12 Jan What’choo Reading – Hail To The Chin by Bruce Campbell
Bruce Campbell almost made one of my best friends stomp on a baby.
It was the late 2000s and Campbell had just released his second book, “Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way.” While his first book, “If Chins Could Kill” was an excellent adventure into the world of B-movies seen through the eyes of a consummate bullshitter/cult icon, the second book was fiction and, sadly, not nearly as good. However, it came with a book tour meaning Campbell was in Omaha and a couple of friends of mind and I went to see him.
The signing was at a Barnes and Noble and the set up was strange – the line to see Mr. Evil Dead himself stretched through the calendar and discount book section and once the audience with Ash was through you exited straight into a line of people who wanted nothing to do with Bruce Campbell but were just there, buying books. It was weird but didn’t seem dangerous to babies at the time.
My friend meets the Bruce and, being a long time fan, is understandably excited. His blood pressure was up, his legs were noodley and he stumbled into the crowd after meeting Campbell and almost stepped into a stroller, complete with tiny human inside. Everything turned out OK but I don’t blame his excitement. Bruce Campbell is awesome.
All this is a long build up to what should be obvious by now – I’m a big fan of Bruce Campbell. I’ve outgrown other cultural icons that I’ve loved with a passion early on in life (I’m looking at you Monty Python) but I never outgrew Bruce Campbell. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because he’s the kid making movies in the backyard with his friends who got lucky. Maybe because he realizes that and will never leave the “Con” circuit. Maybe it’s the smarm (OK, it’s the smarm). Maybe because he’s a good looking dude. Whatever it is, I’m a fan and that’s how I approached “All Hail the Chin,” Campbell’s third book and the sequel to “If Chins Could Kill” where he regains his fans with stories of the second half of his career, starting with “Jack of All Trades” and finishing with the first season of “Ash vs The Evil Dead”
If you don’t know either of those two shows, this book is not for you.
Campbell straight out calls “All Hail the Chin” a sequel, and he’s right in as much as the book is nothing but recollections and stories from a 15 year swath of his career told with candor, inside baseball and, yes, smarm. He’s a decent story teller, even if his recollections lack detail, but above all Campbell’s personality comes through on the page. Whether recounting the first question he asked director Don Coscerelli before shooting “Bubba Ho-Tep” (you’ll know it when you read it) or recounting why he almost quit the show “Burn Notice,” he treats it all with a lot of bluster, if I can use that word as a compliment.
The book drags a bit when Campbell tells of his life in the Oregon wilderness. There’s a whole section on “blading” his long driveway I could nave done without, although some of the characters are colorful, and the company isn’t bad. Where he excels and where I think Campbell’s interests truly lie are in the inside baseball stuff, the contract negotiations, the perils of working oversees, the way funding comes together. If there is an entry for outsiders, this is it – all Campbell’s stories begin with the question “how are we going to make this” and then sets to answer it.
Two sections I’ll pull out for particular praise. The first is the story of how he ended up shooting a student film for James Franco. The story is vividly remembered, complete with phone call from his old pal Sam Raimi, and it’s exactly the sort of story Campbell tells well and the sort of situation no sane person should find themselves in. The second is is recounting, in great detail, of what it took to get him oversees to meet troops in several American war zones and how it changed him. It’s a rare moment when Campbell drops his guard and comes across as a real, complex human being instead of the B-movie legend persona he cultivates.
If you’re a fan, it’s a good book. I still prefer “If Chins Could Kill’ at the end of the day, but it’s a worthy sequel and a significant step up in quality from “Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way” and, if you don’t light up any time Bruce Campbell appears in something, there are some nuggets that make the book worth reading, depending on your tastes. It’s nothing to step on a baby in order to get to, but you might enjoy the man who has spent an entire career as a B-movie legend.