MILLER TIME: Talking With Kenny Miller by Owen Keehnen

Ohio born actor Kenny Miller has been making movies for 50 years and has earned a solid place in the annals of Hollywood. To horror fans he is known for his performance as Vic the bongo player (who also sings Eeny, Meeny, Miny Mo) in the classic 'I Was a Teenage Werewolf' (1958) starring the late Michael Landon. The following year Kenny made a big impression as one of the tiny terrorized teens in the Bert I. Gordon classic 'Attack of the Puppet People' with John Agar. Rounding out his horror resume is a starring role in Robert W. Morgan's Florida lensed chiller 'Bloodstalkers' (1978) as a well as a part in the horror-star studded 'It Came From Trafalgar' (2005) which features an amazing cast -- Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, Gunnar Hansen, Butch Patrick, Rudy Ray Moore, Edwin Neal, Jim O' Rear, Hank Williams III, and Conrad Brooks!

Kenny Miller's non-horror resume is equally as impressive and diverse. He had a role in Orson Welles' 1958 classic 'A Touch of Evil' , grabbed his suntan lotion and Bermuda shorts and joined the beach party shenanigans in 'Surf Party' (1964) with Bobby Vinton and Jackie DeShannon. He also had parts in such other features as 'The Rebel Breed' (1960), 'Little Laura and Big John' (1973), 'East of Eden' with James Dean (1955), 'The Gallant One' (1964), and the all-star swashbuckler 'The Buccaneer' (1958). He was Ray Hill in 'Rockabilly Baby' (1957) and had a role in 'Dino' with Sal Mineo the same year. Talk about stories to tell! This guy has 'em! That would explain why he recently released his updated autobiography from Bear Manor Media called 'Hollywood Inside and Out: The Kenny Miller Story'. In addition Kenny has also had a successful recording career and is a frequent guest at autograph conventions. Recently he was also kind enough to take some time for this exclusive interview.


  Kenny, can you start the racks and razors readers off with a visual and describe the room where you are answering these questions?

I'm in my apartment on the 11th floor overlooking downtown West Palm Beach at night. The lights look as if someone had thrown a treasure chest of jewels out of the heavens. I'm in my big easy chair surrounded by very comfortable furniture, some of my favorite paintings, & framed photos & sculptures. It's a very lived-in and comfortable living room where I spend most of my evenings as my big TV is here plus my WebTV--printer--stereos & dvd, etc. I sometimes fall asleep in this room on my big comfortable couch & never get up to go to my bedroom.

Kenny - you have such a breadth of experience in show biz and movies and such. What made it the right time to write your autobiography Kenny Miller: Surviving Teenage Werewolves, Puppet People, and Hollywood?

A close friend of mine & a brilliant writer, Susan Kennedy, approached me about doing my autobiography. I was so impressed that she wanted to do it that I agreed. We worked on it for over two months--& Susan became ill. Two & half weeks later she died. I decided then I would never continue writing the book! About 6 months later I was asked by MacFarland Publishing about doing my book & I said "No". As fate would have it, another good friend of mine, Donald Vaughan, was in town. He had interviewed me on several other occasions & I loved his writing. We discussed the book. About a year later --after much coaxing on Don's part--I agreed to do the book with him for MacFarland. It took about two and a half years (he lived in N. Carolina & me in Florida). That book is out of print now. We have an extended & more detailed book out now published by Bear Manor Media, called 'Hollywood Inside' and Out---The Kenny Miller Story -- (with over 120 photos of stars, stills, & me) Boy, am I ready! Ho! Ho!

What revelation in the book has brought the biggest response from your fans?

I guess being good friends with so many really famous international- type people, and living so many different places in the world. It even amazes me when I think about it. I've really been so lucky. I thank God for it!

Okay let's start with 'I Was A Teenage Werewolf' (1957) in which you play Vic, the life of the party. What is the main thing you recall from shooting this now horror classic?

