The Last Prom
Selection: "A History of the Drivers'
Education Film" (page 77)
Recent review (from Playboy): "Ralph
Coon is the Pauline Kael of crash pictures."
Sample: $3 from 120 South San Fernando
Blvd., #243, Burbank, CA 91502 (checks: Ralph Coon)
When did you launch your zine? What inspired you to do so?
The driver's education issue
of The Last Prom was first published in early 1991. I grew up
in rural Virginia reading comic books and watching drive-in horror
film, and I knew about zines for as long as I can remember since
both subjects have always had plenty of zine coverage. However,
most were shitty and produced by shitty fan-boy geeks, and besides
the idea of doing a publication about just one thing never caught
my interest. It wasn't until I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 and
went into Amok (an off-beat bookstore in Hollywood) and saw early
copies of Murder Can Be Fun and here
was a simply done, but heavily researched and well written zine
about a variety of funny, morbid stuff. It was obviously a labor
of love that never limited itself and I totally respected that.
Murder Can Be Fun was the first zine that ever taught me something.
That was my inspiration for starting The Last Promso you
have John Marr to blame, I guess.
Why publish a zine?
I publish because if I didn't
tell these stories nobody else would.
What can you tell us about the selection you provided for
"The Book of Zines"?
In high school I had a movie
review column in the school paper. In my column I didn't review
Hollywood movies, but instead reviewed the educational films
that different teachers were showing throughout the school. There
was a great surrealistic animated film based on Poe's short story,
"The Tell-Tale Heart," that one English teacher always
showed. "The Monkey's Paw" was another great one with
an O'Henry ending.
Science classes and health
classes were gold mines for screens of tattered 16mm educational
films; the vast majority being campy, hilarious, inept and hopelessly
dated. The films that got the most word-of-mouth were from drivers'
education. Stories of cheerleaders vomiting and football jocks
fainting ripped through the halls like wildfire. It was a good
opportunity to watch the power of word-of-mouth publicity, and
when I got a chance to see some of these films, I'd scribble
down all the production credits I could because I thought one
day maybe I could become a drivers' education film director myself
and I wanted to talk to some of these people who made these films.
Some of my favorites came
from a company called Highway Safety Films Inc. and one film
in particular, "The Last Prom," became, and still is,
my favorite film of all time. That's when I first began searching.
When I moved to Los Angeles I started lurking around the American
Film Institute Library and stumbled upon an obscure book called
"The Educational Film Locator." Armed with the information
found within this book, I managed to track down Earl J. Deems,
the one time auteur of Highway Safety Films. By this time he
was a cranky old man, suspicious of anyone's interest in his
past work. He hung up on me twice, but persistence won out and
he granted me an interview which became the basis of The Last
Prom No. 1 (the drivers' ed issue).
After that first issue came
out, I tracked down the director of "The Last Prom,"
Gene McPherson, and began a correspondence. I told him I intended
to remake his film for a new generation. He said such a remake
would be expensive, have no audience and serve absolutely no
need. I wrote again, saying I wanted to be the drivers' education
filmmaker for the art house crowd. He never replied.
Is there anyplace that sells these videos?
Something Weird Video offers "Signal 30,"
"Highways of Agony," "Wheels of Tragedy,"
and "Mechanized Death" on one tape for $23 postpaid
(Item #4205 from P.O. Box 33664, Seattle, WA 98133).
Any general tips for aspiring zinesters?
Self-publish because you love
something and want to spread your interests and knowledge to
others. The most beautiful art, be it film, writing, music, whatever,
is always done for love, not money or fame or because you might
get some free records to review. I can't think of anything more
fucking boring than another "indie" music review zine
filled with "indie" music ads.
What's your favorite part of doing a zine?
I like corresponding with
kindred souls. I like getting orders from all around the world
and pondering on just how someone in The Netherlands or Australia
heard about my zine. It's like a wonderfully demented virus.
Someone tells a friend and they tell a friend and...
I've gone to different places
around the U.S., major cities and small towns alike, and I've
been able to call up people I've met through the mail via The
Last Prom who share my sense of wonder. We'll go out and they'll
show me stuff the local Chamber of Commerce wouldn't want me
to see. I like that.
In my other life, I'm a:Whispers From Space
Gaffer. I do lighting for
music videos, film, commercials, and anybody else who will pay
Back to Kooks
// Index // Ahead to Living Cheap News