Remembering Philip Nutman (1963-2013)Movies/TV,News Tony Timpone
Last night, October 7, FANGORIA lost one of the greatest and most significant contributors in its 34 year history. Former Fango British correspondent Philip Nutman—author, screenwriter, comic-book scribe, actor, etc.—died at an Atlanta hospital after being taken off life support. The circumstances of Phil’s passing from organ failure are so deeply troubling and sad, that I’m doing my best to overcome these horrible feelings inside by remembering the good times we spent together, and the legacy Phil has left us.
My long tenure at FANGORIA had just begun when Phil called me in July 1985 from his day job as a producer’s assistant at BBC TV. Fango editor David Everitt, who bought then-19-year-old Nutman’s first Fango article in early 1983 (issue #26’s HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS preview), had just left Fango central for greener pastures, leaving interim editor Dave McDonnell and me in charge of all things horror at Starlog Group. Phil and I really hit it off. We were both the same age, shared the same passions and pinched ourselves every morning to be working for FANGORIA. With that delightful accent of his, he called on a regular basis to pitch articles and shoot the breeze. His most visionary introduction back then was tipping us off to a certain British horror writer who would soon take the genre by storm—a guy named Clive Barker. Phil and Clive soon became friends, and the author would eventually motivate Phil to try his own hand at horror fiction. But before that, Phil won the assignments to cover the shooting of Barker’s first two films, 1987’s HELLRAISER and 1990’s NIGHTBREED, delivering thorough and incisive reporting that helped sell both magazines and movies.
I can still hear the excitement in Phil’s voice when he announced that he’d be coming across the pond for his first American visit in fall 1986, just in time for Halloween. I was thrilled too. The night he arrived, my friend, actor Robert DiTillio, was holding a costume party at his home in OzonePark, Queens. So, dressed as THE EXORCIST’s Father Merrin, I drove to Brooklyn to pick up Phil, fresh off the plane and staying with makeup FX buddies Tom Lauten and Scott Coulter. Back at Bob’s place, the jetlagged Phil gawked at all my crazy buddies and cracked up as we all jumped up and down when the Mets won game six in the World Series, our drinks splashing the walls and our heads brushing the ceiling. “What a first night in New York!” he exclaimed.
In the days that followed, Phil and I did some more carousing. Hey, we were 23! I took him to some of my old NYU haunts, like Greenwich Village’s long-gone Googie’s Pub and the Scrap Bar. A few of the Splatterpunk crowd (John Skipp, Craig Spector and Richard Christian Matheson, as well as Scream/Press editor Jeff Conner) joined us on a few of those misadventures. Not sure who puked first after finishing off one of those late nights with ice cream (!) on 8th Street.
Back in Queens, my folks wanted to meet this kid from London, so they invited Phil over for an Italian dinner at Casa Timpone. Mom sat us in the formal dining room and put out her best China. Even my twin sister Patty gave up a night with the girls to meet the stranger from a strange land. Phil was an honest-to-God celebrity in our household that night. My family was so charmed by the enchanting Brit that they could not stop asking him questions! Poor Phil’s spaghetti and meatballs turned cold, and he barely touched his plate that night!
Phil and I had so much fun during his Big Apple stay that we hatched plans to travel out to California together about six months later. By then, I had become editor in chief, and Phil was one of the busiest guys in the Fango bullpen. FX pal Coulter had moved to North Hollywood and graciously allowed us to crash in his garage, where we slept on air mattresses on the floor. Not that we did much sleeping. That week, I took Phil to all my favorite LA places (Eric Caiden’s Hollywood Book & Poster, Universal Studios, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, etc.), and we hung out with several horror greats, like Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, Dick Miller and Tobe Hooper, plus all those wild makeup FX guys just getting their feet wet in the business. For Hooper, we went up to the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE director’s Beverly Hills home where Phil interviewed him in his living room. Seeing Phil at work impressed me; he had no notes or questions prepared in advance, but knew just what to ask to get the most interesting responses out of the droll Texan, whose two hyperactive wire haired terriers kept interrupting the fascinating session.