It was an exciting movie to do as we all worked our butts off as it had a very low budget (around $125,000!) & we were always on call. Gene Fowler, Jr. was a wonderful actor's director, & Michael was so dedicated in the role as this was his first film. He gave his all & it shows. He made it the great success that it became. Otherwise, I think it would have been just another horror film. All the cast worked so hard to make it something better than average. And it worked! Yvonne, Whit, Cindy, Dawn, & Tony & every one of the cast & crew including producer, Herman Cohen, became like a big family. It was a wonderful feeling that I will never forget-- or never want to.

In that movie you sing and dance to "Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo" -- as a singer were you fairly comfortable doing that on film?

I loved the song --"Eeeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo'--but in my mind turned out to be a "disaster"! Normally when you sing in a film you pre-record it, and then when you are shooting the scene in which you sing you do it to a 'playback". Since we had no budget to pre-record it--I had to sing the song "live" without any music!! (Plus the dance with darlin' Cindy)! Then when they scored the music into the film --they would also score e the background music for the song. They had a premiere of the film in Hollywood & we all went plus the Fox Theatre was packed. When my song came on I wanted to crawl under the seat--the music was 2 measures out of sync with my vocal!! The kids in the audience loved it & went wild. They didn't even notice, but I was really embarrassed. Plus a lot of my acting pals --who were professional singers-- were in the audience! Nevertheless, Herman Cohen promised me he would correct it in the original score. It would have cost so little. Guess what? To this day--"Eeny Meeny, Miney, Mo" is OUT of SYNC! He never corrected it. But I still love the song, but always leave the theater or convention hall when the song comes on!

And you still are making music today -- how do you see your music as having changed from that ditty down to today?

Yes, every chance I get. I have a new CD out that a very talented young man, Solomon Mortamur, did for me of all the original soundtracks of songs I've done in Films, TV, & recording. It just thrills me to have over 13 songs on one CD. I do perform at various functions & charity events throughout the country. I sing alot more ballads-- contemporary music--country & standards. I recorded in London for EMI-Stateside. My most successful recording there was "Restless", which by the way, is my favorite recording of all.

Going back to the movie -- do you have a favorite Michael Landon memory?

Michael was really into his part. In one scene at the party I come up behind him & blow a horn in his ear--he turns & hauls off & knocks me over the couch. We had a stunt man to choreograph the stunt--anyway, some how I didn't hit my mark or Mike didn't hit his, and he really hit me in the jaw & knocked me ass over elbow. It was a perfect take, except Mike blurted out--"Kenny, I'm sorry" & ran to me--of course, that ruined the take & we had to do it over many times. It just shows you what a really caring guy Michael was.

That following year you made several films but I must hear about what it was like to be directed by one of the cinematic Gods - Orson Welles' in 'A Touch of Evil'.

Working with the great Orson Welles was one of my greatest experiences in film. I was signed to be the head of the mostly Latino gang. I was signed 2 weeks prior as he wanted me to have curly hair. I spent days with Bud Westmore getting a permanent & getting it right. He also wanted me to have a DA - "duck's ass". I became goods friend with Orson & he was wonderful to work with. Yes he was temperamental at times, but genius is allowed that. I went with him & our Assistant Director, Chico Day, one day down to East LA in a limo to find real life gang members for the film. That was a wild experience--&, thankfully, Chico spoke Spanish. When the "gang" worked, they had to have extra security on the set! One thing that would really make him furious was an actor not knowing his or her lines or not doing "your homework" as he called it. You can bet your ass that I always knew mine!!

Also that year you made a big impression as Stan, one of the tiny tiny teenagers in the horror/sci fi movie 'Attack of the Puppet People' (1958). Was working all day alongside all the giant objects - phone, doorknob, etc. fun?

