Sunday, August 31, 2014

20 Questions (plus 1) with Beez McKeever

     It was in the midst of a dark week that I was given a ray of light - a light in the form of an email which restored the smile on my face (and led to this interview).  I think Beez probably has that effect on a lot of people. Even In our brief correspondence I found Beez to be warm, intelligent and giving. Her answers to my questions were thoughtful, honest and in depth. You'll find no cheap "yes" or "No" answers here folks.

     Briefly: As most fans know, Beez is Beth, but nicknamed Beez by her family after the Mrs. Beasley doll seen in the TV hit, "Family Affair."

     She joined the Best Brain staff during season 7 and worked as a Prop Assistant. By Season 8 she became the "Prop Diva" and joined with Patrick Brantseg to create some of MST's most memorable props and costumes (a few of which we'll speak of in the following)

Beez: OH MY! I've written you a short novella here. You asked- and I answered- in a way that is perhaps exhaustive so pour yourself a cuppa and pull up a chair. We're gonna be here awhile damn it! :D

Mighty Jack:  We haven't heard very much news since 2003, when you married and moved to the UK. Could you update us on what your up to these days? (work, how you're enjoying married life and England)

Beez: I was actually in Wales which is neighbors to, and worlds away, from England. The Welsh were conquered by the English 722 years ago but there's still a slightly spiky feeling between the two of them. This came as quite a surprise to me. But anyhoo, yeah, I'm stalling. I might as well let the cat out of the bag - things didn't end up working out in the UK.

     Walt Disney had it easy. He got to write cute love stories that ended nicely BECAUSE HE WROTE THEM BY HIMSELF!!! :D When you co-write a story with another person you kind of lose control of it. I wanted a predictable Disney vehicle but as fate would have it- I got something a bit more M. Night Shyamalan. It was sort of strange, unfortunate, and costly but at least my ex and I have remained on good terms. Given that he hasn't left me for "The Sexiest Woman Alive" or something equally unbearable the best relationship ending tag line I can throw out for ya is "The library called. They want their book back." It is a saddening but not overly dramatic outcome.

MJ Pauses to offer condolences

MJ: Any difficulties/surprises/adjustments you've discovered while living in the UK?

Beez: Living in the UK was surprisingly different. Without getting too Yakov Smirnoff on you, the Brits say things and do things a just a liiittle bit differently over there. The scariest thing was getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road but I did manage that. The trickiest thing was getting used to the language.

     Imagine this: You hop in the lorry and head down the dual carriage way to the Farmer's Arms or any other "arms" of your choice. You're greeted at the door with "Sooorry luv we're chock a block this aftanooon. Next time give us a tinkle befo hand and Bob's your uncle."?!!???!!!! It was like that. I was confused for quite some time.

     It was hard getting used to the UK sense of humor as well because they're not perky people. They don't have chummy "Friends" like comedy. They like to watch saltier characters that often put their feet in their mouths. I cringed a lot to start and then I really grew to love it. I LOVE "Little Britain". The original UK "The Office" is brilliant and Paul Whitehouse of "The Fast Show" and "Help" is SO funny. "Room 101" hosted by Paul Merton didn't have the cringe factor so that show didn't take even a moment to adjust to. Merton is a stunningly quick wit. I'm also a great admirer of Eddie Izzard's work- a very funny, smart man.

     A final note on Wales: The Welsh people are wonderful, warm people and their country side is absolutely breath taking. Those two elements made adjusting easier.

MJ: I see the "Darkstar" game will finally be released by the end of this year. How did you get involved with this project and what part do you play? Did you do any costuming or prop work on "Darkstar"?

Beez: Trace was contacted about it first and he got me into it. At first I was just assigned crew duties but I asked if I could have a part. Jeff (J. Allen Williams), the director and creator of Dark Star obliged and I thank him for that. I play Paige Palmer, a space pilot on a daunting mission. Initially I was in charge of wardrobe for the game but it was sort of difficult, given the way it was created, for me to be very hands on about a lot of it. I was in Minnesota or Wales and most of it was shot in Missouri so it just wasn't practical to do so. I'm excited to see how it all turns out. Dark Star has been YEARS in the making. I have high hopes for it.

