 70s. As for today, there hasn't been much. I enjoyed The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead. I also liked Kolchak the Night Stalker, Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, Star Trek and In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy as the host.
What movies released by Hammer do you like the most? What did you most appreciate about their approach to horror?
Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971), Scars of Dracula (1970), The Horror of Frankenstein (1970), To the Devil a Daughter (1976), Fear in the Night (1972), Straight on Till Morning (1972), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972), Horror of Dracula (1958), Twins of Evil (1971), The Mummy (1959), The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Creeping Flesh (1973). I have interviews with the actors of a few of these movies. Hammer Horror’s website http://www.hammerfilms.com/ has the titles of all their movies.
How many Grindhouse movies have you discovered over the years, and what do you most like about them?
Thriller (1973), Torso (1973), Cannibal Holocaust (1980), Zombie (1979), and Ilsa She Wolf of the SS (1975). I like blaxploitation movies like Blacula (1972) and Scream Blacula Scream (1973). I Drink Your Blood (1970), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), I Spit on Your Grave (1978), The Beyond (1981), Count Yorga: Vampire (1970), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Countess Dracula (1971), The Last House on the Left (1972), Demons (1985), Demons 2 (1986), Suspiria (1977), The Vampire Lovers (1970), Black Sunday (1960), City of the Living Dead (1980), Lady Frankenstein (1971), Top Sensation (1969) which is more of a T&A movie, Amuck (1972), Web of the Spider (1971), Bloody Pit of Horror (1965), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Kill, Baby... Kill! (1966), Castle of Blood (1964), Black Sabbath (1963), The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960), Baron Blood (1972), Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks (1974), Bloodsucking Freaks (1976), The Sinful Dwarf (1973) and The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1982).
What episodes of In Search Of most fascinated you and why? Did you always have an interest in the subject matter on the show?
As a kid, I was into UFOs, Bigfoot and strange things that can't be explained. I saw a UFO when I was a kid. I and my mom were outside and saw a disk-shaped object hovering above an apartment house. Everybody who lived in the apartment house was looking out their windows and looking at it until it shot up into the sky and disappeared. I believe Bigfoot exists; they may come from another dimension or could have been pets brought here from another world to see if they would survive. I believe there is something in The Devil's Triangle that has been explained. People figured out it may have something to do with magnetic pulses in the Earth. Another explanation is that it may be a base for UFO activity underneath the ocean. I like the way Nimoy explained these theories.
Do you think any of today’s horror and science fiction are worthy of those of the classic era? Would you rather watch a movie with physical effects or computer effects? Do you watch any new TV programs similar to In Search Of?
In the grindhouse days people had to use their imagination. It was a different age back then. As far as new shows, I watch Curfew, Blood Race and Deadly Class which reminds me of Japanese horror and the old Kung Fu series. There are shows on the History Channel that remind me of In Search Of. Some are good but others are just rehashing old stories. There is one good show about pyramids that were found under water, another on channel 11 called iZombie and a special that was aired on Lizzie Borden. I watch Lucifer, The Flash, Supergirl and Cloak And Dagger. When it comes to movies, It was halfway decent but the remake looks much better. Bulletproof reminded me a lot of the old grindhouse movies.
In the old days you had to build sets and they usually came out looking realistic. Today’s digital effects sometimes come out badly. I personally like the older methods but it’s better if you combine both. If I had a choice I would choose the older stuff because it got into what really scared you. An oldie but goodie is Invaders from Mars. I used to hide underneath my covers when I watched it late at night as a kid watching this movie very late at night.
Did you read horror and science fiction authors around the time you discovered horror and sci-fi TV? Which of them do you still read?
Being dyslexic made it hard for me to read when I was young. I liked Monsters and the magazine Chiller Theatre. I remember seeing a picture of Vampirella on a magazine once. Later on, I was walking with my uncle and he got me a copy. I had a crush on her and she got me into Frank Frazetta. I also loved the animated Scooby-Doo series. The artwork in books intrigued me as I got older and I was able to read a little bit better. I read about Italian, French and Spanish horror. Check out Frank Frazetta’s art as he was one of the best. I liked his art featuring Viking and vampire women. His coloring was amazing and his textures were beautiful. There are a lot of magazines coming out now that I like a lot. One is called Evil Speaks Magazine; they talk about overseas movies and they’re very knowledgeable. The artwork by Colin Rogers is phenomenal and he writes for the magazine with Doc Holocausto.
In the age of social media, independent web and internet channels, and podcasting, how much weight does cable access pull? Does Sci-Fi Ninja Theater pull in an audience when airing weekly?
I've been on for over twenty years. I have 7000 hardcore fans and 444,000 viewers, but I still can't get them to join the Facebook page or YouTube channel. I have lots of fans coming up to me and saying they love the show and grew up watching it. The show mostly airs in Brooklyn and Queens. My friend Al Miranda was helping me for a while but he passed away. Another friend Daniel Milea was helping but he had to go his way. Yet another who helped was Lance King. You can watch streams of the show on Friday nights into Saturday morning, 12 a.m. to 1 a.m. It is hard to pinpoint how many people watch it each week.