There are so many exciting memories about working with Bert Gordon & that wonderful gentle man, John Agar, in "Puppet People" None of us were allowed to see the set until it was completely finished. What a mind-blower it was when we finally did! Bert is a total perfectionist & every set & prop was built to exact scale for us when we were 12 inches high. Not only is Bert a great director, but also technically he is brilliant. The props & sets still work today--& remember back then everything was real--no animation. It was done from scratch. Unfortunately, I didn't get to work with John Hoyt, although I got to know him & truly respect him as the great actor he was, but all the scenes he did with us when we were the little puppet people, he did in front of a black screen. Climbing the thick rubber "string " to the keyhole was sheer torture as I had to climb over 30 feet to the top of the sound stage--I couldn't use my arms the next day--same thing happened to John when he had to climb up the phone cord from the floor to the top of the 'desk". The only funny thing about climbing up to the keyhole was that\line my pants were so tight that half way up they started to split!! We weren't using sound & since my rear was too the camera--I kept yelling to Bert--"My pants are splitting! My damn pants are splitting! He said, "Keep going--it looks great! Have you got on under shorts?? When I assured him that I did--he yelled, Keep going!" And like a fool--I did!!!

Do you have another predominant memory of shooting that film?

As I said--- so many fun & funny memories from doing that film. My girlfriend in the film, Marlene Willis, was a darling & a great singer--originally we both were going to sing in the film, but we all agreed that would slow down the action of the film. Anyhow, Bert decided that Marlene would sing a song to me. When I heard it I couldn't believe it--the song was called something like 'You're my Living Doll & Marlene was going to sing it to me! I asked Bert to let me out of it. I was too embarrassed to have her singing those words to me. He said--No way. We did have fun with it, but I have never been so embarrassed on camera in my life. Just the thought of her calling me a "living doll" was somehow more than I could bear. Ugh!

And of course I have to hear about your favorite memory as Milo Talbot in the bikinis and bongos beach flick 'Surf Party' (1964).

I loved doing one of the lead roles in "Surf Party". It was also another chance to work with one of my favorite Producer/Directors, Maury Dexter. I also was able to convince 20th to use one of my favorite gals & a fantastic singer, Jackie De Shannon, as my girl in the film. We really had a ball making it. We also used some of the greatest pro surfers as stunt doubles in the actual surfing. Mine was a real look-alike, Sammy Fain, son of the famous songwriter, Sammy Fain. Along with our co-star, Bobby Vinton, Jackie & I got to sing. My song, "Pearly Shells", was on the sound track album, & did so well that 20th Century Fox released it as a single. Jackie's song was really fun for her too, "Glory Wave"! Epic Records wouldn't release Bobby to do the original soundtrack album, so I got to sing the song he sings in the film, "If I Were An Artist." As rumor had it--I did NOT actually break my shoulder while filming surfing scenes at Malibu Pier! (Only in the script.)

Anyway, back to the dark side. Your next foray into horror was 20 years coming. Tell me about your leading role as Daniel in 'Blood Stalkers' in 1978. How did that role come about?

"The Night Daniel Died' was written for me by Robert W. Morgan, & was shot in the Florida Everglades where we all were almost devoured by mosquitoes & deer flies. It was a location made in hell, plus over one hundred degrees scorching heat! When it was sold to TV they decided to change the name to "Bloodstalkers" as they the felt it would appeal more to the horror fans (?) for VHS & DVD. Bob Morgan also ended up directing it. We took it to the Cannes Film Festival where it was sold in many international markets, plus I had a ball going on tour to many capital cities where the film was sold for promotion. Celea Ann Cole played my darlin' wife & Toni Crabtree &Jerry Albert played the other couple whose folks had left him an old resort in the Everglades which we find out later is haunted--- or at least, they make us believe it is! As from the original title-- you know that my character is going to Die... And boy, do I ever!! My best friend, my miniature schnauzer, Krissy, also stars in the film as Jerry & Toni's dog, & was more of a ham than the rest of us! She even gets screen credit as Kristina von Mueller--- plus she dies a horrible death too!!!

So you've dealt with several psychos -- an evil hypnotherapist in 'I Was a Teenage Werewolf', an evil puppet master in 'Attack of the Puppet People', and with 'Blood Stalkers' an evil band of backwoods predators, and God knows what in 'Surf Party'. Is there anything in real life that puts you over the edge and makes you go crazy/psycho?