MJ: I spotted this letter you wrote to the editor in the City Pages (dated 2001) concerning Prince. Letters to the Editor. Are you a big time Prince fan? What other kinds of music do you listen too?

Beez: I'm a big fan of Prince's older music but as that letter reveals I'm not as in touch with his newer stuff. I like a lot of different bands: Radio Head, Cold Play, Bebel Gilberto, Beck, Macy Grey, and Mike Doughty just to name a few.

MJ: Melding music and MST: Have you heard the CD Patrick Brantseg played drums on. If so, was he good? (Note to MSTies, Patricks brother is guitar God Steve Brantseg, who performed with Patrick in the noted Minneapolis band, 'Black Spot')

Beez: I haven't seen Patrick play but I would like to. I heard about a couple of gigs that he had done after MST but I was in Wales at the time and couldn't catch the shows. I'm bummed about that.

MJ: Were you a fan of MST3K before joining the staff?

Beez:  I was a fan of the show. The Turkey Day Marathon was an annual treat at our house. Not to sound dopey or gushy but it was a show that the whole family could enjoy together. For many years I worked as a waitress and MST was also a late night wind down for me. I'd come home from work and because the movies were sort of plotless I could pick the show up at any point and get some great laughs out of it.

MJ: While you've been on screen several times, it was your role as Steffi the sitter that struck a major chord with fans. Did that overwhelming positive response surprise you? (You were great by the way. I split a seam from laughing so hard)

Beez: **blushes** Thank you! :) I was very surprised at the response and highly flattered. The sweetest and greatest compliment that I have EVER received was from a woman who had seen the Touch of Satan episode. She had had the worst day ever. It was the anniversary of her son's death. She had recently been diagnosed with Lyme disease and there was something else that was SO sad about her day. She wrote into us saying that that show brightened that horrible day for her. I take great pride in that achievement. If I've done nothing else- I've contributed to that. I work on commercials for the most part these days so I rarely get a chance to take such an active role in making people laugh. I miss that.

MJ: How fun was it to play Steffi (you got to swat Kevin. lol), was that your favorite role?

Beez: It was a HOOT playing Steffi! And yes it was my favorite role. Kevin and Bill were both very helpful to me. Everyone was very supportive. I was nervous about it all, for sure, but they put me at ease.

MJ: You also played the sparkly Terror in "Terror From the Year 5000". It looks like a lot of work went into that costume, plus there was the makeup. Was that a difficult role to prepare for and perform?

Beez: That costume was quite the project, each gold little do-dad ya see on there was hand sewn, but it was a labor of love so that part was fine. The make-up was lovely wasn't it? :D I enjoyed that part of it. Boris Karloff I was not but it was fun to play something of a monster. The most difficult part of that role was the voice. That Terror woman had the craziest voice!! Try as I might to duplicate it I came out sounding like Bobcat Goldthwait. I hope that was alright for the folks at home.

MJ: Did you enjoy the onscreen work as much as the offscreen duties as Prop Diva? Were you nervous the first time you had to appear on screen?

Beez: I wasn't so nervous the first time because my back was to the camera and I only had two lines- easy peasy.

MJ: In your Prop Diva duties. What costumes or props are you the most proud of?

Beez That's a tough one. I really liked the Tickle me Carlo Lombardy doll and chair. Costume wise I think my toga for Kevin in Roman world worked well, a surprisingly great look for him. I liked a lot of the puppet costumes but Crow as Droppy the Water Droplet stands out the most in my mind.

MJ: Who created the Mike robot puppet in "Prince of Space"? And do you remember if Mike enjoyed or had any difficulties with his first shot at being a puppeteer?

Beez It was a co-production. Patrick made the puppet and I made the costume for it. I can't remember Mike having too hard a time with it. It was a pretty basic starter puppet, no eye controls or anything, and Mike is mystifyingly coordinated. Have you seen him juggle?

MJ: Watching the raw footage from "Diabolik", it seems you were involved in many phases of the show. Aside from the costumes etc. You are shown helping tear tiles off the SOL and spreading the smoke. It looked hectic. What was it like being the 'prop diva'?