How much did Al Miranda, Daniel Milea and Lance King help you with your show? Do you keep in touch with them?
Daniel Milea helped me get to my conventions and made sure I got my press badges. Supposedly he was my manager but I never got any parts in any movies. He was always busy so it's kind of hard to really do business with him. Still he was a great guy and was there most of the time. I’ve known Lance King for three years. He's been helping me with sorting out things with my show. He's a good dude but he's also busy which makes it hard for them to work with me on my stuff. Al Miranda helped me out for about seven years. He always made sure everything went well but sometimes you got a bit of an attitude so it was kind of hard to work with him.
Besides doing camera work for you, how else has your daughter been a help to you and Sci Fi Ninja Theater?
I taught my daughter Diana Vlado how to work the camera between the ages of five and six. Sometimes she helped me out with editing. My mom Antoinette Tesoro once in a while would give me moral support. I appreciate her the most. My daughter has attended conventions with me and we share a lot of things most people wouldn't share. I hope she remembers me and all the things we've done together when I am gone. It's been a great ride.
How many convention appearances have you made since the beginning? Name some of the guests you have interviewed.
I have done Chiller Theatre, Otakon, Comic-Con, Exxotica, The Big Apple Convention and others I can't remember. I've had tons of stars on my show including the original Michael Myers and PJ Soles from Halloween, Heather Langenkamp from Nightmare On Elm Street, Dawn Of The Dead director George Romero. He was a good interview which you can see on my YouTube channel along with Akira Takarada from the original Godzilla (1954). I also interviewed Damien Thomas who usually played a vampire in Hammer movies, Bill Moseley from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and House Of 1000 Corpses, Ken Kirzinger from Friday The 13th and Wrong Turn 2. I've had all the Jasons in Friday The 13th and Caroline Munro from The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. I’ve had all the Hammer girls and a few stars from Dark Shadows and the stars of Faster Pussycat Kill Kill who are all gone now; I believe one might still be alive but I'm not sure. Those were great interviews.
Of the many actors and personalities you have interviewed on the show, cite the most memorable and explain why they stand out.
I had some people not want to be interviewed but when they saw me interviewing other people they would suddenly call me over wanting to be interviewed. I think one of my favorites was the late George Romero. He was my favorite interview, a straight and honest guy and would let you know what he did and didn’t like. I had to wait online for about five or six hours for a chair to sit in but I really wanted the interview. He was a cool interviewee, really talked to me and gave me good pointers. I’ve always enjoyed interviewing Caroline Munro from The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Dracula AD. She was always nice to me and treated me like a human being when I was interviewing her. Jim Lee is one of the best comic artists around and we had a great interview together. I asked questions from when he was a kid to what he’s doing now. Afterward he thanked me for the good memories. Michael Beck of The Warriors was a good interview and so were the rest of the cast. I got to ask them how they became actors and how they were cast in The Warriors. Akira Takarada from the 1954 Godzilla was pretty cool. I talked to him through an interpreter who knew Japanese and who happened to be his son. Just to be in his presence was special. PJ Soles from Halloween and Heather Langenkamp were fun to talk to.
Who would you like to interview on the show, whom you haven’t featured already?
I would like to interview some of the directors of the Hammer movies. Any director would do. I get to interview a lot of the actors and actresses; now I would really like to know how hard it was to get some of those movies done because they had great sets and costumes.
As more fan run channels are appearing on social media these days, do you see this trend continuing?
More people will have their own channels with their own content. People will sooner or later realize they have to help each other. Hollywood would not really give anyone new a chance so you have to give yourself a chance on your own or with some of your friends. It's much better with friends who can help you and who you can help them.
Do you have any advice you would offer to people who want to host their own programs on the net or cable access?
The hard part is just going in there and take the classes, but sometimes people help you out. Go out there and do it if you could do it with some friends it’s good.
Tell the readers about the comic series you plan to publish, and how you intend to promote it when it’s out.
I've been thinking about doing a comic book for a long time now. I just I didn't have the cash or the knowhow. A friend of mine Rollo said if I had the story he would do the art. I've had the story since the 90s of my character Ninja Silk. She's a half-black, half-Japanese vampire ninja who belongs to the Mad Ninja Clan. It will hopefully come out in four or five months, or maybe next year, as a two front cover book of mini-posters. The people helping out on it are artist Rolo Ledesma, artist in training Louie Platano and artist Mike Lily who will be doing the second cover.
Would you like to see Sci Fi Ninja Theater become a legitimate program on cable television in the future?
I would love to see it on a regular cable channel, but I really would like for them not to tie me down. I would rather they let me do what I want with the show. Of course I'd have to trim it up a bit as far as the grindhouse style nudity. They would have to air it late at night.