During that 1987 jaunt, Phil and I took in a few horror movie premieres (including GHOULIES II, where we almost ran over director Albert Band in the parking lot), and we even got invited to a soiree held by little person Debbie Lee Carrington (E.T. suit actress, TOTAL RECALL) for her GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE cast mates. Our jaws dropped open when we first entered Debbie’s Marina Del Rey apartment to be greeted by a room full of drunken dwarves. I lost count how many times we hit our heads on Debbie’s low-hanging chandelier. We shared bigger laughs when it came time to driving one sleepy little fellow home. Neither of us had the keenest sense of direction, and the tiny guy kept falling asleep while trying to give us directions, getting us more and more lost!
The whole time we were in LA, Phil never got behind the wheel of our rental car, leaving me to play chauffeur the whole time. I didn’t mind, as I kidded Phil that he might wind up peeling down the wrong side of the street. But after a late night mind expansion session at the Yuzna’s house on Outpost Drive, I’m the one who wound up driving on the wrong side of the road.
Shortly thereafter, Phil got a pressing phone call that would cut his trip short. He had been cast as a villain in a low-budget action flick called DEATH COLLECTOR in Connecticut, and the producers wanted him on a plane pronto. For a big sendoff, FX artist James Cummins and roommate Rick Brophy held a big bash in Phil’s honor. We literally partied all night into the morning, and having not slept a wink, I schlepped Phil back to LAX at 7 a.m. Phil hoped that his bad-guy turn would lead to higher-profile acting gigs, but it never did. The cheapie film barely got released anywhere. (In 2001, I ran into Phil by chance at a JASON X American Film Market screening in Santa Monica, and this time he almost ran me over! He was driving, and I was dashing across the street!)
Over the years that followed, I came to count on Phil for some of Fango’s most important articles. For example, he took apart the convoluted scripting history of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM MASTER that boasted reportage worthy of the $1-a-word articles that appeared in the more popular film mag PREMIERE. And key people were reading Phil’s pieces too. New Line Cinema’s young production chief, Michael DeLuca, studied his essential TWILIGHT ZONE article on the Splatterpunk movement, which directly lead the exec to hire many of those hardcore horror writers for the studio’s ’80s fear franchises.
Phil always delivered for FANGORIA and me, even after he moved to the States. He never missed a deadline, always filed the “big pieces” that stood out as issue anchors, like issue #100’s Stephen King interview and the Rob Zombie HALLOWEEN II exclusive for our 30th anniversary edition. He sent in at least 120 feature articles over three decades, right up to THE WALKING DEAD. But Phil didn’t only belong to Fango. His first (and sadly, only) novel WET WORK came out in 1993. This fast-paced zombie epic predated the current mania for everything living dead, and it’s a crime no one ever made WET WORK into a movie during Phil’s lifetime. (Phil honored our friendship by naming a character after me in the book.) Phil also wrote nearly two dozen short stories, and in 2007 won praise for adapting his friend Jack Ketchum’s novel THE GIRL NEXT DOOR for the movies. He also penned dozens of comic books for Chaos! and other publishers, and in recent years had become active in Atlanta’s independent theater and film communities.
Taking a look at the eulogies posted on Phil’s Facebook page, I was touched by all the young authors that Phil inspired and helped along the way, just like others had done for him when he was starting out. Perhaps his “pay it forward” generosity will be Phil’s greatest legacy, as all those that were encouraged by Phil’s printed words and those “pats on the back” that he gave followers at his frequent convention appearances will lead to future writers cut from the same well-tailored cloth as Phil.
During my nearly 25-year masthead reign at Fango, I met, hired and published countless freelancers. Only a handful did I ever grow to call friend. Phil was one of those people. I will never fully understand what demons drove Phil down his dark path, but I do know that he brightened my path and those of countless others. Rest now, brother.
A fund has been created in the name of helping Philip’s wife with putting him to rest. If you’d like to help, see here.