IN STEP MAGAZINE (volume 13 issue 14 July 25 to August 6, 1996)
by Timothy Nasson
Dressed in a cream colored blazer (proper attire at The Ritz Cafe), khakis, a dark polo shirt, and adorned with a perfectly groomed goatee, and outfitted with a small silver hoop earring in each ear, Clive Barker arrived ten minutes late for an interview, but not without a bundle of zest.
Evoking none of the characteristics of his screen creations or creatures from deep within the written page, he instead conveyed a cool, alluring, and charming personality.
The native Englishman was full of radiant energy at the outset of what is to be a grueling seventeen city United States tour. Nonetheless, he was quite overjoyed to be in Boston. "I have fond Memories of this city'" he said. "I first came to Boston when I was twenty-one, at the invitation of Bill Henry." Or, the late William Henry the III as many may remember him, especially as theater critic for Time magazine. At the time, Henry was television critic of the Boston Globe and met Barker when vacationing at a cousin's house which was next door to Barker's in Liverpool. "He took a liking to me and I to him and we became best of friends."
Once stateside, Barker realized that he would one day settle here, not knowing in what occupation however.
Ever since knee high to a grasshopper, Baker insists that he know h wanted to be a writer and artist but didn't know if he could support himself with an occupation. Ironically, he had no desire to ever employ himself in the profession most in the world know him best for, namely filmmaker. As producer and director of many horror/supernatural fantasies such as the "Hellraiser" and "Candyman" franchises, he has etched for himself a name synonymous with gore and the grotesque.
"I will never know what compelled people to come out in droves to see the first "Hellraiser" ten years ago," he reminisces. "We made the picture in England for $1 million. For a movie to be as successful today on such a low budget would be impossible. I was quite lucky."
On the other hand he can't figure out why movies with budgets of $70 million like "Independence Day" are making as much as they are. "I saw "Independence Day" last night and hated it." Enough said.
The images, such as the ones like the repugnant Pinhead from the "Hellraiser" films, were at one time buried dreams in the mind of the thirtyish looking, forty-three year old.
"Even today I keep a Dream Journal. It's whatever's going on in my subconscious, or things from drams or even interesting items that pop into my head. I have thousands of pages of notes which I hope someday will turn into stories, or movies."
Trained as a painter in Liverpool, where he resided until he turned twenty-one, when he moved to London and resided until he turned thirty-eight, Barker still loves to paint and draw. "I paint five nights a week and wouldn't think of giving it up." He has an exhibit currently showing in New York City showcasing many of his paintings (which are done on huge canvasses) of strange and bizarre people.
After studying painting and drawing, he moved on to English and philosophy classes, which enhanced his future writing career.
"I took up film making to be able to connect with people. You have hundreds of people on a set, from the producers to the extras, and it provides a relief from the solitary feeling that painting and writing can create. It certainly is my escape."
Not having worked on a film since "Lord of Illusions," he is busy with a sequel to that film as well as a film adaptation of the children's book "The Thief of Always," which is "taught in elementary schools and is on the school curriculum."
Not bad for a man who has never kept his homosexuality a secret from the world.
"I have done readings at gay bookstores throughout the world since my first book was published. And I never considered my homosexuality an issue. Not until last year however did I get myself a publicist, which is when the 'gay thing happened.' I appeared in The Advocate, OUT, 10% and Genre all practically at the same time, which kind of made the whole issue noteworthy."
Before that expose, Barker remembers "interviews where people would come to my house, and see my boyfriend, pictures of male nudes hanging on the walls and gay paraphernalia lying about." These things never became an issue and weren't cause for gossip.
"My work is behind the camera. The movie going audience doesn't have to relate to me. And the same thing goes for the writers. I can write about gay characters and people won't see me as they might a male homosexual movie star who chooses to stay in the closet because of the negative effect coming out may have on his box office draw. It really would be inappropriate for me to proscribe what others should or should not do."
And with that humble and civilized attitude, Barker continues to move forward in his own crusade, letting the world know his own way about gay life and the like.
With "Sacrament's" protagonist Will Rabjohns, Barker has created a homosexual hero. But not an in your face stereotypical one by any means.
"I wanted to create a story and place a character in the middle of it, who's sexual preference had no relevance whatsoever to it. A character readers would take for granted. Will Rabjohns does all of the things that one would expect from a straight hero of sorts."
Barker wanted to make the book accessible to those who normally don't read books with gay main characters. And also to people who may not really know much about gay life.
"I felt the as long as I have a strong and loyal heterosexual following, I was well positioned to reach out to that audience as well and present them with a page turner. I feel that I have a responsibility to tell a story at a pace and with a conviction, so that the reader has no choice but to keep turning the page.
Through "Sacrament," readers will be exposed to some gay elements and sexual experiences, but not until Will Rabjohns is thoroughly explained and the audience knows exactly who he is.
The largest percent of my readers are heterosexual, so I hope that they come away somewhat more informed."
The book was not printed without much thought. Barker hoped to inspire his millions of worldwide followers and fans, rather than disappoint. The book's publisher, Harper Collins must also have felt comfortable, since they have set up a massive campaign for the novel.
Barker has already stopped by Good Morning America, where he was interviewed by Elizabeth Vargas, whose first question was, "So you have a gay main character in "Sacrament". Why are you doing that?"
"That's cool," Barker answers. "She didn't know I was gay. That's why I'm on tour. To answer people's questions and enlighten them in areas they are ill informed about." For the record, did set her straight (no pun intended.)
The author is certainly not a stranger to using gay characters in his work. "Imajica" has a gay one, as do some of his short stories. What makes "Sacrament" unique is that Will carries the book. "Sacrament" on the other hand takes a sharp turn from the other books Barker has written, in that it is not designed to instill horror and doesn't take place in a complex and bizarre fantasy world as does "Imajica". It is set in a contemporary milieu, and is an issue driven, autobiographical of sorts, highly accessible book. Simply, it can be described as one man's journey from despair to revelation and also a rite of passage for middle aged men.
It is also laden with issue driven themes close to the author's heart, such as species survival, both man and beast.
As a lover of animals hew was in for a treat the guest on Good Morning America animal expert Jack Hanna was also a guest. Barker got to play with many of the animals brought in for the show.
I acknowledged having seen Hanna on Letterman's show later that evening. "Which animal did you like the best?" he asked me. There was a python, baby tiger, the hugest porcupine in the world, a cute cuddly looking porcupine and countless other adorable creatures both large and small.
"The little porcupine," I answered, and as if by magic, Barker reached into the inside of his blazer and proceeded to pull out a quill from the cute little porcupine.
Though Barker's schedule will be hectic for the next six weeks, with all of the flying and checking into hotels, it is giving him he says, a chance to catch up.
"Being on the road gives me breathing time and the opportunity to think about what to do next. In fact right before I came down for lunch today," he says while picking up a fork full of black olive seared penne, "I was writing down notes about my feelings. Things that I need to do to keep motivated. I need to be motivated if I am to going to devote fifteen months to writing another book. And I couldn't write a book just because it's a commercial idea. I need to have a compelling reason."
When the tour ends, Barker will be back in Los Angeles where he has lived for the past five years with his boyfriend Malcolm (to whom "Sacrament" is dedicated), a screenwriter.
At some point in the near future he hopes to collaborate with Malcolm on an idea he can turn into a film. Until then, one must and will be satisfied with a book that is written by an author with a passion. A passion for life.
COPYRIGHT 1996 IN STEP MAGAZINE