Still a Dead-Eye 35 Years On: A CHOPPING MALL Interview with Kelli Maroney

When Season 2 of The Last Drive-In opened with a shot of CHOPPING MALL spelled out on the marquee over Joe Bob Briggs’ shoulder last April I nearly squealed. Okay, I might have squealed. But it was only because CHOPPING MALL is perhaps my favorite drive-in movie of all-time, and knowing that Barbara Crampton had already been on the show meant that we’d be getting a dose of Kelli Maroney had me straight up giddy with anticipation.

And judging by the reaction on Twitter, I was not alone. While it’s hard to believe that it’s been three-and-a-half decades since we spent the night with a group of horny teenagers taking on a gang of killbots, it isn’t difficult to understand why the film seems to grow in popularity the further it gets from its original release date of March 21, 1986. It hits the ground running and never stops.

With titles like FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982) and NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984) to her credit, Kelli Maroney is a bona fide queen of ’80s cinema, but CHOPPING MALL holds a special place in the hearts of many, including the star of the film.

“How could you not be delighted that people enjoy something as much as they seem to enjoy CHOPPING MALL? The appreciation and the gratitude is off the charts.”

Our appreciation and gratitude too is off the charts, not only for 77 minutes of awesome, but that Ms. Maroney shared a few moments with us over the phone in early February to discuss her memories of the shoot, her confusion over why no one ever told her Joe Bob was a fox, the status of a possible television series, and she even shared a personal tidbit about the picture that she’d never told anyone before.

Ladies and gentlemen, Kelli f***ing Maroney.

NIGHTMARE NOSTALGIA: Can you believe it’s been 35 years?

KELLI MARONEY: That’s what I always say. If you had told me in 1986 that in 2021 I’d be giving five interviews this week for CHOPPING MALL? (laughs) I would’ve said “What are you smokin’?” because it wouldn’t have been real to me. It used to be more NIGHT OF THE COMET but now it’s CHOPPING MALL. Even Joe Bob Briggs said “What’s the deal with CHOPPING MALL?” and his producer said “Dude, it’s the most popular thing.”

Even I said to (director) Jim Wynorski “Can you believe this? I can’t get over it. I can never get over it.” It never gets old, it’s always stunning. I’m tickled, I’m delighted and really touched because that’s the whole point of doing this is to connect with people and give them something that they enjoy. And this is beyond anybody’s wildest dreams to have done something that people like so much, but I had no idea it was going to be CHOPPING MALL.

NN: It almost felt like the anniversary celebrations began last year when CHOPPING MALL opened Season 2 of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs. We’re not going to rehash that conversation, but give us a peek behind the curtain of being on one of horror’s biggest stages.

KM: It was amazing. First of all, I got a message from (Briggs) on Twitter and I thought “this isn’t really Joe Bob Briggs,” but it was, it was John (Bloom). He’s a lovely guy and he’s extremely smart. And Joe Bob is a character obviously, but it’s just heightened. If John was always in his sense of humor, and it was just heightened and a little more Southern, it’s still him. So, you get there and everybody is so nice. At first I met Diana (Prince) — Darcy the Mail GIrl — and my friend Felissa Rose had been on before, so I reached out because I was excited. If you’re on Joe Bob you’re a horror fixture in that community otherwise you wouldn’t be there.

First of all, I had never met him before, so when he was on MonsterVision I had never seen that so I thought Joe Bob, what is he a big, fat guy with a beer belly that talks about boobs all the time? I had no interest. I didn’t know what he was doing because I’d never seen it, but no one ever told me he was a babe (laughs). Seriously, no one had ever said anything to change that perception that I had.

He’s a very big supporter of the Chattanooga Film Festival, which is lovely, and they gave me an award once, First Joe Bob did a little riff on NIGHT OF THE COMET — well, it wasn’t a little riff because that dude gets seriously in depth and it’s never little, he always gives a full talk — but my award was a paper mache slice of pizza designed by a local artist who is told what the recipient means to the festival and then the artist creates it. And I said, pizza? And Chris Dortch, who owns and runs the festival and presented the award, said “Yes, you’re like pepperoni pizza. You make everything better that you’re in.” I said “awww, that’s adorable. That’s so sweet!” So, I took a picture with Joe Bob, and even with my huge high heels on I am half his size because he’s tall and I”m petite.

