Documentary filmmaker Penelope Spheeris spoke to Goldmine magazine about the infamous scene in her "The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years" movie in which then-W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes can be seen guzzling vodka in his pool.
"When I shot Chris Holmes, you know, I thought we didn't get the interview," she said. "I remember saying, 'We're going to have to reshoot this.' Because we didn't get anything. The guy's just sitting there screwing off and we didn't get anything. And then I saw Jon and Val [Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris], who are the producers, and I told them, we're going to have to reshoot that interview with Chris Holmes. And they said, 'Well, too bad, because we don't have enough money to reshoot it.' So I tried to cut something together and include it. I would never have imagined it would be the most talked about and kind of most memorable moment of the movie."
Asked what happened in the five or ten minutes after she finished the interview with Chris Holmes, Spheeris said: "I think I was so stunned… You know how when you're in shock and you don't remember what happened? I don't remember! I don't remember him afterwards. Because I was just horrified that I didn't get an interview. I'm sure somebody must've given him a towel and… you know, most of that, [Penelope's daughter] Anna [Fox, who was instrumental in assembling the bevy of extras for the elegant box for the recently released 'The Decline Of Western Civilization' trilogy], when she put the DVD extras together, she pasted together all of the interviews from beginning to end. And so you can see in there the entire progression — or I should say digression — of his interview. And most of that clear liquid was pool water, by the way."
Spheeris spoke in more detail about the scene during a recent interview with Rolling Stone. She said: "I don't remember if the pool was my idea or Chris's idea, but it was my idea to have his mom come down, 'cause I knew Sandy [Holmes]. She looks like she knows how far she can go with what she says to him. Like, she can't be too critical or he's just gonna go off on her.
"I didn't know he was going to be as drunk as he was. When we finished the interview, I took [cinematographer Jeff] Zimmerman behind a tree and said, 'I don't got this interview. We're gonna have to film him again.' But the great thing about doing documentaries is you just have to let them lead you. It turned out to be the most memorable thing.
"What I liked about the scene is you had all these younger kids talking about how they were gonna make it, but Chris was sort of an example of, 'Okay, I made it. Are you sure you want this?' That's why I liked it just from a filmmaker's standpoint. It counterbalanced all those crazy dreams that those kids had that were not gonna happen. It was a reality check.
"By the way, the first half of the bottle of vodka was real, and after that he was filling it up with pool water."
In a 2014 interview with Metallväktarna, Holmes spoke about his appearance in the "The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years" movie. He said: "I get a lot [of questions] about that. [People wanna know], 'Was it alcohol? Were you drunk?' Or whatever. Yeah, I was drunk. I'm not known to be a liar. In fact, I was real drunk; I couldn't even talk. So a lot of people ask me, 'How do you feel about that being on TV?' or whatever. The only thing I don't like is where some kid will come up to me and go, 'Man, that's the coolest! I wanna live like that.' And, to me, personally, that's, like, me going down the tubes. And why would somebody wanna live like that?"
STEEL PANTHER singer Michael Starr told The Verge in a recent interview that the Holmes scene in "The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years" "shaped my whole career, to be quite honest with you. At that point, heavy metal was at its peak. It was awesome to be drunk, floating in a pool. You knew you had a disease and you were going to kill yourself eventually, but that was cool back then. People just looked at that and said, ‘Wow, this guy knows how to party. Everybody knows how to party.'"
Holmes joined W.A.S.P. in 1982 and remained with the group until 1990. In 1996, Holmes rejoined W.A.S.P. and stayed with the band until 2001. Holmes has not played with W.A.S.P. since.
"The Decline Of Western Civilization" received a deluxe box set release on June 30 from Shout! Factory. The four-disc set was made available in both Blu-ray and DVD formats, and contains Penelope Spheeris's "The Decline Of Western Civilization" (1980), "The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years" (1988) and "The Decline Of Western Civilization Part III" (1998), a 40-page book containing an essay written by rock historian Domenic Priore ("Riot On Sunset Strip: Rock 'N' Roll's Last Stand In Hollywood"), rare stills, and bonus features, including extended interviews, a commentary recorded by Dave Grohl in February 2015, and more. This is the first-ever official Blu-ray or DVD release of the films.
"The Decline Of Western Civilization" box set features a new 2K high-definition scan of each film, supervised by Spheeris. In keeping with the spirit of the rebellious times in which they were shot, the vintage aspects have been respected, and the films retain their original feel.