Beez: Danger Diabolik was the last show so that wasn't like other shows. That was a sad day for all of us. Being the Prop Diva was amazing. It was crazy. At times it was tiring but it was undoubtedly FUN. My face would HURT some days from laughing so hard. It was a "no shit" kind of production. We didn't have a lot of cooks in the kitchen throwing out stupid subjective ideas about tweaking this or farting around with that. I didn't have to track down unnecessary things on someone's crazy whim as I often have to now. Patrick and I were given a script. We made a prop and costume list. We had a meeting with the director about his vision for it all then they'd let us fly without holding us on a string. IT WAS HEAVEN!! I appreciate it now more than ever.

MJ: With all you did on the show. Did you ever write or improvise a line during the skits. Or contribute a riff?

Beez: I like to think that I inspired Kevin to go off on his brief MAY-O- NAISE! bit while making the brain sandwich in – I forget what episode. They also kept one quip I made for Diabolik. It was some comment about the lead guy's rubber suit but I forget how that went exactly.

MJ: Any interesting or funny anecdote you could share about the show?

Beez: Let's call this story "Innocence Lost". Do you remember Pearl Forrester's space van? Well, it was officially named "The Widow Maker" but unofficially we called it something else. Inspired by our curiosity in Wesley Willis' music we had named it after one of his most compelling tunes "Spank Wagon". It was not uncommon to hear its catchy chorus "Spaaaank Wag-on, Spaaaaaank Wag-on" being sung around the studio.

     We Brainers were hip to the fact that "Spank Wagon" was the name of a band but we were oblivious to the dark, true meaning of that name. When one of our edgy young interns let us in on it's creepy origin I remember the response being sort of a saucer eyed, Little Rascals-esque, **GULP!** **HARD BLINK** "YA MEAN THEY HAVE A NAME FER THAT?!?!" :D We were gob smacked and horrified so we came up with the more life affirming moniker "The Widow Maker".

     If you don't know what a Spank Wagon is I'm not going to tell you, just keep repeating to yourself "We live in a beautiful world. We live in a beautiful world- with kit-tens and pup-piiies, sun beams and flow-eers..." :D

MJ: Not to pick favorites, but was there a particular member of the Best Brains who made you laugh the most?

Beez: I absolutely could not choose one. There's a reason that show stayed on the air for that long. They are all FUNNY with a capitol F but they aren't just funny- they're SMART and that made me love them even more.

MJ: Have you kept in contact with any of the Brains or seen/heard any of their post MST work?

Beez: From time to time I'll get an e-mail from Patrick or Mary Jo. It's tough because we're all moving in different directions. The good news is, after years of waiting for it, I'm working with Mike, Bill, and Kevin again on one of their Film Crew projects. They'll be doing the commentary track for a few Rhino DVD's and I have the pleasure of being an art director's assistant on the project. We'll be shooting that soon.

MJ: Who was the one who started calling you "The Deadly Beez" and did you like the nickname?

Beez: Brad Keely was nice enough to give me that nickname but in reality it was just a little extra for the folks at home who paid close attention to the credits. It would have been weird if the peeps would have really used it around the studio. "Good morning Deadly Beez, did ya catch Sliders last night?" **shudders** Weird. No, it wasn't like that, for the most part I was called Beez because that's nickname enough really.

MJ: I have to ask the eternal question: What is your favorite episode?

Beez: Oooooh that's another tough one. I'd say Joel era: Mitchell and Mike era: Werewolf. Tough call – It could change if you ask me on another day.

MJ: Finally, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions. That was more than generous and made this old MSTies day. In closing, what did the experience of working on the show, the fan response, mean to you?

Beez:  Working on Mystery Science Theatre was a treat and I aspire to find an experience that is equally as fun and creatively rewarding. The fan response was incredibly kind. Without fan support the puppet show would have died at season seven and my experiences with the show would have ended after a few blissful months. I'm VERY grateful for the love and support that was shown. THANK YOU!!!!!! :)

and the 21st question? I asked Beez for the month and day of her birth, So we could wish her a happy birthday on our website calendar? Her reply....

Beez: I was born on December 2nd in the year 1900 and something