There are very few things that make me "psycho". One is when people don't tell me the truth--not "little white lies', but something that is important. I also really resent when someone treats me like a "second hand citizen." I go ballistic when someone thinks they are right & I know I'm right! (Ha!) Only kidding.

In 2005 you made 'It Came From Traflagar' with a whole slew of horror/sci-fi folk -Butch Patrick, Brinke Stevens, Linnea Quigley, Gunnar Hansen, Jim O'Rear, Edwin Neal, etc. With a cast like that I gotta ask -- was that movie born at a horror convention? How did your involvement in the project come about?

You're right on, Owen. I met the writer/director of "It Came From Trafalgar" at a horror convention in Ft. Lauderdale. He asked if I would do a 'cameo' in his film. I said if only it were cleared thru Screen Actors Guild--he eventually got permission & I went to Indiana for the shoot. I'll do anything to help out any up & coming talented people in the business -- as long as it doesn't jeopardize me with my union. The director Solomon Mortamur is a very talented and dedicated young man, & it was great fun working with him--even though it was colder than a witches' tit in the cornfields we shot my scene!! I worked with a darling, talented young lady in the scene, Brooke Gross. This is her first film. I didn't work with any of the other cast members in the film, although I know or have met most of them at conventions. I never saw any of the script except for my part--so haven't a clue what it's about -- except that it's a psycho, suspense, horror. sci-fi, thriller, etc. Solomon also took the original sound tracks, recordings, tapes, albums & remixed the songs I have sang in my films & TV shows & remixed them into a very exciting CD that I am very proud of--(we re-recorded "Eeney, Meeny, Miney, Mo" from "I Was A Teenage Werewolf"--&, at least, it is in sync!! Hooray!) In regards to the film, Solomon did say he wished he had met me earlier before the main part of the film had been shot--as he would have used me in a lead role--(If I had chosen to do so, of course!)

Speaking of - you are also a big horror/sci-fi/autograph conventioneer --- what is that experience like from "the other side of the table"?

Most of the time I really love it! It's a great high for me to meet friends & talk with them. Plus I'm so thrilled that they're so interested in the work I've done or am still doing.

What is the most common question you are asked and in your long career has there been a most unusual request you would care to share?

What was it like to work with James Dean? What was Michael Landon really like? Was Orson Welles a nice guy? What about John Agar? Burt Reynolds? Anthony Quinn? The most common question is usually about the super stars I have worked with & what they were really like. I think the most unusual request is about my co-workers sexual preference--as if I would tell them anyway. I don't feel that is any of their business--even if I know the answer!! (And, boy, do I!!)

I want to hear all about your new movie 'Blue' - can you give me a quick description and how you fit into the scheme of things?

"Blue" is a script sent to me from Heaven. It is truly one of the best scripts I've read & is written by J.Brian King, & to think I'm starring in it as Johnny Lee Walker just blows my mind. We've had some problems. Hurricane Wilma destroyed our set in the Florida Everglades--so we're on 'temporary hold" till next month. It's being produced by Sun King Studios of Miami, Fl. (For more info please go to my website & click up the "Blue" poster of me and it will link you to the details of the script, etc.)

Are there any other projects pending or in the offing that you would care to mention or plug for readers?

Yes, yes--my new book out by Bear Manor Media-- Hollywood Inside & Out--The Kenny Miller Story: my new CD for sale at conventions or both on my website: my upcoming conventions & autograph shows listed on my website; and of course, going to see "Blue' when it's finally released in theaters. (Again check out )

What scares you in real life?

I love good horror movies, & have so many favorites--one that immediately comes to mind is "Black Sabbath". I love a lot of the old Hammer films. In real life--mostly I'm scared of total darkness! My eyes aren't that good to begin with. I panic when I can't see what is near me or feel something is coming toward me that I can't make out! I've had a recurring dream that I'm on the high diving board above a pool and dive off the board & there is no water in the pool!!