So, back to Felissa. I asked her advice on guesting for the show and she said “don’t tell him something you’ve already told everybody else in interviews” So, I took that as don’t tell the same old story about how I wanted to be an actor since I was a little girl. Don’t bore Joe Job. Be entertaining. And Felissa has no problem just saying things, so she set the bar so high.

Sometime as actors you get all serious about things and nobody cares, they want you to be fun. And as you can see, I’ll just talk as long, until you tell me to stop (laughs).

I love when fans feel like they’re a part of things, and that’s what’s so great about The Last Drive-In. The whole Mutant Family gets on Twitter and it’s a lot of fun. But I was extremely thrilled when I found out it was true. In fact, Darcy direct messaged me on Twitter saying “let me know if you’d don’t hear from them because I’m not doing CHOPPING MALL if you’re not there.”

NN: You’ve probably seen tons of CHOPPING MALL cosplay over the years, but has anyone done it better than Darcy?

KM: No. No. And we had a long girl conversation about “can you even find this blouse anymore?” and the shoes that were closest to what I had worn were $100 so we weren’t doing that, but in two million years I never thought I’d be having a set conversation about that outfit (laughs). She had it down. She even had the patch, and she even did the limp — like at the end when I was limping — it was a thing of beauty. You can really tell she doesn’t just do it because it’s in the movie and she sees what they’re wearing, she’s got the whole thing down.

NN: Is it uncomfortable maneuvering around with a flare in your bra?

KM: You know I forgot all about it. It fit perfectly in there and I forgot all about it (laughs). As did Allison, she almost forgot she had it, too! She looks down and she’s like “oh yeah, I’ve got a flare!” I don’t know, it just fit right.

NN: You never know what movies are going to resonate with audiences, and 35 years later we’re still talking about CHOPPING MALL as you said, but did your head kind of explode like Suzee Slater’s when Liam Carroll posted his piece for The Spool (which you shared on Twitter) outlining how the film had helped him through anxiety attacks and depression. When you read something like that about a drive-in , B-movie that obviously means something to people, how does that make you feel?

KM: Through the internet and doing conventions you hear these kinds of stories a lot and that’s why you want to be an actor. You put up with the lifestyle and the uncertainty and everything that goes along with it because we just have that driving need to connect with other people. It’s such extreme validation to hear that back, that something I put my heart and soul into and it comes back in a wave. I wasn’t out there acting into a void, it’s hitting people and it means something to them. I’ve given them something and they’ve given me something, and it means that I didn’t waste my life doing something that didn’t mean anything, people like CHOPPING MALL (laughs).

NN: There were some rumors a few years ago about CHOPPING MALL doing a television series, and unless I missed something, did anything ever come of that or something that might still happen?

KM: Wynorski’s in charge of that. We were getting set to do a tease, and then I’m not sure exactly what happened because I think he had several meetings with Lionsgate but as they say in the industry, put a pin in it, which means put a pin in it like on a bulletin board and save it for later. It’s just a risky venture I would think, so I don’t know I haven’t heard anything about it for quite a while.

NN: We’re not going to ask you what your favorite scene or line from the film is because I know you’ve answered those questions a thousand times, but I am interested to know what your lasting image is. When you’re thinking about CHOPPING MALL and not being interviewed about it, what comes back to you most?

KM: I’m going to tell you something that I’ve never told anyone.

NN: I like to hear that.

KM: Ready?

NN: I am.

KM: Sometimes that song, the CHOPPING MALL theme goes through my head when I’m doing my makeup or driving around (laughs). And that is true, it is absolutely true (laughs).

NN: I introduced a friend of mine to CHOPPING MALL and he appreciates it as a B-movie, but I refer to it as a classic and one day he said “you know what, CHOPPING MALL is not a classic.” So, I said I’m going to be interviewing the star of the movie and we’ll see. His name is Chad, so if you have message for Chad as to why CHOPPING MALL is a classic, I’d love to hear it.

KM: Hey Chad, sorry you got dragged into this, but since you are (laughs), you can like it or not like it but I don’t like THE SOUND OF MUSIC particularly, but it’s a classic so you’re just going to have to eat this one on CHOPPING MALL. I’m sorry (laughs).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s