The first time I publicly wore a tutu wasn’t in a ballet class. It wasn’t at a Cosplay event or in the streets. It was at Mad Monster Party a Cosplay Horror convention in Charlotte, NC. Initially, all that was on my mind was, “Ok, take a deep breath. Lets see what happens if I wear this!” It was a turning point. An evolution of purpose. A defining moment for me and what has become an image I am genuinely comfortable with. Mostly because I liked the subtle camouflage of pink tule hiding my private parts.
My connection to TOXIC TUTU goes all the way back to the 1980’s when I interviewed for a job as cameraman for a film then called, “Health Club Horror”. I was twenty-five years old. Just out of film school.
I didn’t get the job, because I couldn’t afford to work for free. A note I missed in the small print of the TROMA posting put up on our student job board outside of the NYU equipment room.
TROMA is among the longest lasting independent production companies in the world. They come with the highly regarded industry reputation that no one gets paid who works on their movies. Their decades old slogan currently reads, “43 Years of Disrupting Media”, which pretty much achieves what it declares.
My best friend Mark Torgl, from NYU landed a bit part from the same job posting on "The First Turn On" which ultimately lead to the starring role in the Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz dircted “Health Club Horror”, which, as you know if your reading this shit, eventually became the cult-classic film, “The Toxic Avenger”.
Lets skip ahead thirty plus years, to now. Here’s how I became involved in a feature film that pays homage to the infamous TROMA cult-classic.
Mark Torgl called me in September 2012 to tell me he received a call from convention organizers to appear as their guest celebrity, and that their convention would attract 15,000 convention goers in one weekend, many who would be his fans. I offered to join him and said, “I’ll bring my camera. I'll document the weekend. We'll have some fun!”
Four years later, "An Almost True Story: TOXIC TUTU" is an uncensored FAN film based on little known production details that took place on the set of “The Toxic Avenger”. See our first review also included on our website.
Mark Torgl, Melvin the "Mop Boy" and star of the original cult-classic, horror comedy THE TOXIC AVENGER, unexpectedly resurfaces at his first ever horror convention following a thirty-year absence with the promise to tell his fans a profound secret. Before he can get the words out Torgl is abducted.
His abduction triggers a rumor mill. Were real toxic wastes used on the set of the original film? Was Torgl harmed in some way? Beleaguered fans mobilize to hunt down and rescue Torgl, eager to learn what he has to tell them.
Torgl's determination to reveal the truth falls short, but doesn't discourage fan love. His own quest - to find the source of the precious toxic substance located in a mysterious oasis somewhere in the marshlands of New Jersey - leads the “Mop Boy" to a chance encounter with his deific creator, Lloyd Kaufman, and the thirty-year mystery is solved.
• • • • •
As a filmmaker, I eagerly set out to document Mark’s return to his fans and the convention shenanigans that I imagined would take place behind the scenes.
I presumed we would be in for a wild weekend and would even have some X rated home movies to masturbate to in our old age. Then the dumb idea of bridging fact and fiction using Mark’s first ever public appearance as a hoax, combined with authentic stories fans told me about Mark’s absence and what he meant to them. Was all so surreal. That I had to figure out a way to get myself out of trouble and shoot something that could actually turn out to be a movie.
So as Mark and I got drunker and drunker, and no girls showed up and the convention hotel manager kept shutting us down, the idea emerged that a fictional toxic oasis and a substance it produced that TROMA used on the set of the original film, literally became my obsession.
The real news, though, is that when I started this project - interviewing fans of Melvin before and after meeting their hero in the flesh, I learned their plight wasn’t much different than Melvin’s.
They suffered being bullied regularly. And that the retreat they found in having this ninety-eight pound weakling to represent them, who transformed from a nerd like them into a super-human hero, was something that gave them hope and a purpose to live. Their words. Not mine.
Now, if you are a fan of THE TOXIC AVENGER (and if you aren't SEE IT IMMEDIATELY!), you know that this film is as much a political satire about the environment as it is a love story.
The transition of this meek, nerdy janitor character who mops up floors in a health spa all day long in Tromaville, NJ, and who is considered freakish and repulsive by the antagonists, turns into a hulk-like monster who gets to take out everyone evil in Tromaville AND gets laid by a beautiful blind woman who basically will take anything she can get!
Soon enough, word got out and Vincent Canby wrote a rave review. The theatrical release found a fan base of young minds who identified with the love and violence and the Melvin character who became their hero, and a symbol of retribution that kept this and many future generations of kids riveted to the screen as they watched revenge unfold before their eyes.
Until I made TOXIC TUTU I had only seen “The Toxic Avenger” twice. And only up to the point where Sarah (the blind woman) is getting raped in a "taco Bell?". Nothing else appealed to me enough about the film to want to watch it through. My best friend’s scenes ended twenty-two minutes in and I couldn’t handle the violence thinking there would be no story.
But as I heard story after story from fans who claimed how Melvin’s very existence saved their lives, literally, I figured it was time for me to sit through this classic and figure out why. I did, and the experience that followed made me wonder - what took me so long?
What I came to understand giving “The Toxic Avenger” a chance was how fans could come to love this “monster”. He was beastly and threatening. He was ungainly large and deformed. And by most standards, too gross and ugly to go near.
But when I closed my eyes to listen I started to have the same love for the monster that Sarah the beautiful blind girl does, who eventually actually falls in love with “Toxie”. Sarah feels only “Toxie’s” heart. An understated critical point made way ahead of its time.
Throughout “The Toxic Avenger”, the monster is wearing a scorched and tattered remnant of the pink tutu that the Melvin character wore while being pranked by bullies before his transformation. This provides a unique character contradiction. It also gives rise to the significance of the tutu in our film and as a symbol of our anti bullying coalition explained concisely on another page of this website.
Low and behold, TOXIC TUTU has generated the interest of an eager group of fans and advocates over the last four years who are poised to wear the tutu on their college campuses. They want to help us enlist the support of other campus organizations like student social action groups, fraternities and sororities to spread the word.
We hope that screenings of our movie on college campuses will help us launch our anti bullying coalition. Once students hear how wearing a tutu represents a positive message we think they will join in.
There is nothing preachy or academic about TOXIC TUTU. The film is intended for pure entertainment. But our anti bullying coalition (ABC's) proposes simple, human interaction that takes the willingness among individuals to recognize the value of each other’s place in any interaction and how thoughtful communication, if practiced, can turn around the ill-fated relationship culture that pervades today.
The digital revolution has completely changed human interaction for adults (my age) who are mistrusted by youth, and clueless about how to help. So, I believe the trust we’ve lost has to be rebuilt by listening empathically to young minds.
I want to rebuild that trust. First, by accepting responsibility for what my contribution was to the intergenerational disconnect. And second, by reinforcing the idea that every artist has an obligation to be socially responsible if they are creating art for public consumption.
If you want to learn more about our film or our Anti Bullying Coalition please read everything on this website, and if you want more information reach out to Joe Nardelli at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or invite us to your campus for a screening and a talk-back.
TOXIC TUTU Feature Film premiered at Mad Monster Party in March and in London, Ontario on May 6th at SHOCK STOCK one of Canada's finest Horror and Film Festival Conventions.
As writer, director and cinematographer of TOXIC TUTU I am proud to be associated to TROMA and all of it's fans. Since the making of TOXIC TUTU I have included two TROMA movies on my top twenty best films of all times list.