Larry Zerner: The Man Who Masked Jason by Brian Kirst

Larry Zerner will forever go down in horror movie history as the man who introduced Friday the 13th’s Jason to his trademark – the white hockey mask. In Friday the 13th, Part 3, Zerner portrayed one of the series most memorable characters, Shelly, the awkward, overweight jokester whose bag of tricks included the before mentioned mask. True to his sad sack character, poor Shelly was not only slaughtered by the unquenchable Mr. Vorhees, but he was robbed of the mask, which became the serial monster’s signature costume piece, worn in film after film! Put aside this exalted piece of trivia for a moment, however, and I would hazard to say that Zerner truly remains so well thought of by the Friday fans because everyone can relate to the insecurity and overeager longing for acceptance that was part and parcel of Zerner’s portrayal of Shelly. In fact, one of the reasons I was thrilled that Zerner agreed to be interviewed for this website was because my halting youthful personality was very much akin to that of the character that he is so well known for. Zerner, though, who admits he was, at one point in time, similar to Shelly, has long since come into his own. After an appearance in the television series Fame and a small role in the teen wrestling film, Hadley’s Rebellion (starring headline grabbing and multiple genre film performer Griffin O’Neal and Chopping Mall/Evils of the Night star Tony O’Dell), Zerner discovered that his heart belonged in entertainment law and he has forged a success career in that profession. He has lost the bulk and timid-ness of his popular Friday the 13th character, but, as you can attest below, his sardonic humor and zest for life remain.

  Brian: You did an episode of Fame. Do you have any special memories about that? Was there talk of you returning to the show? In fact, I didn’t catch Friday the 13th, Pt 3 until cable, a year after its release, and I remember thinking you looked familiar. At that point in time I had a mind like a steel trap when it came to people who had been on television, so I’m wondering if I had remembered you from your small role in that show. Could be crazy, who knows, but as an aspiring performer, I did watch Fame vigilantly for the first couple of years –until I outgrew it.

Larry: Fame was a lot of fun.  I was a big fan of the show so it was kind of a kick to be on it, although I only got to work with Lee Curreri and Morgan Stevens and didn't have much to do.  I was actually up for the role of the tuba-playing Nazi-like hall monitor(Damn you David Greenlee!) but lost out and they gave me the small part of the stage manager as kind of a consolation prize.  If they had only let me dance . . .

Brian: You were still a teenager when your Friday the 13th moment happened. Was there a period of time when you thought that you had “made it” and stardom was just around the corner – or were you pretty aware of the realities of the business from the get go?

Larry: I don't think even the big actors ever think that they "made it."  Insecurity is just part of being an actor.  But in my case, there was never a time where I really thought I was going to be a star.  There just aren't that many parts for fat, nerdy kids with big afros.  If only Napoleon Dynamite had been made 20 years ago.

Brian: As you know, I am crazy about Dana Kimmell, but I, also, thought Tracie Savage would have been the absolute coolest older sister ever! You have stated that you had a huge crush on her. Do you have any cool memories or stories about working with her? 

Larry: Tracie was a lot of fun and I just remember always hanging in the dressing rooms with Tracie and Jeffrey Rogers and David Katims and just shooting the breeze and we all had a great time.  Unfortunately, me and Tracie didn't really have any big scenes together so there aren't any good war stories.

Brian: Obviously your appearance has changed greatly since the Friday the 13th film. Was there a specific event that convinced you that the weight had to go or was it a series of things? Was it a difficult process for you and is there a strict regimen that you still have to follow to stay in shape?

Larry: I guess at some point I realized that if I was going to get some female companionship in my real life I would have to lose weight.  Going on a diet was tough and I have certainly gone up and down over the years, but in the past few years I started drinking Slim-Fast and cutting out sweets and that really worked.  My weight is currently below 170 (from a high of 220) and I've been able to keep it off for more than a year. But there are always temptations out there.

Brian: You stated that once you lost the weight you went from a pool of 5 actors to compete with at auditions to a pool of 10,000. Were you still auditioning while you were studying law- or did you just give that side of show business up cold turkey?

Larry: I had pretty much given up acting by the time I started law school.  It's just impossible to be in law school and go to auditions.

Brian: I know so many bitter actors who never had the degree of success that they hoped to, so I think your attitude of feeling lucky to have had your 15 minutes of fame is great. Still, is there a certain role or type of character that you would have loved to have played that you weren’t given the chance to in your acting career?

Larry: I started out as a comic actor and, although Shelly has his humorous moments, I would have loved to be in an "Animal House" type comedy

Brian: You seem honored and humbled by the fans continued loyalty to you. Aside from the fellow Friday the 13th film series actors that you have met, is there any one that you have admired and/or met that might have been baffled by your enthusiasm upon meeting them?  

Larry: I haven't met that many famous people, so I guess the answer is no.  Sorry.

Brian: Now that you have delved into entertainment law, are there any other sides of the business that interest you – such as producing, writing or directing?

Larry: Yes, I've been working on an idea for a horror movie with Dan Farrands (Writer of Halloween 6) and hopefully we will write and produce it in the near future.

Brian: Finally, I know you have been asked numerous questions about your involvement in the Friday the 13th film series. Is there anything – a story, an incident, an emotion- that you feel hasn’t been touched upon and that you would like to end with?

Larry: I'm just really grateful that I had the chance to be in Friday the 13th.  I know that to many (if not most) people it's just a dumb part in a dumb movie. But for me, it was a great experience, and over the years I have met so many amazing people and had some fantastic experiences because of my involvement in the film.  I know that I'll probably never be in another movie.  But to know that by giving Jason his trademark hockey mask, I had a small part to play in movie history is really cool.